Caye Caulker; our first taste of Belize

It was with nervous excitement that we left our hotel in Chetumal, Mexico and headed to the port. We decided that we would try get to Caye Caulker by ferry (via Ambergris Caye where immigration occurs), but once we reached the port that plan was definitely up for debate. The cost of the ferry we discovered was over 1000 Peso, making a few hours on a boat very expensive. So we flagged down a taxi and headed for option two: the bus.

We reached the buses and were immediately shown onto a bus which would go to Belize City for the insignificant amount of 100 Peso (approximately, we can’t remember the exact amount). The bus left soon after and we were on our way to the border. For some reason I always feel nervous when doing the border crossings, even though I have nothing to hide and nothing dodgy in my bags, I always breathe a little easier once the stamp is on my passport. Am I alone? Does anyone else feel like this as well? A couple of notes I will make on this particular border crossing is to have all your FMM information for Mexico with you. Just having the tourist card is often not enough to avoid them charging you again. The proof of payment will be in an itemised invoice (not all airlines provide this without asking) if you flew in or if you crossed a land border just remember to keep your official payment receipts. A few of the other backpackers on our bus got stung with this “tourist tax” as we have been calling it. On the Belizean side the customs staff were all lovely and friendly. Overall the crossing didn’t take long even having to get out of the bus twice so we were off south to Belize City with no issues. Continue reading

Tulum and seaweed

Again another delay on blogging but I’m happy to say that Tom and I are back in the (currently) sunny South Island of New Zealand. We have had a busy month of travelling around to see family so have still been on the road living out of backpacks. The backpacks have grown a little with rediscovering clothes left at our parents houses as well as Christmas presents so a suitcase has been added to transport these. At the moment we are in Queenstown recovering from Christmas and New Year (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone reading this) so expect some quick posts about what we were up to between Mexico and our return home.


 

After leaving Isla Holbox where we swum with whale sharks we opted to skip both Cancun and Playa del Carmen we jumped straight onto a bus to Tulum. In short we unfortunately found Tulum to be both underwhelming and overpriced, although we did stay for a week and saw a few cool places. The first hurdle we encountered was finding accommodation. We hunted through the whole town in the dark and still ended up in what we considered an overpriced budget hotel. The hotel manager gave us a bit of a run-around after we asked for a discounted weekly rate, which they granted, but then started removing perks such as the free bike hire and kitchen use. We thought this was a little unfair and got a bit cranky. As we were about to leave and find somewhere else to stay they re-allowed the inclusions. So overall Tulum didn’t start out great and continued to be expensive. Because of this we didn’t opt to take any tours over the week but still visited some interesting places.

Because we had arrived in the evening after lugging our packs through town on a search for accommodation we had no energy for anything other than dumping our packs and sleeping. But before sleep Tom’s most important thing was a hamburger; street food style. I instead decided to be a bit of a weirdo and have breakfast for my dinner with muesli and yoghurt. Continue reading

Isla Holbox and the search for whale sharks

Leaving Valladolid we took a bus with our new friends to a random intersection on the road between Valladolid and Cancun. The only thing there was a tienda, a taxi stand and a bus assistant to assure us that there was another bus on it’s way to take us to onwards to the island. So the five of us camped out in the shade of the tienda to wait for an hour or so. The bus finally arrived and we were on our way to the ferry terminal to get to Isla Holbox.

Isla Holbox panorama

Isla Holbox panorama

Arriving to the island

Arriving to the island

Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosh) is a small island off the northern coast of the Yucatan. It has sand streets so golf carts are the main type of transportation, and a lot of mosquitos. Surprisingly we had actually made a booking for a place to stay so we had no stress as we made our way there to be welcomed (or not) by a rude, unhelpful and unfriendly staff member. Luckily his morning counterpart was the opposite; cheerful and friendly. After settling in we went for a walk to get to know the town and get dinner. That evening we ate fish at a restaurant on the beach with the sand between our toes while we watched the sun set. But food and drinks don’t come cheap on Holbox so for the remainder of our stay we cooked for ourselves.

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

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Bahias de Huatulco

Our final destination on the coast we decided would be the more touristy town of Huatulco which is beside a large national park. We arrived after a relatively cheap collective taxi to Pochutla where we topped up our Peso at the Scotiabank before jumping on a cheap second class bus for an hour or so.

After arriving at the bus station it was immediately obvious that we had reached tourist country so we shouldered our packs and set of to hopefully find some cheap accommodation. During some internet research the previous day our initial impression of hotels in this town was that they would be at the upper limit of our budget. After stopping off at a few between the bus station and centro we were surprised to find that we had options. At about our fifth enquiry we came across a winner for 300 Peso per night. This got us a recently renovated room, en-suite, balcony and fan about four short blocks to the central plaza and less back to the bus station. This hotel ended up being super cute. When our room was cleaned each day they would arrange the towels as animals; we had a peacock, an elephant and kissing swans in a heart.

Our cute room

Our cute room

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Zipolite with many, many mosquitoes

Zipolite

Zipolite

After leaving Mazunte in the heat of midday we arrived by colectivo ute within 30 minutes to Zipolite, another small coastal town renown for it’s great beach, which also happens to be one of the most well known nude beaches in Mexico. Never fear, you can keep reading because you won’t find any mention of us going starkers or any photos of naked people on the beach (I hope). Zipolite if possible felt smaller than Mazunte with one main road which loops around in a semicircle to rejoin with the main road.

