This weekend was spent exploring another side of Mexico – the side that is only seen by foreigners and those working in the high end tourist trade! Three of Col’s old friends from Germany via Belgium were visiting another old friend of theirs in Cancun so we have all just spent the weekend together. These German friends are renowned for throwing great parties and being able to organise the best get-togethers, and this weekend ran along similar lines to times spent together in Germany!
We met in Akumal, a tiny little place about thirty minutes from Tulum. We decided to take a collectivo (local minibus) rather than a private taxi. SB ate breakfast before we left home but took an apple for the road and then sat on the bus munching anything I could throw at him. As soon as we got off the bus in Akumal we went for juice because it was already getting super hot. The juice place sold subrites (teeny little taco type things) so I got one each for Col and me (he’d said he didn’t want one but I knew as soon as he saw mine he’d ask for a bite and his bites are BIG). The kids both claimed to not want anything but as soon as mine arrived, SB asked for one so I made him go and order his on his own! He had to say ‘pollo sin nada por favor’, which he did very well. Two minutes later SG wanted one too so she was taken to say the same. Just as we finished two of the crew showed up to drive us down to the beach because Akumal is famous for TURTLES!!!!!!!
(this is the bay. I don’t have any pictures of the turtles until a friend sends them to me as she had an underwater camera. However, that black blob on the boat antenna is a pelican!)
Yeah, we went snorkelling to see turtles. It was as freaking amazing as you might imagine, even with a small child whining and crying in my ear for much of it. We swam out in crystal clear water with two guides (because we had two little ones we had to have two guides). Each kid was in a life jacket and then in a proper life-ring with a guide swimming and pulling them along (turns out that both kids said to Col and me that they wanted us to hold them too so Col and I were holding on to one ring each so essentially getting a free ride from the guide!). SB was keen to see the turtles but really nervous about getting in the water and going so far out but he was extremely brave and did get in quite quickly. Once he was in, he was in, and he had no choice but to remain there. I think he realised this so quickly gave up his complaining! SG was with Col but I assume she was easier to deal with as she doesn’t fear the sea and loves adventure. We all had snorkels. SG actually put her mask and snorkel on at times so she managed to see the turtles swimming around under her. SB point blank refused to put them on so he only saw the turtles when they came up for air, which he said he was happy with. To be honest, he was clearly ecstatic about seeing them pop up. I was a bit sad he didn’t want to try as I know he’d have loved seeing them under the surface but I couldn’t exactly force him to put a mask on! The biggest turtle we saw was apparently 120 years old.
We were probably swimming in water that was just over two metres deep and the clarity was incredible. We saw loads of lovely fish and probably around a dozen turtles during an hour in the water. The turtles were eating a sea grass, which apparently has a similar effect on them as smoking weed does on people. They were just magnificent and surprisingly looked just like they do in cartoons. I could have stayed all day but SB started getting cold so I took him back to shore. Col and SG were already there as her life jacket had been hurting.
I really don’t know how to describe the majesty of seeing these incredible creatures like this. They were just stunning and it was incredibly peaceful to watch them swim around enjoying themselves underneath us. Every few minutes one would pop its head out of the water for breath and we’d all stop and watch, completely transfixed.
After the others got back – they carried on to the reef when we turned back – we had some lunch, SG decided to sit (fully clothed) in a foot washing pool and the waiters randomly took away my lunch before I’d finished it and then looked surprised when I said I wasn’t paying full price for a meal they’d taken away.
Then we headed to the house that Col’s friends had rented. It’s in a place called Bahia Resort, or something. We’d passed the entrance on the way to Akumal and SB had asked me what it was. I told him it was a resort and that he’d not be going in there any time soon as it was a little out of our league. Ahem. Turns out that was where we were staying. Crazy. The North Koreans could have built the entrance:
(not my photo)
We drove up to the house and were completely wowed. It has three double rooms, three bathrooms, a large kitchen and living room, a garden with pool and a jacuzzi on the roof (where the kids spent most of their time). Wow. Everything was marble and perfect…except the things that weren’t such as the internet, the water and the gas. Otherwise it was pretty incredible.
