Backpacks

DAY 0    The weeks before trip...

    If you remember the intrepid adventurers, *Picture Link* Robin and Elaine, from our first trip to this jungle paradise, you will remember how we felt upon leaving Belize about 18 months ago. We decided to return, with thoughts of moving there, and felt it would be a good idea to see what the country and it's people were really like. You may remember on our last trip we had a guide and a driver. All plans were made and executed to show us the best of what Belize had to offer. This time we elected to play it by ear and foot. For this trip we will have backpacks and guide books. No fancy reservations, no one to protect us from the locals or the water. Now you may ask "What do the Ziegler's know about world travel?". Well you will see how and what we did for the next 21 days and you can decide for yourself. Our first great idea, fly to Cancun instead of Belize City. Airfare to Belize was $600 and Cancun was only $300. So the two of us saved $600 on the round trip. Bus trip from Cancun to Belize City is about $35 each and that's for first class!

DAY 1    Tuesday, December 24th, 1991

    Now we are ready to start the adventure. Off to the airport (SFO) and can only hope our *Picture Link* backpacks (BPs) survive the luggage tossers. Breakfast at airport, snack on first leg of flight. SFO - HOU. Good to Great flight. Flew over Monterey Bay on the departure. Arrive in Houston at 6:20 PM and are a little late, our connecting flight to Cancun leaves at 6:56 PM. So we quick step halfway across the airport and arrive at the gate. Oh Oh, they have changed gates! So it's back to the other side of the airport. Sure these things happen, but some guy is really upset. He wants to know why they changed the gates. A real asshole about it. Sure am glad I'm such a nice person.

    Second flight was better than the first, Nice dinner on the plane, then fill out Visa & Customs forms. We land in Cancun to a light rain and 73 degrees at 9 PM. Cheers, the BPs survived!! Customs was a breeze, push a button, if you get a green light you just walk though. We got a green light! Packs on our backs, we walk around for about 30 minutes looking for a rental car. No luck... could it have anything to do with the date? Christmas Eve in Mexico is a big time celebration! How could we have forgotten what date it was. Two types of taxi from airport to town... Private and Colectivo. Private = 77,000 Pesos, Colectivo = 19,000 Pesos. (About 3,000 pesos to the US dollar) We took the Colectivo, but we're all alone, and got a private trip.

  So, $7.00 U.S. gets us into a large comfortable taxi for a ride into Cancun with Fernando our driver. Fernando wanted to speak English and Elaine wanted to speak Spanish, and I couldn't understand either of them. We all laughed about that.

    Was I nervous again (remember last trip to a small Central American country?), YES... especially when we were driving around in some dark deserted back streets in a foreign country. After a few tries, we ended in a residential neighborhood and found a place that had vacancies, Posada Wichita. My nervousness ended when we meet the owner of the "Posada", Senior Martinez, who in real life is a lawyer. He and his family live on the ground floor and the next 3 stories are rooms and baths. Some have balconies and all have great views. Spartan at best, but clean and comfortable. Fridge, closet, bed, sink, shower, and toilet. Windows on two sides and a little balcony out the front door. And the price you ask? Well, some folks are paying over $200 a night in the "Hotel Zone", but we are paying only $20.

    Rain has stopped, so after unloading the backpacks, we set out on the first small adventure. I will navigate, Elaine will translate, and we are off on a walking tour of the night life in Cancun on Christmas Eve. We walk past children and adults playing with *Picture Link* Pinatas and we are invited to join. We walk past outdoor restaurants and pick one for later. We walk well past midnight. It is now Christmas Day. We see fireworks, sparklers and pass folks going to Mass. We return to the restaurant we had passed earlier and stop for dinner. Seven kinds of meat, served with onions and black bean puree. All kept hot on a metal plate over a coffee can with sterno. Our first great meal. $11 and enough for two.

    Back to our room without getting lost. We actually NEVER got lost on the entire trip. It's about 2:30 in the morning and fireworks last at least another hour, then we finally fall asleep. End Day 1.

