25 November 2009 | Vancouver BC
28 June 2009 | Prince Rupert
22 June 2009 | Prince Rupert
21 June 2009 | Khutzeymateen
21 June 2009 | Khutzeymateen
21 June 2009 | Khutzeymateen Inlet
20 June 2009 | Prince Rupert
19 June 2009 | Prince Rupert
16 June 2009 | Laredo Inlet
14 June 2009 | Princess Royal Island
14 June 2009 | Emily Carr Cove, Princess Royal Island
12 June 2009 | Alston Cove, Princess Royal Island
06 June 2009 | Shearwater
04 June 2009 | Fitzhugh Sound
10 March 2009
Austin, Texas, the last stop before home. Yesterday we flew from Tampa, Florida to Dallas, then on to Austin, where Ron's Aunt Annis and several of her children (Ron's cousins) and grandchildren live. Unfortunately, MBW seems to have contracted a flu and so missed the big family reunion and BBQ that had been arranged at The County Line -- "the best BBQ in Texas" and picturesquely located on the Colorado River.
But Ron went and had a wonderful time reconnecting with family members, some of whom he had never met!
08 March 2009
We spent two nights in Venice, Florida, just south of Tampa visiting Ron's Aunt Eunice and Uncle Gordon, who had moved from Ohio to Florida 20 years ago. Sad but true that it was our first visit in all that time! But we enjoyed our time with them and saw some of the sights of Venice.
One night we drove down to Pine Island, about two hours south of Venice, and visited with Creighton and Lisa, who we had met at school in Oaxaca. They are sailors who dock their 42-foot trimaran on the canal at their back door, which impressed the hell out of us. We loved Florida for all the water and -- in communities like Creighton and Lisa's -- everyone is a boater!! This, of course, in addition to the orange groves, palm trees, beaches, sunshine and, oh I don't know what all.
We also drove up to Gainesville, at the northern end of the state, about a four-hour drive from Venice, to visit with Ron's first-year college roommate. Jack and Mari took us all kinds of neat places, including Terrells BBQ and a University of Kentucky-University of Florida basketball game--Go Gators!! Since Ron used to play for Kentucky it was particularly appropriate, but the Gators trounced Kentucky roundly. We spent a great couple of days there and were blown away by the diversity of the landscape and flora and fauna in this state. (The mold and pollen bothered us both a bit, however, and Jack assured us we weren't allone in our allergic reactions.)
Compared to our two and a half months in Mexico, this visit seemed pretty rushed, but we managed to cram a lot into our five days and would definitely like to come back and see more.
Travel Notes: Cancun to Tampa, Fla.
04 March 2009
We flew JetBlue from Cancun to Tampa, the cheapest we could find at $US172 for two. It was a comfortable ride, reliable airline, and well known on the east coast to budget travellers. Would use them again.
TRAVEL NOTES: Puerto Morelos
01 March 2009 | Quintana Roo
This is a small town just south of Cancun, filled with non-Mexicans, many of whom live here year round or have condos that they come to for 4-6 months a year.
It has nice beaches, but lots of condos, and huge Cancun-style developments to the north and south. The long-time residents are trying to stave off big developments, but a two new housing developments are underway just off the highway and will bring 20,000 more people into the area. One ex-pat American business owner (Mamas) was outraged, claiming that the infrastructure just wasn't up to it.
We found it a nice enough place to be while waiting for our flight from Cancun, but it is an ex-pat town, not a Mexican town. It has lots of hotels and restaurants. We stayed at a hotel on the beach, Casa Carmen. Nice enough, but over priced at $89 USD a night. Right on the beach, air-con, TV, pool, restaurant that no one ever seemed to be in. Probably fair price for Pto Morelos, but a bit pricey for us.
Apparently this is the "Margaritaville" that Jimmy buffet immortalized. People were friendly enough. Restaurants were overpriced. We ate at Pelicanos the first night, because it was right down the street from the hotel and we were hungry, but the food was mediocre and it was expensive. Fish was more expensive than chicken. Go figger.
We ran into Paulilne and Mario from Quebec who we had met in Mérida. It was their last night in Mexico so we had dinner with them at Cactus, an Argentinian steak house. The meat was great but MBW got eaten alive by sand fleas that a week later are still driving me crazy--at least 60 bites. It looks like I have leg measles! Don't eat in the back patio with the sand floor!!!!!
When it was time to leave we took a taxi to the Cancun airport. It cost us $25 USD, but for us it was worth it. The alternative is to take a taxi up to the highway (25 pesos), then flag down the Riviera Express (first class bus), which goes by every hour from Playa del Carmen to the airport (45 pesos). We were told if we wanted to take that bus we should go up to the highway a day or two early, though, because it originates in Playa and can be sold out by the time it gets to Puerto Morelos.
TRAVEL NOTES: Tulum to Cancun
23 February 2009
As far as we could make out, the only first class bus from Tulum to Cancun leaves in the wee hours of the morning, like 2 am or something. Second-class buses run frequently, perhaps hourly, starting about 5 in the morning. You cannot buy tickets a day ahead and you can't reserve. We arrived at the bus station at 6:00 am for the 6:30 bus, which arrived at 7 am and was almost full, since it originates in Chetumal. It cost 58.00 pesos (around $5 USD) and took about 3 hours.
22 February 2009 | Tulum--the ruins
He called it "old Ron", not me ...
Here he is at the ruins. You can see what a fantastic location the Tulum Mayans had. This is the only Mayan ruin right on the ocean like this and, as you might guess, was a centre of trade routes. Apparently, this place is from the late Classic period and doesn't really exhibit any shining examples of Mayan architecture, but still attracts busloads of people, most from Cancun, I expect, or "whirlwind" see-Mexico-in-one-week tours out of Mexico city. Location, location, location.
