10. Aug, 2015

Mexico was fun loving, full of colour and simply unforgettable


After a comfortable 9 hour flight to Mexico we found ourselves in the mid tropics. It was obvious from the beginning of the first foot stepping on the land that the visit was going to be both enjoyable and challenging. At passport control, as usual, we were eager to put our heads down and also as usual when 2 x 747s arrive with over 650 passengers to screen several of the passport control start their tea break with no replacements! 

After the customary collection of bags we came through customs without being stopped again, this is unusual for me as customs often serves as a reminder to me, I am afraid, that racism world wide is alive and kicking. A letter to the White House was in order last time I flew to the States, such was the level of racism I was exposed to at customs.  

All passengers arrived to a welcoming party of smartly coordinated men and women telling us all where to go to get to our hotel.  We were staying at the Marriott nearby and were told to wait in bay 26. It had taken us quite a while to organise transport over the airwaves with the 3 hotels we would be using in Mexico with emails back and forth, but they were always great at getting backing to us swiftly. We arrived at bay 26 only to realise that we had no way of contacting the hotel to explain that we had arrived. As I tried to re enter the terminal  I was met with an officious woman who said I could not. 

Arriving in a foreign country and trying to get to your first destination always has its challenges. Sometimes it is easy, like there is someone there with your name on a card, but we rarely arrange for this, and sometimes it is so frustrating that you just want to board the plane and go home! What was Cancun going to be like? 

I was directed to a phone box which was shielded by a tequila 'pop up' shop, toilets and large temporary boards which inside housed a building site. As someone who is safety conscious  I could see the dangers here, so asked John to do it whilst I looked after the bags and the duty free; a very important job. Just as he was doing this the Marriott bus turned up! We were off to discover Mexico! 

The hotel was filled with warm colours I associate with the cantinas of ol' Mexico, burnt yellows, light browns and orange. Like ravenous wolves, and despite the jet lag, we explored our ' 12 hour home'. The initial sounds, smells and heat would quickly become synonymous with the Mexico that we were later going to experience.  Ripe limes hung from the trees overlooking the newly installed jacuzzi and the humidity forced you to keep a flannel to hand at all times, and let's not forget the inspired tropical birds singing as the day is long to find a mate or deter predators. 

Daytime turned to night suddenly and as I looked at the sky I saw the full moon, the same moon which had connected me during my travels thus far, everything was well with the world then? 

Way before the sun checked in we were asked to join the wide awake club! The air conditioning, which was originally a welcome relief from the oppressive heat, had now become our arch enemy número uno as it was fixed to a chilly 16 degrees and even after contacting reception to report it, the room remained freezing. John donned a comical outfit not typical of those basking in the Caribbean Sea, consisting of a thick jacket and shorts.

Up and into the jacuzzi before any others and after a Mexican breakfast of Mexican eggs and Mexican hot chocolate we returned to airport to be collected to go to our 7 day home on the Mayan Riviera The Grand Mayan. We had read quite a lot about it on Trip Advisor and were expecting a battle,at check in, this was one of the typical comments we had read;

Great place......beware of aggressiveness of timeshare representatives!!! They do not understand the word "NO". 

With this in mind when we checked in we remained cautious when we spoke to the first hotel rep. who asked us why we were in the queue ' who are you?  I asked  in a tone similar to that by Nigel Farage during his most repeated television appearance on record, as someone approached me. 'I work for the hotel,' he said, clearly taken aback he directed me  to an administrator who would swiftly check us in. We were later ushered towards someone who alleged to be our host and could guide us around the complex and outline some key things. Our room was ready and we were keen to get in it. After 5 minutes of being guided around a 2D map we explained that we now needed to get to our room, john was a little more abrupt than me, but then I had given him the green light to be so after my initial encounter with the hotel admin. This similar response resulted in us getting to our room immediately and starting the hols on the Mayan Riviera.

Day 1 was spent orientating ourselves and suss img out what to do for the remainder of the week.

Day 2 was similar. We stayed on the resort and enjoyed a swim and a meal of nachos and burritos at the Blue Fish restaurant and being entertained by night by the hotel's animation group 'Mexican style'

Day 3 was spent taking a tour to the cenotes, Tulum and Coba,

Day 4 was spent on the beach and by the pool.

Day 5 was spent at Chichen Itza with a 4 am start.

Day 6 was spent playing tennis, a long gym session and by the pool.

Day 7 was spent doing a long gym session, having an unforgettable spa experience and a massage and catching up with a friend from South London who I used to work with

Day 8 we left the Riviera for the bright lights of Cancun! 

Day 9 all inc at Cancun - say no more, suffice to say jacuzzi, pools, sea and Sin Alcohol for me! 

