Welcome to the Jungle…

Hi Again!

We’re continuing our Mexico adventures, and had an amazing time yesterday exploring the jungle at the Punta Laguna!

Punta Laguna is a small village about an hour away from our hotel, and part of the Ma’ax Yetel Koo nature reserve. This translates to “House of the spider monkey and the jaguar” from Mayan, which is the language spoken in this very traditional area. The Punta Laguna village specifically is very small with many of the residents having never visited larger cities, and the area only recently got electricity. As you can imagine their lives are very closely tied to this nature reserve, and they do a great job protecting it. Happily, they also do guided tours of the area, which we took part in!

It was pretty darn hot and humid when we got there, but we liberally applied our sun screen and bug spray, loaded up with water, and off we went. We had been told that the guides are both very knowledgeably, as well as being insanely good at monkey spotting. Our lovely guide demonstrated this almost immediately by spotting a Spider Monkey about 40 seconds into our walk:

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Can you see the monkey yet?
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Found him!

Our guide pointed him out and walked us over, and told us a little more about the monkeys. Apparently they live in small groups of eight or so, and they constantly move around the forest throughout the day. They very much enjoy eating Elephant Ears, which are the pods you can see in the tree above. Our monkey friend looked very relaxed as he ate, and didn’t seem to mind us taking pictures from below.

Now very bouncy and excited, we made our way deeper into the jungle. As well as the monkeys, the actual jungle was very interesting. Firstly, the jungle itself was very beautiful:

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It was also extremely relaxing to walk through, since it was very quiet apart from little birds chirping away. Speaking of birds, we also saw some of these! They were extremely fast little things though, so this is the only one I managed to catch on camera:

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Still everything to play for in name that bird round 2!

We also saw several other little friends, including these leaf-cutter ants:

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I’m taking a stand on this, leaf-cutter ants are pretty cool

Plus these pleasingly easy to photograph iguana friends:

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I still failed to spot them without the guide – thank goodness for Max

As well as the wildlife the jungle itself is actually virtually unchanged since Mayan times, so there are lots of old ruins dotted about that are really fascinating. Apart from being extremely old, these ruins are unusual in that the area around them is similar to how to was at the time (so you get a better idea of context) and they have also not been restored in any way by archaeologists. So these temples and dwelling were building by the Mayans over a thousand years ago, and they’ve been basically untouched ever since! It blew my mind a little.

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Plus the natural lighting through the trees really does a good job of making them seem even more epic

So anyway! We walked around the jungle for around two hours, and saw all of the cool stuff above, plus the laguna itself:

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“Swim at own risk, contains crocodiles”

This includes both the big lagoon/ laguna, as well as the various cenotes dotted around the place. Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes/ pits that form due to the limestone bedrock collapsing to expose the groundwater, and while most are fun the ones in this forest looked a little hardcore…

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NOPE

So anyway, there was lots to see, with the exception of more monkeys. This was totally understandable given that the whole reserve is around 5000 acres, and we told Max that we’d still had a great time. Max, however, did not think that only seeing one monkey was an acceptable monkey tour… In case it’s not already clear, Max is a total hero.

It turns out that Max’s brother is one of the biologists who studies the monkeys, and apparently the monkeys often like to hang around in his garden and eat the fruit there! So, out of the reserve and over the road we went to search for monkey’s in peoples gardens. We were allowed to sit down for a quick water break while Max searched ahead, which is good since we were both sweating pretty profusely.

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I think the fact that we’d both turned very red was also a little alarming

Very quickly Max was shouting at us to come over though, and there they were! More Spider Monkeys:

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Once again snacking on Elephant Ears!

They were in a tree just 20 feet or so away, so we were very excited. It was the closest we had ever been to wild monkeys, and we felt extremely lucky to get to see them. This record for monkey closeness was broken almost immediately when they bounced over to the tree above us, and started eating fruit over Rob’s head!

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Eeeee!!

We stood there for about ten minutes watching them chow down on fruit, and it was pretty darn adorable:

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Please don’t drop seeds on my expensive camera, Monkey friend

It was very excellent. We babbled away excitedly to Max, took 10,000 more pictures, and then headed back to our car to desperately re-hydrate. Our conversation on the drive home was basically just the word ‘monkey’ over and over again, in varying pitch.

That evening we’d finally calmed down a little, and we’d booked an authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner at a place called Cetli. It was describe as a very small restaurant that served very amazing food, and that was definitely the case. We parked up outside in the conventional Mexican way:

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Stop car at your exact destination, apply handbrake, walk away

We then went inside. Right away it was pretty clear that ‘small’ was being a bit generous. There were only three people working the whole place, a family, and they had clearly converted their house to make the restaurant:

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I’m not sure why the kitchen was behind bars, but I’m sure it’s fine

There were also only eight tables, and we were told that food would take a little while to come out. We assured them that this was totally fine, and they gave us a starter of traditional Mexican dishes to tide us over:

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Omnomnom!

Starting at the bottom, and then ascending left to right we have: Mince meat and cheese on a little bread thing, cheese empanadas, whole grain bread made in house, a spicy green dip, some garlic bread wrapped in a piece of dried leaf, cheese in a beetroot relish, orange sprinkled with fried crickets and finally some more cheese.

I am sure that these dishes all have correct names, but I absolutely can’t do better that the info above. Sorry!

I can tell you that it was all stupidly delicious, and that I wolfed down most the plate. Rob flat out refused to try the crickets, and also wasn’t a big fan of the grainy bread. I was a big fan of everything but the last cheese, and sadly whilst I did try the crickets they were not great. Cricket really does not have a lot to offer as a meat, in my opinion…

Anyway, already stuffed we ploughed on with the main courses – I had the Istak, which was fish in a white almond mole, dark chocolate and sesame seed sauce, and Rob had the amazing chile en nogada, which is poblano chilis stuffed with meat and spices. Rob definitely made the wise choice here, his food was unbelievable.

Finally, we decided to finish the night off with a cocktail at one of the local bars. There was a place nearby (strangely called Batey) which we were told did outstanding cocktails, and boy was that the case. I had a Mojito and Rob had a Caipirinha, and both were amazing – the highlight was definitely the fact that there was a guy there chopping up sugar cane, so each drink came with a freshly chopped up, sugary stick.

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Despite being tasty, anyone who has tried Caipirinha’s knows that one is generally enough. Stuffed full and tired out from our adventures, we headed home and passed out like fatties 🙂

More soon!

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