Saturday, July 14, 2012


After settling into our Zombie proof room at Hostel Quetzal, The Doctor took a long, much needed nap.  He probably slept for a good two hours at least.  When he finally awoke, we set out in search of something to eat. 

 Directly across from Quetzal was a small park with a little stage called Parque del Arte.  At one end of the park was the Palapito Beach Bar.  Although it was in the middle of the city, it did look like something you would see along the beach.  It was an open air bar, with a wooden boardwalk entrance through a "beach" of white sand, and even a ski-jet parked off to one side.  It all looked very laid back and welcoming, and, were I a drinking man, I could easily have spent a pleasant evening there.

Just beyond the beach bar was another bigger park,  Parque Las Palapas, with a large stage with a broad plaza area in front of it.

 Surronding it were vendors selling various wares and food.  I found these to be far less aggressive for the most part than their counterparts in Peru.  They might smile at you, but usually didn't say more than a "Hola" if you approached their table, whereas in Peru they would have pounced on you immediately and tried to their push wares onto you.  Most interesting and fun to watch however was a thriving business consisting of a good sized fleet of miniature cars which the little kids were able to drive around the plaza.  Many of the cars were inspired and looked like the characters from the Disney movie CARS.  The older kids seemed to be in control of their own vehicles as far as steering and speed, and there were a few close calls, but this was not a bumper car type of activity, it was just kids driving for the fun of it.  The very little kids didn't control their own vehicles, but were followed in their cars by an adult operating a remote control device.  They all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, and we were had fun just watching them.

We walked on, and checked out a couple of restaurants before finally deciding on one called La Habichuela.  Their menu at least had a few items with an asterisk to indicate a vegetarian dish, which was more than the others had.  The host led us into the back which opened into a beautiful open air garden room filled with green plants and white tables and chairs.  It was a little warm being outside, but there was a tall upright air conditioning unit placed near our table which at least provided a little breeze, and it was such a lovely - dare I say romantic? - setting, we didn't really mind the heat.

A waiter came around with a basket of many different kinds of bread.  We sampled the garlic, onion, and whole grain, and The Doctor tried the bread sticks as well.  The bread was served with plain and garlic butter.  For an appetizer we shared a Crepas Huitlachohe, a spinach crepe served with hollandaise sauce.

While we waited for the main course, they brought us each a small serving of sherbet.  We thought the waiter said it was lime, but The Doctor insists it tasted more like Annis. It was served in the skin of some sort of small fruit, roughly the size of a walnut shell. For the entree I got spinach and cheese ravioli with a tomato sauce.  The Doctor couldn't decide between a vegetable kabob or the vegetarian fajitas, but the waiter told him the fajitas were a much better choice.  We got cans of Sprite to drink, which were warm as we requested no ice. 

I belong to a web site called FourSquare.  With a cell phone you are able to "check in" at various locations wherever you go - stores, parks, restaurants, pretty much anywhere you go.  Your check ins are automatically posted on Facebook and Twitter, so your friends can see where you've been and what you've been up to.  You earn points for each check in and can compete with others with a leader board type rating system,and if you check in at the same place enough times you can earn the title of "Mayor" of that location, an honor which can be stolen from you at any time by someone else who also frequents the same spot.  When I checked in at La Habichuela, I got a message saying I was entitled to a free dessert as it was my first check in there.  When the waiter asked if we wanted to order desserts I showed him the message, but he had no idea what I was talking about, and my explanation of what FourSquare was left him slightly puzzled.  He went and got someone else, and I showed him the message and again tried to explain FourSquare to him.  He seemed a little puzzled too, but finally said it was a promotion they were offering for a special dessert, a local dish which I believe he called a Coconut Cream.  He brought it too us with too spoons. It was sort of like a coconut custard, and was quite tasty.  This was the first time I had ever gotten anything free as a result of Foursquare.  The whole meal was delicious and very pleasant.  Neither of us had eaten much all day, except for some homemade waffles The Doctor had brought with him on the plane.