Travel Notes: Valladolid to Tulum
21 February 2009
Took first class bus from Valladolid to Tulum, about 2 hours, $70 MP.
Since hotels on the beach were so expensive and mostly booked solid, we took a tip from Don and Laurie and stayed at Casa Rosa, in town. A lovely, soulless, pink, cement block structure, it actually served us very well. It was just a half ablock from the bus station, cost $400 pesos, and appeared to be pretty new. The room was very clean, tiled, air-con, TV, king sized bed, and a block off the main drag, which made it quiet but convenient.
We took a combi to the ruins for 20 pesos each. A taxi to or from the beach cost 45 pesos.
In town there were lots of restaurants, bars, super minis, a giant supermarket, doctors offices (see photo: AVOID), farmacias, internet places, trinket shops, hotels, the bus station, and stuff like that (unlike the beach zone, where there is very little--only a few hotel restaurants, which tend to be expensive).
The perfect beach
20 February 2009 | Tulum, Yucatan
After much debate, we decided to head to the Mayan Riviera and dip our toes in the Caribbean at Tulum. We have heard mixed things about Tulum and not much good about the stretch of coast north from here to Cancun, but we were close and decided we needed to see it for ourselves. Tulum is famous for two reasons: it has a Mayan ruin right on the ocean and the beaches were reportedly fabulous.
During our first couple of days in Tulum we were not impressed. The town and the beaches are about 5 km apart. The hotels on the beach are for the most part very expensive. The affordable hotels are in town, but there is no public transportation between the two. In town there are lots of restaurants, trinket stores, and a general selling of things. It's a fairly new town, and it appears as though development is proceeding at a galloping pace.
I had to have a minor medical procedure done on my ears and finally found the local health clinic, which was able, after a l-o-n-g wait (during which time several of the locals stomped out in frustration at the delay), to fix me up for about five US dollars. But this was not before I had gone to a "doctor's office" on the main drag ("We Speak English") and the doctor had told me it would cost me $350US!!! It tends to sour one.
However, we did make it to the ruins (overrun with busloads of people, spectacularly located, but not terribly impressive as ruins go) and then found a path to the beach and immediately forgot about all our misgivings and sour impressions. Ooo La La. A beautiful beach: white sand, turquoise water, paradise. Travel poster pretty. We liked it. Very much.
18 February 2009 | Yucatan
We've spent three days in this quiet little town, on the highway between Merida and Tulum. We've done a minimal amount of sightseeing, but did manage to take in the Cenote Zaci (photo), one of many dotted around the Yucatan. Cenotes are underground caverns that have collapsed, and are a favourite find for divers and snorkellers. They also supply lots of folks with water. It's pretty dry here.
Yesterday we walked along a really lovely quiet street to a Franciscan monastery. We made a "donation" to a man at the door, expecting a small tour, but I think we overdonated, since he walked away from us very fast, hopped on his bicycle and headed out the gate, waving as he left, headed perhaps for some liquid refreshment, although we can't be sure. So we had this cavernous, 16th Century monastery all to ourselves and wandered around as we pleased, with a lovely little dalmation as our guide. Quite a treat.
Tomorrow we leave for Tulum. Not sure what to expect, but bracing ourselves for a lot of tourists, a lot of trinkets ,and a lot of traffic.
Travel notes: Piste to Valladolid
16 February 2009
There are frequent busses between Piste and Valladolid, but a limited number of them are first class (reserved seating, reliable air-con, bathroom onboard). We missed the first class bus, so caught the second class (at 20 pesos about half the cost of the first class), and it turned out to be crowded, but fine. The trip to Valladolid took about 1 1/2 hours.
We stayed at the Marques Hotel, the best place in town (860 pesos), and right on the square. A bit of a splurge, but a lovely hotel in a 17th century hacienda, with a pool, and a really reasonably-priced restaurant. Definitely recommended.
15 February 2009 | Yucatan
One of the seven wonders of the modern world is how it's billed and it could be true. We managed to arrive early, just before opening and all the tour busses, which is nice. But it soon got very hot and filled up with people. Nevertheless, this place is very impressive. The centre of the Mayan world, it has an amazing temple of columns that goes on forever (photo), a staggeringly tall pyramid, the largest ball court in the Americas and, for me, the best -- a observatory for watching the skies. They are known for their advanced astronomy, mathematics, written alphabet, things like that.
The palacio here has 10 floors, each divided in two, which is equal to the number of months (20) in a Mayan calendar year. And the total number of steps adds up to 365, and we all know what that is.
Note to self: read more about Mayans...
Travel Notes: Merida to Pista (Chichen Itza)
15 February 2009
We took the bus from Celestún to Chichen Itza via Mérida. Only second-class busses travel between Celestún and Mérida, so that's what we did. They leave every hour or so starting around 0530; cost $90 MP. We caught the 0930, along with new friends, Don and Laurie, from Vancouver Island (!) who we met at Casa Peon, a restaurant that we frequented a lot (and highly recommend). We also shared the cost of the flamingo tour with them.
We stayed at the Hotel Pyramide, which is right next to the bus station. We had a double room, two double beds, private bathroom, hottish water. They had a nice big swimming pool, which was very refreshing. Cost was $450 mp. It's a good place to stay, only 2 km from the ruins at Chichen Itza. We walked from the motel (although Ron and I took a cab back) and were able to be there by 0800 when the gates opened and before the tour busses arrived (around 1000.)