> Destinations > Mexico > Trip Reports > Trip Report
10- Oct - 18 Oct 2002
The team assembles at Gatwick London.
Tony & Tanya, early 40's yet still young and vibrant... right stop all the fiction, this is meant to be a factual trip diary, (the first one I have written)
Mike & Rosa..Rosa works for an airline and can swing us a pass to the first class lounge!
Bet & Bill, senior members of the 'saga louts' jet set, fresh back from Tenerife and with us on this trip to Cozumel before jetting off to Portugal.
Into the lounge, and somehow waiting does not seem to be so bad. I might just feel disappointed when they call our flight... but only just.
Everyone at the airport seems to know Rosa, the security guard threatens to strip search her.I only hope she is wearing clean knickers.....,she wasn't!
Our flight is called and more people greet Rosa at the gate, including a supervisor with first class upgrades for us all! Very nice start.
The flight is great. Bet and Bill, celebrating 56 years of marriage, get a bottle of champagne and a card signed by all the crew, nice touch.
We overnight in Houston and once again Rosa's airline credentials come up trumps and the Ramada reduce their room rates from $82 to $40.
Note to self... dump wife and find air hostess!
International air travel plays havoc with our internal sleep clock and Tanya wakes me at 4:00am local time and wants to visit the 24 hour breakfast restaurant over the road .
6:00 am and time for a second breakfast before leaving for the airport for the 2 hour trip to Cozumel. Breakfast in Houston, Lunch in Cozumel cant be bad.
The airport is a mayhem of crowds, and luggage, and noise and confusion. The girls are all singled out as we go through security and herded into a special holding area, after a good search they are let through ... looks like the bachelors party is on hold.
Continental Airlines get us from A to B and now we go from Queue to Queue!
We queue at Immigration, where Mike tries to move to a faster line, only to be told off by the official and sent to the back of his original queue.
We queue at Customs, no problem with the 'Red Light Green Light' device, what a great idea.
We queue for a taxi, but by now we are at the end of a long line. A half hour later and we are on the way to our hotel. My goal is to be in the water within two hours of touching down.
We check into the 'El Marque' hotel near the central Plaza. The rooms are basic, plain and very clean. They have air con, fridge, shower, and really friendly staff. Cost $27 a night if paid in cash.
One hour later we are at the 'Lobster's Cove'. In the bright blue Caribbean sea inside the two hours target,..great! We drink, snorkel, eat, drink, snorkel.
Lunch and drinks for 6 come to 740 peso, we give the waiter 800 peso, and tell him to keep the change. He tells us the tip is not enough! We must take the change or tip a full 10%. We are not very good at this tipping lark as it is a very un-English thing to do. We pay up but feel somehow cheated. Still we stay for some more drinks and some more snorkelling.
We head back for a siesta and later go for a stroll around town. Families are walking up and down with beautiful children. We end up at 'Casa Denis' for a bite to eat and a mouthful or two to drink. Great Place, Good Food, Excellent Service, Brilliant Time.
Back to the hotel, end of our first day on the Island and it promises to be a really good holiday.
We all meet up at 'El Casino' for coffee and breakfast. It's a small Cuban café near the hotel. The waitress, 'Rachel' keeps the coffee coming and the breakfast is excellent. Over breakfast we consult the 'Can do Cozumel' map that is full of tips and info for the first time visitor (www.cancunmap.com)
We decide on a trip to 'Chankanaab' park. Although there are three cruisers in port the park is not crowded and we get a table near the bar and close to the sea. The snorkelling is good with easy access and loads of fish. Tanya is not over keen on the water but even she is soon in the water and snorkelling like an old pro. Mike points out that you can always tell Rosa as she snorkels as she swims with her bum in the air!
'Ariel Yso Groupo' serenade us as we eat lunch, the weather is just right, a little overcast and not quite so hot and humid as yesterday, the service is great, what more do you want?
