We got up on the morning of Wednesday February 7th, and had to pack and make our way to Playa del Carmen to drop the rental car. Due to the margarita to go the night before, then beer at the condo, Margaret woke up hungover, and despite a couple of Gravol, continued to feel bad.
Again, just for the hell of it I suppose, we drove off with the gas tank near E, then had anxious minutes as we prayed for a gas station on our way north. We managed to find one just prior to getting into Playa del Carmen, and then using Margaret’s phones’ GPS we found our way to the car rental place and dropped the car.
Now we were on foot with our suitcases, carry-on bags, bag of leftover food from the condo, stinking humid and hot weather, an awful lot of tourists, and Margaret swearing she was going to puke at any moment. Somehow we dragged all of our stuff to the ferry and paid a very cheap $20 round trip to Cozumel.
We’d been advised the half-hour crossing could be rough, and to sit below deck if that was the case. It was fairly calm, but it was much nicer to be inside anyway, and in the air conditioned cabin rather than being wind-whipped and sun-beaten on the upper deck.
We were happy to see Avis car rental was right at the ferry dock so I signed the agreement and we were lead to our rental which was parked right on the main drag with the hazard lights on. Another standard, and this one had one of those freaky fobs wherein one just presses a button to start the car.
There’s only one main road that goes around Cozumel, so the first thing we did was take off in the wrong direction. Once turned around, we decided to stop at a Chaudraui, our grocery store of choice, and get whatever we’d need for the rest of the day.
We left there, went in the wrong direction, turned around, and then found our road to the second condo we’d rented, this one from VRBO. It was easy to find, and we parked right in front and went in to find the manager. His name was Paul, he’s from the US but said he renounced his citizenship 11 years earlier and was married to a Mexican.
As we hadn’t eaten a lot, he pointed out the restaurant which he said is part of Mima’s Village, the name of the condo, and for us to tell the cook we’re staying here and we’d get a discount.
We headed right down, and while very nice to sit across the road from the ocean, we were somewhat frightened by the prices, which were all in US dollars. On the mainland everything’s in pesos, so we were kind of dismayed at the implications, which turned out to be true: Cozumel is a very chi chi expensive place.
Margaret and I had a nice dinner and a drink each, but for $80 US we felt as though we’d been punched and vowed never to eat there again, and never did.
We had trouble with the TV, and Paul came to help us hook up the laptop so we could watch whatever we wanted. An early night, as Margaret was exhausted from all she had to do despite being hungover.
The next day was hot and sunny, as usual, and so we decided to drive around the whole island to figure out what things we might like to do. We started out by looking at a place called Chankanaab, which is a world heritage site. However it’s also an “adventure park” and looked like a tourist trap to us.
We drove further and stopped at one of the adorable stands along the wild shores on the way south. The reefs are craggy and the waves crash against them spraying sea water into the air. We walked along for awhile and then returned and went into the stand where we had our first taste of bartering.
I saw an abalone shell I liked, and said “how much is this?” The vendor said “How much you wanna pay me?” I, being a Canadian, said, “I don’t know. What do you want for this?” Let’s just skip to the end where I’m leaving the stand with an abalone shell and minus the equivalent of $23.
We continued along and all of a sudden came upon the sign for San Gervasio, the ruins on Cozumel. As we were right there we thought let’s do it, and drove in. There were masses of tour buses, and the place bustled with shops and vendors calling to people to come in.
At first we were hungry and thirsty so had some water and chicken tacos, then went on the walk for the ruins. They’re very far apart, and once again I felt like I could easily perish from the heat.
On our way back a beautiful large orange, fancy-looking iguana crossed our path. We felt really lucky to have seen one that decorative.
And then of course once we got back to the town of San Miguel, where we’re staying, we knew the only antidote to that kind of jungle heat was tequila. We stopped at a place called the Monkey Bar and sat right at the ocean’s edge, thankful for fermented cactus juice.
Fortified we decided to snorkel in front of our place and that was the first time I’ve seen fan coral which is beautifully coloured, mostly mauves. It was really lovely and convenient to be able to cross the road, get into the warm Caribbean and see beautiful things. Not a lot of fish that day though.
On Friday we thought it’d be fun to explore the town of San Miguel as it’s absolutely adorable. We drove in and parked and started down a street and looked at stuff in the stores. You’d think the abalone shell experience would’ve forewarned us, but no.
I made the mistake of saying “this top is cute” and owned it within about five minutes. If you read my blog you’ll know I have 77 tops so this seemed like a needless purchase. Margaret also walked away with a top she didn’t want. I said let’s get the hell out of here, so we got into the car and slunk right to the grocery store where we’re left alone.
On the way we passed a stand filled with the leather bags we’d both dreamed of owning, but we knew we’d be leaving there with a huge sombrero, no bag, and less about fifty dollars.
We decided to spend the afternoon at the beach in front of our place, snorkelling and reading. Imagine our surprise, as it was just the two of us reading away, when suddenly a monkey-like screech was made a foot behind us. Surprise! It was the funny little man who cooks at the restaurant attached to the condo.
One time might have been funny, but when he did it the second time Margaret said to him you really have to stop doing that! Finally he understood our nerves couldn’t’ take his sense of humour.
That was the night we began making our own delicious margaritas in the blender provided by the condo, and was one of the best ideas we had on the whole trip.
On Saturday we spent most of the day at the Punta Sur Eco Park, which seemed to us far more sensible than the “adventure park” idea. Once we arrived we were in awe, and so glad we’d come. You need a vehicle, as it’s huge, and takes the day to get to all areas and see everything.
We saw crocodiles, swam in the ocean and lounged on their chairs on the white sand, drank margaritas (natch) at a cute bar there. We went on a lagoon boat tour, went up to the top of a lighthouse, and saw incredible shells on the beach.
Because in this old condo the top floor’s doors all open onto a common deck, we got to know our nice neighbours, Mark and Rhonda from Oklahoma and Clint and Fran from Saskatchewan. You know how I love meeting new people.
On Sunday we had the most interesting trip to the tiny town of El Cedrale, which has about 100 inhabitants and is far inland, in the jungle. During the native uprising in the 1840’s when all nuns and priests were being killed, apparently some hid here and were never found, so they considered it a miracle and built a church.
As we walked through the streets it suddenly began to pour rain, and we took refuge under an old cow or horse feeding station. It had a tin roof so the sound was deafening. Ten minutes later it stopped, the sun came out, and we returned to stinking heat.
We snorkelled right in front of our place again, and it was a much better day for fish. I saw all kinds and one that was about two feet by one foot, one of biggest fish I’ve ever seen snorkelling. At the shore the water was the temperature of bath water.
Then it was Monday and time to return the car, get on the ferry, find the bus from Playa del Carmen to the airport and make our way home.
We arrived at the Cancun Airport to the happy news from Westjet that our plane was delayed for two hours, so they immediately handed me a new boarding pass for a plane the following morning, meaning I’d be spending the night in Richmond.
But at that point I didn’t even care. I’d been infected by the Mayan spirit, and that was good enough for me.