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Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

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Cozumel, Mexico
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for Cozumel
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Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

It’s taken me a while to find time to write this, but here is our trip report from October 27th to November 5th, 2008.

The picture links take you to our photos or videos. Click the left and right button of the Picasa site for more pics.

The Bag Drag To Cozumel by Way of Cancun

We cashed in some miles with US Airways and flew into Cancun instead of Cozumel as US Air didn’t fly to Coz on Mondays. Customs in Cancun was a breeze. We pushed the button and got the green light. I decided not to use the instructions posted by the self-proclaimed “attractive”, black socked, sandal wearing TA Expert as to how to get to Coz and instead opted to see if we could do it without any foreknowledge of how to do it.

We walked outside, finally found the shuttle sign and waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Terminal 2 to catch the ADO bus. Apparently, we had just missed the shuttle as we waited a good 15 minutes to catch it. It dropped us off at Terminal 2 and we strolled over to the ADO lot only to see the bus pull out of the lot as we arrived. We waited about an hour and the next ADO pulled up. A James Bond movie was playing, so I kicked back and enjoyed the ride.

The bus was in great shape and very clean.

About halfway into the trip, I heard a metallic sound under the bus, followed by an explosion. We had run over something and blown a rear tire. We pulled over. Another ADO bus showed up after 5 minutes so we simply changed buses. There weren’t enough seats on the bus and we were stood for the rest of the ride. We met Deb S on the bus and then ran into her at several places around the island.

Our blow-out caused us to miss the next ferry by a few minutes so we bought tickets for the next one and sat down in the brilliant sun at the ‘Frog and had a few beers. The crossing was uneventful, but choppy due to the Norte that had settled in. Upon arrival in Coz, the line at the cab stand was long, so we walked across the street, headed North and instantly snagged a cab to take us to Nah Ha Condos.

Timing is everything, but by missing the shuttle, ADO bus and the ferry, we probably added 2 1/2 hours to the trip. It was no big deal as we enjoyed the weather. On our return trip to Cancun, we caught the 8 AM ferry and we were at the airport by 10 AM. If you are doing the bag drag, be sure to verify the ferry schedules as they alternate schedules by an hour on alternate days.

On our return trip, we walked from the ADO drop-off point to Terminal 3. It’s a hike, but doable. I would eat lunch before you get to the airport as meals are very expensive there. A basic burger, fries and drink is about $12 usd for walkup to the counter service at Johnny Rockets. Margaritaville was even more. The new terminal is large, clean and very nice. It has a decent assortment of shops to pick up that last minute souvenir.

The airport also has a nice duty free section with hundreds of brands of tequilas.

Scoring Points

Some of you know I like to drive fast on the weekends. I think I was gone twenty weekends this past year playing in and with vehicles that run on 110 leaded. On this trip I literally raced on Sunday and we left for Cozumel early Monday morning. It was also our anniversary on Monday, so I had a little making up to do. Before we arrived, I coordinated with Isabella to deliver a bouquet of flowers to our place. She didn’t disappoint. We opened the door and the smell of fresh flowers greeted us the door. I was back in good standing.

We broke open the bottle of Donnie P. that I had secretly placed in our bags and we watched the sunset from the balcony. It was an early night. Grocery shopping could wait until the next day.

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/657thb

First Things First

We dropped off the medical supplies DS2 shipped to us at the Cozumel Red Cross. We had a case of rubber gloves and syringes to deliver. We spoke briefly to Diana and headed out to buy food.

Cozumel’s New Grocery Store

I was very impressed with the new Mega store. It is very much like a US grocery store. It had lots of fresh produce, a good selection of meats and pretty much all of the condiments, snacks and drinks you would see in the US. They also sell wine (a good assortment of Chilean) and liquors (not much on the bourbon selection, though). We picked up a couple of nice looking NY strips to cook on the grille. They had a large selection of tocino (bacon) and hotdogs. They even have microwave popcorn. (I won’t need to “smuggle” that into the country anymore.) Thrilled with the place, I think we bought enough food for two weeks.

They have a nice deli section and a place where you can pick up a pizza.

