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Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category:

Mexico City

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Mexico City, ZocoloFor my last night in Playa, I went out to dinner with Guillermina, Sebastian and Sebastian’s girlfriend, Lourdes, who just arrived. Lourdes lives in San Francisco but she’s from Guadalajara. After dinner we bought some rum and coke and drank cuba libres in their hotel room. Later, the security guard knocked on the door saying they couldn’t have guests for longer than 15 minutes so we went to our hostel to drink and later to a bar.

After going to bed at 3am, I woke up at 7am for my 10:40 flight to DF. I had to pack and the bus to the airport was to leave at 7:50. I barely made the bus. I slept the whole way on the flight, waking up with sleep paralysis periodically and lucidly dreaming that all sorts of weird things were happening on the plane that actually weren’t.

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I Have a Plan

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Dos Ojos CenoteEver since Canice left last Friday I’ve still been hanging out in Playa with a couple of people that I’ve met here at Hostel Casa Santiago. There was one Aussie in my room, about the same age as me, who was living in San Francisco for 4 months until he got (surprise) laid off. I’ve also been hanging out with an Argentinian girl, Guillemina. She’s helping me out with my Spanish. I’ve never heard Argentine Spanish before, they pronounce their Ys like SH.

Since they’re both new to Playa, they’ve been pulling me out of bed in the morning to sieze the day. We’ve gone to Xpu-ha beach, Akumal beach, Dos Ojos Cenote, and Grand Cenote. The cenotes are basically underground lakes and rivers. The Yucatan Penninsula consists of limestone and there are no above ground bodies of water. I just snorkeled in the water, but I watched some scuba divers who were able to go deeper and farther into the cavern where there are no pockets of air. I regret not going to a cenote with Ali; I know he would have loved it. They surpassed my expectations.

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Illegal Ticket to the US: $3000

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I had the most interesting conversation last night with a guy who said he works on a human trafficking cartel, getting people across the border from Mexico to the United States. The entry costs $3000 and is payable on successful transport accross the border. The penalty for welshing on the deal is death, he explained rather simply.

I asked him how, because I know there are tunnels and boats, but he said trucks. I asked him if it was mostly men and he said no, a lot of women go to. Then I asked if it was for prostitution and he said it depends. Cubans, Colombians and Venezuelans, he said, usually go into prostitution. I tried asking him what work these illegal immigrants did once they arrived and I didn’t really get an clear answer. I think it’s because that’s where his job ends. Once they’re in and they’ve paid their $3000, he’s got nothing to do with them. There’s plenty of ways to make money under the table: construction, farm labor, gardening, domestic servitude, selling drugs, prostitution. A job is the easy part, getting in—that’s the hard part.

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Roughin’ It in Playa

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Sean and Canice in Playa del CarmenMahahual was the same as I remembered it. I introduced Ali to Gary and Larry and showed him my home for the past two months. Since I left, the port captain prohibited Gary from taking Crystal Blue Persuasion out for business until he gets all his paperwork in order. We lounged on the beach a couple of days and did some snorkeling. We had a little foosball competition. I was down by two games after the first day. The second day, the table was freshly lubricated and I won 6 games in a row. The last game I was down 9 to 1, when Ali, confident he would win, said “I think I’m going to win this one.” Not so. I came back from the eight-point deficit and beat him again. After that, I think he decided to retire from foosball.

After Mahahual we drove to Tulum, the site of coastal Mayan ruins halfway to Cancun. We stayed in a hut on the beach at Papaya Playa. Tulum is the best beach I’ve encountered on my trip. The sand was very fine and white and the water calm and turquoise without any obstructions. Our second day we ran into our French friends, Sylvie and Clarisse. They just arrived from a 20+ hour bus ride from San Cristobal de las Casas. It was also the day that my old coworker, Canice arrived. He’s doing a good job of Twittering his trip and wrote upon our meeting: “I have made contact with the conaty. He is thinned, tanned and mustached. I am the exact opposite. Should be interesting.” The five of us plus another French guy the girls befriended at the hostel, Antoine, went to the beach outside our hut. We tossed the Frisbee around and played some volleyball, France versus the United States, except Canice played for France and Clarisse was on our team. Sad to say the US team lost the two games, the second one after lots of tequila and beer.

