My sister and I just got back from a trip to Cancun. We had been there before and planned to mostly sit in the shade and read books. We did decide to visit Xcaret (esh-ca-ret) which is one of the biggest parks in the Cancun area. There is so much to do there that we will need to go back several times to cover everything. Our biggest adventure was definitely when we decided to go ahead and try snorkeling through the cenotes (underground rivers).We hummed and hawed considerably, but eventually packed our things in a locked waterproof bag to be taken to the outlet area next to the sea. Next we got in line and picked up flotation vests, goggles, snorkels, and swim fins. We set off to the entrance spot.
Our swim in through a cenote began with gingerly stepping into the cold water in a brightly lit and beautifully clear pool. Once acclimated to the temperature it is quite beautiful and little effort is required due to your flotation device. A little practice breathing with the snorkel and we were off…
Faces down in the water and breathing through our snorkels we headed off down the river. We were a little nervous, but reassured by the idea that it was a river and would head directly to the sea. What could go wrong with that? Well, it sounded good! We quickly moved from this swim in the sunlight, into…
the dark. While you were able in the darker underground areas to see a glimmer of light up ahead, this was only the case when you had your head above water. When you swam into these areas with your face down you were frequently unable to see anything. It is here that the trouble began.
There were two main problems; staying together and finding the right path. With my sister in the lead not lifting her head at any point I was aware when we took our first wrong turn but unable to catch up to grab her swim fins there was no way to get the message to her. When we came to the next open area, which had no outlet, I explained about our wrong turn and we headed back around. Eventually we ended up behind the group who had entered after us and came out into another open area where a man who worked for the park wanted us to pose for a picture. Somewhat dazed, we complied but didn’t strike any happy thumbs up pose at all and in the end we didn’t manage to find and buy the picture which would have been our only proof that we had really gone on this excursion.
We left that area, headed downstream. I led this time and all was going well, I thought. We came into the light in another spot but it seemed that we shouldn’t have been there. With a picture of the map of the park in our heads, it seemed that we had somehow gone in the wrong direction again. We made the decision to go back to the start and get out.
If you have been paying attention, you will know that this decision meant that we would be swimming upstream the whole rest of the time in the cenote. Did I mention that I am a middle-aged, not terribly fit individual? We only made one more wrong turn in our adventure but the struggle to keep up and stay in contact was considerable for me. Very often I felt that as much as I used my feet to propel me, I was going nowhere. I had to use my arms most of the time just to keep up.
How did we end up getting out of the cenote? My sister, in the lead, stopped frequently to make sure I was still with her and encourage me, and I followed her bubbles which, under water, is the same as following her breath. So long as I was near the bubbles, I knew that even if we were lost, we were lost together.
The steps, when we found them, were a welcome sight. We were not just climbing out of the water after a vigorous swim, we were climbing out of the dark and uncertainty, and we were together!