Japanese foot spa and flying circus

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December 8th 2018
Published: December 9th 2018
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Cenote Christalina

This morning we are going out of town to visit a cenote.

We pack our day bag and go for breakfast at our usual haunt before hailing a taxi into Playa. The going rate today appears to be 50 pesos. Well I suppose that’s better than 90! It’s normally 35, I tell the driver. No, not for you, he says...it’s 35 for local people. I see, so I’m a gringo so I have to pay more? Si! Well I suppose it’s an honest answer. We take it before he realises we were expecting to be stung for 90!

Our taxi drops us opposite the colectivo station where there’s already a queue for Tulum bound minibuses. There’s a long line of vans however, so we don’t need to wait long! We secure the last two seats in our van so there’s no waiting around today.

There are three cenotes next door to each other on the same cenote system so we need to choose. Azul is billed as the smallest and having clear turquoise waters. It is completely open and surrounded by mangrove forest. It’s also quite shallow. Ian has put me off by telling me that the turtles in it might bite...they are carnivores! I really haven’t heard any reports of man eating turtles here but knowing our luck...! The second, named Christalino, has deeper water, a bit of a cave and a jumping in point. The water is clear but a bit greener and it’s larger than the first. The third one, Eden, is the largest with top notch facilities and very popular. We plump for Christalino.

It looks like we are practically the first to arrive. We pass a group of scuba divers setting up their kit and descend through the jungle to the water’s edge. There are some nice paved areas around the edge, wooden benches and a big gazebo to provide some shade in case it gets hot. Though today is overcast again.

The water feels ever so slightly chilly as I ease myself down a slippery set of wooden steps, but there are some little fish nibbling my skin so that gives me the incentive to jump straight in. It doesn’t hurt but I really don’t like the sensation. Yes, I know people pay a lot of money to have one of these foot spas but really it’s not for me!

Ian has decided to join me today and we both swim off to explore. There are lots of little nooks and crannies to investigate including a scenic swim through with lots of big tree roots. The cenote is absolutely teeming with fish of all sorts, colours and sizes. We see the scuba trio finning through beneath us. We reach the far end of the pool where Ian kindly points out a massive iguana up in a tree just above us. Outside of a zoo, I have never seen one this big - truly it was more than three feet long. They don’t swim do they? Ian isn’t sure. I think we’ll swim back to the main area!

The cenote is starting to fill up now. The main part is divided up by a couple of ropes. There is a tall jump off point for the brave and the stupid. I am neither, but people are having a lot of fun using it. I guess it must be about four metres? There is a man up top who has gone to jump but now he is having second thoughts. He looks over the edge uncertainly then waits whilst some others take the plunge. Several times he takes a run towards the edge, but stops short. He must have been up there twenty minutes when, at last, he takes courage and in he plunges. There is a huge splash and everyone in the cenote begins to clap.

I am having a relax at the side of the cenote with my legs dipping into the water. Ian is still in the water standing on a rock. Both of us are getting nibbled but Ian appears to be rather enjoying it whilst I keep my legs moving to keep the blighters off me.

I decide it’s time for another splash. This time I am heading over to explore the caves. This involves skimming over a huge protruding rock which is covered in fossils. The sun is shining and the cave is filled with lots of bright needle-like rays. I’m the only one in here so it’s very peaceful. I swim over to the edge where the cave roof is very low and find that I can swim through to another cave area. It’s all very enjoyable.

On my return swim I see a load of scuba divers below me...looks like they have just returned and are doing their deco. Shame I can’t go for a dive, but I am still recovering from my chest infection so that’s that.

I have returned to join Ian, who has been observing the nature all around this cenote. Thankfully his attention has turned from giant lizards - he has spotted a kingfisher in the tree beside us.

We are starting to feel a little chilly so we decide to head off back to Playa del Carmen. We need to visit the bank and we will also check out the trendy part of town whilst we are at it. To hail a colectivo, we must first cross an extremely busy dual carriageway...it’s their equivalent of a motorway. It’s a pretty hairy experience with a huge truck blaring it’s horn at us despite being some distance away. It races past us at alarming speed as we reach the far side.

Now we are standing beside the dusty road hoping for a ride. Every colectivo that passes is full so all we get is a shower of dust as the wheels speed by. We soon realise that it would be better to move further up the carriageway as the people coming out of the cenote up the road are beating us to it.

Finally we manage to grab the last couple of spaces on a van. Ian gets in the front and I take the back seat. This is actually a bank of four, but two ladies on the back seat seem to need three seats between them. A little further up, another lady gets in, so now the two of us appear to be sharing one seat!

We arrive back in town where I manage to extract myself from the van. First we nip to the bank to withdraw some cash and then we make our way down to the trendy sea front at Parque Fundadores. Here, there is an interesting sculpture park leading out to the sea. We arrive just in time for a Voladores cultural performance. The Voladores are a team of Mexicans who perform an acrobatic stunt from the top of a pole. After some music and dancing at ground level, five men climb a tall pole and fix ropes around their waists and feet. The remainder of the rope is wound up. One man stays at the top playing a musical instrument whilst four of them slowly descend in a spiralling fashion as the rope unwinds. Meanwhile a couple of other men circulate the crowds for tips. It’s a daredevil feat and certainly worth a tip from us!

We make our away along a pedestrian area which is packed with expensive bars and cafes and shops selling overpriced tourist tat. Everything is priced in US dollars. We decide to clear the trendy area before looking for a taxi...not that there would be much chance in a pedestrian street! We reckon that the area around our accommodation is probably going to look like this in a few years time as the pedestrian street has already gone in. To be honest, this is precisely what we had expected Playa to look like and now we are beginning to think it might have been a good thing that we booked a little way out. It might be quiet but our lovey little restaurant serves proper meals for a third of the price of what they are asking for a club sandwich here!

We take a side street which leads to a street with traffic. Here we flag down a taxi who asks for the 50 peso gringo rate for a ride back to the outskirts. It turns out his name is something Gonzales but we can call him Speedy. As we near our destination we tell Speedy that he may drop us at the side of the road as we intend to visit the Oxxo. He insists on dropping us right in front, despite the fact that he is in the wrong lane and cuts across a motorbike and lorry to make the left hand turn across the dual carriageway. The bike and lorry squeal to a halt whilst I just squeal. Don’t worry says Speedy, this is Mexico!

We pick up a croissant for a very late lunch and return to the accommodation for our snack and siesta. It’s 3pm.

This evening we are predictably back at our local restaurant for another slap up meal.

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