Compared to such spots as Dubai, Ibiza and Vegas, Cancun holds its own as one of the world’s largest and most happening party spots.  My only previous experience with Cancun consisted of staring wide-eyed at MTV and thinking really?! I must say however that our real-time experience was non other than quite pleasant.  Honestly.  It was.

For starters, we spent a few days in the lap of luxury thanks to my mom.  She had booked her winter vacation at an all-inclusive resort but 5 kilometers away from where we’d been camping in Puerto Morelos.  At first I will admit it was hard to come to terms with the resort business and the Americanized version of Mexico one enters into, but once my mom was there to spend time with any feelings of wanting a hurricane to take out resorts like these melted away.  Highlights included numerous Scrabble games (when I say numerous, I mean about 10 over the course of 5 days), walks along the beach, some tennis, obviously lots of eating and drinking things we normally wouldn’t (this is starting to sound like a personal add) and overall great quality family time.  My mom and I also had the pleasure of stumbling into a family doing yoga one morning, guided by their daughter, Kelly, who had just been certified as an instructor.  For the next week I joined them every morning for a regular practice.  I can’t express enough how great it was to do yoga with other people, especially with a teacher as great as Kelly.

We rang in the New Year with cheer and made our way towards the actual city of Cancun on the 1st, with our destination of the evening being Isla Mujeres.  Our main plan for the island, besides the usual taking it all in, was to hopefully land a spot on a sailboat heading for Cuba.  We had a bit of a time restraint, as our visa deadline was mere days away, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.  It’s an understatement when I say we learned a lot about the prospect of sailing to Cuba, as well as all the technicalities of just going to Cuba in general, which we had expected.  In the end, we ended up heading back to the mainland with the intention of purchasing airline tickets.

As usual, the call of white sand and beaches with no one on them drew us down to Isla Blanca, a bit north of Cancun.  Following a dirt road for about 4.5 k, we ended at a beach we happily called home for two days.  Having scored some old National Geographics and with the intent of finishing a Farley Mowat book Kurt and I have been sharing, the days passed easily.  Feeling rejuvenated from our quiet time, something that I can now vouch for as being possible in Cancun, we headed back towards el centro to check some big items off our “heading for Cuba” list.

The mum! Precious cargo. We took some time to ride my mom back to Puerto Morelos to check out the town and our camp spot...

Along with the mum came some amazing gifts of couscous and not-found-in-Mexico spices, essential hub parts, chains, a fresh t-shirt and new shoes. I am finally able to put these puppies to rest. They've had a long haul and, as you can see, were just barely hanging on in the end. The inserts had completely removed themselves from the bind of the shoe...

The fast life of downtown Cancun...

The scene as we waited on the docks. The ferry over to Isla Mujeres was the first time my bike has ever been on a boat. Verrrry exciting. It's a commuter ferry, leaving from Puerto Juarez every half hour and costing 70 pesos one way. One could argue that's a lot to pay for a 20 minute boat ride, but ours happen to come with a beautiful sunset and live music, making the experience quite worth it...

It was on Isla Mujeres that Kurt parted with our dear friend Larson, the tried and true sleeping mat that's been in use for the last 6 months. After Thermarest refused to warranty their malfunctioning product Kurt had been traveling with (apparently you are not supposed to get them dirty, who knew?) he found Larson on the side of the road in Arizona. Larson was quite versatile and will be greatly missed...

Our dreams of sailing to Cuba only escalated with views like this...

...and this...

Isla Mujeres is 8 kilometers long and only about 650 meters wide. There is a scenic byway along one side of the island, rolling along between million dollar homes and a cliff side...

The seashell house, my favorite...

Our days on Isla Blanca truly felt like a vacation from a vacation...

The day began as all days of rest should, swinging in a hammock perched on an old, but sturdy dock...

The color of this water never ceases to capture my attention...

...as did these curious little things. Rolled up on the surf, they were little thin-layered balls filled with what looked to be water and sand. They had a pink coral of sorts attached to the outside and they were no bigger than the size of a superball...

Ten toes to the warmth, putting an end to the day ...

