Thursday, December 13, 2018

%$#&^ the Ruins and Seven Weeks of Good Luck!

We left Playa del Carmen after one night and three days...or so it seemed after spending one night in the bus station. You may say our trip to PDC was a fiasco or a menagerie, but it's best described as a hilarious adventure. It ended about how it started. One of the last things we did was allow Terry to make reservations for us in Tulum town for our next night when we would decide what to do/where to go next. 

We grabbed some breakfast and headed to the bus station - Tulum bound. I love the feeling of disembarking from the bus and making a walk with a backpack on my back. It feels young. We walked north through town and made a couple of turns to get to our hotel. It was nice. It was quaint. We were greeted by a very friendly 40-something female speaking English with a strong accent. She recognized our last names...from her home country. We all immediately felt a strong connection to her. Let me tell you now, luck was in our favor that Jana was from the Czech Republic and immediately liked all three of us. She tried to find our reservation, which she knew existed, because she had observed our last name on the reservation. Oh, but Terry had made our reservation for a Wednesday night instead of for Monday. And yes, it was Monday. She had no double room available. Well, she could upgrade us to the two-room, full kitchen, double mirador room for a small difference in the nightly price. And, the price we paid for the Wednesday would just be kept in tact with us in the penthouse until Thursday. Terry was exonerated! Enough said. 

We bought and didn't drop another bottle of whiskey, a bottle of wine, some beer, and Cheetos. After a late lunch of fish tacos and tostados, we spent a nice, relaxing evening on the mirador listening to sirens from the steady stream of those on the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe pilgrimage.

We walked the 6 or so kilometers to Playa Paraiso the next day. The weather was perfect, the beer was cold, the mojitos were good, and dang all those cute, European girls on the beach in their thongs. For some reason, the male/female ration in Tulum always seems to run 2 females for every 1 male. Just an observation. David received a phone call concerning a minor wreck involving an aunt and an insurance claim from back home while sitting on the beach. He told the lady on the phone to please email him because he was on the beach in Mexico drinking beer and didn't think he would remember the conversation very well. You have to appreciate an honest man!  It was a taxi home, a seafood dinner with wonderful ceviche and nightcaps/lights out on the mirador. Yes, the sirens and pilgramages continued throughout the night. 
Back to Smoking the Cheap Cigars

We fully intended to go to the ruins in Tulum. They are quite impressive and the views from the bluff overlooking the Carribean are breath-taking. We didn't want to fight the crowds mid-day so Day 2 was spent on the beach where we intended to go to the ruins later in the day when the crowds returned to their cruise ships. After a few cold beers, mojitos and cute little Swedish girls, we knew it was hopeless when David blurted out " $#$#^ the Ruins!". I think he did actually Google them and look at a couple of breath-taking images online. OK, he did sort of see them. 
Internet Photo - THE RUINS WE DIDN'T SEE

So we lounged away the day at the beach with the most perfect weather ever and bought jewelry from Pepe, a soft-spoken, hard-bargaining Mayan that met his match when dealing with the Barato (cheap) Bohemian. I always say the Mayans can look into Terry's soul, and they see a very honest, good soul. Many times they have actually said this. Now I know it's true. When we got ready to leave the beach, Pepe stopped us and asked if we would please say a prayer with him. We repeated after him. He spoke in Spanish and we all recited together after him. Interesting because David does not know a word of Spanish yet he recited along with us, in Spanish...the most perfect Spanish a Bohemian can speak. Then, Pepe spoke a few of the words of the prayer in English. He had bestowed seven weeks of good luck upon all three of us. This was a serious moment.

Seven weeks? I don't know why and I'm not sure what happens after week seven. 

Seafood dinner, drinks on the mirador and bed for us. Tomorrow it will be six weeks and six days. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Barato Bumbling Bohemians