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Yucatan Road Trip

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Ali and Sean at UxmalI left Mahahual Sunday at noon. I asked people around town and they said that there was a bus leaving at 10:30, which would give me enough time to make it to the airport and meet Ali when he was scheduled to arrive at 3:30. It happened that the 10:30 bus was going to Chetumal; I would have to wait till 12:30 to catch the bus to Cancun, making me late for Ali. On the bus, the driver told me I should transfer in Playa del Carmen because it was either cheaper or faster, I couldn’t understand. I heeded his advice and transfered in Playa del Carmen. I ended up having to wait for an hour and 15 minutes in Playa del Carmen. I called Ali, who had been waiting at the airport, and he decided to go the the hostel and wait for me there.

I finally arrived at the airport by 7 and went to the National rent-a-car. I mistakenly signed up for an extra driver and total coverage of insurance, thinking it wasn’t costly per day, especially divided by two people. When I made the reservations, the price was listed as $10 a day. The car for two weeks, with total coverage, after I upsold myself, came to about $850. I wasn’t really thinking of the total price, just the daily price, which still didn’t seem that much. I checked the car for blemishes with the attendent, where he proceeded to demonstrate that there was a spare tire. I don’t even know if I saw it though. I drove through the hotel zone looking for the International Club, which is the hostel where Ali booked our beds. I stopped in front of a gigantic hotel on the beach by the name of International Club and had my doubts that this was the place that Ali had booked. I called him up and, after some questions and answers, I discovered that he was in Downtown Cancun, on a small street, which I identified on the map. Actually getting there proved to be more difficult. I drove in circles for about an hour and stopped to ask directions twice. I’m still not used to the road sinage in Mexcio. Eventually I found it, parked, went inside and greeted my friend.

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Cancun Spare Tire Scam

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I got scammed by the National Car Rental at the Cancun Airport. Here’s a reply to a thread I posted on TripAdvisor:

This happened to us too. It’s a total scam.

I got a car from National in Cancun for two days. January 11th and January 12th, 2009. I was going to have it longer but decided I would save the money and just bus it.

When I returned the car, surprise, surprise, no spare tire! Although the jack was still there, and there was no forced entry. Who steals a spare tire out of a trunk? And magically without making a mark. And leaves the stereo and everything else.

Everything became clear. When I picked up the car, the attendant pointed out that there was a spare tire and jack, he even showed me, which I thought was a little odd. I didn’t get a good look at it because I wasn’t planning on getting scammed. I can’t even say for certain if it was in there to begin with.

I started to raise my voice and tried to reason with them. I said how could this have happened without there being a mark? Someone must have had a key. Does this happen a lot of Cancun? Are there spare tire thieves preying on rental cars at National? I plumb accused them of robbing me. I said I wasn’t paying and I wasn’t going to sign the receipt. Later I realized that I already signed two credit card receipts when I picked it up. I’m going to try and cancel it with my credit card company. They charged me 2700 pesos, that’s nearly $200 for a spare tire. I mistakenly bought the full coverage insurance and thought if I crashed the car, I wouldn’t have to pay anything.

Their reactions sealed their guilt. They were not moved by my reasoning or anger. If it had been stolen, you would think they would have been sympathetic or surprised. They bowed their heads in shame and maintained their well-practiced stone-like posture. Eventually, all they rebutted with was, “you were responsible for the tire.” Not, “Don’t accuse us” or “we didn’t do it” or “this thing happens all the time” or “I’m sorry for your misfortune.” At least they could have faked it. They just kept saying, “you were responsible for the tire.” It’s not there and you have to pay us.

I’m sure they took it out after they showed it to me when I went in to sign the papers. These missing spare tires can’t be a coincidence.

Things Begin

Friday, January 9th, 2009

View of Crystal Blue Persuasion taken from Tequila Beach, Mahahual
The day after my doubtful last post, we took 10 passengers out for a two hour sail. Five were a group of Arkansas teenagers from the cruise ship. The others were from Mexico City. One girl worked on one of the cruise ships and was with her Norwegian boyfriend and her parents. It felt good to finally be putting the boat to work, to have a purpose and to not be so bored. Gary let all the teenagers take a turn at the wheel. We were out for two hours and everyone came back happy. The tour guides at Tequila Beach sold the tickets so they got 30% of the $40 ticket price. There’s not much Gary can do to lower the percentage of their share as that’s the price for using their facilities. The best we can do is find business independently, online, at the hotels, through taxi drivers, wherever.

