Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cozumel & Isla Mujeres

Hola Amigos!

We decided to go to Cozumel mainly for the diving and snorkelling on offer - it is meant to be one of the top places in the world to explore the underwater universe, and after a very hungover ferry ride we arrived ready to be wow-ed. Unfortunately for us, Cozumel is now the cruise ship capital of the Caribbean and absolutely seething with dorky Americans, lanyards in tow, moseying round the many diamond and jewellery shops on shore. The vibe there was just plain weird and very un-Mexican. We even encountered a Disney cruise ship whose horn to call their passengers back was this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7UXsxloiWg 

We hired a scooter on our first day to explore the island, and I had to admit part way through the journey that I was just really bored, Alex concurred. Now I know all you readers back in NZ will be tske tsking me for even telling you that I got bored on a scooter ride around a tropical beach island, but there just wasn't much to look at and I am really just doing you all a favour to ensure that you either spice up your scooter tour of Cozumel with a lot of alcohol, or just stick to a day trip for Snorkelling from Playa Del Carmen.

Now although the vibe was off, the snorkelling and diving (according to Alex) were amazing. On our snorkelling trip we saw baby sharks, a sea turtle, eels and we were literally in fish traffic jams down there! (#firstworldproblems). Being the impatient individual I am I had to push these boring large fish out of my way on many occasions to ensure I could swim away in search of more sea turtles.

Whilst in Cozumel I was also viciously attacked by some type of horrid mosquito whose bites grow larger and larger post the initial bite. Thus I spent a lot of time researching the origin of this insect, even vibering Dr Anna Lee for a professional opinion. Thankfully she confirmed they were insects and not bed bugs (apparently bed bugs bite in rows, breakfast - lunch - dinner). But I ensured I inspected the bed at Casa Mexicana, Cozumel thoroughly for potential culprits.

Little bay we swam in on Cozumel 
Scooter tour boredom - snapping selfies in shop windows

Casa Mexicana, our hotel in Cozumel - Disney cruise ship seen in distance

Bed bug inspection one evening. Trying to catch the non-existant, nocturnal bastards when they least expected it.

After 4 nights in Cozumel we headed up to Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun. We stayed at a great hostel called Poc Na and met up with Alice, Kate, Lucy and Harriet again. Isla Mujeres is home to what is surely one of the nicest beaches in the entire world - Playa Norte. You will see proof of this in my pictures. The sand is just perfect, no shells messing with your feet and the water is crystal clear with not a drop of seaweed to be seen!

After a night drinking at the beach bar at Poc Na we woke up and started what can only be described as the funnest day EVER. It started with the hire of two golf carts between us to head off exploring the island. Thankfully the girls had done some pre planning on picnic ingredients in the form of a rustic french brie which they had sampled on previous picnics in Tulum. To accompany our prized ingredient we bought fresh bread rolls, olives, salami and serano ham and some of the most delicious Rose and headed off to find the perfect spot to enjoy. After three weeks of tacos, this European style feast was just phenomenal and all for the price of $15 NZD per person (lunch + drinks).

Stopping off at a beach for our picnic we witnessed some kind of sick adults only booze cruise (no doubt a day tour from Cancun), where the adults were participating in some kind of sexy competition. Basically fat men with their butts and other things out, and overweight women with no tops on dancing under a shower hose to "I'm sexy and I know it". Thankfully they were on a separate part of the beach and did not disturb our civilised picnic-ing.

Few pictures from the golf cart tour and Playa Norte below! 

The gals and Alex. There was wide spread panic amongst those back in NZ who didn't know Alex after photos were seen of him with the gals, speculation was rife that they had picked up a random Latvian on their travels.

Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

Feeding frenzy at the Turtle Farm

After a big day out and about we were unsure that we could hack a big night in at Poc Na, and wanting to make the most of our golf cart hire we decided to head out onto the mean streets of Mujeres for some cruising. After driving aimlessly we sped past some cardboard tubes and Alex had the great idea of picking them up and finding a quiet road for a spot of golf cart jousting. This was certainly a highlight of the trip so far. Dragging up and down a quiet road, with a 3 flicker spin of the headlights to indicate the joust was to begin, we spent a good 20 minutes battling it out. Top points to Harriet Weatherburn who was a top class competitor and enthusiast throughout the battle. It remains unclear who the overall winner on the night was with both teams getting their fair share of jousting victories and cardboard tube remains being strewn all over the road. Of course we collected and disposed all of the rubbish to ensure no one could place us at the scene, some Germans who witnessed the joust were not impressed at all with the (non-existant) safety precautions we were taking. Imagine the headline: NEW ZEALAND GIRL INJURED IN MEXICAN HOSPITAL AFTER GOLF CART JOUSTING INCIDENT. I Didn't get any pictures of the joust, but those on snap chat will have seen the ferociousness of it on my story.

