Barry got some great photos last night of the full moon from our veranda. I couldn't pick just one, so I'll give you a series. It really was breathtaking.
As many times as we've ridden by this surprising sight on our bikes, we've never stopped to take a photo until today.
It used to have a sheet metal structure partially enclosing it, but awhile ago, that structure disappeared. Here's a closer look.
This is the only public toilet north of the bridge that we are aware of -- maybe on the whole island! Belize is not big on public restrooms.
We rode north to Grand Belizean Estates this morning, and this time the cart path was not booby-trapped. Aside from a couple of scabs on my skinned knee, I'm all healed up from last week's incident. Thanks to all who expressed concern and outrage -- your words were much appreciated.
Had to snap a few shots on our way home from town today of all the work being done from the Palapa Bar north to Grand Caribe all of a sudden. It's a real beehive of activity. There's road work, construction, and lot clearing.
The road between the Palapa Bar and Grand Caribe is being widened quite a bit. You can see the widening around the curve here. (Sorry it's blurry, I was riding my bike while snapping photos.)
In the photo above, you can see where Barry is standing with his bike. The road north turns to the right. To the left, there is a road that used to be little more than a narrow path. Now it's a lot more than that. Here's the new view down that "path" to the left. As for why this was widened, it remains to be seen. Are they hoping to bring in large vehicles laden with construction supplies the back way? Possibly.
Now, looking north up the road where it is being widened up to people's fences.
A bit farther north but looking southwards, the Maya House is having to move their fence back to allow the road widening.
A little farther north, more road widening being done on the left.
Just before arriving at Grand Caribe, a large lot has been cleared on the lagoon side of the road in the past week or so. Perhaps whatever is being built here requires access by some really large trucks, and thus explains the widening of the road. We've heard rumors of a convention center being built don't have any confirmation yet.
If you've got the "scoop", feel free to enlighten us in the comment section below. Thanks!
Occasionally we have seen a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron hanging around Grand Caribe at dusk. And sometimes Paisley flushes one out of the grass during her night-time walk that I don't even see until it flaps off, startled. But recently Barry saw one down the beach, hunting in the shallows, in the light of day. He rushed back in for his camera, hustled back down the beach, and the heron was still there. He managed to get some really nice shots, which had proved impossible at dusk. I love this hunting sequence.
See that black fishing line in the photo above? It looks pretty innocuous, right? Like it couldn't hurt a flea.
I can only assume that that is what a prankster thought when he strung it tightly across the cart path up near Indigo and Grand Belizean Estates this morning.
It was a splendid Sunday morning after a cold front passed through Belize yesterday. Bright sunshine, low humidity, and a moderate north breeze made for a perfect morning for bicycling. We rode north up the beach in great spirits. I even sighted and stopped to snap a photo of this Black-Headed Trogan right by the White Sands Dive Shop. I couldn't believe how close he let me get. I wish you could see his distinctive light-blue eye in this photo.
With Indigo condominiums up ahead, we turned sharply left and rounded the curve on the cart path, heading to Grand Belizean Estates.
Before I could even process what was happening, I heard Barry yell out "woah" or something similar. I was close behind him, and almost right as I heard him yell, I felt something hit me full-on in the face. It stopped me and my bike immediately in my tracks, and the next thing I knew, I crashed down on my right side (the same side I went down on and fractured my pelvis when road riding in North Carolina in 2005).
Moments later, we realized what had happened. Some Darwin-award contender had strung a piece of strong black braided fishing line tautly across the path, a booby-trap for anyone coming by with any speed at all. Since Barry has flat bars on his bike, he was leaning slightly forward, so he hit the line right above the brim of his ball cap, which thankfully he was wearing or his scalp would have been hit full on. I, on the other hand, was sitting upright. And before he could warn me, the line caught me right across the mouth. It did not break the skin, but it stung like a sonofagun. And I was banged up from the fall as the sand is very hard there.
After this incident, I was in no shape to continue the ride. I was angry and hurting. I tied my bandanna around my leg to catch any bleeding from where I fell and scraped up my right knee, and turned around and rode back home to administer first aid, with Barry close behind me to make sure I was okay.
Taking stock of the damage at home, I have a swollen welt on the right side of my face from where I ran into the line, a badly skinned right knee, a sore and swollen palm on my right hand, and a couple of small scrapes on my left leg. My shorts got scraped up, and I will certainly have a bruise on my butt tomorrow. As bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse. Just imagine what could have happened if the line had hit at neck level, or if the jerk who did this had used wire instead of fishing line.
