Monthly Archives: October 2019

Mexico to Belize

19th October 

Santa Elana a bit of luxury.

We are now cycling in an area of Yucatan which actually has some hills, the riding is now undulating but not too high just slow rolling hills. The morning was cloudy,  hot but bearable but by the time we reached Santa Elana the clouds had gone and the temperature notched up. We had a decision to make, cycle on another 45 miles to make the next destination or stop here. We was outside a posh red called the pickled onion which advertised a pool so we opted to be extravagant and pay the £30 for a room. Partly because we wanted to treat ourselves, partly so we say we could stay in a pickled onion and partly because we also have another 65 miler to do after we reach the next town.

The blog went on this morning, thanks everyone for taking the time to look at the pictures, it seems the Tarantula is a bit hit, our host here says they are harmless though.

Ginette – I wasn’t sure about stopping so early in the day but I was glad we did, it was lovely to have a little bit of luxury

20th October

A nice cycle day but hot, hot, hot.

We enjoyed our luxurious stay at the pickled onion, a pool to cool down in, hammocks to rest in and a great breakfast this morning. The owner, Valeria is a Lancashire lass and came over a couple of time’s for a chat.

We stopped at a Myan site after only 8 miles, Kabah. This was a great site to wander around and it was cheap to enter, we nearly had the place to ourselves and we could climb over most of it. We had birds like swallows flying around and nesting in one of the ruins and as we wandered around we admired the large lizards sunning themselves.

The rest of the ride was through mainly jungle surroundings but there was cleared farmland with corn crops. As we came closer to Hopelchen these fields of crops became much larger, this was good for us as the terrain was still undulating and with the cleared crop areas we could see more of our surroundings. We have been bombarded by colourful and large butterflies most of the day. We spotted a mammal which looked like a cross between a squirrel and a fox.

My front wheels dynamo is broken so I have not been using the Garmin but today I wanted to do a temperature check so used it a couple of times results as follows.

32 degrees in the shade
41 degrees whilst cycling in the sun

We stayed in a town called Hopelchen, it has a large plaza area and is partially made up of a community of Mennonite, we think these are like Amish people, we passed some ranches earlier that looked different to any we had seen in Mexico having buildings and a layout that resembled our impressions of Amish settlers.

Ginette – we stopped for lunch in a small town, it was the least friendly town we’ve visited, people seemed a little wary of us, rather than smiley and welcoming.

I loved the butterflies, for a good few miles i had two large yellow butterflies fluttering right in front of me. For the first time ever Gary has taken to listening to music whilst we cycle along.

The road although undulating is a little tiring as there are very few towns on route and the heat is exhausting.

We stayed in a cheap hostel which we shared with at least 4 cockroaches yukkkkk.

21st to the 23rd October 

Rest day in Campeche and a change of direction.

Monday.
In the main plaza of Hopelchen at dusk the birds gathered again and made an incredible amount of noise, it’s a bit like the way that in some areas the frog chorus starts.

Ginette – The mexican villages are lovely, lots of the women wear beautiful embroidered dresses and men wear sombreros. The traffic throughout this area gives priority to pedestrians and rather than lots of honking of horns people smile and wave at you.

The cycle route to Campeche according to the map had no towns with shops so we had a 53 miles to be self sufficient in. However the maps were not accurate there were several small settlements along the way with places to purchase cold drinks and food, this suited us as it was another very hot day and our own drinks bottles were cooking.

The terrain now has larger cleared forest with huge plantations mostly corn but also some other crops, possibly potatoes.

We arrived at our apartment In Campache late afternoon, Ginette was really feeling the effects of the heat so it was a relief to be able to rest in an air conditioned room.
We waited until later in the day before venturing out, treating ourselves to a meal in a fish restaurant.

Ginette – I was exhausted not from the cycling but the heat sapped my energy, by the time we arrived at the apartment my blood felt like it was boiling. I found it hard to function, all I wanted was some shade and an ice cold drink.

The apartment was ideal, although the wifi could have been a bit better, a great place to rest for 2 days. In the evening we had dinner in a seafood restaurant, it was a little bit expensive but it was great to have vegetables and fish. We have found it really hard to find vegetables in the villages.

The owner was very welcoming and although he could not speak english he introduced us to his dog Rambo. 

Tuesday , Campeche.
Campeche is a walled port town, the wall was built after a disastrous pirate attack. However since the wall was built the pirate were not such a threat in part due to the British sovereignty removing it funding of some of the piracy through its shock at the way in the pirates had destroyed Campache.

The town has a nice Maceron along the coast and due to its geography this town has some fantastic sunset views. Inside the walled city the houses are well painted in various colours and makes for some nice photo shoots and a pleasant walk about. The heat of the day does get oppressive at temperatures in excess of 40 degrees so once we had visited the Mayan Arqueológico museum and wandered around town we headed back to our air con room for a rest.

I have been a bit bored of the terrain in this area of Mexico, at first the jungle was interesting to cycle through but the wildlife spotting is not up to much and the bird life although exotic is not as extensive as it was in Paraguay.

Ginette – I now see squshed tarantulas and snakes on a daily basis, they still make me a little squeemish but we rarely stop to inspect them.  Gary is too busy looking ahead and misses most of the road kill, I have had to point out a number of specimens. It is however difficult to miss the dead dogs with their guts hanging out and vultures circling overhead yuk. 

We discussed our options, if we continue with our current plan we will end up with another 3 months in Mexico and although I am sure the terrain and people will vary as we travel north I would prefer a change, I suggested a trip to Cuba.

Ginette researched this and a trip to Cuba would cost approx £400 each return which is a large lump from our savings.

Ginette – this would include return flights to Mexico City and internal flights to Tijuana. I woke the next morning with a new suggestion…

We have decided to change direction and head down to Belize then Guatemala, we had planned to cycle these countries after Mexico but we are only a few days from the border of Belize and they say a change is as good as a rest.

Ginette – We experienced one of the worse storms since arriving in Mexico, fortunately we were inside the apartment but it managed to take the electrics out across the street. It may also have contributed to a road accident at the end of the road.

Weds
We have looked at the route across the peninsula to Chetumal (the border town near Belize) and are not too keen on the initial route out of Campeche so we have opted to take a bus to Xpujil, this will put us in the middle of “reserva biosphere Calcamal “ . We will be in the jungle but on a main route with settlements that we can stop at.

