Mexico

Hasta la Vista PA

Before I move on to our ill-fated trip down under, I have a few more memories to share from January 2017 in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.

Food is an important component of any trip. Since this was our third stay in Puerto Aventuras, we have several favorite restaurants but Cafe Olé tops the list. (It’s also the top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor.) Jim loves the all-you-can-eat fall-off-the-bone ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans offered on Sundays and Tuesdays and I can always find fresh local fish.

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Ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans at Cafe Olé

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Fish (which I started eating then remembered to photograph) with grapefruit, rice, and fresh veggies at Cafe Olé

The number 1 dessert place is Jessie Gelato where Jim and Gail can be found every evening getting their home-made gelato fix. They didn’t have to twist Chuck’s arm either.

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Jim, Chuck, and Gail at Jessie Gelato

Every year we walk across the highway to the local village to find authentic Mexican food but each time we retreat fearing Montezuma’s revenge from the local water. This time we finally stood our ground and ate at A Tu Parador which means “at your roadside inn.” That makes sense since this place is just next to the highway.

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Jim, Chuck, Gail, and me

The various condiments for the tortilla chips were tasty with some heat and the beers on tap were big and cheap.

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Condiments for chips

I ordered a fish taco and while it was a no frills, basic taco, it hit the spot. This was probably the least expensive meal we had the entire two weeks and we didn’t get sick either. I’m sure we’ll be back.

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Fish taco

One advantage of staying in the condo at Chac Hal Al is the ability to cook some of our own meals. The walk to the large super market, Chedraui, is 2.9 km (1.8 mi) each way but twice a week we can buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market just a couple of blocks from our condo.

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Farmer’s Market in Puerto Aventuras

Each day we checked at the marina for fresh fish that charter boats sometimes sell if the customer doesn’t want it. Chuck got lucky one day and bought some yellow fin tuna that is usually eaten raw after marinating but we grilled it to perfection with a little olive oil and onion.

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Chuck also got a lesson on harvesting and opening coconuts from Miguel, one of the grounds keepers at Chac Hal Al.

Chuck engaging the grounds keepers

Miguel picking a coconut

Opening the coconut

Jim tasting coconut milk

Coconut meat

This year we enjoyed a special treat when the Green Bay Packers played in the NFC Championship. One of the restaurants, Palapas, offered a package for an all-you-can-eat buffet including margaritas, piña coladas, rum punch, and beer during the game for just $12. Although the game was a blowout and the Packers played like high schoolers, the food was good, we had live music before the game, and we drowned our sorrows in margaritas.

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Palapas

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Breakfast at Palapas

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Live music at Palapas

A few more random memories:

Gail and I especially enjoy a drink at the bar at the Omni Hotel next door where we can sit in the jetted pool with a view of the water. We dragged the guys along for the fun. Gail was wearing an itty bitty bikini and I didn’t think she’d appreciate me posting that photo so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

One night while sitting at a restaurant on the marina, we saw fireworks over the water to the south of PA, probably at Barceló Resort. Sometimes if the wind is right, we can even hear music from major artists like Luke Bryan playing at Barceló.

One morning I planned to hike out to the lighthouse but the terrain was so challenging I made it just part way and took photos instead.

The grounds at Chac Hal Al are always well-maintained and I never tire of the beautiful views.

The little pool at Chac Hal Al

Iguana and Jim sunning themselves

Panorama view of our view from our balcony

Gail and me after a swim

We’ve already booked our two-week stay at Chac Hal Al in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico for next January. Until then, hasta la vista.

Riviera Maya from the air

 

Based on events from January 2017.

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Puerto Aventuras 2017 Continued

Each year we look for new things to do while we’re in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico. This year we found the Original Snorkeling Adventure to Puerto Morelos Reef National Park. The national park is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which is the largest coral reef in the Americas and the second largest in the world. Only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is larger.

We booked this tour at one of the local tour agencies in Puerto Aventuras. For $89 per person, they picked us up in Puerto Aventuras, transported us 34 miles (55 km) to the park by mini bus, took us out in small groups to snorkel at three different locations, fed us a buffet lunch with an open bar, and returned us to PA after a seven hour day. It was loads of fun at a reasonable price.

