Friday, February 20, 2009

Yucatan Wednesday's...America vs. The British

For those of you who've bothered to read Baja Tuesday's, my previous foray into travel blogging, you may remember our evening dinner cruise with Pepe The Hunky Boat Captain and my LOVE of watercraft...except cruise ships which I think are creepy for some inexplicable reason. After searching through our tour brochures and spending a good amount of time in argument about the decision, we found one we could agree on; me, because I love really fast boats- and Ryan, because I agreed to let him drive. So it was a speed boat jungle tour through the mangrove tree's that we embarked on that final morning.
Our tour was leaving from the dock at a sister hotel and we were early. We got our equipment (snorkel gear) from the woman at the beach shack and, with an hour to kill, plopped ourselves down on the sugar sand beach to wait. As you can imagine, that didn't last long and we were soon out in the water. One thing we didn't realize was that we were occupying a stretch of nude beach in front of the Temptation Resort... That was made abundantly clear to both of us soon enough when a woman walked by wearing only her Mp3. Don't ask me where she clipped that thing. I couldn't say.

* no, that's not the naked lady.*

The tour guides arrived shortly after, thank goodness, and we were taken to our boats...they were the aquatic version of 1960 Volkswagen beetles. Lightweight bodies, no shocks, a dental bill waiting to happen at the first encounter with a pothole. We stood on the dock with our guide waiting for the rest of the folks who were scheduled on this tour to arrive.
We heard them before we saw them, loud, laughing voices echoing from somewhere behind the beach shack and beyond our vision. They all had the same East-London, Cockney ring to them.
They came into sight a moment later and I watched our guide roll his eyes. At 18, 19, maybe 20 years old, cigarettes dangling from still talking mouths, they were a group of noisy, squawking, giggling young people. I braced myself, but was pleasantly surprised when they smiled warmly and greeted us. We chose our boats and listened to the simple operating instructions from the guide, the Londoners laughing through the rundown and requiring several repeats. Ryan and I, feeling old, sat there waiting.
We left the small dock and putted slowly away from the other boats. Ryan sat behind the wheel for now, my concession to not having to speed through the mosquito infested jungle on a zip line. The guide led our group, with Ryan and I in the lead, along the short coast line. The Britt's were somewhere behind and I kept turning around to make sure they were still with us. The girls had looked nervous and the guys overconfident...I wondered how this was going to work and wasn't surprised to turn to check at one point and see that they'd all disappeared.
Our guide had set a pretty fast pace, racing through the water, the engine of the small boat whining and humming and the spray soaking our faces and hair and Ryan's glasses with salt water and foam until he was driving with one hand and constantly wiping his lenses with the other. We slow to a stop and maneuver up beside the guides boat. He's shielding his eyes from the bright sun and peering over the water to where two TINY specks are hovering on the horizon, slowly, slowly making their way in our direction. We wait several minutes until the Britt's are within earshot.
"Hey!" Our guide yells. "You want to go that slow, then you don't have time to snorkel! What's the problem?" He's flapping his hands at his sides, frustrated, but trying to be nice.
"Well, the girls were scared to go that fast." It sounded like this; 'The gulls weh skehd to go that fahst.'
"Well,"Our guide says again. "ok. But you won't be able to snorkel."
"We want to snorkel!!" Ryan and I shout in unison like two kindergartener's. The guide spares us a glance.
"Really sorry, we'll hurry." Says the guy with the cigarette, presumably the same one as before which is by now, soaked with sea water, still hanging out the corner of his mouth. It sounded like this...keep in mind only one corner of his mouth is able to move... 'relly sohrie, we'll hahrie.'
Off again now, we move away from the hotel infested coast line and enter a grove of Mangrove tree's. Egret's are standing at the edges of the narrow waterways and the tree's are hung with vines. A quiet comes over our group, one which I wish would happen when I take my children to the Library...and like those experiences, a loud, irreverent voice breaks the silence,
"Well, by god- this is something, isn't it? Harry do you see this?" The one with the Cigarette calls to the guy in the other boat. The two girls, one breezy brunette and the other a red head with a mass of curling hair which looked almost painful, sat by their men, silently, frowning, the cruise over the bay obviously not sitting well with them.
Cigarette boy is lean and pale and tall with an expression of general 'niceness' about him that I just cannot appreciate at the moment. His pal is about a hundred pounds heavier and covered with violent looking tattoo's, sports a bald head and seems to be completely unable to handle the boat he's driving.
