We swam single file, then ducked behind a large group of stalactites that were touching the water, and into a tunnel. There wasn't much head clearance, and I was in front of my wife, trying to keep her from whacking her head on something. All you could hear was the Canadian lady hyperventilating through her snorkel and splashing like a wounded seal. I was worried my wife was going to flip out in the confined space, but she was doing great. Afterward, she said she wasn't nervous at all.
I, however, wasn't doing so great for two reasons. The first was that my snorkeling vest was too small for me. I tend to sink like a stone since I don't have much in the way of body fat, and in fresh water this vest didn't hold enough air to actually keep my head out of the drink. Hector kept stopping to make sure everyone was still with him and to tell us what was coming up, but whenever he did that, I'd sink to the level of my eyeballs. That was OK unless I was actually trying to talk. So that was the first reason. The second reason was because during his first stop, as I was kicking my feet to keep my ears out of the water so I could hear him, I inadvertently connected with some very rough limestone and took the first layer of skin off my foot. I'm pretty sure I tossed a choice word or two up through my snorkel, but I don't think anyone heard me over the sounds of the Canadian woman who was still trying desperately to use up all the air we had.
The second cave was very cool, and it made me wish I had sprung for that underwater camera housing I was looking at before we left home. There was a light in this cave too, but it wasn't very bright. Hector turned to us and said, "There is a giant spider in this cave. Do you want to see him?"
My wife is deathly afraid of spiders. There is no reason why, she just is. She immediately tensed up and looked like she was trying to figure out how to run, even though she was currently floating in ten feet of water in a dark cave. Hector started pointing his flashlight at the low ceiling, hunting for something. Finally, he found it. "There! There is the spider! Do you see?" he asked. Luckily for everyone involved, it was only a limestone formation that looked like a giant spider, and that was good because it meant that I wouldn't be dragging an unconscious woman back through the cave passageways.
Hector had been dragging around an orange rescue ring, presumably in case someone needed rescuing. After we looked at the spider, Hector told us the last cave didn't have lights, but not to worry, because we had the flashlights. He said if anyone got tired or scared, they could hold onto the ring. We started moving again, this time into a passageway that was so dark you couldn't even see the walls. It was at this point that I wished I was one of the flashlight guys because the guy in the back who actually had the damned thing was pointing it everywhere except in the direction we were heading. At one point the light just disappeared completely and it took me a second to realize that the guy was ten feet below me, looking at some kind of rock formation or something. When we were all finally in the last cave, we moved to the center and Hector told us to take our masks and snorkels off. I wasn't sure exactly why, so I was a little hesitant since when I did that it was difficult for me to keep my face out of the water. Everyone was sort of gathered around the orange ring, holding onto it with one hand. I stuck my hand out there too, and that helped with my buoyancy. I took my mask and snorkel off, and so did everyone else.
Hector said, "Now turn off the flashlights." The lights went out, and the darkness folded over us. You couldn't tell if your eyes were open or closed. Suddenly, it was a little harder to breathe. I think because the Canadian lady was still doing all the air.
Hector told us to be quiet and still, and to listen. He said, "Think about this. You are five miles into the jungle, in a cave twenty feet under the ground. You might be able to find your way out, but... you might not." I didn't realize right away that he was trying to set a mood, so I said, "So what you're saying is, we should tip you really, really well." He laughed and continued. "The Mayans would come in here with nothing. No lights. No snorkels. Nothing but their sacred beliefs, and the knowledge that they were approaching the entrance to their underworld. So take a moment, and be silent, and think of these people and their sacred cenotes, which you now share."
We sat there in silence for a few minutes, and it was an interesting experience. I've been in a few caves before, but never floating in water. It was a little claustrophobic, like I imagine being in a sensory deprivation tank might be. After a bit, he told the flashlight holders to turn the lights back on, and we swam back to the platform. I don't think we swam back the same way, but it's entirely possible. All the passageways looked kind of alike.
After we climbed back out of the cave, Hector broke open the cooler, and we had some drinks. The sun was incredibly bright, and the warm air felt amazing. I was starving at this point, so I passed on the beer, since I didn't want to be drunk for the brutal ass-pounding we were sure to receive on the ride out. The cenote owner had a large screen house there with a whole line of Mexican hammocks inside. We all grabbed a hammock and relaxed for a bit before we stuffed ourselves back in the van and headed out of the jungle. Next stop: Akumal.
On the way out, Hector stopped and picked some cotton from a bush, and handed it around, and told us about a certain kind of tree that was very important because of the sap inside. I didn't quite get what the sap was used for. It was kind of like a 5th grade field trip, only without the quiz. I should have been paying more attention.