After a while, some of us went to the supermarket as we had nothing in the house. I went and watched in horror at how much alcohol was put in the trolley! I seriously felt sick at what was going in! We did get some food as well and I snuck off to get Chinese takeaway for the kids as I knew the planned bbq would never come quickly enough for them given that we were at the shops at their supper time. Kids were thrilled with their supper and I have to admit that, as I noted above, these friends of Col’s do know how to sort a gathering. They really hadn’t overdone anything, in fact they were back at the shops today stocking up! So after the kids ate, the bbq was lit and we eventually sat down to eat at around 9pm. SG gave up just before food was ready and put herself to bed. SB probably lasted around 30 minutes longer before he took himself off to bed too. We’d decided not to bother trying to force them to sleep at the normal time as they were having such a wonderful time and enjoying the adventure of the new place and meeting Col’s lovely friends.
The three bedrooms meant that the kids, Col and I all slept in one bed. Luckily it was an emperor bed so it wasn’t too much of a squeeze. It would have been better if I’d noticed the blackout blinds before we all went to sleep, but hey ho. Kids, sure as damn-it, woke at 7am so we trundled down and tried to have a quiet breakfast so as not to wake our hard drinking friends. We failed. Two more were up within the hour so we continued eating and chatting. The last three were up at 10am, somehow managing to ignore the noise from the kids.
Luckily SG’s diction still isn’t as clear as it might be. Most native English speakers no longer have any trouble understanding her but thankfully these Germans and Mexican didn’t understand her as she (and her brother) spent a lot of time asking tactless questions such as: ‘why is that one still here?’, ‘why does he keep coming, he’s not a friend, is he?’ and ‘why did she change her clothes again?’. Her diction was perfect, however, when she came running to me with my water bottle and asked me, ‘is this wine or can I drink it?’ I’d filled the bottle with watermelon iced tea (yes, it’s as disgusting as it sounds but the water was finished) and not told anyone. I am proud she knew to check but horrified that she thinks I drink so much that I might fill a water bottle with booze at 11am on a Sunday!
It turned out that the house was on a huge luxurious estate that included lots of hotels, beaches, a massive golf course and a whole swathe of houses. Our being in the house gave us access to three of the numerous hotels. After eating all morning long (toast, left over Chinese, fruit, hotcakes and yoghurt with granola and then sandwiches) we eventually left for the beach. I won’t pretend I liked what I saw when we got there. It was row upon row of beach beds and a lovely jetty out in to the sea. The jetty went in to a little area that was protected from the waves by buoys. It made a big difference because the sea seems to have been really rough there (certainly different from Akumal and Tulum despite being not far from either). We headed on to the jetty to have a look around and quickly realised that it housed an enormous speaker that was blaring out music. Just after we arrived, three very bored looking instructors (?) came and lead a weird sea aerobics session that maybe 100 people joined in with. We retreated quickly.
We went and found a pool area and grabbed ourselves some reclining beds before spending the afternoon in one of two activities: 1. Having fun in the water with the kids; 2. Trying to figure out if we could eat and drink anything. It was odd. We knew our wristbands gave us access to the site but not to free food or drink, which was fine except nowhere seemed to sell anything and no one working there seemed to have any idea what we were meant to do. Eventually we went and got drinks from the bar, having heard a rumour we could have coke and water. Water, yes. Coke, the guy gave it to us and told us to go and pay at reception – oh, ok, yeah, definitely! So we subsisted on the random collection of kid snacks I had, coke and water for the entire day. Thank goodness for our massive breakfast!
We all had a lovely day, I love spending time with this group of people and the kids were revelling in having other adults to play with them but I definitely don’t love the all-inclusive concept. It was weird to see such an enormous resort and realise that some people will never leave the beach/pool combo that they were offered. They’ll never see the incredible Mexico that is just on their doorstep. The music in the pools was annoying, as were the groups of large North American guys playing loud ball games across one of the pools.
The kids loved our friends and it was lovely to see our fairly reticent children trust and play with them. To be fair, our friends did a great job of letting the kids come to them slowly, slowly. A quick word here, a touch of the head there… until in the pool they approached the idea of playing really gently. By the end, SB was clambering on the back of one friend and being flung around by another. SG walked in to the sea holding hands with another friend, not even looking back to see if we were ok with it or watching her.
By 8pm we had got back home. We’d said good bye to our lovely friends, done a quick food shop, fed the kids cake for supper and dumped them in bed.
Truly a lovely weekend with lovely, lovely people but I am so glad we are seeing Mexico the way we’re seeing it. I love that the foreigners with whom we’re mixing are all here to learn Spanish and see Mexico rather than just to play in a pool and eat in buffets. I love that the kids are really experiencing a new culture rather than just hanging out on the pool or beach and only seeing Mexicans serving Europeans. And I love that we can eat crisps that don’t cost $9 a bag!