I can only assume that whoever did this was playing a prank and that we were not intentionally targeted. Maybe the expected a golf cart to hit the line and be startled by the palmetto it was tied to to suddenly rustling towards them as if a madman were jumping out of the bushes. I'd like to assume they didn't think about a bicyclist getting injured. Right after I went down, a golf cart came through from the other direction. If we'd been two minutes later, he would have been the victim, not us.
I write this post not for sympathy; I'm a little sore and banged up but am sure I'll be fine in a few days. But mostly we wanted to warn others who might ride bikes in that area, just in case the genius who set the trap decides to strike again. Since the fishing line is virtually invisible, ride or drive very slowly in this area. Something like this shouldn't happen to anyone on this island, whether it be a tourist, expat, or local.
We rarely go out on Valentine's Day any more since most nice restaurants do special (i.e., more expensive) menus, and we also prefer to avoid crowds. So we decided to have our "Valentine's" dinner out two nights before the actual day of hearts and flowers. It's just a day, right?
We hadn't been to Aji in a long time, and it couldn't be more convenient since it's in very close walking distance of our condo, so off we went. We had a lovely table in the garden with a view of the sea. And once the sun went down, the twinkling white lights combined with the clear, starry night sky provided the perfect setting. There was a good breeze so no bugs bothered us, an added bonus.
We started with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and our cute waiter, Rudolph, brought us a plate of bruschetta to accompany the wine. It tasted like parmesan cheese bread, homemade of course. Yum.
We both ordered the special, Tropical Snapper. Rudolph commented that he could tell we'd been married a long time since we ordered the same thing. We laughed and told him how we did that so often in Mexico -- I'd order from the Spanish menu, and Barry got very good at saying "lo mismo" (the same)! We really do enjoy most of the same foods and accuse each other of "copying" in restaurants quite often.
After demolishing everything on our plates, I think Rudolph was surprised that we had room for dessert. But of course we did -- after all, this was our Valentine's Day dinner. We had two choices, chocolate rum cake and key lime pie. I let Barry decide, and he picked the cake.
The cake was great, of course, but as we were sharing it, I confessed that I really loved their key lime pie best. When Rudolph came back, Barry said "Emily said she really wanted the key lime pie, so please bring us a slice of that!"
Whatta guy! I love my Valentine.
And to top off the delicious meal, Rudolph presented us with shots of Kahlua with a Bailey's float -- on the house! If we weren't already on a sugar high, this would do it. But oh so deliciously!
It was a special and lovely night at Aji, as always!
After sixteen days of travel to five cities, our last day in Mexico had arrived. It was December 20. We figured if the world was going to end on December 21, we would just as soon be back home with Paisley. (And of course I'm just joking; we never for a minute expected the world to end, but it was fun that we were traveling during the peak of interest in the Maya world and right around such an anticipated date!)
We started with a wonderful breakfast in our favorite Tulum breakfast eatery, Azafran. Despite some mosquitoes in the garden, we had a delicious meal, excellent service, and some of the best coffee that we had on our entire trip. This is the only place we got whole-wheat bread in Mexico, and the freshly squeezed OJ was great too. We can't recommend this place enough if you are in Tulum. Barry ordered the same loaded omelet as before, and I tried the fruit crepes. Delish!
Here's a friendly fellow we met on our walk back to the hotel from breakfast, hanging out in front of his owner's home courtyard.
We'd be heading south on this road to Chetumal to catch the ferry back to San Pedro. We got another beautiful day for travel.
As I may have mentioned in a previous post, while Mexican cities can have a ton of traffic at times, like this:
In contrast, the highways are typically practically deserted by US standards. Most people seem to travel by bus. Love the lack of traffic jams! We had another great view from the front row in the ADO bus.
But this day was not to be without drama and a bit of panic. We had "open date" water taxi tickets back to Belize that we'd paid for as part of the round trip. When we arrived at the San Pedro Water Jets terminal (via taxi from the Chetumal ADO bus station) at 2:15 for the 3 pm water taxi, we were informed that the boat was already full and that we should have made a reservation the day before. Although there are two water taxi companies, and since we last visited Mexico, they have changed to an alternating day schedule, so there was no other boat to take back to San Pedro that day. I strongly question the the alternating schedule since they could certainly fill both boats during high tourist season; though the schedule makes perfect sense during slow season. This was not slow season.
