Dec 2007: Bouncing chicken off a Coba crocodile’s head. 1 month on. Cenotes, Merida, Celestun, road relays, Valladolid, Chichen Itza, El Panchan, Palenque…and a new niece.

We have got to that point where we can’t remember what day it is never mind the date. We added another week and stayed on the beach – supposed to check out this Friday and have just added another week so we will have been here a month when we do leave Shambala Petit Hotel! Can you really blame us! We did actually manage to break free from paradise a couple of days ago and went to Coba with Mark, Ella and our new Spanish mate Guru. Climbing that bloody pyramid was scary as hell – it has a 52 metre drop. I nearly became a Mayan scarifice. Apparently one tourist has already been killed falling off it this year. But they have closed all the others to climbing in the other major sites so we had to do it. A word about the ball court – you could only play the ball game using your hips, shoulders and knees – nothing else. The winner was the first to score through the stone hoop – incredibly difficult as the hoop is so high. The winner was sacrificed to the gods-apparently a great honour. We also saw a ridiculous thing in Coba – there’s a big lake full of massive crocs and these 10 year old kids we taunting 3 crocs with chicken meat on the end of string tied to a stick – chucking it in and out of the water – literally bouncing it off the crocs heads – they were doing it for money from the tourists – standing just 3 feet away from these massive animals. I went down pretty close to take pictures and then backed off really quick when the biggest croc moved suddenly. Madness – you tell kids not to touch the cooker, don’t do drugs and here we are giving money to 10 year olds to bounce chicken legs off crocodile’s heads. One of the kids then produced a bloody BB gun and started firing bits of potato or something at the crocs. At this point I decided it was a good time to leg it.

We went swimming and snorkelling in cenotes! There are loads of them around the Yucutan – they are naturally formed sink holes – many of which connect to a 100 mile long under ground river in this area. We visited 2 separate cenotes near Coba – they were mind blowing! All you see from the surface for these 2 is a small entrance hole and a very steep ladder down. This opens out in to an underground cavern filled with fresh water. Some small fish swim around you in the deeper of the cenotes. The first one was full of stalagnites and more rocky and shallow in parts, the second was a much larger pool of clear blue fresh water which was way deeper. The third cenote was here on the Tulum road called Grande Cenote. This was much more open when you entered and had trees and plants growing in it and much more fish. However if you swam under some of the rocks in to caves there were huge drops underneath you as the caverns open out in to much deeper water. Lots of divers go to the Grande Cenote but you have to have a specialised cave diving certificate. It’s kind of scary snorkelling in the darker parts of it as you don’t know what’s under you and I was convinced there was a bloody huge giant squid living down there!

Travelling as we are there are going to be a lot of goodbyes as people move on or go home because they’re on holiday. Goodbye to Alain and Karine from Corsica – the most glamorous woman on Tulum beach ever and with the most wicked laugh! You guys were so much fun – Alain we will start revising our French now for our visit to Corsica! Goodbye also to Mark and Ella and thanks for the many lifts in your car to the cenotes, Coba and Tulum. You guys are great and thanks for telling the bug from your room where we lived – I think he moved in the day you left. We aren’t getting bitten as much by mosquitoes since you went so maybe they all followed you to London. Adios chica loco to Guru who has the most energy of anyone we have ever met – Guru is like a small hurricane! We will come to see you in San Sebastien. Also adios to our new friends from Argentina – Luisa and Mauricio – who must have had the most amusing honeymoon of anyone I met – including snorkelling where Mauricio was sick in the water and instantly surrounded by a million fish. A tip they don’t usually receommend in the guide book to increase your chances of seeing the best of Mexican marine life! Andrew managed to swim head first into a rock on his first day but remained a good laugh for the rest of his time here with Lila and introduced us to the best shrimp and pasta in Tulum! We will definitely come see you both in LA in January. We have made so many great friends at Shambala – make sure you stay in touch!

We have now been out of work and on the road for a month. In that time I have learnt that Leza does occassionaly relax, which has come as a huge surprise – I say relax but really it’s a slightly slower version of usual, just as ready to talk to all and sundry though.  I expected to be ready to move on from this place after a couple of weeks as I would be bored enough of relaxing but it really does get under your skin here – the place is like nowhere else I have been and we have met a great bunch of people. You would think that it would be the same every day but the dynamic of the place changes with the arrival and departure of people and the shared breakfast means you learn lots of new stories – Leza has been the person who starts the conversation most days and eventually gets everyone talking – she says that knowledge is power…

I have finally, after 42 years, managed to ride a wave to the beach, both on a boogie board and on my belly – my biggest acheivements since we arrived! I also managed for the first time in my life to lose my wallet containing about £200 and some cards – not really the best time to do that, luckily we had a few credit cards left to keep us going.  We will leave this place in a week (probably!) and head of to see the interior of Mexico, I have no doubt that it will be amazing but I can’t imagine for a minute it will be better than Tulum – if you are reading this, you should get yourself here as soon as you can.

This is why we don’t want to leave; sunrise this morning and the beach in both directions. 31 degrees… I have no idea where everyone goes but it’s coming up to peak season and it’s empty!  Do you reckon the bank would go for it if we apply for a mortgage on this?!

