Saturday, November 26, 2011

2011 Nov 21-24 Holbox (“hole-boshe”)

Before heading to bed the night before I had discovered that there were three times I could take the bus to Chiquila (a little town on the north coast, from whence the ferry to Holbox departed)- 7:30, 12:40 and 1:30. I wasn't positive which bus I would take but was going to try for the early one, meaning I had to be up around 7. I didn't really want to set an alarm because the alarm on my watch is set for 7 pm to remind me to take my anti-malaria meds and I knew if I changed it I would forget to change it back, but luckily the neighborhood dogs started barking right on key, as if the universe was telling me it was looking out for me!

Due to my poor memory I almost bought a ticket to Chiapas (which is a STATE, not a city, in southern Mexico that is probably at least 500 miles from here!) but thankfully the alarm bells went off when the lady asked if I wanted to go to Palenque (a city in Chiapas). Then, I nearly bought TWO tickets to Chiquila.   :D

Concepcion and me
On the bus ride a sweet Mexican lady named Concepcion started speaking with me and we spent nearly the entire 3-3.5 hour journey speaking Español! It was awesome. It was very frustrating at times, especially when the word I didn't know wasn't in either of my dictionaries, but in the end I think we were able to communicate most of what we wanted to, albeit in a very rudimentary sense. She told me that she had traveled to Michigan and Chicago by herself speaking only “un poquito ingles” (very little English) so she knew how I felt! She was traveling with her two friends to Holbox, where they had a hotel booked for three days. Her husband couldn't come because he had to work but she was retired so she was able to. She told me about her two children, a son who was 34 and unmarried, and a daughter who was 32 and had two little girls, who were 7 and 9, I think. I think she said she had two dogs, a dalmation and a chiuaua. I told her about the ranch and all the “Borgies” (these dogs that nearly everyone on the ranch has at least one of, that are half Boarder Collie and half Corgie) but had a little difficulty explaining what they were since she hadn't heard of the breed Border Collie and I hadn't thought to put a picture of my sister's dog, Bridgette, on my computer! I told her about my family explained that my parents had been married for almost 52 years and my sister and her husband had just gotten married in October but had known each other for like 6 or 7 years. I told her about Marcia and our time in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. When she asked me why I wasn't married she laughed when I told her I was too adventurous and had no time for love! :D It was a wonderful way to pass the journey and nice to make a new friend. She gave me her contact info and told me to come stay with her the next time I was in Cancun. :o)

The only real "two lane" street I saw in town!
The ferry transfer was effortless and I was soon walking down the hard-packed sand streets of Holbox. I am staying at the Tribu hostel- here's the link:

When the owners first came to the island three years ago there were no hostels at all, and they thought “what a shame!”, so they began the painstaking process of purchasing the land and getting all of the permitting that was necessary, made all the more difficult because they were from Slovania. But they succeeded and built this charming little hostel with palapa style roofs on some buildings and flat rooftops with hammocks on others. The courtyard area is wonderfully conducive to relaxation, with hammock style chairs hung from the rafters of the deck above, and there is a good-sized kitchen with three stoves, two fridges and little cubbies to put your things in. The wooden railings on the decks are wrapped with some type of vine in a way that is fantastically rustic-looking. There are little details everywhere, from the river-stone mosaics that line the doorways to the little gecko mural in the kitchen, that are so endearing and just make the place feel so homey.

Tribu by night

Courtyard and little dining area

The roof of our building

Sunset from the roof

Cool spiral staircases were everywhere!

My dorm room

The kitchen
I'm completely in love with town of Holbox itself, where the seashells pile up inches thick on the beach, nearly every house has a palapa-style roof and vine-wrapped wooden balconies and the primary means of transportation is via golf cart or motorcycle. Everyone you pass on the street greets you with a smile and makes you feel welcome the moment you begin to speak with them. I'm sure that's at least partially due to gratitude for the tourist dollars pouring in to this sleepy little town but I truly feel that a portion of it is genuine friendliness. Already there are larger, swanky hotels here and evidence of more being built; it makes me incredibly sad that in 10 or even 5 years this place will likely be unrecognizable as it transforms from a unique little piece of paradise to just another tourist destination. I also feel incredibly blessed to have seen it now, before its inevitable doom, in my opinion.

Three days worth of palapa-style roof construction.

The only bad thing I have to say about Holbox is that the mosquitoes are fierce and unrelenting. They have bitten me up almost as badly in 3 days as I was after two weeks of backpacking around Kaua'i and my 100% Deet appears to hardly deter them! I can only hope that word of them spreads apace with word of how wonderful this place is and that the hoards of vacationers will decide to pass it up.