Yeah, Baby...those are real Cohibas!
First off, if you don't know what barato means cheap. I'm talking cheap as in will walk a mile to save a peso, put three people in a room to save a few pesos, ride second-class buses because of the cost of a more expensive ADO get the drift. 
So we get up this morning and recover from our bumbling night of Terry taking the wrong backpack off the bus, we didn't drink much last night because David dropped the two fifths of whiskey he had purchased duty-free at Houston Hobby, painstakingly carried through the CUN airport to the bus, on the bus, off the bus where the sack slipped through his fingers and both bottles shattered on the concreto while Terry was getting the wrong backpack off the bus. If you could have seen the luggage handler's face when he smelled that whiskey but could do nothing more than watch the puddle of liquid gold get bigger and bigger on the floor. It was priceless!
But this morning was different! We got a fairly good few hours of sleep even though the A/C in our room wasn't working. Can't have everything at this price, right? We ate a great breakfast and I headed back to the room for, you know, morning stuff. I turned these two barato bumbling Bohemians loose to go check out the cigars in a cigar shop. They were feeling full of machismo when we met back up because they had made the deal of the century on Cohiba cigars...not knock-offs, but real Cohibas from a nice humidor. They had each spent about $4USD/cigar...or $890/cigar in pesos. You do the math!!!
We're walking down Avenida Quinta and they're feeling all cocky showing me their Cohibas. We go a few blocks and all of a sudden David, the Chemical Engineer/teacher of college students realizes the mistake. These two barato, bumbling Bohemians just spent about $40USD each on a cigar!!! 
What started out as a nice morning just went south...they transitioned from being barato Bohemians to two guys throwing money around like it was beach sand. It's been about 3 hours since this happened and they are still trying to figure out how two smart, tight Bohemians made this mistake. I think it's cool because I'm pretty sure I'll get to go shopping and buy whatever I want just because they think they can give me "hush money" and I won't tell the world about their blunder! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Gaining a Reputation as Bad Guests

We loaded up on the short bus and took the trip over to Lake Bacalar. While it isn't a major tourist destination for Americans, it is gaining popularity amongst those wandering the beautiful Riviera Maya east coast and have the time to travel inland. Mostly backpackers and European tourists. We had booked an airbnb stay prior to leaving Mahahual. When we arrived at our destination we discovered it sat high up on a hill overlooking the lake just one block away from public access. We were greeted by a small, 60ish Mexican woman. She and her husband were hanging out in an area that looked like a full structure from the front, but was open air in the back. A walkway to the back of the property took you to our room. Inside their structure, there were sofas, chairs, hammocks, a washing machine, a bathroom, and several beer cans sitting on the table and next to the chairs. It was quite "livable" although this isn't where they lived. At least not most of the time. We learned later on that the man whom we don't have a name for, spent the night in the hamaca when they had guests. He was somewhat of a security guy. And we also found out he was a very light sleeper and liked to drink beer with Teresa. We also found out later that we didn't follow Teresa's instructions given to us in rapid Spanish. 
AirBnb - Teresa's Place

We received a very warm welcome along with all kinds of information and instructions in rapid Spanish. We did what any person does that knows some Spanish but not long strings of rapid Spanish - we listened for key words and repeatedly said "Si, si, si" as we nodded our heads and smiled.  

The lagoon is fed by freshwater cenotes and is known for it's seven shades of blue color. The clarity of the water is breathtaking
Seven Shades of Blue

One small piece of advice I would give is if you want to visit Bacalar I would suggest not going in May which is known as the most stifling month of the year down here. You don't get the ocean breezes and it gets downright stifling in the month of May. 

Besides the cool, refreshing, crystal clear water there is the Fort of San Felipe and a small, but interesting and informative museum. It seems the town was devastated by pirates in the 1600's. They entered the lagoon through a small canal off the coast now referred to as Pirates Canal. The fort was completed in 1733 and the Spanish could rest easy at night. There are also nearby cenotes and Mayan ruins to explore but we decided to leave that for next trip.

Our first afternoon in Bacalar we visited the fort and museum. We spent our days in Bacalar taking long walks in the downtown area, and along the waterfront. We swam. And we celebrated our 31st anniversary in Bacalar...well, sort of. On the eve of our anniversary we went out for dinner at a wonderful and authentic Italian food restaurant and had a great meal of appetizers, pizza and pasta dishes and a great bottle of wine. It was a relaxing, romantic evening to remember.

The next morning we took a long walk down towards one of the cenotes before going for breakfast followed by a swim. After this, I got a little queasy so we walked back to our place. We had a nice chat with Teresa, her sister and their mama. They were leaving shortly to go on a bus tour to view some ruins further inland. It was a pleasant conversation and we understood most of what was said and felt honored to be invited into their space for a chat. The one dilemma was I really needed to go to the bathroom and Mama kept telling me to sit down. I tried to explain to her that my swimsuit was wet and I didn't want to sit on the chair, but the truth was I was scared what might end up in the chair. I didn't want to be disrespectful by not sitting down when told nor by well, you know. However, before we headed to our digs we got a little bit of a chewing out. It seems we didn't follow instructions on the use of the coffee machine and she had to clean up grounds inside the machine. So we hoped our graciousness with her and her family would override our foul up and we wouldn't gain the reputation on airbnb as being bad guests. (We didn't!) 

