Friday, March 1, 2013

Chetumal: Border of Mexio and Belize

Without having any plans and not knowing exactly what I would find in Chetumal I got off the bus. I don't think a lot of backpackers stay in Chetumal. I think most people try to do the border crossing in one day, but well, you read my last post so you know I didn't plan ahead.
There was one lone backpacker in the terminal reading a book. I asked her if she had stayed in Chetumal (thinking probably not since she was waiting for a bus out of town at the end of the day probably spent in Belize) and she had. She gave me good directions to a hostel (Hostel Paakal) that I was able to walk to in about ten minutes.

Not only did they have room, but I was the ONLY guest.  (I think I'm learning that unless you book 24 hours ahead of time the sites will tell you there is no availability-or in other words, there's no telling what's available with less than that time frame, as people like me just show up.)

It's a really nice hostel. Brand new building. Lots of amenities: free wifi, pool, jacuzzi tub, good breakfast included, helpful staff.

I was sticky and stinky when I arrived and the over-sized jacuzzi bath tub filled with cool water was rather enticing. However, since my last hostel and it's noise level, I got too excited about sleep and took a semi-long shower instead just to get the stink and stick off and to relax then jumped right into bed. (Also I thought I had to be up at 530 a.m.)

The flyer said that the bus leaving from Chetumal to either Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye leaves at 7am. Cay Caulker and Ambergris Caye are two of the islands off Belize that I want to visit. I haven' decided which one yet as the one hostel on Ambergris Caye keeps getting rave reviews about it's pizza and I've been wanting pizza-and haven't had any-since before getting my tonsils out. Caye Caulker on the hand says it's a slower-paced, less expensive island. I like both of those things.

As I lie in bed realizing that I didn't know how long or how much money it would cost to get to the dock I decided at this point I didn't care and sleep was more important.

Super awesome when I wake up and the hostel had made breakfast an hour earlier than it is usually served so that I would miss out on it. Not only that, there is a cab waiting for me to take me to the dock. I love seemingly little things like that. They aren't so little when you're traveling. They are HUGE and get the tone of an entire day. I really lucked out in multiple ways with my stay here.

I'm back at the hostel now though because apparently there is only one water taxi to Belize and it leaves at 3pm. Or so said the only man at the dock says. And some posted advertisements at the dock confirmed. I cabbed back to my hostel who also thankfully has a late check out time of 2:30 instead of the usual 11 or 12. This really isn't a tourist town so I don't think I could find a bike to hire and I'm quite happy to settle in for a nap shorty and catch up on the massive amounts of lost sleep.

I chose to do the water taxi because I hear it's easier to cross the border going through customs at the dock and I love taking boats when traveling as much as possible. That and I can go directly to the cayes rather than take a bus across the border to Belize city and then circle back. Hopefully the idea is the border crossing will be easier, get me to where I'm going more directly, and cost less rather than paying for another bus and then a water taxi.

Anyway, I'm off to nap.

Mexico...we all know I don't edit

We all know I don't edit so here's a few started paragraphs completely spewed and unedited (like it was started multiple times and then finally dubbed, "finished" because getting me to write in the first place is hard enough without getting me to re-read).

I haven’t really been in the mood to write, but I have at least been able to relax a little bit. The two weeks previous to this one were pretty annoying. And as I usually do when I’m annoyed or stressed, my left shoulder locked up completely, which made packing and sleeping difficult.

I say I’ve been able to relax, which has been lovely, but sleeping is a different story. I chose a hostel that boasts being several blocks from the downtown party so that I could get some sleep. What I found is that yes, there was little outside noise, but the hostel itself played loud, wall-thumbing awful music until about 2am IN the hostel. Other than that (and THAT is big. I like my sleep. And I hate club music) though it had a great vibe to it. Calm quiet music during the day.

As you can guess there aren’t a lot of solo travelers in this area. I’m in Playa Del Carmen by the way. It’s about 1.5 hours south of Cancun. Since I was headed south anyway and I’m sure Cancun is even louder and more touristy than here I chose to come here.

