Breakfast will include a walk to a taco cart for some street meat, but not the one on the corner at the end of our street. We continue walking until I find a cart with eggs and all his tacos come with rice. The couple is very friendly and the wife offers us fresh juice as well, but then we will have no free hand to eat with as we make a circle around the block back to the house to get the car while we eat this delicious meal.
The schedule was thrown off by the weather and though the shop is closed on Saturday they have offered to set us up with some of their guys in Playa del Carmen, so today will be for exploring the Zona Hotelera… or so we think. Caleb wanted to start with the mall, but they don’t open till 9am and I don’t want to pay for an hour of walking around when we can do that for free. I park the car near an area that looks like the service entrance to hotels with a minimum cost of $270/night (some more than $500) so that we can visit the free beach nearby, Playa Marlin.
“Oh look at the view, it’s so pretty!” and then the diveshop calls us at 8:30 and asks if we’re available to dive, “Of course we are!” Now we’re wishing we had the dive gear in the car to save the extra 14 km it’s going to take us to drive north, do a snatch and run (forget my dive watch), and get there 20 minutes after 9am to meet Ulises who will be our private guide today to Punta Negra reef and Grampin Tunnel. Miguel would be our driver to deliver us over high waves, at least enough bumping around that I asked Caleb how his neck was doing.
We were both just so excited to be diving again after a nine month hiatus and eager to get in the water and below the waves. I’m slow to equalize with my thick wetsuit so dry and I try to put chin to chest to get down, but it’s not fast enough before we miss the dive site and have to reboard the boat to add weight and return to the drop spot. The dive is amazing and even though visibility is only about 20ft we manage to spot a large eel and two camouflage rockfish.
We surface, wait for the boat, and as I’m removing my fins at the ladder I suddenly feel 16lbs lighter. I climb up and tell Ulises who is quick to look in the water, but it is too late, and he says we can look for my weight belt on the next dive or let the shop know that I owe them money. We change tanks, drink some water, and after a 34 minute surface interval are back under the water for another 50ft dive. This time we will see a nurse shark, more eels, and a crab.
We swim through some reef arches and then over my weight belt that I attempt to pick up. Now I know why we’re taught to use our hips for placement, but Ulises is quick to take the burden and return a smile along with the ok symbol, so I don’t have to pay for that. We’re back to the room at one to wash the salt off, eat the sandwiches we bought for yesterday’s lunch, and try the pink bottle of tequila (Bailey’s) that we found. Refreshed and re-energized we’re ready to set out again.
I park in a spot marked for some business customers only so that we can walk to what’s left of the building next to them and take pictures, but as I contemplate how long the car will last and start to reverse, there is the guard with an of-course-I’m-here look on his face. I smile and make my way back into traffic to drive us to the Interactive Aquarium so we can see the same fishes but in a much smaller sea (like a prison or rehab cell). There’s plenty of ticket options available to include petting dolphins and riding the Ferris wheel, but we stick with basic entrance for $15 each.
There’s about five fish tanks inside and the rays outside next to the lone crocodile tank and then it’s up the stairs and across the walkway that goes over the dolphin pool to the other side with a trek in the tank experience and the gift shop. We stop for a few minutes to watch people pet dolphins ($159pp) and get pushed through the pool by their feet — a ride that costs $109 per person. We leave here to give ourselves at least two hours at the Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueologica de San Miguelito.
We turn left in front of the sign and ask for directions (turn left meant leave this hotel and go up the road to u-turn for the museum parking lot), but we didn’t understand that at the time, so we used the dirt lot that was available in front of the Omni. Tickets are about $3.50 and we start by going up the large spiral ramp that seems to gain heat and humidity with elevation. My body is thrilled to be in the air conditioning and my mind to be among artifacts that are over 2,000 years old.
The Mayan side of the museum focuses on faces and pottery with descriptions in Spanish and the Canadian exhibit on everything snow from the Thule Inuits of 1350 to horses’ shoes of 1930, with translations in Spanish, French, and English. We exit there after my vocabulary of corn and world (maize and mundo) fail to fully explain why these pieces are here. Outside it’s time to go down the spiral ramp and under the exhibit above to admire the large art animal combos and plants grown in a circle.
At the end of this is a guard, who after letting some girls move the barrier rope a foot out of their way for selfies, points us to the trail through the forest. I try to see the birds making noises with their mouths and feet, but what I have no problem spotting is all the iguanas. I wouldn’t mind having some crawling on rock ledges of my place (that I would build immediately) and bobbing their heads, which is cute and I’m sure intimidating to smaller species and the other males.
The Mayans chose a timeless rock as the ones that line the path look the same age as the ruins that have withstood abandonment, hurricane seasons, and Spaniards. The trail loops around and we pass a few people before we’re directed up the zig-zag ramp (the one that takes us to the exhibit we’ve already seen), but lucky for us there are two elevators and we take the lazy way down as we’re ready for the water we left in the car.
Caleb is feeling sleepy but we take a trip to Wal-Mart to ensure an early breakfast of overnight oats from their fruit bar. Any food left in a pan near people with skin, hair, and spit is liable to be a risky meal, especially here with the little boy sticking his hand into the hot bar/dessert area to grab a bite while his mom isn’t looking. I fill the cup, the deli lady puts a lid on it, then we pay at the register. Interesting fact: they sell their bread already toasted in packaged loaves.
We put groceries away and walk to Tacos de Yaxchilan (a taco cart) behind La Taberna (as recommended in our Airbnb guest book) for two pollo tacos, Caleb gets his with queso, and they come with spare tortillas that double for sauce stability or to catch the fallen ingredients. Caleb is refreshed and ready to try some nightlife. There are three places closest to the house, so we have a look at all of them. One has a line — no, one is empty — also no, so we choose the bar built of wood, metal, and bricks that’s all patio.
We’re sitting at Las Frias (The Cold) while he updates Instagram and I take notes with sports on the projector. We finish this and head to the room to prep for our morning dives. We walk past and turn off the lights to the mess of beer and food in the living room and kitchen. We hear Finn and his friends through the door drinking and laughing through the night. Staying at a hostel, for the same price, would’ve ensured more quiet after 10pm, and not having to walk around with shoes on because of the sticky floor.