After dinner we walked back through the park again and watched the children zipping around in their little cars.  The big stage was dark, but some guy was trying to put on some sort of show.  He had strung up a pair of those long cloth sheets that acrobats use in Cirque du Soleil type shows.  A couple other guys were riding around the plaza on bicycles wearing funny masks and tall hats, and blowing whistles, apparently in an attempt to draw attention to the performance that was about to take place.  Not many seemed to take notice.  The performer did a few stunts on the hanging sheets, which obviously required some skill, but were rather uninspired.  He ended that routine by sliding off the sheets down  into a crumpled heap on the stage, which seemed to be sort of a self acknowledgement of his lack of talent.  He followed this up with an attempt at juggling a single rubber chicken, which  he dropped, and then embarked on some sort of balloon trick, the first of which popped during inflation.  The children in their cars were far more entertaining to watch, and I certainly hope the performer did not quit his day job.

We went back to Quetzal and went back into the check in area.  I had tried to access their free WiFi earlier but had not been able to log in.  I wanted to check the password again that was posted near the front desk.  The Doctor and I were looking again at the pictures on the wall of Monica Moray, and the guy at the desk started telling us about her.  His name was Luis, and he spoke with what can best be described as an accent that was 1/3 Mexican and 2/3 gay lisp.  This was especially true when he spoke Monica Moray's name, which he said almost reverentially.  He referred to her as his "boss", and we learned in that she in fact still owned the house and ran the hostel.  He told us she would be visiting the next day.  He said the room we were staying in and the one next to it had at one time been one large room which had been her recording studio, and the courtyard outside our room had been a performance space. 
(Artist's rendering of International Performance Artist Monica Moray, in a rather limber pose)

When we went to bed I was quite tired, but had a bit of hard time falling asleep.  There was very loud music playing, and even with my ear plugs I could still feel more than hear the steady beat.  I'm not sure if there was a party going on in the courtyard right outside our room, of if the music was coming from the beach bar down the street.  Also, the air conditioner was blowing directly on me, and the only bedding was a single thin sheet.  I finally did get to sleep, but the cold air apparently affected my dreams, as I dreamt that I had awaken to find patches of snow on the ground outside the hostel.  There was also something about a couple little black boys who were trying to steal my cell phone, and The Doctor loading up a trailer with unwanted furniture and other items from the hostel, and then the trailer rolling out of control down a hill.  At one point I woke up and turned the air conditioner off, but later woke up again and it was so hot I tried to turn it back on but couldn't figure out how.  I woke The Doctor up in the process, and he turned it on for me, using a remote device next to the bed.  Then of course I was cold again, but did finally manage to get back to sleep.

This morning we went downstairs and paid for the room, and the woman at the desk told us they were serving a complimentary breakfast, and to just go and sit somewhere and they would find us with the food.  We went out and sat in the shade in the first floor courtyard.  We waited a few minutes, but there was no food to be seen, and the other guests in the court yard weren't eating either, so The Doctor went back in and asked the woman at the desk if we were waiting in the right place.  Just a bit later she came out herself with some food for us, and then came back with a large umbrella for the table we had moved to.  She commented she had been trying to stay behind the front desk due to the fact that she had a hole in her pants and didn't want anyone to see it.

Breakfast consisted of fresh papaya and water melon, and some sort of egg and cactus dish with toast and a very spicy hot sauce on the side, which I only sampled. 
(Eggs & Cactus.  Notice the festive mug . . . )

I risked the fruit in the hope that it had been prepared a little more recently than the Walmart food from the day before.  After we ate we were passing through the lobby again when Luis called to me by name. He asked us how our stay had been, than pointed to the woman behind the desk, the one we had paid earlier and who had served us our breakfast and brought us the umbrella in spite of having a hole in her pants.  He said: "This is my boss.  This is Monica Moray".  I was quite surprised to learn we had been served breakfast by an "International Performance Artist".  I have to admit I was a little star struck, in spite of the fact I had never heard of her before this trip, and know very little about her.  I shook her hand and told her it was an honor, and asked if I could take her picture, but she laughed and politely declined, saying she didn't have her make up on, and her hair was a mess.  Even so I did sneak a picture when she wasn't looking. 
(International Performance Artist Monica Moray working the front desk at Hostel Quetzal.  That's me and Luis reflected in the mirror, and The Doctor to the right in the green shirt.)

