Happy (naturally late) New Year, friends! We’re only half way into January and I’ve already posted a “2012 Year in Review” and am an entire sentence into my first post of 2013. So far, this blog year is looking even better than the last. Apologies to any of you who received an e-mail yesterday alerting you of a new post, then clicked to find an error page. Apparently, I accidentally posted this before I was finished. It is now all yours to read.
Although not a whole lot has changed in our temporary Atlanta life, we did manage to get out of the US of A for a couple of weeks to reset Ginski’s visa. Score! In the last post, I mentioned Panama as a possible destination for this, as a lot of our friends were spending the holidays there as well. We were so set on it, but just a few days after deciding it was a go, ticket prices sky-rocketed. We knew flying on buddy passes was a no-go too, as the flights were slammed and Delta places embargos on buddies during the holidays. Waaamp, waaamp. Back to the drawing board it was. “It’s okay, we’re good at this,” we thought. We quickly put our heads together and came up with a new destination: Antigua, Guatemala. We had both been there before meeting each other, and we both absolutely loved it. (No one doesn’t love Antigua, by the way. I highly suggest you put it on your list). So, that was it. We would go back to the magical country of Guatemala, hang out for a week and Ginski would have a brand spankin’ new 90-day visa awaiting him at US Customs upon return. Easy. Right?
A view from the popular cross atop Antigua. Per usual, the picture just doesn’t do this city justice. The people, the colors, the volcanoes — it’s absolutely magical.
In true Emily fashion, these plans quickly changed. We arrived at our gate (on-time) to find it jam-packed with Guatemalans. Tons of them. As I kicked myself, I thought, “Well duh, Emily. They are all flying back home to visit family for the holidays.” It was December 15th, ten days before Christmas. I hadn’t thought this one out long enough, apparently. We knew the flight was tight, but we had no idea it would be this crazy. We patiently waited for the inevitable, “No standbys will be cleared for this flight.” We were doomed. We picked up our carry-ons and took our discouraged selves back to baggage claim to pick up the backpack that also wasn’t making it on the flight. Rather than spend time bummed about it, we thought we’d hop on MARTA and hit a bar in Midtown with our computers to see what other options were available. This is where it gets interesting. A few beers, a shot and some free Wifi later……we were going to Mexico and Belize! Tadaa! Nothing like a little booze to spur some creativity. What? I learned it during my advertising stint. We saw that the flights to Cancun were open and knew we could easily get to Belize via bus, which would reset Ginski’s visa. Perfecto!
Ginski snagged this one of me just after we had decided to go to Mexico and Belize instead. Somewhere underneath the cold, windy weather was excitement.
We walked over to Front Page News Midtown (the bar I’ve been picking up shifts at) to tell our friends the new plan. “Hey! Look! We didn’t get on the flight, but we still have good news! We’re going to Mexico and Belize!” They laughed, and threw the “of course you are” stares our way, while we ordered another round. Shortly after, our roomate and friend, Shira, arrived for her shift. She listened to our story and within 30 minutes……..we had somehow (successfully) talked her into going with us too. Yep. She came to work and left with a commitment to go to Mexico with us the next morning. We are a force not to be reckoned with, folks. Delta had a sale on Cancun, so she purchased a ticket right then and there. Oh, did I mention this was for the next morning?! It was. And Shira was on board! Ginski and I were listed on the early flight, and Shira held a purchased ticket in her hand.
A few hours of sleep, a walk to the MARTA station and a train to the airport — we were ready to board. Ginski and I were 2 of the last names to be cleared on standby, and Shira’s flight was an hour behind ours. We arrived to Cancun around 11AM and sat at a ridiculously expensive Starbucks awaiting her arrival. Our plan was to hop on a bus to Playa Del Carmen to catch some NFL by the water, then catch another bus to a city called Tulum. We stuck to it and had a blast. We caught every game but the Falcons game (dammit), but it was fun. The bus system on the Yucatan is stellar. It’s better than any transport I’ve been on thus far. The main company is called ADO and if you ever travel to Mexico, take advantage of it. They are cheap, comfy, air-conditioned, etc. They blew away the Delta flight we had just taken. No joke.
We arrived in Tulum around 5PM and headed for the hostel Ginski had stayed at during his last visit. It was a backpacker favorite called The Weary Traveler — and it was THE place to be in Tulum. Naturally, they were booked by the time we arrived, so we went searching for another hostel nearby. We checked-in, dropped our bags and headed to the bars. It had been a long day of transit and these days always deserve a cold one. We talked about what we would do the rest of the week over some happy hour cocktails and Sol Cervezas. The world was ours. Well, Mexico was anyways.