We tried to explain that we had tried to get reservations for a particular return date when we bought our tickets but were told that we couldn't do that, and that we had a dog boarding in San Pedro whom we needed to pick up. We were never advised back in San Pedro to confirm our return reservations a day ahead, probably because there were many fewer people traveling back in early December. The attendant put us on the waiting list but said that they could not guarantee us seats as the boat was full. She had a long list of travelers with confirmed reservations, but we could see that not all of them had been marked off as having checked in. We had some hope since we weren't turned away immediately.
While we sat and waited, more and more confirmed passengers checked in. Several other people without reservations came in trying to get on the boat, same as us. One party of four was turned away because they were even lower down the "waiting" list than us. A couple of other young men traveling alone were hanging around like we were, hoping for a spot to open up. We had purposely spent most of our pesos other than those needed for the $300 MX (approximately $24 US) per-person exit fee. If we'd had to stay in Chetumal, we'd have to find an ATM for more cash, get a hotel, contact Pampered Paws online (our cellphone did not work in Mexico), lose the money we'd prepaid for the tickets, and try to get tickets on the other boat the following day. NOT something we wanted to contemplate. Another far-fetched alternative would have been to take a bus or taxi to the Belize border, check out of Mexico and into Belize there, take another taxi to the Corozal airstrip, and try to catch the last flight of the day back to San Pedro on Tropic Air. This possibility seemed fraught with problems because we were already tight on time, and there was no guarantee of any available seats on the plane without reservations, and no easy way to call without trying to locate and figure out a payphone. Yes, I was inwardly panicking!
The clock kept ticking, and we kept watching the passenger list on the attendant's desk. As it got closer and closer to 3pm, there were still a few people with reserved slots who had not checked in. Finally, it became apparent that they weren't going to make it in time, so the attendant crossed out their names and put ours on the manifest in their places. One other single man made it on the same way. We breathed the hugest sighs of relief!
We still had to make it through Immigration, though this time the officer was very pleasant and friendly to us. (This was the same man who'd been so rude when we'd come to Chetumal for the day and had been forced to pay the exit fee even though it is not required for visits of less than seven days.)
There was a lengthy holdup on the dock as the Mexican police and drug-sniffing dogs went over everyone's bags and searched the boat. This surprised us since there was no luggage check on the way out of Mexico last time. I'm not sure why they would care about drugs being taken out of the country! When we were finally able to board, we were packed in like sardines, but we were so happy to be ON the boat we weren't complaining!
With the long delay to get everyone and their luggage onboard, the boat was over thirty minutes late leaving the dock. When we arrived in San Pedro, we'd have to go through customs and immigration, then run (literally) over to Pampered Paws to pick Paisley up before they closed at 6 pm. It was going to be a tight connection, to say the least.
We were sweating it out on the boat as it seemed like the longest ride of our lives. The minutes kept ticking by, and when we finally pulled into the dock in San Pedro, we had less than 45 minutes before Pampered Paws closed. I immediately called Kathy there and told her that we would be cutting it very close but were on our way to pick up Paisley just as soon as we made it through the lines. She assured me they would be waiting for us, but I didn't want anyone to have to work late, so we hustled as close as we could to the front of the line for immigration.
If we'd been at the back of the line, I don't think we would have made it, but we were lucky enough to make it through pretty quickly, and the custom's official didn't choose us for a luggage search; probably because we were carrying such small bags compared to a lot of folks. She was in a jovial mood, and that set us at ease.
Fortunately, Pampered Paws is not too far from the Water Jets building, so we were able to make it with a few minutes to spare. Paisley was beside herself with joy and jumped up and down at least a hundred times behind the glass door when she saw us. She always has a great time at Pampered Paws, and we feel totally comfortable leaving her there when we travel. And they're so nice about keeping her a little longer if we decide to extend our trip by a day or two, as we have done a couple of times now.
All that was left to do now was to catch a taxi back to our condo, never a difficult thing to do in San Pedro. We were so thankful that we made it home and did not have to scramble for another day in Chetumal. And what do you know, the world didn't end the next day after all!
El Fin...thanks for (virtually) joining us on this long journey!
Today's travel would take us from Merida back to Tulum, in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico. But first, breakfast! We decided to try the restaurant at our hotel (the Hotel Maria del Carmen). They had an absolutely huge buffet, but I didn't think I'd get my money's worth since I'd been eating light after my brush with Montezuma's Revenge, and my appetite still wasn't back to normal. Barry also passed on the buffet since he said it looked very heavy. So, he enjoyed hotcakes and fruit, and I had plain scrambled eggs, still babying my stomach a bit.
Thus fortified, we took one final walk up to the Paseo de Montejo. Looks like a festival was coming up, as this electronic billboard was not there the first time we came through.
The Merida ADO station was busy this morning.
