Friday, April 17, 2009


While driving from Fortuna to Chepe, past the fields of yucca, framed by hills and the occasional volcano, along a road lined by tree fences I thought about roots. I have put down roots here in Central America, my home is a vast network, sort of a sequoia like mess of friends, cafes, hotels, drivers, other tour leaders, waiters, park benches, and bus seats. How can a bus ride feel like home? How can the staff of a Nicaraguan Mexican restaurant feel like family? Yet both those things are, or maybe now, were true.
I kept and keep thinking, "No puedo, no puedo..." or maybe, "I can't, I can't..." a strange mantra that I felt might protect me from leaving, and yet here I find myself ensconced in California. Re-entry feels bearable because I know I am leaving again and because I have been distracted by an onslaught of great friends and family. But to have left all of that, "gracias a dios," pichazos de aguacate, AMOR, amigovios, Israel, Ometepe, the chicken buses, the smell of high land Chapines, ducual frijoles volteados con platano maduro y queso, flirtations en espaƱol, gallo pinto de La Parada, and not being able to say "nos vemos suuuuuuper pronto" to my favorite tico/nica/chapin/catracho/mexicano friends and mean it.
Does the promise of fish sauce and green curry really stand up to that? It better, otherwise this gringa is buying herself a flight straight from Bangkok to some undisclosed central american location.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quick and dirty guide: the road from Cancun to Belize

An ex-passenger of mine requested some info on Central America for an upcoming trip. I have acquiesced, but figured rather than putting it in email form that the blog might be a better approach so that more people can benefit from all my hard typing. We're starting in the Yucatan because that is where Rich is starting, and that's what I felt like doing.


I am not a fan, the one thing I do dig is Gory Tacos not too far from the ADO station in Cancun on Andador Tulipanes No. 26 S.M. 22. So you can do that, eat a Torta and think of me. I like to stay a Kin Mayab for a couple reasons: they serve anchor butter with their square bread toast, the staff is friendly, and it is walking distance from the ADO station. The ADO is consequently probably the cheapest way to get to/from the airport unless you have two people, then walk outside the airport and grab a cab, should be between $25-30.

Far better in my opinion to escape Cancun and head to....

Mmm I dig it here, great food, nice people, awesome beach.
Take a cab from Cancun to Puerto Juarez, grab the every half hour ferry (70mxp) and you arrive in what might be one of my favorite beach towns. Tons and tons of hotels abound, I like Los Bucaneros (used to stay there for work) or right across the street is Ronaldi's pizza I am a pizza addict, I know. The hotel above Ronaldi's is nice, huge beds. Both are located on the boisterous and fun pedestrian street, tons of great restaurants etc. I am now a huge fan of beach front Minino's for their pescado entero (get it fried, but be prepared it comes with the head on). Breakfast at Cafecito is divine, they make a jam out of bananas coconut and pineapple, and even the New York Times says it is good. Also Manana makes nice brekkie and lunch, plus they have used books. My newest haunt (they have coffee and wifi) is Magagua or something like that. It is a cool open air cafe with comfy chairs and a fast connection, good for doing expense reports. A nice lady told me Cafe Mango is great, I've never made it there, but maybe you will.

To do: Take a trip out to Isla Contoy, or if it is the season head out on a whale shark trip. Both are worth every penny I promise.

Don't waste your time, you didn't come to Mexico to hang out with fat Americans sprawled on 100Mxp chaise chairs.

If you dive, might be worth a trip down here, catch the ADO then a cab into town. A good base for cenote dives as well. Check out Dive In Puerto Morelos and eat at La Terraza, good food and a bit of an asian fix as well.

the two crowning glories of my Biggest Blow Outs of Mexico list. Don't fuck around, go to Uxmal or Tikal instead. Unless you like tourists, if you like tourists have a great time.


getting to Belize from Mexico requires a bus to Chetumal, then you grab a bus to Belize city. Belize City is not worth a visit, so just grab a ferry to...

Oh man, welcome to a slice of paradise. Two words: CAKE MAN. So, find yourself a hotel, deposit luggage, put on bathing suit, grab some BZD and walk down to the split. Buy a belekin, start drinking and wait for the Cake Man to come. It is not an exact science but somewhere between 5 and 6 Bunz appears and he comes with cake. It is all excellent but my two favorites are: key lime pie cake and the macaroon brownie. It will change your life, this I will guarantee.

