Sunday, February 18th
I dont have to get up until 4am, but I wake at 3am GREAT, even less sleep!!!
Off to the airport. The -10C temps feel almost balmy compared to the -30C weve been experiencing all week.
Land in Cancun just before 10am local time there are 2 hours difference between Moncton and eastern Mexico, not the 1 hour I had thought. We make our way to the bus/shuttle counter and Stephanie decides we should take the bus to save $10 in transportation costs. The bus wont be leaving for another hour and the shuttle leaves in 15 minutes, but hey, its a whole $10!!
So we walk across the airport property to the bus depot and wait. The bus also drives at 50km, not the 100km limit, so it is a one hour trip to Playa del Carmen. We arrive with little time to spare to catch the 1pm ferry to Cozumel. In taking the bus (and saving a whopping $10) I have spent $9 for locals to carry pieces of my luggage, whereas the shuttle would have picked us up at the airport door and dropped us at the Cozumel ferry GREAT!!!! Needless to say, I will not be willingly choosing the bus for transportation on the return into Cancun.
On the ferry, I meet two women from Los Angeles. It is their first time out of the US and they are quite inexperienced travelers in general. They dont realize that they are heading into Cozumel during Carnaval, the busiest tourist season for the island. They dont have hotel reservations and they dont have diving booked. We see them later in the day standing at the side of the road, looking puzzled, with their luggage in tow.
Another man with a cart attached to a bike transports out dive gear and luggage to the hotel, a few short blocks from the ferry terminal in Cozumel. He even brings it upstairs in the hotel, which has no elevator. When we arrive at the hotel, our room is not ready, so we dump our luggage into the housekeeping suite and were off to the dive shop to confirm dive times for the week.
The weather has been bad on Cozumel since Friday, so the dive shop is booked up with divers who have to get their dives in before leaving the island, so we are delegated to afternoon dives for most of the week. The weather is windy and cold (sweatshirt weather) and very overcast. We hope that it clears up quickly.
Sunday evening we watch the Carnaval parade from our hotel balcony. We have a great view of the parade, cruise ships, and seafront in general an A+ view!!! The hotel is fine not a 5-star location, but for the price we paid, were quite happy with the accommodations.
We decide to have supper at a restaurant listed in the guide book that I had picked up Los Tres Gattos (The 3 Cats) which advertises that you can fill your tummy for under $3US. 75pesos later, we are full and have had our first authentic Mexican dinner, complete with Sandwich Especiale!!!
Monday, February 19th
We decide to take in the local shopping and visit a market so that we can stock the fridge in our room. Fresh fruit and fish are aplenty, as are extremely fresh chickens we watch the butcher make the kill!!! We head back to the hotel with pineapple, mango, papaya and a few other tasty treats.
Diving is at noon, so we take a cab to the pier. We are on a boat with a friendly couple from Illinois, Tom from Toronto and a guy from San Francisco, who doesnt speak to anyone. Two dives later we are all happy with the day having seen a seahorse, a turtle and a splendid toadfish.
Back to the hotel for showers and a view of the Carnaval parade once again. However, exhaustion takes over and we decide to take a quick nap before heading out for dinner. At 11pm, I wake and change into pyjamas before calling it a night. Oooops!!!
Tuesday, February 20th
Breakfast on Fat Tuesday we walk to another restaurant listed in the guidebook to learn that it is closed mornings this week, so we choose another one and walk there. Thankfully it is open and has a free table.
I choose something that translates to divorced eggs that consists of 2 fried eggs and ham, each with its own sauce on it, with beans on the side. Tasty, and a bit spicy as well. The fresh-squeezed orange juice is just as tasty.
In the restaurant, I am able to pick up a wireless internet signal and start uploading photos and checking email the hotel website clearly states that there is internet access in the hotel, yet mysteriously no one knows anything about it at the hotel. Later in the day, I go to an internet café that has laptop stations and finish the job.
Diving is at noon again today. The same couple from Illinois and the same silent guy from San Francisco. Add 2 cruise ship employees a girl from Scotland and a guy from Romania and another American from Missouri. The dives are great again, although the currents are extremely strong in points we are unable to stop or swim against them if necessary. Another turtle is seen, a porcupine fish calmly swims by, and a school of ocean triggerfish say hello. Its a great place to dive. We visit the spot that I dove 7 years ago when I first visited Cozumel and I see what damage the hurricanes have done the color that was once there is muted covered in white sand and dead coral to turn a lot of the vista to grey.
A quick trip to Ernestos Fajita Factory for supper after the first 2 dives of the day and then were back in the water for a night dive with 2 couples from British Columbia. Its nice to dive with others who usually don drysuitsfor local dives as all other divers we have encountered are the only warm water variety. The night dive is back to a spot visited yesterday, but now we get to see the night critters come out. Too many crabs to count, a few lobster and an octopus were seen by me, and there were reports of a second lobster and a splendid toadfish (damn!!!) seen by others.
Back to the hotel to once again view the Carnaval parade this is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) so the parade is the largest yet and actually laps itself as it winds down one side of the main thoroughfare and back in the other direction. The music is very loud and the participants are very drunk, but tomorrow is the start of Lent, so they need to get it all out today.
Wednesday, February 21st
Today we are to dive in the morning, and finally have the afternoon free to explore the island. When we arrive at the dive shop, they inform us that we are going to dive on the mainland (Playa del Carmen) today. I inform them that I wish to dive Cozumel and Playa is not an option. They reshuffle everything and put us on a boat with 3 absolute newbie divers and a diver that was certified 25 years ago. They are all over 60 years of age.