Zipolite main street

Zipolite main street

We set of to locate the places we had found online which looked promising for our accommodation. Along our walk through town we found heaps of dirt cheap places to stay but they all looked a bit rough so we kept walking. Our goal was a place Tom had looked at online which was off the beach in a jungle setting. After arriving and getting no answer from the bell we hung around for a while investigating a huge stick insect on the gate. It was probably 30cm long! While we were amusing ourselves with this (I promise we only touched it once each so we weren’t being horrible to the wildlife) the owner showed up. Perfect timing. He showed us to an individual cabaña with a small outdoor kitchen and while we were thinking about it he let us leave our bags so we could investigate other places. So nice! It was great being able to explore without our packs but he must have known we would return and accept the place because it was a great price.

HUGE stickinsect

HUGE stickinsect

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Mazunte

When we arrived in Mazunte we were a little disorganised, we didn’t have a great idea of where we wanted to stay and I hadn’t loaded Google maps of the area very well on my phone. We managed to find a cheapish but nice hotel right on the beach. But being the start of the school summer holidays in Mexico we were told that on the following Monday the price would increase. So we booked until Sunday night which gave us three nights to get to know Mazunte.

A grey arrival to Mazunte

A grey arrival to Mazunte

Our hotel, right on the beach

Our hotel, right on the beach

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Back to the beach in Puerto Escondido

Heading out of Oaxaca at 10.30am in a shuttle we were off and away through some crazy, beautiful and rugged mountains on our way to Puerto Escondido on the Oaxacan coast. The trip was about six hours of roads winding their way up hills and down valleys in a bumpy van which my motion sickness just barely managed to tolerate. The trip seemed quite long but we eventually arrived to the hot and sticky temperatures of the coast. We were finally at the beach again. Finding a camioneta (more or less just a ute with bench seats in the tray and a tarp for a roof) we headed 20 minutes out of Puerto Escondido downtown to an area called Brisas de Zicatela where we would be staying for eight nights.  Continue reading

Catemaco

Arriving by bus to San Andres Tuxtla we still needed to make our way another half hour down the road to Catemaco. From the ADO bus station our next opportunity would be an hour away so we sought out other options. A nice local helpfully pointed us towards a new form of transport: collective taxis. These are your usual taxi but you pay per seat instead of for the whole trip. Being Mexico it’s not unusual for these taxis to have six adults (including driver) plus children and shopping in the medium sized cars. Yes this means that the front passenger seat accommodates two adults. We could only fit one of our packs in the boot so the other got to ride on our knees for the short drive.

Zocalo

Zocalo

After being dropped in the zocalo we set off to find accommodation. We walked a loop around the block, down past the malecon (lake front) and back up to the zocalo where we found our to-be hotel right next to where the taxi driver dropped us off. Typical right. The hotel was cheap enough to begin with but while we discussed it in English the lady dropped the price for us by $60 peso; making it a bargain $300 per night. Sure the hotel was super dated but our room was clean, came with towels and soap, had a fan, free water, was cleaned daily and was nice and cool. It was also in a central location; easy for the malecon, restaurants and buses.

Colourful boats in Catemaco

Colourful boats in Catemaco

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Eventful Acapulco

Warning this post contains an event which may make some people uncomfortable. Also a slightly gory photo (towards the end), read on at your own risk. Needless to say Acapulco was eventful, hence the title of this post!

Travelling to Acapulco we passed another Army checkpoint where we were stopped. This time Tom was required to leave the bus and assist as the bags, ours included, in the compartment under the bus were all unpacked and checked. The inside of the bus was also checked making this the most intense stop we had experienced on a bus so far.

Acapulco we soon found out was busy and a lot bigger than expected. We didn’t have any accommodation booked but had a location to check out near Playa Caleta. Those places were all a failure and as we headed back to the bus (sore and sweaty with our packs still on our backs) we found a helpful taxi driver who offered (for a fee of course) to drive us around some hotels closer to the zocalo. We decided on a cheap local hotel. A budget hotel but clean and in an OK place across the road from the bay near the Zocalo in Old Acapulco.

Looking north along the beach

Looking north along the beach

Exhausted from the search for accommodation we ate at the restaurant right outside the hotel, a little overpriced for our buritos but at that moment we didn’t care. Continue reading

Zihuatanejo and beaches, beaches, beaches!

From Manzanillo we caught an overnight bus to Zihuatanejo another beach town further down the coast. We kinda did two no-no’s in this trip; a second class bus and overnight. Travelling through three States in the process, one being Michoacan again, is also not recommended. The bus was surprisingly comfortable for a second class and we decided it was more appropriate for it to be named a first and a half class. We were  stopped once during the night and armed personal of some description boarded and checked some ID’s but I was fast asleep,  Tom informed me of this after I woke. The bus made good time and we arrived in Zihuatanejo in the dark before 6 am. Our hostel would only be open from 7.30 so we sat around in the station for about an hour trying not to fall asleep.  After enquiring about buses or collectivos to the Centro without success we took the easy option of a taxi.

Beaches off Centro

Beaches off Centro

Arriving at the hostel we settled in to our room which felt like it was located in a jungle. The property had huge mango trees and gardens between the reception and the rooms. Unfortunately that was one of the only positives of the hostel. Though it wasn’t bad by any means we felt that it overpriced for what it was. To put it another way, I got used to cold showers while here. Continue reading