Beaches, beers, yummy food, all to be shared with family. Time for the second family reunion, Tamar’s family flew from the Netherlands to spend 12 sun filled days with us in Mexico. Already for a few months we had been looking forward to eating lots of guacamole, tacos and drinking shots of tequila with the family.
We arrived in Cancun in the afternoon after an easy transfer from the airport with an ADO bus (local transportation for longer distances). It was raining a bit, but it was still warm, so soon we headed out for something to eat. We ate our first Mexican food at a little local restaurant at the corner of a street. As we don’t speak Spanish we didn’t know what we were ordering. It turned our to be yummy and very cheap (40 pesos (= €2,-)), just as we like it. And then went home for some needed sleep.
We heard the rain poring down the next morning, so we turned around ones more for some extra hours of sleep. Around lunchtime we decided to explore Cuncun a bit. We walked around our neighbourhood (far away from the tourist strip) and found a nice food square were locals were having food. We had an amazing lunch and then headed back to the hotel as the clouds looked dangerously full of rain. Luckily we don’t mind just some hanging around in a room once in a while 😉 In the evening we had another stroll around the neighbourhood, took dinner in another local restaurant and as it started raining again we went back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early start the next morning.
In the meantime (10 pm), Tamar’s family was arriving at Cancun airport, from where they were transferred to Playa del Carmen.
Playa del carmen
Also to Playa del Carmen we took an ADO bus. Easy (well organised and frequently departures) and cheap (60 pesos). We arrived next to one of the main tourist strips in Playa del Carmen and walked to our hotel. In the meantime we asked ourselves where we had ended up. We had never been in such a touristic area before (read: many tourists, expensive shops and restaurants everywhere, an area totally created for tourism), and it would take some getting used to.
As we were late for our meeting time with the family we went to their hotel first. How great to see Tamar’s mom (Carmen), Step-dad (John), sister (Myrte) and 5 years old niece (Mara) again. After many cuddles, hugs and kisses, we went all together for a check-in at our hotel (which was situated just across the street of the families hotel).
It was lunchtime so we looked for a nice place for some lunch and lots of chatting. We found a great vegetarian place with yummy food and delicious fresh juices. So great to be together again!
And then it was beach time. We enjoyed the white sandy beach and warm water for a few hours.
We ended the day with some pizzas from a real Italian restaurant (just underneath our hotel) and a little stroll around the area with Carmen and John.
It was a bit rainy in the morning, so we decided to walk to the Walmart for some shopping. Followed by a self made lunch (oh we miss self made food so much, we can’t wait to cook in our own kitchen again) at our balcony before hitting to the beach. A long day of beach fun and swimming with Mara (she loves swimming). At the end of the day, David put up his slackline at the beach and had some slack fun. He made the day of a young deaf boy who was begging at the beach with his mom by letting him try out the rodeo line.
We had dinner that evening at a restaurant that became our favourite for the rest of the holiday and had a stroll along the busy tourist strip afterwards.
Time for some exploring. In the morning we took a Collectivo (mini bus for local transportation) to Akumal (35 pesos pp) as we heard great stories about snorkelling with turtles down there.
When we walked to the beach we saw herds of people in red swim vests also heading to the beach. And ones we got to turtle beach we saw all these people snorkelling in the same tiny square in the hope to see some turtles. Not our cup of tea (to put it mildly) so we decided to walk a bit further to Half Moon Bay. We found a perfect spot on the beach. Restaurant La Buena Vida had hammocks, lounge chairs and sunbeds on the beach for their guest.
Accompanied by a swimming pool, yummy food and delicious drinks. We enjoyed all of these things for many hours and walked along the beach.
In the afternoon we walked back to Turtle beach. It was less crowded now and we saw many people without the red life jackets in the water. We therefore chilled a few hours at this beach, snorkelling, slacklining and relaxing in the hammock.
Before heading back to Playa with the Collectivo, we ate something at a restaurant at the beach. When we got back to Playa we were all so tired that no one could stay awake until midnight to celebrate Tamar’s birthday.
As we were hours behind the GMT of most our family and friends in Europe and Australia, Tamar had already received a lot of messages in the morning. We decided to have a special brekky with just the two of us before meeting the family. We went to the vegetarian place again and had a lovely breakfast.
When we came back to our balcony (in front of the room), Tamar’s family had decorated everything with balloons and streamers. They started singing happy birthday as soon as we arrived. There were presents and cake, so a real surprise birthday party.
During the day we chilled at the beach and had a picnic on the beach with guacamole and fresh juices from (yes again) the vegetarian place. Some more swimming before getting ready for the evening part of Tamar’s birthday.
