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Friday 8 Nov 2013
Cancun, Mexico

Pool, beer, sunshine, sorted.

Wow!

I had no idea how exhausted I was after that epic road trip.  I used to cover 3,000 miles a month regularly for work - and that was just part of the working day that included hospital visits, operating theatres visits, patient home visits and running around like the proverbial blue fly trying to track down the rental equipment that regularly went AWOL around a large teaching hospital.  But that was a few years ago and it seems I am more out of the driving habit than I had thought.  This year, I've probably only driven a couple of hundred miles in total.  Add to that the facts that the steering wheel was on the wrong side, the cars were on the wrong side, the street signs were ambiguous at best and I could have cheerfully launched the sat nav over the edge of the Hoover Dam by the end of the trip, and perhaps it's no wonder I was tired when I reached Mexico.

I needed a place to crash and I found it in the shape of the Royal Caribbean in Cancun.  It was a big timeshare resort in the Hotel Zone (a narrow strip of land that reaches out in a loop along the edge of the Caribbean Sea) designed to cater to middle-aged Americans who never leave the complex, but it came complete with a beach, several pools, a restaurant and a quiet apartment for me to catch up on some much needed sleep.  Perfect.

My journey didn't start well when I arrived at LAX at 3am but the check-in desks didn't open for another half an hour.  A lady eventually appeared at the first class counter so I went to ask her where the economy check in was, as it didn't appear to be in the same hall but I didn't know where else to look, but before I could open my mouth she held up her hand and said 'I'm not open yet, I can't help you.' Being British and polite, I said I wasn't trying to check in, just asking for directions, to which she again said 'I'm not open yet, go and read the signs' and refused to even look at me.  I walked away, stunned at her rudeness - such a contrast to all the very helpful Americans I have met on my travels - and meekly asked another man who was putting out the queue dividers.  He was much more helpful and I told him so, discovering in the process that he was, in fact, the first lady's supervisor... Oh, satisfaction can be found in the simplest of things at 3.30am when you're not a morning person.  I happily dropped her right in it, in my polite British way, and carried on my way.

But either karma came back at me, or that was my only luck for the day, as not much else went my way from then on.  My passport wouldn't scan and allow me to check-in at the self service counters, despite being sent back twice to try it again before they would check me in the old fashioned way at the counter.  Then, I discovered there was no Gluten Free food to be had in the departure lounge areas, other than a tube of expensive Pringles, so I decided to wait for the food on the plane.  Except there was no food on the plane.  Apparently, American Airlines stopped doing food on flights after 911, but my travel agent had neglected to mention this to me.  The only food available was a selection of Gluten unfriendly snacks that I could purchase.  The passenger next to me very kindly gave me a protein bar to get me through the 4.5 hour flight to Miami.  

At Miami, I wasted nearly an hour looking for my bag and queing up at the lost luggage counter, only to be told it had been checked right through to Mexico, which they had definitely not told me in LA.  The lady then showed me that my boarding card wallet had a second pocket and I had the boarding card for my second flight already, which I also hadn't been shown earlier.  So I went on to security and found the short queue I was in was taking a long time to move.  It turned out they were still suffering from the Government furloughing, so were running under-staffed.  Certain airlines were funding extra staff, on the agreement that their first class passengers and families could queue jump, as could any airport employees, so my queue of 20 people took almost an hour to get through.  There were some pretty irate passengers in the queue who were in danger of missing their flights, while I was more concerned about whether I had time to get any food before my next one.  I'd now been up for over 9 hours with only a protein bar to go on.  I was not a happy camper either.  I finally made it through with about 15 minutes left and had to settle for wolfing down a very unappetising Wendy's burger and fries while trying to get a few minutes' more power into my laptop at the gate.

I finally landed in Mexico early evening and got a minibus to the hotel, dumped my things and treated myself to steak and shrimp fajitas at the restaurant by the pool, reading my Kindle until I could hardly keep my eyes open.  

I spent two days sleeping and starting to catch up on my roadtrip blog while drinking ice cold Corona by the pool, until my friend Christina arrived.  She was as exhausted as me, having packed up her flat and her life in Sweden, squeezing in a few days in New York and a road trip from Beaver Creek, Nebraska, through Oaklahoma to Dallas, Texas. So we sat together by the pool, drank ice cold Coronas and read books/typed blogs until we could both gather enough energy to start a rational conversation.  I met Christina in Cairns back in April and again in Noosa in May and we got on well.  She learned to dive shortly before I did and loved it as much as I did, so we had made a plan to meet up here on her way back to Australia.

The plan was simple:  Travel from Cancun to Guatemala, taking in a selection of amazing jungle temples and Mayan ruins, dive the Blue Hole in Belize and see if we found any other interesting dive sites on the way.

Neither of us had counted on being so utterly exhausted or unprepared by the time we arrived though.  Even after 5 days in Cancun, I didn't feel a lot happier about leaving our little bubble.  We got it together enough to catch the bus into town, a second bus down to Playa del Carmen and a ferry over to the island of Cozumel.  Our brief glimpse of Playa del Carmen told us it was full of American tourists, noisy bars, souvenir shops and tour guides happy to relieve you of as much money as possible.  A little judgemental, perhaps, but it wasn't what we were looking for.  

The main street in Cozumel was a little less hectic, but not all that much better, for the simple reason that this is one of the main stops for the Caribbean cruise liners.  Everything within a block of the water is aimed at that captive tourist market.  However, one block further in and Cozumel becomes much more relaxed and a much nicer place to be.  We found Amigos hostel after a painfully long walk with all our bags (Mental note: get a taxi on the way back) and were greeted by the owner, Kathy.  An ex-pat New Yorker, she was a great lady who told us things exactly like they were, which was that she'd accidently double booked the only private room, so we'd have to be in the dorm for two nights instead of one.  She was so mortified that she gave us the second night free and put a six-pack of beer in the fridge for us by way of apology.  We loved the hostel instantly and stayed there for over a week.

 

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #2 Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica

Travel blog by zobeedoo

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I met Christina in April. We travelled a bit of Australia together and both learned to dive. Now we're off to Mexico and Belize to see what the Caribbean and the Great Mesoamerican Reef have to offer, before I head down to Costa Rica for 10 days.

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