The art of giving into Temptation...

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
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Trip End Mar 16, 2010


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Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our ferry trip to Isla Mujeres was a very enjoyable 20 minute affair where we got to see a little of the Hotel Zone in Cancun on the way out.  Isla Mujeres is very much like Cozumel but less touristy and thus less expensive.  We walked off the dock and onto the main street which was teeming with people and souvinier stalls and dockside cafes.  I liked the island immediately and during our time there we only had a good time.  
 
Our hostel was located right on its own private beach at the very end of a lovely street again full of restaurants and interesting little knick knack shops.  We were given complimentary drinks for our first night but could only use the vouchers after 11pm at the hostel bar on the beach.  We decided to drop our bags off and head out into the town to explore and also to get something to eat as breakfast had been a long time ago.  
 
We found a lovely little place right on the beachfront which served delicious paella and lovely refreshing cocktails.  We sat in the sun lazily taking pictures and just enjoying that lovely holiday feeling you have the very first day on a tropical island.  After our meal we passed a little dive shop kiosk and, on impulse, decided to check out the cost of doing a dive off the island, as its a renowned dive spot with amazing reefs.  We were not very keen on the kiosk and as we were walking down the road back to the hostel we saw that one particular dive shop had a connection with our hostel and were offering a very good price of $55 for a two tank dive.  We impulsively signed up for an afternoon drift dive the next day and giddily walked off, happy that we were once again going under the sea, but not believing how impulsive we had been... we were starting to act like normal tourists on a two week holiday instead of serious backpackers on an extended adventure! 
 
Money continued to be spent willy nilly that day as we found a shop that sold the most interesting wall hangings made out of metals.  Alan and I bought a set of turtles and Lynda went for a large turtle on its own.  All were very well made and we cant wait to hang them in our homes that we dont have! 
 
Still full after our big lunch we decided to skip dinner and went back to the bar where there was a magician show happening that night.  A guy from Argentina did some cool tricks and involved the audience and both yours truly and Lynda got to be Magicians Assistants that night.  Later on we went to the beach bar for our complimentary drinks and were delighted to find that it was actually 2 for 1 on cocktails.  Unfortunately it started to rain quite heavily which put a bit of a damper (no pun intended) on the evening.  
 
The next morning we wanted to go and see the Marine rehabilitation center which was located a bit further north on the island.  We decided to rent a golf car for the morning as it was still raining and we were warned that it may take some time to get up there.  A golf cart is not great for speed, but its super fun to drive and we all took turns going at 40km per hour down roads with massive puddles, a lot of tourists seemed to have the same idea as we kept passing other golf carts on the way and, as you do, hooting at each other.  
 
The sanctuary was small but interesting and we got to see a selection of turtles, lobsters, sea horses and other animals in tanks.  We also got to see the notorious Lion Fish, a pest in the Caribbean waters that is eating other fish at a rate of knots.  Its a beautiful fish to look at but its not a popular species out here as its big appetite is endangering the coral reef system.  
 
We managed to get back to the main street for our dive that afternoon.  The weather was still pretty bad but luckily when you are underwater it doesnt really matter.  Our drift dives were going to be on the coral reef marine reserve area between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, a nice spot full of juicy sightings.  The first dive spot was a bit rough and we also had to navigate a different way of getting into the water, before at Utila we just did a giant stride entry, but here we would have to roll over the boat backwards.  Thankfully it was actually quite easy and not so hard on the senses as I thought it would be.  As usual it took me a little while to equalise but once down I stayed down.  We spotted a moray eel and another black eel hiding under rocks, giant starfish and massive fish systems that looked like art installations swirling in front of us.  The size and colours of the fish were so intense!
 
The nice thing about a drift dive is that you dont really need to do any work.  The tide carries you so you dont have to swim that  much, which leaves you a little longer to spend underwater as your oxygen doesnt run out as quickly (still leaving enough time for your safety stops and calculations of course!) The dive master just lets out a whole lot of air from his regulator resulting in bubbles on the surface and the captain on the boat comes to where the bubbles are.  
The ride to the next spot was quite rough and we felt a little bit ill for the 10 mins it took to get to the next stop.  Luckily as soon as we got there the waters calmed and the sun came out just a little.  Then it was back in the water and luckily this time I equalised very quickly leaving me my whole dive to enjoy. 
 
I preferred this dive, not only was I able to enjoy it from an early stage due to equalising, but I also saw the biggest conch I have ever seen moving quickly along the ocean bed.  He was massive!  I was even more pleased when Al spotted another turtle and I just managed to catch a quick glimpse before he swam away.  We saw loads more fish and our last sighting before heading up was a very shy nurse shark chilling in a cave checking us out.  Amazing.  We spent some time swimming at the surface waiting for the other group to finish before heading back to Mujeres, very pleased with ourselves that we had clocked up some more dive time iwth excellent visibility, water temperature and all at an excellent price.  
 
We were starving when we got back to the island and headed off for some much needed grub at a local restaurant offering a menu of the day.  Afterwards we headed to the internet cafe to catch up which was ideally situated in a gelateria and I decided to sample their chocolate hazelnut milkshake which hit the spot perfectly.  
 
Afterwards we headed back to the hostel where they had a little band playing and chilled out at the tables by the sand bar listening to the music and chatting with fellow travellers.  
 
The next morning we were heading back to Cancun and had a pretty busy day ahead of us with sorting out last minute administration for Cuba and also finding some foreign currency (ideally Euros) to take with us.  The ferry ride was enjoyable and we took a cab back to the same hotel we had stayed in previously.  Unfortunately they didnt have as nice a room for us but they did give us a little discount which was nice. 
 
Finding Euros in Cancun proved to be extremely difficult and resulted in us running down the main financial area into any bank we could see asking if they had any euros to sell.  None of them did and the one bank that did couldnt serve us as we had gotten there at closing time where their system shuts automatically at 5pm.  We had to thus hit the Bureau de Changes around the bus terminal and it was only the morning that we were due to leave that we found one selling Euros! Talk about last minute. 
 
Regretfully the hotel laundry service was also extremely slow and it was only as we were 10 mins from having to leave for the airport that it arrived back, after being sent in just before midday the day before! Still, at least we had clean clothes for our Cuban Journey, something that we were very much looking forward to and also just a little nervous of.  
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