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The grounds at the Original Snorkeling Adventure

 

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When we arrived at the park, we learned we had to pay an additional park entrance fee of $4, cash only. We’d brought very little cash with us but managed to scrape together the fee for the four of us. Some people didn’t have any cash with them and I don’t know what they did. We were also informed that only biodegradable sunscreen was allowed but fortunately I brought a credit card and could pay the $15 for it. We were directed to use the lockers available free of charge for valuables and used the bathrooms before boarding the boat.

I was surprised when I saw how small the boats were. It made sense, however, after the short ride to the reef. The reef is protected and snorkelers must be accompanied by a certified guide. Snorkelers are required to wear a life vest and are prohibited from standing on the coral. More than 14 snorkelers would be difficult for the guides to manage and keep watch over.

 

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One of the boats headed to the coral reef

 

 

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Chuck applying biodegradable sunscreen, Gail, and Jim on the boat

I’m not a strong snorkeler and in spite of the life vest, I floated low in the water which made me nervous. One of the guides gave me the life preserver ring which I laid on top of with my face in the water and I finally relaxed enough to enjoy the experience. In spite of my unorthodox approach, I managed to see the coral and lots of colorful fish but I was unable to take underwater photos with the camera attached to my wrist. I’m sure I was an odd sight and I wish I had a photo to share. After the first stop, I happily stayed on the boat taking photos and video of the others. Jim, Gail, and Chuck offered rave reviews of the second stop as well as their entire experience.

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Jim snorkeling

I took a short video of Jim snorkeling which you can see below.

 

After the first two snorkel sites, we had a break onshore before the final site. Gail, Chuck, and I decided to forgo the third site and elected to have a margarita instead. Jim forged on without us and ended up with blisters and raw toes where the flippers rubbed the skin off. Next time he’ll bring socks to wear under the flippers.

 

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Chuck, Jim, and Gail at lunch

 

The buffet lunch was tasty including salad, rice, beans, shredded pork, chicken, tortillas, and the open bar with beer and margaritas. They probably served soda, too, but I don’t remember since I didn’t consume any.

 

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My lunch

Bellies full, we adjourned to the beach to relax and soak up a little sun.

 

 

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Gail and me

 

I also checked out the hammocks which are perfect for a siesta.

 

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This is the life

 

 

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Goodbye to the Original Snorkeling Adventure

 

I’ve seen some negative reviews online of the Original Snorkeling Adventure but I respectfully disagree. Some of the complaints address the length of time it takes to pick up people from resorts all over the Riviera Maya. If you don’t have the time to spend doing that, you’ll want to pay the price for a private tour. We were on Mexican time and enjoyed the price, the experience, and the open bar.

 

Based on events in January 2017.

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Puerto Aventuras 2017

We first visited Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, in January 2015. It was such a great getaway from the January cold and snow in Iowa we went back in 2016 and again in 2017. We don’t usually return to the same place year after year because there are so many new places to discover, but this place is special. Puerto Aventuras is located on the Yucatán Peninsula, 89 km (55 mi) south of Cancun and a short colectivo (local bus) ride from Playa del Carmen and Tulúm. It’s a small gated community with a laid back atmosphere and beautiful views of Bahia Fatima (Fatima Bay).

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View from our balcony

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View from our condo of our balcony and the bay

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View from the bedroom to the upper balcony

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Walking along the marina

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Dolphin Discovery on the marina

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Selfie while walking the beach in front of our condo

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The lagoon near the marina

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Sunset from our balcony

We arrived on January 10 and we wanted to continue our exploration of Mayan culture before our friends, Gail and Chuck, arrived on January 15.  Since we visited Chichen Itza the previous year (you can read that post here) and Tulum in 2002, this year we scheduled a guided bus trip to the ruins at Cobá. After a mix-up about our pickup location, we were finally on our way.

Coba is a large, mostly unexcavated archeological site in the jungle just 39 km (24 mi.) northwest of Tulum. Dating from 600-900 AD, the main attraction is the pyramid, Nohoch Mul, which is taller than Kulkulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza. Nohoch Mul has 120 steps to the top compared to Kulkulkan Pyramid’s 91 steps. And, unlike Kulkulkan Pyramid, Nohoch Mul is still open to the public to climb. 😱 This pleasure, however, was saved until the end of our visit. Nohuch Mul is at the far end of the grounds, a distance of at least 2 km (1.2 mi.), by my estimation. Because not everyone wants to walk that far, they offer bike rentals and rickshaw bikes with drivers to transport visitors at a very reasonable cost. We, however, walked.

