Category Archives: obscure sports

An All-Inclusive Week At Cancun’s El Dorado Royal

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Day 1: Every time I land in another country, something feels different.  I had this feeling when I first landed at the airport in Cancun, despite the fact that much of my surroundings were remarkably similar to what I experience at home.  As is the case at many U.S. airports, the airport signs are written in both English and Spanish, with the English words on top.  Even the mix of people didn’t feel too terribly different from many places around Colorado where I live. It was the little differences I observed; some different looking buildings, speed limits in kilometers per hour, and the driver of the van that took us to the resort from the airport trying to sell us Coronas (or Mexican water, as he said) that made me feel as if I had actually traveled to a place that is different than the place where I live and the places where I spend most of my time.

We arrived at the resort in the middle of the afternoon.  A resort this size takes a little bit of time to become acquainted with, as it has multiple sections, with different types of travelers having different types of experiences, a whole bunch of pools, and a ton of restaurants.  One of the great things about being at an all inclusive resort is the fact that, once guests arrive at the resort, everything, particularly food and drink, is taken care of.  This is good because I arrived hungry.  It would be the last time I would really experience hunger for the duration of the week.

Day 2: Like most Americans, a majority of my travel involves an itinerary of some sorts.  This makes the transition from what is referred to as the “real world” to the world of that particular voyage seamless.  The normal day-to-day concerns, work, schedules, responsibilities, etc. are replaced by the schedule- the itinerary of the trip.  Today I have meetings at 9,10, and 11, and a document that needs to be finalized by the end of the day transitions smoothly to tonight we are staying at this hotel, they have a continental breakfast, than we’re gonna get to this attraction by 10:30-ish.

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On this vacation, there was no itinerary; at least not at first.  There was just enjoying the weather, enjoying the beach, the pool, the activities, and a week off of not just work but many other sources of stress, such as chores, social situations, etc.  This often leads to a gradual process of letting go.  Over the course of roughly 36 hours these concerns gradually slip out of the mind, to be replaced, miraculously, with nothing!  I bet there are some people that do not even know what that feels like anymore.

Day 3: I decided I wanted to go the full day without taking any pictures.  Now that the process of disconnecting from the “real world” was complete, it was a good time to live in the moment, and, not think about anything else, not even what I would write in this blog!  It was on this day that two of the things that typically happen during longer resort trips happened.

First, I actually started to settle into a quazi-routine. El Dorado Royale offers a lot of activities, activities I more or less took advantage of.  At 8 A.M., there was yoga on the pier.  9 A.M. Spanish lessons.  11:00 volleyball.  12:00 Aqua-aerobics.

Since guests do not need to cary around money, ID, and such at an all-inclusive resort, these resorts can offer amenities such as swim up bars.  We found ourselves, after the noon Aqua-aerobics, swimming up to the bar to have some drinks in the pool.  And since I was typically eating breakfast a bit later (10 A.M.), an hour or so of drinks would then be followed by lunch, and then the day’s afternoon activities, which varied a bit more day-to-day.

Day 3 was also when I began to make vacation friends; other tourists who had also managed to disconnect from their “real world” concerns, and had been drinking and enjoying themselves in the pool.

The resort has a lot of great restaurants, but their signature restaurant is one called Fuentes. This restaurant is a dinner show, with a famous chef that demonstrates how each course is cooked while serving the food.  The dinner and cooking demonstration lasted two and a half hours.  Each course featured food from a different region of Mexico.  It was not just a meal, but also lessons about both geography and cooking technique.

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Every evening at El Dorado Royale, there is a show.  It typically starts at around 9:45 and lasts about an hour.  This is followed by dancing.  I found the meal/cooking demonstration exhausting!  I ended up electing to skip the dancing, calling it a night earlier than I typically do.

Day 4: A strange thing started happening on the fourth day.  Each day, I got drunker than the last.  On this day, after noon Aqua-aerobics, I took multiple shots at the swim up bar, and then took part in tequila tasting.  Yet, my hangovers were not getting any worse.  In fact, they were getting easier.  It was like I was hitting some sort of groove, which also involved the consumption of alcohol.

Also, having taken advantage of the 9:00 Spanish lessons, and through some conversation with the resort’s staff, whose company I truly enjoyed this week, I was suddenly getting back into the groove speaking Spanish.  Those that do not know Spanish could easily get by at this resort, as nearly all of the staff speaks English.  But, the lessons ended up being a great opportunity to speak Spanish with some native speakers and recover some lost knowledge.  By the end of the 4th day, I was instinctively starting to blurt out phrases such as “querimos jugar al volleyball por la playa ayer, per due demaciado ventido”.