An after dinner we separate, I stroll through the gardens, which brings a welcome change from the beach and offers up views of large iguanas, blue lagoon, exotic plants and small museum. Bet and Bill go off to watch the dolphins and come back raving about how good the show was and surprised that it is all included in the $10 entrance fee.
Having spent a good few hours in the sun and sea we end the day at Chankanaab with a few hands of 'Billionaire.. This card game is a cross between 'Happy Families' and Medieval warfare. There are no turns and few rules other than shouting your offer and snatching the offerings of others in a mad rush to be the first to corner the market in Gold, Oil, Petrol etc. Fortunes were gained, lost and regained in a mixture of shouting, grabbing, laughing and cursing.... Much to the bewildered amusement of our patient Mexican waiter. We pile into taxis and trundle home after a great day at the park.
After a quick nap and a shower we are ready to hit the town for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat. We end up back at Casa Denis (we really must try somewhere new tomorrow). Bill mentions to our waiter that there is not enough Bacardi in his coke. The waiter walks off without a word and in a flash is back with the bottle. He empties it in Bills glass leaving very little Coke. After another round, this one on the house, and neither Bill or Rosa are quite with us. You can tell that Bill is drunk as his jokes are not funny. You can tell Rosa is drunk as she is the only one laughing at them! We pair them up for the walk home in the belief that their respective staggers will contradict and compensate each other... It almost works.
Back in the hotel Mike produces a bottle of Gin and soon the lobby is transformed into 'Bar Miguel. Tanya and I call it a night and leave the heavy weights to it, agreeing to meet at 'El Casino' at 9:00am. I am not so much worried that the others will not be up at nine, rather that they may not be finished by then!
Tanya & I are up at seven and out for a stroll around the very quiet town centre, a few cafes are just beginning to open. There has been a heavy fall of rain earlier on and the roads are flooded, but the air is clean and cool. Already the sun is drying the pavements, and guys are pumping out the large puddle by the main square. We wander till eight, and then end up at El Casino where the coffee flows until the others arrive.. all before Nine!
After breakfast we grab a taxi and the driver recommends we try 'Mr Sanchos', a beach bar, restaurant, palapa umbrellas and a very gently sloping sandy beach. It is pouring with rain as we arrive and we seek the shelter of the large palapa restaurant, fortunately the bar is well stocked.
Mike and I go for a swim. It is very strange to be in a warm sea with cold rain! Mike is worried he might get wet and so borrows a brolly! It rains off and on for an hour or so as we drink and play backgammon and cards up to lunch of grilled fish and ribs. The afternoon is dry and sunny.
Mike and I swim out a few hundred yards and come across a line of rocks and debris absolutely swarming with life. We see a large selection of fish, including a puffer fish that changes from a dull brown to bright blue in a flash, stone fish that you don't realise are there until they move, rays, eels and many others. In the rocks is a large lobster and just to one side in the sea grass a yellow and black sea snake. We snorkel for a couple of hours, fascinated by all the action, much better snorkelling than Chankanaab.
'Mr Sanchos' get our vote, great bar, very clean loos, friendly staff, good food, we love it.
In the evening we head for the town square. While we are waiting for the whole team to assemble Mike installs himself in an empty info booth opposite the hotel and accosts passing locals, offering time share in Berkenhead, Car Rental and Women. Most are amused but we get worried when one looks like he might want to buy.
Its Sunday and the square is full of families, and lovers and groups of young people all in a very festive mood, walking and talking and eating and chatting. Some of the children are so small. We buy sweet crispy pancakes filled with cheese from a street vendor, excellent, what are the called? There is no English equivalent. It is what I imagine you would get if you took the composure of an English cricket match and the fun of a travelling fair and mixed the best of both into one.
It is oppressively humid as I walk through the near empty plaza at 7:00am, yesterday evening's crowds and rain already a distance memory. I am taking a stroll along the sea front towards the airport to check out a small local beach. We are planning to spend the day much nearer town today. The beach, just opposite the army barracks turns out to be a major disappointment. It is tatty, rubbish on the beach, old food smeared on the tables and furniture broken. No reason why it should be different here on Cozumel, but somehow I feel more let down here than if this was back home.