Ginette – We arrived in Xpujil at 18.30 in the rain, we had accommodation booked so it wasn’t a problem. We were amused to be met by the owners son, who was 14 years old but looked much younger. He spoke excellent english and clearly knew how to greet and book guests into the hostel. He later took our order in the restaurant (including two beers) and presented us with the bill.  

24th October 

A long day in the saddle with cooling thunderstorms.

Two can see toucans.

We had breakfast from the shops of fruit, yoghurt and cake then headed to the towns Myan ruins.

Xpujil has lots of Myan sites all close to the town and one within 0.5 mile of town which only cost £2 each to enter. This site had a short walk through the forest and three main structures, there was no one else there so we had a good hour wandering around and climbing on the ruins.

Our cycle ride was potentially a long 62 miler with little in the way of stops on route according to Maps.me. But we did find several settlements on route so getting hold of cold drinks wasn’t the problem we thought we was going to have.

We had an undulating road through the jungle so it was tiring but interesting, we spotted tiny lizards that ran away by hoisting themselves up onto there hind legs, they looked funny like a lady running off and having to hold up her flowing skirt.

We spotted the usual Tarantula roadkill and also a venomous Coral snake.
Ginette spotted loads of frogs but I had my head in the trees so missed them all, however that meant we did get to see a large yellow beaked toucan.

Today we had lots of cloud cover and several thunderstorms to deal with, we only got caught in the heavy rain once, the other times we managed to shelter in bus stops. The storms pass as quick as they build so we don’t have to wait long, it’s amazing to sit in shelter and witness the winds really pick up and then the rain crashing down, thunder and lighting booming overhead and then 10 minutes later blue skies break through some of the clouds and the rain on the roads steams as it evaporates.
These rain storms and clouds actually helped us today, they kept it cooler so that we were able to cycle the 60 miles without the effects of heat exhaustion.
The wild life were more active after a downpour, the birds breaking into song and keeping us entertained.

We have stopped at a small town called Ucum, on the outskirts of Chetumal. The hotel has a nice pool that is great to cool down in after a long day on the bike.

25th October 

Belize.

Ginette had some admin to do this morning so it was gone 11.30 by the time we set off, we did have a few choices of destination but we opted to head over the border to begin our next stage through Belize.

Ginette – for the record we spent an hour or two looking at where we would be going, we had three choices but we found it difficult to choose between them. In the end we opted to go straight to Belize.

The border crossing was not as smooth as it could be, the Mexican border guard wanted to charge us a tourist tax. We thought that this may have been included in the flight and entry to Cancun but our ticket only stated taxes, not what the taxes were for. Ginette set about trying to contact the airline and also researched other sites to see if we were being scammed. After half hour with no proof of whether we had already paid this exit tax we coughed up the $30 American dollars each to leave Mexico, a bitter pill to swallow as we are coming back in December and will have to pay this tax again.

We didn’t cycle far and have stopped in the first town called Corozal, it’s by the Sea but today the sea was a murky green colour and very choppy so not inviting.

Ginette – my first impression of Belize are not very good, the roads are in a poor condition, the luxurious hard shoulder we experienced in Mexico has disappeared and the drivers are far less considerate. To add to this Corozal is a little run down and everything is a lot more expensive than Mexico. I’m not in a great mood, my mum would have been 70 today and Hayley moved house, although she had much appreciated help from family and friends, I feel like a bad mum for not being there to help her. I have found it really hard to hold it together, sometimes being on adventure on the other side of the world is hard.

The biggest difference so far in Belize is that English is readily spoken, immigration was easy as everyone spoke to us in English. After so long in Spanish speaking countries it is taking a little while to adjust to hearing so much English, even the road signs are understandable now.

The first two hotels in Corozal we tried were priced at around £45 but one of the receptionist told us (in English) of a cheaper place called a Twin rooms, we are now booked in for £24. Ginette negotiated a discount as the room was not ready when we arrived.

As the room wasn’t ready we popped back into town for beer and food.
We found a place called Scottys Crodile cove, it looked like a typical expat bar with a small group sitting around the bar all chatting in English but mostly Americans.
We met a couple that had just moved down here from Maryland having driven across Mexico with there belongings packed in a trailer, they had a few issues at each of the many police control points on route but are settling in nicely now they are in Belize.

Ginette – loud, drunk, annoying swearing Americans  (told you I was not in a good mood, roll on tomorrow). I am sure everything and everyone will be lovely again.

Mexico part 2

13th October

Long day in the saddle with a break to see a pile of old stones.

We left Tulum and found ourselves heading inland on a paved road with far less traffic and jungle all around us. The birds singing exotic song, hundreds of butterflies seemingly following us, huge locusts sunning themselves on the road and the occasional dead hairy spider.
The road was long straight and flat so easy riding made interesting by the wildlife.

We stopped at Coba, an old Myan ruin. We were told we couldn’t take our bikes in but as soon as we entered we you the gate the touts tried to hire us old rickety bikes, dam cheek.

 
The ruins are scattered over a large area with the only accessible ones within a 1.5 mile walk (bugger if we was going to pay to hire a bike) we are not sure about the history as we had to do the tour with no guide, they resembled other Asian sites we had visited. The best thing about this site is it has a really tall pyramid and you are allowed to walk up the steep steps to the top.
This is a nice site to visit but without a guide it’s just a load of old stones.

We had thought we might stay in this area but as it was only 2.30pm when we had finished wandering aimlessly in the rain we opted to cycle another 18 miles to Chemax as we could see it had at least one hostel on maps.me.

Chemax was our first non tourist town we had been to in Mexico, we drew a few stares and the kids enjoyed shouting Gringo at us, the residents were all friendly.
We had very little cash and there was no ATM in this town. We did find the accommodation but the owner turned us away as he had no rooms.

This meant cycling another 18 miles onto Valladolid, on route we where given a gift of a large bottle of Pepsi from woman passing on a tractor (I kid you not). We were now on a road with a few more cars but a nice hard shoulder to ride on. 18 miles is a long way when it’s added to the end of your day, it was dark when we reached town. In total we cycled 65 hard, sweaty miles.

