They say there are two Cancun’s: the city of Cancun and the “Hotel Zone”. The latter is the long 30km spit of land that most tourists stay on in the resorts and white sandy beaches are found. We did not go that far today but rather went into the former, where we stocked up on supplies for Fran’s stay at the campground outside the city limits.
There are only two campgrounds near Cancun; one is north of the city near but not on the water (beach is 1.5 km away) and we read it is pretty infested with mosquitoes although it is less expensive but has fewer amenties (this was confirmed by Christine and Mark who did spend a couple of weeks there). The one we chose is west of the city limits and is a modern RV Park run by a Canadian named Paul and his Mexican wife, Christina; both very nice friendly people. They have a little house in the corner of the walled property. There are ten full hookup sites as well as places for tents and a couple of brick cabanas as well as footings for a few more. They also store RV’s here for people who want to fly out of Cancun for a while as they are not too far from the airport. This location suited us for many reasons: they offered airport rides, the full hook ups with Wi-Fi, a pool, it was gated, had a little restaurant, laundry facilities and nice bathrooms with HOT water with good pressure. It is a little pricier than most but Paul did give us a break on the daily rate since we would be staying for two weeks. The one drawback is that it is far from town, there is nothing around to see/do and the road outside the gate is the free highway so it has no sidewalks and is pretty busy during the day so not a great place to go for a walk.
When we arrived, there were no other guests so we had the pick of the sites and naturally took the site closest to the Wi-Fi router. We got Doug all packed up for the next day and then chilled with the owners over dinner in their little cafe. Next day Paul drove Doug to the airport.
During the week, Fran got some long overdue cleaning and sorting done, as well as laundry. The owner’s wife, Christina, was going into town on Tuesday so offered to take Fran along and so she dropped off some mending with a seamstress and Christina took her back via the drive through the Hotel Zone enroute to the airport where they picked up a woman who had just spent six weeks in Cuba – she was born there but has lived most of her life in the US. Helena had just traveled on her own in a pickup truck from Lake Tahoe to Panama and was on her way back when she flew to Cuba to see family. Her take on Cuba was pretty interesting and she actually wants to go there to live half the year so in order to make that happen, while she was there she began the process of getting permanent residence there. She is very much into yoga and gave Christina and Fran a few sessions the two mornings she was at the campground.
That night another motor home came in with a small family from California, Shawn, Christine (yes another one!) and their little girl, Eva. They are having a house built in nearby Puerto Morelos and will be here a month while it’s being finished. Wednesday, two more couples arrived from the airport; they too had just spent two weeks in Cuba with another couple.
Sidebar: We have been thinking of taking advantage of the proximity of Cuba here in Cancun and the relatively cheap flights as when we went to Cuba as a family back in 1997, we stayed on the south side of the island and were never able to make it to Havana. A friend of ours in Vancouver also had just been and that made us more curious, although three out of four of their group got sick.
These two couples told us they found Havana very dirty, poor, and smoggy and not a place they’d recommend. They advised that four of them too, ended up sick. Food items are quite limited and even getting bottled water proved challenging as February is high season. They strongly suggested rethinking our plans and if we did go to bring a lot of snacks as they are very hard to come by. They rented a car while there and toured the northwestern part of the island which they did say was quite pretty and had decent tourist infrastructure. Shortly after talking to them Fran heard of another foursome who also went recently and three of them got sick – that darn Montezuma’s revenge.
On Thursday the couple we met in Izamal (Matt and Bea) showed up and camped beside Fran for two nights. It began raining that day and Fran suggested they tie the tarp from their van to our awning so they had a good dry place between both of us. Then a couple of German women also showed up who only stayed one night as they were flying to Havana for five days themselves; it will be interesting to hear their take on the city from a European persepective when they get back.
On Saturday, while Doug was flying from NJ to Austin (suffering from a bad cold with a fever!), Fran unhooked Tigger and went into the city to pick up the mending, get groceries and planned to see the beach but it’s been overcast and sprinkling on and off lately so she skipped that part. After hooking up again at Cancun Camping, our travel buddies, Christine and Mark reached out to her and invited her to come to a bull fight that night with them; should be verrrrry interesting.
