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Vacation Journal
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Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Isla Mujeres, October 18-26th, 2008

By:
Date: 11/24/2008

I flew out of San Francisco on the red eye on Friday, October 17th. I arrived in cancun around 11am on Saturday and hopped the bus down to Playa del Carmen. I had booked an oceanfront room right on the beach in the heart of Playa. I arrived about 12:30 but my room wasnt going to be ready until 3. It was overcast and tempting to rain so I walked next door to a beach bar to have a couple of beers while I waited on my room. There was a great crowd at the the beach bar so I started mingling and enjoying myself. The next time I checked the time it was nearly 5:30 and I was beginning to feel a little drunk. I hadnt eaten all day and after flying all night I was exhausted as well as tipsy. I checked into my room, showered, changed clothes and went out to get some food in my belly. I spent a month in Playa last year so I returned to my favorite Italian restaurant and said hello to some old friends. So many of my favorite waiters and bartenders were still at their posts. I had a couple more drinks after dinner at various bars while I walked around refamiliarizing myself with the place before turning in early.

I woke up Sunday to rain and called my friend down in Tulum to see how the weather was there. She reported clear skies so as soon as there was a break in the flood I walked to the bus station and headed down to Tulum. She met me in Tulum Pueblo and we went out to lunch at this wonderful "three pots" place. You get a plate of beans, rice and tortillas and you pick your meat from one of three big pots of stew like stuff. One was beef or pork, one was chicken, and one was seafood. Delicious. My friend had recently completed construction on her new house out in the jungle by the beach and I was eager to see it. We walked to her place, about 4km into the jungle carrying a couple of cases of beer. Dang it was hot. I knew that she had bult and eco-house, totally solar powered, well water, composting toilets, totally self sustaining and off the grid, but I didnt realize she had built such a big, cool place! Its ultra-modern, minimalist style, open architecture with soaring ceilings, lots of light and open breezeways, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, huge lot with fruit trees and vegetables and a 12ft high security wall with beautiful wooden gates to keep out jaguars. Shes had a problem with boa constrictors coming over the wall, scorpions and tarantulas are drawn to the bathrooms and bats fly into the house at times, but she seems to have adjusted to those aspects of jungle living. The house is three stories with solar panels on the roof. She took me up to the roof to see the view of the jungle and beach and to check out the solar panels. As we were standing there staring off into space, a huge gust of wind blew up and we heard the exterior storm door slam shut. Not good. We went to the door and sure enough, it had slammed so hard it tripped the latch. We were locked on the roof. Climbing down was not an option. It was a 30 ft drop down to limestone rocks, cactus, and aloe plants. There were no neighbors to yell to and our phones were downstairs. It was hot, very hot, the wind was picking up and we could see a black line in the sky as a big storm approached. I finally asked, "how much did that door cost?" My friend looked at me with a sad look on her face and said, "No, not by brand new door! I just got this place finished!" She knew we didnt have any choice though so I started kicking. Now I only weigh about 130lbs soaking wet with change in my pocket and this door was built to withstand 275mph winds. It was not impressed by my feeble efforts to kick it. I sat down on the roof facing the door and my friend sat behind me with her back to mine to give me extra leverage. I kicked with both feet as hard as I could over and over again at one of the seams between the vinyl panels next to the latch. It would bend so far it seemed impossible that it wouldnt break, but it always sprang back into shape. After kicking myself into a lather and with my legs throbbing, the seam finally split and my foot went through. Getting it back out was the next problem as this vinyl door had sealed up on it like a zipper and I was sure my foot was turning purple on the other side from lack of circulation. My friend was able to get her hand in through the breach past my foot and unlatch the door and I was able to pry the panels far enough apart to get my foot out without leaving more than one or two layers of skin behind in the process. The two cases of beer wed brought with us didnt last long after that mess. The storm blew in and we sat in the living room all afternoon talking about the problems of the world shed left behind for her jungle home. It was perfection. Rain outside, cool breezes blowing through the house, cold beer and good conversation. We sat there til dark and walked back into town for dinner. After some great tacos at a roadside stand we went to a couple of bars and I met some of the locals that my friend knew. She poured me into a collectivo back to Playa around midnight and I slept like a baby.

Monday I was lazy. I mostly sat around on my balcony staring out at the beach and reading. It rained off and on which kept things cool and alleviated any guilt I might have had for sitting around on my butt all day instead of getting out and enjoy ing all of the local sights and sounds. I managed to get out for dinner and spent the evening hanging out with some new friends I made at the restaurant.

Tuesday I walked around and explored Playa, walked the beach, napped. A couple of friends of mine from here in CA were in Puerto Aventuras near Playa so they and their family came up for the evening. We went out to dinner and hung out for drinks for a while before they headed back and left me to spend my last night in Playa alone.

