A Travellerspoint blog


While the Cat's Away

semi-overcast 28 °C

Having suffered a week of rain, gales and power outages, Sheila decided it was time to head South to visit her friends Keith and Helen in their winter home in Playa del Carmen Mexico.
She wanted to indulge in activities that would remind her of her carefree, youthful days, so the first place she headed to with Helen was the casino. Here they are with their winnings:

As the sun was shining and the Caribbean looked so inviting Sheila decided to take a quick dip before her date with Ricardo at Coco Bongo.


All these strenuous activities made her very hungry, so off she went with her friends for tacos mariscos.

Helen insisted on not just playing but having a cultural experience, so here they are at the Jardin Botanico Yaaxche about a half an hour from Playa in Puerto Morelos in front of an ancient Mayan ruin.

Sheila was more excited to head back to Playa to do more shopping. This used to be her favourite activity.

This was followed by coffee with her friends and a visit to the World Famous Cremeria in a residential area of Playa.

A wonderful first day was had by all. To be continued……………………………….

Posted by Hawkson 15:34 Archived in Mexico Comments (8)

Carnaval Time in Playa

sunny 33 °C

As we prepare to head home to greet the spring, the Mexicans are celebrating Mardi Gras and the central squares of every city, town and village have been spruced up; the bunting hung; and the bands are practising for the weekend’s Carnaval parades. But Carnaval isn’t the only happening in Mexico this week and in Chetumal we ran slap bang into the middle of the national band championships. We love a parade and it was great to watch the twenty or so marching bands doing their thing…
…although it might have been better had hundreds of the musicians not been staying at our hotel!

We arrived in Campeche just in time for the crowning of the Carnaval Queen. It was a noisy boisterous affair with thousands crowding the fairground to support their favourite senoritas, so we skipped the event in favour of a stroll along the deserted promenade…
...some sightseeing in the narrow streets of the old town…
...and a visit to the castle...

Merida was our next stop – the oldest colonial city in Mesoamerica. The shady central square is as pretty as a picture but the surrounding streets where the Carnaval has traditionally taken place are so narrow that the event has been moved out of town.

As Carnaval approached we moved on to the laid back town of Bacal in search of something snazzy to wear at the parade, and there is no better place in Mexico to find some fancy millinery. Handmade Panama hats are the thing in Bacal where the central square is home to three enormous concrete titfers (Non-Brits might need to Google that)…
We went for a slighter lighter variety which we then wore to the Carnaval parade in the bustling resort of Playa del Carmen…
But our fancy headgear had nothing on some of the costumes worn by the partiers…

So now our lightning tour of the Yucatan is over and we are headed home to launch our new book, Slow Train to China – an inspirational travel guide for independent second-lifers.
Thank you dear blog reader for following our meanderings. We will be back in the fall when we again pack our bags and head to foreign climes, but now it is time to put up our feet and watch the world pass by on our little Canadian island for the summer.

Hasta luego from Mexico.

P.S. For details about Slow Train to China please visit our website at www.thefishkisser.com
And welcome to new subscribers Neil and Cathy.
Subscribing to our blog is free; you won't get unsolicited ads and you will know the next time we hit the road. Hope to see you soon.

Posted by Hawkson 09:00 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

More Mexico

A Whirlwind Mayan Tour

sunny 34 °C

For the past few days we have been racing around some of the numerous Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout the Yucatan peninsula. First to Tulum – one of the most popular, expensive (and crowded) sites because of its proximity to the major beach resorts of Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Tulum’s main claim to fame is its location by the sea…
Onwards now, a 300kms drive to Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo, to visit the Museum of Mayan Culture. The outside looked impressive - even the band was playing when we arrived…
– but the museum was closed!

Next stop; a three and a half hour run to the ruins of the city of Kohunlich which date from 100 – 900 AD…
The Temple of the Mascarones (masks) is a magnificent building which is guarded by four beautifully carved masks of the gods…
After a night’s stop in the tiny village of Xpujil, (don’t even try to pronounce it), we make a pre-dawn start to visit the cream of the crop. It’s still early morning when we arrive at the totally deserted ancient Mayan city of Calakmul near the Guatemalan border as a long walk through the steamy jungle awaits us. We have driven for three hours mainly on a twisted and rutted single lane track through the jungle and can easily imagine ourselves with Sylvanus Griswold Morley, the American archaeologist and Mayanist scholar, who cut a path to this once great city in 1932 on behalf of The Carnegie Institute in Washington.