DAY 2    Wednesday, December 25th, 1991

   Early to bed, early to rise. Well we didn't get much sleep. 6AM. Cloudy. A million birds! Here we are, Cancun Mexico, first full day. Showers, write in the note journals, wait for the sun to be fully above the horizon, open the windows and we are off for a walk (something we will be doing a lot of on this trip). We walk around getting our daylight bearings, visit some local "Mercados". Seems I am acting too Mexican (whatever that means). I am called "Mr. Whiskers". Have a great breakfast/lunch and catch a bus out to the "Zona Hotelera". *Story Link* The history of Cancun.

    After crossing onto Cancun Island, we depart the bus and start walking at Calinda Beach and stop at the Hyatt *Map Link* Cancun Hotel Zone. This was a 4 mile walk past some of the most beautiful beaches and hotels we had ever seen. Not to mention some of the best looking topless babes I have laid eyes upon.

   We walked for about 3 hours, the sand was WHITE and fine. In the water we found lots of little *WEB Link* Pipe Fish and Sergeant Major Fish. We pretended we were staying at some of the better hotels, and would just walk through the gates or doors marked "Guests Only". A few Pina Coladas and some rips to our beach shoes later, we decide to let the bus take us home. I think it might have had something to do with the large exciting looking clouds that were forming in the distance. After a shower and quick change of clothes, we were off to do some shopping, but as we passed a restaurant that looked like a tent with an open front, Casa De Los Arcos (no not McDonalds), we decided to have an early dinner. Just as we were sitting down, the sky opened and rain started blowing in on us. Changed tables and I ordered the Yucatan Sampler (sausage and flautas and stuff) and Elaine picked Pork in a Banana Leaf. This was another great meal. The street outside had become a river. A boy about 8 years old and his sister, who is about 5, come walking past and the sidewalk has a small 1 foot break where some construction is taking place. There is no way around the construction. The boy and girl are dressed for church, he takes his sister's hand and helps her across the small muddy area, making sure she doesn't slip or get dirty. Imagine that in the U.S., not bloody likely!

    As we finish the dinner, the rain stops as suddenly as it had started. While walking back to the room, we stop at Monterey Auto Rental. Remember, this is the biggest holiday week in all of Mexico. Well, someone has cancelled and there is a car available. And we can have it for 2 days, Louise also lets us have tonight free. He also suggests some fun things to do and places to stay down the coast, including cabanas with hanging beds. So we take the car and off we go. We pick up some bread and juice for breakfast and head back to room.

    Did we say, we had windows on 2 sides of the room? Did we say we left them open? Well, we clean up the puddles and set the magic watch for 06:00. Thus Ends Day 2.

DAY 3    Thursday, December 26th, 1991

    6 AM comes early, *Picture Link* I am up taking pictures of Elaine and our room. We hurriedly pack our packs and are off. Leaving Cancun behind, we head south and everything goes pretty good except for the couple of wrong turns leaving town and the exploding orange juice (which somehow became my fault). Vultures everywhere sunning themselves.

    Tulum at 08:30 is already crowded, parking lot is full of tour busses (December 26th). But using my great navigational skills, we are able to steer clear of most of the crowds. We take some *Picture Link* pictures and I think ours are better, but these are quick *WEB Link* pictures, listen to a few of the guides, see lots of large Iguana, get bit by a few mosquitoes and all in all have a pretty good time. Not as good as Tikal, but much nicer setting. Two hours later we are off to find the swinging beds and some shade. Louise at the Rent-Bug place told us to find "Chac-Mool". Well, we drive to the place and find "Osho", which has become *WEB Link* "Maya Tulum" today. All are the same place and you know you are there when you find *Picture Link* the statue of "Chac-Mool". Ok, we get out and take a look around...

    And what to my wondering eyes should appear on the beach? Yup, sexy, topless and bottomless women.