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Day trip to Playa Del Carmen to drink even more pina coladas and margaritas.  These drinks are MASSIVE and the margaritas are sprinkled with powdered chilli.  Dave had a haircut, he was going to risk the funny small barber shop in Tulum but chickened out and went to Roberto’s hairdresser instead.  He’s still losing the plot a bit as he wandered off and left the bag he was supposed to be watching for me, sitting on the bench with our money and passports in it.  Luckily it hadn’t been noticed and he ran to get it back…phew.  He’s definitely switched off since we’ve quit our jobs and the UK…but it’s like he’s tripped the master switch recently.

Just some photos in the area – Quintana Roo is the state in Mexico where Tulum is, the Yucatan is made up of several states. We leave this beach paradise on Saturday to start travelling around the country. The colours here are great, lots of hot pinks, turquoise and orange. Some of the houses in Tulum town in the back streets are painted bright colours, Mexican wrestling masks are for sale in the run up to Christmas, Dave finds doughnuts and we enjoy a last meal in La Nave one of our favourite places to eat in Tulum.

Planning for when we leave, we discover that we can’t rent a car from a major rental company as they won’t allow us to take it out of the state let alone drive it thousands of miles and leave it way up country in another state…so we have done a deal with one of Roberto’s friends, also called Roberto and are paying him for the use of a VW Jetta. Dave saw this old Dodge – and would you believe it actually still drives – it is a complete wreck with massive holes in the floor. We couldn’t resist taking photos although the local guys on a building site thought we were nuts.  Maybe we should take this one Dave? Hertz car rentals ripped you off I think – ha ha ha!

We road tripped from Tulum to Merida – on to Celestun to see the flamingos and mangroves on a little boat trip which was great fun; the water was red which was very strange – like boating though blood or red wine – then we spent another night in the town of Merida which had some sort of festival going on before heading back via Chichen Itza and Valladolid.

I don’t know how many ruins we can take but so far so good. Chichen Itza exceeded our expectations and wasn’t as over-run with tourists as we expected. You can’t climb the pyramid any more Jules and Rich – so you did well getting there a few years ago! A tourist fell off and died so they have since roped it off; mind you don’t know how many more of these things I can climb – they are knackering as they are so steep! The pictures tell the story and there’s a nice one of me – one old ruin standing next to an even older one.

Back in Tulum on the beach for one night only before heading off tomorrow morning at 7am in a change of hire car to Palenque – about a 10 hour drive! Slowly heading across country from there so I will update the blog again when we have time and a connection. Congratulations to my sister Emma who had a healthy baby girl today! (Dec 10). Hola Chica!!!!! Sarah May is here and I know she’s going to be an amazing character.

Where was I – finally got a connection again – been out in the wilds for a few days but more of that in a minute. Merida was pretty – stayed two nights there in a room that looked like we were supposed to hail mary on entering. It was in an old Hacienda – looked really small from the outside and you went in and it opened up in to a huge space and went way back – a lot of these buildings are really deceptive. Big cathedral in Merida and a lot of streets decorated with flags – something to do with the festival for Guadalupe – which is pretty crazy and goes on until Christmas from what we can gather. Seems to be 12 dys of consecutive mayhem; people setting off huge rockets from their hands that are like a firework but don’t actually create any colours – just a bloody massive boom sound like a big gun firing and smoke in the sky – bonkers – and cars honking horns and bells ringing in cathedrals all the time – and across the country relay races with cars and lorries covered in balloons and images of the Guadalupe – the runners or cyclists carrying flame torches and swapping at different points on the road. It’s all rather mad and we can’t really figure out the history of it so we need to look it up! Valladolid was lovely too – lots of local stalls and local Mexican women selling their hand made crafts.

And so at last it’s goodbye Roberto and Shambala – we hit the road again on Monday to start our mammoth drive across country. I need to try to find a map to upload and show you our routes! We are sad to leave the beach and tans are fading already -but even more sad to leave Roberto – if we could have kidnapped him and brought him road tripping we would have done – but Shambala is so amazing that business is too brisk for him to leave. Goodbye also to Tia, Wendy, Rossi, Pancho, Maria and Pedro – you guys are great. We have made a great friend in Roberto and we are definitely going back – I have promised Roberto I will learn Spanish so I can go back and help!

A rare blog entry from Dave: This goes on a bit so if you cant be bothered, scroll down to Leza’s fancy pictures below – I wont be offended!

We finally left the beach on Saturday after almost 4 weeks, its Wednesday as I write this and we have seen more in the last 4 days than the whole of the previous 4 weeks! Mind you I have never been so relaxed as on the beach in Tulum.  Saturday after the usual car hire rigmarole involving an increase in price (‘sorry but I didn’t take into account this, and this and this…’) and a change to our itinery to pick up a further car on Monday, we set off for Merida. Merida is the biggest city in the Yucatan and apart from a change of scenery for us, is a great place to base ourselves to visit Celestun (for the Pink Flamingo’s), Villadolid (definitely not pronounced like its spelt!) and Chichen Itza (one of the new 7 wonders of the world apparently).

