While you go on these cruise ships to relax, to really take advantage of the adventure you have to get up!
We docked at Progreso and disembarked at 7am! Angie, Martina and I were on the first shuttle bus to the end of the pier:
there’s a reason why you need a shuttle bus to drive the pier. It’s over 4 miles long! That building on the horizon is the halfway point, and is where the pier terminated until about 30 years ago when they built it further out to accomodate the then-bourgeoning cruise industry. 4 mile pier!
We hit the town of Progreso a little after 8am and were on a mission. There were two “tours” of Progreso available, and we decided on the tour of Dzibilchaltun for it’s Mayan ruins and sinkhole, the Xlacah Cenote (oooooh yeah!). However on the boat they wanted $56 per person and grouped people on an actual tour bus with guideperson and didn’t promise much else other than you would see the sights. We paraded through the market where the pier touched the land and found guides there offering the same tour as the ones sponsored on the boat for $29/person – an alternative tour though that we needed to round up 8 people to fit into a van and didn’t depart for over 2 hours! This didn’t quite meet our desires. We decided to hit the beach and travel further away from the market merchants and see what we could find in terms of transport and offers.
As we were the first ones to hit the beach, we quickly met this guy Jean from Florida who has satisfying become “stuck” in Puerto Progreso, Mexico. We told him what we were looking for, a cheap, authentic guide to the Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun. He works a bar down the beach and gets punters to stop by for drinks but knew the locals and looked into the situation for us. He got us in touch with a friend of his, Kiko, and bam we had ourselves a soon-to-be college graduate driving us around the highways of Progreso at 9am!
It doesn’t get any better than this. Kiko offered to turn the a/c on and we were all replied “No no we’re fine!” We were a full hour ahead of those tour busses, and best of all we got the all-inclusive tour, guide, and ticket to the ruins for a bargain $25/head!
Quickly getting into it, the grounds at Dzibilchaltun are f*%^ing awesome!! Do you see that temple in the distance? (zoom in to see it if you can’t) That’s the Temple of the Seven Dolls (even though Martina counted eight!). And during the first equinox, the sun can be seen in the temple corridor, like an architectural calendar. Bloody amazing. A calendar and sense of time all dependent on celestial bodies, 2012 here we come!
But here’s the real reason why we came to Dzibilchaltun!:
Xlacah Cenote! A sinkhole (say cenote, kinda sounds like sinkhole) older than your grandma’s hairdo! Incredible. Crystal clear freshwater, complete with fishies that love to say hi, give a little nibble! The whole of the Yucatan has these underground waterways and sinkholes that stretch for miles, miles, miles. The whole of the Yucatan. The left side of the cenote in the image above is shallow, as in three inches shallow. There are many rocks which provide a natural path to the mid part of the pool which is entirely walkable at around 5′ depth. Then, up in the top-right the deep part of the pool is deeeeep. Around 140 feet deep! And leads to some tunnels that connect to other cenotes all over the Yucatan. This place is amazing man. And the water is a constant perfect temperature.
Now there’s an incredible part to this day and the entire journey that is missing a visual counterpart. Kiko drove us back to Progreso after we were done swimming (like I said, some of the “official” tour groups came along while we were in the water and they didn’t even get in – Loooosers!). We had just under 2 hours before the boat departed so we told him we’d like to grab some food. He told us there was a McDonald’s, “No don’t turn on the air conditioning! NO by food we don’t mean McDonald’s!” We explained that we wanted what he would eat! Yucatan snackery! He took us to this bar right on the beach near where Jean and he work, and introduced us to this Yucatan-branded form of siesta, where you purchase a beer or liquor and get these countless trays – nearly 20 between the four of us – of treats, snacks, appetizers. It was ridiculous, they kept bringing food! Salsa, habanero sauce, tortilla wrapped delights, and in particular these two appetizers, one made from a seed that had the same consistency as a deviled egg yolk stuck inside an avocado, but it was a single seed; and the other made from some tiny seed that Kiko couldn’t translate. The seed is converted into several foods, included a clumpy substance similar to dried out brown sugar; another that is ground up with oil and looks like a darker form of hummus. Whatever those two foods are I have to find out! But seriously we bought 8 beers – I tipped Kiko by buying his beers – and refueled on some authentic cuisines! Yessir!
So getting back onto the boat was the best part. We all sware that we weren’t the only ones on the last bus back down the 4 mile pier, and you can see other people in the background heading to the boat. However we were the last ones on the boat! And as we were meandering back down the pier people all over the boat started waving at us, signaling to hurry back to the boat. “C’mon you guys, we’re ready to go!” As we stepped back onto the boat they quickly slammed the door behind us and asked us what room we were in because they didn’t have time to look us up – they had to trust we were legit passengers – and informed us we had less than 2 minutes until they raised anchor and headed back out to sea!
Tomorrow: Cozumel, Nico, Ian, and beyond!