finally into mexico
01.08.2016 - 09.08.2016
The snorkelling trip didn't pan out quite like we expected. For a start, we were the only people in our group of 8 who could swim properly. So it meant our first stop at shark and ray alley, there was plenty of screaming (about the nurse sharks) and life jackets floating around. Luckily here you could put your feet down on the ground so it wasn't too much of a drama... so long as you can tolerate the rays coming and rubbing themselves around your legs like some kind of aquatic cat (the tour operators feed them conch, hence so friendlly). It felt pretty cool as well!
From here we moved to a second site, where Richard learnt the hard way about diving under water with man flu - several minutes of vertigo later he was pretty ready to call it quits.
The last site was again ridiculously shallow and not much to see, so all in all a bit of a disappointment.
On our way back from snorkelling the guy stopped the boat in the mangroves to show us a sea horse which was kind of cool. He was also very good in checking we all knew about the upcoming tropical storm and that we had plans to leave the island.
We had heard about the storm from our hostel the night before, but hadn't been too worried as its hurricane season, they must get tropical storms all the time!
When we got back to our guesthouse we learnt that the owners had decided they too would evacuate the next day.. so we began to wonder if we should be taking this a bit more seriously. The chatter around the island and some googling suggested that yes we should be, as it would likely be a hurricane by the time it reached Belize, and would only be the 4th hurricane to make landfall in Belize since the 80s. (remembering we are on an island that was split in 2 by a previous hurricane)
So we lazed the afternoon away, went cycling around the island and enjoyed some more A/C. We were lucky enough to not have it pour with rain in the evening, so we got a bit more selection for dinner (the calm before the storm?)
The next morning we were up early to get the first boat off the island. But when we awoke, it was bucketing down! Worried that maybe the hurricane (it was now upgraded) had arrived early, we scurried down to the ferry terminal, got soaked, only to have the rain stop completely about 10 minutes later.
But it meant we were off the island in a timely fashion, and soon enough in a chicken bus heading for the mexican border (which by the way is HUGE! no mans land is several kms long) In the bus station we met some English boys who were heading to Caye Caulker, who had no idea about the hurricane and thought we were making it up, until we told them our hostel was evacuating. We suspect they still went out to the island though.
Unfortunately, we had planned to take photos on our morning walk to the ferry, but as it was pouring, we failed to take a single photo of Belize. Oh well!
Our bus dumped us in a market in Chetumal, and with the help of a supremely helpful local we soon had lunch, pesos and a taxi to take us to the next bus terminal. First impression of mexico was excellent!
We decided to stop for the night in Tulum, and ended up in what was arguably our worst hostel yet (although it was so cheap and had a functional fan we didn't care too much). We set off for dinner, only to have our decision made quickly for us when we were caught in a huge thunder and lightning storm which lasted for more than 10minutes, and so the restaurant we'd taken shelter in was our default dinner.
The next morning we lazed about, debating about going to the beach (there are more ruins there) or just pushing on to Isla Mujeres - our final destination. We decided to push on, as there was a perfectly good beach there! Before going we googled the situation in Belize and counted ourselves lucky - no boats, no buses, no planes from anywhere in Belize that day.
Getting to Isla Mujeres was a piece of cake, and soon we were settled in in our lovely budget hotel (final splash out!) and tucking into some tacos and cervezas. For the afternoon we thought we'd laze about and watch a movie - probably a good choice, as when we ventured outside for dinner we found all the streets flooded in ankle deep water from an hour of solid rain!
The next day was a bit stormy - we headed to the beach in the morning (thank you free deck chairs and beach towels!) to a nice spot under the trees to sit and read our books and swim when we felt like it. It was pretty humid, and very very black over the mainland. Sure enough in the afternoon there was more ankle deep water in the streets, but by now the tailend of Hurricane Earl was gone.
The remainder of our days here (another 4) was spent the same - morning beach / book / swim, followed by lunch - tacos or pitas, then olympics, yatzee and book on the deck, and finally dinner. It was pretty excellent and a great relaxing way to wind up the trip. We didn't go snorkelling, we didn't explore the island, we barely did anything, and I think it was exactly what we needed.
Richard modelling the deck chairs
The view from the book
Sadly all good things come to an end, and so 5am on our last morning we were up and heading for the boat, to get the shuttle to the airport to catch our flight to Mexico City. This was ridiculously pain free as well - Mexican transport just seems to work! The flight over Mexico City was pretty incredible - the city seemed to stretch forever with no ability to see its edges.
Once safely on the ground we took the Metro in to our hostel, which cost a total of 60c for the 2 of us, and was great fun trying to navigate.
We are staying really close to the main square, which when we arrived was filled with over 10 000 people protesting (which had stopped us from being able to catch the bus from the airport as they were blocking the roads). Having wandered around, its exciting to be in the hussle and bussle of a big city again, with no particular plans.
For our full day in the city, we planned to meet up with a couple of friends for a coffee, meaning we were going to ride the metro again! - unfortunately, where google told us the cafe was and reality were different. One internet cafe to the rescue and we were back on track.
Afterwards, we were back on the metro and heading to the modern art museum. Richard and I decided we have no artistic taste as we both agreed that most of the art there was horrible and we seriously dislike Picasso. En route back to the metro, we passed by bicycle school - were both children and adults were seen navigating a variety of obstacles in learning to ride. It was pretty funny but also great to see people getting out and active in a city where there is literally 5 McDonalds within a 5 minute walk of our hostel.
Finally we hit the souvenir market, in the hope that we might finally actually buy some souvenirs. Sadly everything that we thought was vaguely cool was several hundred dollars more expensive than we were prepared to pay. Oh well!
Afternoon once again disappears into Olympic land...
Tomorrow morning we have another early start to get the 5am metro to the airport...
Its hard to believe the trip has finally come to an end - only 4 more plane rides (yes I know its insane) and then we will be safely back in NZ and heading off skiing!
We've had pretty great trip, seen some incredible things, and met some cool people along the way. Highlights in include our tramps of the Ausangate in Peru and Bariloche to Pampa Linda in northern Patagonia, all of Colombia, snorkelling in Honduras, and sunrise over Acatenango in Guatemala.
We think we are pretty lucky that in 6 months (touch wood) we have not been robbed, seriously ill, lost anything, had anything other than the voodoo stick break, or a single bus break down!
But for now - see you soon NZ!