Thursday, December 20, 2012

Maya Lands: A Trip to Cozumel

 I figured it might be apropos to do a post that had a Mayan connection on this 21st day of December in 2012. It so happened that about ten days ago I was in Cozumel, Mexico, the main destination of our cruise. I was so excited to get there. The water was an amazing blue color that I've never seen before.

 In the distance we could see buildings and monuments of Cozumel island, which is the largest island in Mexico. It is a bit south of Cancun, located offshore of the Yucatan Peninsula.

 It was a stormy day, but that didn't deter us from our plans: to go snorkeling.

 We waited in line to get off the cruise ship, then hurriedly walked down the pier, through the little fake village of shops, and to the taxi stand. They didn't have a sign as to where you could get out of the village, and I think the cruise companies kind of hope that people will stay there.

When we got to the taxis, we were the only cruisers there. We had one guy try and talk us into going to a beach to the north, but we had decided we really wanted to go to Parque Nacional Chankanaab, located a few kilometers south of the pier. Our taxi driver also tried to get us to change our minds, but we decided no. Chankanaab charges $21 a person to enter, which includes several attractions, as you will see if you keep reading this rather long post.

 Desert Girl was wearing her princess crown, and she was a sleeping beauty, lulled to sleep by the short taxi ride.

 The entrance to the park was quite nice.

 We quickly got to see some of the local fauna.

 We really wanted to get to the beach. We found a nice chair and parked our worn-out princess. Then it was time for most of our group to go snorkeling.

 Desert Boy really wanted to climb a tree and get a coconut, but he never quite achieved that.
I had read that much of the sand at Chankanaab had been imported. Beaches in Cozumel tend to be either rocky with good snorkeling or sandy with poor snorkeling. Chankanaab had solved that problem by bringing in sand to its rocky shores and appealing to everyone.

 It was very easy to get to the water, and the visibility was very good, at least by our standards (and much better than Key West, where we had snorkeled the day before).

 Fish were everywhere! It was so cool to watch them swimming, feeding, and sometimes hiding.

 I don't know what the fish were, even though I had a tropical fish book. I still need to look them up!

 The snorkeling area was quite large. Further down the beach they had scuba diving, but none of us came prepared for that.

 When Desert Girl woke up, she was ready to play on one of the hammocks. It was mid-afternoon and not very busy, possibly because of the storms.

 Our admission fee included a sea lion show.

 The sea lions were very well trained.

 Desert Boy and Desert Girl each got a special kiss at the end of the show.

We also saw dolphins. One of the main attractions at the park is to swim with the dolphins. We didn't feel the need to do that. Supposedly they also have manatees, but we never could find them.

 It started raining hard, and the waves got kind of big, so most of our group went in search of the crocodiles. They looked a little scary. Then we ended up on a trail to see some archeological finds.

 Desert Girl was not too sure of being in such a downpour. It was a little chilly, but as long as we kept walking, we were fine.

 Along the trail they had replicas from many cultures from all over Mexico. We didn't really read much as we were trying to stay warm and find our way through. They had lights by some of the statues, and it would be really cool to go through there are night.

 We were surprised to come to a little temple. As we looked at it, we noticed a pair of glowing eyes inside it. We had been talking about monkeys, so at first we thought it might be one. It also sort of looked like an owl. We decided the best way to find out what it was would be to take a photo.

 The flash revealed a cat taking refuge from the rain inside. Well, not too exciting, so we kept going.

 The kids found a small turtle in a puddle and were enthralled by it.

 When we got back to the beach (skipping the tequila tasting section of the park), the rain had slowed, so we snorkeled some more. The kids played in a really nice freshwater pool. Then it was dark, and we were the last tourists out of the park.

We debated whether we should go back to the ship or not and decided to make the most of our time in Mexico and go see the downtown area. We had no problem getting a taxi, and our taxi driver enjoyed a conversation in Spanish with Desert Boy. He let us off at the central plaza.

 Desert Girl was ready to party it up.

 They had some nice Christmas lights up. It also appeared that they have a small carousel and a trampoline that parents can pay for during the day. We didn't mention those to the kids. Instead, we plied them with an all-time favorite: churros.

 Yum. Who can resist some sugary fried dough?

 We wandered down the pedestrian streets (so nice not to worry about traffic!). One English-speaking lady told my sister-in-law that Cozumel had changed a lot in the last decade. More and more cruise ships come, so the area has developed a much larger shopping district. One cab driver said about 25 ships come each week. Only one other ship was in port the day we arrived, and it left at 5:30 pm, so we found very few tourists wandering with us.

 We found a simple church. It was the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a huge religious holiday in Mexico. However, the big celebration was the night before, as they had a procession around the island that culminated with a midnight mass. One senora that left the church told me that the six o'clock mass was just ending and that there would be another at eight o'clock.

 We found a little cafe and ordered some tamales. They were huge!

 As we wandered, we passed this mural, which I found extremely touching. It shows the native flora and fauna and is entitled: Los veradaderos islenos/Our real islanders. It is so great to see that the people who live there realize that they are not the only inhabitants, that many other species share the island with them. This mural really grabbed me, and I wish I had taken more photos of it so I could see it even better.

 We wandered by many shops, most selling trinkets. When we went by the boot store, the bored shopkeeepers let us take a photo of Desert Boy in the big boot.

 Desert Girl tried on a hat.

 At Mr. Chile's, we found a bar with swings as seats. The owner encouraged us to take a few photos.

 If we had more time, I would have loved to have had a drink or two there. It looked like so much fun!

 Eventually we got tired of wandering and got a taxi back to the cruise village. We ambled through and back to the ship. It had been a good day in Mexico, and I didn't really want to leave. I could easily spend more time in Cozumel.

And in case you're wondering, I didn't get any strange vibes that the world was going to end or that Mayans were going to rise up and reconquer the island. But maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention. We'll see what happens...


Alica said...

This looks like a lot of fun! We would love to see and do some of these things someday..."post cows"! :)

The Incredible Woody said...

The color and clarity of the water there is amazing. I went on a cruise to Cancun and Cozumel in December 1983 - way before the tourism boom! Cozumel was a sleepy little place. We rented mopeds and zipped out of town. Such an adventure!

StineKathrine said...

Where is the last picture taken? :)

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