Thursday, 15 January 2015

Akumal, Mexico

Craig Writes;
Tuesday 30 December
Today was just one of those days where you grind out the miles and just get to where you're going. We left New Orleans and flew to Houston for a two hour layover before hopping on a flight to Cancun.  We had prearranged transport so once we were out of the airport it was into our mini-van for the one hour trip to Akumal.  Check-in was easy - everyone seems so friendly here - we dumped our bags in the tiny room and went straight down to the beach for some of that restorative energy that only the ocean can provide.  
Lol Ha in daylight hours.
We walked the shoreline for a short distance but the sun had set and apart from the well lit restaurants on the beach and the star spangled sky above there wasn't a lot to see.   The twinkling lights and salsa tunes of Lol Ha lured us in and we grabbed a table for four under the large thatched alfresco area.

There was laughter from the happy hour crowd, waves lapping lazily on the white sand, salsa beats supplying the groove and the smell of delicious food teasing us from nearby tables.  There was a collective sigh as our bodies dropped into their chairs.  It was as if with one united breath we exhaled the last of the mountain chill and the niggling snotty noses and welcomed the Caribbean heat into our bodies.  Christina and I made it official with the first of many margaritas and mojitas.
Mojitas and margaritas.
Dinner was always going to be easy, we went straight for the standards, guacamole, quesadilla and a tasting plate of different Mexican morsels.

Wednesday 31 December
Christina and I awoke early this morning to walk along the deserted beach and catch our first Caribbean sunrise.  
Sunrise over the Caribbean.
This is a beautiful place.  Imagine the tropical beauty of Bali without the humidity, the fug and the funky smells of the open street sewers, the toot toot and the beep beep of countless taxis and tin pot motorbikes.  This is paradise found where the sun tends to kiss rather than bite and hawkers aren't popping out from behind every bush trying to sell you a T-shirt or a sarong.
After a light breakfast of fruit, toast and coffee we took to the lounge chairs of the pool.  The boys splashed around and made underwater movies and we watched the pods of tourists bob around enjoying their organised snorkel in the warm water of the bay.  A light breeze is softly blowing across the water forming the tiniest of whitecaps, the palm trees are swaying and the air is sweet and clear. Life is bliss!
The view from our pool chairs.
Grumbling bellies eventually prised us from our deck chairs and we headed to the Turtle Bakery for lunch.  Callums spicy shrimp burrito smelt amazing and Christina's fish and black bean tortilla left me feeling wilted. I chose badly and went with the Mexican lamb burger. I'm not sure what Charlie had but it would have had grilled cheese and some sort of meat on it.
Food, food, food!!!
and behold, there was food.
There were more hours by the pool reading and watching coconuts fall at our feet from the nearby trees.  
As the afternoon wore on we decided we best go see what all the schools of snorkelers were staring at and swam out to investigate.  One Japanese guy was going crazy yelling,'fish fish' to his pod of nearby snorkers.  I'm not sure what he was so excited about, maybe it was the first fish he'd seen in a while that wasn't on a small bed of rice.
The water is pleasantly warm, not oily or polluted just sun baked and very pleasant to swim in. The  bottom of the ocean floor is odd though, it looks like a giant mini golf course.  No sand or rocks or coral, just this pervasive light green carpet of what feels like moss.  There really was nothing to see.  I can only assume that these groups of intrepid snorkeli that bob around in their hi-viz buoyancy vests are in search of the turtles that are supposed to frequent this area.  We didn't see any but at the risk of name dropping, after our experience of swimming with the giant sea turtles at the Galapagos we didn't feel compelled to look too hard.
New Years Eve is fast approaching but for us there is little chance of laying on a big one. We are off to the Cenotes early tomorrow so the most damage will be a few margaritas at Lol Ha.  Must go, don't want to miss happy hour.
Three hours later.  Yum, mango margaritas, crayfish and rice, chilli chocolate and rum and raisin icecream, what a great way to say goodbye 2014 and hello 2015.

Mango margaritas.
Thursday 1 January 2015
If there were throngs of revellers bringing in the New Year last night they must have kept the volume very low. Not that that is a surprise.  The clientele here are definitely more Brady bunch than frat pack. It suited us because we wanted to be up early and get to the Cenotes before the crowds did.
After an early breakfast we walked down to the highway and caught the first Colectivo, one of hundreds of small white vans that cruise the highways as a taxi service picking up locals and tourists and depositing them wherever they need to be.
Our destination was the Ecopark Kantun-Chi Cenotes, a system of five large sinkholes that are formed when the limestone bedrock collapses and exposes the groundwater underneath.  The water is crystal clear and although fresh it has a slight alkaline taste to it due to the layers of limestone it has leached through. We chose the package that gave us the five Cenotes plus the underground river tour.
We started with the river tour and for fourty minutes we swam on our bellies through the narrow passages, our life jackets dragging along the bottom and our heads continually testing the helmets we had been given.  At other times we would stoop low through caves being careful not to touch the ancient stalagmites and stalactites that dominated the cavern. Our first Cenote was where the river pooled into a small quarry of water so clear it could just as well have been a pool of shimmering light we were wadding into.
Our first cenote. 
Not much of a fashion statement but those helmets were gold.
Once we had surfaced from the river our guide took us down a series of small pathways through the dense Riviera Maya jungle to find the remaining Cenotes.  To make our way to number three Cenote we sat on a small homemade wooden buggy and were pulled along narrow train tracks by an old donkey.  The bones of his skinny rump were protruding through his thin hide, his head was lowered and his lazy hoofs clopped along in a hollow rhythm as he pulled us all slowly forward. I felt sorry for the poor bugger, I wanted to get out and give him a push.
Just trying to put a bright spark in the donkeys dull day.
The standout Cenote was the last one, number five.  After the tour you were free to return to the other Cenotes and remain there as long as you wanted but you could only visit number five with a guide. It was an open air Cenote while the others were all subterranean. Needing the guide probably had something to do with the ledges.  Yes, there were ledges to jump off.
We all made the first one - even Christina, with a little bit of coaxing- which was only about four metres high.  There was lots of yelping and whoo whoing and splashing.  It was a lot of fun.
Look closely and you'll see Christina about to take the big leap.
The next jump was more challenging, it was closer to eight metres and required you to jump through some bushes before you sailed over the side of the cliff.  This one was just high enough to make the bottom of your feet tingle and your heart  jump a little in your chest. Callum, Charlie and me all yelled our way to the bottom of that one. It was a great way to spend New Year's Day.
The big leap.
Cenote number three, stunning.
Unfortunately our hope of ending our stay with one more lovely meal in our regular restaurant, Lol Ha, didn't quite eventuate.  It would seem that the restaurant gave their A, B and C teams New Years Day off because the service and the food went from noteworthy and delicious to Fawlty Towers and roadside truck stop. I don't normally complain but here I made an exception.  Food aside, it was good start to the year.  Tomorrow we're packing up and heading off to Cuba.

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