Tulum was busier than when we were here before, with the end of the Mayan calendar just two days away. We were awfully glad to have reservations at the Secret Garden Hotel.
We walked right on over from the bus terminal and checked in. The room we were in this time had a sink and dorm-size fridge. It was nice to be able to keep our water bottles cold. Few hotels in Mexico have fridges in the room, at least the ones we stayed in, which tended to be older. This was the one and only fridge of our entire trip.
As usual, once we got settled in, we took off walking around town.
Barry finally managed to catch a photo of this man who bikes around the neighborhoods near the hotel, constantly squeaking a little horn to advertise his sweet breads, even after dark. He's like the Mexican version of the Good Humour man!
We decided to walk back to El Camello for a seafood dinner since it was so reasonably priced. But wow, was it packed! We had to wait for a table outside. This place attracts a lot of locals as well as tourists.
Once we finally got our table, they brought us a HUGE plate of chips and some of the complimentary smoked fish dip. Barry ordered the same grilled fish as on our first visit, but I was brave and decided to try the garlic-butter pulpo (octopus). It was really tasty but far too much for me to eat, especially after my stomach shrunk up with my limited appetite over the past few days. I felt bad that I had to leave so much behind.
Amazingly, after that huge dinner, Barry just couldn't leave Tulum without one last visit to the gelateria! Needless to say, I couldn't even think about ordering any.
Stay tuned for the very last post in this interminably long series -- our return to Belize!
Since Barry was able to sleep through the marching-band practice outside our hotel window the night before, he awoke early the next morning with plenty of energy. While I caught up on lost sleep, he walked over to the Campeche waterfront on the Golfo de Mexico and took a long walk, along with some nice morning photos.
Finally I managed to get up, and we walked to Luz de Luna for breakfast. Much to our disappointment, the very sweet proprietor told us they weren't serving this morning because they didn't have a cook or server! Maybe they were sick? So, we had to go with Plan B, wandering around until we found a place to eat. We ended up back at the place we'd had lunch on our first time in town, Chef Color. I was hungry after my brush with Montezuma, but figured plain hotcakes would be easiest on my stomach of the breakfast choices. Barry ordered fruit cup, chaya bread, and Huevos Rancheros. Wouldn't want him to go hungry!
After breakfast, we wandered around and took in the excellent Jorge Marin sculpture exhibit that had arrived in Campeche since our previous visit. The sculptures were SO cool, and the pedestrian streets of charming Campeche a perfect venue. Looks like it's going to be there through March, so if you hurry, you might still be able to check it out in person. But if you can't get there, Barry got some pretty nice photos!
After checking out of the hotel, we made the long walk to the bus station; I was feeling a lot better fortified with my hotcakes.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had front-row seats for the remainder of bus rides on our trip. The views were great. No bulls on the road today, though! We were going through a more modern part of Mexico now.
We had no hotel reservations and could not stay at the bed and breakfast we'd stayed at on the way through Merida before, as Larry has a three-night minimum. In this case, we just wanted to be close to the bus station since we'd only be here one night and had to catch another bus in the morning. We had scoped out a few places on our first time in town, and I'd checked them on Tripadvisor. We decided to try the Hotel Maria del Carmen.
The staff was very nice, the rate reasonable, and the room was well-appointed, but we ended up with another noisy street-side location. After our experience the night before, I should have tried to specify a room off the street, but I'm always just so happy to get a room, any room, when I don't have reservations, that I don't tend to be too picky. The bathroom was not as nice as the room; it was dark, the sink leaked like crazy, and it badly needed updating. But for one night, we could live with it.
When we left the hotel to walk around downtown, we discovered that it had just rained (remember those dark clouds in the earlier photo?) This was the first rain we had seen since entering Mexico two weeks earlier, and it only lasted five minutes!
That night we ate at a downtown restaurant we hadn't tried before but that had received good reviews on Tripadvisor, El Chile Habanero. The restaurant was clean and neat as a pin, air-conditioned, and had a window into the kitchen, so we could see how clean it was behind the scenes as well. Very impressive!
We had read rave reviews for the chef's special Aphrodite Chicken, so Barry ordered that and loved it. It was packed with fresh fruit, and the colors were amazing! I was sticking to a bland-food diet for one more day since I'd been sick the morning before, so I contented myself with a plate of mostly white food, while eyeing Barry's plate enviously. Someday we'll go back and I will have the Aphrodite Chicken myself!
Stay tuned as we head back to Tulum -- our last stop before the final leg home to Belize!
This was not the best morning of the trip. In fact, it was the worst, for me anyway.