Valladolid was having a party, the main square was busy, a band was playing and locals dancing in the street. A great atmosphere plus the cathedral was lit up well, it’s weird seeing all this nice stuff whilst soldier’s are patrolling with weapons and flack jackets on.

Ginette throughout Mexico we have seen a very high military presence. In one of the local towns the Mayor was dragged from his office, tied to a car and dragged through the streets. Apparently the locals were punishing him for not fixing a road that he had said he would fix. I don’t advocate this type of behaviour but can you imagine this in the UK.

We ordered a pizza for dinner, it was huge we only managed to eat half of it and although we took half back to our accommodation it ended up in the bin the following day.

14th October

No Chichen Itza but a Cenote in Yokzonot.

Researching the cost of the entrance fee for the Mayan site Chichen Itza that we had been heading for we found it had escalated from the 75 peso up to a stonking 480 peso due to a new tax the government, this is about £18 each ouch. We have also found out that there are many other sites around so we are giving this cash cow a miss.

Ginette – in fairness we had visited a site called Coba the previous day which has been described as one of the best Mayan sites in the country and it cost a fraction of the price of Chichen Itza. 

Many of the hotels and tourist attractions claim to have governement taxes but there seems to be no consistency in the tax added. For example it is possible to see two similar hotels in the same town with significantly different tax added to their advertised price.

We had a nice cycle ride in the hot sun, riding past the entrance to Chichen Itza. It was really hot and we had to stop frequently in little shops to get a cold drink and cool down in air conditioned shops.

We stopped at a tiny town called Yokzonot, we stopped there because there is an Ecolodge and there is not a lot in the way of towns and hostels in the area. We could have camped but it would have been unpleasant in the heat.

Ginette – It is not only the heat that puts me off camping there are lots of giant bugs around, we’ve also seen squashed snakes and spiders on the road and we are unsure what is scurrying away when we pass the bushes on our bikes but it is big enough to make a lot of noise. Added to that I’ve read accounts of the police waking campers to check for drugs and drug dealers waking people to steal money and believe it or not kidneys. We can usually find accommodation for less than £20 so we’d be stupid to camp unless there was no other choice.  

The town had its own Cenote, this is a water hole which was / is part of an underwater cave system whose roof has long since fallen in leaving a huge round hole with very deep clear fresh water in it. It had changing rooms, a restaurant, a zip wire over the top of the hole and a set of wooden steps taking you down to the water. You wouldn’t be able to get in without the steps unless you abseiled in as the sides are shear cliff faces and very high.

The water was crystal clear and it was a bit disconcerting swimming and not being able to make out the bottom even though you could see the edges of the cliff disappearing deep below but far beyond .
The entrance fee was only 80 peso (£3.20) and it was a surreal experience especially as there were only 3 others in the water.

Ginette – The room we had should have been luxurious but it felt kind of eery, the water in the bathroom didn’t work, so much for paying for a sunken spa bath facility and there were wood carvings on the wall that were a little freaky added to this by the side of my bed was a mirrored dressing table and the windows had blinds that we could see through. The accommodation was set in wood land and I kept thinking I was being watched either through the blinds or through the mirror. We both didn’t sleep very well.

Gary cooking in the on site restaurant, you can’t see from this picture but there were giant ants crawling on the shelf behind Gary urgh. 

15th October

Free Mayan site

The place we stayed in last night should have been great, we had a spa bath and an outdoor pool however we had a trickle of water so no way to fill the bath and the pool was empty, there were no staff at the hotel so we made the best of it. We had a nice large room with aircon but somehow we both felt like unwanted guests.

We didn’t have far to cycle, we were still in the jungle with sporadic small towns that we stop at for a cold drink, we can hear some pretty large animals scurrying away from us as we pass possibly large lizard or maybe snake (we have seen a large snake roadkill). Another large roadkill today was another hairy tarantula, all these sightings make it harder to get Ginette to camp.

The heavens opened so we sheltered under a tin lean too attached to a small house, the owners kept popping there head out the window to see we were OK, I have a photo of an elderly lady staring out at me with a twinkle in her eye.

We stopped in Izamal (according to Mexico tourism, it’s a small magical town known as the city of the Three Cultures or City of Hills) the place is famed for its cobbled streets and yellow painted buildings.

It has at least three remaining Maya pyramids and an impressive Franciscan Monastery.  We were able to climb to the top of the tallest pyramid, standing on them you can only marvel at the effort required to build such a big structure with no machinery and wonder how many lives were lost.

Ginette – the town had a special charm, although the paint work was a little tired probably last painted back in 1993 when the pope visited we liked it. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a great big room and modern facilities. In the town there are horse and floral carriages to transport people around the various tourist sites. 

Ginette has seen a job that she fancies so she spent the afternoon writing her application, it a long shot as she would have to interview via Skype but still worth trying, after all she needs a good job when we get back to keep me as a house husband.

Ginette – bloody cheek. Gary is right, it is a long shot but CEO jobs in the third sector don’t come up that often in Bristol. I particularly like what this charity offers so rather than living with any regrets I have decided to apply. If nothing else it has provided me with an opportunity to update my CV and think about what I want to do when we get back to the UK.

16th and 17th October

City break in Mérida.

A very hot sunny day cycling along a quiet road through small towns, we stopped at each town for a cold drink. Today we struggled to find cold still water so had a lot of fizzy water which is not my favourite drink. At one of the small shops we were entertained by some cheerful and lively Mexican music. in the rural towns people are taxied around by motorcycle carts or use bicycles, everyone is really friendly and we are often waved it is very welcoming.

As we approached the city the road became busier but the cycle into the city wasn’t to bad as we found a long stretch of bus/ cycle lane.

Our hostel was basic but OK however the WiFi was not working so at some point we would need to find a cafe as we had made no plans for the stages. We had a wander around the city and I purchased my first new Tee shirt of the trip. The 40 mile ride this morning was taking it toll on us and instead of enjoying the sights of the city we were a bit tetchy. We decided to stay another day as we felt we was not doing the city justice.

Ginette – we arrived in the city at about 2pm got changed and went out to explore, crazy! in the UK if we’d cycled 40 miles in the heat we would have headed straight for a bar to reward ourselves not send ourselves out on a culture trip. I tried to read the plaques and take in some of the culture but felt weary, hot, tired and hungry.  As Gary said instead of enjoying the experience we felt like it was a bit of a chore. I was glad that over a beer we decided to stay another day and really learn about the city rather than rushing off and not really understanding the Mayan culture.