We slow as we enter the smaller waterways of the Mangrove tree's, but tattoo man can't adjust his speed fast enough and rams into the back of cigarette boys' boat. The girls scream, the boys laugh and our saint-like guide looks nervously over his shoulder, the company attorney's phone number running through his mind on a ticker tape perhaps.
Ryan and I eyeball each other. Our expression says,
"For the love of all things holy, don't let those idiots get close to our boat. Did you see that?"
"Yes, I saw that. I know how to drive thankyouverymuch. You don't need to tell me."
I roll my eyes, we all know what I said in doing that, and go back to studying the jungle around us. I don't like the fact that there are a bunch of men driving boats they have no idea how to operate and feel very martyred. My fingers are itching for the wheel, but I say nothing. We had an agreement after all...
We wind and twine our way through the small rivers of sea water, watch the egret's fishing on from the sides, and begin to build speed before we explode out of the jungle and into an open bay. The water is currulean and extremely choppy. My teeth, broken bracket clanging, smash together as our boat slaps against the surf, hitting the crest of one wave, launching us into the air only to crash down into the belly of it the next. I look at Ryan...
"Can you say 'spinal compression?!" I shout.
"I can't help it! This water is so choppy!"
"You have to slolemn through it! Ride the rise of the wave, along the edge!!"
He can't hear me. Ugh. The launching off the waves part was pretty amazing, like a roller coaster- but hitting bottom was merciless and painful and it appeared by our guides direction, that we had a long ways to go.
Ten or eleven hours passed before we slowed and came to a grouping of other boats and a large cordoned off area that was obviously for snorkeling.
"Now, what are we doing here?" Cigarette boy asks in his thick accent.
"You snorkel if you want." The guide says, and pulls on his fins and mask.
Ryan and I have turned off the engine in our small boat and are doing the same, pulling on our gear and climbing onto the bow. The Britt's sit there and look at each other.
"I don't know. I'm not a good swimmer." Says the big guy. Sounds like, 'I dunnoh- Oim notuhgood swimmuh.'
"Me neither." From the red head who's seated next to him.
They debate amongst themselves long enough for Ryan, the guide and I to drop off our bows and into the water.
"Guys? Are you coming??" Says the guide. Two of the Britt's splash off the end of their boat, Cigarette boy and the brunette. The guide looks at us. We look at him.
"See this area here?" He asks Ryan and I and motions to the roped off section.
"Yeah." We both say.
"Stay inside it. And have fun." So much for our guided tour of the worlds second largest barrier reef. But we'd rather explore on our own than hang with England's finest, so we pull our masks down and move away. The guide is off to deal with the Britt's and we spend the next hour exploring one of the worlds most amazing ecological treasures and discover later that two of the four vacationing Londoner's hadn't even gotten out of their boat. The redhead didn't want to snorkel for some reason and Tattoo really couldn't swim apparently.
"Did you enjoy it then?" Ask the Cigarette boy to Ryan when we're all hungry, tired and climbing back into our boats.
"Yeah, we love it. How about you?"
"I really didn't, to tell you the truth. I found it quite difficult actually." *you have to imagine the Cockney accent and the hoity expression to fully appreciate the humor here.*
"Is that right?"
"Yes. It was quite difficult. I don't think I ever want to do that again."
Ryan nods his head in understanding as we stow our gear at our feet. The brunette nods her head in agreement with her companion.
"How do you feel about the boats then?" He asks Ryan.
"Oh, they're pretty basic, but they're fine. "
"Not hard for you to maneuver then?"
"Nope." Ryan's looking at this guy with a bit of concern now. It's a steering wheel and a throttle. How hard can it be? The guy only says, "Hm." and adjusts his sunglasses.
Our guide shouts for us to follow him and takes off in a spray of water. Big Guy With Tattoo's shoots across the water after him with a short shriek coming from his red headed boating buddy.
Ryan and I are next with cigarette boy bringing up the rear. Our throttle is as far forward as it would go and the tiny, lightweight boat with the big V8 engine was often literally flying over the water, touching down from time to time and with gut wrenching impact. Ryan is still driving...
I wait several minutes...remember it's a long, long way. I'm not sure I can endure another bone-cracking jolt into the wake of tattoo guy and I finally shove up my Paris Hilton Like sunglasses, (which embarrass me slightly, but not enough to stop wearing them.)
"Ok. You have to let me drive!"
"What?!" We were screaming over the open water with the engine in our ears- but he heard me just fine.
"You have to let me drive! You're killing me!!!"
"What, like a Chinese Fire Drill?! Are you serious?"