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Caribbean Christmas…

January 8, 2011

Our Yucatan journey was coming to an end as we neared closer and closer to the far edge of Mexico.  Our destination for this little bit… Puerto Morelos, a tiny fishing spot/low-key tourist town located a good bit aways from the hustle and bustle of Cancun.  Our morning started as all mornings do when I know we’re close to something very new to me… by telling Kurt over and over how excited I am.  This day did not disappoint.  We happily rode the bike paths along the main road, used mostly for front loading trikes carting wood, before turning down a quiet road leading to the coast.  The area is riddled with cenotes, bright blue and green freshwater sink holes ideal for snorkeling and swimming, as well as “adventure” resorts, advertising zip lines, atvs, and wild outdoor activities.

The Caribbean came as a greatly welcomed shock.  You can do as much research as you want, viewing pictures of the ocean, the sunsets, the thick and colorful fish, but until I rode straight up to the edge of the dock, there was nothing to truly prepare me for the happiness I was going to feel.   I must admit, there are not many times I get the kick-you-in-the-guts accomplished feel.  Most days it really just feels like a bike ride from A to B with excellent camping in between.  I am happy to say though that this Caribbean viewing flashed our entire journey thus far through my head and it felt great to squish my feet in the soft white sand and stare across our watery prize.  What usually takes a couple of hours on a plane to reach, we had finally met after months of pedaling and bicycle travel.

Puerto Morelos is like that comforting back porch offering respite from the annoying high school party.  It was hardto believe we were but 50 kilometers from a place compared to Vegas, Dubai and Ibiza.   Camping was relatively easy, as long as you don’t mind dragging and pushing your bike down through sand for a bit.  We stayed down in an encampment with, at times, 4 other tents of travelers and local kids, having fires nightly.  The common question from home has been how did you spend Christmas Day?.  In words, I spent it… marinating vegetables, doing yoga, reading in my hammock, giving out haircuts, fishing off the pier and swapping campfire stories with a well seasoned man from Nicaragua.  Not bad, I’d say.  Not bad at all.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go...

And there we had it... bikes + sand + water + Kurt = bliss. The waters are much more tranquil than their Pacific counterparts, but the area is frequented by devastating hurricanes. 4 years ago Hurricane Wilma caused billions in damage...

Like a dream, the water switches from this clear turquoise color to a deeper sapphire blue where reefs are present. The Mesoamerica Barrier Reef, passing off the coast of Mexico, Belize and Honduras is the second largest reef in the world...

The sand quickly envelops every part of you and everything you have, and I'm sure will remain in our bags for months to come...

Saved by the buoyancy of citrus. The last sips of a cold, refreshing cerveza, complete with lime. Happy holidays and cheers to all...

Despite nightly rainfall, our days ended with campfires from scavenged driftwood...

Chichen Itza…

January 6, 2011

Recently crowned as one of the “new seven wonders of the world,” a visit to Chichen Itza proves to be a theme park-like experience… just without the rides and games (unless you make your own, of course).  Throngs of people exit from tour buses throughout the day to stroll around on the grounds and catch a glimpse of the very impressive structures.  This is the site most well-known for its Mayan calendars, found in the buildings and columnar layouts around the site.

All pathways are lined with locals selling the usual Mayan fare.  Handmade (mostly) wooden and stone carvings, painted ceramic bowls, hammocks, t-shirts, statues and figurines fill your vision as you make your way from ruin to ruin.

In an effort to save a couple pesos (and the boredom that can often accompany visits to these piles of rocks), I was designated explorer and photographer.  The entrance fee is a cringeworthy 160 pesos and after I perused the area, I was very pleased at our decision to only pay for one ticket.    I arrived early in the day and traversed the organized walkways, making note of the massive buildings.

This is the attention grabber as you enter into Chichen Itza. Besides for being an impressive work of architecture, El Castillo is also a massive Mayan calendar. Click here to read more...

The observatory, El Caracol, in which windows of the dome align with certain stars throughout the year, working to allow priests to plan rituals and celebrations accordingly...

Chichen Itza is definitely the most renovated all of the ancient Mayan establishments...

Numerous chambers are found within these structures with hieroglyphics sketched inside, some which have yet to even be translated...

Jose, one of the stone carvers working within the grounds...

Many time temples grace the grounds, seeing an influx in visitors during the equinoxes...

And again, the columns... letting me know it's about time to find Kurt and head on down the road...