She visited with us a while, and told us she would bring in some pictures from her career next weekend, as we will be staying at Quetzal again on our very last night in Mexico.

                  (The Doctor descending the spiral staircase as we depart Hostel Quetzal)

We loaded up the car and then tried to figure out how to get to our next destination, Isla Holbox.  We had the written directions Big Shark Daddy had e-mailed The Doctor, but they were directions from the airport, and we had no idea how to proceed from where we were currently.  He tried his GPS again, but that proved to be of no help.  It couldn't even find the town of Chiquila, where we had to go to get to the water taxi to Holbox. Once again I turned on the GPS on my cell phone, and that seemed to have some idea of how to get us there so we proceeded using that.  It was a little confusing getting out of the Cancun and there were a couple wrong turns, but we finally got onto the main stretch of road that we needed.  We  realized that the trouble finding our way was not our fault, or even the GPS, it was do to the fact that so many of the streets are either unmarked or have signs so badly faded as to be illegible.

Once on the right road, the drive to Chiquila was fairly smooth.  By not following Big Shark Daddy's written directions from the airport, we bypassed the much looked forward to encounter with the self-appointed toll booth collector, who was sometimes absent or asleep.  I was very disappointed.  We passed through several small, impoverished looking towns with adults and children lining the road trying to sell fruit.  The roads, both in Cancun and also out on the highway have very frequent speed bumps.  VERY frequent, and they are more like small hills, and you really do have to slow down dramatically.  These speed bumps were a popular spot for the people selling fruit due to the forced slowing of traffic.  We saw several ranches, some of which looked pretty prosperous, others considerably less so.  At one point we passed a check point with a heavy armed military presence, but they just waved us through.  Perhaps they too were searching for Mr. Scheppy.  There were long stretches of barren, remote road, and sometimes we were the only car in sight.  It was on one of these stretches that we passed three men on bikes.  One had a rifle slung over his shoulder, and another carried a machete a couple feet long.  That was just a tad bit unnerving.

After 3 hours or so we reached Chiquila.  We were a little uncertain where to go, but a young black man waved us down, and gave us direction as where we should park and told us he would meet us there.  From the parking lot, which was the same one Big Shark Daddy had recommended, the young man escorted us right to where we needed to buy our water taxi tickets.  His name was Darren, and he was very friendly and helpful.  We assumed he would expect some sort of recompense for his assistance, but once he had got us to the water taxi he wished us a nice day and left. 

We bought our tickets and went to board the ferry.  Just as I was getting on, someone told me my back pack was open, and in the process of trying to take it off to zip it back up, most of the contents spilled out onto the pier, with papers everywhere and water bottles rolling around.  I collected everything, and we boarded, and then The Doctor realized he had left most of his money in the car, so he jumped off the ferry and ran back to the car.  He only had 5 minutes, and I was nervous we would leave without him, but he made it back, quite out of breath.  As it was the ferry didn't leave for another 10 minutes or so.

We were on the 2:00 ferry, and it was only about a 20 minute ride to Holbox.  There are no cars on the island, or at least very few, primarily official vehicles.  Most of the transport is by golf cart and there were several of these on the pier offering taxi service, but we opted to walk.  I had my back pack, and a larger bag I refer to as my steamer trunk (The Doctor is a much lighter traveler than I).  I soon regretted not sorting out just a few things I would need during the two days on Holbox and leaving the rest in the car, and also regretted not hiring one of the taxi carts.  It was not a really a great distance, but it was quite cumbersome dragging the steamer trunk.  It has wheels, but most of the trek through Holbox (and we pretty much walked from one side of the island to the other) was dirt roads, and some of these had muddy patches.

Finally we arrived at our destination, the Tribu Hostel, which Monica Moray had told us had beaten her hostel for the distinction of being the best hostel in Mexico - though hers has earned some nice awards and rightly so.  Unfortunately, it was siesta time, so the office was close.  We walked down into the hostel's small courtyard, where there were several brightly colored hammock type hanging chairs, and here we sat and relaxed and waited for the office to open.  I had to switch seats at one point, because someone spilled something on the balcony above me, and was dripping down onto me - and my lap top - through the floor boards.  Still it was quite pleasant area to sit and wait for the office to open.

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