Thursday, 11 April 2013

No 13 Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Hi from Clare,                             Tuesday 9th April 2013

We left Grand Cayman Sunday 31st March and had a good down wind sail to Isla Mujeres Mexico arriving Tuesday evening in time for a well earned sun downer. We caught a big Mahi Mahi along the way which provided us with five delicious fish dinners.

Our fish

Isla Mujeres is a small island off the north east coast of Mexico opposite the lively tourist city of Cancun. When we first arrived in Isla Mujeres we contacted an American couple on 'Valentina'. Sonny and Kay have been here since December. They kindly walked into town with us and showed us where to check in. We then met friends of theirs Rick and Roseanna on 'Tension Reliever' and the six of us had lunch at a beach front restaurant; it was so nice to relax and enjoy the beachfront view.

 Isla Mujeres main street

Island scenes

We are staying in El Milagro marina as the holding in the anchorage is only good in calm conditions. The chap who runs the local radio net each morning describes the bottom holding as "two feet of ice cream on coral".
The El Milagro Staff are very friendly and the facilities are good with a fully equipped kitchen, laundry, BBQs, a swimming pool with lounges and hammocks, an air conditioned movie room and a very comfortable outdoor lounge area with Wifi access. In addition to the usual indoor bathroom facilities it also has four outdoor showers. These have solid walls on three sides and a stall door and no roof. There is plenty of air circulation and plenty of water as the 'rain forest' shower head installed is huge. We are enjoying hot shower at night and it's so lovely to dry off and get dressed in the breeze - maybe I will install one at home!
We have been into town a few times. It is a twenty minute walk along the paved waterfront. There is a local bus that we can pick up anywhere along the way, but it runs so infrequently we usually walk the distance before one comes along. Time doesn't seem to be important here. The locals work on a "Mexican Minute" which they tell us is about an hour. So if someone says the bus will be here in a few minutes, we start walking. The marina introduced courtesy bikes but the local 'bike hire' businesses in town complained about losing business, so the courtesy bikes sit idle. We heard a story that when the first bus arrived by ferry on the island the local taxi drivers physically threw it in the sea; so much for a competitive market hey!

On Saturday we went for a double dive with one of the local operators. The dives sounded wonderful mentioning abundant fish life, turtles, sharks, colourful corals many swim throughs and a drift dive. In actual fact the dives were probably the two most disappointing dives we have ever done. The visibility was so poor we could hardly see the fish, the small amount of coral lacked colour, the swim throughs were unremarkable and the drift dive didn't happen. To top it off, there was a strong surge and the Dive Master leading our dive got a bit lost, we were clearly going around in circles. Eventually we came across the other group and the Instructor pointed our Dive Master in the right direction; I suppose you can't win them all.

Sunday we rented a golf buggy and toured the island. That was as funny as a circus as the golf buggy had a very sudden clutch and it tended to take off in forward and reverse rather rapidly. Andrew did a marvellous job especially doing three point turns in narrow streets with cars parked on both sides. The island is five miles long and half a mile wide with some spectacular ocean scenery. The average housing is basic and the little towns are untidy away from the tourist areas. There are some lovely homes along the waterfront.

Yesterday we took the 6.30 am ferry to the city of Cancun and then a tour bus to the ancient Mayan site of Chichen Itza 200 km west of the city. Cancun is a popular international tourist destination. We drove through miles and miles of thirty story big name hotels and luxury waterfront accommodation. The whole area is totally manicured with beautiful gardens, walkways, running tracks, fountains, rolling lawns and private access to the beaches. Our coach had to do a few pick ups along the way and so we got to pass through the security gates of some of the posh hotels and see how the other half live - suffice to say they are not doing too badly.

Cooling off in the Cenote

Mid morning we stopped at a Cenote (a natural underground fresh water lake) for a swim. Not everyone went in but we couldn't resist. The water was cold and wonderfully clear and refreshing.
Our next stop was for a buffet lunch with some traditional dancing and the inevitable gift shop stop for the purchase of Mayan crafts. We had to pass through the gift shop to get to lunch. The time table had allowed 30 minutes in the shop. There was probably as many staff in the shop as tourist. They pounced on anyone who stopped to look at something. I decided to just keep walking around the shop and I had a staff person walking around behind me the whole time.

Temple of Kulkulkan & Juego Pelota Stadium 

The Observatory

We eventually arrived at Chichen Itza around 2pm. The site is 17 square miles and dates back to 432 AD. The Mayans inhabited the site until the 1400s when the Spanish arrived. It was then abandoned till the 1860 when restoration began. Restoration has been hampered as a lot of the original stones have been removed from the site and subsequently lost. The Mayans were very advanced in astronomy. Only the scholars and the elite Mayans lived at Chichen Itza. The others lived in a village 2 km away. Our guide explained the design and features of the fully restored Temple of Kulkulkan. We then visited the Juego Pelota Stadium where we learnt all about their ball game (played only by the priests), their extensive culture and ritual. We then had free time to roam around the site and fight our way through all the touts. It was a very long and hot day and we arrived back to the boat exhausted around 10.30pm.

Mayan tourist souvenirs

Tonight we are attending a fish BBQ that the marina is putting on for $10 a head. They have two large grouper on the grill and a table laden with salads, bread, potatoes and various hot dishes; it all looks and smells delicious.

We will stay here for another week or so before heading for the USA.

Love Candy xx

At 12:52 PM9/04/2013 (utc) our position was 21°14.60'N 086°44.45'W

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