This installment gets us through our last days and home from Mexico. You already know the ending, I guess.
Reid and I had tickets to Xel Ha (pronounced shell ha) for Thursday. It’s a marine park with many water-based activities. Like Xcaret, there was a swim with the dolphins activity but we didn’t even consider it. The “Manatee Encounter” was tempting but only for a moment.
We tried snorkeling in the inlet when we first arrived but Reid said that the waves were too big. The waves were smaller than when we were out on Tuesday. I think that it was the absence of Jorge that made the biggest difference to Reid. She just doesn’t trust me. Le sigh. We made an attempt to cross a floating bridge at the mouth of the inlet. I couldn’t make it the full way, though, because I’m a scaredy-cat. Nothing more humbling than having to tell your kid that you’re too frightened to walk across a bridge. Next, we tried snorkeling farther from the mouth of the inlet, and I’d note here that I wasn’t getting seasick but Reid still wasn’t comfortable. We stopped at a buffet for brunch – or elevenses, as I think the Hobbits called it – since we’d eaten breakfast before we left the resort. I managed to keep myself to a snack but Reid ate pancakes, French toast, bacon and the like. It was the most she ever ate for breakfast.
We made our way to the start of the Xel Ha river for a natural lazy river ride. The park provided a double-inner tube for Reid and me to share. The first few metres in the mangrove forest were enjoyable but then the first couple passed us and Reid wanted to go faster. Not so lazy as competitive, my girl. I used my arms to “swim” to move us along more quickly but my feet were trapped under Reid to keep her from falling through. After the mangrove forest – forest seems wrong but mangrove grove seems worse – we floated past the “Cliff of Courage” where people were jumping from a cliff of about 10 feet into the water. Reid wanted to try it but I told her I thought she was probably not tall enough. She asked me if I’d do it but I confessed that I was too scared. Reid really needs a braver person with whom to hang out. We also drifted by a couple of ropes suspended above the river, one to walk on and the other to hold onto while you walk across. I thought that this activity was more our speed but Reid was content to watch others make the attempt. When we arrived at the first reasonable place to leave the river, Reid asked to do so. Floating along wasn’t providing the stimulation she wanted. We had a trek through a tract to trees to get back to the main walkways. The path was well-marked and we had to double-back a couple of times. It was an odd experience, being able to hear the people on the river and knowing the path was close but not finding it right away. I told myself I was much better at being lost in the “wilderness” than being on the bridge.
We stopped for a while at the children’s playground – not that the entire park wasn’t a place for children to play. Reid enjoyed the slide, climber and rope bridge just as much as she’d enjoyed the more exotic activities we’d tried. The familiar is fun and welcome in the midst of all the novelty, I guess. There was also a sunken fountain for splashing in and Reid played happily with the other kids, many of whom didn’t speak English.
We discovered an extra-large xylophone along the path. (Do you remember my surprise when Reid’s Kindermusik class got stir xylophones and I discovered that the iconic “xylophones” pictured in children’s alphabet books were actually glockenspiels because xylophones are wooden? I think of it every time I see an actual xylophone.) Reid was impressed; this xylophone was at least as long as she is tall. She tapped it with her hands and examined the resonating parts closely until the musicians arrived. When they started getting out mallets, Reid looked at them expectantly and one handed a pair of mallets to Reid. He showed her the different sounds she could produce and encouraged her to try a rhythm. The other musicians played a bit while Reid did her explorations. I was amazed that there were no other kids who approached to try their hand at playing or even to watch more closely. I asked what the instrument was called, expecting a particular Mexican name, but the fellow said it was a xylophone. When I said that I’d expected another name because of the resonating chambers, he offered “marimba“. With that bit of precision achieved – and with 10 minutes of Reid “accompanying” the musicians accomplished – I dragged Reid away.
After yet another no-alcohol Strawberry Daiquiri, Reid’s favourite drink for our week away and one she referred to as a Strawberry Dac by the end of the week, we returned to the floating bridge. I told Reid that I thought I could walk across if we both wore life jackets while doing so. It was important to me to show Reid that it was okay to be afraid and to find ways to face the fears. Maybe it was important for me to show myself the same thing. We were the only ones who put a couple of the ubiquitous life jackets on and then walk away from the steps to the water. Holding hands tightly, we braved the bridge. Reid took a few pictures though they don’t show the way the bridge heaved, they prove we crossed it. On the far side, there was a Mayan cave, though what made it Mayan was never made clear to me. We swam into the cave, got our picture taken through the hole in the “roof” and swam back out. I spent some time searching for my plastic carry case on a belt – like a fanny bag but hard plastic and water resistant – that was supposed to be around my waist but wasn’t. Once I’d finally reconciled myself to a call to the credit card company to cancel my card, I took off my life jacket and found the case where it had been hiding, more of less at my shoulder blades. The expression a “rush of relief” is very accurate for how I felt. Reid had picked up on my stress and similarly shared the near-euphoric relief. We almost went to see the cenotes but there weren’t bathrooms in this part of the park and Reid needed on. We put our life jackets back on and crossed the scary, I mean, floating bridge once again.