We had a lovely sea food dinner and then went to a beach bar were we knew they had a salsa band playing. Delicious cocktails, beer, tequila, salsa dancing and family. Tamar couldn’t have wished for a better birthday night out. Apart from the hangover the next morning…
As we needed an administration day, we didn’t do much the next day. But we did go for a quick dive in the ocean late in the afternoon. Family dinner at our favourite restaurant and on time to bed. As the following day we would go on a 3 day road trip. Yah!
Family road trip
The first destination was Vallodolid. After a nice relaxed day on the road with a few stops for lunch and stretching our legs in little villages, we arrived at our hotel in the afternoon.
The province of Yucatan has more than 5000 cenotes in the area, so it was cenote time. We drove to two cenotes (Samula and X’Keken) close to Vallodolid and had a great time snorkelling and swimming.
Dinner at the hotel restaurant and off to bed as we were going to Chitchen Itza early in the morning.
We arrived at Chichen Itza before the big buses from the big tourist destinations (Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen) also arrived at the scene. We walked around the beautiful old Maya temples, trying to imagine how people lived here hundreds of years ago.
Before it started to get to hot and crowded, we finished up, ate some ice-cream and took off for some cenote time.
First we went to cenote Ik Kil. Here David, Myrte and Tamar jumped of a 10 meter high wall in the cenote and also Mara started with diving of high walls.
After swimming you get hungry, so we had an amazing lunch at a little restaurant somewhere in a village on our way to the next cenote.
The next cenote, Xcan Che, was about to close when we arrived. We had 30 minutes to get there with a bicycle rikshaw, swim and get back to the entrance again. The Cenote was almost empty when we got there, so we enjoyed our 20 minutes in the water to the fullest.
The next day we went to Tulum with a stop at Coba for more Maya ruins. We hired some bikes and cycled around the temple complex.We saw monkeys slinging from tree to tree and the highlight of the day was the clime up the Nohoch Mul-pyramid. We made it out just in time before it started raining and lightning. While we drove away we thought about those people on top of Nohoch Mul-piramide. Without the rain people were already going down stairs on their, bum because they were afraid, this must have been even worse when the stairs became wet and slippery.
Time for some lunch and spotting a crocodile in the lake in front of the restaurant.
By the time we arrived in Tulum, it was still raining. So we retreated in our hotel and bought some pizza’s for dinner which we ate cosily in our room.
Luckily the weather changes fast, so the next day the weather was beautiful again. More Maya temples. Tulum is the only big city with Maya temples on the coast. Of course we had to check this out.
On our way back to Playa del Carmen, we stopped at Casa Cenote. This crystal clear cenote goes 200m back in the jungle, but ends in the see as the cenote is next to the beach. We enjoyed our afternoon here, snorkelling and swimming before returning to our homes in Playa.
The family had only 2 full days left, so we had to make the best of it. David went slacklining the next day with new friends.
and the rest of the family had a nice beach day.
We ended the day with a family meal at our favourite restaurant (Jarritos & Gazuelas) with a large fish plate, steak and lobster. Yum!
Cenote Dos Ojos and Casa Cenote
We hadn’t gone diving yet, and how can you not do a diving trip while you are in Mexico. There are so many good spots to dive, but we chose to dive at cenote Dos Ojos, while the family went to Casa Cenote again, where we would meet later in the day again. The two dives at Dos Ojos were amazing. The visibility in the water was at least a 100 meters. You dive with a pocket light as you go through dark caves while you swim from area to area in the cenote with stalagmites and stalactites.
We took a colectivo to casa cenote and enjoyed the rest of the last full day with the family snorkelling at the beach and in the cenote. We had dinner there before heading home to Playa del Carmen. We spend the rest of our Saturday evening at Zenzi bar again, drinking cocktails and dancing Salsa. Tamar and her sister Myrte also went to the Thompson hotel afterwards, for some dancing at a fancy rooftop bar with DJ Martin Luciuk playing music.
As the family was leaving Playa at 1:30 pm we settled with the whole family at the swimming pool of their hotel and also had our last lunch there. Saying goodbye again was not easy, but had to be done. Luckily this time we will see each other in 4 months again.
Getting back on track
As we didn’t have time to arrange things when Tamar’s family was around, we still had to arrange things for Cuba and come up with a plane and tickets for after Cuba, as you can’t get into Cuba without an onward ticket and there is no good internet in Cuba to really arrange and research your onwards travels whilst you are there. So we locked ourselves up in our room and organised things until deep in the night.
Road trip (part 2)
We picked up our rental car in the morning and headed to our first destination Bacalar/ Chetumal. We did not really had time to research where we were going, so when we arrived in Bacalar, the beauty of the lake took us by surprise (as would the hotel prices). In this little town we also had our first encounter with Quakers. They have their own little stores and commute by horse cart. During our road trip we would see them in other villages too.
