Friday, November 25, 2011

November 18-20 Chillin' with Paco in Playa del Carmen and Tulum

I wanted to make sure Marcia would be able to get onto the flight all right so I hung out at the airport and took advantage of Starbuck's free wifi, catching up on all the internet stuff I hadn't been doing for the past few days. It's amazing how “behind” I felt after only a few days without internet! It will be a big adjustment to go weeks without it.

Possibly a little TMI here but there was another reason I didn't mind hanging out in the airport and that was because, either from the very spicy salsa I had eaten for lunch the day before or due to the street taco I ate for dinner the night before in San Miguel, things weren't exactly “normal” with my digestion and didn't really relish the idea of not having a bathroom close by! However, my plan of forcing my body to adjust to Mexican food seems to be working so far, as whatever THAT was passed pretty soon and around 6 pm I left the airport to head into downtown Cancun to meet up with a couchsurfer named Paco, who was the only one of at least 3 people I had put in couchsurf requests to who had responded to me.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is website for people who enjoy traveling and like to connect with people from all over the world. When they are traveling they “couchsurf” with other members and when they are home they host traveling couchsurfers. It's all review-based so you don't stay with people unless you like what people have to say about them, or let people stay with you unless they have good recommendations. I found out about the organization about 5 months ago and I must say, it's a nice safety-net to have. There are forums where you can hook up with other travelers or get advice on just about anything.

Apparently Cancun's couchsurfing network leaves something to be desired (or else people just don't want to hang with me- totally possible!) because I've had a hell of a time getting anyone to respond to basically ANYTHING- couch requests, forum posts looking for travel/adventure buddies, general questions about Cancun (though I must say that most of the people who I contacted directly DID get back to me pretty rapidly and were very helpful). Anyway, I digress... I only bring this up to illustrate how grateful I am that Paco decided I was cool enough to come hang with him and his friends for the past few days!

SO. Friday night I left the airport and had no problem getting to the ADO station. Though, since it's the last stop I can't get too carried away patting myself on the back as it's kinda hard to mess that one up! Well, my little bit of time in tourist-ville had not prepared me for downtown Cancun! Paco had told me where to catch the bus but then I realized I had no idea exactly HOW I was supposed to do that or exactly WHERE I was supposed to be! And, when I tried to ask some people I found out very quickly how few people spoke English. : D With the help of a nice shopkeeper I was able to get on the bus. However, I had no real idea how long the ride was, I just knew the name of the shopping area I was supposed to be ending up at, and that there was a Walmart near there.

Long story short, a woman who overheard me speaking with another American (who was going to Walmart) who sat near me told us that we were at our destination and we got off the bus. We didn't see our respective stores anywhere near so we asked some questions and parted ways, thinking we knew where we were going. Hopefully he made it to Walmart ok; all I know is that nothing I saw looked like what I remembered from Google maps! To top it off, NO ONE I stopped spoke any English and while I can ask where something is in Spanish, understanding the directions is a whole other matter!

Eventually a guy saw me looking at a map of the mall I was at (not the one I was supposed to be at!) and asked me if I needed help. I asked him if he spoke English and to my relief he said “a little” (much more than MY “little” Spanish, thankfully!). He told me I was nowhere near where I needed to be and offered to let me use his phone to call Paco. Paco told me to get a taxi so I didn't get more lost than I already was. :D

Turns out I was in one of the rougher neighborhoods, according to Paco. :D

ANYWAY, finally I made my way to him and we dumped a bunch of my stuff at his house and took a collectivo (white vans that are sort-of a happy medium between a bus and a taxi that I have discovered to be the cheapest mode of transportation between cities (35 pesos from Cancun to Playa del Carmen) to meet up with a couple of other couchsurfers- a girl named Beatriz who lives in Playa del Carmen, and a guy named Juges who is from Brazil. The first place we went was a Cuban joint with live music and a dance floor where people were salsa dancing. The only downside was that I paid 35 pesos (like $3) for a bottle of water, which was annoying because the whole reason I've decided to give up drinking for this year of traveling is so I'm NOT spending so much money on a single beverage! The music was great though, and the salsa dancers were AMAZING.

Then we went to a club that was playing electronic music, which most of you know I would normally be pretty excited about but over the course of the previous few days I had developed blisters on both feet as a result of walking in my wet/sandy tevas, the poor fit of my first set of fins on the snorkel trip and running from the mosquitoes in San Gervasio. To top it off, I was dragging ass from having gotten less sleep than normal the previous night due to packing and whatnot. Plus, I'm an old lady now! My bedtime has been around 12 or so for the past few months so by 2 am I was practically falling asleep at the table! Luckily for me, Beatriz (who had been kind enough to offer to let us stay with her for the night) had to work early so she and I left and I was finally able to catch up on some much-needed sleep!

The next morning Paco and I went to Tulum to meet up with some Lithuanian girls who had stayed at his house the week before.  While we were  waiting for the girls we saw some pretty birds fighting over tortilla chips.  We spent a couple hours checking out the ruins of Tulum ($5 entrance fee at the time of this entry), which are located on a hill overlooking the beach. Here are a bunch of photos I took of Tulum as well as a link to a photo taken from a helicopter or plane so you can get a better idea of just how amazing it is!

A cool panorama of the entire ruins complex that is near the entrance to Tulum,

Paco and me above the beach with ruins behind us.

After checking out the ruins we took a swim in the waters below Tulum, which was lovely and refreshing at the moment but which I later regretted because afterward there was about a half a pound of sand inside my bra and shorts and the little faucets near the entrance were at about knee level. I'm sure you can imagine how effective those were in removing the sand from either of those places, but of course I tried anyway so hopefully you can have a laugh or two imagining how I looked trying to accomplish that.

Once we finished up at the ruins we made our way on to the town of Tulum and found a wonderful little place to eat. I can't remember the name of it but if I make it to Tulum again before I leave Mexico I will be sure to figure it out because it was fantastic. They had tons of smaller items available for 10-30 pesos (~ $.80-$2.50 USD at the time of this writing) and the three items I got (of course I can't remember the names!) were among some of the best food I have eaten so far on my journey. The girls went to their hotel to shower and Paco and I found an awesome little hostel to stay the night at- a place called the Weary Traveler that charged $140 pesos (~11 USD) and provided free purified water, wifi and coffee and breakfast in the am.
After we had each showered and were feeling refreshed and much less sandy, we walked around town for an hour or so just seeing what there was to see. Then Paco went out to the beach area to hang with the girls but I was feeling super-behind in my emailing and journal writing and it sounded like the club was gonna be pretty hopping (ie loud music, thus rendering it impossible to actually converse with anyone!) so I stayed at the hostel and called it an early night. I was glad for that because Paco said that the taxis stopped running early so he had to wait for nearly an hour for one to come back around! :o( Poor Paco! :o(

The next morning Paco and I took our time leaving the hostel; it was so nice that we wanted to stay and both of us wished we had more time to walk around downtown but Huges was leaving that afternoon and we at least wanted to get back to say goodbye and wish him a safe trip back to Brazil. Sadly, we weren't able to do much more than that but at least we got to do that much. We grabbed some quesadillas at one of Paco's favorite places to eat, a little place a few blocks from his house.

As a result of having spoken with the Lithuanian girls I had decided by that time that I would visit Holbox, a tiny island off the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula, so when Paco went to his parents for dinner that evening and I spent some time online, researching and posting on CS trying to find people to hang out with me! When Paco returned we went to another of his favorite places to have some tacos before calling it a night.

Sorry about the lack of variety of pictures in this post but I am terrible about remembering to take them! I will try to be better in the future!

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