Current Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008 7:30 p.m. (Caye Caulker, Belize)
Current Itinerary: We’ll be here in Caye Caulker for 5 more days or so. We finish our Scuba certification tomorrow...after that we’ll probably stick around here and do a couple dives. Next week we’ll head down to Placencia and then we’ll move north, hitting a couple Ruins in Belize before moving into Guatemala.
Note: Sorry for the delay once again...the internet on this island is absolutely horrible. I have been trying to send this thing for 3 days. Hopefully it gets to everybody...I’m not gonna try to update the website or send anything else until we leave here...maybe by Monday or Tuesday.
Note #2: We got off to a soggy start in Belize with almost 4 days of nothing but rain, but things are going great now...we did our first deep water dives today and can’t wait to see more!!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I woke up around 9:00 in Isla Holbox and felt violently ill...Totally uncool. I thought my vomit streak was about to come to an end...outside of the influence of alcohol, I haven't vomited for about 30 years...I’d have an exact date if I could remember back that far but the point is that the streak was on the line for the first time since the near vomit of ’04 in Esteros de Ibera in Argentina. I dug deep in fought it off once again, but it was a very unpleasant morning.
We packed everything up and headed for the 1:00 ferry back to the mainland. We were a bit worried about there being enough space on the bus to Cancun (it’s the last one of the day) but in the end we hurried around for nothing...there was plenty of room. That’s just a note for anybody who might come this way.
We got to the Cancun bus station around 4:00...it was kind of weird to have come full circle. Most of the time when you get to a city, there’s an air of unfamiliarity to everything around you, but since we had been there and stayed in a hostel just a few blocks from the bus station, we knew exactly where we were. This time though we would not stay in Cancu,..we were on our way to Isla Mujeres, so we needed to get to Puero Juarez, where you can catch a ferry across to the island. We had read in the lonely planet that you could get a bus from Avenida Tulum outside the bus station...since we were familiar with the area we decided to take the cheap route since getting a taxi was about 4 times the price.
It’s important that I mention here that when I say “four times the price” that we realize that we’re talking about a very small amount of money...maybe it was US $3 to take the cab. I know that is not very much and I know the following little story is hard to put in perspective...but as I have stated before, we are determined to make our money last as long as we can. Taking buses and collectivos instead of taxis can make a very big difference in the long run (remember our friends that paid US$60 to get to playa from Cancun!). We will go through this process probably over 500 times in the coming months so it’s important that we adjust our mentality so that we don’t take the easy taxi option all the time. Taking the buses takes longer but to put it simply, time is infinite for us, money is not.
Anyway, we went to Avenida Tulum where we had seen a bunch of buses pass by when were staying in Cancun 10 days before. We stood there for about 30 minutes, watching every single bus go by except the one we were waiting for (of course). It was hot and we were uncomfortable but we were determined to take the bus to the port...especially now, since we had invested so much time. Anyway, I guess I already knew it, but it was probably right then that I was sure for the first time that Jodi would be just fine on this trip. I don’t think I know another person that would not have given up after waiting that long for the bus when taking a taxi was only three bucks...especially since we knew it was probably less than a 10 minute taxi ride. It was one of our first moments where we could have very easily thrown a few bucks at the problem...but that is not the right mentality for what we are doing. It’s tough to change your way of thinking but one thing you learn over time is not to let stuff like this frustrate you. You have to let go of the American way of wanting and getting instant gratification. As I’ve said often, you can do anything in any of these countries that you can do in the USA...it just takes a little longer. The truth of the matter is that we had time and no reason to hurry...it’s all about relaxing and taking things in stride. I had that mentality when I returned from Brazil and being in the rat race (well, the mouse race in my case) has somehow made me forget...or wound me up tighter. I don’t know...but I do know this, if I had been in the same situation a few weeks ago, I’m sure I would have gotten the cab myself. I guess I’m starting to change...not sure if it’s necessarily for the better or not (I’d like to think so) but it feels good either way.
Anyway, after asking around, we realized we were on the right road but had been standing on the wrong side of a giant rotary. On the other side, we were able to get a kombi pretty easily and made it to the port. In the end, the time we lost probably made no difference b/c there was a boat leaving right at that second. That just goes to show you how things work out (and how hurrying often gains you nothing). The ride was a quick 30 minutes and we were in Isla Mujeres! It must have been about 5:30 or so and we were shocked to see how many people were waiting for the ferry to go back to Cancun...a lot of people come to the island for the day. It was a little weird to see so many people and tourists everywhere since we had spent the last couple days off the beaten path.