The next day, Wednesday, turned out to be prosperous as well. Tequila Beach had 25 people lined up for the cheaper, $20 snorkeling trip. Normally they do these on their own, with their pontoon boat, but 25 was more then they could handle at one time, without going twice—which there wasn’t enough time for—so they asked Gary if he could take the party. Five people ended up changing their minds so we took out 20 people on Crystal Blue, with a guide from Tequila Beach, and we used their snorkeling equipment. This party was composed of some Americans and Brazilians. This time Tequila Beach took 50% because of their guide and equipment. It was what Gary expected, so he wasn’t disappointed.

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Mahahual Blues

Monday, January 5th, 2009

bikiniI’ve been in Mahahual for a week and a half and feels like forever. I’m sort of in limbo now, waiting for my friend from San Diego, Ali, to come on the 11th. I haven’t ventured outside of the town because I don’t want to do anything twice. I’m also saving my money because I’m sure I’ll spend a lot when he gets here. We’ll have two weeks, with a car, to explore all of the Costa Maya. I thought about flying to Mexico City and couchsurfing but I haven’t bought a ticket yet. Perhaps I’ll go before Havana. If I buy tickets now, I can get them for $60 one way from Cancun.

On New Years Eve I went to a party on the beach, surrounded by jungle, just north of the lighthouse. It didn’t get going until after midnight. There was no count down, just a bunch of shouts when the clock struck 12. The crowd was mostly the ex-pat locals. There were Canadians, Germans, Italians, Austrians, Mexicans and Mayans. I took a nap beforehand, from 6 to 8, so I could last longer. When I awoke Gary and Larry already turned in for the night. At 1 I called my friends in the States to wish them a happy New Years. I went home at 4.

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Mahahual

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

It was a blustery and bouncy four days from Colon, Panama to Mahahual, Mexico. Based on our previous wind experience, we estmated the trip would take ten days. Distance-wise, it’s been the longest leg. We never slowed past 7 knots and we were upwards of 12 at times. We never once tacked or gybed either. The wind was coming from the Northeast and our initial bearing was Northwest by North, leaving us on a close reach until, after two days, we rounded Honduras and fell off to a beam reach, then a broad reach. We arrived in Mahahual while the sun was rising Friday morning.

With only three people for crew, it meant we each had an average of eight hours at the helm. Eight hours, I thought, it seemed kind of like a JOB. The time went by pleasantly, however, almost better than if we had four people. The more people there are, the more idle time there is and more room for animosity over who does what and for how long. After sleeping and steering, there wasn’t much time left to oneself. Heavier wind conditions works on your nerves too, making everything from walking, using the head, and cooking a trifle more difficult than when you’re just drifting.

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Golfos de Tehuantepec y Papagayo

Friday, December 5th, 2008

We sailed almost a week straight from Huatulco to Puntarenas, Costa Rica (where I am now), passing Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. After hearing rumours of the nasty Tehuantepec winds (Tehuantepeckers), I braced myself for strong winds, even though we were leaving in a supposed window of good weather. The Tehuantepec winds never came and we even motored for parts. We hugged the coast instead of making a rhumb accross the gulf, because that’s the recommended procedure. At least this way, we got a close view of endless miles of undeveloped beaches.

At the Guatemalan border, the coast juts west towards the Gulf of Fonseca, the intersection of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Here we decided to make a rhumb line to Costa Rica, putting us at a distance of 80 miles offshore at the maximum. In the middle of the Gulf, Lynne read in one of the guidebooks about another area of high winds approaching Costa Rica, outside the Gulf of Papagayo and on our planned route. As if jinxed, that night, an hour or two after the discovery and before sundown, the heavy winds arrived. Crystal Blue Persuasion was booking it on a nice beam reach as the winds were coming offshore. The sea was getting rough too, jostling our catamaran. Gary made the decision to put two reefs in the main sail and replace the jib with a smaller stormsail jib. Even after the sail change, we were still doing 8 to 10 knots, but in a better controlled fashion. Larry estimated the winds to be 35 knots; I don’t have enough experience to judge the speed. It was like this all night but subsided the next day, returning again, the next night. We altered our course to go closer to shore in hopes that the wind would be calmer, and we eventually made it, just south of the Gulf of Papagayo. The winds died and we cruised along the coast to Puntarenas. Other than the fact that it takes more energy, atttention and nerve in high winds, I didn’t mind them. For my preference, we’ve been lacking in wind the whole trip. Also, being in a catamaran, it’s not as rocky as a monohull.

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