Wednesday morning I checked out and took the bus up to Cancun to catch the ferry to Isla. I took a taxi from the centro bus terminal to the ferry building and caught up with my friends from GA that were meeting me there. I hadnt seen them in ages. They left their 3 year old at home and came on this trip to relax and have fun. It was their first trip to Isla and only their second time in Mexico. We had booked a rooftop penthouse at Ixchel Condos on Playa Norte. I usually stay at Nautibeaach with the family but I wanted to try something different for this friends trip. Wow. What a great choice. Our two bedroom, two bathroom suite with rooftop jacuzzi deck was beautiful. Every amenity, towels, sheets, electronics, kitchen, bathrooms, furniture, all top notch. Service at the condos and pool/beach bar were great, and I loved having the Sunset grill still just a few steps away. In some ways I felt like I just had a really nice room with a better view at Nautibeach because of the Sunset Grill being right there. We had lunch at the Sunset grill and walked down to the beach club for afternoon cocktails. We sat there all afternoon until sunset then went up to shower and freshen up before dinner. We had pizza for dinner at the brick oven place across from Bamboo. LOVE their pizza. We ended up eating at least one of those pizzas every night. My GA friend is a bad influence on me. Since it was our first night after not seeing each other in so long she insisted we do a shot of tequila. Her husband wisely declined and started giggling at us knowing what was to come. It only took us one shot to revert back to our college years, dancing, singing (badly) to our favorite songs, too much hugging and new best friends everywhere we looked. At some point I bought a taxidermied toad frog playing a banjo and drinking a corona. God only knows why, but after more beers than I can count and a few shots of tequila I assume such an item had great importance. We made it back to our room and decided it would be a great idea to go up to our rooftop deck for a nitecap. It had been raining on and off all evening but the skies had cleared some so we went up to enjoy the view of the stars. I got settled in a lounger and opened my wallet to see how much damage Id done that evening. A gust of wind came up and all of my remaining pesos went blowing in the wind across our roof deck. I scrambled up to chase them down. As soon as my bare feet hit the wet tile they shot our from under me and sent me flying. I really did see stars then! Once the ringing in my ears stopped and the numbness I was experiencing in my legs was replaced by excruciating pain in my back I managed to crawl around in the dark and collect most of my pesos. My dignity however, was completely spent.

Thursday morning was not pretty. The thunder booming, the blinding flashes of light, the oppressive, sweaty heat and explosive torrents seeking escape from the dark clouds above mirrored perfectly the way I felt. Why oh why did I drink tequila? I get sleepy and go to bed when I have too many beers and generally wake up feeling fine. I get energetic and keep going when I drink tequila and always end up overdoing it. I learned this long ago, but my will is always tested on isla. My travel companions werent faring any better, though the husband was in the best shape of the three of us having abstained from tequila. We had a very low-key day. We lounged on the sofa, the deck, the balcony, the bed, anywhere one could lounge really. We did make it out for breakfast and lunch but each trip required such effort that it was followed by a lengthy nap. Many gallons of gatorade and lots of naps later we were primed and ready for dinner. We were expecting a walk of shame back down Avenue Hidalgo, but we were greeted warmly so apparently we didnt act up too badly. In fact, several people who I had absolutely no memory of came up to us and thanked us for the drinks wed bought them! Oh boy. No more tequila. Definitely no more tequila. Dinner was something delicious and I dont even remember what. We went back to Bamboo and Faynes for more drinks, music and dancing....no more tequila though. I wanted to reclaim some respectability.

Friday we rented a golf cart and did the standard tour. Colonia, Sac Bajo, Playa Tiburon, sea turtles, Garrafon de Castilla, sculpture garden, ruins, shell beach, Caribbean side, north point, back into town for dinner/drinks. My friends really fell in love with Isla. I wish we had more time for me to show them more of the island, but they got a taste for it on our little one-day excursion. We got back to our room and then went out to dinner. We ran into some of our friends from the past couple of nights at Faynes and spent most of the evening there dancing and having cocktails. We eventually ordered yet another pizza from the brick oven place at midnight to take back to the room with us. We ended up sitting there and eating the whole thing though when another round of drinks showed up from some kind person.

Saturday was our last day and the sun was out so we spent the day on the beach. So nice. We stayed in the shade of the palms trees and enjoyed the breeze. We had lunch and cocktails on the beach in the afternoon before going up onto our roof deck to enjoy our last sunset on Isla. The tile was still wet and this time it was my friend that took the fall. She was trying to slide her lounger chair back and her feet scooted out from under her. SPLAT! A warning to all who stay at Ixchel Condos....the tile is very slippery. No bones were broken though the bruise was pretty impressive, but not as impressive as the sunset. We spent our last night at our favorite places on Avenue Hidalgo. I said goodbye to my old Isla friends, we all said goodbye to the new folks wed met and we had one more pizza before bed to keep up the nightly tradition.

Every trip to Isla is different but every trip is just as good as the last. Ive taken people of all ages and all levels of travel experience to Isla and so far they all love it as much as I do. It really is a special place.


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