When last we left our intrepid adventurers in the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report, they had just finished a fun day exploring the Mayan ruins at Tulum. Now we pick up with the next excursion day…
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
We rolled out of bed, made ourselves presentable, and headed up to breakfast for our usual visit to Emile’s for the buffet, and then out to the adult pool area again for a nice, quiet breakfast experience. We settle into routines pretty quickly, don’t we?
And just like the previous day, I didn’t take my camera to breakfast with me. So when we walked up to the top deck to see the ship tie up at the dock at Progreso, on the north side of the Yucatan peninsula, I once again had to just watch without getting any photos. But that’s okay, I guess.
I had seen online that there was quite a distance between where the ships dock and the mainland at Progreso, but when I saw from the ship deck just how far it was, I was hoping that our excursion would be leaving from the dock and not all the way up at the mainland, because the distance looked to be a few miles. I didn’t really want to start out the day by walking that far. However, as we got closer, I saw that there were some buses lined up near where the ship was docking, so I felt better. And then near the buses I saw a bright orange bus, and I knew that was ours.
(Cue the flashback sequence) One of the things Laura said she would like to do when we were booking the cruise was to climb on some Mayan ruins. I had booked the Tulum tour that we went on the previous day so that we could see those ruins, but I knew when I booked it that climbing on the ruins wasn’t allowed. But as I was looking through the website at possible excursions for the second port of Progreso, I saw a photo of people climbing on some ruins. What? Is that allowed? I read the reviews of the excursion, and sure enough, it is allowed. And the excursion also included a ride on a tandem bicycle through salt flats, along with a stand up paddleboarding session and a visit to the beach. And best of all, lunch was included. This was sounding better and better. But I wavered a bit, and didn’t book this one until just a few days before we left home. When we had gone to the presentation about the excursions on the first full day of our cruise, some of the other excursions that were mentioned sounded nice. And then there was even a “Merida On Your Own” excursion, where they would take you to the nearby city of Merida and leave you for a few hours of exploring the city on your own. But I didn’t try to change our booking at that point, figuring that it would all be okay. So we were all booked for the Jaguar Safari Bus, Bike, Paddleboard, and Beach BBQ excursion. That’s a mouthful of a title, but we were going to give it a try. (Okay, flashback over. Back to the real world.)
So from the photos I had seen, I knew the bright orange Jaguar Safari Bus would stand out, and that was how I could pick it out from the generic looking white buses. After watching the guys tie up the ship for a moment, we went down to our room to get our things and go to our assembly point.
Once again, our excursion was to assemble in the Venetian Palace Theater. And once again, we were a little early. But that’s okay, because our guide for the excursion, Eduardo, was already there. And we weren’t the first ones in our group to arrive, either. Nice to be in a group of overachievers!
Eduardo was passing out waivers for everyone to sign stating that we wouldn’t hold the tour operator or the cruise line responsible for any injuries or other problems that might occur. I was wondering if perhaps we should gracefully back out to save ourselves from whatever injuries might occur, but we knew it couldn’t be too bad or they wouldn’t have offered the excursion in the first place, right? Might as well go out there and live on the edge!
Making our way to the bus
Look, there’s a battleship. “B-1.” “Miss! D-4.” “Hit!”
After everyone from our group had arrived and filled out their waivers, we all went as a group to Deck 1 to exit the ship, scanning our cards on our way out so that the crew would know where we were. But not in a Big Brother creepy kind of way. More in a Please Don’t Let the Ship Leave Without Me kind of way. When we were off the ship, we made the short walk past the not-yet-open duty free shops to the waiting Jaguar Safari Bus, which indeed was the bright orange bus we had seen from the ship.
Making our way through the marketplace. No time to stop and shop - we have a bus to catch!
Up close, the bus looked even bigger than it looked from the ship, but still brightly orange colored, of course. From nearby, we could see that there was a jaguar painted on the side, along with the “Jaguar Expeditions” words. At the back of the bus was a platform full of bicycles, and paddleboards were on top of the bus. While the bus from the previous day had looked all proper and serious, this bus looked like fun.
As we were boarding, Eduardo said that the bus is air conditioned. “The air is on the condition that the driver is driving.” But the windows were all down, so it wasn’t hot on the bus at all. Once we got underway, Eduardo introduced his intern Martin and the bus driver Jorge, who greeted us over the radio. The bus had seats along the wall that all faced inward, which made it a little difficult for those who like to look out the window, but not too bad. There was also a bathroom in the back corner of the bus, and that might come in handy later on.
We’re on a bus!
Eduardo mentioned that the pier that we were driving on was over two miles long (I knew it looked long from the ship), and that it was that long because the water was so shallow for a great distance. They had to build the pier that long so that the cruise ships and other large boats would be able to dock there. He pointed out that they are expanding the pier, but I wasn’t sure if he was meaning that the cruise ships would be able to dock closer to the mainland.
We learned some about Eduardo and Martin as we went along, and we learned some about the area as well. Eduardo went over some of what we were going to do, and he asked where we were all from. As with our previous excursion, most people were from Texas. I guess the Galveston port caters mainly to the locals, which is fine. There were also some in our group from Louisiana, and some from Washington state, so it was a pretty diverse group.
Eduardo’s English wasn’t quite as good as Angel’s English the day before, but it wasn’t a problem, because overall we could still understand him just fine. There were some times when he had to stop to think of the English word he was looking for, but he always managed to get his point across. While Angel had been serious and informative, Eduardo seemed to be fun and energetic. The Tulum excursion was more about history, but this one looked to be more about fun. No complaints at all either way.
