05.01.2015 - 12.01.2015 81 °F
After leaving Merida, we bus it back to the center of the Yucatan to spend the
night in the town of Vallodolid, or as I now call it 'The Town of Aguilars'.
Vallodolid is home to several cenotes including Xkeken, Samula and Zaci. We arrived in town
early in the afternoon and had a few hours to spend before checking into our hotel just around
the corner from the ADO station. We take a taxi 4 miles to the entrance of the park, purchase
tickets and begin to get excited about visiting these new cenotes. Xkeken, also known as Dzitnup,
is considered one of the more beautiful cenotes and it is easy to see why. After taking a
winding stone staircase down into the cavern, you enter a nearly enclosed underwater lair
complete with blue water and bats fluttering on the rock ceiling above you. The place has
a joyous air to it and if you are in any kind of sour mood, a cenote like this one will surely
cure it. It may sound scary floating around in an underground cavern with bats flying overhead
but you can't help feeling a sense of calm and joy while being in the Xkeken.
After about an hour, we walk across to the other cenote Samula which has a more open, light-filled
ambiance about it. I would best describe it as more like an actual large pool that someone
could have built. It seems almost perfectly circular with a tiny rock-filled island in the center
and a small hole open to the sky revealing a dangling tree against blue sky. The water is ultra
clear blue and most of this cenote is about 7ft deep or so.
Refreshed, we head back to check into our hotel, grab a bite to eat and take time to explore the
main area as dusk approaches. Although Vallodolid is smaller in size and population than
Merida, it is surprisingly LOUD. The cars seem louder and the birds in the trees are screeching
like the birds in my old cinepoem 'Blackbirds'. We wander about in the warm, Vallodolid air and
look up on occasion to admire the bright full moon in the distance. The entire time we are in
Valldolid, we noticed how many shops and stores have the name 'Aguilar' on them. There is Aguilar
Sports, Aguilar Cantina, Aguilar Cafe, Farmacia Aguilar etc. etc. Several homes also carry the
name and even visiting the old convent we saw several gravestones with the name 'Aguilar'.
The Aguilar surname is very common in the Yucatan as well as all of Latin and South America. It
comes from Spain and in fact one of the very first Europeans to set foot in the America's was
a fellow by the name of Geronimo de Aguilar. He was shipwrecked here for years before being
rescued and he has the off-putting reputation of helping Conquistadors during the Conquest.
Nonetheless, it is kind of fun to see your last name almost everywhere you turn.
Early the next day we hike about 4 blocks over to the cenote Zaci which is essentially in the
middle of the town. It's one of the larger cenotes and is frequent stop for many tourists buses.
We make our way in with a crowd of tourists and walk down to the waters edge and I undress to
my swimming trunks and begin to get into the fish-filled clear water as tourists ring the cenote
snapping touristy-pics. A young man climbs to the top of a tree about 50 feet from the water and
does a high dive to the delight of the crowd.
We later leave Vallodolid by bus and head to Playa del Carmen which is situated on the Eastern
part of the peninsula between Cancun and Tulum. We arrive and taxi to the Drop By Hotel several
blocks from the beach. However, it's only 10 pesos (75cents) for both of us to take the short
bus ride to the beach.
Playa del Carmen beach is lovely and we are again swimming in the blue Caribbean waters under
a hot sun. We decide to take it easy and setup camp on a set of beach chairs that comes with
food/drink service and Internet.
Going and hanging out at the beach always seems like a good idea when you've been spending time in
a city but after a day or so, beach life becomes a bit ho-hum. So we grab a ferry ride to the
island of Cozumel the next day and venture to Chaakanab Park, a private area with live crocodiles,
recreated mayan ruins, and apparently some of the best snorkling spots around. The snorkling is
great and we were lucky to have the beach and the waters to ourselves once the cruise ship
crowd vacated. The waters were a bit choppy that day but it didn't matter as dozens of brightly
colored fish swam all around me. I'd never seen anything like it and I'm becoming more and more
of a snorkel lover. Perhaps I'll get into scuba diving next?
Let's be honest. Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are serious tourist destinations with the people
traffic and costs to match. "How much shopping, eating, drinking and beaching can a person do?", I
wondered. We made plans to stay here for the week but I think 3 days would have been just right.
I mean, I'm writing this post across from a Starbucks that's next to a Haagen-Dazs that's next
to a Victoria's Secret that's next to a...you get the picture.
We've decided to forgo the bus this time and will be renting a car so we can drive the two hours
down to famous Tulum and then stay the night at Coba. Coba is a bit more out of the way and
offers our first opportunity to climb actual Mayan pyramids and do a little more hiking and to
get away from the tourists. Not that all tourists are a drag. Andrea I struck up a conversation
with a nice man and his son from Milwaukee while at Starbucks. The father was himself well
traveled and he imparted some nice suggestions for our upcoming European leg. Heidelberg
seems interesting and I think we'll definitely check it out. Anyway, we had a nice, long conversation
and it was fun to hear their stories and for us to share ours. When we told them we sold everything
and our now traveling the world, Don, the father, said we were "living the dream". It's
funny to hear that and I don't think we feel like we are living any kind of dream. The feelings
we have are constantly changing and often times the "dream" is not the word I would use to
describe our lives these days. It's wonderful, don't get me wrong and I can't think of anything
better I would be doing now but I think I just get hung up on the term "dream".
So after Coba it will be on back to the Ik Kil Cenote (Our favorite) for the night and then
Merida where we will hunker down for the winter until mid-February. We'll be taking Spanish
lessons and Salsa lessons and checking out properties as well as socializing with all the
new friends we had already made there.
Wish us luck, or better yet wish us a 'Vaya Con Dios!'