Mexico at last!  Friends brought back stories of fun, sun and adventure. As a result I had developed an avid interest in the country.  When my younger brother Ed suggested that his wife Maureen and I visit Mexico I was excited! It was early February in 2007 and Ed was still enjoying his teaching career at York University.  He did not have the time or the desire to join us but he knew that we would enjoy our time away.  My husband Maurice was delighted to know that he could remain at home! Rather than join us he chose to buy a new HD television and assured me that the travel and history channels would take him on many wonderful adventures while I was away.

Exploring the Mayan Riviera

I was so fortunate!  Not only was Maureen keen but she is also an experienced traveler and trip coordinator.  Very quickly a plan was in place. I would fly Toronto to meet her and visit, then on to Cancun where a shuttle bus would take us to our all inclusive  resort. We travelled a winding, ocean road catching only a glimpse of various resorts along the way. The untouched countryside on the opposite side of the road was an indication of the many contrasts we would encounter in the days ahead.  Our chosen resort was located near the history rich town of Tulum on one of the most unique beaches on the Mayan Riviera.  The sugary, white sand appeared to stretch for miles.  The magnificent architecture of the buildings and the lush tropical surroundings left me quite in awe.  We were shown to our suite and instinctively we knew that this would be a wonderful holiday!  Far below our deck surrounded by a blossoming garden a giant fountain stood as a sentinel to welcome us to some ancient culture.

Resort Mayan Riviera

Maureen at the resort with the lush Mayan Riviera in the background

The following days were amazing!  Each day was unique, the guided tours were perhaps the highlight of our holiday but our days at the resort were incredible; the beach with access to the pool and the ocean, the view and of course the entertainment and the meals.  Maureen is an accomplished swimmer and she enjoyed the opportunity to swim in the warm ocean waters.  I on the other hand was quite happy to enjoy the pool or venture into waist high water bravely challenging the waves as they rolled in.  You may have learned from previous stories that swimming is not one of my skills!

Mayan Riviera beach

All smiles on the white sand beach

Every holiday needs some real adventure to make it memorable and our day trip to explore the town of Tulum provided just that.  We hoped to enjoy the natural wonders of the area and since internet service was extremely limited we would also have an opportunity to check into an internet cafe to inquire if we had messages from home.  We chose a taxi to take us from the resort to Tulum and as the taxi disappeared Maureen realized that she no longer had her purse.  Can you imagine the feeling?  Several calls to the resort office and taxi cab companies and waving down various cabs provided no clues.  We made the decision that I would remain at the internet cafe while Maureen made inquiries and searched for something that would help us.  In a world where we hope for the best and expect the worst we were utterly amazed to suddenly see our taxi driver arrive to find us and return Maureen’s purse!  At the end of his work day he had found the purse and remembered where he had last seen us.  It was both heartwarming and wonderful to be reminded that goodness and honesty do exist in our fragile world!

Mayan ruins

Shirley exploring Mayan Riviera ruins

We woke to a bright sunny morning and expectations of a fascinating day.  We were interested in learning more about the Mayan history and culture and our excursion began early in the day.  Our guided tour began at Coba, the site of an ancient Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula. Coba is quite likely the most impressive archaeological site in the area.  Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and we learned much about this ancient civilization with the various gods and rituals.  We visited a Mayan community and were impressed with the friendly and contented villagers.  They were proud to show us their humble homes and customs and treated us with a taste of their homemade foods.

Mayan Riviera ruins

Coba ruins

Something unique to this area are the many cenotes along the way.  Literally thousands of these natural caves exist and are filled with fresh water.  These underground sinkholes were formed millions of years ago and as they collapsed they revealed underground pools.  Our driver stopped at a particularly scenic cenote and we were given an opportunity to swim if we chose.  Maureen took advantage of the offer.  Gazing down at the clear turquoise water below I thought her quite like a mermaid!

Dining Mayan Riviera

Maureen and Shirley enjoying Mexico’s Mayan Riviera

Perhaps the last day of our trip was the most memorable.  We felt rested and excited. We were about to experience a Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve Tour, an Ecological Wonderland.  This is one of Mexico’s larger parks and has been an UNESCO World heritage site since 1986.  The park covers 1.3 million acres of coastal jungles with a variety of side tours.  We boarded a boat which would take us through the mangrove lined waterways stopping only to observe and listen to our guide.  We were fascinated by the unusual birds that nested in the bird sanctuary and hoped to see the wild dolphins that on occasion came up to play.  The quiet beauty of this untouched land is remarkable, a must see if you choose to visit the area.  It was time to leave this paradise, the sun was low and now the guide was in a hurry to take us back to our group and the bus that would take us back to our resort.

Ecological tour Mayan Riviera

Mangrove lined waterways

The shuttle bus came to the resort early the next morning and quite soon we were on board the airplane to take us back home.  The sudden turbulence and the reassuring but cautious voice of the pilot should have been an indication that there could be a problem when landing.  How could we have guessed that Toronto was experiencing a major spring snowstorm?

And indeed they were!  We landed without difficulty but we were soon aware that a problem did exist.  Traffic throughout the city was literally at a standstill. Only the occasional taxi could be seen stopping by to rescue weary travellers.  Ed was to meet us but a telephone call from him telling us that he and his daughter Katy were stranded at York University required a new plan.  Maureen would try to wave down a taxi while I stood outside at a designated bus stop with other hopeful travellers guarding our luggage. There were many smiles from onlookers as they noticed my sandals with my bare feet disappearing into the falling snow.  That warm sand along the Mexican beach was now only a dream!

Toronto in winter

Returning to snowy Toronto

Maureen did find a kind cab driver to take us to the subway!  With luggage in hand we climbed the stairs and slowly made our way to the subway station.  We were ecstatic to see that Ed and Katy had somehow managed to make their way to rescue us. We welcomed them with hugs and gratitude and they in turn were relieved to find us well and happy.  Clearly the storm was almost over.  However the city remained strangely silent as we made our way to the warmth of Ed and Maureen’s home. It was a perfect time and place to share our memories of a wonderful Mexican holiday!

Toronto winter

Sun the next day in Toronto- Ed and Maureen’s back yard

Shirley has been sharing her enthusiastic story telling ability all of her life. Proud to call Saskatchewan, Canada home for more than 80 years, her love of new experiences, challenges and adventures reaches far beyond her prairie roots. Once retired from farming and working as an administrative assistant, Shirley studied and received her high school diploma at the age of 70. At 77 she published her first book and now in her 80’s has agreed to be a monthly contributor at Travel Tales of Life.

Shirley travel writer

You can find Shirley’s previous post here. Or if you would like to start at the beginning her first post is here.