By the time we got to the bay, Hector had my wife convinced she was going to be swimming with the sharks. Luckily, that wasn't the case. I asked Hector if we were going to eat first, and he said no, we were going to eat after we went snorkeling. I asked him why and he said, "We tried it, but many people, they get sick and feed the fishes." On the one hand, I didn't want to feed the fishes, but on the other I was hungry as hell and willing to chance it.
The snorkeling itself was amazing, and it was my wife's first time. She felt comfortable because the water wasn't deep, and hey, we weren't in the dark under 16 tons of rock. We were out there for a couple hours, and saw a giant red crab, an eagle ray, a stingray, about 4 or 5 turtles (which is what I wanted to see) and a bunch of smaller fish. The reef has a lot of sand all over it, maybe from the rough water, I'm not sure. After we were done, we finally got to eat lunch.
As part of the deal, we each had a wristband that allowed us into the buffet at the Akumal Beach Resort. The only kicker is, they don't let you go into the restaurant if you're wet. Since nobody told us to bring a change of clothes, I didn't have a dry shirt. Luckily, Hector had a spare shirt in the van and he loaned it to me. The buffet wasn't great, but at that point I would have eaten just about anything. After lunch we were allowed to hang around on the beach for a few hours, and then we were ready to head back to the hotel.
We were the first ones back at the van and Hector was already there, just hanging around and waiting. I dug 200 pesos out of my pocket and gave it to him. "Thanks for not leaving us in the cave," I said. He laughed. "Do you like Bon Jovi?" he asked, holding up a CD. "Uh, no. Not really," I replied. "Yeah, I do not either," he said, putting it away. I think he thought all Americans liked Bon Jovi. He dug around in his bag for a moment, then pulled out some kind of crazy Mexican dance music by someone I think he said was named Mia or Maria. He said she was a huge star in Mexico, but that this CD was "something else that she didn't normally sound like." It took him a while to explain it. "It is her, but not really, just her voice, and different music." It suddenly occurred to me what he was talking about. He didn't have the english word for "remix." I didn't have the heart to tell him I liked dance music even less than Bon Jovi. He asked what kind of music I liked and I rattled off a half-dozen prog bands from the 70's that he'd never heard of, and he laughed, shaking his head. "I'm old," I told him.
By that time, everyone was wandering back to the van and we piled in for the return to the hotels. Since we were farthest away, we were dropped off last. We got the tour of Playacar, a giant resort and then two other places in town. The weird thing is, I don't think anyone tipped Hector. They got out, thanked him for the trip, sometimes shook his hand and sometimes not, but that was it -- unless they had given it to him at another time, as I did. I felt bad so when he dropped us off, I slipped him another 100 when I gave him his shirt back and told him it was a "shirt rental fee." My wife hugged him, and I think he liked that. He was a really good guide, and I thought it was totally worth 300 pesos to come back in one piece.
When we got back to the hotel, and my wife got out of the car, she winced a little. I asked her what was wrong, and she said her legs hurt. I looked at them, and said, "Um, I think you got a little sunburn." Her entire body looked like this:
Apparently, she had forgotten to put sunscreen on her legs and ass. She had a perfectly straight delineation between the front of her body, which was pasty white, and the back, which was the color of an angry plum, if plums had emotions and were capable of rage. It was not good, and she knew it was only going to get worse as the night wore on.
By the time we had gone to dinner and made it back to the room, she could barely bend her legs. She will kill me for putting her ass on the internet, but some things have to be seen:
I could feel the heat coming off her ass from six inches away. I made Family Guy jokes which were not appreciated, then I went and got the aloe. I dug around in the first aid kit and came up with some swabs with benzocaine on them. So I swabbed her ass with those first, then tried ice, but she said it was too cold.
Thanks to US Airways, we only had a 3oz. bottle of aloe. I told her to lie down on the bed, and I used the entire bottle. She wanted me to put it on thick, and let it sit there since everything was too sore to rub it in, so I did. She looked like one of those guys who slather themselves with Vaseline in preparation for swimming across the English channel. Since she didn't want to lie there with her ass hanging out, she covered it with her nightgown. I started reading, and the next thing I know we were both asleep.
A few hours later, we woke up. She woke up first, and when she got up to brush her teeth and wash her face, she discovered she had a problem. The aloe had dried, and her nightgown was now stiff as cardboard and stuck to her ass like a coat of paint.
I have to admit, I laughed. Call me a bad husband or whatever, but holy crap it was funny. I told her to get in the shower until it loosened up, but she decided to go with the more painful "peel it slowly like a band-aid" method for some reason. Ten minutes later, after we had carefully and painfully separated her buttcheeks from her nightgown, we went back to bed.
The next day was our last day -- and we had planned to just relax, lie on the beach and maybe get massages at the resort spa.
Somehow, I didn't think a massage was in the cards for her, but she proved me wrong.