After a swim at Cenote Azul, we decided not to drive to Chetumal to spend the night, but to stay at Bacalar. Finding a normal priced hotel was impossible. We had to pay 650 pesos (36 Euro) for a room with fan and shared bathroom in a hostel. But hey we are on a holiday, so we didn’t think too much longer about the costs and went for a nice short kayak trip on the lake (which we negotiated into our hotel price). We had dinner at a restaurant with the best Horchatta (rice milk) and Tamarind drinks ever.
The best thing about our road trip is driving through little towns where almost no other tourist come and eat at local restaurants. Eating what is on the menu without really knowing on forehand what it is, as our Spanish is not good enough to have conversations about food. We encountered many yummy surprises.
We didn’t think we would make it to Palenque in one go the next day, as the distance was quite large. But we just kept going and surprised ourselves. We had a nice stop at Bacan for some Maya temples. We were the only ones walking around at the ruins. This was so peaceful and we had lots of fun climbing Structure IX of 30m high.
We arrived in Palenque just before it became dark. We found a nice hotel and enjoyed the hot shower and internet.
The next day we visited Palenque’s stunning Maya ruins in the jungle.
We wondered around, took some nice pictures and then went on our merry way, completely off the beaten track straight through the Mexican wetlands. The roads were sometimes good and often with holes (it took 4-5hrs of driving to go 100km). We passed many little villages and enjoyed the views very much. People sitting in their hammocks in and outside their houses (these are there couches and chairs) and transporting themselves on bikes with a big carriage in front of it. But also many cowboys and ranches on the way.
We didn’t know where we would stop for the night and ended up in a little village. In this village people are using the same motor rikshaws (tuktuks) as in India, but then painted red instead of green, for their transportation. So cool to see. We took a short stroll through this town, had a yummy cheap dinner (the owner of the place helpfully opened David’s beer with his mouth…) and went to bed.
It was raining the next morning, but that didn’t matter as we had a long driving day ahead of us again. On our way to Campeche we bought our usual snacks (a bag with oranges (10 pesos), a big bag with coconut water and coconut flesh (20 pesos)) and we did some shopping at Walmart. For lunch we ate the famous shrimps (along these coastal towns) and when we arrived in Campeche we had some ice cream from the local ice-cream man. We love food!
Tamar was getting too grey again, so we died her hair (hair dye of the same brands as in the rest of the world, but it cost only 2 Euros at Walmart, so maybe she should have bought 20 packages…) and we were happy with the result.
A late night again, as we still had to do some last minute arrangements for Cuba and beyond, then sleep and of to Uxmal. But first we wondered through the old city of Campeche in the morning and had a small brunch and more yummy ice cream 🙂
When we arrived in Uxmal it was already 5 pm and the sky was grey, so we decided to check into a hotel and visit the ruins the next day. There were no cheap hotels in this neighbourhood, so we chose the hotel with the best value for money and enjoyed our cute room for the rest of the day and evening.
The next morning it was still raining, so we decided to skip the Maya ruins of Uxmal and have a lazy morning before meeting our new friend Christian. David had met Christian via an online slackline group and they made a plan to meet up for camping and water/highline at several cenotes. On Saturday we went to Cenote Kaankirixche for a waterline, Cenote Yaaludzil for a rodeo waterline and we camped that back at the first one. While the boys were having fun on their line, Tamar was swimming, snorkelling or reading her book. Everybody happy 😉
Camping was great! We made a camp fire under the stars, ate many marshmallows and had a great conversation. In the morning we heated up some tortillas on a brick that we put on some coals, accompanied with sandwich spreads (hagelslag, peanut-butter, nutella) which Tamar’s family had brought from Holland 2 weeks before.
Cenote time again. The boys rigged a highline at Cenote Suhen
and then we swam and snorkelled at cenote Nohmozon
before heading back to Cancun, as we had to catch our flight to Cuba the next morning. We said goodbye to Christian (awesome to make more friends around the world) and drove 300 km of boring, but well maintained highway.
At our hotel in Cancun we repacked our luggage, researched and arranged the lost necessities for Cuba and then had a short sleep before we had to head of to the airport already.We handed in our hire car at Americar (trust worthy hire company). Just short of 2000km in 7 days, we sure got our money’s worth from the hire car.
We arrived at the airport and had a healthy breakfast at the airport, hamburger and fries. Hmmm, why is the food on airports always expensive and gross? We bet there will be a lot of yummy food waiting for us at Cuba, after the food revolution in 2011…(Note from future David and Tamar: We were expecting waaaay to much)…
Adios Mexico, Hola Cuba!