21 March 2007

Day 8 - The Long Road Home

Our trip was over. The fun is gone. We got up, ate our final meal at the hotel, took our luggage to the car and hit the road. Traffic wasn't to bad and we actually found our way back to the rental car drop off quite easily. All checked in and waiting at the gate. But what gate? Our plane was to board at gate A-10. Our airline was US Air which is now owned by America West (America's Worst). About the time our plane was supposed to start boarding from said gate a Continental airplane was de-boarding there. A look at the departures screen didn't even show a flight by our number. However there was a different US Air flight leaving about 10 minutes later, to Phoenix, but with no gate assigned. Sadly there wasn't even a desk with US Air personal to ask questions. Finally I snuck up to a gate where another US Air plane had just loaded and cornered someone. I don't remember the flight number in the next scenario so I've substituted some but it went like this -

Me - "Do you work for US Air?" as I didn't even see a badge or real uniform showing this.
The gate man - "Yes"
Me - "Our flight 309 is supposed to be boarding at gate A-10 right now but there is a Continental plane there. Do you know where it is going to be boarding?"
Gate man - "Ahhhhh . . . were not sure where it is going to be boarding yet. Probably this gate (A-8). I'm going to make an announcement when they decide."
Me - "Oh . . . OK . . . ((((thinking - Maybe you should make one now for all the people wandering around like zombies trying to figure out where to go and what is going on.)))) Our flight number isn't even on the screen up there but I see there is a flight 318 going to Phoenix. Is that our flight?"
Gate man - "Ahhhh yeah. We (I'm assuming he means US Air here) changed the flight number a few weeks ago but the airport hasn't updated the board yet."
Me - "Oh OK thanks." ((((That gives me a lot of faith in this airport.))))

Our plane arrived. About 40 minutes late. We boarded. We waited. Finally someone on the plane announced that one of the doors is not showing that it is secured and the plane can't take off until the problem is fixed. We waited as maintenance worked on the plane with no updates and no clue as to when we were leaving. Finally about 40 minutes later the problem was fixed and we could leave. Now we are about 1-1/2 hours late to our destination in Phoenix and we will miss out connecting fight for sure. A few hours later we arrive in Phoenix and they manage to book us on another plane. Some people are not as lucky and have to stay the night. We get to our gate and notice that the plane we are to board is headed for Las Vegas. We don't live in Las Vegas. Fortunately we are in the US now and there are actually people who work for the airline at kiosks with computers who can answer our questions. The man there told us we had to take this flight to Vegas and make yet another connection to Seattle. This was the best employee for US Air I met. I wish I could remember his name. He was very nice, called us back up twice to juggle seats for our next two fights so we could actually sit together. We were supposed to get back to Seattle by 10:00pm but didn't make it until about 3am.

Well this is just one of the risks we take with travel. I'm glad Christine and I always plan our vacations so we have an extra day on the end to recover, unpack and sometimes for flight delays.

15 March 2007

Day 7 - Coba

Our last full day started with a little walk about on the beach for the sunrise poking around in the tide pools and taking some photos of the wildlife. Like these little birds (sand pipers?) and this colorful vulture preying on a washed up fish. The rest of our gang had already left for home so it was just us. This was my favorite time of the day for the beach. There were very few people out. All was quiet. No waiters, sunbathers, swimmers, music. The beach was ours. After our walk we did our usual breakfast buffet run. Ummmm . . . café con leche. I tell you what this hotel had some of the best coffee. I don't know where they got it or how they brewed it but it was good. We tried the coffee a mile down the road at Eric/Adriana's hotel and it was not the same. So it's not a regional thing. I may have mentioned that the food at our hotel was good although many things that we eat here tasted different down there. I suspect that this is due to what they cook the food in. Fried potatoes for example. I suspect that they are either fried in good old lard or butter as opposed to vegetable oil or some other "low fat" oil that we use here. But I could be entirely wrong. It could be in the seasoning or something else.

Christine wanted to get some souvenirs for some of her friends at work and originally our plan was to go back to Playa del Carmen but that is such a busy place and we had already been there twice this week. So we decided upon Tulum. Not the Maya ruins of Tulum this time but the actual little town itself. So we hopped back into the rental and headed down south again. As we approached Tulum we saw the signs for Coba. "Maybe we should just go to Coba." I said. "Sure, if you want to." Christine replied. We took a left at Tulum. Coba is yet another Mayan city/ruin and one that I had been interested in since this trip was just in the planning stages. It is about 30 miles inland from Tulum. If you are staying in the same area as we were and don't have time to make it all the way to Chichen Itza, or just don't want to travel that far the ruins at Tulum and Coba at your best bet. You could easily drive to both in one day, even half a day. The road narrows slightly going inland from the highway but the site of Coba is well marked. The ball court at Coba is much smaller then the one at Chichen Itza. I would have to say maybe a 5th of the size. Coba still has a feeling of being recently discovered. The jungle hasn't been cleared away as much as Tulum or Chichen Itza and thus there is more shade to walk in. Coba has the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatan and of the three places it was the only one that we were still allowed to climb on. About 1/3 to 1/2 way up you can already see over the jungle. (The jungle is still growing up the back side.) Just outside the main entrance Christine found her souvenirs.

It was close to noon or just after when when we got back to our hotel. We hit the buffet again and then did a little snorkeling. She is not comfortable in the open water. But after I went out and came back she decided to give it one more try. I took it slow with her. It helped that we were in clear, shallow water with white sand. She could always see the bottom and stand up at anytime. Most of the time it was about 5 feet deep. At first she had problems putting her head under water. Then I think it was just breathing while her head was underwater. She could breath through the snorkel while out of the water and look under while holding her breath but not do both. We worked on this slowly and she eventually could do it. Then, with my arm around her we swam and snorkeled. She was doing it! Actually breathing, not holding her breath! Eventually she could snorkel while just holding hands. And she was actually enjoying it. I saw some of the largest fish 100 feet of shore at our hotel then on any of my dives. It was a break though. She may never be a diver, but we can at last snorkel together.

12 March 2007

Day 6 - Chichen Itza

On day 6 we took a bus tour to the once great Mayan city of Chichen Itza. We would have drove but which route to take on the map wasn't quite clear, it was on smaller roads and about 100 miles away. Still it was worth it. The ruins were incredible. What our tour guide told us was absolutely fascinating. Our bus stopped for lunch along the way and drove though some beautiful little towns. The crowds at Chichen Itza weren't so bad considering how many tour buses were parked outside. Sadly for us you cannot climb the pyramids here anymore.
The Maya's were great at math and astronomy. The main pyramid here is not only aligned up with the spring and fall equinoxes but was also a calender. There are four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year. The actual Mayan calender is slightly more accurate, over the years, then our Gregorian calender.
Be warned here's some plot spoilers and things I noticed from Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. The moon is full during one night scene. During the following day (or was it the day before?) there is a solar eclipse. This cannot happen in a span of a few days. For there to be a full moon the moon must be on the opposite side of the sky as the sun. For a solar eclipse the moon will cross in front of the sun (new moon phase). The phase of full moon is half a month apart from the phase of new moon. Also at the end of the movie the Spanish appear. Chichen Itza was in ruins for about 500 years before the Spanish even arrived. From an entertainment standpoint though, I did like the movie. And if your down in the Yucatan I highly recommend a day at Chichen Itza.