I dive with the attitude filled Frenchies and you absolutely have to do the Snorkeling Sail with Raggamuffin (you can miss out on the rum punch, it is lethal). Wear sunscreen. I like Gertrude at the Ocean Pearle, she is nice, keeps the place clean and there are hammocks.

when you finally tear yourself away from C.C. on your way to Guatemala you can visit...

Eat at Hanna's, order a lamb quesadilla it is HUGE. Then stroll down the street and sign up for either the A.T.M. or Crystal Cave with the lovely boys at Hun Chi'ik tours. Both are amazing sacred mayan caves and the tours are worth every penny. Both Benjamin and Rudy are incredible guides, tell them I say hi.

Stay out at Midas, the owners are sweet and the rooms are lovely, plus it is out of town. Walk over to Hodes and get your self some rice and beans. mmm.

going south from C.C. you can cruise downt the Hummingbird Highway to...

crazy, small, but I love it.

The caye you can walk to, small, mellow, beachy.

Before leaving Belize make sure to: eat and buy Marie Sharps hot sauce, eat rice and beans, check out a cave, go snorkeling or diving


The fool has forever been one of my favorite tarot cards, it is a point of departure and of arrival, a meditation on the ever never endingness of the cycle of life. It sits at 0 in the major arcana, both the first and last card of the spiritual journey towards whatever one might seek: knowledge, peace, enlightenment. And at this exact moment in my life it speaks to where I sit.

Big decisions, big steps, big adventures, it all feels like stepping off that cliff into the unknown. The hard part is to do it with trust, without fear, with love in your heart, with an empty mind. When we give trust to the universe, when we open a space in our hearts for what will come, miraculous things happen.

I had been asking the universe to give me a push in a direction, to give me a next step, and it has come. So now it is time to step off that cliff again, which looks like hopping on a flight to Bangkok to start take a new position leading trips in SE Asia. I am telling myself that the butterfly which is flapping around in the pit of my stomach is not of nervousness or fear, but one of the delights of the unknown. Off I go...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No. 38