I end my walk back at El Casino, Rachel, has a table for six already laid out in anticipation of our arrival. Soon we are all assembled. This has very quickly become our breakfast home away from home. I breakfast on a man's choice of burritos while all the others are tucking into large healthy bowls of fruit, yoghurt and honey. In between mouthfuls we quickly re-plan the day and decide to go back to Mr Sanchos.
As we arrive at the beach, once again the heavens open, this time heavier than before. As the girls shelter under a porch at the back of the bar the guy from the gift shop is shouting at them to come into his shop, where it is much drier! 10 out of 10 for effort, but the girls are not quite so easily caught.
We grab a table and are welcomed by Victor, our waiter from the day before. After a quick round of drinks we break out 'Billionaire' to wait out the storm. The bar has filled with cruise ship visitors and soon the shouting and snatching of the game has drawn a small crowd. As we stop to explain what we are playing the sun comes out and we decide to call it a day and enjoy the beach.
Once again the snorkelling is great. A ray swims effortlessly by, graceful and slow. Mike and I decide to shadow it as it swims, but the ray has other ideas, and without any more perceptible movement suddenly increases speed and leaves us puffing and panting behind. We return after a good swim and flop down on the sun loungers by the sea. Victor is on hand to offer drinks, or food or simply to chat. Mike and Rosa have excellent Spanish, but mine is less than five phrases. Victor patiently tries to teach me more.
There are more people in today, with kayaks on the sea, a giant trampoline just off shore, couples at the swing bar, all in all a real sense of people having fun. I really do believe it would be hard to have a bad day here.
In the evening we Mike and I go car hire hunting before meeting up with the others for dinner. We get prices for a few companies, all pretty much the same, but Mike gets a couple of dollars off at Smart and wants to sign up. I pursued him we should check one of the info booths on the Plaza just to be sure. We do, and get quoted $20 a day more. Mike tries hard not to look smug.. But gives up after about three seconds. We walk back and sign up with Smart.
We decide to eat Chinese and enter a restaurant near our hotel. The food and the service are very good, but the place is so empty. How can these places keep going? The waiter spots Mike making a Bra out of the napkin and joins us for about half an hour of napkin origami! He teaches us a great fold for napkins that means you end up with a boot. This will look so good with red napkins at Christmas. Another fun end to another fun day.
Again I find myself out alone for the early morning stroll and today I decide to have a sneak early coffee or two in a restaurant opposite the ferry docks. As I sit there I see my dream job... A very cool looking Mexican policeman rides by on his motorbike. The island is so peaceful I imagine that all he does all day is cruise the costal road, taking in the views and being accosted by young female tourists wanting photos with him and the bike....of course I would not only need his bike and his uniform, but also his youth and good looks.
We pick up the vehicles that will be our chariots of freedom for the day. Mike and Rosa on a scooter, Bet, Bill, Tanya and me in an open top VW. What a heap the car turns out to be! No hand break, half an exhaust, firing on two out of four cylinders... it is a nightmare. Just driving round the block to pick up the others is an adventure in its self. Eventually, with much stalling, noise, and, on my part at least, trepidation, we leave the town behind us and head for the wild side of the island.
Boy! am I relieved when we pull over for our first stop, Iguana's bar. We have our first bad experience of the trip. We order a round of drinks and have been sitting for a few minutes when the waiter asks us if we want to eat. When we say no, we are told that they are about to close and we must leave. When Rosa is not fast enough in finishing her drink, the waiter pours it into a plastic cup so that she can take it with her. We are bemused and not a little put out by this strange behaviour.
We split up, Mike and Rosa want to explore a dirt track to north of the island, we head south. We take a slow drive along the costal road, stopping at Chen Rio for a stroll and photos. We climb the rocks, watching the surf crashing and leaping in the air, pure white against the bright blue sea and sky. I am jumping all over the place taking photos and enjoying the location.