For those that go the condo route and don’t want to deal with baggage weight, Mega has a very nicely stocked area for toiletries, cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, shampoos, razors, suntan lotion, bug spray, etc. They sell some clothing (same brand as Target-Cherokee?) and some sporting goods. You can buy hard-sided Coleman coolers there as well.

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/6mctt9

Meals/Socializacation

We had dinner at Kinta’s twice. My favorite, Pescado a la Kinta was no longer on the menu. When Kris came over to take our order, I lamented it was no longer offered. Without prompting, he said he would make it for me. I was not disappointed. I probably would not have gone twice but friends of neighbors, Bob and D.R. really wanted to go so we took a hit for the team. OK, twist my arm. All the meals were excellent.

Pic: http://tinyurl.com/5pxn7f

We agreed this was going to be our cheap eats week. We ate dinner at Otate’s twice. We had the pesole one night and then Tacos al Pastor the next time. Both were very good. We met Rocket and Kelly from Blackcomb, BC at Ambar and we met them for dinner at Otates. As I had spent a week snowboarding in BC earlier this year, we had a lot to talk about. They showed us their rental unit at Las Brisas where the owner was painting murals on all the walls…..OMG! In tattoo terms, I think it would be called a full sleeve?

Pic: http://tinyurl.com/6373ea

We also had dinner at Casa Denis and Mosaicoz. Both were excellent. Bianca, chatted with us while we waited for our wood fired pizza. One pizza is enough to split.

We ate most of our breakfasts in the condo, but we did make it over to El Museo for a wonderful breakfast on Tuesday.

Pic: http://tinyurl.com/6c3ndz

We met a number of Americans at La Palapita for sunset drinks. I spent the evening chatting with Barak of Albatross Charters. Now that man’s other “day job” is interesting! We left there to catch the Otono Cultural 2008 exhibit at the new cultural facility. Our favorite local artist, Lucio Frias, had a number of new pieces on the display. He was in a bad motorcycle accident about 18 months ago and his work has turned to a more contemplative side. We also ran into Greg Dietrich, another talented artist who lives on the island and runs Galleria Azul. There were static and live dance performance exhibitions. Very interesting performances. Some of these performances were repeated in the square the next night.

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/5pjypw

http://tinyurl.com/55ps2a

We made our traditional visit(s) to Kelly’s. Lo and behold, across the bar was TomTheTreeman. Tom and I had a lively discussion on the upcoming election. Apparently it was very lively as other patrons were scooting their chairs away from us. It was all in fun and I had a good time. Tom- I’m not so sure. (We voted absentee before we left so any debate was simply for giggles.) Misha, the black cat, is still there.

I was looking forward to Dias de las Muertes like any other 10 year old would. It’s Mexico’s version of Halloween but a tribute to deceased family members. I still had my Halloween mask from last year. We went to Fat Tuesday’s for a small Halloween party and had a great time meeting people. Last year Senor Frog’s had a huge Dias de las Muertes party. The place was decorated, there was a band and the staff was in costume. This year- nothing. nada, zilch. There are times when I don’t understand why things occur or don’t occur. I also noted there were fewer exhibits to family members. (There was no shortage of Halloween decorations at Mega and Chedraui’s. And yes, just like here, Christmas decorations went up for sale the next day.)

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/67evgy

Beer Alert

Of note, the $1 beers at the Flea Market on Melgar are now $2. That makes Mosaicoz and Ambar probably the best places for a cheap bucket of beers.

Diving/ Water Sports

I dove three days with Aldora. The Norte made things a little sketchy, and Aldora left a message each night to say what the plans were for the next day. They again called at 7:00 AM to make the final call. The first day was an east side trip. I took my spear gun, but as the rest of the group was simply diving, it was difficult to pursue prey and keep up with the group. The exit and re-entry to shore was challenging, but the Captain and Aristao did an excellent job of working the waves and swells.

The Norte went away and we were able to dive the west side on day two. We had four great dives with lots of fish, turtles, the green biggest eel I have ever seen (8’-9’?), nurse and reef sharks, lobsters, big groupers, lots of Splendid Toad Fish and barracudas. Visibility on the west side was down as a result of the Norte and the rain from the previous week causing the mangroves to drain into the ocean. The current varied from ripping to slow.

