Sunday, February 18th
I don’t have to get up until 4am, but I wake at 3am – GREAT, even less sleep!!!
Off to the airport. The -10C temps feel almost balmy compared to the -30C we’ve been experiencing all week.
Land in Cancun just before 10am local time – there are 2 hours difference between Moncton and eastern Mexico, not the 1 hour I had thought. We make our way to the bus/shuttle counter and Stephanie decides we should take the bus to save $10 in transportation costs. The bus won’t be leaving for another hour and the shuttle leaves in 15 minutes, but hey, it’s a whole $10!!
So we walk across the airport property to the bus depot and wait. The bus also drives at 50km, not the 100km limit, so it is a one hour trip to Playa del Carmen. We arrive with little time to spare to catch the 1pm ferry to Cozumel. In taking the bus (and saving a whopping $10) I have spent $9 for locals to carry pieces of my luggage, whereas the shuttle would have picked us up at the airport door and dropped us at the Cozumel ferry – GREAT!!!! Needless to say, I will not be willingly choosing the bus for transportation on the return into Cancun.
On the ferry, I meet two women from Los Angeles. It is their first time out of the US and they are quite inexperienced travelers in general. They don’t realize that they are heading into Cozumel during Carnaval, the busiest tourist season for the island. They don’t have hotel reservations and they don’t have diving booked. We see them later in the day standing at the side of the road, looking puzzled, with their luggage in tow.
Another man with a cart attached to a bike transports out dive gear and luggage to the hotel, a few short blocks from the ferry terminal in Cozumel. He even brings it upstairs in the hotel, which has no elevator. When we arrive at the hotel, our room is not ready, so we dump our luggage into the housekeeping suite and we’re off to the dive shop to confirm dive times for the week.
The weather has been bad on Cozumel since Friday, so the dive shop is booked up with divers who have to get their dives in before leaving the island, so we are delegated to afternoon dives for most of the week. The weather is windy and cold (sweatshirt weather) and very overcast. We hope that it clears up quickly.
Sunday evening we watch the Carnaval parade from our hotel balcony. We have a great view of the parade, cruise ships, and seafront in general – an A+ view!!! The hotel is fine – not a 5-star location, but for the price we paid, we’re quite happy with the accommodations.
We decide to have supper at a restaurant listed in the guide book that I had picked up – Los Tres Gattos (The 3 Cats) which advertises that you can fill your tummy for under $3US. 75pesos later, we are full and have had our first authentic Mexican dinner, complete with Sandwich Especiale!!!
Monday, February 19th
We decide to take in the local shopping and visit a market so that we can stock the fridge in our room. Fresh fruit and fish are aplenty, as are extremely fresh chickens – we watch the butcher make the kill!!! We head back to the hotel with pineapple, mango, papaya and a few other tasty treats.
Diving is at noon, so we take a cab to the pier. We are on a boat with a friendly couple from Illinois, Tom from Toronto and a guy from San Francisco, who doesn’t speak to anyone. Two dives later we are all happy with the day having seen a seahorse, a turtle and a splendid toadfish.
Back to the hotel for showers and a view of the Carnaval parade once again. However, exhaustion takes over and we decide to “take a quick nap” before heading out for dinner. At 11pm, I wake and change into pyjamas before calling it a night. Oooops!!!
Tuesday, February 20th
Breakfast on Fat Tuesday – we walk to another restaurant listed in the guidebook to learn that it is closed mornings this week, so we choose another one and walk there. Thankfully it is open and has a free table.
I choose something that translates to “divorced eggs” that consists of 2 fried eggs and ham, each with its own sauce on it, with beans on the side. Tasty, and a bit spicy as well. The fresh-squeezed orange juice is just as tasty.
In the restaurant, I am able to pick up a wireless internet signal and start uploading photos and checking email – the hotel website clearly states that there is internet access in the hotel, yet mysteriously no one knows anything about it at the hotel. Later in the day, I go to an internet café that has laptop stations and finish the job.
Diving is at noon again today. The same couple from Illinois and the same silent guy from San Francisco. Add 2 cruise ship employees – a girl from Scotland and a guy from Romania – and another American from Missouri. The dives are great again, although the currents are extremely strong in points – we are unable to stop or swim against them if necessary. Another turtle is seen, a porcupine fish calmly swims by, and a school of ocean triggerfish say hello. It’s a great place to dive. We visit the spot that I dove 7 years ago when I first visited Cozumel and I see what damage the hurricanes have done – the color that was once there is muted – covered in white sand and dead coral to turn a lot of the vista to grey.
A quick trip to Ernesto’s Fajita Factory for supper after the first 2 dives of the day and then we’re back in the water for a night dive with 2 couples from British Columbia. It’s nice to dive with others who usually don drysuitsfor local dives as all other divers we have encountered are the “only warm water” variety. The night dive is back to a spot visited yesterday, but now we get to see the night critters come out. Too many crabs to count, a few lobster and an octopus were seen by me, and there were reports of a second lobster and a splendid toadfish (damn!!!) seen by others.
Back to the hotel to once again view the Carnaval parade – this is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) so the parade is the largest yet and actually laps itself as it winds down one side of the main thoroughfare and back in the other direction. The music is very loud and the participants are very drunk, but tomorrow is the start of Lent, so they need to get it all out today.