About three years ago I visited Mexico for the wedding of our son, Neil, to Kerry. After six days lying on a beach, albeit a very nice beach, I was pretty bored. So six of us booked an excursion to the Mayan ruins at Coba.
The excursion included a morning’s “activities”. When we enquired what this meant we were told it was a visit to a cenote. Cenotes are large underground freshwater lakes or rivers. It sounded like fun – a visit to a sort of cave! Great! So we signed up!
However, my suspicions were aroused when, in the bus on the way to the venue, we were asked to sign forms which basically stated that whatever happened or however caused, any injuries or death were entirely our own fault! Anyway I signed it thinking it was maybe some quaint Mexican tradition.
We arrived at this camp in the rainforest. After a little walk during which we were told to watch out for snakes and not to touch anything we arrived at this clearing. Here we were told that we were to receive a blessing from the Shaman before going further! Now I’m not the slightest bit religious but this vision came to me ……………. The last rites. And I wasn’t too sure how qualified this Shaman was, since he was wearing the tour company’s logo on his shirt. Anyway, he waved this evil smelling, smoking pot under our noses and chanted a few words. Having been blessed or damned we were then taken to a little hut to change and put on ………… climbing harnesses which consisted of a collection of very slender straps and hooks that were designed to attach me to assorted ropes and thingies.
Now I’ve done a little bit of climbing a very long time ago when I was young, fit and strong. I’m now retired and have put on a pound or two (give or take a couple of stone!).
Fear was now coursing through my veins.
We were taken to this raised timber platform, in the centre of which was this large square hole over which was a couple of timber beams.
We looked down this inky black hole. As our eyes adjusted we could just make out water about 50 or 60 feet below. The cenote!
The guide explained that we had to rappel down a rope into the water and proceeded to explain how that was done.
I looked round the group. All the faces were fixed in rictus grins like rigor mortis ………….. I hoped this was not a foreboding.
I was first to go, after a few tentative moments I remembered the technique and lowered my self gently. At the bottom, another guide pushed a large rubber tyre beneath me in which I sat with my nether regions in the icy cold water while the ropes were untied.
I have to say that it was very pleasant floating around in the darkness while the others came down.
But then someone said “Hey, bats”
I have a phobia about bats.
I think they’re going to get caught in my hair.
This is irrational on two counts:
• I know that they have sonar to prevent them bumping into things in the dark,
• I don’t have any hair for them to get caught up in.
Irrational or not I was s**t scared and very glad that my excretory organs were hidden below the black surface of the water.
Fortunately, after a short while, two extremely strong guys winched us back up to the surface.
I started to remove the harness. “No, senor” said one of the guides and promptly cinched it back twice as tight as it was, making my eyes water considerably.
We were then marched through some more forest to this very large lake ………………… with a zip wire running about forty feet above the surface.
So what! After the rappelling and the bats this was easy peasy. No sweat.
As I stepped up to the plate I saw several logs on the other side of the lake.
Then, one of them appeared to move!
“Hey, they’re not crocodiles, are they” I asked the guide.
He laughed. “No, senor, no crocodiles in Mexico.”
As he pushed me off he said “They’re alligators!!!”
I stared at these creatures some of which were at least five feet long. The zip-wire went right over their heads. As I watched, one of them stared up at me and opened his jaws!
I reached the other side quivering like jelly.
The following day, I was more than happy to lie on the beach again.
At least there were no alligators there!