© 2012 . Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Mexico-126


The journey to San Cristobal starts in San Pedro early Saturday morning. In order to get the first lancha (small boat) to Panajachel from where the shuttle will leave I need to get up at 4:30. Fortunately, the morning before I had to get up at 3:30 so this feels like an entire night after all. On the boat I meet an Irish guy who is on his way to San Cristobal as well. We step off the boat and walk past a couple of Guatemalan men standing next to a small bus but don’t say anything. Since the shuttle won’t arrive for another half hour we just sit down and talk. When it does arrive we get up and show the driver our tickets. He looks and me and just says “You are not on this bus”. What do you mean, I am not on this bus? “I don’t know, there must be another bus coming”. So I just sit down again and wait for another half hour but no bus arrives. Suddenly one of the men who was leaning on the bus looks at me and says “alright let’s go”. A little startled I grab my backpack, drop it in his bus and we set off. On our way we have a little chat in Spanish and I enjoy having some space on a bus for a change. When we reach the border a couple of hours later I see a group of backpackers waiting for their bus (and hence me) and start thinking that this was it with the luxury. But fortunately they were waiting for my bus to take them into Guatemala. So while they cramp in the bus that I had for myself I get into theirs and get comfortable. I sleep for a bit and when I wake up we are in the midst of a heavy thunderstorm. The driver has decided to take a little shortcut and we drive through mud and dirt. Of course, the inevitable has to happen and I can hear the wheels spinning trying hard to get some grip. We roll back a little bit and my driver gives it another try. He fails again, turns his head and says “sorry amigo, but you have to get out”. I jump off barefoot, my flipflops would not help anyways, and try my hardest to push our bus over the edge. It does not work. After ten minutes a car appears behind us and two men get out to help me. With our joined effort it finally works and we can get going. I get dropped off at the bus station in San Cristobal and go in to buy my ticket to Cancun for the next day. At the counter I ask for the cheapest ticket to Cancun, which turns out to cost nearly $60, and the sales clerk wants to know if I would like to take the bus in 10 minutes. Why not? 10 minutes turn into 2h because the bus is delayed but after a total of 32h on buses I finally arrive in Cancun. At the hostel I get some dinner and then straight to bed.

The Birt is here

The next day a bunch of people from the hostel are going to Isla Mujeres for a day trip. San Pedro spoiled me with cold nights and rain every day, so I join them without thinking to long and spend a great day relaxing there. On Tuesday Birte arrives at Cancun airport. I pick her up and we take the bus straight to Playa del Carmen. She is pretty jetlagged and I am still tired from sleeping too little the past couple of days so we go to bed early and head for Isla Cozumel the next day. At the hostel we meet two Israelis that I met in Cancun before. Ori and Shira are brother and sister themselves, and we spend the next week traveling together. Cozumel was made famous for its diving by no other than Jacques Cousteau and we indulge in four days of diving, snorkeling and exploring the island. Ori, the brother, and Birte start their Open Water diving certification and Shira and me cruise around the island in our VW beetle that we rented for the remainder of our time on Cozumel. We let Birte drive once, which ended up in some weird parking position in the middle of both lanes. Diving on Cozumel was great, but Shira and me only went for two dives since the price of $70 is a big setback for my travel budget.