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Ruins at Coba with our guide

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Sculpture at Coba

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The walk to the pyramid

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Rickshaws transporting tourists at Coba

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One of the stone slabs or stelae that archeologists used to learn about life in Coba

When I saw the pyramid, I knew climbing to the top was out of the question for me. The slope was extremely steep and everyone I saw coming down was doing so on their butts close to or holding onto the rope.  The steps were also very uneven and quite narrow.

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Nohoch Mul Pyramid

I did climb far enough for a photo, then relinquished my phone to Jim who made it all the way to the top. It was, in a word, terrifying and I worried about Jim’s safety the entire time. Since he had the camera, I was unable to get photos while he climbed but he took pictures during his ascent and from the top.

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This was as far as I climbed at Nohoch Mul Pyramid

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Looking back down the pyramid

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Looking down from Nohoch Mul Pyramid

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Jim’s photo of the surrounding jungle from the top of Nohoch Mul Pyramid

I hadn’t heard of Coba before my research but this tour was impressive. While it’s not as extensive as Chichen Itza, if your dream is to risk your life by climbing to the top of a pyramid, this is the place to do it. So go there before they prohibit it.

And come back next time for more of our 2017 trip to Puerto Aventuras.

Based on events from January 2017.

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Sailing Fat Cat from Puerto Aventuras

If you’re looking for a fun-filled sailing experience while visiting the Riviera Maya, check out Fat Cat Catamaran and Sailing Tours. For $100 per person, we got a four-hour sailing experience that included drinks, lunch, music, snorkeling, swimming, and even the catch of a dorado.

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Our catamaran, Fat Cat Two

As we set sail at 9 am, most of the passengers were ready to party to the thumping dance music with drinks in hand–rum punch or beer. While I don’t usually succumb to sea sickness, I felt that alcohol so early in the day combined with motion might not set well on my stomach so I declined the offer and stuck with water until after lunch. My friend Gail definitely tends toward sea sickness so she abstained with me. I admit when drinks are included, there’s some pressure to imbibe, just to “get your money’s worth” but the seas were a little rough and I think it was a wise choice for both of us.

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Gail showing a Corona Mega

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Setting sail

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Jim as we set sail

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Out of the marina and into the open water

After sailing north toward Playa del Carmen for an hour or more, we anchored to snorkel. I snorkeled briefly but then returned to the boat to take photos instead. Someday I’m going to get a waterproof camera and take photos while in the water.

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Our group snorkeling

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Gail snorkeling

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Gail returns to the boat

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Jim snorkeling

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Jim returns to the boat

While in the warm, crystal-clear water, the snorkelers saw many varieties of colorful reef fish, stingrays, and sea turtles. When they were finished, everyone had worked up an appetite and it was time for lunch. The others had a typical sack lunch containing sandwiches, chips, and cookies but I requested a gluten-free lunch and I was thrilled with my offering of tuna, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.

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My lunch 

After lunch, we headed back at a leisurely pace.

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Jim enjoying the ride

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Enjoying a rum punch on the return trip

The fishing lines were trolling off the rear of the boat and we were thrilled to watch the staff land a dorado, also called mahi-mahi in Hawaii or dolphinfish in other places.  In Spanish, dorado means golden which perfectly describes this tasty fish. Everyone who cared to was offered the opportunity to pose with the fish.

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Gail with the dorado

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Jim with the dorado

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Laura (me) with dorado

We made a final stop near our marina for swimming. While there we discovered one of the other passengers onboard was a firefighter from Iowa who knows my brother through rugby. I’m always amazed by the connections we find with people as we chat.

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Swimming off the boat

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My handsome man

As we sailed into the channel to the marina, I got a photo of our condo from the water.

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View of our condo as we sail into the marina

It was a great day at sea and Jim was already talking about going again next year.

 

Based on events from January 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Beach Day at Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is one of the top destinations on the Riviera Maya and while I’d been through there several times on my way to other places, I’d never spent any time there. It was time to correct that omission.