He looks at me with a combination of fear and admiration, "Ok..." *It's the opiate look again.
In a move that was both courageous and probably not that smart he lifts himself up (not easy in the cramped space with our legs out in front of us.) and I scoot quickly under him, so that he's essentially on my lap in the tiny, screaming boat.
"Ok! I have it!" I say, after reaching to his right and grabbing the wheel. We can hear yelling behind us and assume the Britt's are watching and don't really approve of our behavior. He lets go and pulls himself over to the passenger side. We've barely missed a beat and the boat is still in line with tattoo boy and the cowering red head.
"Alright, Smartie. Let's see you do better!" Ryan says, but his grin softened the remark.
I careen to the right and line up with the ridge of Tattoo's wake, ride it to a softer break in the waves and jet across to the left to repeat the process with that side. The wake breaks up the choppy waves and I'm able to avoid them for the most part, though in Ryan's defense, it still wasn't seamless. His grin is so wide you could sink a putt in it now. Memories of my youth are racing back and the boat feels natural, like so many days on the lake as a kid. I'm rusty and out of practice, but I get the hang of it quickly and Ryan leans back, enjoying the ride.
We wind our way back through the mangrove tree's, startle a couple of Egret's who take flight in front of us, their white wings flashing in the afternoon light, and make our way along the coastline where a giant flag of Mexico waves against the blue Caribbean sky.

We approach the dock by the *lovely* Temptation was pretty nice actually.... and the guide quickly tethers our boat. The cigarette smoking Britt is looking at me with a grin.
"That was unbelievable! You were better than I was!" He's pretty amazed by this. I'm not sure if it was because I was a 'girl' or because I was an American.
"Well, she's done this kind of thing before..." explains Ryan. I shoot him a glare.
"Really?! That's amazing." He's looking at me with the weirdest expression and for some reason I felt really proud for American women right then. His girlfriend was not my biggest fan at the moment and made her comments, but we largely ignored her. We climbed out of the boat and stood now on the old wooden dock.
"Yes," I say, "We American women do this kind of thing all the time." My chin is up and hands are clasped behind my back like a proud five year old.
"Well." He nods approval at me as his girlfriend sends a withering look in my direction and I want to do a happy dance around the beach shack, but I don't. I also now have a strange compulsion to high-five everyone I see who seems not to have a foreign accent.
We return our gear and saunter around the Temptations pool area on our way to the lobby to phone for a shuttle. We'd already forgotten about the 'nekid' lady on the beach and are startled by the number of women in bikini bottoms on lounge chairs...startling because they were all missing tops.
"We should stay..." Ryan begins.
"Don't even think about it." There's no way I'll be staying at a hotel where five million gorgeous, big busted women vacation topless. Forget it, pal, I think.
Our shuttle arrives and we climb in. It's late afternoon now, but there's still plenty of sun and we make plans to lay on the beach at the hotel when we get back.
Our week in Cancun is over, or almost, and we're very satisfied. A few glitches, an unbelievable rain storm, some difficulty with flights...but all in all, a really wonderful vacation.
We enjoy a quiet afternoon on the beach and dinner at the fancy a la carte restaurant. We'll be taken to the airport tomorrow morning and must make the trek home.
That night, we lie in bed staring at the ceiling together, thinking about the trip, our mutual sunburns aching against the cool sheets.
"Do you know what I'm doing the MINUTE we get back?" I ask Ryan.
And in his mind he lists the probabilities; hugging the kids, hugging the dumb dogs, eating something substantial...but we're not on our honeymoon and he know's me better than to suggest those things.
"Calling the orthodontist?" He says. And I smile.
"You know it."

With that, we sleep.

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