Our VW Beetle

Our VW Beetle

Another highlight of Cozumel was the appearance of smelly guy. Smelly guy’s actual name is Dave, a 50-year-old Canadian who loves to paint his toe nails blue with white flowers on it. “Nice toes”, I tell him and he goes on and on about how weird it is to him that no one seems to like painted toes on men. “Very confusing, indeed”, I reply. Also Dave does not believe in showers nor washing machines. The moment he walks into the dorm his odor overwhelms us. I look over to Shira just to see her mouth form “what the …”, Birte is making a face and Ori, who walked in right after smelly guy stops, turns around and goes right back out. Not a problem I think, he has just been traveling and is probably about to take a shower. Nope. WRONG. He does not shower for three days. Neither does he change his clothes. It is always a blue Hawaii Shirt and the same shorts. On the second day he complains about the fan in the room and I think it is a good a time as any to start about “the” topic. So I mention that something smells really bad in the room and that we need it to keep the air flow going. He seems surprised. “Do you know what it is?”. “Not sure”, I say, “smells like shoes or old sweat”. “Weird”, he says and walks out the room. Birte, who witnessed the entire scene, can’t stop laughing but we are disgusted at the same time since his perfume still penetrates our nostrils. He does not get it either. That night he hangs his shirt up on his bed, right next to my head and the next morning he looks just the same. Smelly guy for life, I guess.

Birte and me in Tulum

After Cozumel we take the bus to Tulum. At first we tried to take the collectivo to Tulum but, of course, all drivers are on strike and we have to take the much more expensive first class bus. In Tulum we check out different hostel. One of my favorite episodes of this trip actually happened while we were looking at a hostel called “Casa del Sol”. We go in and step into their big and beautiful common area. On the right you have the chillout area, on the left the internet station. I am about to say “let’s stay here” when I smell something aweful. Birte turns to me and says “does it smell like shit here?”. Shira and Ori seem to smell it as well, judging from the expressions on their face. We walk in a little further and the stench turns into an overwhelming reek. The guy in charge looks up from his computer and asks us if he can help us, so I ask him “what is that smell?”. He does not seem puzzled at all and replies, in an academy award worthy seriousness, “what smell?”. I look at him, unsure whether he is just messing with us, and say “the smell of shit maybe?”. We turn around and leave the place without saying another word. Once outside we bump into a guy who seems to be working at the hostel as well and he offers us a room. We mention the smell again and he says that they were having problems with the plumbing but trying to fix it. At least he was honest but we just ask for directions to our last recommendation, Rancho Tranquilo. Here we can bargain a little bit and get a private with A/C for the same price we would have gotten a rotten dorm bed at the first hostel and decide to stay.

Tulum beach

Snorkeling in Akumal

When we are all settled in we take a cab to the beach and are left speechless by its beauty. I think I can let the pictures speak for themselves. We also visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum which are beautifully located right at the water and even has its own private beach. For the next day we scheduled a Cenote diving session. A Cenote is basically an underground freshwater cave system. Although you can just go snorkeling there, its really beauty can only be seen from underwater. Paolo, our guide, explains us the difference between a cave and a cavern dive (cavern = less than 60m from the cave entrance) and we go in the water. The fresh water is freezingly cold (around 24°) and even with the dive hat I start shivering after a couple of minutes. Birte is having problems with her buoyancy and keeps floating on the surface. Although it is a fun sight I am glad when we can start diving. After a couple of minutes I wonder where Birte has gone and see her back at the surface trying not to rotate sideways. Apparently, one of the weights that Paolo put in her BCD fell out and he has to go get it. After this small incident everything goes as planned and we have two amazing dives in what feels like an alien sci-fi movie.

After a couple of days we leave Tulum to go to Caye Caulker. The border is well known for its scams that include bus drivers, government officials and the police. We took all precautions and got our necessary papers together. When we arrive at the border and hand the officer Birte’s passport. He takes a look at it and says we have to pay $25 to leave the country. Of course we correct him and he demands a receipt from us. We give him Birte’s flight ticket where the $25 are clearly stated. He just takes a look at it and says “$25, assholes”. Since we are not about to give him the money he waves at the next in line, but I block his way. The officer looks slightly irritaded, thinks for a second and then opens up a second booth. The bus driver arrives and asks what is going on. I tell him that we are being scammed and do not have to pay the money. He nods but also says that we still have to pay. We end up doing it and hate the immigration officer for the rest of the day.

Our time on Caye Caulker is nothing but rain, 24/7, so we leave Belize and go to Flores, Guatemala, to go visit the famous ruins of Tikal