Trip Start Mar 22, 2005
26Trip End Sep 09, 2005
So, I arrived in Cancun on Saturday the 16th (my birthday!) after spending a great week in Guatemala catching up with friends, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to study spanish, eating all my favorite food, spending a night at Lake Atitlan and buying a ton of great handbags. Upon arriving at the airport, I waded through a river of mostly obnoxious tourists going through immigration (welcome to cancun!!). Cheers to the authorities for having a good process down -- there were seriously hundreds and hundreds of people in line and I got through in about 20 minutes
At this point, Ursula and I jump into a cab in search of a hotel in Cancun. We hadn`t planned on staying in Cancun at all, but another Emily (this one a hurricane) is also arriving sometime on Sunday and our best advice is not to go further south and wait out the hurricane in Central Cancun, not the hotel Zone on the beach, which at this point, is probably being evacuated Sunday morning
Ursula and I go to dinner and then decide to check out the hotel zone, in case its destroyed by the hurricane the next day. We were only there for about 20 minutes before deciding to go right back to central cancun -- the north end of the hotel zone makes Vegas look like a tastful well-planned city. And, it felt like spring break, even though we`re in July.
So, back to the hotel, we wait for Emily (my sister) to arrive, which finally happens about 2am, about 24 hours before Emily (the hurricane) is due to hit shore near Playa del Carmen, about an hour south of Cancun.
Sunday: countdown to the hurricane. People are taping windows, putting boards up over large windows and lining up at the grocery store. But, honestly, no one seems all that concerned that a category 5 hurricane is supposed to hit not too far away in less than 12 hours
We have a tasty breakfast of a pile of tortillas and sauce and eggs and sour cream (healthy!), go to the grocery store to load up on disaster essentials, and then spend the rest of the day poolside at our hotel drinking and eating those aforementioned essentials, including feta cheese and olives and fresh bread (nothing like roughing it!) and vodka cocktails (in Ursula`s suitcase came a bottle of grey goose and a bottle of red wine as birthday presents!). Waiting for a hurricane had never been so fun. Well, until it gets dark out anyway. Around 8ish it started raining and getting progressively windier as we hung out in the lobby with a few other guests. Around 9pm, the power went out (this 4 hours before the hurricane is supposed to hit!!) and we were stuck in our room, listening to rain and wind outside and hoping that some music would keep us company. (And, just because a hurricane is on the way doesn't mean its not still ridiculously hot outside, making our powerless -- more importantly, fanless -- room not exactly inviting.) The hurricane did hit south of cancun around 1am and we mostly slept through what was happening in Cancun -- lots of rain and wind
Monday: day after the hurricane and we have no idea what happened because its pouring outside and we can't really venture out and there`s still no power so no one has heard the news all day. We make necklaces, read, swim in the rain, get really bored, read some more, get really really really bored and eventually the rain clears enough for us to walk around and survey the damage. Nothing too horrible from what we can see, but lots of uprooted trees and falled power lines which may explain why, at about 4pm when we leave to go look for food, there is STILL no power.
As a side note, the entertainment factor of having a sister and hurricane with the same name just never really ended. Newspapers headlines said things like "All of Mexico's army on call for Emily" or "5,000 officers waiting for Emily"....
Tuesday: There's still no solid information about the hurricane damage and if its possible to go South to Playa del Carmen or Tulum (where we wanted to be this whole time) and Ursula has to leave on Thursday so we can't really go to further destinations, so we're pretty much still stuck in Cancun, truly the last place I had intended on spending any time at all
The next day, we go to Isla Mujeres, a cute little island just a 30-minute ride off the coast of Cancun and enjoy the gorgeous water. Thursday morning, Ursula has to leave, which was a shame since it just felt like the trip was beginning, and Emily and I headed south to Tulum.