Living down here has its benefits, like when you get a couple days off and get to go on cutty cenote diving adventures with your dive instructor friends. In between my last trip (Yucatan Panorama - a hilarious stint in the peninsula) and the one I am currently running my ever frustratingly brilliant scheduler left me with two unoccupied days in Quintana Roo. Shannon, who I met way back (as in last year) on Utila now lives in Puerto Morelos, a mere 15 minutes from the Cancun Airport. Awesome. So after a lot of motivational speeches to myself to leave Isla Mujeres (keep in mind moving requires also moving Mary my pack who has gained some weight lately) I loaded both Mary and myself on to the ferry and on to a bus southward bound. One taxi ride later and there I was shooting the shit with Shannon.
Fellow gypsy/vagabond/homeless travelers who make their living on the road and aren't out to prove their superiority over "tourists" but rather need someone who understands what it is like to live on the fringes of other people's vacations are hard to come by. And when I find one all I want to do is sit down and talk shop: the difficulties of constantly being friendly, how impossible it is to have a boyfriend on the road, and the frustrations of wanting to have a simple house plant. Have I mentioned that this lifestyle has made me even more grateful of friendship? Getting to spend all afternoon talking to a like minded soul was like a breath of fresh air.
So after forgoing lunch for dark chocolate, we made our way over to Teraza a small Asian influenced spot with gauzy curtains and paper lanterns blowing in the wind. The restaurant is upstairs on a little terrace (hence the name) with a nice view of the zocalo. As we were finishing up our Oriental Salad (with strawberries, shrimp, aguacate, and a peanutty dressing) and pasta a strange thing happened. All of a sudden a man in a kilt started playing the bag pipes, and then young girls started doing highland dancing. And then I had one of those feeling like, WTF? Where am I? Which isn't that strange of a thing for me, but still Scots in Mexico?
Of course investigating was in order, which for me culminated in a 12 year old girl dressed like a cow girl (picture the cow girl from toy story but in a skirt) dancing some sort of complicated scottish jig. About that time Shannon and I looked at each other and simultaneously thought and said, "Lets get the F out of here." Which we did, but along the way Shannon hugged everyone in town. Finally we sat down and got some margaritas. And man, not two minutes went by before some fucking weird ass Canadians busted up our party inquiring after where to go in Caye Caulker. I kid you not, I asked if they were going to pay me for my advice. That is really the equivalent of asking a doctor to examine you while he is sitting and having a scotch right? Any how they had some bizarre mustache hair growing and we gave them a quick run down on where to go, and they still didn't offer to buy us a drink. Bad manners if you ask me.
So then it was hugs all around, and finally we made it off to bed. The next morning the wind was still blowing so no boats were leaving the harbor, making centoe plotting in order. After a lot of misfires we finally got our motely crew of cenote divers assembled: Tony (20, Texan, Dive Master), Shannon (26, Native Louisianan, Dive Instructor), and me (25 - still!, Californian, DMT - at least I pretend). Now let me set the scene, Tony is the only one who knows where the cenote is, I am downing 1.5L of freezing cold bonafont (my favorite of the mexican waters), Shannon is worrying about a chicano lost somewhere between California and Mexico. Off we go, down the highway, then left on to the cenote road, along the asphalt, then off the asphalt and on to a dust yucatecan limestone road. Of course by then I needed to pee. So like I figured it was the perfect time to try peeing standing up. Right there along the side of the road I pissed myself, or on myself, or something, much to both Tony and Shannon's amusement. After I clean myself up we take off again and soon realize we have lost the cenote. I mean we still know where we are, but we don't know where the cenote is. The thing is that cenotes don't move, so we double back head back the way we came and finally after asking 4 separate mexicans, locate the turn off (the sign had moved, the road had been paved, or maybe Tony chiefs too much) but we were on our way. The Kinh-ha cenote is located down some evily bumpy dirt road, but the day had that feeling of late summer, kind of dusty and hot air, nice breezy all grassy smelling. And there we were rolling along, windows down, music going, friends, laughter, off on an adventure. We pull up to the cenote, load up the gear, check the air, discuss how to remember right hand release on your weight belt (which somehow is still easy to forget), and then waddle off loaded down, ungraceful, and desperate for cool water. Down the ladders to the wooden platform of Kinh-ha cenote which sits under a ceiling of limestone graced with two large circular openings, one has the ladder that leads to the platform, the other is lined with roots like Rapunzel's hair dangling into the sapphire blue water. Weight belt, bcd, fins, mask, off the platform in some twisty lift push launch which turns out more graceful than I had planned and I am in the cool water of the cenote. We bumble about a bit on the surface looking for the line and I start to realize how deep this thing is, the blue starts out a lush jewel tone but quickly darkens to almost black below. A swath of light is cut in the area below the root decorated opening, illuminating the fine roots making them look even more like a honey blond hair trailing in the water. Finally we decide to descend, try to locate the line and then follow it back up. All of us are over-weighted and we fall quickly into the darkness. The water is eerily clear and yet you can't see to the other side, the cenote is round but with layers and layers of stalagmites dripping down, finally at the bottom are silt hills and valleys studded with lost items (spectacles, turtle shells, masks, twigs, etc), and all around are blind cat fish who seems to hang around me for the length of the dive. We find the line, and take off to explore the hills of accumulated organic matter, it is like being on another planet, like walking on the moon. At one point I almost sink into the ground, it stirs up into a murky cloud and I have the feeling that you could keep falling and falling through all that debri. We start tracing a path along the side of the cenote slowly moving higher, exploring the formations, I do somersaults, Tony checks everything out, and Shannon cruises along. The whole time I feel like I am on some strange drug trip, both Shannon and Tony look like they are floating in empty space, it is hard to get your bearings, the bottom is murky and all hilly, and you can't quite see across, the wall we are following is a curve, looking up the surface looks mirrored, the ladders that penetrate morph into a kind of escher like confusion. As we cruise along I keep turning back to see stalagmites silhouetted in the deep turquoise of the water, a grand vista. We keep getting closer and closer to those roots and the light and the all of a sudden we are on the surface only to be greeted by a legion of fleshy blond french tourists who have taken over the cenote.
In a bit of a daze we negotiate our way out, watch a man cannon ball in the spot we had surfaced in moment before, collect our gear and go to warm ourselves up in the outside air. It is still dusty and warm outside, but I feel changed, like my center of balance has been thrown off. It takes 20 minutes or so to readjust, to pack, to get back on the road. And off we go, good bye strange other worldy cenote, we are back driving through the long light of late afternoon, past the papaya trees, past the dust, past the spot on the road where I peed, back towards Morelos, towards Mexican beer and a dinner of stirfry, to laughter with friends, towards the future.