Entrada: Dos gringos (Cancun & Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico)

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May 14th 2010
Published: May 14th 2010
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(Day 770 on the road)Buenos dias. Buenos noches. Muchas gracias. Hasta la vista. Adios. Habla espanol? Por favor. Esta bien. Uno, dos, tres. No entiendo.

That's pretty much the level of my Spanish at the time I entered Mexico a few days ago. Appalling! I feel I can speak more Chinese or even Indonesian than Spanish. But luckily many words are similar to English, German, Latin and French (the last two not being a strong point of mine either I have to say), so after a while here in Mexico I realised that I was able to understand quite a bit, even though I can speak almost nothing. I really need to pick up some more Spanish along the way, which will come in real handy travelling across Central America for the next few months.

To get to Cancun in Mexico I had caught the red-eye service between San Francisco and Cancun, including a long six-hour stopover in Atlanta. Even though the airline (Delta) had ample space on an earlier flight from Atlanta to Cancun, they would not allow me on it as I had used my miles to book the flights. I had experienced similar things in the past - you would think that frequent travellers get a special treatment, but not so. To the contrary, they treat you like an undesirable. So much for rewarding loyalty, thank you Delta Airlines.

Anyway, Atlanta downtown happened to be within easy reach, only 15 minutes on the comfy and frequent airport train, so soon I found myself in the city centre and had a good look around. Which was just as well, as I had slept less than two hours on the four-hour overnight flight from San Francisco, and walking around was much better than hanging out in the airport.

The attractions there however were too expensive for my liking - $15 to be shown what a great product Coca Cola is ("The World of Coca Cola") - really? I don't think so. Incidentally, it was hugely popular with school groups, with buses and buses pulling up front. Motto: Commercial, company-sponsored education replaces museum visits. So instead I just had a good wander around, and I was delighted when I caught a cop jaywalking all over the city. I followed him around a bit and caught him on camera a few times. Priceless!

A few hours later, in Cancun, it was finally time to meet up with my very good friend Tino. Tino has recently quit his stressful corporate job (was it partly my influence I wonder?), and we had planned this encounter a while ago. For the next five months or so we will be travelling across Central America and possibly parts of South America together, depending on how fast we will be moving. Awesome!

Tino and I have spent a few holidays together in the past, so we are both confident that travelling together for that long a period will work out just fine; I have met so many people on my journey who started out with their good friend or spouse, only to discover that travelling together 24/7 is very different from having a relationship back home where you often only see each other in the evenings or weekends.

Cancun itself was nothing to write about (unless you enjoy massive, anonymous hotel complexes that is), but the beach and especially the turquoise waters were amazing; I can see why it is so popular with tourists, despite the ugliness of the mass tourism here. The water colour was just unbelievable, I have never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, the heat was getting to me a lot; I guess after cold San Francisco (evening temperatures below 10 degrees) the change to 35 degrees was a bit too quick for me.

After a day of getting organised we were soon off south, arriving in Tulum a few hours later. The ocean down here was just as beautiful as in Cancun, but Tulum has the added huge advantage of sporting ancient Maya ruins perched on a 12 metre cliff overlooking he ocean. As with so many Mayan temples, they were abandoned for an unknown reason in the 12th century, which is actually rather late by Mayan standards; Tikal for instance was abandoned in 899, 300 years earlier.

It was also nice to be actually understood by most people again, even if their command of the English was not a lot better than my Spanish. In the US over the last month, I sometimes had serious issues with native American speakers, who simply did not understand me: "Hey, do you know where the Internet cafe is?" - "What?" - "The Internet cafe!" - "What? Oh, you mean the Innerned cafe? - "Yes, that's it, but isn't there a t in there somewhere?". Interesting, I always thought that my pronunciation was OK, and have never had any problems.

On a similar note, I have generally found during my travels that native speakers often have a much lower tolerance for slight errors in pronunciation and vocabulary. I guess they just expect you to speak perfectly, so non-native speakers often have problems being understood by native speakers, but not by other non-native speakers, who can more easily understand and deal with many types of errors. Kind of backwards, but interesting.

Next stop: Chichen Itza (Yucatan, Mexico).

To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


14th May 2010

happy you survived the USA
I feel a bit of a relief to see your blog. I'm happy you survived the USA. I love this part of your Journey. You going to the same place as me and my friend. Watch out for bed bugs. I got them at the Weary Traveler Youth Hostel in Tulum. Stay at the Le Matiise just off the main street. It's worth it to rent a car for couple days and go around. I found it to be quite cheap and found several people to share in the price . Go up to a place called Akumul. They have a nice Lagoon to swim in and snorkle is great . Many nice little fish to see. Nice park with many sculptures all around the park. Do not miss a snorkle in the caves near Tulum. Good luck and have fun. I look forward to your next blog. Patricia
14th May 2010

Hola :)
Hello Ben! How's mexico? I have followed your blog for a little while, your stories are well written and very interesting and I think your journey so far is an amazing achievement. I am looking forward to hear about your travels in South America when you get there as that is the destination of my first backpacking trip! These Maya ruins look awesome! Did you have a closer look?
14th May 2010

Please don't miss Merida
What I love about Latinamerika are those old beautiful colonial cities like Merida. We too had problems with bed bugs in Tulum, it took us a long time to get rid of them. Felize vieaje !
14th June 2010

Interesting comment about pronunciation! Would you believe here I am in Mexico teaching English and my students correct MY pronunciation because they don't like my pesky English habit of pronouncing 't's. Come on kids it's 'party' not 'pah-dee'. Well, due to geographical location I'll let them have it their way. They are more likely to make it across the border then the Atlantic, I guess. Glad you're enjoying this leg of your trip. I was around Cancun and Tulum over Easter and yes, that water is amazing. I spent several happy hours leaping in the waves. :)

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