Monday, November 14, 2016

Day 3 - Cozumel, Mexico

Today was our first shore excursion and it felt good to be off the ship.
Eagerly waiting to debark

We were immediately struck by how many BUGS there are in Cozumel. Volkswagen bugs. They are very popular here . There are so many scooters on the road that a separate lane is devoted to scooters.  After these initial impressions we set off on our mission - to find the guitar by Hard Rock cafe. We had no address. We figured, correctly, this would be a pretty well-known landmark. I asked a man and received directions. Off we went.
Striker Biker
Slug Bug - Kids, Dad says he won the count today 
Another immediate observation were the various uses for bikes. These little "cabs" came right up on the pier to pick people up. We walked.

I had booked a private and customizable jeep tour for the day. The Internet promised an all-inclusive day with several stops.....the following is from the website.

·         Transport by private vehicle
·         Fuel surcharge
·         National Park fees
·         Lunch
·         Bottled water and beer
·         Local guide
·         Hotel/port pickup and drop-off
·         Use of snorkel equipment

I began to have doubts when our guide asked, "What do you want to see?" Um - the stuff listed in your add - but he seemed unfamiliar with the ad. Tip - bring a copy of the printed ad (not just the voucher).

Another surprise is  Michael turned out to be our driver for the day. After a few pointers, Miguel commented he was,  "As good as a Mexican driver."  We are considering a jeep for a towed vehicle (toad) and were interested in getting a feel for the ride and how it drives. By the end of the day we agreed this was not a fair trial run. The roads were bumpy, the check engine light was on the whole time and the poor thing obviously needed some maintenance. ::snort::

Cozumel is an island. We drove around the island - stopping where something caught our fancy. Our first stop was  San Gervasio. This is an  archaeological site of the pre-Colombian Maya civilization. This was supposed to be included, but ended up costing us funds. We paid $5 each to walk through the first gate, $4.50 each to walk through the second gate and spent five minutes INSISTING we didn't want a $20 each guided tour.  This is a well-kept park, with signs in both Spanish and English. Here we saw some of the ruins we saw. 

 This is the Ossuary structure at San Gervasio was built during the Post Classic period - from 1200 - 1650 A.D. The sign said they call it the Ossuary because of the "numerous human remains found inside during exploration of the building.

These also dated from  1200-1600 A.D. We found the tree roots growing amongst the roots interesting. 

 These trees have vines hanging from them. The vines grow into the ground and more trees spring up. No one could tell us the name of the trees. I may Google later.

 These arches date from the Pre-Hispanic period.  Pilgrims or traders would travel to San Gervasio with offerings for the goddess Ixchel and leave them on an altar that was through the arches. This inverted staircase arch is typical of Mayan buildings. They didn't seem to master the curved arch.

 This building is called the Little Hand building because of the little red hand prints on the walls. It dates from 1000-1200 A.D. There is an "inner temple" in the middle of this building.

 Michael helpfully pointed out this guy on the path beside me.  I termed him a "ginormous" iguana.  Miguel agreed it was "almost a large one." 

We were awed by the beautiful turquoise color of the Caribbean Ocean. It was incredibly clear!
This Caribbean  Turquoise is my new favorite color!

Our next stop was a El Cedro, a small village which we strolled through, while Miguel washed the jeep. I haven't a clue why. ::snort::  Our big purchases of the day were a darling dress for Bella and two hats for Michael and I. The selection was slim, but we REALLY needed some sun protection.  I'll love these as they'll always remind us of our trip to El Cedro.  I enjoyed bargaining again. I got the dress at 1/3 the starting price and the hats 50% off the starting price.

We were impressed at this Catholic church built right at the feet of a Mayan temple. We were casually taking photos when this gentlemen jumped out and offered to take photos with us - for a tip. 

  Later, back at the car, we asked Miguel if he knew the Mayan who took pictures with tourists. He asked to see the photo. He harrumphed and said, "That's not a Mayan."

Wondering if there were distinctive features to observe Michael asked, "How can you tell he's not a Mayan?"

It turns out Miguel's grandfather and mother are full Mayan. He is 1/2 Mayan. His response was simple and telling, "No real Mayan would dress like that and take photos with tourists."

We stopped at ToTuro Beach club for lunch beside the sparkling ocean. Lunch was good. It became obvious lunch is free, however, the expectation is you'll order large quantities of alcohol to go with your lunch. I had a wonderful lunch of vegetable fajitas - Michael had something wrapped in tortillas. 

OK kids - I know they are "middle age" hats - but we avoided the old man hats!
After lunch, Michael donned snorkel gear and went exploring. He saw  Moray Eels,Spider Crabs, a Sting Ray, Big live SHELLS, lots of tropical fish, dolphins and sharks - no barracudas. He wanted to go off on his own, but the guide stays close. 

I took advantage of a lounge chair in the shade to read, while I guarded our camera, passports et al.  We finally convinced Miguel we had no desire at all to visit a Tequila factory. He had observed we meant it when we said we don't drink alcohol and relented. I suspect he enjoys the stop at the Tequila factory. I know all these stops have deals with the tour owners.

Miguel kept offering Michael beers as he drove. Michael always politely refused and explained we don't drink. Finally, he pointed out he was driving - thinking that would stop the offers. Nope. Miguel responded, "It's o.k. to drink and drive in Cozumel. You just can't be drunk and drive."

On the drive back to the pier we came upon a long line of traffic. Even the scooters weren't moving. All were heading back to the ships and there had been an accident. Miguel told us he knew another road - but tourists don't usually go on it. We told him we were game! WOW - pot holes bigger than Volkswagens. We traveled down the road, through the lush jungle until we hit the dump - surrounded by  houses  and dogs which define the term "junk yard dogs." It was quicker!

This cheaper, all-inclusive tour ended up costing us as much as the tour would have from Carnival. We are still happy to have done it as the tour was PRIVATE - just the two of us. We were able to see spots  the tours most often avoid,  and we enjoyed the day with Miguel. 

A few more scenes from Cozumel city....

Dinner was great tonight. At least mine was - stuffed and breaded Portobello Mushrooms. The sunset was brilliant and the moon was super...though the camera didn't do it justice. 

It's nice to come back to a yummy dinner, turned down bed and towel buddies after a hot day of exploring.