We continue on to visit El Cedral.. spooky. Its like a ghost town. Totally deserted. We can hear a radio very faintly in the background, the church is open, the store laid out, but no one anywhere to be seen. We wander up a few streets, but still no one to be seen. We stop by the souvenir store and someone wanders out from the back to serve us. I half expect him to tell us about the ghost who has been driving everyone away, only to find out it is the mayor, like something from Scooby Doo.
We drive on and find that we have now come to Mr Sanchos from the other direction, so we stop off for a drink. It is now that I discover that my wallet, containing my passport (I thought I might need it when I hired the car) was gone. I search the car, the bags, the bags again etc. no joy. I decide to retrace my route and search for where I dropped it.
At El Cedral I stop at the police station. The policeman on duty is wearing Uniform Trousers, complete with handcuffs etc, and an FBI (Federal Bureau of Intoxication!), T-Shirt!! no joy. At Chen Rio a vendor helps me look, still no joy, at Iguanas it is still open, but neither interest in my problem or news of my wallet is found. I drive back to the others.
Another search of the car turns up nothing and we decide to revisit each of the venues again. At Chen Rio the vendor informs us that an American has found the wallet and will return it to our hotel. I leave feeling much relived.
After a few hours at the hotel the American has not shown up and so I report the loss to the police, and check if it has been handed in. no joy. After making a report, then going to another office and making the report again, and then getting forms stamped I can leave and go back to waiting in hope that the passport will turn up. All in all I spend about three hours at the police station.
Mike informs me that he has come across a sort of cultural trait in Mexico where people tell you what they think you would want to hear. I don't know if that is true, or if there really was an American, but certainly there was no passport handed in.
Our last day on the island, and due to my having no passport I must make a quick trip to Cancun to visit the British Consulate. Mike and I leave at 7am and arrive nice and early at Playa Carmon, where we follow a string of locals off the ferry and straight onto a bus for the city. We fall asleep in the dark and cool interior of the bus and awake just as we arrive in Cancun, This has all gone so well that I am quietly confident that everything will be smoothed out no trouble and I can fly home tomorrow with no hassle.
We arrive at the Consulate at just gone 9:00am and I am a little surprised that the official we see is Mexican not English. I explain my problem and am told that it will take between three and ten days to sort out, that I must go back into town and get a bankers draft for 450 pesos, cash of 200 pesos and two passport photos. I don't have credit cards or enough cash (gone with the wallet). We have left most stuff back on Cozumel. Mike has a bank card, but no ID (he has left Rosa with the credit cards and of course he didn't want to lose HIS passport!) and so he can't draw cash, The Consulate can't help without the cash and wont vouch for us at the bank, the bank will release the money, but only if the Consulate will vouch for us! We have no choice but to go back to Cozumel and return in the morning with the cash. I will not be flying home tomorrow.
Back on the island Rosa puts a call into the airline and arranges for Mike and I to fly out of Cancun if needed. It is agreed that if I can sort out my passport tomorrow, Mike and I will join the others in Houston for the last leg home. If not, I will stay on my own for as long as it takes and either get a local girl and go native or fly back a few days late. If you are going to be stranded in a strange land you could do a lot worse than get stranded in Cozumel I think.
We go off for an enjoyable last night of good food and drink at a seafood restaurant a few blocks back from the front. Once again the food and the service is excellent, even if the waiter did not want to join Rosa in a drunken song and dance at the end of the evening. We stagger home wondering what the next day will bring.
Mike and I again take the early ferry to Cancun, and within a few hours, and after a brief interview with the Consular I am issued with a temporary passport. Mike and I head off to the airport and soon realise that our flight will get into Houston a few minutes before the others! As we are walking to immigration in Houston we see the others just getting of their flight and all meet up in the corridor. A great end to a great holiday.
Would we do Cozumel again. you bet.
Thanks to Tony for this trip report ...