We took the colectivo, a mini bus that shuttles locals and tourists along the Riviera Maya, from Puerto Aventuras north to Playa del Carmen for 25 pesos (around $1.40).

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Colectivo that shuttles people up and down the Riviera Maya

The bus dropped us a couple blocks from the beach. We passed the main shopping street, Fifth Avenue, but we were intent on finding a spot in the sand so we postponed any shopping until later.

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Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Portal Maya, one entrance to the beach, was built in 2012 to commemorate the end of the Maya calendar. You may recall the Maya calendar ended on the winter solstice, December 21, in 2012, which resulted in many doomsday predictions but needless to say, they were wrong.

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Portal Maya

I’m a shade lover so we found beach chairs with an umbrella that we could occupy for free as long as we ordered food from Wah Wah Beach Bar. Gail, on the other hand, stretched her towel out on the sand in the hot sunshine.

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Jim and our beach chairs under the umbrella on Play del Carmen

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Our view

As we explored the beach, we spied the pier to the south where the ferries to Cozumel arrive and depart. Next year maybe we’ll check out Cozumel for a day trip.

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Pier at Playa del Carmen

Walking the playa, Spanish for beach, is a good way to explore the area while getting some sun and exercise at the same time.

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Looking north on the beach

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Playa del Carmen

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Walking the playa

I’ve always had a special affinity for lighthouses so I was charmed when I spotted the one below, called Faro Lighthouse. Faro means lighthouse in Spanish.

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El Faro (Spanish for lighthouse)

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Fishing and snorkeling boats

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Boats tied up on shore

At the end of a perfectly gorgeous day on the playa, we wandered back to Fifth Avenue. You can find all the usual souvenirs along this street but there are also some higher end shops and plenty of restaurants, too. Jim and Gail had to try out the gelato but found it was more expensive than their favorite, Jessie’s, in Puerto Aventuras.

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Gail and Jim on Fifth Avenue

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Fifth Avenue

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Shops on Fifth Avenue

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Playa del Carmen if you’re seeking a party atmosphere with lots of people and action. It was fun to visit for the day but at the end of the day, we were happy to return to quiet, laid-back Puerto Aventuras.

Based on events from January 2016.

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Stinking and Sinking in Puerto Aventuras

Our condo at Chac Hal Al overlooked Bahia de Fatima, a beautiful, serene bay with clear cerulean water perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or paddle boarding. For the less active, it was a beautiful setting for sunbathing or just sitting in the shade of a palm tree or palapa with a good book or a cocktail.

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Bahia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our beach

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Báhia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our balcony

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Swimmers and snorkelers at the beach

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Gail paddle boarding

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Jim chillaxin’ poolside with a view of the bay

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Gail sunbathing on the beach

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Jim with a view of the pool and the bay

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Time for nachos and Coronitas

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My view

Idyllic, wouldn’t you agree? That is until our idyll was disturbed by two events. The first disruption occurred when we observed this.

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What looked like brown seaweed invaded the peaceful azure waters and definitely discouraged water activities. My research revealed it was sargassum or sargasso seaweed, which is an increasingly common problem in the Caribbean. The free-floating algae originate in the Sargasso Sea located in the Bermuda Triangle of the North Atlantic. While its existence is nothing new, the amount has increased dramatically and may be attributed to the warming of the ocean due to global climate change. In normal amounts, sargassum provides habitat for lots of marine life including hatching sea turtles but the massive amounts washing ashore today can adversely impact tourism. Clogging the water, it discourages swimmers and snorkelers and the smell as it deteriorates drives away beach-lovers.

I was impressed to see residents and employees working side by side to rake and bag the sargassum and haul it away from the beach. Soon they had the beach looking pristine again and ready for activities. We did, however, observe sargassum at other beaches along the Riviera Maya during our stay so I wonder how they are dealing with the issue.

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Jim walking back from the area where clean-up occurred

The next puzzling event occurred when we noticed a large ship which appeared offshore in Bahia de Fatima.

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Large ship in Bahia Fátima

After several days continued presence, we asked a local realtor that paddle boarded to our beach about it. She said a Mexican Navy ship hit the reef and sank. I posted a teaser on Facebook and Twitter that a blog post would follow. This is finally that post.

We still didn’t know the full story. Why was the large ship there? Day after day, when I saw it was still there, I wondered what it was doing and how long it would continue to be present. It dominated our view and became a daily topic of conversation.

