We sure are enjoying the exploration of cenotes around here. Just like the Panama beaches, each one has different attributes. It will be impossible to know our favorite until we’ve explored them all, which is also impossible. But for any cenote-hunters out there, here’s our report on the latest one.
There is a very active homeschool community in Playa del Carmen. Made up of expats, locals and even people just passing through who have kids, we are frequently invited to events down there. We turn down so many invitations just because we are so busy with other equally-cool events! And Playa is a 45 minute drive, which can get old. Although when Mommy drives we get the tunes going and we all sing along. #funparent
So yesterday we drove down to Playa to meet up with some new friends and see some old ones too. “Old” is such a relative term. We just passed our 3-month mark here in Mexico and we already have old friends. Such is the expat life.
This cenote is at a place called Parque Xca-Ha. It’s a very small cenote so I guess they figured that they needed to add a few more things to warrant the 50 pesos ($3 US) admission price. And what goes well with cenotes? Swimming pools! So this parque is set back in a jungly (but not buggy) area, there are a lot of nice trees for shade, lots of tables to sit and eat at, lounge chairs for sunbathing and relaxing, about 6 different little pools, a few slides and of course the cenote. And on a Friday afternoon it was deserted so it was wonderful. Because my kids are older and the pools were so shallow I didn’t have to worry about where they were. I could have my Mommy Social Time while they frolicked with friends. The girls also met a few new friends and saw a few old ones from our time at the family summit. Oh and Zoe found a puppy to play with. Of course she did. That girl will find a puppy anywhere.
After awhile we all ventured into the cenote. They require a life jacket at this one. I’m not sure why but I suppose because the cenote was 1) dark 2) deep and 3) hard to get out of. So I guess all of those reasons make the rule somewhat logical. It was more of a cave type cenote and was separated into 2 different pools with a little land mass in between them. The water was clear and a bit chilly but it felt good to float around. Cenote cave areas seem to all have bats so we just tried to pretend they weren’t there. I definitely freak out just a bit when I first get into a cenote but after a few minutes wherein I don’t feel any dark monster brushing up against my leg, I relax and enjoy it. The life jackets are very nice so you don’t have to work too hard. You just chill out and float.
In the second cenote pool there was a giant turtle statue and his head stuck out just enough to be an excellent jumping platform. It wasn’t as high as the first or second cenote we went to so it only took me about 10 seconds to get up the nerve to jump. Zoe was the one that took about a while to jump this time. It took some encouragement, taunting and a bribe or two. She finally jumped. Honestly, getting up on that darn turtle was a lot harder than jumping off him. He was big and round, as turtles are known to be, and for an agile and small kid it was no problem to just fling yourself up there. But for a middle aged plump adult who has a fondness for chocolate chips after dinner, it was not so easy. Another kid found a way to the other side of the turtle and a combination of cave rocks and tree vines made a nice little obstacle course that served as a ladder for those of us not prone to flinging our bodies. I had to overlook the bat and bird poop on top of the turtle, however.
I jumped twice, just to say I did it. Haley freaked out swimming through the dark water part to get to the turtle so after that she got out of the water, she couldn’t be convinced to get back in. And this is even after I modeled the behavior of overcoming fears to climb on top of the bird poopy turtle to jump into deep, dark water. Honestly, modeling courage for your children is exhausting work that is way under-appreciated. Zoe, after taking 10 minutes to jump the first time, kept jumping for quite awhile. The nice thing about cenotes is when you get out you feel clean. No sand, no salt, no chlorine, just nice fresh water. I can see why cenotes are frequently found by ancient Mayan ruins. It would have made perfect bathing areas. Evidently they were also perfect places to sacrifice people, judging from the bones that archeologists have found in the past at the bottom of cenotes near Chichen Itza and other ruins. Bat and bird poop, bones, dark caves. Have I lost you yet? Maybe so, but we think cenotes are just super cool.