I woke up feeling a little nauseous. Barry thought maybe it was because I didn't sleep well, but I wasn't so sure. I had only had one cervasa at the pizza place the night before, so it certainly wasn't a hangover. And Barry had had the same pizza and felt fine, so it wasn't the pizza.
When we were waiting on our breakfast to be served at the Hotel Xibalba in Palenque, I started feeling worse. After a couple of bites of plain toast, I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it down. I bolted to our room and to the bathroom, where I lost my previous night's dinner along with the small amount of breakfast I'd eaten. (I hope that's not too much information!) We had to catch a bus leaving in less than an hour, and it was hard to even imagine traveling as all I wanted to do was lie down and rest. Somehow I got myself together, got back down to the table, and paid for our breakfast. We checked out and made it onto the bus just in the nick of time. I was still feeling a bit queasy and weak, but better than before my run for the porcelain god.
After analyzing what we'd both eaten over the past couple of days, Barry suggested that it might have been the salad I'd eaten at Entropia in San Cristobal de las Casas the night before last. That's something he didn't eat, and you know what they say about raw foods and Montezuma's Revenge. I figured the law of averages had finally caught up to me.
Fortunately, I was feeling better from then on out, just a little weak. I had no appetite and ate nothing at all until dinnertime that day. But, back to the story.
Today we our bus took us from Palenque back to Campeche, Mexico. When planning this trip in Belize, we certainly didn't expect to return to Campeche. It was initially just a convenient stop on the outbound portion of our trip, but turned out to be one of our favorite places we visited.
Fortunately, this bus ride was not full of sick, coughing people, and we had great seats right in the front row passenger side, giving us a wide-angle view out the huge front windshield. Since we'd booked all our tickets at one time in San Cristobal, we actually got these same seats (3 and 4) for the entire rest of our trip -- what a score. We could see so much more than out the side windows. And there were some interesting things to see!
We were happy to see this sign after all that travel excitement.
Because I was still feeling pretty weak, we decided to take a cab from the bus station this time, since it was a long slog to the hotel -- we'd planned to stay at the Hotel Castelmar, where we'd stayed before.
We were able to get a room, but as a walk-in, the room we were given wasn't nearly as nice as the large, inside courtyard room we had the first time around. That room was quiet, with two beds and plenty of room. This room was on the streetside and was very small with only one bed. When the attendant left, we realized that it was going to be really, really noisy as the windows were ancient and didn't filter out much sound, and there was a lot of traffic on the busy street below.
We thought about asking for a different room, but we'd already put stuff everywhere and rumpled the bedspread, and I just didn't feel comfortable complaining, especially in a foreign language that I barely spoke. Times like this are when you really miss being able to speak your native language. Barry was in a grumpy mood because of the noise but somehow managed to take a nap -- I think he was just exhausted.
We headed to our favorite Campeche restaurant for dinner that night, Luz de Luna. I didn't risk having anything more interesting or spicy than chicken-vegetable soup with my stomach issue, but Barry had chicken fajitas, served with all the sauces he loves.
I felt good enough to walk around that evening, and we were delighted to find this 2013 calandario at a small shop. We'd been looking for a calendar during our entire trip, but all we'd managed to find were Mayan calendars or a couple of others that were too large to easily carry along in our limited luggage. This smaller one was perfect and would serve as a reminder of our wonderful trip. Inexpensive too!
It was a happening night in the city, and we happened upon a concert in the park area not too far from our hotel. There were lots of people watching, singing, and dancing around. Very festive!
We also saw that a new Jorge Marin art exhibit had hit the pedestrian streets since we were in town before, but figured we'd get more photos in the morning with better light.
When we got back to our room, we took our showers and hit the hay early. Almost right as my head hit the pillow, I started hearing a marching band practicing. It sounded like they were right outside our window. Even with earplugs, the rhythmic banging of the drums was really loud, and I couldn't believe that Barry had managed to fall asleep, but somehow he had. The practice seemed to last for hours, as every time they would stop for awhile, and I'd think surely it was over, after a five or ten minute break, it would start back up again, as loud as ever. I'm not sure, but it seemed to go on until nearly midnight.
After many nights of firecrackers around the December 12 Virgen de Guadelupe celebrations, we'd expected some quieter nights at this stage of the trip, but we'd have to wait a little longer. Mexico is definitely a night-time kind of place and can be a bit of an adjustment for early-to-bed folks like ourselves.
Stay tuned as tomorrow we head back to Merida, but not without one last look at Campeche's attractive waterfront and artistry!