    Guess we can stay the night... Oh yes *Picture Links* the cabanas and restaurant were ok too. So we check in and it's $36 for the rest of the day and night. First order of business is a swim in the lagoon right outside our window. Can you believe the fish? Then we elect to have lunch, vegetarian buffet and very good. We wait the mandatory hour and then swim in the Caribbean. Not as much fun as the lagoon. Next we drive into the town of Tulum and visit the local Mercado. Elaine barters with a shopkeeper and gets a 40,000 peso towel for only 33,000. I am called Santa Claus by a young boy. Well, at least he didn't call me Jerry Garcia. Back to Osho and dinner buffet. Too much to mention but it looks like the menu hasn't changed much in the past 10 years. After dinner walk on the beach, warm water, fish, fireflies, stars. Back to room and bed. *Picture Link* Hanging beds a first for us. Singles, so we each picked the one we wanted. Mosquitoes abound so we close the netting. Sleep comes easy. Later we are awake with bats in our room... then the rush of wind and a shower breaks in as well. So I am up closing the shutters and rescuing our clothes. Huge downpour and so much for the thatched roof. Rain is now running down onto my bed. So Elaine and I are now trying to fit into one single hanging bed.

DAY 4    Friday, December 27th, 1991

    Finally morning arrives and we are up and walking along the beach. Angry seas, beautiful sunrise, still have all the fish from the night before plus *WEB Links* a 2 foot long moray eel, ghost crabs, blue eyes in a crack, and some guys raking the beach.

    Breakfast was another wonderful experience. Unfortunately some folks just don't get it. A family with 3 kids and grandma are arguing with the manager about getting some french toast because one of the kids doesn't like pancakes. I talked to the manager to make sure we wouldn't be charged the Deluxe rate for our room, since it did have "running water" and a "shower". After breakfast I shower and Elaine does some laundry. Feed some cracker crumbs to visiting ants on our window sill.

    Next stop *WEB Link* Xel-Ha, a natural water park. You have fresh water underground streams flowing out to sea and the seawater flowing back into the streams. This causes the two dissimilar density and temperature water to form layers, cold fresh water on the top, warm salt water underneath. Very interesting. The boundary layer was like looking through a gel. Standing in the shallow water, you would be cold on the top half of your body and warm on the lower half. A gazillion fish of every make and model. So we spend at least an hour in the water snorkeling and emerge as prunes. As soon as we change out of our swim suits into the normal shorts and shirts, the afternoon rains arrive.

    Someone mentions Puerta Adventura, a timeshare pitch worth a free lunch. So off we go to Playa Del Carmen and actually find this place.  Am I good or what? Well, after their pitch we say "Thanks, but no thanks", and they say "There's no free lunch". Because it was such a nice hotel and it was raining so hard outside, we decided to fork out some big bucks for their lunch buffet. Good food. And then we are off in the rain, looking for a place to spend the night. Drove through several towns and no rooms until we find "A Mar" in the quaint town of Puerto Morales. $25 gets us a small 1 and 1/2 story home for the night. The folks built a new house next to the old one and now rent *Picture Link* the old one. We did have to share the shower with one of those little creepy crawly many leggy *Picture Link* thingies.... After settling in and opening the exploding backpacks, we set out to explore the small beachside town. Pork chops and Chicken was on the menu for dinner. Afterwards we walked down the beach and then back to room and bed. Thus ends Day 4 (or so we thought)

    Sometime in the middle of the night, sounds of Rat Vs Snake (have heard those sounds before with some of our pet snakes) and it seemed to be coming from right outside the window. When morning arrives, we discover it was a Rat Vs Cat in the middle of our room, under the dinning room table. How do they find us.

DAY 5    Saturday, December 28th, 1991

   Up early and off to Cancun. Nothing eventful on trip back. We return rental bug and then book a trip to Belize. Elaine gets us on the Red Eye, leaving at 06:30. We arrange for a room at the place we will always be staying at in Cancun, the Posada Wichita. They are wonderful hosts and let us leave our bags. The room will be ready at 14:00 hrs. We then head of to brunch at the place we eat many happy meals La Casa De Los Arcos. Huevos Rancheros, Muy Bien!! Did some shopping, found some sandals to replace the lime green beach shoes that died on their first outing. We also found a Lavanderia (laundromat) that was open until 20:00 hrs., we return later to do the wash. Back to room and off to walk along the beach and feed the fish again. At 17:00 we catch a bus and return to get in line for the lavanderia. I try to impress some of the local children with paper airplanes, but that is a flop. Laundry takes about 2 hours with the help of an attendant. Next we are off to our favorite restaurant for dinner and then some late night shopping and back to room and sleep. Dawn will break early.