It’s a pretty cool city. Built solely for tourists, though. No really. It’s only 18 years old (I hear) and pretty much built as an alternative to Cancun. I must admit the beach is beautiful. The vibe is beach calm and it’s nice. I would’ve liked to have more time spent at the beach. Maybe I’ll stay a night or two on my way back up to the Cancun airport, just to go the beach.

Today was supposed to be my beach day, but it’s only in the 70’s and breezy, with some mist on and off. Not awesome beach weather, and since I’ve got to head south anyway...

The food is pretty great too.

Yesterday I walked around town and ended up at he beach. The beach is pretty awesome. I couldn’t help but lie on the unimaginably soft, white sand even though I wasn’t wearing my suit (that I had to purchase last minute as I didn’t own one. I know. Terrible.). I laid there for a while unable to even think about doing anything else. I had no interest in my book or music, or anything. I was able to just completely relax. I was happy as could be to just lie there and do...nothing. (After the last couple of weeks and the future worrying to come over work, it felt great.) After a short while I found a bike rental and just wandered through the town. I ended up back near a golf course and newly built homes, so it was a in a really nice area. The beautiful area and the beautiful weather was enough to keep me happy.

The downtown/city area is nice. Really nice actually as far as downtown tourist areas go. The fact that there are nice things and that this town was built solely as a tourist city, an alternative to Cancun (I hear it’s only 18 years old), the prices reflect in everything.

The food is pretty good too. In fact the food today was so good that when the waiter misunderstood my changing my mind from the tacos to the fajitas and ended up bringing out both I did not correct him. YUM. It was a pricey lunch-by backpacker standards (about $12), but I won’t be hungry for a while, which is good because after a perfectly pleasant and delicious lunch I was having one of those accomplish nothing, have all my bags with me, stuck in limbo kind of travel days that everyone dislikes-and I ended up on bus to Chetumal, which is the border town on the Mexican/Belize border.

After my brief visit the beach without beachwear yesterday I had decided to stay an extra day in Playa Del Carmen, and just make it a full on beach day and ensuring that my trip to Belize would taken care of in advance. Well the weather today is not good beach weather. Grey, overcast, occasionally misty, and only in the 70’s. I know that sounds silly, because that’s not weather to complain about. But I decided this would make for a good travel day if I couldn’t immediately get into a different hostel.

My hostel was fine during the day, nice vibe, very calm and relaxed atmosphere but then right as I was ready to go to bed the music would change into awful, wall-thumping, club music that seemed to be turned up at the precise intervals when I thought I was ready to explode from the current  noise level. I specifically chose this hostel because it boasts not being able to hear the clubs from it’s location. I didn’t realize they’d make up for by playing their own club music well into the morning. I need my sleep and I’d already had almost two weeks of not being able to get to sleep. Unable to get clear directions to the one I found outside of town and not knowing precisely where the bus station was I did a lot of pointless wandering/walking and wandering how much hassle it would be to get to the bus station early enough from an out of town hostel. I finally found the bus station and there was a bus leaving for Chetumal right then. I asked it if was too late to get a ticket, the helpful woman hurried to sell me the ticket and called out to the guy that I was coming. So here I am, on my way to the border.

I checked this morning and all the hostels were full (I think there are only two in Chetumal) so I’m going to end up paying a lot for a place to stay tonight (probably at least $40, which I think has been about what I’ve been spending per day so far, on average). But here I am listening to Iron Man II in Spanish and getting very sleepy on the bus.

Apparently my orphan Spanish is just good enough that it appears I can speak Spanish. And although I’m having fun using the little bit that I know I do not speak it well enough for someone to speak it to me at full speed, or to even respond in more than one word answers. :) The people are mellow, calm and friendly. Because it’s a beach city and they are used to tourists and way more money than I have, they are not overly aggressive in their sales and not interested in discounting things since the cruise ships will come in and pay inflated, even for the U.S., prices.

I picked a good day to travel as it is now a bit cold, for here (and for me :)), and it’s pouring rain. I love pouring rain. Better to be on a bus enjoying the rain and the country side than sitting stuck in hostel somewhere where. Not that a rainy day can’t be absolutely enjoyable I’d rather spend my time at the the beach. And I really don’t mind bus rides, especially ones on really nice buses with very few people. Again, pricey for a backpacker though, $26!