I wasn't sure what to make of it. At first I thought it was a really bad crab, but then I decided that it was just a pile of folded towels with a face. If this had been an actual animal, I think its latin genus would be Noetiphucthis.
I think we got this one as a warning, because I didn't realize until after our trip that it's considered standard protocol to tip your housekeeper daily. Instead, what I did was wait until our second-to-last day, and then give her a lump sum in person. Little did I know that by day three she was probably cleaning the toilet with our pillow cases. I think we were cool after that because this was what we got on our last day:
I still wasn't sure what they were supposed to be, but at least they had recognizable body parts.
Anyway, by that time we had amassed a fairly large quantity of "eyes and mouth" stickers. Needless to say, they were stuck on some pretty hilarious body parts. Which is not to say that (as a middle-sized white boy) my body parts are hilarious, because they are no laughing matter.
This particular variation was named Antonio, and coincidentally enough, he sounded exactly like Antonio Bandaras:
Then this happened:
The funniest thing about that last picture (other than the fact that it reminds me of this) is that I completely forgot that I had stuck those there and I put my shirt on. We went out for drinks, and then for dinner, then more drinks, and by the time we got back to the room it was about 11 pm. They had been stuck to my nipples for over five hours, and I had forgotten about them until I took my shirt off to go to bed. At first we laughed and laughed. Then I tried to take one of them off, and the laughing stopped. Mine, anyway.
You know how they get those to stick to something as porous and rough as a towel? I'm going to tell you. My educated guess is that they use some sort of glue that is very close in chemical composition to Liquid Nails construction adhesive. Seriously, I almost tore my own nipples off. I swear they were stretched out two inches before the adhesive even thought about letting go. I immediately made a mental note to cancel my nipple wax appointment for the following week.
At that point, my tender nipples and I were ready for bed. Speaking of bed, I think there was something fairly large living in our palapa roof, because every day when we got back to the room, there were one or two little turds on the coverlet. They were either insect, mammal or reptile, but I'm no expert so I was hoping for reptile. The closest thing I could compare them to were caterpillar turds. Last year I had a "kissing bug" drop down on me and latch onto my face, so this year I came prepared. I bought this before we left:
No blood sucking bastard was going to give me Chagas disease if I could help it. The next morning I could tell that my purchase had been worthwhile because there was a cucaracha the size of my thumb on the wall above the bed. I have no idea what roach crap looks like, but in retrospect, perhaps he was the culprit. It also protected us from (in no particular order) three beetles, two centipedes, another smaller roach, a spider, and some kind of black and white creature with a face like a praying mantis. This is all a good thing since I tend to fall asleep on my back with my mouth hanging open. Incredibly attractive mental image, I know. I was thinking of asking for a different room, but I figured we were pushing our luck already with the first switch. I took the net down every day and put it in the closet so that housekeeping could do their thing, then put it back up every night.
The next morning we got up bright and early for our excursion to Akumal and the cave. We were supposed to get picked up at 8:00, but at 8:15 we were still waiting. Our resort is sort of on the north end, so it's usually either the first or last pickup, depending on where you're going, and where the other people in your group are staying. At about 8:20, a car pulled up and a guy got out, walked up to us and asked us if we were waiting for the trip to Akumal and the cave. We said we were, and he informed us that the van would be along shortly. He took our paperwork and disappeared.
A minute or so later, a white van pulled up with a bunch of people in it. There were no markings on the van. It looked rented. A young guy with a chin beard and soul patch got out of the van and said his name was Hector, and that he'd be our guide. The only two seats in the van that were still free were in the front, so we got in next to Hector and strapped on our seat belts. We drove out through town, and got on the highway. A few minutes later, Hector pulled over to the side of the road and put his hazard lights on. He then unbuckled his seat belt and turned around so he was facing everyone in the van.
"Hello," he said. "My name is Hector, and I am sorry to say that you will be stuck with me all day today. This is my first time doing this tour. I am sorry we are late, but I was in jail last night. I'm still a little drunk." He pronounced it "yail."
He then outlined what was going to happen. First we were going to go to a cenote and cave system that was on private property. After that we'd head to Akumal and snorkel, then have a late lunch at the Akumal resort restaurant on the beach, then we'd have a couple hours to hang out on the beach and then we'd head back to the resort.
After the details were ironed out, we got driving again. I wasn't sure what the purpose was of pulling over on the highway rather than just give us the spiel in the parking lot of the resort. Maybe it was to keep us from running away.
A few minutes after we passed the signs for Akumal, we pulled off to the side of the road in front of what looked to be an abandoned building with a 4-wheel-drive pickup truck parked out in front of it. We drove behind the building and then stopped in front of a dirt road.
