A Travellerspoint blog


There are Coconuts at the Bottom of our Garden

sunny 29 °C

Here in the tropics it's always summer and at the moment the self-decorating Christmas trees are loaded with all manner of colourful bling. From the giant globes on the coconut tree in 'our' garden ...
....to the brilliant orange and green baubles on the citrus trees, and the masses of confetti on the bougainvillea bushes...
While Christmas may be over for us, one of the biggest annual events is yet to come in Mexico. Tomorrow, January 6th, is el Dia de Reyes, (Epiphany), when Mexican kids get even more presents and everyone drinks hot chocolate and eats a special cake called Rosca de Reyes...
The bakeries are overloaded with roscas today and supermarkets will stay open until after midnight in the hope of clearing their mountains of this sweet cake. Roscas de Reyes represent the Three Kings' wreaths. Each contains at least one small plastic baby Jesus that, miraculously, doesn't melt during baking. Lucky is the child who gets a mouthful of Jesus and doesn't choke to death on it.

El Día de Reyes, (Twelfth Night), is when Christians commemorate the arrival of the Magi or "Wise Men" bearing gifts for Jesus. In Mexico, children receive gifts on this day, brought by the three kings. Therefore, any parent whose kid is still miffed about Santa's Christmas presents, gets a second chance, and the toy stores and card shops get another kick at the can without having to slash prices. It's very surprising that American stores haven't caught on to this.

On the night of January 5th, the figures of the 'Kings' are placed in the nativity scene and we wondered if anyone noticed that someone had slaughtered the ox in this scene on the beach in Playa del Carmen....
The beaches of Playa del Carmen are holiday central for snowbirds fleeing the wintry weather in Canada and the Northern U.S., but sunseekers come here from far and wide at this time of the year. With temperatures in the high twenties every day and a good chance of sunshine this is a great place to get a tan...
Unfortunately, persistent strong winds have kept many people out of the surf for the past week but there's plenty to keep holidaymakers entertained....
These daredevils taking part in the traditional Danza de los Voladores, ( The Dance of the Flyers), are waiting for the right moment to throw themselves backwards off their perch a hundred feet high and spiral to earth, headfirst.

For the less adventurous, Playa del Carmen has more than its share of restaurants, bars, casinos and night clubs, and there are enough trinket stalls to overload any home-going tourist's carry-on. Who wouldn't want to take home a giant Mexican sombrero for grandpa?

Feliz el dia de Reyes.

Posted by Hawkson 12:42 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

Polar Bears in Playa

sunny 29 °C

It's the first day of the year so regular readers will know that it's time for us to put on a brave face, (and swimming gear), to take part in the traditional Canadian New Year event – the Polar Bear Swim. Here is Sheila getting acclimatised for the big day last week.
We have been in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera since mid-December where, we discovered, there is such a thing as a free lunch. There are also handy little cars that can be rented for just $2 U.S. a day.
We were very pleasantly surprised when we booked this car for just $60 a month and assumed it was a mistake that would end up costing us dearly. Staff at the rental office in Cancun were equally surprised as the regular price was $35 a day, but it was no mistake – just a fabulous deal from economy car rentals.
As for the free lunch! While checking out our $2 a day car we were talked into a tour of a time-share development with the promise of a free breakfast and, more significantly, 2 free tickets to Cirque du Soleil in nearby Puerto Morelos. The breakfast was so big it turned into lunch and the show was absolutely fabulous – and we didn't pay a cent or buy the time-share.

Now for our Polar Bear swim. Our North Pacific Canadian island has been battered by major storms since we left in mid-December and our friends have suffered days without power. We too have suffered with torrential rains, no internet for ten days and the noisiest New Year's celebrations imaginable. The road to the beach was quiet this morning. This was not surprising as the entire population had been up all night letting off extremely loud fireworks, banging drums and singing as loudly as possible while the kids smashed pinatas outside our front windows. At least we had a jigsaw to do amidst all the commotion...
Undaunted, though very sleep-deprived, we put on our swimsuits and readied to brave the mighty Caribbean. However, we realised there might be a problem when we found the beach road underwater...
...and the red flags flying at the lifeguard hut...
And then...
Giant waves were crashing onto the deserted beach, the seaweed was piled high on the sand and we had to give up our Polar Bear swim. Oh well – asi es la vida as they say here. That's life ....There's always next year.

We have one more week in Playa del Carmen before we begin our tour of Central America. We hope that you will come along for the ride – if you don't mind the heat.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2019 to all our blog followers.

Posted by Hawkson 10:01 Archived in Mexico Comments (13)

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)

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