Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mas Diving

Another bright and early dive trip today...Friday.  The first dive we saw no extraordinary wildlife, but it was cool to swim around through tunnels of coral.  The second dive we saw a huge lobster, a toad fish, some kind of shark and I think I saw a barracuda.  It's fun but I don't see how people can go on trips where they dive every single day.  It's exhausting and stressful, although that last part is probably due to my still being a beginner.  I'm up to 12 total dives though so I can't beg off with that excuse for too much longer I guess.  I have to admit that snorkeling is much more peaceful to me.  We had some delightful pescado (fish) at a new lunch spot we found today and now I think I'll give up my fight to stay awake.  Tomorrow morning we ferry back to Playa del Carmen, get a car to the airport where we pick up our rental cars (it was cheaper to get two than one large enough for all six of us (Lesley and Kristen are heading back to Portland tomorrow, unfortunately)) and drive to our hotel near Chichen Itza.  Sunday morning we'll head out to the ruins before all the tour buses show up. 

Later...
...this is exactly what we did. It was beautiful, peaceful and empty at 8am when the ruins opened for business

Pyramid in the mist

Hoop in mist

and in the afternoon we got totally different light

Dag & Leslie & Pyramid

Circling birds

Spencer & Gwen


After checking out of the hotel, we found the most fantastic restaurant in the town near the ruins. You have to see these dishes to believe them:

Queso Relleno

Dan's dish



Then that night we drive back to the super swank hotel Dag got us for cheap in Cancun.  It's one of those over-the-top luxury style golf resort type places - it should be a kick.

Later...
...and it was a kick! I'd never want to spend an entire vacation at one of these generic, overpriced resort hotels, but it was a nice way to end up the trip.

Pool


I've heard about all the windstorms and power outages in OR and WA!  I hope all of you are warm and the contents of your refrigerators are cool!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SUN!

Yesterday after I left the internet cafe I ran into Dan, Jill, Lesley and Kristen who were on their way to the local ruins, San Gervasio.  I jumped on their bandwagon. 

El Arco

More interesting than the ruins themselves were the scads of iguanas running wild among them.  So adept at camoflage, you often do not see them until they start because you've almost stepped on their tail. 

Iguana

And these are BIG creatures - maybe five or six feet long.  Back at home, I made some of my leftovers and a couple of eggs into a giant yummy scramble and then took a quick nap.  Everyone in the house met up later for Tacos down the street.  We have all fallen deeply in love with the family who runs it and I believe we ended up leaving something like a 45% tip after the bill was paid.  I mean, at one point the lady of the house came up and said her husband was going to the store and did we need anything...beer?  ice cream?  So adorable!  After dinner, Lesley, Kristen and I went down the street and bowled three games.  Not a lot of business there and judging by the scores of the local people who were there, bowling is a relatively new sport to Mexico...at least to Cozumel.

Today...Thursday - finally the sun came out and stayed out all day long.  It was positively gorgeous!  We all went out to Dzul-Ha again and spent the morning snorkeling and getting stung by little jellyfish. 

Dag, Jill & Dan preparing to snorkel

Heading in

Dag and Dan found the Queen Mary 2 docked and went out for a photo shoot while the rest of us read or napped. 

QM2

Jill, Dan, Gwen, Spencer, Dag and I had a late lunch at the ever-fabulous El Foco.  After much in-head rehearsal, I said to our waiter Roberto:  "mis felicitaciones al chef" which is like "my compiments to the chef".  Dag joked that I would accidentally say: "can I have the phone number of the chef?" and when Roberto replied "muy guapo", which I believe means "gorgeous", i wondered if he might have been correct!