We had lunch out in a bar called La Neigreta, it had live music and was a busy place. When my food came out it was covered in a black sauce, I am not sure what’s in this sauce but I am not keen on its taste and unfortunately the meal I had the night before was also covered in this black sauce Yuk.

Ginette – we had been looking forward to the food in Mexico, but the menu has been quite limited to tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos, all served with meat. In most of the places we’ve visited the tortillas have been cooked on the same griddle as the meat and are very greasy.  There are a few veggie options including cheese, cheese and perhaps if I’m lucky avocado and a bit of salad. I’m hoping our options will improve as we continue to cycle north. I am craving some green vegetables.

 

Thursday morning we went on a free walking tour, the walk itself is just around central plaza but goes into the same buildings we halfheartedly walked around yesterday, this time was more interesting as the guide kept us informed about our surroundings and the city’s history.
We found an Internet cafe and booked a different hostel as well as setting plans for the next few days.

I get bored easy in cities, so will be happy to move on again.

Ginette – I was glad of the rest although I don’t feel particularly tired my left leg was covered in a heat rash and my feet were swollen from all of the walking and cycling. I loved learning about the Mayan culture, it was interesting to learn that it is obligatory for children to learn the Maya language in schools. I spent 3 hours in the afternoon resting in the room, researching a little more about the culture while Gary played his Ukulele. In the evening we went for a nice walk to Merida’s equivalent of the “Champs Elyse”.

18th October

To Muna via Unam, an anagram cycle trip.

Ginette was not very well in the night and didn’t sleep well hence she wasn’t ready to go till around 11am, I thought maybe we would be staying put but she wanted to soldier on.
It had been raining heavy in the night and the morning, I had breakfast at the hostel with a nice Dutchman and the Barcelona born hostel owner which was a nice way to pass the morning.
I have been adding an exercise routine to my day for the last month of some press ups and sit ups, I obviously get plenty of fitness from the cycling but we both notice that I lost a lot of my upper body strength hence the extra exercise regimen.

When we set off our kind hostel owner and his lovely wife gave us some of the apples and oranges from their own trees and fed us a Papaya also from the garden. The rain had stopped but cycling along there were huge puddles in the roads. Getting out of the city was busy and not great fun as our route took us down a busy road past the airport, which remained busy up to Unam after which we found ourselves on a main road but with far less traffic.

We spotted another dead large hairy spider and a red and white striped snake, we have jungle either side of us but it’s pretty dense so you can’t see any wildlife so these road kills remind us there is life out there.

We are in a small town called Muna, we stopped here due to the time of day and the fact that a huge thunderstorm with streaks of lightning were pounding away overhead.

Ginette – it is exceptionally hot during the day, it usually rains in the late afternoon and during the night but there is little relieve from the humidity. The heat really saps our energy and we find ourselves constantly seeking shade and cool drinks.

 

In the news this week there have been some violent clashes between drug gangs and police resulting in many deaths. We wouldn’t mention this but we have seen coverage on the BBC news. At present we are on the opposite side of Mexico but we are heading in that general direction so will take care to avoid the hotspots.

Ginette – Mexican people are generally really smiley and welcoming, far more so than other areas we have cycled in South America. It is a shame that the drug cartels cause so much trouble for the country. Fortunately for us they prefer to kill each other and as tourists on bikes we would be very unlikely to encounter them. 

 

Guayaquil to Mexico

Not edited as we feel the updates give a good account of our thought processes

5th – 6th October

Back in Guayaquil and a change of plan

The last two days we have been in a hostel on the outside of town. We bussed back to our previous Air B and B to collect our bikes and bags, it was good to be riding again. When travelling on planes, boats and buses you are tied down to a timetable and other people’s whims but on the bikes we are free to do what we want and when.

I found a cycle shop and had to carry two cardboard boxes back to the hostel the 2.5 miles which was a little uncomfortable.
The bikes are now apart and packed in boxes ready for the flight to Mexico.

Unable to travel into the city because of the protests but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share pictures from our last day in Guayaquil before we went to the Galapagos islands.

A change of plan!
Ginette has been researching flights and put the cat amongst the pigeons and suggested that we fly to Cancun (the cheaper flight to Mexico City all had a stop over in Cancun). She also realised that by going to Mexico now we would end up with approx 5 months cycling in this country.

A little more research and we found the weather in Cancun was wet in the afternoons pretty much the same as the weather here in Ecuador so logic told us we could stay here and explore Ecuador and then Columbia before setting of to Mexico. If the weather is to wet and cold we could always skip to Mexico earlier if required.

Another issue which we are hoping will not be a problem to us is the current political upset in Ecuador. There have been recent protests and some looting in Ecuador because the president has removed the country’s fuel subsidies, just 2 days ago a state of national emergency was declared but has been lifted. We have seen the troubles on the news but as these are in and around the city centres so life in the suburbs seems pretty normal.

Ginette – we had several considerations, by flying to Mexico we would have had a further week in a city, which neither of us are ready for and the weather is still a little unpredictable in Mexico. I felt if we went to Mexico now and cycled until Jan (we have to be there from the 26th Dec to 9th Jan because we are meeting Hayley for her Christmas break) we would be pretty much fed up of Mexico and yet to get from the Baja Peninsula to Central America will take at least a further 4-7 weeks cycling in Mexico. In total this would have meant at least 5 months in Mexico, if we had an endless pot of money this would not be a problem, Mexico is huge and it has a lot to offer, but unfortunately we are spending money at a much faster rate than we anticipated thanks to constant repairs on the property (we’ve only received the full rent once since leaving the UK), and the decreased value of the pound to the dollar.

7th October

Another change of plan.

My front wheel is squeaking so I took it to a repair shop. They greased the bearings but struggled with the dynamo hence I now have no power.

Chatting to our English speaking hostel owner he has advised against any travel In Ecuador, there have been large demonstrations today and a lot of roads are blocked and looting is taking place in the major cities. We have also heard the land borders are closed, there are several other travelers in this hostel and the talk amongst them all is how and where they are/can go next.
Hence we have now opted back to plan F and have booked flights tomorrow morning to go to Cancun in Mexico.