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Mexican Navy Ship

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View of the navy ship from our upstairs balcony

We even discussed it over cocktails at the Omni swim-up bar.

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Our view of the navy ship from the swim-up bar at the Omni Hotel

And then it was gone and the drama ended. We finally learned from reading the local paper, The Pelican Free Press, a Polaris Patrol Interceptor boat lost power causing it to hit the reef. It was hung up on the reef for several days, where Jim first saw it, but it sank when it was pulled from the rocks. Salvage operations first centered around removing equipment and weapons from the boat. The Mexican Navy’s second largest multipurpose logistical ship, a BAL-02, equipped with a hoist arrived to refloat the sunken ship and tow her in for repairs.

Life on Bahia Fátima returned to its previous undisturbed halcyon state. But I’m sure the tourists and locals who were there sometimes say, “Remember when…”

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Next time: Playa del Carmen

Based on events from January 2016.

 

 

Categories: History, Mexico, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Miss Chichen Itza

The Maya are an indigenous Mesoamerican people whose civilization flourished as long ago as 1800 B.C. in southeastern Mexico and the northern areas of Central America in Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The city of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula was established by the Maya people in the first half of the 5th century A.D. and was the center of civilization until its decline around 1200 A.D.

I’ve been to Mexico many times and I’ve visited the Maya archeological site at Tulum but this was my first visit to Chichen Itza. When I discovered it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I was keen to see it. Our guide, Norma, provided many details about the Maya and the structures we viewed. For example, the Maya grew cacao for a chocolate drink, they had a complex written language recorded in books, they were brilliant astronomers, and played a game on a large court putting a ball through a hoop.

There are many descendants of the Maya people still residing in the Yucatan and their homes continue to be organically constructed of earth or wood with thatched roofs as shown in the photo below.

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Typical Maya dwelling

As we entered Chichen Itza, the main thoroughfare was lined with vendors selling their wares. We were on a tour with a guide so there was no opportunity to shop at that time even though we had learned to ask in Mayan, “Bahoosh?” (how much).

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Vendors lining the entrance to Chichen Itza

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High Priest’s Grave

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Wall along the Great Ball Court

 

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Ruin at Chichen Itza

 

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Norma, our guide

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Caracol, an observatory for astronomy

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Las Monjas

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Path through the jungle at Chichen Itza

The iconic El Castillo, or Pyramid of Kukulcan, is the building everyone goes to Chichen Itza to see. The four sides of this temple each contain 91 steps which total 364 plus one single step at the top for a grand total of 365 steps which equal the number of days in the Mayan calendar. I was under the incorrect assumption that we could climb to the top and felt some trepidation at the thought. A friend of mine told me about the experience. She said the steps were so narrow and steep that coming down she had to sit on the staircase and ease down step by step. Thankfully, visitors are no longer allowed to climb so we dodged that bullet.

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The Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

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Temple of Kukulkan behind us

Following our tour of Chichen Itza, we had a tasty buffet lunch at a restaurant designed to feed busloads of tourists.

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Fresh tortillas for lunch

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Buffet for a multitude

Following lunch, we stopped at Ik Kil for a swim in one of the most beautiful cenotes I’ve seen. A cenote is a sinkhole where the Maya and others located their towns to have a supply of fresh water available.

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Ik Kil

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Ik Kil

We declined to swim but enjoyed the experience, nevertheless. And best of all, Norma advised us before leaving the bus to be back by 2:30 saying, “If you’re not back on time, it’s okay.  We’ll be back here in two days and we’ll pick you up then.” No one was late!

Based on events from January 2016.

 

 

 

Categories: History, Mexico, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Best Thing I Ate in Puerto Aventuras

Our first night in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, we didn’t venture too far from our condo. The closest restaurant was Hoo Haa! which sounded like a Chinese restaurant to me but fortunately it was Mexican. We like Chinese cuisine but we didn’t plan to eat any in Mexico. The food at Hoo Haa! was fine but nothing special, although I’ve since seen rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook.  Following chips with pico de gallo and guacamole, Gail and I ordered the fish tacos and Jim had the specialty plate that looked quite impressive.