The journey took us through lots of small villages which have built up alongside the only road linking East and West Yucatan. At each village (Pobalo or Pueblo) you have to slow down considerably, not just for the dogs that seem to enjoy lying in the middle of the road but also the people who will just wander out in front of you as they have right of way, often using this as an excuse to try to sell you something (Turnips and hammocks) To achieve this, the Mexican way is to use ‘Topes’ or in English, a small speed bump – there is some warning usually but often you only find them as you hit them at 100kph!

The most surprising thing about the ‘Topes’ is the fact that they are even there – Mexico is not known for its public safety and to be honest it is one of the things I really like about the place. We have been allowed to climb up a 52 meter rickety pyramid in Coba, dive into Cenotes and wander round a cave system, walk the streets in most places and avoid pot holes, open grates, cars etc and no one ‘nannys’ you – if you want to do these things then its up to you, the government is not telling you every 5 minutes what to do and how bad things ‘could’ be if you didn’t take care – to be honest in the UK, most of these things would be have been closed down by now. There is no blame on the owner for any problems that occur so no one can be sued for stupid things – obviously this is not ideal but does lead you to feel like you are deciding the way your life should be led.

An example is on the website for the hotel we stayed at in Merida http://www.luzenyucatan.com/ the previous owner of the hotel was an old Jewish new Yorker hippy if you can imagine that – one night a fan fell off the ceiling and hit a US doctor who was staying there on the head, he has since complained of having bad dreams every night about fan’s falling on him – the reply from the woman was to put up a notice on the web site telling everyone the story and saying ‘Luz en Yucatan, the place where dreams come true!’  I really feel like I could live in Mexico, so far Tulum wins hands down.

The roads are currently being taken over by teenagers, it’s the 12th December today which is a religious festival for Guadalupe and people ask for favours from the virgin saint. To do this they must promise to do something difficult – like running from where they live in Mexico City to Cancun, which in plane takes 2 hours… The trip takes a week or so and we have seen hundreds of people doing this – usually it’s a relay team of kids taking it in turns to carry a torch while running or cycling while being followed by a truck carrying the kids who have had their go and are waiting for the next leg. The trucks are very colourful and the kids are all wearing the same T Shirts designed for the event. It all looks great from the outside and most of them seem to be enjoying it but personally I think they are all a bit mental but as you probably know, I include everyone who is religious in that statement!

Yesterday (Tuesday) we drove from Tulum to Palenque (more ruins) which took 8 hours and took in 3 different states, you can see the changes in each state, not just in the different types of trees and vegetation but also in the state of the roads – its very easy to tell where all the money is made in Mexico! Back to Leza …

Pictures – El Panchan where we stayed in the jungle close to Palenque ruins. We stayed at Margarita and Eds which is a fabulous place; dense jungle plants and bamboo….lizards running in front of the door. A basic room with a single light bulb which we turn off at night to stop the avalanche of bugs descending.

Palenque ruins which are stunning and well worth the 8 hour drive from Tulum.

The amazing waterfalls 60 kilometres from Palenque; Agua Azul and Misol-Ha….where you could actually walk behind the waterfall.

I am in an internet cafe plugged in to their modem with our lap top – on the edge of a dusty road here on the southern coast of Mexico in Puerto Angel. The sea and a stretch of beach is literally a 2 minute walk across this road but you can’t hear the waves in the evening because they are drowned out by hundreds of birds who congregate in the trees every evening – it’s deafening but amazing – I think they are some sort of starling but with a much longer tail. Lots of iguanas around Mexico too – pretty big ones but they run away quickly and hide in holes.

Dave has spent most of today in the pool or the hammock here at La Buena Vista – built in to a hill side overlooking the sea. We need to relax after spending several days driving hundreds of kilometres from Tulum in the Yucatan, through Zapatista rebel territory near between Palenque and San Cristobal, potholes, winding roads up and down and through mountains, army road blocks – we had the whole car and bags opened and searched on one stop! – thousands of topes (speed bumps) even on motorways! Dave’s handling it all very well. Thank God I am not driving.

I haven’t got time to write much now but promise to do a more concise update as soon as we get to a place with a room with wi-fi access. Happy Birthday to my Dad today! Also, my sister Emma has named her baby Sarah…. here’s some photos of our cross country leg so far. Also, Roberto – our good friend at Shambala in Tulum, maybe coming to Puebla to meet us for my birthday on 18th Dec! Estupendo!!!!!!

2 Comments

  1. duckworp

    Your holiday sounds dreadful. I am so glad I am here in England enjoying the autumn drizzle. The right flipper has decided to object to overuse and so Pinball Repair Man is currently getting changed in his phone box to come and mend it.

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  2. Lollapoleza

    Ha ha ha – that will teach you to thrash my high score!! Not seen any pinballs yet – but if yoiu ever want to try out over 50 different tequilas then this is the place to come! It’s a wonder the whole country isn’t completely annebriated! (spelling – no idea. Say hi to the kids and Judith for me. Leza xxxxxxx

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