Hopefully the airport will be open.

8th and 9th October

Transit days, now in Cancun

The flight to Cancun was pretty uneventful, we had paid for check in luggage and had another $30 each for the bikes which we were happy with.
Landing at the airport we were offered taxis at $70 dollars but we had already decided to put the bikes together and cycle if we couldn’t get a taxi for $20.
The cycle ride was hot and humid and down a busy road but the traffic seemed to be nice to us.
We are staying in Mermaid hostel in downtown Cancun, we have two shared single toilet/ shower rooms and our room has only a fan to keep us cool (and very telling are the mosquitoe nets).
The weather is hot but we have experienced heavy rain and thunderstorms. Out and about there are large puddles of water and unfortunately lots of mosquitoes.

Gary doing bike maintenance in the rain

We had some tasks to do such as shopping for gas canisters and oil so spent the day in search of stock
These last two days of travel, restocking and WiFi research have not been much fun and I am looking forward to getting back on the road, however it is looking like we are going to get very wet at times.

10th October 

A coast ride with very few sea views.

We opted to cycle out of Cancun down the coast towards Tulum then inland to Chichen Itza. We chose this route for practical reasons as there are more hostel stops at regular places, if we headed straight to chichen Itza then there were no known places to stop and camping is not a great option given how heavy the rain comes down when it strikes and the wildlife.

this is a picture of a flying cockroach – yuk in addition there are lots of mosqutoes

We cycled out to the coastal hotel area of Cancun. This was not a great route for us as it was really just a 10 mile dual carriageway alongside lots of great looking hotels either side of us.

Ginette – But it was great to be back on the bikes 

if you look closely you will see a lizard in the background – happy Nettie back on the bike

We did get to stop at Plaza Tortugas and had a cold beer on the beach, it’s a nice little beach and the sun was shining. We contemplated taking the ferry over to Isla Mujeres so we could snorkel and spend the night on the island. The ferry would have cost $25 American dollars each and it looked like once there we would have to go on a boat trip to snorkel the reef a further $60. The costs were mounting and as we had just had some fantastic snorkelling on the Galapagos we decided against this trip.

We didn’t get to see much of the sea after this just the big hotels, maybe we could have found a gap between these to access the beach? but we knew we were heading for another beach area  so didn’t try too hard.

Ginette – Cancun, was very touristy, lots of shops and touts looking for business, it was not for us but we could see the appeal if you only had a weeks holiday. Plenty of sunshine and beaches.

We did spot a few large lizards on route and although the road cycling was nothing great the weather was good to us, giving us sunshine and no rain all day.

We stopped in a hostel in Puerto Morelos, we stayed in a bunk room with 6 beds but it had air con and there were only three of us in the room. We had a kitchen, lounge and front and back gardens so all good, it was only the little pets that are a nuisance ( I mean the bloody mosquitoes).

This small town has a real nice vibe, it’s not too busy but has some good bars and restaurants, and a big bonus is the supermarket which is stocked like a UK one with all the goods you need and good prices, we have bought a large bottle of Rum for £5.

Ginette – I loved this town it had a real laid back chilled vibe to it. I would strongly recommend anyone visiting Cancun drives down the coast to this little gem.

11th October 

Snorkelling and cycling but not at the same time.

Puerto Morales does have a nice vibe and would make a nice holiday destination for a week. This morning we paid to go out on a boat to snorkel the reef (I made a hash of the bargaining and ended paying more because we had no cash and paid by card). The snorkelling was OK with reefs dotted around in shallow and very warm water. We spotted a small turtle, a ray and lots of other fish. All in all an enjoyable experience.

Ginette – the reef is described as the second largest in the world. It was no match for the Australian barrier reef but there was plenty of wildlife to see.  Unfortunately we both got a little bit sunburnt on our backs and legs. We have very white bottoms (you’ll be glad to see no photos of them)

We then cycled back down the busy main road to read Playa Carmen, the road is safe with a hard shoulder for us to cycle on but other than the huge amount of advertising bill boards there is not a lot to see.

Ginette – bill boards have included warnings not to feed the crocodiles, panthers and it is good to see notices re fly tipping

We arrived with only an hour before sunset, had a wander down to one of the beaches and had a two for one beer offer in a small cafe. The area is fairly pretty and I can see why people enjoy coming here on holiday but at present the sea is a bit smelly we think this is due to excessive seaweed.

The weather today has been scorching hot, we are both sunburnt from the snorkelling. At a service station break there was a beer cave, a large walk in fridge stocking loads of beer, it was nice to go in and cool down but stepping back outside and the heat really hit home.

Ginette – we didn’t get to see much of Playa de Carmen but I liked the way the restaurants were designed in a jungle (Centre Parc) type theme. Apparently it is a bit of a party town so as we are old farts we opted for accommodation slightly out of town. 

12th October 

Hot and tired today.

We set off and took a last look at Playa Carmens beach. The initial cycling was on a cycle route hidden from the main road by an avenue of trees but this didn’t last for long.

We past many signs again advertising all the hotels and attractions on route and there are many, even if we had the money it would take ages to be able to visit them all. But advertising does work and I am now hankering after swimming in a Cenote but I don’t want to pay for the pleasure.

We reached the beach area Akumal that was well over half way that we had planned to stop at but found the beaches inaccessible as they where lined with hotels and the only access point we had was through a turnstile gate with guards and an entrance fee. We have seen some fantastic beaches and have no intention to pay to go on one, we ended up having our picnic in the car park in the shade.

It’s been a very hot day today, I don’t know the temp in the sun but it was 31 degrees in the shade. We have been followed this afternoon by thunderstorms but none broke on us but it helped us with our no go on the beach decision.

I had a bit of sugar rush then the down that comes with it so had to stop for some food and water to keep my little legs pumping.

We are now in Tulum, we arrived late so haven’t really seen much of the town or the Myan site that is here. The little part we have seen nice enough with bars and restaurants and a fairly young contingent of tourists.

Ginette – the heat is exhausting, it saps all your energy but I’m loving being back on the bike. Tulum is a bit of a hippy town, it is known for its yoga retreats. Hopefully we will get to see a bit more of it tomorrow.

