Christmas Day, Mexico

Merry Christmas to all friends and family around the globe!

My Christmas was fantastic! I hope yours was as well however you may have been celebrating.

I did not expect to miss home during this trip but it felt extremely strange to be without my family. We aren’t too extravagant usually. A few prezzies and a lovely day spent walking the dog, eating great home cooked food, spending the evening in pyjamas watching films and snacking and drinking some more!

I am very lucky.

Despite being on a continent far away, I still had the warm feeling inside that is instigated by having familiar and loving people around me. I spent Christmas day with Sera and Karen – who, as previously described, are absolutely fantastic and extremely special ladies. We travelled from Isla Mujeres back to Tulum to meet up with some friends and we all went out for some food at a restaurant around the corner from The Weary Traveller hostel.

It was so fun! There was an incredible Mariachi band and we all wore HUGE sombreros which made us ridiculously giddy! A waiter then drew moustaches on Karen and Sara and they got up and danced in front of the band. The whole restaurant was highly entertained.

Tequila was poured down our necks, literally.

We then met up with some people back at the hostel for some more drinks and an early night – preparing to feel fresh for our departure from Mexico in the morning!

Mexico it has been an absolute pleasure and I WILL return!

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Still travelling with the Aussie girlies at this point! They had pre-planned their next stop to be Isla Mujeres. This is a place I missed out when I was in Cancún due to I don’t know what! So as I was enjoying being with Sera and Karen so much I decided to join them! – why the hell not, right?

To get to Isla Mujeres, we had to go back to Cancún to catch a ferry. This crossing takes about half an hour and is relatively inexpensive.

Isla Mujeres literally translates as Isle of Women, apparently named so when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century and they found numerous images of goddesses. I’m sure there are lots of other versions of the story as there seems to be for every place in Mexico.

We planned to spend 4 nights here in a hostel called Poc Na. We had been told it was THE place to be – and this appeared to be pretty accurate. The hostel itself has it’s own little restaurant and bar. It also has it’s own dive centre, an outdoor cinema, a spa, and it’s own private beach and bar complete with yoga classes and a volleyball pitch. They also provide live music and magic shows every other evening. Their main bar closes at 11 and everyone then makes their way through to the beach bar where parties continue until 3am EVERY NIGHT!

Needless to say, I don’t have much to actually write about during this post. No one needs to hear about any drunken antics.

I did, however, try my first ever scuba dive!!! This is something I have always wanted to do and the girls also wanted to do one here. It seemed like the ideal place to do it as there is an underwater museum just off the coast called Museo Subacuatico De Arte. This is basically an innovative project designed to counteract the effects of climate change on oceans and reef systems. Google it! I have no photos. It’s pretty funky though and the collections include a VW beetle sculpture that provides artificial nooks and crannies for marine life.

The actual dive was a bit of a failure as far as I was concerned. The team we went out with were fantastic and extremely supportive! I was, naturally, a little nervous but after a few skills tests in shallow water I felt my confidence building. Our dive was to only take us to 9ft but boy did I struggle! I have never had any problems with my ears but they were not for equalizing at all. I tried every technique on the way down only to be greeted with more and more pain…

I started to panic.

I was aware that everyone was down already and the other group on our boat was slowly making their way past me. I was torn between fear and determination. I’m sure you are all aware of how much I hate not being good at something. I wanted to cry. I started to heave into my regulator and this triggered the urge to remove it completely – what a fucking ridiculous idea 6 feet under!

The instructors were fantastic. Rikky stuck by my side for a while and was completely soothing with her patience and her eye contact with me. This made me all the more determined. She then had to leave me to join the rest of the group and complete buoyancy checks so Kevin took over. Kevin was my saviour! Gripping my hand the whole way and taking it so very slowly. Eventually, after several minutes my ears appeared to clear and I suddenly realised that I was at the bottom! Relief!! We shared a little celebration before making our way towards the museum.