Emily and I get settled in Tulum, a cute and less-developed town famed for beach-side Mayan ruines and cenotes, amazing sink-holes that you can dive and swim in. We're excited to start diving, seeing the ruins, etc and plan out our next few days. We wake up Friday morning and its pouring outside, again. Thanks to a tropical storm somewhere off the coast, we have rain so hard you can't even think about going outside in any amount of rain gear without getting soaked. Finally, after Emily and I are starting to be convinced that it is never ever going to stop, the rain lets up around 4pm. We decide to make a dash for the ruins, just about a 10 minute cab ride away
The next day, we make it to Grande Cenote, an amazing swimming spot. Cenotes are essentially holes in the ground that allow access to the vast underground river system that covers the Yucatan
But, things couldn't be good for too long. We planned on diving the next day, but I woke up about 3am feeling like death, again. I spend the next day feeling miserable in bed and wondering what on earth could have done this to me while Em does a refresher course for scuba diving. (By the way, my whole trip prior to this, and in much lesser-developed areas, I had not been sick at all, except for a nasty head cold in Roatan. And, eating in the most developed, touristy spots in Mexico I manage to get super ill two times. Go figure.)
Monday morning, I'm alive again, and we head back up to Playa del Carmen to go diving in the ocean. Two nice dives, including lots of big turtles (my favorites!), and then we hop on a bus to Valladolid. The dives were off the coast, just north of the area that was hit the worst by the hurricane. We went the first day the dive shop was "back in the water" and it was pretty fascinating -- and sad -- to see the damage done by the hurricane
Valladolid is a cute colonial town located conveniently near Chichen-Itza, perhaps the most famous Mayan site in the Yucatan. A really cute town, we stayed at a fabulous old colonial-style hotel.
The next day, we go to Chichen-Itza, a really interesting Mayan site, but, to be honest, I'm spoiled. I've been to Tikal in Guatemala twice now and its size and location (deep in the jungle) make it hard for other sites to measure up. As we're leaving the park, about 11am, it was starting to get really crowded with huge groups of tourist filing out of huge tour buses. The number of people walking into the park at the same time was just overwhelming and made us think "we have to get out of here as quickly as possible." On the way back to town, we stopped by Ik Kil, another cenote and possibly one of the most beautiful places I've been. But, we arrived just a few minutes before 4 of those big huge nasty tour buses and by the time we could even think about going for a dip, hundreds of people were standing around and obnoxious guys were jumping into the cenote and acting like they were at a water park
Another morning in Valladolid and we were back on the bus back to Cancun. That night, we went to a beach a bit north of the hotel zone and watched the Mexican families there playing in the water and picnicing on the sand. July is a big time of year for Mexican tourists and this part of Cancun had such a nicer feel than the overly manicured, over-priced spots in the hotel zone.
Random things to love/hate in Mexico:
-- Unneccessary use of media in taxis, collectivos, buses -- the taxis have advertisements on the back of the seats (many for "adult only spas" and my favorite for a clothing-optional eco-rustic hotel in Tulum), one collectivo we took included a dvd player so we listened to and watched mtv-style videos on our way to Chichen-Itza. Including, of course, Gasolina, one of the omnipresent reggatone songs that IŽve grown to love. This was entertaining, but wierd -- especially wierd when old women are getting in and out of the van. And, one bus had a light/buzzer that went off every time the driver went over 95 kpm, or so the sign said.
-- Big tour buses and packaged vacations
-- 100% Natural -- A restaurant with two locations in Cancun and one in Playa del Carmen. I think we ate here maybe 6 times, and if I had every meal there, I could be perfectly happy. Great fresh juices, tons of veggie options, would be a total hit in San Francisco. I can't wait to go again tomorrow.
Initially I had planned on saying bye to my sister in Cancun and spending a week travelling by myself, but at the last minute, and thanks to a ticket being available with frequently flier miles, I went to Colorado with her for a long weekend and her bridal shower. Really nice to see lots of family and friends.
Tomorrow, I'm heading back to Cancun, then south of Tulum and eventually to Punta Allen, in the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, where I'll be doing a volunteer project for 5 weeks. Really excited to get back to that area and start the project -- which will include lots of scuba diving.