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It was here and it arrived early. My birthday trip was now my birthday day. We got up at some ridiculously early hour. It was too early even for a decent Zungrise.
I looked in the mirror. Fortunately, the wrinkles and grey hairs had not increased since I was in my 40’s (I crack myself up). Since it was a day on a fast boat and in the water, I couldn’t hide my imperfections with makeup. I couldn’t even hide behind my big hat (big hat and fast boat don’t play well together).
We arrived at Bella Vista for breakfast right when they opened at 7 am. Alex was there and wished me a Happy Birthday. He said he had a present for me, but had forgotten it and would bring it tomorrow. how sweet is that?
We ate a quick breakfast and then went to the lobby where the van was waiting to take us to the marina in Puerto Adventuras. We were the first ones in the van. The driver said we had to go to Playa del Carmen to pick up some people.
We had booked the excursion online through playa.info. Booking online was very convenient, but the adventure wasn’t exactly as described. Pick up time was the first thing, as I mentioned before, it said pick-ups started at 8:30 and ours was a full hour before that. No big deal though, I just like to whine about getting up early. It also says if you book online, you get a “cool” t-shirt. We never got any t-shirts, which again, is not a big deal because those shirts are usually XL and I wouldn’t wear it, but they do advertise that this is a $15 value. I wonder if playa.info should ask for that money back from the tour company? They also say that you will stop at a “delightful, deserted, jungle beach” that is “one of the few unspoiled pristine beaches on the Riviera Maya and another place that gets you well away from the crowds”. We never made this stop and I was disappointed about this, because it sounded nice and I had been looking forward to hanging on that pristine beach. It also advertised being able to shower off before lunch at Paa Mul. There were never any shower opportunities.
So, that’s the things they didn’t have. Now on to what the excursion did provide.
We drove through Playa del Carmen and stopped at the Grand Porto Real, which is right across the street from the Royal Playa del Carmen.
We made another stop and picked up some people in Playacar. Then we drove those people to the ATV place, because that is what their excursion was. Zung liked the sign.
I was still cranky about having to get up early and grumbled that all this driving around is one of the things I don’t like about excursions. Yes, I know, whining is never attractive. But I’m just being honest. I was whining. There it is. I’m not proud of it, but I was thinking about that comfy bed back at the Grand I could still be in.
We drove on to the Marina at Puerto Adventuras and met up with the other people who would go on the boat with us. We had a few minutes to walk around before we got on the boat. Our tour director, Simon (one crazy ass dude), told us we could use the restrooms at the Dolphin Adventure place. The Dolphin Adventure place was not on board with this plan and the restroom police were guarding the restrooms from non-Dolphin Adventure guests with their identifying wristbands (no wristband, no restroom privileges).
The playa.info site said there were toilets on the boat, but Simon said they were only for emergencies. I guess that would qualify as another thing that did not quite live up to the description.
We walked around Puerto Adventuras, which has restaurants and shops and boats. There was this boat we saw. The name made us laugh, but it’s also kind of rude. It just screams “ugly Americans”.
We sunscreened up and boarded our boat. There were actually two boats, which made the adventure a little more adventurous as they would weave around each other and act like they were going to run in to the other boat at high speeds. This picture was taken later in the day, but is the best one we have of the boat.
Zung and I sat in the very front. That made for big bumps and generous doses of ocean spray.
Crazy Simon gave us the run down about boat rules and what our day would be like. We left the marina and quickly made a stop at “an unpopulated hidden inlet called Chacalal”. It featured a 1000 yr old, small Mayan temple (that’s even older than me!). You can see this in the background of those last two pictures.
We did some snorkeling and I stepped on a rock and got three holes in my heel. It hurt but at that time there was no blood. That’s a good thing, because you know about the whole blood attracting sharks thing. I wanted to see many things today. Sharks were not on my list, though.
The excursion includes snorkel gear, and I guess you get to keep the snorkel as a souvenir. Zung and I brought our own gear. I’m picky about not putting a used snorkel in my mouth — which was not an issue, since they gave everyone new snorkels — but I also have not had great experiences with shared masks. Zung has a mask with Rx lenses, so we just bring our own stuff. You can store your stuff under the seats. If your camera isn’t water proof, I highly recommend you take advantage of this storage space, as the trip was quite wet at times.
After we got done with snorkel stop one, I said to Zung that we should put on more sunscreen. However, there was a crusty layer of salt coating our bodies now and rubbing it all over with sunscreen sounded like a not-very-comfortable option. So, we did not re-apply sunscreen. BAD IDEA. You will see the results of this poor choice in a later post.
At this point in the trip we headed toward the reef at high speeds. Crazy Simon entertained us by straddling the sides of the boat and bouncing up the length and transferring from one boat to the next. All while we were moving at high speeds. He laughed had us laughing. Do not try this at home though.
We arrived at the reef. I think this was the pristine beach that was advertised, but Simon said it was just for researchers and baby turtle rescuers. You can see from the picture that one of those turtle rescuers is wearing a bikini.
The snorkeling was a guided tour, with one of the guys (not Crazy Simon) pointing out different things. It was really amazing. I saw my first sea turtle. Tour guide dude had some food to encourage it to hang around us. It swam back and forth, bumping into people. Spectacular (I know some people have seen lots of turtles, but this was my first one and I was impressed). There was also a giant sea urchin and a lobster, and of course tons of colorful fish and lots of coral. It was great.
The excursion provided drinks. Water and soda. We chose water and made sure to drink lots of it.
Next stop was Paa Mul for lunch. Simon took our orders and called it in. There was a choice of chicken fajitas, chicken nachos, burgers and fries and a salad. Zung and I both picked the fajitas (because, really, he hadn’t yet had enough fajitas this trip).
We enjoyed the fast and wet ride to Paa Mul. We also got one drink of our choice, sort of. I would have chosen Havana and Coke, but when I asked if they had Havana, the waiter looked at me like I had three eyes. I settled for Bacardi and Coke. Lunch was decent enough.
We took a bunch of pictures at Paa Mul. I’ll post those next time.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m going to milk this 50th birthday thing for all I can. It’s worth at least three posts. Maybe four.
After the 50th birthday is over, the next day we go home. The going home day is always the saddest day to write about.