‘Back to reality’ weighs heavily on my mind this week as we find ourselves in the South of the US, in the cold, although reality is a strange thing to call it. None the less, the last few days have been an adjustment period for us, having to actually dress into pants and a t-shirt seems hard work after needing only spandex for the last 23 days. We have however been welcomed with an incredible display of fall foliage in Atlanta, and as we drive our way down to Savannah, I find my excitement growing in anticipation of the cotton-picking country and uniquely Southern surroundings.
Although leaving Mexico was like tearing myself away from a slice of black-forest cake (unbearable!) I feel blessed to still be a family of 4! I don’t mean to sound mellow-dramatic, but we had our fair share of events! Aside from Lincoln’s near drowning episode, our almost being run over by a car, wading through a lagoon with crocodiles (we were warned afterwards!), driving in buses on suburban roads in excess of 120km an hour (regularly! – speed limit 50km/h), we also discovered that Lola has somewhat of a celebrity status in Mexico. It turns out that not only blond hair, but ringlets of blond hair is so uncommonly seen, that we were followed, stopped, gawked at and generally treated as celebrities everywhere we went. Mexicans are a friendly bunch, and had no hesitation in stroking Lola’s hair, telling her how beautiful she was, asking if it was real, asking where she got it, did we ‘paint’ it, did I curl it, and taking pictures! It got so overwhelming for Lola at times that she took to hiding in clothing rails in the shops and under benches (with Linky in tow of course). One day on the beach Lola made friends with a little Mexican girl who she played catches with in the sea, every time this little girl caught Lola she would stroke her hair and pull on the ringlets, laughing and throwing her head back squealing with delight. Lola has always been complemented on her hair but nothing had quite prepared us for this level of admiration, it was quite astonishing. Needless to say, after all the attention, we feel rather lucky to have left with her in tow.
We fortunately managed to steer clear of any drug cartels, unfortunately didn’t meet anyone named Jose, we were called gringo’s only once, drank way too many margarita’s, ate way too many nachos, and had only a fleeting moment in a sombrero, making our Mexican trip feel almost complete. What an incredible place to spend 3 weeks. The sea is a tepid bath, only a lot saltier, with some incredible bath toys. It is rather like swimming around in the first fish tank as you walk into the Cape Town Aquarium – lots of little Dory’s and coloured fish swimming amongst the coral – only a lot roomier. Waves are mellow, currents mild, and it always seems time for a snorkel and a beer. Having bought the kids arm bands (water wings) when we got there, they found a whole new enjoyment of the water, not just the pool, but the sea too. They would cruise out into the turquoise waters with us and bob around checking out the fish. After Lola was replaced by an alien look-a-like version, complete with adventurous tendencies and an outgoing personality, she decided she wanted goggles too, and took to snorkeling like Schumacher to a race car. It just might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! She would stick her whole head under the water and kick like crazy, only she had water wings on so she couldn’t go under water, leaving her with her bottom up in the air and her head submerged. She did this for hours. Linky on the other hand, was surprisingly content to bob around on the surface, occasionally latching himself to one of our necks, steering us around and yelling “Go faster… go faster”! It was an amazing experience to be able to enjoy the sea like that with the kids, and possibly even more magical because I never, not for one moment, dreamt that they would be happy to venture into the waves with us – okay, baby swells, but still.
We couldn’t visit Mexico without checking out some of the Mayan ruins, so we spent a morning exploring the incredible Tulum ruins, and another day at Chichen Itza. Absolutely magnificent! We felt throwing 2 days of culture into our trip would be enough of a distraction from the white sands, only to find ourselves thrusting our over-heated selves into the sea at the Tulum ruins anyway to escape the 35 degree sun (the sun scorches here in a way South Africa can only dream of!). We felt sufficiently proud of our ruins exploration, given that we had to carry the itchy (prior mosquito onslaught), crying, sandy, disinterested children around when all they wanted to do was sit in the shade and eat an ice cream! We have learned that the one thing our children don’t handle very well is the heat. It’s like their brains have a melt down and the only way to calm them down is to put them in the pool, the sea, or give them an iced something… anything! After Shaun and I had had enough of the whining and were largely ignoring them, umm… I mean we had water in our ears and couldn’t hear them, we had a sweet, impressionable old lady stop and use her towel to dust the sand off madam Lola’s feet because she had decided she couldn’t possibly put on her flip flops while her feet were covered in sand!! But all that aside, the Tulum ruins were incredible and worth the whine we had as an accompaniment.
We managed to psych the children up for the Chichen Itza ruins by telling them we were going to climb crumbling old buildings that were even older than granny and grandad, this worked believe it or not – until we got there. Turns out you not allowed to climb them anymore, only look. Those of you with kids know how much less appealing that is. Thankfully we had rain on this outing and not the blistering sun, so luck was still in our favour, sort of. The weather treated us gently and we had only a tender caress of drops after the initial onslaught we had in the car on the way there, almost sending us to an early grave as we tried to dodge the potholes. The ruins were magnificent though, and so large that they even managed to hold the kids attention for a while.
What was almost as amazing were the 4 snakes we saw that day. We’ve lived in Africa all our lives and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many snakes just ambling about, or a bird catching one for dinner. The jungle in Mexico really isn’t something to sneeze at, even though plantations of white powder can be found around many corners. Evidence of this activity are the many road blocks you have to pass through as you drive along the high ways. Soldiers patrol with impressively large guns, rivaled only by the equally large machete’s the locals carry, as you do, for opening coconuts, cutting grass and weeding! Sorry… I was talking about road blocks, they are impressive. They are also hazardous. When renting our car we wondered why the first thing it says is the under carriage of the car is not insured, after seeing the size of the speed humps, on the highway, we understand! There are almost no road markings, few warning signs and no pedestrian crossings. Driving in Cancun is like negotiating a city full of Joburg taxis in rush hour. You have to drive fast to avoid being driven over by a bus, you have to push or you will never merge into another lane (which you’re never warned about), and you have to have little regard for your life or your vehicle. I was both happy and scared when we returned our rental in favor of public transport. I’m happy we experienced both, but getting around took its toll on my hair colour – definitely more grey, and my liver – many glasses of wine to calm my nerves! 😉
After seeing a large portion of the Riviera Maya (Mexican East Coast) we have a good idea of the best places to go for a peaceful getaway, or a tourist paradise. We can see why people are starting to travel further South for a holiday – Cancun is extremely over priced and so over populated with hotels, it feels a bit like Las Vegas looks. Further South you find more authentic little spots, still pricey, but beautiful and unspoiled. Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast, is relatively unspoiled too and small enough that you hire golf carts to drive around the island instead of cars. There is some amazing snorkeling and fantastic beachside restaurants. Given that Cancun is only 40 years old (it was a fishing village in 1974 with about 117 inhabitants!) it is incredible to see the development and sheer number of hotels – tourism being its only revenue stream.
But enough about the history lesson, internet there sucked, no big surprise, but it made working difficult, as if the beaches didn’t make it hard enough! So Shaun is retreating into his hermit shell to nurse the company and get his groove back. He’s never been capable of delivering anything but the best so juggling family time, exercise, sightseeing, constantly moving locations and work has him wired – he is considering a caffeine drip. Thankfully we came back to America with a stash of freshly roasted coffee beans! The children don’t give me enough time in the day to make coffee, so I have to make do with snacking on the beans. So far our trip has been what we hoped it would, challenging in the many ways we knew it would be, but delightful in so many others. We continue to be grateful that we were able to make this trip a reality.Signing out… the temporarily sun-tanned Wuths! xxx