Visibility was not at it’s best for our dive so suddenly, out of no where these statues loomed into sight. A surreal experience. A group of them stand together with a variety of expressions and stances, but all appear to be looking at you as you swim by. Fish dart and glide between them all, occasionally nibbling at the marine life that has adopted this new “home”. Before I knew it, our 40 minutes was up and we had to make our way up to the surface.

By this time the sea had become incredibly choppy and as soon as we clambered up onto the boat people were throwing up over the sides. I should mention here that despite the slight hangover we were each battling this probably would have happened anyway! I, somehow, managed to hold onto the contents of my stomach. But my ears – wow. I couldn’t hear in my left ear at all and I was aware of a very loud crackling and popping in my right ear. I was still in a small amount of pain as well.

We made our way to the next location for our second dive and I decided I probably couldn’t put my ears through it again so unfortunately, and now regrettably, I sat this one out. Along with two others, one with the same problem and the other who just felt too ill. Rikky had advised that the seasickness would be diminished once in the water again but this guy didn’t feel he could make it.

I realise that this sounds like a bloody awful experience. It wasn’t. I loved being down there in another world. It was incredible and it felt strangely intimate because of the experience shared as a group. I would love to be able to take it up as a hobby and potentially do my open water certificate but I’m not sure my body wants me to. I have been advised that it gets a lot easier with the more dives you do and many people have the same problem. Perhaps I shall try it again. Who knows!

It is something to tick off my bucket list either way! (I keep meaning to actually formulate a bucket list for this blog – I will get round to it soon!)

The rest of our time spent on this island consisted of wandering round a few stalls, lazing on the beach, making some fantastic friends, and partying until the early hours of each morning (the drinks were cheap so this wasn’t as extravagant as it sounds). We were also shown a fantastic spot for snorkelling.

I feel I should also bring up the story of the stolen phone and purse that many of you are aware of already.

One particularly fantastic night at Poc Na resulted in 15 of us not wanting the party to end at 3am. Skinny dipping was mentioned – my new favourite thing! Before leaving the hostel, I remember thinking I should put my bag in my locker – I didn’t need it! But suddenly, we were all rushed out of the hostel and I simply didn’t do it. Silly, I know! So we were all in the sea – starkers – and our clothes and bags were up near the trees, not far from the water. Some of us got out early and made their way back to the hostel. Another group then got out and were accosted by the Mexican police, 2 men and a woman. They were told to hand over their money or, if that wasn’t an option, they could pay with sex. Yes… sex!

Obviously, the girls handed over everything they had (about 700 pesos between them – £30) and made their way home, disturbed but relieved.

The rest of us were completely oblivious to the events that had taken place. By the time we returned to our belongings the police had gone through everything. Pockets were empty, phones were missing and bags had been raided for purses. I had a small amount of cash in my purse and two cards! Stupidly! I haven’t been carrying my cards around with me and have been keeping them locked up. However, I had taken both out with me that evening to book another night at the hostel and get some cash. What bad luck!

We went to the police station straight away in the hope that maybe we could get our stuff back, or at least pay a small fee for the return of the cards and phones. We were told to return in the morning. Karen and I made our way there early the next day and made a statement, the guy who dealt with us was very understanding but after a few hours wait we were told there was nothing they could do. They seemed to be aware of which officers it would have been and we were advised that they would lose their jobs – I sincerely doubt this.

Karen and Sera were absolutely amazing and I was so lucky to have them with me at that moment! I had a third card with me but Santander hadn’t confirmed that I was able to use my card yet. The girls did not hesitate to offer me whatever money I needed until I could access my bank and pay them back. My angels! It felt shit having to rely on someone in this way but I love them for it all the same!

We spent Christmas Eve on Isla Mujeres and we decided to splash out and go for a very lavish meal. Oh my! It was so delicious! I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but nearly all of us had steak, and it was huge and perfect and it cost us about £8. Win! An excellent way to start off our celebrations. We then continued to dance our way into Christmas Day with full bellies and tinsel in our hair!

