Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula, January, 2000

7 January 2000. Beth and I arrived in Mexico City airport. Got scammed by the taxi from the airport. We stayed at the Hotel de Cortez along the Alameda. The rooms are austere as befits a building that was a monastery in the 1700s. The central courtyard is delightful--you eat, drink there and on Friday night they have a nice live Mexican music show. A Metro terminal is just outside the hotel. The Metro is wonderful and a terminal exists just outside. It was easier, faster, more efficient than the NY subway system (which I always liked).

8 Jan. We took a taxi to visit Katrina Niven, 92 years old, an old family friend. We were in the Lomas, so we walked to the house I grew up in. But everything had been rebuilt. We took a taxi to the Anthropological Museum where voladores were performing. These are Indians dressed like birds who climb to the top of a very high pole, tie their feet onto rope, then spiral down in the air as the ropes unwind. We met Suzy Glusker, one sister's high school classmate, for lunch, then spent the rest of the afternoon in the museum. Took the Metro back to our hotel. In the evening we walked to the Zocalo. Saw a curious phenomenon across the square. Jellyfish seemed to be rising in the air, then floating slowly back down. We walked over there and found kids playing with toy parachutes over the grating for the subway. Hot air would lift the parachute to a height of around 10 meters before it would float down. We walked on to Plaza Garibaldi, the square that is the center for mariachis. The place used to be dark and somewhat sleazy, but now was brightly lit and full of people of all ages having a great time. Many bands playing all styles of Mexican music. We walked back to our hotel at 1 a.m., avoiding dark areas.

9 Jan. (Sunday) Suzy had recommended a "safe driver" to shlep us around in a VW bug taxi. By "safe driver" she meant that we wouldn't get robbed or highjacked by him. You never feel safe in the traffic. After picking up some tickets at the bull ring we were driven to Xochimilco. We rented a boat and got polled around the canals amongst the crowds of other barges with floral (plastic now) arcs. Dugout canoes with women cooking and selling food darted about. Other barges had musicians (mariachis or marimba players) playing upon commission. People were dancing or singing along on their boats. Beth (and I) enjoyed this tremendously. We saw no American tourists (unlike in the old days) and only one boat with Germans. We met our safe driver again and he drove us to the nearby Dolores Olmedo Museum which had some exquisite pre-Columbian art pieces as well as a Diego Rivera exhibit. We were dropped off near the bull ring and had a quick lunch at a Bavarian restaurant. The bull fight was great. Beth was amazed, to say the least. The first bull was beautifully fought and swiftly killed. The matador was awarded two ears. The second matador got one ear. Beth was developing high standards for what a bullfight should be. I explained for during the years I went to bullfights, I had could not recall two ears from a bull awarded. The 3rd bull came in and drew the rath of the crowd for being too small. This being the high bullfight season, bulls must be above a certain weight. The guy next to me said the posted weight was a mentira. The judge would not have it removed and the torero went through a quick and lackluster fight, which drew applause for him.

The 6th bull was also small. The crowd went wild. Cushions filled the ring. Calls from the crowd to the judge alluded to his sexual relationships with his mother. The matador went through the motions and at dedication time before the kill, he raised a finger to the judge indicating that he would be another bull. The crowd went wild and stopped their protests. The purchased 7th bull and the matador drew a number of "oles" and it was an excellent show up to the kill. The sword went in to the hilt and the crowd erupted, then went quiet when they saw that the tip of the sword came out of the bull's side. So the torero had to pull out the sword and go in again. Now award.

We waited for our safe driver on the designated corner amongst horrendous traffic and crowds. He finally showed up, to our relief. That night we took the Metro to the Zona Rosa and ate at the Fonda del Refugio, a famous Mexican cuisine place.

10 Jan. We took a taxi to the airport and boarded our flight to Can Cun. Popocatepetl cooperated by presenting a small pyroclastic eruption. See photo in the photo album At the Can Cun airport we discovered that the car rental company didn't have a desk at the airport. Agents for another company worked a deal in which we would pay the same amount total for one of their cars. The catch was that the contract was for $50 less and $50 would be in cash. A scam a minute. But we took the deal and were off. It was a good car and we had no further problems. Took the mostly empty toll road to Chichen Itza. Stayed in a simple, but pleasant, hotel. Went to the sound and light show at the ruins that night.

11 Jan. Visited the ruins, climbed in and up pyramids, etc. Looked at the sinkhole where human sacrifices were made. Photos in the web photo album While waiting in line to get into the inner temple of the pyramid, I got into a conversation in Spanish with some university students from the state of Guerrero. After checking out of the hotel we headed down the highway. Traffic was being stopped by some people. As we approached, it turned out to be the students soliciting money so they could get back to Guerrero. They recognized us and waved us on. A nice lunch in a colonial building in Valladolid. We drove on to our destination-Akumal. Akumal is about 60 miles south of Can Cun. We stayed at a cottage on the white sand beach at the Hotel Villa Maya Caribe.

12 Jan. Breakfast at the little lunch stand outside the hotel gates. Wonderful Mexican omelette. We would eat many of our meals there. We went to the dive shop to sign up for SCUBA instruction. We spent most of the day at the beach reading instruction manuals. We prepared our lunch in our room as we had a refrigerator, food and drink purchased from the local store and leftovers from the evening meal. In the evening we went to a talk on Mayas of the present by an American at the Ecology Center which he headed. We were invited to join a Mayan meal with a biology class from the U. of Wisconsin.