I spent the evening of our anniversary drinking lots of water, eating no more food after breakfast, taking Treda, and watching Terry drink cold beer on our little porch as we looked out over the azure blue lake. Terry ate cold, leftover pizza for dinner. Not too bad but certainly not the best. 
HappyAnniversary, Darling! Enjoy your cold pizza.

I was feeling fine the following morning and we were ready to move on. So we sat at the bus station just a few minutes and then headed out going back to the northern Mx. Riviera Maya coast.

Mennonites at the Bus Station

Stay tuned - 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Beautiful Beaches - Mahahual

We got up, drank coffee, ate breakfast and meandered the 4-5 blocks to the bus station. In a short time we were on our way to our next stop - Mahahual. If it had to rain, this was the perfect time for it. We hit a few showers as we passed through Filipe Carrillo Puerto and Limones. The sun was shining bright when we got to Mahahual.

Hotel #1
We walked the malecon down to our hotel which was located on the north side of town. The beaches in Mahahual are beautiful but I will say there was quite a lot of seawood, and in some areas it was not being cleaned up and buried so there were some smells in certain places along the malecon. We searched for our hotel but nothing has names on it from the malecon so we had a time finding it. A "Ramon" looking guy came up and helped us find it. He wouldn't take a propina so the next morning we ate breakfast where he could wait on us and Terry left him a nice tip. We checked in to Hotel Quinta Sol and discovered later they had upgraded us to a balcony room overlooking the beachfront and malecon. We also had a nice mirador.

Fishermen = Testosterone
While sitting in the open air restaurant having beer and nachos, we watched larger fishing boats entering the harbor. One anchored just off the shore in front of the hotel and when the three guys came in we talked with them and discovered they had just come in from Belize to fish the Governor's tournament the next two days. They told us to be sure and head to the big fishing pier for weigh-in the next day.

And Bikers = More Testosterone

We did our usual. We walked, we looked, we lounged, and we watched. There was lots of testosterone in Mahahual over the weekend. In addition to the fishing tournament there was a large group of bikers that had come in from Tobasco. They revved up their bikes and made the block from their hotel to the waterfront where they whiled away the afternoon drinking and just minding their own business. 

We saw the huge marlin that won the tournament the next afternoon. Sad that there is no catch and release. The Belizean guys we were rooting for didn't have the greatest of luck, but that's fishing.

Over the weekend, we found our place on the beach amongst the Mexican tourists. We even took pictures for them and with them. I bought a beautiful necklace from Edwardo - he was an older, quite handsome, soft-spoken gentleman along the beachfront with perfect white teeth

If you need pesos while in Mahahual, well, bueno suerte to you! We ended up having to take a walk almost to the Costa Maya pier where there was a nice hotel and an actual bank's ATM. But, we scored. Yes, we could've caught a taxi but then we wouldn't have gotten wet in the rain.

Hotel #2
We had booked for three nights, but when we requested to stay another night we found out the hotel was almost completely booked and the $ for our room would be at their regular rate for a balcony room. So, we moved to the hotel we had stayed in before right in the middle of town. It's actually one of our all-time favorites. Gerbin and his staff at the Koox Matan Ka'an Hotel do an excellent job of keeping you happy. We ended up staying two (or was it three?) additional nights and hung with the cruise shippers.

There were two ships at Costa Maya on Tuesday.  It was actually a very pleasant day and about the same number of people hanging on the beaches as there had been on the weekend. The beach vendors we had met and talked with had a great day. I'm here to tell you those guys do quite well. Even the guy that sells sneaky weaky had clients! 

We ate our fill of ceviche, grilled fish and shrimp. In the daytime, we snacked along the waterfront. When those places close down early

Wednesday came and we decided to move on. We were going to check out a place we had only driven through, but never stopped and stayed. So we bought our bus tickets, went and had some breakfast and then went back to catch the "short bus" to our next destination. 