Hector turned to my wife. "Have you ever had a Mayan massage?"
"No, not yet," she replied. "We're supposed to be getting massages tomorrow."
"Ah," Hector said. "You are about to get one right now. How about the rest of you? Have you ever had a Mayan massage?" Apparently, my wife wasn't the only one who hadn't.
Hector started the van moving again. "Here we go," he said. "One Mayan massage coming up."
We hit the first pothole and I almost crapped my own liver. "Is good, no?" Hector asked, a big grin on his face. Only 4,325 more potholes to go.
After about fifteen minutes of riding on this bumpy, narrow, one-lane road, we were pretty deep in the jungle. I kept thinking that we could all disappear and nobody would ever know. Every time we rounded a corner and I thought we were going to be there, it was nothing but more jungle and single-lane road. Once in a while, we'd cross another intersecting dirt road, usually marked with a rusty metal fence accompanied by a wrecked truck or a pile of debris.
Just about the time I thought none of us were going to live to see breakfast, Hector turned to my wife and said, "Tell me. Does anyone know you are here?"
"No, nobody knows we're here," my wife replied. Hector laughed and said, "Ah, good." He nodded and said, "You will be the sacrifice."
"Well, the resort. The resort knows we are here," she added quickly. "And our friends and family, of course. Everybody knows we are here."
"Everybody, ay? Ah, that is too bad," he said. "You would have made a good sacrifice. Now we will have to pick someone from Canada. Or Germany." He looked looked in the rear view mirror at the others in the van, and there were a few nervous laughs. "What are you laughing at?" Hector said. "I am not kidding." Then he smiled. That Hector. What a joker.
Eventually we came up on a small house in the middle of nowhere, with a few goats and chickens outside in a fenced in area. There was a chain across the road. Hector beeped his horn and a guy came out and they spoke to each other in Spanish. They laughed a lot and I was pretty sure they were negotiating as to who was going to get what part of the ransom money. After the guy opened the back of the van and took a beer out of the cooler, he dropped the chain and we drove on. A few minutes later, we came upon this:
(I still don't know much about this place, other than this "tour company" was the only one allowed in here. If anyone reading this knows what the name of this place is, let me know.)
Hector got everyone out of the van and pointed out the bathrooms, which he euphamistically referred to as "composting toilets" but were in reality just your standard issue smelly outhouses. He said that once we got in the cave, we'd be in there for about an hour, so he recommended that if we had to use the bathroom, that we do it now. He handed out snorkels, vests and masks and said we wouldn't be using flippers in the caves. He then said he had to run around the back of the building to turn on the generator so we'd have lights.
Being the sort of guy that I am, my thought process upon hearing this was: Generator. Cave. Water. 120 volts. Mexico. Fuck. I didn't share my thoughts with my wife, however. I'm dumb, but not that dumb. Once he came back, he led us to the cave entrance and we descended. There was a set of stone steps, then a really steep section of wooden steps that led to a platform in the main cave. Here's a couple of pictures from the platform:
Hector then told us some of the history of the cenotes, how they were formed, the significance of the underground rivers to the people of Mexico both today and in the past. He also told us about how the Mayans believed that the cenotes were the entrance to the afterlife. He wasn't kidding about that sacrifice thing, though. They seriously used to do that shit. He was actually quite knowledgeable, and it totally exposed his lie about this being his first tour. He was clearly a seasoned pro with a lot of historic knowledge about his culture. After he was done, he said that he needed volunteers to hold the flashlights. I was screwing around at the other end of the platform looking a dive line down in the water, so I wasn't paying attention. In retrospect, I wish I had been, because having one of the flashlights would have been helpful. He only had three, so he wanted one in the front of the snorkel group, one in the middle and one at the end, since we'd be going in single file, with him in the lead. He had a headlamp, and while everyone was taking pictures, Hector was putting new batteries into the flashlights.
My wife was a little nervous getting into the water, so I got in first. She sat on the edge of the platform and dropped in feet first. Unfortunately, she didn't push off, so she almost wrenched her shoulder out of its socket when her arm decided to stay on the platform while the rest of her was well on the way to the water. She was immediately in pain, but after a minute or two, she shook it off.
"We will be going through a tunnel into another cave," Hector said. "So do not hit your head on the stalactites. Your head, I do not care about so much, but the stalactites take over a hundred years to grow an inch."
"When we get to the second cave, I will count you again before we go on to the last cave," he said. "If you are still nine, that is good. If you are eight, oh well." He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and pulled his mask down over his face.
We headed into the dark.