Quintana Roo and the Yucatan

Michael at Tulum

Road trip. One of our greatest travelling pleasures is getting a car and exploring on our own. We have had an amazing few days. We started with a trip to the ruins of Tulum. The ruins at this popular destination are simple and not attractive, but the location is stunning against the sea. We left the crowds to carry on with our trip. The next stop was at the ruins of Coba. We rented bicycles to get around the area and climbed up the largest of the towers for a view of the jungle.

Leanne climbing the ruins at Coba

Continuing our drive we left the state of Quintana Roo and entered into Yucutan.  We had passed through a number of uneventful police check points, but along the way we went through one where they stopped us for our first interrogation. As it was entirely in Spanish, of which I only understand a few basic words. I think his first question was to do with where we were going and I said Chichen Itza [not pronounced as Chicken Pizza, but close]. He then started directing us to turn around, which made me panic a bit. I quickly responded, “no, no, Valladolid” to which he understood we were in fact heading in the right direction. It is a city on the way that we wanted to stop in. He then asked me what nationality we were (the only full Spanish phrase I completely understood) and I replied Canadian.  He smiled, said bienvanidos and sent us on our way.

Chichen Itza (one of the seven world wonders)

Valladolid turned out to be a beautiful town. When we first entered it we were a little unsure of our decision to stray from the main roads, but it was worth the extra time.  We continued on and pulled into the lodge adjacent to the Chichen Itza archeological site. We were greeted with a refreshing welcome drink called Jamaica [ha-my-ka]. We settled in before going to the sound and light show at the ruins. The place we were staying at is adjacent to them and we have a private entrance to it. We took front row and waited while the buses of tourists filled the other spots. They ran out of chairs and many of them had to stand. The light show started and it was awful. We couldn’t understand most of what was being said and they just kept turning the lights on and off the different buildings as the story was told. We snuck out about two-thirds of the way into it, and almost getting lost on the grounds trying to get back to the hotel. We had a late dinner before going to our room.

Michael rappelling at X-Canche Cenote

The next morning we were up early. We had breakfast around 7:30 and entered the park as it opened at 8AM. We practically had the entire grounds to ourselves. It was voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it was the only one I still hadn’t seen. Our visit was awesome. We spent two hours thoroughly exploring it and the crowds of people were just starting to arrive when we were ready to leave. We were thrilled with our special access to it. We then went for a long drive to the ruins at Ek Balam. While these were good to see the main goal of the trip was to visit the X’Canche Cenote (sink hole).  This is one you can zip-line over and rappel into. It is far enough away that it does not get many visitors. The cost to rent bikes to get there (2km each way), the zip-line, rappelling, swimming and tour guide was about $10 total Canadian. They brought the price down without any battering on my part as I was slow to decide if I only wanted to rappel. It was a lot of fun and the water was very refreshing. It is about 90 feet deep and had little black catfish in it.

Dzitnup Cenote

Our next stop was a popular cenote called Dzitnup along the main road for Chichen Itza. We were pestered by children as we arrived in the parking lot. They were trying to extort us for money to make sure “nothing happens” to our car while we are away. I hate this scenario, it is the last thing you want to encourage, but you also feel vulnerable. At the previous one the kids attached an enormous snail to the bottom of our windshield when we were gone. Not a big deal, but I had heard stories of windows being broken and did not want to deal with it. I idiotically agreed to a tip of small change provided the car was “protected”.

We left the parking lot and made our way into the massive cavern. It is impressive, and needs to be artificially lit despite the opening in the center of the roof. There was a large cult of gringos all gathered together in the water in the middle of it. Their leader droned on in a loud monotone voice about being as one, and feeling the trees, and they all made humming sounds in unison. It was incredibly creepy.  We were anxious to leave. When we returned to the car the kids all came over for the “protection money”. I wrongly handed out a few coins, they wanted more and I said no. They were all over us as we got in the car. They saw a little cardboard prize inside we had from a bag of chips and the 8 kids all wanted it. They were pushing each other and begging us for it. We know so much better than this and I’m so mad we gave it away, but we did after I told them to back off the car or no one will get it. It will probably lead to the kids fighting over it and some were pretending to cry over the whole thing. At least I hope they were pretending. As a rule you never, never, ever give children items encouraging this type of behavior to beg from foreigners.  I know this. I have learned this from my own experiences, but more so from adults in poor countries explaining the problems it causes. Even well intentioned plans of handing out pencils turns out to be a disaster where some kids get them, others don’t and they all associate foreigners with gifts and get angry when they don’t get any. Anyway, this was the one downside of the day I wish I could do over, but the rest of the day was absolutely brilliant.

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