It is Sunday again a week since we made the decision to come to Mexico and although we think it was the right decision, the situation in Ecuador continues to be volatile,  it has been interesting reading the news in the UK. There have been protests in London closing roads and cafes, stabbings in two major cities and political unrest.  I can imagine if I was a foreigner contemplating visiting the UK, I could easily be deterred and that is not to mention the weather!

things we saw on route 

Galapagos Islands

Day 1 Galapagos Islands

San Cristobal

Our Air BnB in Guayaquil have kindly agreed to let us leave our bikes and bags with them so we can travel light.

We used the local buses and tram to get to the airport. To fly to Galapagos there are some extra administrative tasks that we had been warned about.

1. Go to a special immigration desk and pay $20 each.
Snag at this first hurdle is that they won’t accept payment if you have no proof of your return flight, we were turned away. We had no WiFi so had to go to one of the desks and book return flights at 3 times the price we knew we could get them for. This is due to the fact that on line we can pay the locals price but at the desk we have to pay foreign national prices, we had little choice so had to book the flights even though we do not really know when we are coming back or from what Island. We checked at the time with the desk and it would appear we can cancel the flights with no charge (well that’s the impression we have been given, let’s hope this is true).
2. Once the $20 is paid and card received the luggage needs to go through a scan to ensure we are adhering to the tight import restrictions. This was a quick process and to me it didn’t look like they were bothered by what was in our bags.
After this it was pretty painless other than the $100 dollars each that you have to pay to enter the Galápagos Islands.

Ginette – the only transport to the Galapagos is by air and there are only 3 airlines operating to the islands, we have researched the islands extensively and at no point had we been informed we needed a return flight, so I was pretty pi**ed off to have to book one at the airport. We were not alone, and interestingly all three airlines had desks at the terminal with 4 operators each waiting to book flights! It is just as well we had arrived at the airport early because this whole process to over an hour.

Our plane was full of excited Americans, fortunately most of them disembarked on were taken by luxury coach to their cruise ships. The islands seems to have very few tourists, it is the low season for the Galapogos apparently September is the coldest month but at 20c we are very happy and we loved the fact that the sun came out to greet us.

Once settled in our room we took the short stroll to the harbour, and what a show nature had set on for us. We spotted some large Iguanas and 100’s of crabs then a small seal sunbathing and all right next to our feet, as we slowly strolled along the front we could see so many seals around it was slightly daunting yet magical. Getting excited about spotting a large seal close by and taking pictures only to look up and find yet more right where we were about to walk in fact one was yelping a warning not to get any closer, all very wow moments.

We have also seen blue boobies, these are feathered birds (not what you was thinking Cliff) and pelicans diving for fish, and even spotted a rat (or 3).

The seafront is packed with wildlife and we are both enjoying the spectacle. We are not so keen on the cost of things around here but hope to find a place we can stay with a kitchen so we try to keep the cost down, we enquired about a snorkelling boat trip and have been quoted $130 dollars each and this is just a day trip.

Ginette – I absolutely love the wildlife, the Galapagos have been on the top of my bucket list for years and I love the fact that we could walk from the airport to town, however I am a little disappointed at how run down San Cristobal looks. I didn’t expect swanky and modern but I did expect it to be clean and tidy. There’s less rubbish than the main land but we have seen dirty river beds and rubbish on the streets and most of the buildings have faded and flaking paintwork. There are thousands of visitors to the islands each week all paying $120 dollars, so what is the money being spent on? My second little gripe is the island has large signs explaining they are eco friendly (including signs saying no plastics) and yet the only transport to the islands is by plane, plastic cups are used on the plane and plastic bags are used in the stores. I will research both of these issues and hopefully my opinions are based on first impressions and will change. 

2nd Day San Cristobal

Swimming with seals.

Some attempts to cancel the flight we had to book to be able to get to this island but the WiFi is slow so it’s hard work.

We asked for assistance at a local hotel and they pointed us in the direction of the airport, this is only 10 minutes by foot. The desk however didn’t open until 11am.
We then found another place to stay from tomorrow for three nights, it’s only $20 a night and the plus side is has a kitchen we can use.
Back to the airport and it looks it looks like our refund may be going through, we have to wait and see.

We wandered back along the harbour still Marvelling at the antics of the seals, Iguanas, frigate birds, blue boobies and pelicans.
Then to took a walk around the Interpretation centre which discusses the history of the islands and its future sustainability and effects of tourism.

There is a nice sandy beach near the centre which I later took a swim in with the many seals. Entering the water the seals were all on the beach and there was just me and another lady swimmer but then we had one seal come and swim around and under us and a few others also joined in. All the signs tell you to stay 2 metres away from the wildlife but these seals had other ideas, they are graceful and very quick in the water and it was quite a treat to be interacting with these wild seals.

We walked to another beach, this had less people but still as many seals. We watched a large Iguana set off into the sea then later saw it swimming back and walk up the beach.
The Finches are really brave and come right next to you, Ginette had some biscuits and crumbed them in her palm and the finches eventually were settling on her hand and feeding.

Ginette – it was a beautiful and sunny day – San Cristobal is magical.

3rd Day – San Cristobal 

We moved accommodation to a cheaper hostel with a kitchen so we can keep the cost down and do our own cooking.
The weather was overcast and wet so we didn’t set out till later in the morning.

Ginette – By later Gary means 9.30am, he was like a child on the first day of snow, itching to go and see the sealions. However it was cold and wet so I wanted to wait until the mist had cleared.

We hired snorkel and masks for $3 each for the day and set off to La Loberia beach.
It was windy and choppy at the beach so we continued along a walk over rough volcanic tracks to Las Negritas which is a view point over cliffs. Along the track the large Iguanas were sunbathing and at times were so well blended in they made us jump when we realised we were so close to them.


At the lookout we saw at least 5 large turtles in the rough seas below us and spent sometime watching and wondering how the strong sea was not smashing them into the rocks.

Back at the beach I donned the snorkel mask and braved the choppy cold water, there were turtles further out in this slightly sheltered bay but as the tides were strong I didn’t venture far from the beach. The snorkelling was good, the water was clear and there was a lot of variety of fish to see, but it was cold and a bit turbulent. There were loads of seal lions around but none of them came to play today, but when I left the water Ginette had accrued a mum and baby that had bobbed up to where she was sitting and broke the 2 metre rule.