13. Jan. After breakfast we met our diving instructor, Tom, an American. Put on gear and went into shallow water for our first session. We returned to shore, got new tanks and went out in a boat to the offshore reef. This is the longest reef in the continent, extending from Can Cun to S. America. It took me a long time to descend to reef about 30 feet down because my ears had difficulty equilibrating. Beth, much lower, lost the regulator from her mouth and almost panicked before getting it back in. We surfaced to rest and allow Beth to want to return again. Again, it took me a long time to descend. Once there, the reef and its biota were fantastic. Among the fish were parrot fish who would chew the corral. The sand that they excreted is a major contributor to the white sand beaches. After lunch we spent the afternoon reading diver manuals on the beach. Supper of steak and ceviche at the Cueva del Pescado restaurant nearby.

14 Jan. Our SCUBA class consisted of watching videotape, brief lectures, and taking quizzes. At noon, Beth asked about getting a better lamp for our room. They, instead, offered to move us. So we moved to a nicer room with good lighting. For our afternoon diving class, we went into the shallow water and practiced a number of emergency procedures. Later we drove to Playa del Carmen the nearest town with ATMs and a supermarket. We gave a ride to Glen and Linda, two psychology professors from Keane State U. in New Hampshire. That evening we went to a talk by Dr. Charles Shaw, an expat geologists living in Akumal. The talk was on the buried meteor crater along the northern coast of Yucatan, created by the (K-T) impact that did in the dinosaurs. After supper, we returned to our room for more reading on diving.

15 Jan. The wind blew all night. We woke up to loud howling coming from the vestibule to our room. Beth got up and let out a large dog that had been sleeping there when the wind blew the door shut. Because of the wind, there were high waves and we couldn't go out to the open ocean. So we spent the morning with videos and quizzes. After lunch we drove to the nearby caves (taking Glen and Linda along). Besides the cave, there were snakes and monkeys on exhibit. We had a nice tour of the shallow cave, including seeing tree roots and looking up small sink hole openings. web photo album We returned and drove to the lagoon (Yal Ku) a couple Km from our hotel and looked over the Hotel Que Honda, which is cheaper, should we ever return.

16 Jan. Sunday. Drove (with Glen and Linda) to the ruins of Coba in the jungle. We hiked from ruin to ruin. Photos in the web photo album. Beth went back to the bathroom at one point and came back with a bicycle she had rented, which proved a great way to get around. Climbed up pyramids and other ruins. Afterwards we drove to the ruins at Tulum, stopping at only one roadside artisan shop. At Tulum, we decided to hire a guide, from whom we learned little. The ruins and their setting are spectacular. White ruins, green grass and trees along the ocean with surf. web photo album

17 Jan. After our usual breakfast we went to the dive shop, but the waves were still too high to go out. Beth and I decided to drive south beyond Tulum and the tourist influence. We entered real rural Mexico. We drove 100Km to the town of Felipe Caraillo Puerto, a bustling and reasonably prosperous town. We hurried back, hoping for an afternoon dive. But the waves were still too high. We decided to swim in the Yal Ku lagoon, which charged admission. The lagoon in a labyrinth of limestone alcoves and shelves and was great for snorkeling . web photo album It was like swimming in an aquarium. Supper in our breakfast place with good pork and mole. At night the wind died down. We had a nice moonlight walk on the beach.

18 Jan. Wind and sea ok, so we went to the dive shop for our open water dive. I took a sudafed, hoping to clear my ears, but one ear was still congested. I slowly made it to the bottom and we did emergency procedures. Then controlled emergency swimming ascents. We returned to shore, hot showered, got new tanks and went out to shallow water to do more procedures. After lunch, we returned and took our written final exams. After drinks in our room we went to La Sirena Hemingway for supper.

19 Jan. Good weather again, so we went to the dive shop for our final dives. The first dive to the reef was down to 57 feet. Practiced neutral buoyancy and mask clearing. Did the compass course, but despite being warned, I concentrated on the compass and didn't realize I was rising until Tom pointed it out. I got to 20 feet too high before checking my upward trend. Slowly re-equilibrated and got back to the sea floor. Later, we practiced simulated running out of air and rescue from the other person. On the boat back to the shore, we saw a turtle being chased by two Italian snorkelers. The hotel next to ours was an Italian resort destination. After an hour of hot showers and resting, we went out again. We went down 30 feet, removed and replaced masks, practiced hovering and swam a compass course that led to Shark Cave in the coral Then we had a great swim, following Tom through the short cave and several arches in the reef, enjoying the reef ecosystem. Then we took the reciprocal of the compass course and, despite turbid water, hit the buoy's anchor line dead on. On the boat on the way back we saw another swimming turtle and a topless woman (not together). After showering and cleaning our gear, Tom gave us our open water certificates In the afternoon, Beth and I went snorkeling in the bay. Most memorable was a school of largish fish being chased by a very large barracuda and a yellow finned fish shaped like a tuna. After drinks, we had our final supper at the hotel's restaurant.

20 Jan. Up at 4 am to drive to Can Cun. Car returned without incident. Flew to Mexico City and eventually got on the flight to LA and then transferred to United's flight to Sacramento.

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