Roberto and Chihuahua

  Now we are all kind of lazing around as the sun goes down.  All this relaxing is positively exhausting!  Tomorrow Dag and I will go diving again and then Saturday we're off to Cancun and Chichen Itza.  On Tuesday, the vacation seemed to be going so slowly by but now it seems to be flying past at the most alarming rate! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Waterworld

Next thing I recall about Monday evening is my two hour nap after which Lesley, Kristen and I went down the block to the taco place where we discovered the cook is actually the husband of the lady with the baby and he comes home from his day job at 7pm, tosses aside his lanyard, picks up his apron and cooks until 1am.  With a smile on his face.  We have been tipping a lot more heavily when we go there.  That night most of us went to bed early but Dag, Gwen and I stayed up til 1 chatting and listening to music.  It´s cool being with such a large group.  Everyone gets along great and you have the chance to break off into smaller groups depending on who wants to do what and who´s hungry when.  it´s a constant rotating door of social experiences.
 
Yesterday (Tuesday) we all slept in til 9 or so and had breakfast at home.  I made smoothies out of fresh papaya, yogurt and bananas and we tested a variety of sweet breads I´d picked up at the supermarket down the street.  I don´t think I would go back for any of them but they were interesting.  Most were filled with a little bit of fruit.  The texture was a bit gummy for my taste.  Since Kristen and Dag had each overflowed the coffee maker on Monday, we´ve been sticking with the french press. 
After breakfast, Kristen and Lesley rented a scooter and headed out for a tour of the island.  The rest of us took taxis to Dzul-Ha for some snorkeling as there seemed to be a break in the weather.  For a while this was true and we had a lovely time swimmin wit da fishes!  I was lazily floating above a large school of yellow fish, both of us swaying back and forth with the surge.  Even from underwater I could hear the safety talk being given to a very large group of touristas by their snorkelmaster.  As soon as he gave the go-ahead, they all took a flying leap into the water and swam right into me and the school of fish I was bonding with.  Blasted touristas!  It was about time to get out of the water anyway and shortly after I did, it started Pouring Down Rain so the lot of us picked up our towels and went home.  As we were getting ready to go out to lunch, Lesley and Kristen were on their way out on the scooter again.  They came back after about 10 minutes because the scooter had crushed Kristen´s right ankle against the curb after losing control on a wide turn through a puddle.  We were laying on the pressure to go to a doctor but she insisted it was ¨fine¨although she wasn´t interested in trying to move it for us.  We gave her until after we got back from lunch to show some improvement before we called in life flight.  I cannot for the life of me remember where we had lunch.  OH wait!  Yes, it was at El Foco, which was another of Shannon´s recommendations we´d been searching for. 

Sauteed Meet

It was spectacular.  They had a giant whiteboard sporting their menu that they´d prop up on a chair by your table.  We had too much appetizer nachos and couldn´t really do much damage to our tacos but vowed to return later.  We found Kristen vertical and in a much better state.  The swelling seemed to actually have decreased on her foot and we had to attribute it to the fact that Dag seems to have been blessed somehow.  On his neck suddenly appeared a giant red cross and miracles have been around us ever since. 

Miracle

Actually, I´m pretty sure he was stung by something while snorkeling.  But when people see the welt and ask ¨what got YOU?¨ he always replies indignantly: The LORD! (duh implied)
we spent a lot of time that evening gathered around the hammocks and table outside laughing and talking and then headed out in the rain to see if we could get a little Our Lady the Virgin Guadalupe action.  We mistakenly thought that there would be parades and stuff downtown but found out later that it was all at her church that is a cab ride away and, napless, we were all fading.  Back to El Foco for margaritas and more nachos!  That fixed us right up for another hilarious evening of pool lacrosse back at the homestead.

Lacrosse?

 
Today we ventured back to Girasoles for breakfast where we´d first had the Chilaquiles. 

Breakfast

I´m still full.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Eating, sleeping, diving & rainstorms

Hola amigos y familia!
We had an uneventful flight over, which was a nice change from our last trip.  I slept right through both legs.  From the Cancun airport, we took a van to Playa del Carmen to catch the ferry over to Cozumel.  The water looked pretty choppy and the ferry was lurching heavily but we were all too tired or optimistic to realize what lie ahead.  It was rough enough at the dock but once we got going out across the water, the boat was tipping almost to vertical, it seemed and water was gushing in between cracks in the plastic & fabric covered windows. 

vlcsnap-57093

I´m not prone to motion sickness and have never been seasick before, but this ferry ride was an ultimate excercise in concentration.  Mind over the matter in my stomach is what I´m talking about here.  I ended up putting my head down on the bench in front of us and that fixed me right up, but several other passengers were not as lucky.  so then it was also an excercise in not thinking about that scene from Stand by Me with the pie eating contest and what transpired after. 