We slept well that night and woke up ready for some wandering around town. We found a great little coffee shop and enjoyed one of the best cheap breakfasts Tulum had to offer. We slowly decided we would catch the shuttle to the beach around lunch time. We went back to our (shitty) hostel to check out, and took our things over to The Weary Traveler, as they now had rooms available. We caught a bus to the beach and made a great day out of it. Handstands, stunning water, heaps of sun and some cheap beers from a local on the way out? Si, por favor. Gracias, Mexico. We already loved you.
After a stellar day at the beach, we enjoyed another Mexican happy hour at the hostel with tons of fellow backpackers. Over dinner, we started discussing the rest of the week or so. We talked about when we should head down to Belize, how we would get there, where we would spend our time, etc. It wasn’t long into the discussion that someone dropped the “D-word.” Yep, diving. Tulum is home to some of the best diving in the world, and it’s not in the ocean. It sounds strange, but hear me out. Just a mile or so outside of Tulum are the oh-so-magical Cenotes. A Cenote is basically a pit in the ground, formed from collapsed limestone bedrock, that exposes ground water underneath. It’s fresh water, so it’s rather chili but incredibly clear. It’s cavern diving, and much of it requires special training, but there are plenty of spectacular sights to see with a simple open water certification.
A pre-dive photo, sporting our Kula shirts. I have a blog about that incredible organization and some travel opportunities coming soon — stay tuned. You can check ’em out here. Buy a shirt while you’re at it. They’re comfy, rad AND the money goes to a good cause.
Friends of ours had described it as a “must do” and said it feels like you’re floating in air. As Ginski and I thought about our funds, Shira thought about when. She was sold. After a few back and forths about “Well, who KNOWS when we’ll be back in this part of the world,” we too were sold. We spoke with a local guy at our hostel who was more than happy to arrange the trip for us. It was too easy. Another ATM stop and we were set to go diving in the morning. It was still another week until Christmas, but we were gladly celebrating early.
Full length wet suites were not an option here. The water is cold, cold, cold. This already cold-natured girl took whatever gear she could get her hands on. This was the second dive cite, Calavera (or, Temple of Doom). You jumped in, completely geared-up, from about 6 feet above the water. Crazy, fun entry. Extraordinary dive.
The dives blew our minds. From the method in which you enter the water, to the pristine conditions and visibility, to the haloclines — it was out of this world. Oh yeah, haloclines. Let me tell you about those, as I only learned about them on this dive. When the fresh (cold) and less dense water meets the warm(er), more dense salt water, it creates a blurry, swirling effect. AKA- you can’t see jack. It’s bizarre and even trippy, but such a unique element to witness. One second you’re just diving along, and as you descend a few feet, you suddenly can’t make out the person in fornt of you. Keep in mind that in this particular case, you are in a cavern, so the only light you have is coming from the torch (flash light, Americans) in your hand. Ginski and I were quite comfortable with the both dives, given our experience in Utila. Shira had only received her open water certification over the summer, but you would have never known. She was just as excited as us and equally as comfortable in the water too. Total rockstar. It was a day for the books. If you have an active bucket list, I beg — PUT THIS ON IT.
DISCLAIMER: These are not my photos. I have snagged them from the great Intewebs to show you a couple of things.
Above: Gran Cenote Entry point. This is where the day began. It’s not just for divers though. You can snorkel and spend hours just enjoying the water and surroundings. It is a one of a kind place.
Below: Although the diver in the photo isn’t me, it’s exactly where we were. A few stalactites, stalagmites and a torch made for a magical day underneath the earth.
Needless to say, we had a great dinner and a big toast that night. What a day it was. We talked about our favorite parts of the dive, which site we preferred and how we would all like to do more of the Cenotes. But alas, time was ticking and we needed to get on the move. It was time to head to Belize to get Ginski the precious stamp that would buy him 3 more months in the US. We called it an early night and went to the hostel to pack the bags. We had another date with a bus to Belize the next morning….
Part II is soon to follow. I had to break this post up because it was just too much information for almost 2 weeks of travel in 2 different countries. Stories of a sketchy Mexican/Belizian border crossing to come. It won’t be boring. Thanks again for reading. As always, you guys rock! See you soon. X