A Travellerspoint blog

On the road for a couple of days

Mayan ruins and more beaches

sunny 33 °C

We left Isla Mujeres on Thursday and we will miss that little chilled-out island. A rental car awaited in Cancun.
We drove to Valladolid, a colonial town with old Spanish architecture near several Mayan ruins. When we arrived it was fiercely hot without the reprieve of a beach. The car’s AC had not worked well and we were hungry. We scoped out a couple of hotels and settled on the ultra cheap place without taking a really good look at it.
Upon returning after food, water, and exploring the town we realized that it was a true Shithole and somehow we would have to close our eyes and leave early in the morning. I honestly didn’t even want to touch more than I had to in that place. It was a long night and I had all our little alarms bells set-up along the doors and windows. Needless to say I did not sleep a wink. Live and learn. In the morning we set-off for the ruins of COBA. There are few signs describing the ruins because they want you to hire a guide at $25 US for an hour whether the group is one person or 20. When I stood beside another group to listen a guide wanted to charge me $5 US, well that’s rather annoying so we didn’t learn too much but it was interesting to walk around. So much for my Mayan ruin schooling for the kids.
Next we drove to Tulum, a coastal town with a beach area. It’s a combination of hippy and an upscale granola boomer and we could not find a place for under $60 a night. We finally settled on a beautiful simple eco lodge with no electricity, diluted salt water from the tapes, and many cool geckos. This place breathed yoga, meditation and peace but at that price I knew that Tulum was not for us. It’s a place I would go back to but it needs exploring as it is one long stretch of low key cabins on the beach, we were not able to find the budget area but I am sure it’s out there.
The Tulum ruins were very interesting but we had the same problem with fees and guides. You also have pay to park in these places and after a while the constant cash grab dampens the experience.
Off to Playa del Carmen to find accommodations then drop off the car. Time was tight as the car had to be back by 1pm and we raced around looking for decent accoms. P del Carmen is far more tourist and bigger than I thought and we said yes to a place we should have said no. It was a five night deal with food included and the alarm bells should have gone off for me right there. We left the next day as the food and drinks were awful and we found a great place with a kitchen right by the beach. Luckily the first hotel only made me pay the one night but I have to see their accountant for the refund check. Yikes. The other bonus (I am bitting my tongue here) is a giant Wal-Mart 6 blocks away and things don’t get cheaper than that! So this time we will definitely meet our budget target.
Good news, Chris is meeting us in Panama on June 14, we will head to Panama early to scout out the beaches and accommodations.
If you haven’t made reservations ahead of time scope out as many hotels as possible and ask for their lowest price, if it’s for more than three days they will drop the price. This should be a verbal agreement don’t pay ahead.
If you get a kitchen make sure there is a supermarket nearby, you don’t want to cab it every time you grocery shop.
Watch for the scams at Mayan ruins.
Find a traveler who looks like they have been there a while and they will give you many dos and don’ts.
Visit a cenote (natural cave pool excellent for snorkelling and scuba diving) but look at prices as some are ridiculously expensive.

Don’t rent a car in Mexico. There are ridiculous insurance costs, charges and taxes. It’s not worth the price as the buses here are excellent and can take you anywhere.
Don’t get sucked into a beach club situation where you must buy their food and drinks if you are sitting in their beach area. Bring a towel and sit where you want to sit, have a beer where you want to have a beer.

Posted by sostrander 08:25 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Isla Mujeres

What a great start to our year!

sunny 31 °C

After some much need R&R we stayed on Isla Mujeres for almost a week and due to a two day rental car reservation in Cancun we must reluctantly leave La Isla. We chose this Island thanks to the recommendations of Marlisse at EPL. Thanks Marlisse! It's been a wonderful start to the year off. From Cancun airport it is amazingly easy to arrive a world away from Cancun. The ADO red bus from the airport then a collectivo and regular ferry or taxi to the fast ferry. The fast ferry doesn't charge for children under 11 therefore a better deal due to speed and comfort. Pristine turquoise waters surround the island, only mother nature could create these incredible colours and endless white beaches. The little town is bustling and impossible to get lost or loose your children. It seems quite busy and yet the locals say it is deserted due to flu on the mainland and shoulder season. I don't think I want to be here during the peak times. Although I thought there were no cars and one could rent a bike, the opposite is true. Lots of cars, taxis and even a few pick-up trucks and bike rental is absurdly expensive.
Ariel and Jordan snorkle everyday and most of the day, I definitely have future scuba divers here. I wish I had a book on Yucatan/Quintana Roo sea life for their referencing.
We met the most interesting gentlemen named Ricco, an English fellow who builds islands from trash and recycled material, what a great spirit he was and his view of the world was so enlightning. He has been featured on That's impossible and Discovery Channel. We have begun homeschooling but not strickly as it is too hard to stay indoor with this beauty beyond. The people of the island are mostly of Mayan descent, I believe. And they are on average my height or shorter. I am almost above average in height compared to the locals. Wow!
I recommend Island Mujeres and if you are planning visit the island here are a few do's and don't:

Places to eat that are cheap and great:
Luncheria Alexia and Giovanny
San Cocho's on Hidalgo
La Lomita
The nightly taco stand in the Plaza

Places to stay if you can bargain a bit

Xbulu-Ha - New, clean, AC, TV, kitchens but you must bargain with Alfredo
Las Plamas - calmer, no tv, closer to the beach and directly accross from the luncheria, great granola vibe.

Rent a bike, what a rip off, bring your own if possible or walk!
Pay for Parque Garafon, serious rip off
Look for your own great snorkeling opportunities instead of guides
Stay at the Francis Arlene Hotel, overpriced and the Xebulu-ha is across the street
Rent beach chairs and get sucked into beach club, bring your towel choose your watering hole on the beach!

The man made island
Walk more than taxi to the end of the island
Support the sea turtle farm even though the poor turtles are in pools!Isla_Mujeres_024.jpgIsla_Mujeres_021.jpgIsla_Mujeres_014.jpgIsla_Mujeres_011.jpgIsla_Mujeres_007.jpgIsla_Mujeres_005.jpgIsla_Mujeres_001.jpg

Posted by sostrander 18:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Ola from a beautiful island with lots of healthy people

No whining about swining!

sunny 33 °C

I have an entry that I will add when I have more time to write. Our internet connection is weak so I have to walk around our hotel area. Rather than write short literate entries that require thought and editing I have decided to throw the facts, fast and furious possibly riddled with blatant mistakes in order to provide info. about our trip.
Please forgive me.
So, I spent all week fretting on the state on travel to Mexico due to the swine outbreak. Was this a media frenzy, panic and paranoia, how sick where people really getting? Who died and what was there health like prior to this flu?
I decide to fly and some friends supported this and others where horrified. I avoided the horror stricken and also had a couple of sleepless nights. We flew with 26 other people and no one on the plane mentioned the word flu. In fact it's been barely mentioned since our arrival.
The airport and plane where probably the worst places to catch this thing and once we were out in the open I did not worry. We caught two city buses and a ferry to our destination of Isla Mujeres. The travel books describe it as a small sleepy island without cars and not too many tourist. REALLY!!! Well, it's bustling to me and that's with tourism down due to flu, and there is not flu here at all, not one case on the island. We are staying one block from the hospital and it's empty. We spent a marvelous day on the beach. The kids snorkled in pristine turquoise waters. Pictures will follow when time permits. The food is wonderful and we are enjoying ourselves. I will try to post with pictures tomorrow.
Adios amigos.

Posted by sostrander 19:05 Archived in Mexico Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Moving out and Moving In

Living at the Owens luxury hostel

sunny 5 °C

Just a quick backtrack and I promise to move ahead in the next couple of days with pretty pictures.
At the end of March we handed over the keys to a great family.
Our new abode was the Owens home full of international spirit and love.
It's been a healthy, happy, and important transition as the kids learn to live in smaller quarters, stay somewhat organized and learn to respect others around them even at 6am. We are so very grateful that our dearest friend opened up her home even with no vacancy. Work tapers gently to a close but I will miss this bunch too. I am happy and proud to have been invited and presented a session at the Alberta Library conference during my last weekend. There are now many goodbye lunches, letters, bike rides, and hugs. I am reminded everyday how we are leaving on a trip but we are not leaving our wonderful lives. We shall be back. Christopher is sad and I hope he can hang in there and believe like I do. Empty your head of doubtful nonsense Chris!!


Posted by sostrander 05:05 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Do we look ready for Adventure?


semi-overcast -2 °C

Welcome to our travel Blog - Three Down Below. Ariel, Jordan and Stephanie are heading anywhere south of North America. Flying by the seat of pants and hopefully bicycle seats too. It's February 21st, more details have fallen into place. I believe we have found a responsible and respectable renter for our very humble and colorful home, let's hope Mr. Worthington of Burlington doesn't mind the pump in the sump business or maybe that only exists in my imagination. I bought plane tickets this week, although I had not planned on visiting "over the top" Cancun I could not resist $89 one way from Edmonton! It took me 5 seconds to become a fan of Cancun at that price. Fifteen page passports in hand and shots to the arm completed. School material still must be uploaded, downloaded, or squished into packs. Teeth cleaned, blood screened, vitamins aplenty.DSC00842.jpg

Posted by sostrander 14:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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