Despite this setback, we do get to dive one of the must do locations Santa Rosa Wall, which is a let-down in my eyes. Hurricanes must have ripped through there as there is a lot of damage and dead coral. The 2nd dive is La Francesca Reef, which is shallow but has lots to see, including grouper and a southern sting ray. Yippee!!!
Steph and I decide we will rent a car for a couple of days and head out to a local business to do so. We ride away in a VW bug convertible, which is very cute but does not drive too smoothly. Stephanie is driving as the car is a standard transmission so I get to see the sites.
We circle the island, first heading south and then coming back into the main town of St. Miguel. We have a free lunch at Mr. Sanchos Beach Club, so we take advantage of that as well as the free horseback riding at the same place. Stephanie is on Yuri and I am given Sandoonie to ride. We ride for about 30 minutes not long enough to hurt, but long enough that we were ready to get off the horses. On our ride, our guide points out a papaya tree and agave the plant tequila is made from.
We continue our drive around the coast of Cozumel and see signs for a Turtle Egg Laying beach (not in season). A little further along the coast is a great stretch of beach that was obviously coral reef at one point. There are pieces of almost-fossilized brain coral laying on the ground, as the surf beats against the shore.
We finish off the drive finding where the ruins are so that we can head there tomorrow.
Thursday, February 22nd
Diving in the morning again and this time its the dive of the entire trip Punta Sur!!! A challenging dive as it is deep and the currents can sometimes be very strong. We lucked out and there was very little current at this location. The coral formations were beautiful and we ran into a sea turtle who was under the impression that a photo shoot was going on good thing, because there were 3 photographers on the dive!!!
The second dive of the day took us back to Paradise Reef for the THIRD time!! Good god, enough is enough!!! Two seahorses were seen this time (the main reason for diving this reef) as well as grouper, a moray eel and a school of Horse-Eyed Jacks.
After diving was over, we got in the VW convertible and headed off to the ruins. After the gate attendant explained that it was a $10 entry fee, a 15 minute drive to the parking lot and then a 1 hour hike into the ruins, I wimped out. It was 30°C, very humid, and I just wasnt going to be walking 2 hours in the burning sun. So then we sidetracked to the Tequila Museum good choice!!!
For the same $10 we each got 2 margaritas and a sample of each type of tequila the company made, as well as a talk on the history of tequila, how it is made and what actually makes tequila legal as not all tequila-type drinks are legally tequila!!
After that tasty trip, we spent a couple of hours at Playa Morenas, a beach on the eastern shore where there is a lot of surf. There were people with boogie boards trying to surf the waves with not much success, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.
Friday, February 23rd
One last day of diving and this time its with others who are also leaving tomorrow. The divemaster is playing videographeras well and we do two great dives on Colombia Deep and Colombia Shallow. We realize at the end of these dives that we have been blessed with seeing at least one turtle each day, 2 nurse sharks, 3 sea horses, and general excellent reefs.
Steph decides to head to the beach for a little while after diving, and I take a taxi back to the hotel to clean up, catch up on email, and do some shopping. Steph and I meet in time for supper and head to a well-mentioned seafood restaurant outside of the downtown area. We order the seafood platter for two. The food is OK, but I find that one of the two shrimp items is a bit rubbery and Im not crazy about the tomato sauces on 2 of the 3 fish filet options. But the pina colada was AWESOME!!!
Saturday, February 24th
Time to pack up and hit the road. Steph grabs a cab out to the dive shop to pick up the video of yesterdays dives while I load all the luggage into a cab and go to the ferry terminal. The taxi driver hails a porter who loads all the luggage onto his cart and takes it to the luggage check for the ferry. This is much smoother than our trip to Cozumel figures that we are just beginning to understand the system when its time to leave!!!
We travel into Cancun for Saturday afternoon and evening and decide to hit the beach again. The public beaches are not very nice compared to those at the resorts as they are not raked or cleaned on a regular basis and are covered with seaweed and screaming children. After 20 minutes a child has landed on top of me. Luckily (?) I feel my skin burning already and decide to make a run for it. Back to the hotel to shower and web-check-in for tomorrows flight. Ooops . Cancun is not one of the selected international cities which can use web-check-in.
Off to a local market for some last minute shopping. Stephanie and I both agree that we spent very little money for the first 5 days of the trip and now feel it flowing away from us quite quickly. Souvenirs of the trip for ourselves, friends, and family are ringing up but still at much lower prices that what we expected.
We had decided to have supper at a restaurant recommended to us by someone from the hotel. However, the menu doesnt look too great, so we wander into a little place just down the road for $3 margaritas, shrimp tacos, chiles rellenos, and fish fingers YUM!!! I also had a salad with an excellent citrus dressing on it all for the incredible price of $8!!!
Sunday, February 25th
The time has come to head to the airport luckily were flying Executive class so we dont have to wait in the HUGE lineup to check in. We are able to spend our time in the Executive lounge for Star Alliance airlines and wander through Duty Free for that last minute tequila to take home.
The flight is uneventful 20 minutes early in fact!! The weather in Halifax is -1°C desperately chilly to our tropically-acclimated bodies, but still much warmer than what we left only one week earlier. After we pick up luggage and make our way through customs, I go to pick up the Jeep, which has a dead battery!! I flag down a Fly Jazz employee who is willing to be a few minutes late for work in order to give me a boost.
I dropped Stephanie off at her house and continued on to Moncton, arriving at 8:45pm.