We spent our last day on Isla lounging about on loungers at Playa Norte with a repeat of the European picnic. It was the girls' last day in Mexico before heading back to NZ and honestly couldn't have been a more idyllic setting.

We're in Belize now on a wee island called Caye Caulker. More on that next time though lovelies!


Couple more snaps below!

Being attacked by a whale shark 

The Pink Lady with the Pink Shoe Lady

Don't mind a glass of Rose and a clear ocean!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tulum & Playa Del Carmen


As I write I am enjoying a much needed coffee in Cozumel while Alex is on a diving trip. Since my last post we have been to Tulum and Playa Del Carmen - about an hour away from each other on the Riviera Maya. 

The beach in Tulum is spectacular. The sand is like white dust, and the ocean the perfect refreshing temperature. We stayed at Tubo Tulum which is a new hostel half way between the beach and town, where each room is created from a concrete pipe - a bed across the middle, and storage underneath. Below is a picture of me outside our pipe! We stayed at Tubo for 4 nights, and admittedly by the end of it things were getting a little stressful with only one of us being able to stand up at a time in the pipe, and losing access to half of my belongings under the bed - but Tulum is an expensive place to stay and this hostel served us perfectly. 

Cycling is a key mode of transport in Tulum as the beach and town are about 3 to 4km apart. Along a stretch of about 9km of Tulum beach lies the Zona Hotelera - beach resorts & cabanas. The restaurants and bars in this area are pretty expensive, so the majority of hostel accommodation is in town. Cycle paths are everywhere and the taxi drivers are great at giving you a lot of room, the added bonus is the breeze that cycling provides. 

Tulum beach

Beach bar where we drank a lunchtime Pina Colada 

The Tulum ruins - the community that lived here had it SO much better than those poor Mayans sweltering up at Chichen Itza

Beautiful beach at the Tulum ruins

Swimming at the Dos Ojos cenote

The wider Tulum area is home to a lot of Cenotes (underground sinkhole), and after some research we decided to head to Dos Ojos which has about 5 cenotes within the park where you can snorkel without a guide. The water is fresh, and as it's shaded by its own cave - it's pretty chilly! But the water is super clear, and if you're lucky the diving groups far below will shine their torches on the deep, far areas of the cenote so that you can see deep within them. Whilst on a stroll to one of the further cenotes Alex just managed to dodge a small snake that slithered across the road - definitely the first snake I have ever seen in the wild and ensured the rest of the walk 

We caught a Collectivo van to Dos Ojos - these are air conditioned vans (in the Mayan Riviera area anyway!) and are basically like public transport. You wave them down in designated spots and we went to Dos Ojos (13Km) for only 20 pesos - approx. $1.80 NZD each. Such a brilliant travel option for budget travellers like ourselves!

We also tried to swim with the turtles in Akumal while we were in Tulum, but alas the weather was so bad that the life guards had banned snorkelling and swimmers were only allowed in to their waists. To us hardy New Zealander's the choppy water looked more than fine for turtle watching so Alex stuffed his mask down his boardshorts and swum out for a look... unfortunately the visibility was so bad he could barely see his hands in front of him. I have spent a good portion of my recent snorkelling excursions looking for turtles and Akumal literally means 'Place of the Turtles' in the Mayan language - so I was bitterly disappointed. We're hoping to stop in again en route to Belize so fingers crossed we stumble across a calm day!

We headed to Playa Del Carmen after Tulum and checked into The Yak - such an amazing hostel with the friendliest staff EVER! Playa Del Carmen is not too dissimilar to Kuta, Bali - on a much smaller scale. It's a party town and it did not disappoint. We had a quiet-ish first night drinking at the hostel then heading out to the clubbing street where things were just getting started at 2am. A bar on the waterfront had a live salsa band and the dance floor was absolutely packed with locals dancing like absolute salsa professionals - we attempted for a tiny while to practice a few of the steps we learnt in our beginners class but we were shocking and I think a refresher class is definitely in order. 

Alice, Kate, Lucy & Harriet joined us for our second night in Playa and after a lot of drinks at The Yak we headed out to one of the designated bars where it is LADIES NIGHT - every night. A pink wristband was all we needed for free drinks all evening. The salsa bar from the previous night was hosting a Hip Hop night and we ended up there until 5am before a quick dip in the ocean and a box full of delicious pizza for the walk home.

I can also recommend that you do not get a pedicure in Playa Del Carmen. Mine involved a two hour long process whereby slips of the polish were followed by nail polish remover on a paint brush to remove it - and there were a lot of mistakes! By the end of it my feet were pink due to this technique dissolving a lot of excess nail polish into my feet and it was even a nice place! Lesson learnt.

5th Avenue - Playa Del Carmen

We're off to Isla Mujeres tomorrow and meeting Alice, Kate, Lucy & Harriet again at the famous Poc Na Hostel which is right on the beach. Isla Mujeres means Island of Women in Spanish - very fitting. Hopefully Alex finds a male friend or two to keep him company..