Merry Christmas!!

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Tulum, Mexico

So we arrived in Tulum after a long night bus from Palenque. I took this joruney with Emily and our bus was nearly an hour and a half late from Palenque so we arrived mid morning. After heading straight to the Weary Traveller hostel (one recommended to me by the special papers handed to us in Merida) we were reunited with Liv who had left us just a day earlier. It had felt like a life time!

This hostel is pretty good! You can cook your own breakfast. They provide eggs, pancake mix, bread, jam, butter, cereal, milk. You can easily stuff yourself and not have to eat anything until evening. They also provide free rice, pasta and lentils for dinner. It had its own small pool and two large communal areas, hammocks, and a burn your own BBQ. Highly recommended!

We wanted a relaxed first day due to the tiring journey so we decided to hire bikes and cycle down to the beach. This isn’t too far, but it’s definitely not walking distance in the heat. The beach was beautiful! Gorgeous clear blue seas and white sands. We spent the afternoon there before going out for a fantastic Thai meal to celebrate Liv’s last night. She had a flight back to the UK the next day. We didn’t have the energy to party in one of the local bars after our meal, so Sera suggested we grab some beers and head to the beach. What an idea!

We were joined on the beach by three guys that were camping there. A German, a Chilean and an Argentinian. I’m struggling to remember their names. (Oops!) We talked, listened to music, kept a lookout for shooting stars. It was really special. At some point in the night we all stripped off and ran into the sea, most of us looked like we were still wearing underwear because of our white bits! Such fun! We stayed on the beach until maybe four or five o’clock before heading back to the hostel.

The next day we wanted to check out Akumal, a place around a half hour drive away from Tulum where you can snorkel with Turtles. We got there to find that they had closed off the beach, a move made by the government because the beach and a building on it had been bought by the Bush family. Locals were protesting and trying to fight for the reopening of the beach because that was where they made their livelihood: stall owners, tour guides, etc. We were given this information by a guy called Angel, who usually ran the snorkel tours. He was unable to work and did not know when the beach would be reopened. I have since heard that it is open again.

So Angel did not have any work for that day so he advised that he was able to take us on a snorkel tour of a cave and a cenote, one only open to 50 people per day and, therefore, not so well known. I still cannot remember the name of this place so I am unable to recommend it. We agreed on a price and jumped in a collectivo with Angel, joined by a couple from the States. The snorkelling was really cool! I did not know what to expect and supposed that we would just be looking at the fish in the cenote’s pool. However, a guide took us down with a torch and, once we were all in the water, he advised that everyone follow him in single file. We then found ourselves in a tight cave system and were having to squeeze ourselves between stalactites and the small space between them and the water. Underneath the surface, he pointed out other cave systems with his torch. A fantastic surprise experience! There are a lot of cenotes in the area surrounding Tulum. I’ve heard a lot are quite expensive to get into and then hire gear. One can only assume how busy the most well known ones are. We saw no other tourists on this particular trip.

That afternoon we wandered round the shops and found lots of gorgeous little trinkets. We immediately wished we had bought more stuff in San Cristobal because the price difference is insane. Tulum is obviously a more touristy destination so they can get away with it.

The next day we attempted to visit the ruins in Tulum. We arrived around half past 11 and the queue to get in was ridiculous. We arranged to return early the next day and spent the rest of the day on the beach. Easy life!

The ruins were worth it. I had considered myself a little tired of ruins but Tulum is very special. It sits on the cliff overhanging the beaches on that coast and was used as a port back in the day. I wish I had photos of this place because I took some decent ones! I will try and get some off the girls and add them at a later date. The site is quite small and was gradually filling with people as we left. It doesn’t take any longer than an hour. We then wandered around the markets again and then checked out of the Weary Traveller to start our journey to Isla Mujeres just off the coast of Cancún.



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