So the bull fight; not what Fran expected: you know, seeing the matador with a red cape teasing the bull and taking his life into his hands. Well, there are actually five matadors in the ring with the bull; four stay in the ring and each have their own “corner” to hide in and the star matador (this guy was from Spain) comes in on a horse (which he swaps out about every five minutes). The bull is released into the ring and “stabbed” at the top of his spine/base of his neck as he enters (to enrage him and give the riding matador a target). This matador’s job is to continue to stab him with various spears in the same location until he is no longer able to stand. Very cruel and inhumane – it’s no wonder this sport is dying. The other matadors are distractions for the bull when the main guy is getting a new horse or the bull gets too antsy. It was quite gory really. We got the stadium late so we only saw half of the show but it was enough. In those 75 minutes, they killed FOUR bulls. We hope the meat goes to a worthy cause but after Fran was speaking to the campground owner’s wife, she was informed that Mexicans will not eat that meat as the bull was angry when it died so the meat it “tainted”. Maybe they sell it to an Argentinian steak house (!?).
The video below is quite graphic so don’t watch it if get queasy or are disturbed by this event. As for Fran’s thought, been there, done that, won’t do it again but it was interesting to see the crowd’s reactions and to experience once. Doug is not upset he missed it.
Sunday, Fran spoke with Doug and he was finally feeling better. He was out shopping fulfilling our wish list of things we did not order on Amazon. Later that day the campground owners and the other campers, Shawn & Christina, invited Fran for a drive to the little town of Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun, where Paul & Christina own a house that they rent out and that Shawn & Christina have decided to rent instead of camping in their RV while their house is being built. After seeing the house and their new lot, we went to the beach for a drink and then out for a steak dinner (yes, at an Argentinian place!); Fran didn’t ask if the steak was from a bull – better not to know. 🙂
The beach there was quite nice especially the sand; like off white icing sugar. They do seem to have a problem on this coast this year with sea grass collecting on shore though. Apparently it’s on the Cancun beaches as well but the government pays to have it “scooped” up every morning so the beaches look more pristine for the tourists. Down here, it only gets done once a week or so. This town is full of expats: Argentinians, Canadas, Columbians, Uruguayans, a few Americans and more; doesn’t have a true Mexican vibe but it’s still nice. There are a few major resorts but for the most part does not have a Cancun feel.
Sidebar 2: we continue to meet way more Canadians (and on this side of MX more French Canadians) than Americans; there is such a hesitation on the latter’s part to come down to Mexico due to the media hype. Naturally there are places that are not safe but there are places in other parts of the world, including the US, that you wouldn’t visit either, right? Especially, if you just come to “touristy” towns – the Yucatan peninsula is considered about the safest region in the country with Cancun being a world class destination.
Fran’s second week at the campground was pretty uneventful. She met a few more other campers who came and went, a German fellow named Eugene, and the two German women from last week returned from Cuba. The younger one, Claudia, is travelling Mexico alone and her mother had flown in for a month to join her. She finished up more “household” and organizational chores in Tigger, caught up on the website and downloading. They seemed to have enjoyed Havana but did find it old, dirty, noisy and that it had good photo ops. (We have now decided to leave our memories of Cuba from 1997 intact and skip the flight from here.)
The weather for the most part has been muggier some days then others; temps as high as 31C some days, rain showers many of the days that, other than Monday the 7th, didn’t last long. The sun does come out every day for large chunks of time. This is supposedly unusual this time of year but Fran did manage to use the pool most days, did yoga most mornings with Christine and managed to get her steps in despite their being nowhere to walk to. She created her own walking loop in the campground, which got larger by the end of her stay as Paul, the owner, was having the back portion of the property cleared to allow for more long term RV parking. They actually discovered a small cenote back there and may develop that if it proves accessible.
Doug managed to get all his “shopping” done, received all the packages we’d ordered (not without their own hassles) and get Fran a new laptop (hers has been slowly acting up and this week she’s down to one usable USB port and it takes FOREVER to shut down) so he’ll have fun packing it all in his bags. He did take one roller board carry-on bag (to allow him to go with no checked bags TO the States) and he had two knapsacks inside as well as his messenger bag so hopefully it all fits!
Doug got “home” late Friday night (three hours late) and we spent another two nights at the same campground to get stuff done before unhooking. He had brought back a few items for Tigger, including a new LP regulator which we installed but our propane leak is not fixed!!! Aaahhhh! Back to the drawing board, we guess.