Me and my dancing partner
Tuesday was apparently International Music Appreciation Day and there was a little band playing on the corner of the town plaza. Within literally 15 seconds of me walking up one of the local guys came over to talk to me and not 20 seconds later he hauled me up to dance with him DIRECTLY in front of the guys playing music! Most of you know just how comfortable I felt right then, dancing right there for anyone who was watching to see! :D But it was fun nonetheless and at least anyone who was laughing was laughing with me and not at me! Also, I had spent much of the day trying (unsuccefully!) to get my snorkeling videos ready to upload to my blog so it was nice to be doing ANYTHING besides sitting and staring at my computer screen!

Wednesday I had intended to work on the videos more and hopefully get the Cozumel post uploaded but I decided I couldn't be bothered with doing a second more of computer work and left the hostel with my roommate Alberto to walk down the playa (beach) to the west to try to find a nice place to do some snorkeling. We were unsuccessful at that quest because the water was actually quite murky but we did manage to find a little stretch of land with several coconut trees that had mature coconuts within picking distance so we grabbed several to bring back to the hostel and share with the other travelers. We walked back up the beach and continued on past our hostel in search of some clearer water and ran into another couple of travelers who were also staying at the hostel, a girl named Suzanne from England and another girl named Verena from Germany. We tried to go for a swim but even there the water was too murky to be really enjoyable for snorkeling so we admitted defeat and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the shade of a palapa on the playa outside of one of the fancier hotels.

The four of us decided to take advantage of the kitchen and cook dinner together so Suzanne and I went to secure groceries around town. After asking about 6 people we found our way to a little building that looked a bit questionable but when we asked if they had “pescado fresca” (fresh fish, totally different from “pescado fresa” which would be “strawberry fish” lol) they opened a giant bin (seriously- it was a cube at least 4 feet on either side!) full of fish. We selected two and paid our 60 pesos. Including the fresh veggies we had purchased earlier that brought our total for dinner to 30 pesos each. Sweet. :o) We sauteed the veggies, baked the fish with some garlic, limes and salt and cooked up some rice in the water from the coconuts, with little bits of chopped coconut added in. Muy bueno! Deliciouso!

The perfect way to end the evening was to chill under the stars on our rooftop in the hammocks and drink a little vino. Yes, that's right, my plan to not drink this year has already failed! :D But I justified it because I didn't pay for it; although I tried Alberto refused to accept my money, saying ”wine is for sharing!”

Alberto, Verena, Suzanne and me

Thursday morning I attempted to upload my Cozumel post, which I had decided was fine how it was and didn't need the second video (because editing video really is a pain in the ass and it takes FOREVER) but the internet was down so I took a little adventure and walked east along the beach for about 3 miles or so. I was hoping to make my way to this little spit of land that I could see, where the water looked very pretty (it's been quite murky this whole trip and I'm starting to think it's just that way, although Alberto says that when he's been here before it's been quite nice). 

After having walked for at least an hour, taking my time to collect more seashells, I reached a river and was unable to go any further because there was about 10 or 15 feet of mud leading up to the shore of the river and I didn't relish the thought of being stuck in a bog! Besides, I had of course gone barefoot (mostly because it really didn't look as far away as it ended up being!) and by that time my feet were starting to ache a bit. Well, of course I had to walk that whole way back and by the time I got back my feet are killing me, especially the left one where I stubbed the ball of my foot on a rock as I was busy looking around and not where I was going, so I spent about 20 minutes online checking email and then attempted once again to upload the Cozumel post and AGAIN the internet was down! If I hadn't burned myself to a crisp earlier I would have gone back to the beach but I really needed to stay out of the sun so I decided to go ahead and finish editing the snorkel tour video and wait for the internet to come back online.

It turned out that the internet could have been back up and running at any point; apparently the plug had come a bit loose from the wall, as I found out when I asked about it when I went to settle up my bill. Oh well! Count yourselves lucky that you got those videos then; I hope people actually enjoyed them as I know they are very VERY amateur in quality!

Delicious sushi I "splurged on" (55 pesos!) my last night in Holbox.
It's now evening on my last day here- I am taking the butt-crack-of-dawn ferry (actually before dawn!) at 5 am (hopefully I remember to reset my anti-malaria medicine alarm!) and I would like nothing more than to stay here another few days. I've had a lot of fun with my new friends and I'm a little sad to be leaving them, and this magical place. However, I'm also excited to begin the next phase of my journey- exploring the ruins of Ek Balam, Chichen Itza and Coba with a girl named Natalia who I've been organizing this adventure with via email for the past month or so. Ancient Mayan civilizations await and I've been looking forward to this for years!


  1. Wow. Just Wow. I read your entire post with my mouth open. What an amazing time! I'm so glad you're keeping an online journal.

  2. :o)

    I'm glad you are enjoying my blog Pam! It's a lot of work, actually, so I'm grateful to hear that people are reading it. :o)