Monday, October 13, 2008

Jungle Journeys 101

Alternate title: What NOT to Wear in the Jungle

I joined a group of travel journalists on an adventure tour of the Riviera Maya coastline south of Cancun in September. The tour itinerary gave instructions like, "wear comfortable shoes." As far as I'm concerned, Teva flip-flops are the most comfortable shoes in the world. So I wore them during each of my adventure outings.

Here is my foot in the jungle of Punta Venado on the first day of the jungle journey:

Here was my foot after I got home:

Here is what I learned in between:

The Mayan Riviera is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches and private, all-inclusive resorts that offer so much on site that visitors never have to leave the property. The only view of Mexico that tourists see is from the airport, down the main highway, and through the guarded gates. I call this insular tourism.

There is so much more to Mexico than beaches, margartitas and tacos. Underground rivers flow through pavilion-like caverns. Freshwater pools, cenotes, fed by the underground rivers rise up and spread across the jungle. Mangrove forests cut with channels of freshwater currents lead to savannahs of grasses higher than your head. And the jungle. That verdant shag that covers the vast reaches of the Yucatan Penninsula is rife with wildlife, flora and mystic Mayan surprises.

I'll be spinning more Mexico stories more in the future, but one last word about The Toe. When I told everyone about my broken toe, they offered the prevailing myth that you can't do anything for broken toes, that all you need to do is tape it to its neighbor. Not so, according to my podiatrist, Dr. Roger Tsutsumi. The break was in the joint of the bone that connects to the foot. He advised surgery to pin the bones together. I now have a pierced toe. I'd post a photo, but Dr. T scared the toejam out of me with stories of infections in the bone, so I dare not unwrap it.

Jungle Adventure Tip: Always wear the kind of sensible shoes your mother would.