Chips, pico de gallo, guacamole

Fish Tacos at Hoo Haa

Jim’s Specialty Plate

The next evening we tried Hippos Marina Lounge. The Blues Brothers in front of the restaurant attracted us although honestly, what does that have to do with good food? Hippos Marina Lounge The food was well-presented but rather bland. Someone later told me when you order grilled fish in Puerto Aventuras you must tell them how to season it or it won’t be seasoned at all. I don’t know overall how accurate this is, but it was certainly true in this instance.

Grilled fish at Hippos

Grilled fish at Hippos

After asking around for restaurant recommendations, we found Latitude 20 uniformly received high marks so that was our next choice. There was good cause for the accolades.

Whole chicken at Latitude 20

Whole jerk chicken at Latitude 20

Fish at Latitude 20

Fresh grilled fish at Latitude 20

I had the fresh grilled fish with coconut curry sauce which was outstanding. The sauce definitely added plenty of flavor. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food and the entertainment at Latitude 20 and I hope the food is as good next year. The evening we were there, we met the new owner and I saw on Facebook that the chef, Danny, recently left as well. Next year, we’ll definitely go back to Latitude 20 and I’ll let you know whether it’s still our favorite.

We had a great meal at Cafe Ole on Sunday night when they serve all-you-can-eat ribs accompanied by beans and cole slaw. One serving was plenty for me but Jim had seconds and even thirds. The ribs were done to perfection and literally fell off the bones.

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

Each night we finished off the evening with home-made gelato and soon found our favorite was Jessie Gelato. I was led astray by Jim and Gail as I would never seek out dessert of my own volition. The generous servings were delicious and samples were freely provided to help us decide. Fortunately, the calories in the samples don’t count.

Jessie Gelato

Jessie Gelato

We’d read that the food in the village populated by the locals was cheap and tasty so we decided to take a walk over there and give it a try. Once there, however, common sense prevailed. I was worried about whether we’d end up with Montezuma’s revenge which Jim already had a touch of, so we opted for middle ground and visited Taco Paco located outside the village along the highway. Their excellent shrimp tacos are made fresh while you wait.

Taco Paco

Taco Paco

All in all, one of my favorite meals was actually in Tulum on the beach at Adelita’s. The chips, pico de gallo, guacamole, and fish tacos were only outdone by the tasty fresh kiwi and mango magaritas.

Adelita's at Tulum Beach

Adelita’s at Tulum Beach

I love Mexican food and with fresh ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. I tend to choose fresh local fish whenever possible since that’s not available much in North Iowa. We did try to purchase some fish from a fishing boat in the marina but we couldn’t agree on price. Next year I definitely want to try my hand at grilling local fish at the condo. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch on the balcony each day and with our view, you just can’t get any better than that.

Breakfast with a view

Breakfast on our condo balcony

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Walk on the Wild Side in Mexico

I was surprised by some of the wildlife I saw around Puerto Aventuras. I’ve been to the Yucatán Peninsula before and naturally I’ve seen plenty of geckos, iguanas and even a cucaracha or two. Incidentally, I’m a screamer. If I see a bug, especially one like a cockroach, I’m very likely to scream.  At home I have an exterminator once a month, not because we have bugs but because I don’t ever want to see a bug in my house.  On this trip, however, I saw some animals totally unfamiliar to me so I had to consult Michaelpedia. Michaelpedia is my son, Michael, who has been an expert on animals since he was a small child. When I saw a strange animal, I texted a picture to him and soon had reply with the name.

But first, let’s see the ordinary ones. Dolphin Discovery drew a lot of interest from children and adults who want to swim with the dolphins. I’m not a fan of keeping dolphins in captivity but I did take a photo.

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

As we explored the beach and area around our condo, we encountered iguanas languidly sunning themselves.

Iguana

Iguana

One morning, I was up early having my coffee alone on the balcony when I saw this pair on the lawn below me.

Agouti

At first, I thought they were rabbits but when they moved I knew they were something else. I sent the photo to Michaelpedia and learned that they were agoutis, rodents that are native to this area. To see them in action, watch the video.

Then on our visit to Tulum, we spied this creature which necessitated another text photo to Michaelpedia to determine that it was a coatimundi, from the raccoon family. You can see a second one just emerging from the jungle. The woman ill-advisedly luring them with food from the jungle didn’t warrant a picture, however. I hope she didn’t get bit but why do people do that stupid stuff?