We found our way to the Poc-Na hostel and we were immediately impressed! The place is HUGE!! They’ve got a great common area and bar that seats atleast 50 people.
They also have a kitchen there that serves cheap food. The hostel is right on the beach and they have a huge open air area with tables in the sand and hammocks strung up as well. They also had another common area with a pool table and a ping pong table. They even had free internet with decent computers (and free wireless)! The place left no stone unturned! They even offered us a free drink at the bar when we checked in...which could not be redeemed until AFTER 11:30! They actually move the bar and party out to adjacent beach at 11:00! Here is a nice video tour of the Poc-Na hostel that I took our last day there which gives you a little bit of an idea.
We checked in to our room and immediately headed for the common area to get a bite to eat...we had some great pasta and a couple beers and met a German couple that had been traveling through Mexico for about a month and were at the end of their trip. We also met a couple girls from Buffalo that had finished school in San Francisco 3 months ago and had been wandering through Mexico since then...but they only had a couple days left too. There was another guy from Florida (who incidentally had Billy Idol’s 1985 hair do) who was just starting 2 months. We would eventually learn that almost everybody at the Poc-Na was either starting a trip or ending one. It seems that Cancun is a pretty major entry/exit point which makes sense I guess. We met another guy, Nick/England who was pretty awesome...he had just arrived that day from Chicago where he had been working the last 6 months. He is spending 6 weeks going through the Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala...looks like we’re on the same path so perhaps we’ll be seeing a lot of each other...although we don’t have any time constraints really and he does. Well, I guess we are going to try to get to Guatemala before March 24 so I can see my buddy Angel who is from there and will be home visiting. Not sure if we’ll make it in time though...I mean, we have been here for almost 2 weeks and we’re only 15 miles from where we started!
Anyway, we spent the night in the hostel bar having a great time and meeting a ton of people...the only down side was that they had a guy playing live music and he was absolutely horrible...he had this synthesizer that played a bunch of beats and then he played the “piano” and sang some well known songs VERY poorly. We even moved out to the outside area after he started playing. We drank the 2 for 1 drink specials until the wee hours...that proved to have disasterous consequences the following day.
Monday, February 25, 2008
We both woke up the next day with crazy bad hangovers...not helping matters was that it was about 120 degrees in our hostel room. I needed some air so I went down to have the free “breakfast” that the hostel gives you. This consists of a cup of coffee (which I don’t drink) and two pieces of toast...basically two things that should always be free anyway. I figured the bread would do me some good but I was wrong. I went back up to our room to try to sleep it off but an hour later couldn’t take the heat as the sun was coming through the windows and cooking us.
Finally I got up to use the free wireless interenet and let some of the sea breeze work it’s magic. I was feeling okay by 12 but Jodi couldn’t say the same. Stupid hangovers! We barely did anything most of the afternoon...I sat and worked on the internet while Jodi dozed in her hammock. I noticed that during the day there were quite a few people with laptops at the hostel that were working on various things. I guess times have really changed huh? I feel like a backpacker carrying a laptop is an interesting paradigm, but in this “internet” era it seems like a wise choice. I have noticed we are gradually migrating to a society that doesn’t write anything down anymore. It’s all emails and blogs and word documents and excel sheets. In fact, I have been doing some writing the old fashioned way on this trip (that’s with a pen and paper for you youngsters out there) and I’ve noticed that if I write for more than a half hour, my hand starts to ache...yet I can sit and type on my laptop for hours (that’s clear!) with no problem.
One of the other “laptop” folks I met that afternoon was George/Australia. He was doing an around the world trip. We had a pretty long talk about traveling around it turned out he had spent a fair amount of time in Brazil recently. He had even been to Goiana (near Brasilia...I went there with Juliano) and to Salvador for Carnival. We had a great time reminiscing about Brazil...there are 2 things that I always seem to find true in my travels...1) Everybody from Australia is cool as hell...I seriously have not ever met one that didn’t have a great attitude and wasn’t just cool as hell, and 2) Anyone who has been to Brazil (not just to Rio or Sao Paulo...I mean been there and actually SEEN some of it) absolutely loves it.