Stay tuned - 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Beautiful Beaches Part 2 - Tulum, Taxis and Tennis Shoes

The first morning in Tulum we got up, ate breakfast, put our tennis shoes on, and walked to the beach. If you're familiar with Tulum you're probably saying, "Whaaa!?". If you're not familiar with it, it was 6+ kilometers from our hotelito to the beach. And then we continued walking on the beach sand down to the beach club at Jose & Ana's Hotel where we plopped down in lounge chairs and ate and had one or four adult beverages. It was a nice area to hang out and we had great service at the hotel. The bar, restaurant, and grounds were beautiful. 
Sidewalk down the road to the beach

Later in the day, the wind kicked up and it started sprinkling. At some point we paid our tab and left and started walking towards town where we grabbed a taxi back into town. When we got to our room, I realized I didn't have my tennis shoes. Tennis shoes are a crucial element when you're walking lots of kilometers. They were nice tennis shoes at one time, but thank goodness the tread on them was wearing down and it wasn't like I'd gone off and left a brand new pair of $100 shoes for the daughter of the taxi driver to wear. They probably had 200+ kilometers wear on them. What to do? Try to find another pair of tennis shoes while looking around for our driver/taxi just in case he still had the shoes in the backseat. 
Note to self: start writing down the taxi number of any taxi we get in because I'm sure to leave something again.  

Scoring Tennis Shoes
We wandered around for no more than 15 minutes in town when I looked across the street and above a storefront I saw I sign that read: Zapatos - tenis, etc. etc. We went inside and within a few minutes I walked out with a pair of $15 USD Nike's. I guess they're knock-offs but they fit and look nice and I was good to go celebrate our good fortune.
Food and drink is cheap in Tulum town. It's the one thing I suppose I have to thank the European wandering deer-in-the-headlights backpackers for. (I'm not a fan of theirs, you know. Generally speaking, they tend to be dirty, unappreciative, insensitive and never leave tips while demanding impeccable service IMO) If you happen to be a European backpacker and this shoe doesn't fit then put the shoes back in the taxi! OK, I ranted a little. 
We walked and looked around town, ate pizza for dinner and people-watched the night away sitting at a sidewalk restaurant. 

Iffy at Ziggy's 
Sauntering Along on the Beach 

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast and asked if our room was available for another night. It was. We put on our tennis shoes and walked the beach road again. We walked until we arrived "at the curve" and the sidewalk becomes non-existent and then we caught a taxi down to Ziggy's beach club. Again, a 6+ KM walk. The weather turned iffy on us so rather than pay the pesos to hang out in the impending showers at Ziggy's we walked the beach until the rains came.

Naked Neighbors
We ended up taking cover under a structure that we were told was for a Mayan fiesta. While hanging out there, we ended up sharing it with a photographer, his beautiful, thin, and naked subject and his assistant. He was photographing naked girl with a cute hat on, on this bed-type thing made of bamboo that essentially rolled down the middle of the structure up above our heads that ran on a rail when you cranked a huge handle at one end. We met the guy that built it as well and he was very proud of it. I was glad when the rain stopped; Terry not so much. 
The Mayan Festival Thingy made for Great Cover from the Rain
Beautiful Naked Girl Came Along Up Above Us

Back to Ziggy's
Once the rain stopped, we walked back to Ziggy's and had a nice lunch in their restaurant. Later on, we headed back to the beach sand and walked all the way down to the end of the hotels along the beach. Yes, it was a long way on the beach but it was fun to see all the beautiful beaches and beach clubs, and reminisce about the area from the last visit we took to Tulum some 4-5 years ago. There were quite a few more hotels built "at the end of the road" since we had visited. At the last hotel, we walked through the beautiful, jungly grounds to the narrow street and caught a taxi back into Tulum town.
Walking Through the Jungly Grounds

The Restaurant with No Name
Delicioso Pulpo for Dinner
Deciding where to eat dinner is always fun. After walking the streets, stopping for drinks, getting cash, and going to the bus station for tickets for the next day's journey, we headed to the restaurant we had eaten the coco shrimp and squid at, and I got my pulpo. We're going back to that place again. 

What??!!! A Mirador
We were curious about the stairs that led to somewhere beyond a third floor of the hotelito. When we took them, we discovered a wonderful fourth floor mirador! We love having a mirador and it's one of the things we look for when deciding where to stay. We never asked and the hotel staff never mentioned they had a huge mirador with tables, lounge chairs and a great view of Tulum town. After dinner, we had drinks up there and watched as the bars next door filled up with all those people that sleep all day and stay up all night. There's a lot of them in Tulum town. There's the day crowd and a whole different night crowd. We're members of the day and early night crowd. This night, the music wasn't quite as nice as Stevie Ray Vaughn but we had a great bed, a loud a/c, and all was good with us and the world. 

