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Published: December 8th 2013
Blog 4th August - 12th August
Mexico - New York - Home
This was it - We had reached the final week of our incredible journey. So before returning to the "real world" with its humdrum of work, rush hour commuting and drizzly weather, we'd go for it - indulge in the beauty of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula (tan time!) and top it all off in the Big Apple!
After waving goodbye to our castaway island in Belize at sunrise, we set off on one of our usual overnight long haul bus journeys (something we wont miss at home). Seven months in and we were as disorganised as ever - We rolled into the so called "seaside" town of Tulum at 3am, pitch black and with no where to stay. We hauled our temporary homes onto our backs, trudged our way through the concrete town knocking on hostel doors and tried to block out the tunes pumping from the all night 'discotheque'. Finally we managed to convince an unsuspecting Ozzy traveler to unlock the gates to a nice looking hostel as we sank like exhausted squatters into a couple hammocks. We woke in
the morning to the manager poking Charlie with a sweeping brush before he warily offered us a room.
We were in Mexico, having to get our minds back into Spanish mode and looking out for sombrero toting hombres on every corner. It turned out that Tulum was not quite the authentic Mexican experience we thought it may be. As home to one of the most scenic Mayan ruins in all of Central America, It's no surprise its become a tourist haven. Tacky gift shops lined the main road and expensive restaurants churned out standard snacks. We were also about 4 miles from the coast.
We hired rickety old bikes to cycle to the beach, sun in our eyes and bums on hard seats. The 38 degree heat was welcome but the humidity was stifling. As we pedalled up to the public beach the white sand glared at us from next to the translucent turquoise blue sea. It was definitely worth the exercise but finding a spot on the crowded beach was going to be another challenge.
The majority of the coast line is made up by high end western resorts filed
next to each other with private beaches, cool bars and drinks service. Having schmoozed our way through posh hotels around the world (most of the time to use the loo) we were keen to make no exception here. So rather than roughing it with the masses on the public beach, we headed to the most impressive looking hotel. 'Adonis' welcomed us with thatched roofs and stately architecture. Hearing from the male receptionist about the day pass option we were getting pretty excited about the prospect of the opportunity for an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink day of sun worshiping on trendy day beds. Our private tour guide had us totally hooked on the luxurious features until he turned to us and said 'I assume you are aware that this is a gay focussed hotel?' Our jaws dropped. The eureka moment came when our eyes scanned the pool area to see muscular men parading and posing for pictures. We realised that quite a lot of people were staring at Charlie. It was like India all over again! Hmmmm... it turns out we really hadn't been very observant. We had been completely oblivious, overlooking the blindingly obvious, but were determined to give it a
chance. After our guide showed us the nude sunbathing area he warned us about the 'surprises' one may find in the late night sauna and recommended that I don't stumble in. The friendly wink at Charlie sealed the deal that this was not for us and we hot footed it off to the next door more average looking resort.
Our main pull for visiting Tulum was the tales we had heard about the cenotes. These underground limestone caverns are only found in Mexico and draw in caving enthusiasts from all over the world. This was not automatically something we thought we would be interested in, let alone diving into them, but when faced with a challenge we are always quick to get stuck in. We put our nerves to one side and ignored the skeletal warning signs as we prepared to sink into the dark with nothing but a torch to light our way, and a tank on our backs to breathe. We crossed our fins that Charlie's claustrophobia wouldn't rear its irrational head and took the plunge.
The emerald light turned to darkness as we moved in single file through the rock and
beyond, surrounded by stalagtites and stalagmites in every kind of formation you can imagine. We were in the depths of "Dream Gate". The clarity of the fresh water was so disorientating we had the incredible sensation that we were flying. It was only the small silver fish that were attracted by the torch beams that reminded us we were underwater. We loved this fantastic surreal adventure but definitely know that we are more naturally suited to open water diving!
After a few days it was time to move on from Mexico and we waved a fond farewell to Latin America. Spirits were running high as we landed into JFK International - We were ready to finish our trip with a bang. Yet again, we encountered such genuine hospitality from all the people we met up with - the wonderful Ira and Glenda and good pals Mark and Otto. We tried to make the most of the culture; listening to Whoopi Goldberg guide us through the universes in the planetarium, sunning ourselves on top of the Met and tucking into a classic NY Diner Reuben. And of course shopping, shopping and more shopping! Exhausted to the bone we
shlepped through Times Square at midnight dazzled by the lights and crowds.
Time flew as we visited the World Trade Centre Memorial, moseyed along the Greenwich highline while scoffing ice cream sandwiches, and mooched around the trendy Lower East Side and enjoyed a cracking night out on the tiles.
Sadly all good things must come to an end. After seven months away, 18 countries travelled, 19 flights and countless train and bus journeys it was time for our final ride home. Although we were once again knocked back for an upgrade (I guess it wasn't meant to be), we soon landed safe and sound in bonny Blighty and couldn't wait to see our family and friends... We were back home where it all began, but with memories we'll never forget.
We have had the most incredible experience and couldn't recommend it enough to you all - it is never too late and we are already thinking about where our next trip might take us in 30 years.
We have taken some time to reflect on our experience. In no particular order:
1- We will literally
pee anywhere (Jo will need house trained again!)
2- We are truly awful at Spanish (there is hope for everyone)
3- We have loved the food almost everywhere, and have spoilt our bellies rotten. It will be tough to beat the veg curries of India, but the Vietnamese dog and Peruvian guinea pig would be close joint seconds
4 - Camper-vans rock
5 - You will struggle to find more friendly people than the Cambodian's anywhere, though the Kiwi's are very nice too
6 - Every country has had an impact on us in one way or another. From being in sheer awe of a natural landscape or a country's great architecture, to learning about past glories or atrocities and how this has shaped the people today. There were certainly not many places that have not been blighted by a history of human rights atrocities at some stage
7 - Jo can sleep anywhere, much to Charlie's jealously
8 - Delhi Belly will make or break a relationship
9 - The Americans (and i guess the Brits too) have a lot to answer for
10 - Turns out Charlie doesn't mind
11 - Jo is genuinely terrified of heights, yet loves to Sky Dive!
12 - Bolivia tops the charts for us in South America - the food might be rubbish but my god what a country!
13 - Peer pressure is ageless
14 - We are animal obsessed (particular contenders were flamingoes, llamas and sea lions)
15 - Galapagos wasn't too shabby a place to get engaged
And finally.... We have had the most amazing time and wouldn't change anything for the world.
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