As several of you know, I took the past week off for vacation — a girlfriend of mine and I decided to take a break from the cold weather and booked a February cruise to the Caribbean. I couldn’t even begin to get into all the stories that came from this one week. We kept ourselves plenty busy, often staying up late and waking up early. When I came home Saturday night, I was tanned, exhausted and swaying from my recent sea legs.
Obviously I love to travel, and we tried to get into the culture of our destinations as much as we could in the brief hours we were there for. I think we did this best with an excursion we booked called “The Amazing Cozumel Race.”
Hopefully some of you readers are familiar with the show “The Amazing Race,” where teams of two race against other teams to complete a series of challenges around the world. The show often had these pairs spend one leg of the race in one city, completing various tasks such as correctly threading several rows of a Georgian rug or learning how to ride a one-wheeled electric scooter in Hong Kong. The faster you complete the tasks, the more likely you are to come in first at the end of the race.
My friend and I are huge fans of the show. We love the idea of traveling off the beaten path, and we’re also highly competitive. We’d spent the days prior to this race involved in various scavenger hunts and trivia challenges, and we did well in all of them, thank you very much.
As we arrived in Cozumel, my teammate and I were immediately handed a packet with a blue book naming tourist locations and trivia items about Cozumel, a map, a Mayan number system and a small cell phone we could use to call for help if we got lost. Our guides were Emmanuel and Cris, and they were phenomenal. They told us that they were there to help us, but to also act as referees if things on the team got heated or frustrating. They explained the rules and hailed a taxi for the teams, and were taken deeper into Cozumel than most cruise tourists go, and our first task was to find a church.
Having found the church, we traveled to the Cozumel plaza several blocks away and were given a Spot the Difference puzzle to solve. We had to find four differences, and locate where these differences corresponded to a grid on the puzzle. The grid gave us numbers, and we would us the numbers to travel to the next location on our map, which was a giant street market that sold everything from fish to baby clothes.
We were given the challenge of going through the supermarket and finding the race symbol. Once we found the symbol, the stand owners would give us a task to unlock our next clues. There were two clues hiding in the supermarket, and we needed both to travel to our next destination. To get the first clue, we had to husk some corn and to get to the second one we had to sort a pile of baby clothes. Both clues had Mayan numbers on them, and we added them together to race to our next clue, which took us to a huge garden where our clue would be somewhere in there. You get the idea.
One of the coolest things we did on the race was take a glass-bottom boat out into the ocean to a sunken ship. We had to give our boat driver the name of the boat and then he would give us our next clue. We were provided with only snorkeling masks, and had to leap off the boat into the water and swim around the ship until we found the name of the boat. The water was warm and beautiful, and the ship was really amazing to see.
It came down to just a two-minute difference, but I’m thrilled to report my teammate and I won the Amazing Cozumel Race at just under a two-hour time period. But really anyone could do it. The team that took second was a mom and a dad and their two little girls, who couldn’t have been older than 10.
The race was truly amazing because we were able to see parts of Cozumel few other U.S. citizens had traveled to. The tasks got us out onto the streets and talking to locals, and having them cheer us on, and into cultural exhibits like the Cozumel museum. Emmanuel thanked us all for choosing this excursion, because it showed we have Cozumel in our hearts. And we got to take that part of Cozumel with us. It was by far the best thing we could have done, and I encourage anyone else with the same opportunity to do the same.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll see me on television doing the real thing some day.
Miranda Wilcox is the managing editor of the Anna-Melissa Tribune, the Prosper Press and the Van Alstyne Leader. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.