In October 1932 Morley might have written:

Dear Mr. Carnegie
It is inconceivable to me that the ruins of such a great city as that at Calakmul should have been so hidden so deep in the jungle that none knew of its existence until now. Yet, it is apparent to me that no man has ascended the great pyramids nor walked these paths for some four or five centuries past.
The jungle hereabouts is as dense as any in my experience and is home to a great multitude of wildlife including all manner of vicious insects and flocks of flambouyant turkeys…
While above us in the canopy troupes of howler monkeys rent the air with their terrifying calls…
Only God knows what magnificence once lay here. My observations and measurements suggest it may have been home to fifty thousand Mayan souls for upwards of a thousand years. There are so many structures lying ’neath the forest floor and entangled in the roots of great trees that we may never know for certain…
The city was occupied in 600 BC and from the hieroglyphs on the many stellae it seems that it was once the regional capital rivalling the great city of Tikal which lies over the border in Guatemala. Much excavation will need to be undertaken to unearth this great city.

Yours Sincerely
Sylvanus Griswold Morley

It would be fifty years before any serious excavation was done at Calakmul and most of the estimated seven thousand structures are still covered by jungle. Very few tourists make it as far as Calakmul, (it is at least a five hour drive from any large town) so those that do so are rewarded by having the magnificent place to themselves. For once we didn’t have to dodge the touts, the trinket salesmen, the guides or the great gaggles of daytrippers, and we didn’t have to be sneaky to get some perfect photos...

Next stop - the regional capital, Campeche, where we will be taking a couple days off from clambering over thousand year old rock piles to explore an expansive colonial city and chill out by a pool at the seaside.

Posted by Hawkson 14:14 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

Mexico Revisited

But it wasn't our fault

sunny 31 °C

We finally did it … following years of torment from our friend Catherine we flung caution to the wind and braved the frigid North Pacific for a true Canadian Polar Bear swim on New Year’s Day. Here we are enjoying the balmy waters of Taylor Bay on Gabriola Island..

That was more than a month ago and we simply never warmed up to the Canadian winter so, when the mercury flatlined at zero and the snow began to fall, we decided that enough was enough. And when we were invited to Vancouver to be interviewed by Sheryl McKay on the CBC about our new book, Slow Train to China, we thought – why stop at Vancouver?

So here we are in the balmy turquoise waters of Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan Peninsula and tomorrow we fly to Havana in Cuba… and finally we are warm. Here are our friends Keith and Helen keeping a place for us on the beautiful white sand beach of Playa...


Turn up the heating and stay tuned and, internet permitting, we will take you on an excursion around Cuba for the next couple of weeks.
Hasta luego nos amigos from sunny (and very warm) Mexico.

Posted by Hawkson 16:33 Archived in Mexico Comments (9)

Adios Mexico

sunny 34 °C


As we sit by our poolside palapa we are ready to say goodbye to the Yucatan and its friendly people. This young lady was thrilled with the beads Sheila gave her at Merida Carnaval…
Despite an abundance of fancy haciendas and flashy cars most people here are not wealthy, but they are surrounded by riches that others should envy. The Yucatan has a rich Mayan heritage, and although vast numbers of the ancient monoliths are buried beneath the jungle there is still much to see. Our favourite site is Uxmal – a Mayan ruin with more than 150 buildings that stem from three major periods in Mayan history, and there wasn't a pesky trinket salesman in sight on either of our visits. This is the enormous governor’s palace from the 9th century AD…
And this is the 117 foot high pyramid of the magician…
The Yucatan also has a rich Hispanic culture with many colonial cities built around an economy based on the henequen cactus – a fibrous plant from which rope is made. Every sailing ship in the 19th century needed miles of rope so the Yucatecans became rich, and the port of Sisal from which it was shipped in huge quantities gave it its name. Henequen is still grown here, but its heyday is long past. But, above all, it is the richness and diversity of wildlife that makes this region special. We have enthused about the flocks of flamingos, frigate birds and comical pelicans, but the skies here are alive with a wide variety of birds, and the waters are simply teeming with fish. This is a tiger heron trying his luck at a cenote…
While this pelican was just happy to pose for us...
But life here is about to change: most snowbirds have already flown home to Canada and northern climes to await the arrival of the summer sun, and next week the Mexicans will arrive en-mass. This week we have twenty seven apartments, a swimming pool and a lovely beach to ourselves, while next week the place will be heaving with locals wondering why on earth crazy northerners would come here in midwinter when the temperature hovers around a measly 30c.

Thank you faithful blog readers. Knowing that you are following our meanderings means a lot to us, and we hope that our travel tales will inspire some of you to pack a suitcase and hop on a plane. But for those who simply can’t do that – sit back and enjoy the ride. We are already digging deep into our bucket list and we will soon resume our quest to bring the world to your computer. In the meantime, as we take a final stroll into the Yucatan sunset, we are moved to a little poetry...
Swaying coconut palms shade the shell covered sandy shore while soft sea breezes send seabirds soaring into the sapphire sky, and then, as the fading sun turns crimson and sinks slowly into the ocean, we say adios to Mexico. Thank you for sharing your riches with us and with our friends.

Posted by Hawkson 18:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

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