We changed back into our shorts and t-shirts and headed to the front gate. At a couple points in the day, people had taken our pictures and so we wanted to check out the results. At $12 per 8X10, the pictures were a bit expensive but we bought some anyway. My favourite is one of Reid holding a lizard of some sort while a small parrot (or some small tropical bird) sits on her head. At first, you don’t notice the bird but when you see it, it is particularly cute. There was a pretty good one of the two of us, each holding a brilliantly-coloured bird, as well.
We found our van driver waiting for us in the parking lot and we were soon safely on our way back to the resort. Despite having left the resort 8.5 earlier, it seemed like our day had been quite short when we compared it to the nearly 12 hours we spent at Xcaret. It was nice to have supper with Ken and share the stories of our day.
We walked along the beach to our sister resort. It was pretty windy and the waves were rather rough but the warmth and sun made up for these deficiencies. Being cautious, we had Reid wear her life jacket for the walk and a couple of times Ken used the loop on the back to fish her from the surf. It was definitely worth the space it took in our luggage on this day and others. Reid got hit full in the face by one sandy wave and she wasn’t impressed with the last bit of our beach walk. I love, love, love walking along the water’s edge. Ken is less enthusiastic, especially since he worried more about Reid being swept out to sea.
At the resort, we checked into Reid being allowed back up onto the trapeze but the fellow on duty said that the wind was too strong for someone Reid’s size. I think she was disappointed at not being able to show Ken her trapeze skills but maybe also relieved at not needing to climb all the way up the ladder – or maybe I’m projecting. ;+) We hung out at the pool for most of the day since the Caribbean was no longer in favour. We watched an iron man race, during which the competitors swam a length of the pool, hopped out, drank beer, swam back, pulled a girl in a life ring, walked like a chicken and then shouted like Tarzan. It was too close to call a winner and so there was a belly flop contest to break the tie. Reid found it to be bizarre and asked “why”?” more than a few times.
We made sure to leave in time for everyone to get cleaned up for our Big Night. Reid was excited to have a babysitter come to our room and Ken and I were excited to go out to one of the à la carte restaurants sans kid.
We went to the Aztec restaurant, which was situated right next to a replica of a famous calendar stone, and ate traditional fare. The linen table cloths and formal waitstaff were a nice change from the buffet, as was the adult-only conversation. We finished our dinner before the babysitter was scheduled to leave and so I begged Ken to walk to the Starbucks that was just up the street. I was missing dairy products and knew I could get a non-fat hot chocolate at Starbucks. (Reid and I both missed the skim milk, yogurt and cottage cheese we were used to having. Even 2%, which they called “light” was too creamy.) Another time, I might book a sitter for a couple of evenings, since Reid had lots of fun and so did we.
We spent a good part of Saturday at the beach, building a castle and moat with Jaden, a boy we’d befriended, and another boy who never spoke to us at all but who let is join up his pool with our moat and even helped. We decorated our castle with seashells and coral and it was lovely. Reid never fussed at all about the rule that prohibits people from taking shells and coral from Mexico. She seemed to see the logic in leaving them behind for others.
We had to vacate our room at 1:00 but simply went to the pool with a beach bag once we’d stored our luggage and eaten our lunch. The water was a bit cool for my liking – the pool water wasn’t heated – but we splashed a bit and Reid swam. Near the end of the day, Reid and I went back to the beach to check on our castle, splash in the waves and play just a bit more. Ken finally had to gather all of our stuff from the poolside and frog march us back to the bathroom, I mean remind us it was time to go back to the bathroom and change. We ate a bit at the pool bar and then, sob, it was time to go to the lobby to wait for our bus. I used my bracelet to buy Reid and me another no-alcohol Strawberry Daiquiri to share – I learned to love the strawberry slushy goodness – and then it was over.
Except for the hour or so drive to the Cancun airport (a downside to being close to Xel Ha and Xcaret), the interminable line to check in and the wait for boarding. I gave Reid her anti-motion sickness pill as soon as we got to the lounge and she was asleep before take-off, which sounds amazing but was really 1.5 hours after her usual bedtime. Sunwing gave us supper at some ungodly hour but we were hungry and so Ken and I ate it. We both napped a bit but were awake when we landed at 2:45 am. Reid stayed asleep as I staggered with her down the plane’s aisle and out to the walkway, only to find that our gate-checked stroller was missing. The smiling Sunwing cabin steward said that we’d find it in oversize baggage. He never offered to help Ken with any of the things he was carrying – a car seat, two backpacks, a coat – since I couldn’t with my arms full of a very long child who was doing her best to stay asleep despite the adverse conditions. In fact, the smiling Sunwing fellow never even apologized for the inconvenience. It’s too bad, since until that minute I’d been very pleased with Sunwing and my last, maybe lasting, impression is that their customer service was lacking. Okay, I’m done ranting but it *was* 3:00 am and we did still have to stand in line at Customs and I am weak and Reid is heavy. Even once she woke up and, of course, she did because I jostled her so much as I adjusted my hold in an attempt not to drop her. It was ever so cold when we went out to the cab stand but the cab, itself, was toasty warm and the driver was friendly. I’ll have to plan all of my trips so that Uncle Roger can drive us to airport and we can return by pre-heated cab. I can’t imagine being among those who had to take a shuttle to long-term parking to get to their cars, scrape the snow and ice and then drive home.