Day 5: This day began to feel like the apex of the trip.  By the middle of the day I had made a good number of vacation friends, I was given two different nicknames by the other guests at the resort; “Denver” after where I am from (as it is hard to remember a lot of names), and “Maya Riviera”, after a rainbow colored drink that the resort offers.  It is a very sweet beverage, but I still managed to drink a ton of them.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do was to bring this drink under this fountain in the center of the pool, and drink it feeling as if I could not be doing anything more tropical at that particular moment.

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I also got accustomed to some of the other specifics about taking this kind of worry free vacation.  One which tragically took too long for me to adjust to is the proper application of sun screen.  Unfortunately, I got quite burnt over the course of this trip.

The other is something I wish I could do more of in normal daily life.  In most situations, when eating at restaurants, it is most cost effective to order one item.  Without such concern, most meals involved multiple items of food.  Additionally, the portion sizes at El Dorado Royale are such that it is typically possible to eat 4 or 5 course meals.  The resort has two Italian restaurants.  Traditional Italian meals involve an antipasto (appetizer), a soup, a primo (first, which usually involves pasta or risotto), and a secondi (second, usually a pice of meat of some kind).  Here, there was absolutely no reason not to order one of each.

At the end of the evening, though, I got slowed down again, this time by heart burn.  Apparently, there is a limit, as well, it had been quite some time since I had drank five days in a row, and I do not plan on becoming a “functioning alcoholic”.

Day 6: The previous early night made it easy to wake up in time to watch the sun rise over the ocean.  As someone who lives in a land locked city, this is something I try to do, if possible (last time it wasn’t), any time I am on the East Coast.

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The early start changed my routine up a little, but this turned out to be another fabulous day of activities, both in the pool and by the beach (beach volleyball).  I even amazed myself with my confidence levels.  Mexico has a warm place in my heart for this reason.  When I was younger, I had a very poor self image, and low confidence levels.  Then I got a part time job working at a restaurant, where most of the staff was (still is) Mexican.  I achieved my first real boost in confidence at the age of 16 when I was welcomed and appreciated by that community.  I thought about that experience, as once again in Mexico, I was feeling welcomed and appreciated, by the other guests as well as the resort’s staff.

But, I knew the “real world” would find a way to make a comeback.  At the start of this trip, I made a conscious decision to take a true holiday and stay away from reading about, taking about, or thinking about two things; work and current events.  Those were the two things that had been most likely to cause me angst over the past few months, and my mind needed a holiday from that way more than my body needed any kind of rest.  However, I did start to become curious when I saw a newspaper that reported that the president-elect had selected a treasury secretary.  I couldn’t help but wonder what it meant, even though I was wanting to not think at all about that stuff.

It’s also all but inevitable that something will happen over the course of a trip like this that will trigger a concern from “normal life”.  After all, these concerns do not go away, they are just temporarily out of one’s thoughts, and if something triggers it, the mind will come to the realization that there’s concerns will have to be addressed upon return.  This is more likely to happen to closer one gets to the end of their vacation.  Luckily for me, this was just a brief moment in a week that otherwise felt amazing!

Day 7: Sometimes it can be a real challenge to enjoy the last day of a trip.  Everything I am doing, I have been enjoying all week, and know it is the last time.  We all know it’s best not to think about this, but, it is inevitable. It ended up being the perfect day for a side excursion.

El Dorado Royale offers a lot of side excursions, for an extra charge. These include activities as simple as jet skiing to the more involved (and more expensive) voyage to the Mayan Ruins.  This is what is not part of the all-inclusive aspect of the resort.  It doesn’t cost any extra money to play volleyball, go to the batting cages, or take part in one of the many other activities, but it does cost for excursions like deep sea fishing, or swimming with the dolphins.

It’s possible to have a great week without doing any of these extra cash, but we finally decided to go parasailing, on the last day, which is one of the quickest excursions available.  With this excursion, we kind of got a two-for-one, as it both started and ended with a short ride on a jet ski to get to the boat.

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The activity ended up being one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  It is surprisingly easy.  Some would see how high in the air para sailors gets done be intimidated by the activity.  I honestly expected to have to use a bit more energy holding on to the rope that attaches me to the sail.  But, it is actually quite safe, and is possible to let go of the ropes and just enjoy the ride.  It was a particularly spectacular view of the coast from several hundred feet in the air.

