Hours ahead of GMT: 5
Iguana sightings: 2
We arrived after a great but very much eleven hour flight into Cancún; the tourist centre of the world. As we piled into a shuttle bus to take us to our hostel, we drove past miles of huge, white hotels containing as much charm as the lime green ‘I ❤ Cancun’ trucker hat littered across all the gift shops. Gucci, Starbucks and the Hard Rock Hotel were amongst the disappointing recognisable brands drowning the beautiful beaches behind them. Relieved we were only staying for one night, our hostel was a refreshing contrast to the super-hotels we had spent the last 20 minutes gawping at. It had wonderful character, friendly staff and was awash with vibrant colours offering a clear feeling we were far away from the greys of beloved London.
After a jubilant first £1 beer and pizza to share, we became immediately tired and just about made it back to the hostel, surrounded by a bewildering main road which seemed to lack in distinct lanes or rules. Come morning we eagerly set off to Isla Mujerés for a weekend of purity, peace and paradise.
The 20 minute water ferry lead us to the island which was far bigger and more established than we envisioned. We soon stumbled across our second hostel (a slight set back from the first) and hauled in our over-packed bags to relieve our shoulders. By 10.30am we were firmly positioned on Playa Norte beach, mesmerised by the clarity of the lapping sea and feeling the warmth of soft sand between our toes; this was the moment we had been waiting months for. A quick walk around soon revealed that our remote paradise was actually incredibly touristy too, in fact it was full of American visitors and as such meant every shop, bar or restaurant was targeted at the newbie; English translations, European menus and hefty prices. We made the most of the idyllic setting and hired a golf cart for a quick whizz around the island and booked a snorkelling trip for the following day. After a fantastic (albeit hipster) breakfast at Rooster we embarked on a tour of an underwater museum with just one other family. On with a life jacket which reassuringly strangled rather than hugged me, I gingerly jumped – well more placed myself – into the Caribbean Sea and stuck my head under the forceful waves to witness a glorious depth of clear sea, shawls of fish and intriguing Mayan statues. After an affirming gasp for non-snorkel oxygen, I quickly plunged under again to understand what was beneath us, can I really see moss-ridden statues of people, a Volkswagen Beatle with fish swimming through it’s windows and some kind of house? The snorkel tour was breath-taking, especially when a large wave washed over us. After 20 or so minutes of taking in the underwater world the ignored ‘please don’t get seasick, take medication’ sign at the shop lingered in my head. Rapidly the strong waves became overwhelming and nausea struck. Unfortunately (but reassuringly) S felt the same, as we retreated to the boat he looked as white as the inside of a lychee. We both clung to the knowledge we would soon return to the security of land and this feeling will soon cease. Pleasant distractions helped too in the form of flying fish and pelicans sharply diving for their dinner.
When our balance and steadiness finally restored itself after 30 minutes or so happily on land, we reconvened and wondered out to the town of Isla Mujerés on our last night there. We sat with ‘dos cervezas’ on a wooden swing in a beach bar whilst the sun painted the sky orange before sinking into the horizon. Both filled with appreciation of our scenery, we clinked our Coronas “to us” and left the darkening beach to find food.
Keen to avoid ‘the strip’ but one of us (S) also desperate for quite frankly anything to eat we hastily stepped into a French restaurant which served us snapper; overpriced and along with its accompaniments drowning in oil. With the feeling of a newly-serviced bike in our mouths, we agreed to steer clear of touristy places and seek a more authentic taste of Mexico. Onwards we went to Valladolid, Yucatán…