From Playa Del Carmen - Mexico to San Ignacio - Belize
May 17, 2014
|Our last entry came to its conclusion on Saturday 10th May and we were waiting to meet our fellow travellers for our trip through Central America to Costa Rica.
Our meeting was delayed until 7pm and all of us gathered together in a small room waiting for our guide.
When he hadn't arrived by 7.30pm we were getting a little concerned. Edwin (Eddie) our guide arrived a couple of minutes later and had apparently set his watch to the wrong time zone. A great start?
There are 16 in the group which consists of 5 men and 11 women. The group also consists mainly of young Australians.
There is an older Scottish couple, a young Canadian and British couple, a young Kiwi woman and a young Swiss woman.
We're not all going to Costa Rica and some will be leaving the group earlier on.
On Sunday we had a short midday transfer to a town called Tulum which was about a hour further south and down the coast. We settled into our hotel and while others went to visit a "Cenote"(water cave) or the local Mayan ruins we decided to just chill out by the hotel pool. In the evening we all got together and headed to the local town to try Taco's, these tasty treats do not resemble anything you might see in a Taco Bell restaurant or a kit pack that you can buy from a UK supermarket. We arrived at the open air Taco restaurant which was made up of small plastic tables and chairs. These were hurriedly rearranged to accommodate 17 people. Eddie gave us an explanation of what we could expect and our food was cooked to order. The Taco's consisted of small corn pancakes that can be filled with anything from marinated pork, chicken or vegetables and are about the size of a Chinese crispy duck pancake but much more substantial.They were very tasty but you had to be careful selecting your sauces as the hot sauce could easily blow your socks off. (and we both like spicy food).
We were both well fed, had a soft drink and provided a good tip for the princely sum of $200 peso's (£10)
On Monday we had another day around Tulum and had decided to head to the Mayan ruins. We hired bikes and rode to the site. The bikes didn't have any gears and only had a breaking system that involved peddling backwards which took a bit of getting used to. When we arrived the site was much more developed than we had anticipated. We hired an English speaking guide to show us around the ruins and then had our own personal stroll to take a few photographs.
The site was smaller than Chichen Itza. It had been a coastal settlement for about 500 people. It was very picturesque, next to sea cliffs and a beach that led to the Caribbean Sea.
Having spoken with this guide it is apparent that we were misinformed at our last Mayan site or there was a break down in communication, possibly due to language difficulties.The Mayan's used the limestone dust they created as a form of cement to glue the rocks together. They didn't make blocks from it. We have come to realise that the Spanish destroyed the Mayan written records which were made up of hieroglyphics. This was in an effort to convert them to Christianity and as a result there are no definite answers to how the Mayan's lived and there was a great deal of speculation based on stone carvings etc.
The majority of us took a short taxi drive down to the beach for dinner and we had the usual scrum of 14 people ordering and later paying for their food and drinks.
As it was an early start the next morning we limited our consumption to a couple of beers but others indulged in the 2 for 1 cocktails offer that we thought was fraught with danger.
On Tuesday at 8am we started a long day of traveling and headed to the local bus station for a 4 hour journey to another bus station near the Belize border. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the coach for this first part of our trip. The mexican way to ensure traffic doesn't speed works really well - they have set up numerous sleeping policeman / speed bumps - these even being on 4 lane highways! We had to transfer to a variety of taxis to get all of us to the border. The border crossing was surprisingly easy with no queues or delays. We met up with a couple of mini buses and then our journey slowed when we started driving on the Belize-an side. You could really tell the difference in the condition of the roads with Belize being the poorer neighbour. We set our watches back an hour and for our last leg of the days journey we caught a small passenger ferry from Belize city heading into the Caribbean Sea and about an hour later we had arrived on Caye Caulker island. Our days journey had involved about 10 hours of traveling.
We had a brief tour of the island and beers at sunset. This was followed by a very nice meal at a restaurant where local fish was a speciality.
After dinner we were ready for bed and drifted off to our hotel while the younger members contemplated the potential of this party island.
On Wednesday several of us took up the opportunity for a snorkelling trip to the aquatic national park and reef system. We joined several of the group in chartering a small sail boat with a crew of three to take us to 3 snorkelling sites. It was very hot and we stayed in the shade. The first site was a shallow reef where we saw turtle and large rays. Our second site was for sharks, not the type in "Jaws" these were called nursing sharks, about 6 to 8 feet long and the worst they could do was give you a very strong suck. Our last site provided more turtles and a variety of sea life including a moray eel. During the trip the only music they had was reggae and this was played very loudly and continually. The crew fed us very well during the trip with sea food and chicken. On the way back from our swimming, copious amounts of industrial strength rum punch were served up from large plastic jugs that seemed never ending. A good day was had by all.
After arriving back we took a break as the others partied on.
We had the evening to ourselves and spent it at a beachfront seafood restaurant with a nice cool breeze.
On Thursday we had the morning to explore the island but it was so hot we just found some shade and a breeze by the coast. We caught the noon ferry along with another large group. The ferry was full and a large speedboat was used to transport us back to the mainland.
We transferred to the bus station by some very warn out taxi's.
Belize-an public transport consists of old North American school buses that have the nickname "Chicken buses" - this was due to the locals using the buses for transporting their livestock.
We were lucky enough to get seats for our journey to San Ignacio, a town on the western border. The bus resembled the London Underground during rush hour. I really doubt you could have fitted a chicken on the bus as there were so many people.
We arrived in the early evening and so did a spell of heavy rain so we quickly booked our next adventurous activity, had a meal which this time consisted of a foot long Burrito filled with chicken. We then went to bed to the sounds of some "cat strangling" singing from a nearby karaoke bar.
We took our first malaria tablet since Vietnam and will now have to take them for the rest of the trip to Costa Rica.
There seems to be some confusion within the group as to the need to take this precaution but we were reassured when we found out that a nurse on the trip is also taking medication.
Friday was spent in the jungle going to a nearby cave system that is famous for its Mayan artefacts. the cave is called ATM or Actun Tunichil Muknal.
We drove to a road head with specially licensed guides and then had to swim into the cave mouth before we walked through water about 2 kilometres into the cave system to reach the dry caves where the preserved ceramic pots and skeletons were.
Today is Saturday 17th May and we are on the move again.
This afternoon we will be leaving Belize and crossing the border into Guatemala.
We have been pleasantly surprised by the availability of WiFi so hopefully our next entry will be in about a week or so from somewhere else in Central America,