The South east coast of Mexico really does have something for everyone. One of the great things about organising your own trip is that you move to the rhythm of your own drum. Now our drum beats pretty fast, after less than 3 weeks we had slept in 5 different beds, swam in 2 different seas, 5 different pools, eaten at 14 different restaurants and had to endure 5 different flight checkins and 6 different hotel check ins and at times I have wondered momentarily if I am travelling on a bus or a plane. But at least we could stop and go when we wanted to. With organised tours, even if you are dead on your feet, pausing  and reflecting isn't an easy option. 

The Mexicans are incredibly easy going. They are genuinely happy, enjoy helping and have a lot to offer. 

We took a trip to Tulum, cenotes and Coba and learned about the Mayan history - fascinating! You know when you meet someone just for the day but fall in love with them almost immediately, you trust them, you want to spend time in their company and you hang on to every word they say, well I have described our guide, Alessandro. Immediately upon meeting him he showed his charismatic side, he was warm and put you at ease. During the day on several occasions he made apologies for the Mayan history and his ancestors. He explained that whilst the Mayans sacrificed young girls and boys for the Gods' satisfaction, and of course to keep the peace to illustrate to the large communities that the royal families and the Warriors had the upper hand, this was the way it was in those days. Don't think badly of the Ancient Mayans, he would appeal, but also saying, don't think badly of my family, this was who they were, this is what they did. Now I don't know if any of you have ever been to dungeon or castle tours in the UK, but I know the guides there make absolutely no apology for the torturing that went on as a matter of course. 'This device,' starts the UK tour guide with a wry smile, 'was used for ripping out tongues and this was used for clamping on men's testicles!' They happily, and in great detail, outline how the torturing devices were once used, and at times, offer to demonstrate the tool on that one cocky visitor! Meanwhile the visitors either howl with laughter or wince at the very thought! But one thing is for sure there is no apology about what ancient Britons used to do!

The day was divided between swimming in one of the natural sink holes after being blessed by a Mayan shamen, eating lunch, and visiting both Tulum, which was by the sea and Coba in the north and in the jungle. In Coba after walking in the midday sun for 30 minutes we were invited to scale the huge temple which lay out before us like a Bear Grylls' challenge. I consider myself to be relatively fit and so was eager to do this. As I started I had to have a stern word with myself if I was to complete it - 'don't look down, don't look down!' I repeated. 

I looked down. 


Immediately I was consumed with visions of the worst. Why was there no blood at the foot of these ancient and cobbled steps? I thought. Surely people fall to their deaths on a daily basis here? No? Then I am going to be the first! What is my family going to think of that? Oh dear. A stern talk with myself had turned into a hysterical internal shouting match.

Get down! No, go up, look loads of people are doing it. You'll die if you go any further. Keep looking up. Take a photo! Take a photo?! Where did that thought come from I took a photo, most reluctantly as the internal chatter continued. The reason I daresay no one had fallen to their death, I hope, was because at some point your rational side kicks in and you do not do anything you feel will terminate your life, first rule of self preservation, preserve your life. My rational side kicked in and I began to descend with the belief that if this was easy I could keep going up. I started to descend and I kept going down such was the challenge of the steps. Whilst I hadn't made it to the top, I had gone beyond the treetops and was more than happy to observe the jungle which encapsulated this once sacrificial.temple. Once down all was well with the world again! 

Chichen Itza tour was next up, was this going to provide me with similar challenges? No, other than the cacophony of snoring I had to endure during the morning bus ride, it was all just awe and wonder. 

If you look at the photos on FB you may notice that doorways were very low. This, I was told, is to encourage the visitors, Mayans were less than 5 ft, to bow upon entering and it would simulate the journey a baby makes when being born through the birth canal. Birth and blood were very important to the Mayans. 

Like Egypt, the Mayans have allegedly had much of the history records and artefacts stolen and as a well established civilisation unusually there is little recorded. Much of what explorers and archaeologists have found they have had to piece together and make stories about the Mayans and their lifestyles up, including the naming of Chichen Itza; a modern name for an ancient place because there is no record of its original name. 

Often when visiting places I know will fill me with awe and wonder I take along a piece of music and repeatedly play it, this was it will remind me of that place when I listen to it. And again often when in a new country I will set my iTunes to the nation's channel and download the top hits. This is one of the reasons why I have such an eclectic mix of music on my iTunes. Whilst living in the States, I was surprised to learn that their most popular tunes by far are county and western and blues and not rap and pop as I was led to believe! Anyway whilst there I listened to Tom Oldall's Another Love, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwpMEbgC7DA  ironically the same tune as I listened to whilst at the Parthenon in Athens earlier in the year. Such a beautiful piece to listen to, my body is consumed and it breaks out in goosebumps-  what a place! I know the next time I listen to this piece of music the tears will trickle as I reminisce over Chichen Itza. Enough said. You have to go and sit in awe over the revelation of man's achievements at some point as there are many and maybe your goosebumps will consume you too and help you to realise that all is well with the world!