Anyway, I was over the hump and even had a couple beers that afternoon but Jodi was in bad shape until about 3:00 when we realized that we had been on the island for almost 24 hours and had not left the hostel! We finally ventured out with Nick/England who took us down to a little beach where he had been swimming earlier in the day and it was AMAZING! It wasn’t the beach itself that was so cool this time, but the water might have been some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. There were almost no waves where we were and the water could not have been any clearer. It seriously looked like one gigantic swimming pool the way the sun shimmied off of it...we were in a section where you could walk out pretty far before the depth of the water was above 5 feet and the calm waters were crystal clear all the way out. Also adding to the effect was the back drop of the the bright blue Carribean ocean...it really was a sight. I have seen many great beaches in Brazil of course but usually the surf would be a little to rough for you to enjoy the how clear the water was from the shore. It’s no wonder why this area of Mexico has some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
After we swam around for awhile we headed back to the hostel...but of course on the way we decided to stop for a quick beer. We found a great little bar in the sand...it was actually part of one of the nicer hotels on this part of the island. We had a couple beers with our feet in the sand...one of the great pleasures of life as I always say:)
After we got back to the hostel and showered, neither of us was really feeling the greatest...perhaps the monster hangover was still just slightly lingering. I have to admit though, it was still the first time in about 3 days that I was completely comfortable and not sweating. I had forgot to mention that our last night in Holbox, the electricity in our room kept going in and out, leaving us with no A/C OR fan and sweltering...and the previous night at the Poc-Na afforded us some okay sleep until the sun came up and started to cook us...but now we had changed rooms and had a nice cool room with a decent fan.
We ventured out to find a cheap dinner and found a nice little place on a side street that had decent sandwiches and some pretty good nachos (just mentioning that one for your sake, Suzanne!). We strolled around town for about an hour after that and it was nice. Isla Mujeres only has a couple streets that are relatively busy...the main drag along the water where the ferries dock and a nice pedestrian walkway that goes down the center of the town. There are a ton of restaurants and shops to walk past...the only truly annoying part is, because tourists do come here, the shopkeepers are slightly overbearing yelling out prices and offers to you as you walk by. Also, I was offered to buy Cuban cigars approximately 425 times. Anyway, it’s a nice place to take a stroll, especially as it gets later in the evening and most of the tourists have headed back to Cancun. We were a little perturbed that night though because the same guy who played the horrible live music in the Poc-Na the night before was playing outside at one of the restaurants and it could be heard for a few blocks.
After our stroll we were feeling pretty mellow and just out of energy so we headed back to the hostel. Jodi hung out at the bar for a bit but I hit the sack pretty early.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Woke up pretty early and felt back at 100% once again...and it was nice not to be sweating my ass off! I got up and had the “free breakfast” once again and then spent most of the morning working on the computer. That afternoon, Jodi, Nick/England, and I decided to rent some bikes and explore the island a little. We had heard there was a cool beach on the other side of the island and also there was a little turtle reserve we wanted to check out. Another thing I forgot to mention about the Poc-Na is that you can organize all the tours/equipment/anything you would want/need to do on the island and they have everything at a slightly lower price. We booked our bike rentals from them at a reduced price, but then realized we got the “reduced price” crappy bikes as well. No matter, I hopped on my big cruiser and Jodi and Nick got on their rust mobiles and off we went!
It was a little bit weird riding at first...I realized that the last time I was on a bike was when I did the Pan-Mass Challenge this past summer. Needless to say, that bike was slightly better...but I liked my cruiser and it reminded me of our awesome day biking around Bocas del Toro in Panama last year. We rode south but it was slow going as we had some seriously strong head winds (giggity). Also, after we got past the small army base to the south side of the island, the roads proved to be slightly hilly...which would have been nothing on my nice road bike with gears, but on these bikes we were all getting pretty tired. We rode on and on looking for a beach that we could go to but never really seeing anything that looked accessible to the public. We got all the way to the other end of the island where the road stopped...they actually have some tiny Ruins there but you have to pay for them...we were only interested in finding the beach that day. They did have a cool little lighthouse though that had a fantastic view and we snapped a few pictures (don’t ask about the silly art work, I have absolutely no explanation for why they would do that). Each passing day, the brilliant blue of the carribean ocean looks more and more spectacular.
We had a great little talk at the bar about languages...one of my favorite topics to discuss. It all began when Jodi asked for a lemonade...apparently in England if you ask for a lemonade you will get Sprite. I had never heard that, which is strange considering the number of English folks I’ve met on my travels. We also learned that there are no English Muffins in England (go figure!) and that a liquor store is called an “offy”. Things are just as confusing over here for them at times as Nick told us he was extremely confused to learn that to “luck out” meant that you were actually lucky instead of out of luck. I guess he had a decent point. Anyway, we talked about that kind of stuff for awhile and it was a great afternoon. We were also rewarded with a very nice leisurely ride back to the hostel that was both downhill and with the wind! It probably took us less than half as long!