Once again, I enjoyed looking out the window to see what we were passing by, even if it meant turning around awkwardly. It didn’t take long before we were out of the town of Progreso and on a highway that went past a house or a small resort here and there, which meant that we were driving along the coast. Always interesting to see those kinds of places.
A random view out the bus window, which was a little hard to do since the seats faced inward.
Along the way, Eduardo did mention that the tour used to go to a small lagoon for paddleboarding. But then construction near the lagoon started stirring up crocodiles in the area. “They were just baby crocodiles. Not very big. But we don’t go there any more.” So instead we would be paddleboarding at the beach. I was fine with that. The more beach time, the better.
As we were getting into the salt flats area, Eduardo pointed out some flamingos off in the distance. Unfortunately, they were too far away for a good photo. Which ended up being the case with all of the flamingos that we saw that day. Not that big of a deal, because we have seen flamingos before, except that all the other times they have been in captivity and not out in the wild. Still cool to see them, even if they were far away.
It wasn’t long before the bus was stopping for our first activity, which was tandem bicycle riding. We actually stopped right out in the middle of the two lane highway. Fortunately, there didn’t seem to be much traffic along the road. Interestingly, there was another tour group there touring the salt flats as well, and their bus had stopped on the other side of the road, but back a little so that cars could get around either bus. I guess the locals are used to that, and they probably don’t mind the money that tourism brings to the area.
While Jorge and Martin unloaded the bikes, Eduardo took us out to show us the salt flats and how the Mayans in the old days (and the current residents now) gather salt. There were several big pits that were dug and lined around the edges with sticks and rocks. The pits would fill up with water, and then when the water evaporated, it would leave salt from the ocean behind. Eduardo picked up a big glob of salt and broke it on a rock to show us how easy gathering salt is. Cool! The Mayans used the salt to preserve their food, and this salt today is still used mainly as a preservative and not as much for seasoning. Really interesting to see all of that for those of us who didn’t know.
The salt flats definitely looked salty and flat. Must be why they call them that. Read more about it and see more photos in the post Laura in the Salt Flats of the Yucatan.
By the time we got back to the bus, all of the bicycles had been unloaded. Eduardo got the bicycle helmets off the bus to pass around. My helmet and a few of the others had broken straps. He said that we could try to wear them, or just hang them from the handlebars. And he said when we filled out a survey to be sure to mention that they need new helmets, so that maybe the company would buy them more. I managed to get mine where it would stay on, so I was good.
When Laura and I selected a bicycle, I got on the front and Laura got on the back. Eduardo mentioned that the front person would do the steering, and the back person could sit back and relax or take pictures or whatever. So we decided that we would switch, and I would ride in the back to take pictures, but of course I would also help with the pedaling.
We’re on a bicycle! Read more about it and see more photos in the post Riding Bicycles in the Yucatan of Mexico.
It was a little tricky getting started, because the front person couldn’t sit on the seat and touch the ground. So I had to hold things steady while Laura got us started. But once we got going, it was pretty easy. That’s according to Laura, because I was in the back where I didn’t have to steer or anything. She did tell me to stop pedaling when she was wanting to slow down, and when we would stop I would put my feet out to steady us since her feet wouldn’t reach the ground. After a very short time, we had it all figured out. And I took several photos, along with some video with our GoPro camera as we were going along. Jorge drove the bus behind all of us, and he would blow the horn when a car was passing us, just to let us know that one was coming. There was one point where we had to slow down and turn onto another road, but Laura handled that easily. That was all fun.
We rode until we got to the entrance to the Xcambo ruins, and we stopped there to pay the entrance fee. Unfortunately, one woman in our group fell off her bicycle and scraped her leg as we were stopping, so I suppose that is why they had us all sign waivers. But she was okay, and she got back on the bicycle when we rode on to the main part of the ruins.
At least we didn’t have to worry about losing a big, orange bus. Originally seen in the post Riding Bicycles in the Yucatan of Mexico.
Along the road that led to the ruins, we could already see some old stone structures in the trees, and it appeared that these weren’t even part of what we were going to see. How cool that they have so many ruins still around there!
Ruins in the trees. Originally seen in the post Riding Bicycles in the Yucatan of Mexico.
We stopped under some shade trees to rest for a minute, and Martin passed around granola bars for everyone to eat. I wasn’t that hungry or suffering from lack of energy, but who am I to turn away a snack. And I was interested to see that the box for the bars said, “Members Mark,” which is the Sam’s Club brand, since the previous day Angel had pointed out a new Sam’s Club in Playa del Carmen. Always interesting to see American stores in other places.
So there we were, under a shade tree, with some Mayan ruins behind us, eating a granola bar. It all sounds rather adventurous and somewhat romantic, doesn’t it? Life was pretty good at the moment.
Eduardo then began picking some guaya fruit out of a tree for those who wanted to try it. You had to peel away the skin and then suck the fruit off of the large seed that was inside, which was very much like some of the fruit that I had tasted in Bangkok last year. He said that it was very sweet, and our stomachs might not be used to it, so we might want to suck the juice of the fruit and then spit it out. It was indeed very sweet, with a good flavor. Two thumbs up on the guaya!
And then, it was time to go in and see the ruins! And do some climbing!
Check back soon for more from Xcambo in the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report!