DAY 6    Sunday, December 29th, 1991

    04:25 up and about, guess we were just anxious to get started. Why does it take so long to pack the packs? It always seems like we have more and more to put into smaller and smaller backpacks. Every taxi in town stopped or honked and asked if we wanted a ride. At 05:30 we arrive at the bus station. Restrooms in Mexico are called "sanitarios" which, by the way, they aren't! We elected to pay 60 cents extra for First Class tickets. This allowed us to have assigned seats in the front of the bus. Good move for two reasons. First, the bus restrooms are in the back and do have a slight odor. Second, Free Snacks and Sodas. Seats were great, like train seats. They reclined and had foot rests. Movies on small VCR in the front. Window shades like airplanes. What else could you ask for. There were some in-flight hazards however. The bus had a crew of three, Driver, assistant (to keep the driver awake), and the hostess to run movies and food service. The bus driver would honk at vultures that sat on the road and were usually pointed out by the co-pilot. One or two of the vultures went unnoticed by both the driver and his assistant, to the joy of other vultures later on. Elaine slept most of the four and a half hour trip. We arrived in Chetumal, Mexico and elected to take a taxi across the border to Corazal, Belize.

    It took a few tries to find a taxi driver with a valid passport, we did however share our snacks of cheese and oranges with the drivers without passports (the fruit would have been confiscated at the border anyway). At the border we had no problem with the Mexican customs, but as we were leaving, a bus of "turistas" started towards the Belize border as well. Our driver raced with New York speed, past the bus, and we arrived before the old folks. We rewarded our driver. Found a nice hotel named *Picture Link* Tony's and with a little haggling, got the price down from $150 U.S. to $45 U.S. for the night. Nice room with hot water and ceiling fan.

    Lunch was first on the agenda, chicken, rice, beans, potato salad, fried bananas. Then a shower and a walk on the pier. Lots of fish but no bread to feed them. Then we walked into, around and through the town. A curious mixture of Chinese, Mexican, and Belizian. Sunday everything was closed except the churches. While resting in the square in the center of town we were interupted by a young man named Cecil Hamilton. He introduced himself and said that Robin looked like a "Liar"on vacation. His accent was a little hard to understand, but we finally figured out that he had said "Lawyer". He talked for quiet some time. He told us about living in New York for 10 years and he had been back in Belize for only a year. He showed us a "Star"on his palm and wanted to know if we would like our fortunes told by reading our palms. We declined and he then asked if we could spare $2 so he could take the bus home. We gave him 10,000 pesos ($6) which was the smallest we had. And thanked him for the great stories. A car drove past with some of his friends in it and they yelled and asked if he was using the "Star on the palm" again? We all laughed.

    We return to our room and decide to stay another day. Need to explore a little more. We also decide to visit the butterfly farm in Sarteneja on Wednesday.

DAY 7    Monday, December 30th, 1991 Rain.gif (7026 bytes)

    Some days you just can't win! Rain! Rain! Rain!

    We walk around town, visit small market, run from palapa to palapa. When it rains harder we stop for shelter, when it lessens we walk quick step. Bus tickets to Orange Walk will be $3 total and the trip will take 1 hour. Bus leaves at 08:30 tomorrow. The rain isn't as bad after lunch. Lots of vultures out sunning their wings. We walk to the airport and find the small runway. Only about 2,500 feet long. While we are there, 3 taxi's, 2 cars, a van and a truck arrive. The 15:30 flight from Belize City arrives. A Cessna 207 from Tropic Air. Someday I would like to be that pilot! On the way back to our room, we stop at gift/snack shop and late lunch is Coke and Cake. At the hotel we have dinner and meet some obnoxious "birders". Glad we aren't in their group. Later we sit outside and watch stars, bats and satellites. To bed early and end of day 7.

DAY 8    Tuesday, December 31st, 1991

    Up early, shower, breakfast (Chocolate Milk, Banana, Cookies). Walk to bus takes about 20 minutes. An hour and a half later we are in Orange Walk and a short walk to the town square. Now things start to get a little confusing.

 

Gone Fishing, Back Later.