After going back to our room to warm up and have a bit of lunch we set off back to the other side of town in the hope that the sea would be a bit kinder.

We both snorkelled in a sheltered bay near a large statue of Darwin, the water was calm but cold. We spotted loads of fish, a large Ray and a sea Turtle both resting on the seabed, after about half an hour I was very cold so had to get out, afterwards it took ages to get warm again as it was late in the day and the sun wasn’t very strong.

Ginette – whilst snorkelling Gary was at pains to show me the large ray, I tried my hardest to spot it but without any joy, eventually Gary dived down to point the direction, I think I saw it’s tail but could not make out his body. Gary said it was huge and I believe him but I couldn’t see it.  I had to laugh at his enthusiasm and frustration he so wanted me to share his ‘treasure’.  Whereas the Turtles were so huge you would have had to be blind not to see them.  We also saw smaller turtles swimming near by, it was an amazing experience the bay was full of life, if it had not been so cold we would have stayed much longer.

In the evening we got to see more wildlife, there was a spider in our kitchen the size of a small plate, yukkkk, on the upside it may just keep the cockroaches at bay.

4th or 5th Day (so relaxed we’ve lost track)

We loaded the speed boat ferry along with locals with live chickens only to find the boat overloaded, there were complaints and as a result 4 people had to be taken off the boat.

It was a little chaotic but at least someone is considering our safety over profit, although I believe it was a couple of passengers that raised the alarm.

The ferry cost is a set $30 each and in addition we were asked to pay a further 50 cents for the sea taxi that took us 50 meters from the boat to the shore. Santa Cruz is more touristy than San Cristobal, lots more shops and restaurants.

Ginette – I was feeling tired from lack of sleep due to a sore throat and irritable cough, so we had a lazy day. We visited the Darwen Exploratory Centre and read all about the restoration programme for turtles and even saw lots of small and large turtles .I am looking forward to seeing the gigantic turtles in the wild. Seeing them in the centre was cool but a bit like viewing them in a zoo. We also wandered to a local beach but decided to watch some local surfers rather than venturing in ourselves.

There’s far less wildlife in the harbour although we did see a sea lion and some pelicans hanging around the sea food stall.

In the afternoon we chilled, had a beer and generally relaxed.

29th September – Isabela Island

Ginette has developed a very sore throat and nasty cough so she didn’t sleep well. We was up at 5.40 as the ferry leaves at 7am. I had planned to make us coffee but someone had permanently borrowed the lighter in the kitchen so I had no way to light the hob. Hence coffee in an open cafe instead.

We had been asked to meet the lady who sold us the ferry ticket at her office, we then followed her to the docks. It seems that all the agents walk their customers to the docks, heard us into our groups and generally fuss over us. Hence lots of groups all heading off on the various trips. To me this seemed a very inefficient way to do things but it did work.

The ferry trips should be fun but due to the type of boats they use we find ourselves sat inside with no views out of the windows so in effect spend 2 hours reading kindles as the only view is the plastic sides of the windowless boat.

Ginette – this is a real sales pitch opportunity they could offer a pay as you view movie or better still provide videos explaining how the island fee is used to improve the island and what we as tourists can do to improve the environment or/and provide footage of tours available on each of the islands. Instead we had no information, no safety briefing and white plastic walls to look at. Each of the ferry trips between the islands take 2 – 3 hours.

Reaching Isabela we had the same water taxi ride but somehow this islands fees are double at $1 each, it’s not a lot but it does grate, I offered to swim instead.

The weather was overcast  so beach sunbathing was off the cards. We had no accommodation booked so tried to use a cafes WiFi but it was really slow. We ended up walking and finding one that Net had seen on the web when it was running.

Ginette – as we are out of season it is easy to find accommodation and to negotiate a lower fee. We paid on average 22 dollars per night, granted these were basic hostals but they served a purpose.

We opted to go for a fairly long walk to see the Wall of Tears (build by prisoners of war), we past long beaches but the wind and surf were up so the only ones in the water were surfers. Our walk took us past last large sea Iguanas, flamingo lakes (with no flamingos) and to our delight giant tortoises that were roaming free.


These giant tortoises were sitting directly in the footpath so we had some nice close encounters, on the way back later most had taken shelter in the undergrowth and we spent the walk seeking out their hiding places. A couple of times when we had no choice but to pass close to them the tortoise would reel his head back in and make a funny blowing noise of displeasure.


The wall of tears is a large wall built from volcanic rock by Ecuadorian prisoners, several hundred died whilst forced to build the wall and this ordeal only ended after the prisoners had to overthrow the guards.

Ginette – I struggled a little today, I have a hacking cough and a really sore throat, it feels like I’m swallowing razor blades. We went to the pharmacy but they wanted to charge an extortionate fee for some lozenges. I could see the marked price on the packet but the pharmacist wanted to charge 4 x the amount. Gary insisted I purchase them but I resisted and opted to buy some Halls lozenges from the local shop for a fraction of the cost. I’m hoping this head cold will improve for my birthday and that I don’t pass it on to anyone else.

30th September

Ginette’s birthday

Isla Isabela in the Galápagos isn’t to bad a spot to celebrate a birthday.

The weather was overcast and windy but still warm. We enquired about and promptly paid for a kayak and snorkel excursion and had only a few minutes in which to get changed into wet suits.

Ginette we managed to negotiate the price down from $45 dollars to $35 dollars – which felt like a bargain

The trip was an easy paddle from the beach over to a sheltered small set of islands just in front of the harbour, our guide was full of facts and useful information as we kayaked around the shore edge. We spotted Iguana, lots of crabs (we learnt that the many coloured crabs were all the same species but just different ages) herons, pelicans, we had numerous sea turtles swim near and under our kayaks and the icing on the top was the Galápagos penguins. These penguins don’t hang out in large colonies so we was lucky to spot 3 of these penguins resting on the rocks and even better when another one swam past us and joined them.
After this we kayaked to a shell at and had an hour snorkelling in which we spotted sharks, rays, Parrott fish and many other smaller fish.

The way back to the beach was over the choppy water and we caught a couple of waves to ride on.

