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Day 325 - Chichen Itza/Merida, Mexico
21:52 hrs - April 22nd, 2008
Road Trip!

On Friday we decided to explore the Yucatan. It was a spontaneous trip. Literally one minute we're on the boat, the next I'm changing a blown-out front tire on a barren stretch of road somewhere in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula on our way to the newly appointed Seventh Wonder of the World - Chichen Itza.

We had visited Chichen Itza before, in 1997 for our first wedding anniversary. Although the ruins looked much the same, due to the dramatic increase in tourism over the last 11 years, the over-all site felt very different. Almost all of the ruins are roped off now so unlike our last visit, where tourists were left free to clamber all over the ancient pyramids, you can now only view the archaeological sites from a distance. Our guide informed us that each year The Castle of Kukulcan, the largest pyramid at the site, would receive a reluctant human sacrifice as an unfortunate "gringo" tumbled down the steep 91 stone steps to their death, not to mention the countless others that would leave in the back of ambulances. The steady erosion of limestone under thousands of sandaled feet and the averse sacrifices to the Mayan feathered snake god Kukulcan, promoted the Mexican Tourist Board to better secure the site (and the tourists). Still, we spent many hours exploring the ruins and sitting in the shade of the Ball Court imagining how the city looked and what life must have been like for its citizens over 1,200 years ago.

We spent our first night away from the boat in the Mayaland hotel, a luxury 1930's resort that borders the archeological site. Our room was a Mayan-style hut, complete with air conditioning, cable TV and all the mod-cons you'd never expect in the middle of the bush. I don't know what seemed more out-of-place, the peacocks strutting around the grounds or the corporate groups walking around blindfolded, presumably engaged in some sort of team-building exercise?

The next day we headed further across the peninsula to Merida, a beautiful, vibrant and energetic Mexican city, located just far enough away from the beaches and ruins to escape the never-ending convoy of tourist buses we saw in Chichen Itza. We arrived in time to experience Merida on a Saturday night. The city center is closed to all car traffic, restaurants spill-out into the streets, performers fill the city square, authentic Mexican music saturates the evening air and locals party well into the night. We spent the evening wandering amongst happy locals, listening to musicians and soaking up the atmosphere.

We're ready to head further south and begin exploring Belize, but unfortunately we have one more road trip to go on before we can cast-off the lines and continue on our journey. More to follow...



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Day 317 - Isla Mujeres, Mexico (N 21° 14.5 W 86° 44.4)
16:31 hrs - April 14th 2008
Relaxing in Isla Mujeres

When you arrive at a new port after being at sea for a while there is always the excitement of exploring a new place, meeting new people and discovering new things, but after a few weeks the days start to blend together and you find a comfortable routine and before you know it, the thought of setting off again and all the preparation and planning that it involves, starts looking like something you probably want to put off till tomorrow. It feels a bit like standing at the waters edge at the beach. At the beginning you just watch the warm water lap softly over your toes as you enjoy the relaxing sensation, but as you stand there each wave washes a little more sand over your unsuspecting feet, and before you know it, your feet are buried and you’re stuck!  We don’t feel stuck exactly, but we have been pottering about here on Isla Mujeres for a few weeks now, and it’s all starting to feel very familiar.

It’s a small island so everyone knows everyone, and now so do we, and when we wander around now we see the same friendly faces and everyone makes us feel at home.   We have traveled around and explored the island by golf cart (the preferred method of transport here) and we have motored around the entire coastline by boat, we have even visited the grave of Fermin Mundaca a wicked but prominent pirate from the early 1800’s who came to the island to ‘retire’, but fell in love and eventually died broken hearted when his love was not returned. Bad karma I guess?  So our feet are sinking into the sand here, time to wiggle out and set sail again for new ports. 

Now that I have recovered from my mystery insect bite, sprained foot and frightening haircut, (note to self, when a friendly cruiser offers to cut your hair, politely decline) I am ready for the next leg!

 

Dream Time: Ordered: waterproof 2-way radios with headsets, StarPilot celestial calculator (for computing sextant sight reductions on celestial bodies), cruising guide for Panama, paper charts for Panama and Columbia, spare iCOM remote VHF controller. Cleaned waterline, lightly scrubbed keel to remove growth. Filled one propane tank. Cleaned Flow Rate Meter on watermaker - ordered a spare. Had custom covers made for diesel and petrol jerry cans on deck (protect from sun). Varnished bow, stern plates. Engine hours:1,059. Trip log: 2,884 nautical miles.


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Day 306 - Isla Mujeres, Mexico (N 21° 14.5 W 86° 44.4)
09:41 hrs - April 3rd, 2008
Tourists!

I am extremely happy (and relieved) to report that Catherine is making a speedy recovery. Along with the pain, the swelling in her leg has completely subsided and the energetic, playful bounce in her step has returned. The peg leg pirate jokes from concerned cruisers have come to an end and yesterday, much to her relief, she received the last of her daily antibiotic injections. However, she did seem a little concerned that now the worst of her treatment is over, she may no longer be eligible to receive her daily consolatory reward of a medicinal banana split with homemade Mexican ice cream. Yes, she's definitely feeling better.

Thank you to everyone for sending their best wishes!


Today we played tourists. Traveling with hoards of sunburned 'gringos', we raced across the four mile stretch of crystal clear water in a high-speed ferry to Cancun's Hotel Zone. After cruising on Dream Time for 10 months, at an average speed of only 5 knots, it felt unnatural to be whizzing across the water at over 20. We felt a little out-of-place. When we arrived in the Hotel Zone, surrounded by McDonalds, Starbucks, Chili's, the Hard Rock Cafe and Hooters, we felt even more out-of-place and couldn't wait to get back to the relative solitude of Isla Mujeres.

We've been in Isla Mujeres now a little over a week and I've been planning our trip south; down the coast of Mexico to Belize, then inside the barrier reef, down to Guatemala where we plan to cruise up the Rio Dulce - a river that cuts deep into the country's interior, through lush, beautiful tropical jungles, 300' high limestone gorges, past hot springs, howler monkeys, waterfalls and where Mayan locals still live in traditional grass huts and navigate the river in cayuca's, handmade dugout canoes. What makes the Rio Dulce (sweet river) so appealing to us, and to other cruisers is not only does it provide excellent protection for sailors during the hurricane season, but due to its remote location, it is also well protected from the same hoards of tourists we shared a ferry with yesterday. The river's inhabitants, shielded by vast jungle-covered mountains and lack of roads from the developing areas of Guatemala, live today, much like their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Even large boats cannot enter the Rio. The 7' shoal at the river's mouth keeps them out. The lure of the Rio is so intoxicating, however, that a few determined powerboats plow their way across the muddy bank just to get in, and intrepid sailors in larger yachts attach lines from the top of their mast over to fellow cruisers who heel their boat over, reducing their draft, just enough for them to clear danger. What makes these little pockets in the world so appealing is that there aren't many of them left. And for the adventurous cruiser, they're just too appealing to pass by.

As we sail further away from our proposed route, it's clear that we made the right decision to explore the less-traveled Caribbean coast first. Not only are the winds and seas more favorable, but the lure of remote McDonald's-happy hour-sun lounger free anchorages are definitely more appealing.