So, when Rich announced that he was set to head off for a two week trip to Australia and New Zealand, for once I didn’t mind that I wasn’t going along with him. You see, I had my heart set on moving back to my beloved Bondi and was hoping that Rich’s trip would convince him he wanted to do the same (endless conversations on the matter had previously proved otherwise, but hey, I had to hope!)
In the meantime, I was heading down my annual winter gloom and doom spiral and knew that the only way to fix it was to get some sunshine. I’d been planning a trip to Central America all year and finally I had enough money saved to book the flights: LDN-CUN-(over-ground)-SJO-LDN (booked through Opodo’s multi stop flights for £800). After debating the pros and cons of joining an organised tour or going it alone, I eventually settled on a 16 day Gadventures tour called the Mayan Sun Southbound (booked with the lovely Victoria at STA Travel), followed by a week of solo travel in Costa Rica.
Sadly, two weeks by the beach wasn’t enough to convince Rich to change his mind about moving out of London and when it became apparent that what we wanted wasn’t going to change, it was time to part ways once again…
I arrived in Cancun after a 15 hour flight (including a delay that almost caused me to miss my connecting flight in Dallas) and the heat hit me instantly. As I stripped back the coat and jumper and exchanged my Converse for Havaianas, I grew excited at the prospect of what lay ahead. One of the things I love most about travelling is the fact that as soon as you arrive in a new destination, the eagerness to explore and enjoy a new experience puts all concerns from life at home to the back of your mind. Some call it running away, I call it bliss!
Anyway, I grabbed the shuttle bus to my hostel in downtown Cancun, (avoiding the temptation of taking a taxi at almost three times the cost) and was soon settled down in my dorm bed for the night. It had been a while since I’d shared a hostel room and I was worried that I had grown too old for bunking with a bunch of strangers, but I was so exhausted that I fell to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, waking only when the sun came up and told me it was time to head to the beach.
A couple of hours in the sun was enough to satisfy me, especially as I didn’t want to meet my tour group looking like a lobster, and so I headed to pack my bags and leave the hotel-laden streets of Cancun behind.
Playa Del Carmen
A 1.5 hour bus ride later, I arrived in Playa Del Carmen and checked into the Playa Del Carmen H&A Hotel where I met my roommate for the trip, Natalia. We hit it off instantly, bonding over our mutual love of travel as we ambled to the beach, stopping off to take pictures of the sights along the way.
7pm soon rolled around and it was time to head back to the hotel for our welcome meeting where we would meet the rest of the group. A mixture of Americans, Australians, Canadians, Danish, Dutch, German and English, with ages ranging from 22-66, we were an eclectic bunch, but that suited me just fine.
For dinner that night, we headed to Zenzi, a lovely restaurant on the beach where we dined on fresh seafood and treated ourselves to a cocktail or two whilst we started to get to know one another through the conversation starter that would connect us all – travel!
Ancient Mayan ruins & stunning scenery
The next morning, a few people headed out alone to follow their personal passions: be that diving with sharks (Natalia), plunging into the Cenotes (Greg) or wandering off to check out nearby Cancun (Phillip).Whereas I’d opted to join the majority of the group for a day trip to Tulum.
We hopped on the local ‘collectivo’ bus for just 40 pesos ($4) and 45 minutes later we had arrived. For the equivalent of $5USD we were granted access to the ruins where we wandered leisurely, taking in the structures and reading up on their history and importance in the Mayan culture. Compared to the more well-known Chichen Itza, Tulum is the less impressive of the ruins in terms of size. Its location however, set on vivid green topped cliffs overlooking the turquoise waters and white sand of Tulum beach below; make it well worth a visit for any beach/nature lover.
The smaller group during the day made it a little easier to start getting to know people on a more personal level, but as the evening rolled around it was great for the group to get back together to recount our tales from the day.
That night we avoided the main strip (fifth ave), dining at a local Mexican joint called Wichoos. It was the kind of place I wouldn’t usually look at twice with it’s brash orange sign glowing from the beams outside but luckily for us our tour guide Kaylie knew just how great this local restaurant was and so we dined on the most delicious fajita feast, all washed down with a couple of refreshing Coronas. Natalia and I were tempted to check out the nightlife but with a 5am start the next day, we figured we’d take advantage of the early night. There’d be plenty more time for partying in the next spot after all…
Next up, we added some stamps to our passports as we crossed the border into Belize.