Ginette – Gary says we caught a couple of waves on the way back this was purely down to his determination and excitement – fortunately the people in the kayaks ahead of us saw the funny side when we whizzed through the waves and mounted their boats.  Bless him he can get a little carried away – but I wouldn’t change him for the world. It was a great birthday treat and one of the few birthdays I have not cried.

1st October 

Tortoise, turtles and penguins

Still overcast and choppy seas,  so we went for a walk to the tortoise breeding centre. We learnt that the tortoise lay the eggs and that the babies are then left to hatch and grow but that due to the non native species that have been introduced to the Galápagos these babies rarely survive. Hence these breeding centres also gather the eggs from wild sites and hatch and raise the tortoise until they are large enough to survive in the wild.


On the boardwalk too and from the park we also saw sea iguanas and pink flamingos

Later I hired a snorkel and mask and snorkelled a little sheltered bay called Concha Perla, spotting another 2 turtles a couple of puffer fish and various other fish
We was then treated to a few more penguins swimming close to the beach, in fact we saw more activity from them in the harbour than on our paid kayak trip

Ginette – I had a day off from snorkelling, I have developed a streaming cold, and didn’t want to risk giving it to anyone else by hiring a snorkel and mask. Seeing the penguins swimming in the harbour was a real treat.

2nd October – back to Santa Cruz 

The ferry left early at 6am so an early wake up for us (04.40). It was a very bumpy ride and this time we had a good view out of the back of the boat. To add to the adventure the ferry ran out of fuel just within sight of Santa Cruz, they had to call one of the water taxis to come and bring fuel. It was only a 20 min wait bouncing in the choppy waters and we could see land.

Ginette – it was an interesting crossing, fortunately Gary and I have strong stomachs unfortunately 2 of the other passengers were not so lucky.

The rest of the day was spent settling into our new hostal and chilling, the day was very overcast so we decided to use the limited wifi to research where to go next.

3rd October

Les Grietas and Tortuga bay

A sunny day in Santa Cruz

Ginette spent the first hour of the morning booking our flight back to Ecuador and I went for a walk around the local area.

Ginette – I had hoped to achieve so much more in an hour than simply book a short flight but the wifi was poor and I had all sorts of problems, many of the search engines insist on changing our surname from Corr to Run and on others they would not recognise some of the info inputted on their site, it was very frustrating.

We set off for Las Grietas, at 10.00am, Las Grietas is a natural water filled canyon, to get to it we had to take a short trip across the bay on a water taxi, then a walk along a track past posh hotels. Past another small beach and some ugly lagoons where they are harvesting sea salt.
Les Grietas is a popular spot and there were loads of other tourists at the first steps, I had read someone’s blog that mentioned that there were 3 ponds to this canyon so I snorkelled to the end of this busy first lagoon, climbed over some rocks into a smaller pool then over more rocks to the third pool.

This was much better, it seems the news about these other pools has not spread and I had it to myself. The water was about 8 metres deep and you could see right to the bottom, the fish here were fairly large and docile except for the Eel I spotted that did it’s best to hide away.
I enjoyed this area especially having the last pool to myself.

Ginette – I am still full of cold, so I decided to give the snorkelling a miss and instead opted to walk over the canyon, from the top, I could see clearly the fish below and video Gary climbing and snorkelling in the gorge.

We took the water taxi back to the port and after a pack lunch walked the 1.5 mile walk track through the sparse woods to the surfing beach of Tortuga bay. The red flags were up as the current is strong here, so we walked right to the end of the beach into a sheltered cove called Playa Mansa.

The sea was dead calm here and also very shallow, I snorkelled out and could still stand up from quite a way out. The snorkelling is not that good, even though it’s shallow the visibility isn’t great and there was not a great deal of sea life to sea anyway.

On the local news Ginette spotted that there was trouble in Ecuador, there are large protests about the removal of fuel subsidies and the government has declared a state of emergency, let’s hope this settles down as we fly back to Ecuador in 2 days time. At present taxi drivers are blocking the main roads and all public transport providers are on strike.

Ginette – On the topic of taxis, in Santa Cruz there is a fixed fee for all journeys and pick up trucks are used rather than cars.

4th October – last day on the Galapagos 

Tide and time waits for no man.

Up early at 5.50 for the 7am ferry to San Cristobal, we reached the port at 6.30 and made the mistake of letting Gary have breakfast. In effect we ended up late even though we was at the port at 6.50. Apparently the ferry was loaded and gone already.
Walked back the 20 minutes to the hostel so Ginette could take advantage of the free breakfast (my breakfast cost over €50 due to missing the ferry).

Ginette – ouch! that was a hefty mistake and not one we can afford to make, money is running out fast – c’est la vie

Spent the day just chilling by the dock reading and playing Ukulele.

The ferry ride was bumpy and a lady fell over in the toilet area and hurt herself. This ferry only had 8 people on it, a stark contrast to the other overcrowded ferry trips.

Ginette – the health and safety on the ferries is non existent, this lady fell from a seat into the toilets and had to be taken to the hospital. There are no signs informing people that it will be extremely bumpy, putting those with bad backs, elderly and pregnant at serious risk of harm.

San Cristobal is still our favourite Island, it has seals and Iguanas in abundance right from the moment you get off the boat. We tried the same hostel as previous but no one was home, we was hoping that maybe the camera we had lost was there but with no one home this was not possible.

We walked back to the harbour front, one hostel we approached wanted to charge us $60 dollars for one night, but just around the corner actually closer to the waterfront we found a room in San Francisco hostel for $25. This is a big difference and I can see no real reason why the other would be so much more.

We ate out, the menu prices looked a bit steep but we asked if they had a menu of the day which is a set menu we was offered fish beans and rice for $5 each (half the price of any of the meals on the menu) it goes to show that you can get the prices right down with a bit of knowledge.

Ginette – it is without a doubt expensive to get to the Galapagos Islands, but the price of accommodation is low compared to the UK, however food and drink is probably about the same which is much higher than the rest of South America. Tours and transport around the islands is very expensive in total we have probably spent £1600 which includes flights from the main land approx £500, Island fees £200, Ferries £300, accommodation £200, food and drink £300, trips £70 (including $10 each additional fee for Isabela Island) and misc £30 (gifts for the xmas tree, pharmacy, toiletries etc).