Social media is good for many things including catching up,with loved ones. On Friday a friend and former colleague posted that they had arrived not just in Mexico, but in the Mayan Riviera! Wow! We had to meet up. After several messages we arranged to meet at our hotel. The hotels are very protective of their properties and as most are inclusive, they  do not easily welcome visitors. So as ours was not inclusive it was decided we would meet up at ours - easy enough. But after an hour of waiting I grew concerned. Again visions of the many possible scenarios flooded my head but it wasn't long until we were in each other's arms and everything was well with the world  - well if it wasn't a few Golden Margaritas soon put it right!

Just  a whistle stop of the remainder of the week, we met people from Minnesota, San Diego and Georgia, enjoyed several games of bat and ball, tennis and gym sessions. Enjoyed the beach and the pools, ate a few chillies, but not enough for my liking, and had the most memorable spa session which filled me with a warm glow. We had a couple's massage but had enjoyed a hydrotherapy session first in individual spas so hadn't seen each other for about an hour. As I approached the cabin for the massage I said to the therapist that I just needed to check that she had the right husband and if I dob't like him I would like to change him for another? That put another smile on her face! Such an inspiring experience all round and was made all the more perfect by the ambience that was created by all. 

More packing and off to Cancun for a couple of nights - 50km up the road; the party capital of Mexico and home of the all inclusive. 

We arrived to the most perfect crystal blue sea I have ever seen. I couldn't believe how blue this translucent sea was. Rarely does a sea look just as beautiful through sunglasses as it does without. We couldn't wait to enter and see if she really was as inviting as she looked; she was and more. 

We took it in turns to go in as our room was not ready and therefore we had all our money on us. I looked on as John bobbed up and down in the waters reminiscing of a time when I saw him do the same in Maryland's Ocean City and I was forced to go and get the lifeguard as he battled against a hostile undercurrent.The terrible thing was Ocean City has been the only place I have ever been where the lifeguards on that day were in the sea more than out of it; saving lives every minute. When I went to get a lifeguard there was no one there - they were in the sea rescuing a little girl who too had succumb to the ferocious but subversive sea. On that occasion an innocent child on a lilo saved John from drowning. This has now become one of the family's stories which is often used to illustrate the challenges we face but also we laugh about how John threw off a 7 year old from their lilo to save himself. As I look up after writing this story john rises safely from the Caribbean Sea and trundles back to his lounger lusting to go back to this delicious haven which wraps everyone up in love. 

A pelican flies overhead and bombs beak first into the sea right in front of us - a spectacle I have only witnessed a few times before. It is one of the wonders of the world and it really is spectacular to observe this master of the sky and seas at work.

Many seas have waves that knock you about. They entice you in with the warm temperatures and then tease and tickle you as an unexpected wave punches you full on in the back and you fall over or scream. Not here, you revel in the arms of the waves as they envelope you with their sensual beauty. 

Cancun seems to attract many different cultures, mainly Latinos, Americans, a handful of Brits and other Europeans. Whilst the resort is well placed I am glad I am only here for a 40 hours. In the background I can hear what I think is bingo being called over the tannoy in both Spanish and English. This noise coupled with carrots and packets of ketchup abandoned on the restaurant floor and fag ends discarded in a bin by the hotel sun loungers confirms this feeling. The indulgence that humans often display in inclusive hotels leaves me cold. Discarded half eaten lunches and drinks and drunken or just excitable or disrespectful behaviour well into the night is not typical of the places we normally stay in, but hey Paula 'welcome all cultural behaviours', this is Cancun and you are now part of its 21st century history. 

    The trip is itself proving to be fantastic and after only a few days I feel it is all going to be like this, yes the odd bump, but what you find over the bump is the best on offer. We love to travel and believe we have seen the best and worst of life and people. 

We brought with us no toiletries other than toothpaste, we have no shampoo, no shaving foam, no perfume and by wk 3 my hair is in desperate need of a good wash and condition and the roots need twisting and locking! I will find the time to do this soon, but it is great having nothing to do unless you really want to - I really do not need to do anything. It is also disconcerting how, despite only having a handful of things, we keep losing them. How does that happen, we live in one room and have one bag? 

 I am getting used to my bed being made everyday and having to wear just a few clothes over a long period. People who look at my photos might think I only have one dress, well they would be wrong, I have 7, but I like just the one or 2, so I dumped one in the Grand Mayan. Part of the cost of the trip has included clothes. I was determined to bring things that I didn't mind losing or throwing. One dress down with 6 to go, well actually 3, I do want to keep some! 

Mexican art, including the typical cut glass, has many vibrant  and iridescent  colours, these colours are not just found on the plates and the ceramic skulls but also on the feathers of the birds and the Mexican's sunny disposition; they just exude bright colour. There is much to encourage you to love Mexico although their loud music with a trumpet base is only great for 5 minutes but the tequila based cocktails help you to get into the soul so that you know all is good with the world!

Goodbye and thank you Mehico you have done yourself proud!