Coatimundi

Coatimundi

I tried to get a photo of the gecko that Jim inadvertently brought in from the balcony after it dropped on his iPad but the fellow was too quick for me. I would also have loved to get pictures of the sea turtles at Akamal but the crowd of humans swarming in the water made the prospect of snorkeling in that area most unappealing. I’m just happy to have digitally captured some of the amazing wildlife we encountered while in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Contrasting Tulum and Akumal

A friend recently shared a blog post from a friend of hers entitled Celebrate the Contrast. It was an entertaining read and thought provoking as well. It was with that concept in mind that I approached this week’s post for my blog.  All beaches are not created equal but, that said, any beach is better than no beach in my opinion. So, it may be an easy first step in the exercise of “celebrating the contrast” to apply this concept to beaches.

There were two beaches close to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, that we wanted to check out. The first was at Tulum. I’d been to Tulum before to see the Mayan ruins but didn’t set foot on the beach so this time we skipped the ruins entirely and went straight to the beach. Jim was suffering a bit of stomach upset so he stayed behind while Gail and I hopped on the colectivo (local bus) at Puerto Aventuras. For the 28 mile ride south, it cost us 35 pesos ($2.35) each. Then we walked about a mile from the highway to the beach, just following the foot traffic and found our way with no trouble.

Tulum National Park

Tulum National Park

We walked the beach and checked out a couple of restaurants. I’d read if you ate or drank something at a restaurant on the beach, you could use the lounge chairs and palapas all day long. A palapa is a Mayan structure with a thatched roof that really looks and acts like a sun umbrella. This restaurant, called Adelita, attracted us but when the fellow told us there was a minimum of 300 pesos to get a chair, we said we’d keep looking.

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

In the end, we returned to Adelita and ordered some lunch and margaritas which covered our minimum anyway. I had a mango margarita and Gail ordered the kiwi. (Watch for a future post of all the awesome food and drinks we enjoyed on the Riviera Maya.) The best part was that I would have this palapa all day to sit in the shade thus preventing a major sunburn from the intense Mexican sun.

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My Palapa at Adelita

The water was a beautiful turquoise, the perfect backdrop for beach photos. Disregard that guy in the water in this photo. He doesn’t belong to us.

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Beach at Tulum

Me and Gail

Selfie of me and Gail

One of the coolest things I had read about Mexico is that on Sundays the locals are admitted free of charge to area museums and attractions. I think Sunday is the day that families get out and do family “stuff.” We observed many Mexican families enjoying time together on the beach. Maybe they stopped here after a free visit to the ruins. I don’t know whether they owned these boats or whether the boats are considered fair game for seating space but several were occupied. I loved the local feel.

Mexican families at the beach

Mexican families at the beach

This is one of my favorite photos. I saw this little guy striding among the boats and had to capture him on film.

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Mexican boy

One more view of incredibly beautiful Tulum, a relaxing idyllic paradise on the Riviera Maya. Ahhhh.

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Akumal was on our itinerary for the following day. It was only half as far as Tulum by colectivo but the cost was the same which was still a bargain. Akumal is the beach where tourists go to snorkel and view the sea turtles. Our first look at the beach was certainly the opposite of our experience on the previous day. It seemed that every inch of shade was already occupied.

Beach at Akumal

Beach at Akumal

We finally found a spot far down the beach under a spindly palm tree shared by a beautiful young couple with a selfie stick that they used to capture pictures of themselves on the beach and cavorting in the water. You can see a frond here under which I moved about every few minutes to try to stay in the shade. But the more interesting point of this photo is the swarm of people going out to snorkel to view the sea turtles. There must have been at least five or six such groups churning the water at any moment. I was glad I hadn’t planned to snorkel that day because it was a madhouse.

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Unfortunately, the constant cacophony of construction noise disturbed any thought of idyllic sunbathing. I would say that Akumal will become the next Playa del Carmen and we experienced it in the making.

IMG_0009 - Version 2 So, my celebrating the contrast caused me to appreciate our experience at Tulum with its low-key, relaxed, local vibe. I’m sure that young people who like to be where the action is would feel that they had scored big by being at Akumal instead. But, as I said, any beach is better than no beach at all. Yep, celebrate the contrast.

 

 

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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