Due to the sunburn and travel, my body is exhausted.  My mind is neither exhausted nor refreshed.  But, my spirit is refreshed in a way it has not felt in quite some time.  The question now is, how to bring that spirit with me back home and keep it as long as I can.

The GoPro Mountain Games

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One week prior to departing for the GoPro Mountain Games, I had no idea that the GoPro Mountain Games even existed!  I would never have thought that GoPro, the company that makes those portable cameras, would decide to sponsor an event like this.  It’s not that it’s one of those things that makes no sense, like McDonalds sponsoring bike rides in Chicago.  In fact, when I looked into the event upon being invited, it made perfect sense to me.  It is those GoPro cameras that people use to film their outdoor adventures, from skiing to mountain biking, climbing, and even those crazy people that swing from arches in Utah.  Thinking about that, it makes perfect sense for GoPro to put together an outdoor celebration like this in Vail, Colorado.  It is just something I would not have thought of had I not been informed of the event.

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In some ways, Vail is a very different place in the summer.  Accustomed to seeing the ski resort in winter, covered with snow to ski on, it looks quite different by June.  Also, with skiing being the main reason people make the trip up to Vail, some things are cheaper.  Not only was the hotel I stayed at in Vail Village a place I wouldn’t consider unaffordable during the ski season, but breakfasts like the one pictured above, normally $20 per person, are free from April to November.

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However, in some ways, Vail is the same place, regardless of season.  The nightlife definitely felt the same as it had in the winter.  The Gondola was still running (what for, I do not know).  And, no matter what time of year you visit Vail, you generally encounter the same mix of people; wealthy but generally casual and in good shape.  It is a crowd I can never figure out whether or not I truly fit in with.  I love skiing and the outdoors, but I am not rich, and I still have many attitudes about life that are way more East Coast than West Coast.

The GoPro Mountain Games consist of many different kinds of events, including biking, climbing, kayaking, running, and even dog jumping.  I think there is even a Yoga event in there.  The easiest way for me to think of it is to imagine the (above mentioned) demographic group that attends this event, and then think of everything this group of people do.

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The event with the biggest draw is called “bouldering”.  It is basically the kind of climbing that you do inside at the gym, as opposed to the climbing you do outside with ropes and such.  Watching this event was interesting primarily because everybody in the crowd cheered for everybody.  Unlike in the Olympics, where we primarily only cheer for those from our own country, and team sports where we genuinely cheer for one team to beat another, in this event, everybody appears to genuinely want everybody to succeed.

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The craziest event was definitely an event called “8 Ball”.  In this event, kayakers race down the river.  However, along the route, there are a bunch of guys in kayaks with 8-Ball wet suits on that basically play defense.  They attempt to impede the racers along their route towards the finish line.  I really wonder who came up with this one!

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My favorite event was an event called dock dogs.  In this event, dogs, mainly retrievers and shepherds, jump off a dock into a large pool of water.  The dog whose jump is the longest is crowned the winner of this event.

I loved this event for two reasons.  First of all, I love dogs.  I own one, and in many of the hiking entries in this blog, you will see photos of my Siberian Husky.  Second, I just love how goofy it really is.  The dogs are prompted to jump off the dock when their owners throw this long cylindrical toy for them to chase.  It looked exactly like what one would encounter while hanging out at a lake home in Wisconsin.  In fact, the world record holder in this event is from Minnesota!

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For a weekend trip to a major event a couple of hours away, this trip was a spontaneous one.  I was basically invited to come along on this trip on the Monday four days prior to departure.  To add to that, I only really knew one person of the eight others involved, the guy who invited me.  It is the kind of invitation that most people would have dozens of reasons to say no to, from previous plans to personal budgeting and even the much more onerous social anxiety.  But, those that remain open to, and say yes to invitations like these are often rewarded with some unexpected significant experiences.

I have come to the realization that one of the most effective ways to meet people and make friends is through mutual friends.  Some of the best friends I have here in Denver I have made through having one or more mutual friends.  The same is true of pretty much every other place I have ever lived.  For some strange reason it is easier to form a bond with someone who knows some of the same people.  Someone who chooses to hang out with the same kind of people is likely to be someone you have a lot in common with.  In fact, in my experience of forming friendships this way, there has even been little to no reliance on mutual acquaintances for conversation topics.  It just naturally starts itself.  Or maybe that is just the way I am.  Either way, it was great to have decided to head to this event, and it serves as a reminder of how much our lives are enriched by spontaneity!