Tomorrow is travel day. 

Looking from the Mirador

Next - Beautiful Beach #2

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Traveling and Those Damn Glorious Sandwiches

After Sista left, I spent a couple of days and nights alone in the casa. I walked. I walked a lot. I went to the coffee shop. I walked to Santiago and walked more. I walked and looked at so many newly furbished houses in the Santiago, San Lucia, and Santa Ana areas of centro. I love walking.

Terry was back in El Campo, but just finished up his project so I decided to fly home and visit family and fly back with him. I bussed into Cancun and took a Southwest flight to HOU. And we had a weeklong visit with family and spent time out at the ranchito. We said our goodbyes at the airport when Kim, Harbor and Isla took us to Hobby. We landed in CUN and stayed a couple of nights in Playa del Carmen before bussing back into Merida.

Plans are Made to be Broken
Immediately we started planning some travels. We had decided to go inland and see more of Chiapas and the waterfalls. Then we would decide from there whether to keep traveling inland or where to go next. I sounded exciting and we were as ready as ever to head inland. But, I got up one morning and said to Terry, "You know, we should just go travel around and spend time on the beaches. That's what we really enjoy doing." I knew immediately from the look on his face he was in. We just can't get too far away from the beaches. The first part of our plan was to go to Tulum and hang out for a few days then we would decide where to go from there. We decided to stay in Tulum town rather than directly on the beach. Hotels are much cheaper, food is cheaper, drink is cheaper and we are, well, cheap.
Beautiful Beach in Tulum
Part of the ritual is to make and take wonderful sandwiches along with other bus foods to eat along the way. Especially because we usually head out in the early mornings.  There's nothing better than to pull out a sandwich about the time the bus rolls through Valladolid. Well, unless you have Mexican Chee-tos which are the best ever! (we had those too) I make glorious sandwiches with great care and I wrap them up in plastic wrap just like one may find on the street. I put them in the refrigerator so they stay nice and cold before packing them in the go-to bag for travel. 
Well, usually that's what I do. This morning I packed bananas, snack bars and Chee-tos but I forgot those damn, glorious sandwiches. It didn't occur to me until we got to the bus station some 7-8 blocks from the house. Terry asked where the sandwiches were, and I remembered! They are still in the refrigerator. Ugh! I spent a lot of time making those glorious sandwiches. It's not even about the sandwiches - it goes beyond just a sandwich. It's a ritual and a part of traveling just like packing swimsuits. So I made the decision to walk quickly/run slowly back home and get them. I had about twenty-five minutes before we were to board the bus. I don't have a watch and I left my phone with Terry so I couldn't even judge my time. So I ran faster. I got to the house and Terry had unplugged the coffee pot so as I grabbed the damn, glorious sandwiches I still couldn't figure out how much time I had left. I pictured Terry loading up on the bus and texting me along the way to tell me to just catch the next bus to Tulum. One thing about it - he would go hungry and I would have damn, glorious sandwiches to eat. So I ran faster and sweated more. I made it and even had time to spare as the bus was about 10 minutes late pulling in, which is highly unusual as the buses are the one and only thing I am aware of around here that keeps a real schedule.
Cool as a cucumber Terry, sweaty as a pig me, and those damn glorious sandwiches boarded the bus. We ate two on the way and we ended up throwing two away in Tulum the next morning.

Tulum Town
We arrived in Tulum early afternoon and took the short walk to our little hotelito. It was new and $27/night. We had A/C, ceiling fan, in-room coffee, in-room safe, bottled water, super nice Spanish-speaking staff, and free breakfast. Meets ALL of our requirements. Oh - and we had free live music that went on into the wee hours of the morning. On our last of three evenings in Tulum we realized we had a fabulous mirador overlooking town. It was sweet! 

Hotelito - $27/night

Our first evening was spent getting to know town and we ate an unbelievably good and inexpensive dinner at a sidewalk restaurant. I originally ordered sautéed pulpo (octopus) and Terry ordered fried coco shrimp. The waiter told me they were out of pulpo but he suggested I try the squid. Honestly, the only time I had eaten squid it was fried, round pieces for an appetizer. This was sautéed thin, slabs of squid and it is now my #1 reason for going back to Tulum. 
Main Drag at Night
Main Drag before Night
We were lulled to sleep by the band at the next door bar playing really good Stevie Ray Vaughn tunes. 
Free Breakfast in the Mornings
Side Street View from Hotelito

Beach trip to be continued -