Vamos a la Playa

9 09 2010

We went to the beach on Isla Mujeres in the morning but there wasn’t a breath of wind to be felt: it was very hot and eventually we gave up and had a drink in the shade. After chilling out for a while we headed back to the hostel. Ciara was flying home that evening after all her months in Latin America and wanted a shower before her long flight. Kaithlyn and I decided to get a pineapple juice from the hostel bar.

This turned out to be Mission Impossible. For starters there was no one behind the bar and took aeons to find a member of staff to take our order. Then, once taken, it took an absolute age for our juices to appear: which might have been all right if they’d been freshly blended pineapple juices but this came out of a juice box. Ciara could have had 4 showers in the time we waited.

We got the 15:30 ferry back to the mainland and then grabbed a McDonald’s. The jalapeño sauce that you could put on your fries added some novelty to the experience. After our brief repast we got a taxi to the bus station where I said goodbye to the girls and then got on my own short bus ride to Playa del Carmen, an hour south of Cancun.

Once there I checked into the Happy Gecko hostel. It was a really nice clean hostel with roomy dorms but there weren’t many people around. The only other person in my dorm was a lovely English girl, Charli, who was doing a yoga course in Playa. Apart from Charli I didn’t really meet anyone else in the hostel that day apart from Elena, a really friendly Catalana who worked at the hostel occasionally and reminded me once again that I generally go weak at the knees whenever a woman says “Barry” in a Catalan accent.

Charli had been travelling with some Israeli guys (they were staying in a much more expensive hotel down the road) and they’d taught her how to play Yaniv. I had a few rounds with her on the roof terrace but it seemed that their tutelage had missed out an important playing strategy (an obvious tactic to try to get rid of two cards at once is to pick a card up of the same kind from the discard pile so that you can play two cards next go). It was no surprise that she’d been losing a lot without knowing this.

After a while we went over to their hotel and played lots more rounds of Yaniv with a whole group of people including Tal, Lior, Janiv, Assaf and Hadar. Charli won most of the rounds now that she understood the strategy a bit better. We drank quite a lot of rum and coke and then set out into town to go to the clubs. Most of the girls didn’t come out with us (I think only Yamit and Gilat came out that night): it was Rosh Hashanah — the beginning of the Jewish year — so they weren’t drinking. The guys seemed to be less observant of the religious customs.

At the Blue Parrot club there was a big fire show and then they cleared the dance floor for the regular club night. I went there every night during my time at Playa and the playlist never really varied; which became monotonous towards the end. In the club I saw two girls who, from all appearance looked Dutch, but I wasn’t quite sure because they weren’t that tall. Eventually I decided to go over and ask them. I was correct after all — clearly too many years living in Holland means that I can recognise a Dutch person based solely on my physical mien — and I practised my Dutch with them for a while.


Fire show at Blue Parrot

In the early hours I headed back to the hostel. As I got through the door I noticed a glow coming from Charli’s bed and thought she’d gone to sleep reading a book and left her torch on. It turned out to be her mobile phone which had just received a message and, in the process of going over to investigate to make sure her torch battery wasn’t running down, I managed to wake her up — I don’t think she was best pleased with me!


The Misnomer of the Island of Women

8 09 2010

After breakfast, Ciara, Kaithlyn and I got a bus to Cancun. We were heading for Isla Mujeres (which literally means Women Island), a small island off the north-east coast of the Yucatán peninsula. It got this name because when the Spanish landed it was full of Mayan statues to their goddess of childbirth and not, unfortunately, because there are lots of women there.

After the previous night’s excesses, Ciara claimed to be feeling okay, until we actually got moving when I think it finally caught up with her. In fact, she even adopted a sarcophagal pose whilst she was sleeping on the bus as if to remind us that she was but one step removed from near-death. For myself, I hadn’t been able to face breakfast and then felt starving by the time we’d finished the four-hour bus journey north. We decided we’d probably grab something on the island itself rather than stopping off for food on the way but the McDonald’s at the ferry terminal was sorely tempting. Unfortunately it was less than 5 minutes until the next ferry left so I had to rein in my esurient urges until we arrived.

Ciara sleeping on the bus

Once we’d checked into our hostel — the popular PocNa — Kaithlyn and I went off in search of some lunch. We left Ciara behind having a recovery nap. We couldn’t find any super-cheap eateries and neither of us had the stomach for a long-winded search around town so we found a place with a lunchtime special of fish tacos and 2 beers and opted for that. We were just pleased that even though it was nearly 5 o’clock they were still offering the lunchtime special. I’d been taking the mickey out of Kaithlyn all day for having filthy feet and it was only during the lunch that I realised that I’d been throwing stones from the proverbial glasshouse: mine would have made a hobbit walking barefoot through the Dead Marshes look clean.

After our late lunch we headed back and found Ciara had returned to the land of living and was ready to hit the beach. After going past the beach bar in the hostel to a sorry-looking spot, we then walked back through the hostel and a bit further down the road to the much better beach. The sun was already beginning its slow descent so we didn’t stay there that long.

In the evening I wandered around town with the girls looking for a cheap place to eat but we eventually decided that there were no cheap-eats to be had and just picked a reasonable-looking place (all of the restaurants looked quiet; it definitely seemed to be low season). Even though I was in Mexico I was so excited by the idea of the shepherd’s pie on the menu that I decided I had to get it. It was probably a good thing I was in the last few weeks of my trip given the hankering I was getting for dishes from home — and this after I’d finally arrived in the only country in Central America with an interesting cuisine.

Ciara, Kaithlyn and I at dinner

After dinner we went to the beach bar at the hostel. We were all flagging from the previous night but we stuck at it and ordered some cocktails. The beach bar was a nice enough place but all the tables were very far apart which meant that the different groups didn’t really mingle. I think it would have been difficult if you’d turned up to the hostel on your own looking for some new friends.

At the bar we saw Edith and Andrew again (they were actually staying down the road but had come to our hostel for drinks). They were very lively and wanted to dance lots but I was struggling to muster up the enthusiasm or the energy. After a few more drinks, we knocked it on the head and went to bed. It wasn’t the most fitting end to Ciara’s last night in Latin America but at least we’d celebrated hard for her the night before.