We left that campground on Sunday and checked out the deserted malecon in Cancun (all blocked to traffic and unfinished) before driving the Hotel Zone drive and stopping at Playa Delfines (public beach). It was quite beautiful with silky white sand and turquoise water. It was still rather windy so the surf was up and there were lifeguards restricting the areas in which people could enter the sea to swim. This public beach is about half way down the 30km stretch of hotels. Here we walked south about a mile, stopped at a bar for cold one and headed back to Tigger.
After this we joined our friends Christine & Mark at the other Cancun campground north of the city called Trailer Park Mecoloco. We enjoyed a swim in the pool there and had our “usual” happy hour.
Monday, we all took a 10:00 boat tour to Isla Mujeres for snorkeling and visiting the island. The colour of the water here is amazing! A brilliant aquamarine that is to die for! There were about 16 of us on the boat and we started off by stopping at the fairly new underwater museum created to help create an artificial reef to bring more fish. This was a good ways off shore and those of us that paid the extra 50 pesos to snorkel here (about 7 of us) were able to jump off the boat and snorkel for about a half hour. This was somewhat disappointing as there was a large group of statues that were all the same grouped together, then a Volkswagen beetle then a small grouping of statues of people bowing down. We expected to see more statues and later learned that there are many more but they are in other areas and at different depths of water which we think meant some you had to dive to, not snorkel over. Christine was not feeling well after this swim, shame.
Next stop was near the El Faro lighthouse where there is a shallow bay where were again we disembarked to snorkel near two ship wrecks. The water was about waist deep and we saw like three or four fish near one of the ships; WTH! We were not impressed. Christine did not even get off the boat since she was not well and Mark ended up going back on board after this. Doug went to ask our guide, Fernando, if this was the snorkel area, when he called us over and asked us to follow him out a bit to some rocks surrounded by ropes with buoys around them. This was part of the national park and here we saw a good number of fish including a rock fish and a small starfish which Doug got to hold. There was actually a small underwater arch at which Fernando would hold you under for about a half minute so you could watch the fish swim through. It was cool. We each did it twice and then swam out to another rocky outcropping where we see lots more fish, different corals of varying colours and schools of fish. We were sorry Mark did not stay in the water with us.
Next stop was the dock at the “downtown” part of the island where we walked around for about and a half checking out the beaches, Playa Central and Playa Norte as well as the little town. The former was nice and not too crowded and Playa Norte, which is THE beach on the island was super crowded with restaurants and resorts with not too much beach to spare. We had looked into hotels/hostels to stay on the island for a night but it being high season there was nothing reasonable available.
We boarded the boat again around 2:30 and they took us to Playa Tiburon (means Shark Beach) where were had a lunch that was included in our tour. Here there was a little fenced off area in the water where there were three nurse sharks swimming. You could pay a fee and enter the pen if you wanted to but no one from our boat took the bait. Lunch was a choice of fish or chicken, some rice, cabbage slaw and noodles. It was alright. They took us back to the mainland afterwards and we went back to our campground.
Doug spoke to the campground manager about getting some assistance with our propane leak and he called a couple of propane places. He was told to call back first thing Tuesday and they’d set up an appointment to come to us. So Tuesday morning, Doug went to find him and he was not there to call! Christine and Mark introduced him to another camper, Marcello and his wife Laura, who are from Uruguay and speak Spanish so he called the propane place for us. They said they were full for the day but would call if an opening came up.
After going for a walk into the village nearby and doing some work and catch up, Doug and Mark headed into town to Home Depot to pick up some “stuff” for either of their ongoing projects. Naturally, while they were gone, the propane place called and Marcello said they’d be there in 30 minutes (mind you that means Mexican minutes). They showed up in 45 minutes and Fran began attempting to deal with him, and to her aid came Marcello to translate. Five minutes later, Doug and Mark returned and the mechanic, Carlos then found a leak in the propane hose heading towards the on demand hot water heater. Turns out one of the zip ties holding the line running to the hot water heater, had worn through the cheapish rubber hose. While that was not good news, it was a reason for the leak. Carlos said he’d have to go back to the office, get them to price the part and the labour and someone would call us in 45 minutes or so. About 90 minutes later, the propane place called back and gave us a price and said they’d be back tomorrow at eleven. We spent a nice evening chatting with our new friends.
Next morning, we did our exercise, had brekkie and lo and behold Carlos arrived with a fellow worker right at eleven and replaced the hose with a much more durable one. Yeah – a long nagging issue corrected. We then said “so long and hasta luega” to Christine & Mark and left Cancun.
Hope you all had a blessed and happy Easter.
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