Back at the hostel we ended up hanging out in the common area drinking for most of the night (we went and bought our own rum this time...no more of that cheap stuff!). I didn’t mention this earlier, but Nick/England had been waiting for two friends to show up that he was going to travel with for the next month and a half...he had talked about them at least 20 times over the past few days and somehow never once mentioned that they were girls. I couldn’t help thinking, if we were speaking Spanish, there never would have been any question (this is definitely not the first time I’ve thought that by the way...alright, about 25% of the people reading this know what I’m talking about). Anyway, the girls did finally show up and they were pretty cool (and neither of them was tough to look at) but it was very strange to us that we both expected it to be two guys. I had even referred to them as guys on several occasions but he never corrected me. Hmmmmmm...??
Anwyay, It was another great night hanging out at the Poc-Na. They actually had great live music and we even danced a salsa song. I also ended up relearning one of the most universal card games of all times...it’s called “sh*thead.” It’s a pretty cool game and I’ve noticed that every hostel I’ve been to almost anywhere in the world, there are atleast 4 people that know how to play it. We ended up meeting these two guys from Minnesota that were just at the end of short 10 day trip around the Yucatan. One of the guys had barely seen anything and was traveling for the first time in his life. I know it keeps coming up, but I LOVE talking to these type of people that are having their eyes opened for the first time ever. It so awesome to see how excited they are and see and feel their emotion about the whole experience...it keeps me excited as well and reminds me how fortunate I’ve been to do all this. Good times!
I ended up out at the beach bar that night talking with a Canadian couple that was traveling by car from Vancouver. I think they had been on the road for about 4 months or so and were planning only to go as far as Panama (there are no roads into Colombia). They were actually looking at buying some land or a house somewhere in Central America/Mexico and were thinking of just living down here. I like that idea I suppose, but it really was intriguing to meet someone traveling by car. I guess it has some serious upside...you can move around as you please and get to see a lot of remote spots you might not see if you’re getting around by bus as we are...but I would think there would be a constant worry about the car, especially leaving it parked somewhere for several days. Anyway, they were pretty cool and very interesting to talk with and I wish them the best in their travels.
Finally went to bed around 2...this is an awesome hostel!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Woke up to a VERY windy day...and no sun. Therefore, very little happened all day...all I did was work on computer and send out a journal. There is not much you can do in places like this when there’s bad weather. Atleast we’re in a cool hostel, but the windstorm is seriously limiting where you can sit around here since we’re right on the beach and there is a ton of sand blowing all over the place. I was upset b/c I really wanted to go swim in that water again but that’s okay I guess...there will be many more beaches in the coming month.
At one point when we went to get food, I bumped into an English dude reading Papillon...an awesome (and very long!) book for anyone who’s looking for some great reading (I once spent about 10 straight hours reading it on a rainy day in Curitiba). Since it was crappy out and the weekend (and the spring breakers) were coming, we decided we would leave the next day. We hung around in the hostel that night, playing cards a little and chatting but that was about it. It was actually so cold we had to wear pants and long sleeve shirts. Wow, life’s getting hard for us:) I did take a cool little video that night of the hostel which I posted above but I’ll post again here.
That’s about it for Isla Mujeres...we had a great time but it sort of ended uneventfully since everybody was trapped in the hostel the last day. Well, I guess if you think about it, it wasn’t that bad at all...we met many more travelers in the last few days from many different places and I love that! We heard so many awesome stories and we got many suggestions on some places to visit in Central America. It was especially interesting to see the many characters that one can find in a hostel of this size...there were young and old, people camping, people leaving, people staying, families, people traveling alone, people traveling with friends, Europeans, Asians, Americans, Canadians, Quebecers (I’ve learned they like to be considered separate), Australians, people visiting for the day, people traveling for weeks, people traveling for months, people looking for work, shrimp caserol, shrimp creole, popcorn shrimp, peanut shrimp, shri...whoops got my wires crossed (alright, not so funny...but is it possible to make a list more than 10 things long and NOT think of Forrest Gump?)
Anyway, I have no doubt we’ll be bumping into some of those folks again as we move south and that’s all part of the fun. The Poc-Na was a hostel done right and anyone passing through here should make a stop here for however long they can. In fact, I’d say anyone going to Cancun should just skip it all together and come here instead...wait, on second thought, don’t do it...if too many people start coming here it might lose what makes it so great. I don’t want Wal-Mart or Subway to start getting any ideas.