Our companion Jill turned positively green but she also made it out with her lunch in tact.  Hooray for us!
We arrived at our house around 7pm and were met by the guest services guy, Pancho, who showed us around.  It´s a two story house with two bedrooms per floor.  Each could be rented separately but we have filled the whole house, which is nice because the pool and courtyard are shared, and you know...strangers...ewww!  Each bedroom has its own bathroom and each floor has a fully equipped kitchen.  The accomodations could not be better.  We got a little settled then headed out for some dinner.  Let me just say that I LOVE Mexican food!  We got some good restaurant recommendations from a friend who comes here often and they´ve been right on every time.  The first night Dag and I both had Mole Chicken.  Every restaurant has home made chips and fabulous salsas on the table.  The starter was a thin noodle soup in what seemed like a spicy beef broth - yum!  Dag made sure that I got my ice cream quota filled for the day with dessert.
Six of us stayed up talking - alternating between chairs and one of the four hammocks hanging in a circle around the table. 

hammock

Luckily that table and the hammocks are covered by a roof because it has been raining pretty steadily since we got here.  We´re all taking it in stride because after all, it is still a very pleasant 80 degrees out there!
Yesterday we found a breakfast place for me to have my favorite - Chilaquiles Verde! 

Breakfast

Then it was just hanging out, reading, napping, more hanging out, dinner at the taco place around the corner which is the concrete patio of someone´s house.  They got ahold of an old hot dog cart (it actually still says HOT DOG on the side) and the man of the house uses the grill to cook up carnitas and chorizo and mini quesedillas while the grandma wipes the rain off the chairs or carries the baby around.  I think we´ll be going there a lot.  Our house is in a residential area away from the main tourist action, which is nice, but it´s also a multi-block walk to any restaurants and the taco place is exactly one half block from our front door.  Nice.
Today Dag and I got up at the crackalacka and went out diving. 

Surface Interval

We had a small boat this time, which was much nicer than the 15-20 person boat we took in Thailand.  Diving is kind of overwhelming anyway and then when you´re also fighting crowds to get suited and unsuited it gets a little over the top.  We were two of six total divers today and it was perfect.  The first dive was nice - we didn´t see too much in the way of wildlife but it allowed me to get my bearings.  I had enough weight this time and was all over my bouyancy control.  Visibility was incredible and the boat followed us as we drifted along with the current - much more passive and enjoyable than our last dives in Thailand.  On the second dive, we saw a giant yellow eel under a rock formation.  We didn´t see its body but judging from the size of its enormous gaping head, it had to be just freaking huge!  Next we saw a nurse shark swim by us against the current as we were swept along by it.  Then we saw TWO turtles in a row, which are my absolute favorite thing to see!  Huge parrotfish and other gorgeous fish I can´t name were everywhere.  It was just an amazing 40 minutes of my life.
We went back and collected a couple of friends who were also ready for food and went back to the place we first had dinner.  We had a lovely serenade, some fantastic food (this time they had the yucatan pollo in negro sauce that I had wanted to try the night before.  Very charred tasting (in a good way!) and now I´m headed back to read a couple sentences before I crash asleep.
We may be going to see the ruins at Toulom tomorrow and/or do some snorkeling. 
Then at least one more day of diving, maybe more.  It doesn´t rain beneath the surface of the ocean, after all.
It feels like this internet cafe is on a boat.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

blackberry blog

Made it safely! It's wonderful here! More soon.

Staying up


IMG_0911
Originally uploaded by lesliegardner.
Here we are having coffee and breakfast after the adidas Holiday party and prior to catching our 6:30am flight to Cancun via Dallas Ft. Worth.