We did Devil’s Throat on one of our dives with a bit of twist. We did the usual DT entry and exit and then re-entered the throat from a different location. Given the time at this depth, you could hear everyone’s computer beeping warnings. Almost all of my dives went into some degree of deco.

If you see the porcelain fish at this site, be aware it is a cremation urn of a deceased diver.

We did our west side surface intervals at Mr. Sancho’s. What used to be a sleepy bar is now like all of the rest of the places. Crowded, noisy, screaming DJ’s etc. The food at Sancho’s was always good, but it was impossible to carry on a conversation over the noise and music. Even the DM was getting annoyed. Ron posted that Aldora has since moved their SI to Nachi Cocom. A good move in my opinion.

Lunch on the east side was from a taco stand on the transversal road whose name escapes me, but was very good. Something with “dorados” in the name?

East Side Dives

Punta Chiqueros: Dive Time: 56 minutes, Depth: 93’ Water Temp: 83.3

Las Ventanas: Dive Time: 74 minutes, Depth: 62’ Water Temp: 83.6

West Side Dives

Santa Rosa: Dive Time: 74 minutes, Depth: 62’ Water Temp: 84.2

Cedral Passages: Dive Time: 73 minutes, Depth: 72’ Water Temp: 84.3

Devil’s Throat: Dive Time: 53 minutes, Depth: 126’ Water Temp: 82.9

Tuniche: Dive Time: 87 minutes, Depth: 72’ Water Temp: 83.4

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/5r7p65

East Side Pics: http://tinyurl.com/6z9yfq

The Norte winds blew for the first two days. There was no rain and very few clouds, but it was evident on the oceanfront. On the square, it was a gentle breeze. Two boat owners failed to adequately tie their boats and the waves smashed them into the seawall. The funniest part was the sign one of the locals recovered:

http://tinyurl.com/5qeq9b

Denise and I have a running bet as to whether the sun will set in the clouds or over the horizon. Our nine days there provided us with spectacular sunsets. Daytime temps were in the high 70’s and nighttime temps were in the low 70’s. We never used the AC and instead, opted to let the sound of the ocean lapping on the shore lull us to sleep. Once the Norte broke, the waters became the usual crystal blue we are accustomed to seeing:

http://tinyurl.com/5rutnp

Palapa Hopping/Relaxification

We rented the purple “Barney” VW from Isis. Margarita was accommodating in our rental. We didn’t rent the car every day. Instead, we rented it only on days we went to the east side. She allowed us to settle up at the end of our stay.

We did several of days of palapa hopping. We went to Playa Palancar early and hung out there for a few hours. The waiter recognized us and, as things were slow, we practiced our Spanglish on him. He always has a fascination with the various kites we bring down. We agreed to bring a few down for his kids on the next trip.

Our sand chairs were perfect for staking out a place on the deserted beaches. It was windy and we watched kite boarders get lifted 20’ in the air. The one downside of our trip-we’ve gotten lazy and leave stuff in the car. While we took our cooler and chairs down to the beach near Playa St. Martin, I simply tossed my two year old Keen sandals in the floorboard. When I came back, they were gone. It was windy that day, and I never heard a car stop, but I’m guessing someone on a bike or scooter took the sandals. Lesson learned-even the things I thought had little value, do to someone. We were parked on a deserted section of road and not at a beach bar parking lot.

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/6bq7cd

We stopped at Coconuts, spoke to Cuco and met the new pup, “Luna”. Aptly named as she was found on the road under a full moon. Luna has some terrier in her so she will be a lot of fun to play with. Margarita is still there and recognized us as “the people with food to share”. She plopped under our table and took a nap as we massaged her with our feet. We toasted Vanilla’s journey to the dog biscuit in the sky and went over to Ventannas to take a tour of the place. We’ll probably spend a night there on our next trip.

Pics: http://tinyurl.com/5pxbv3

We checked in with Adrian several times regarding the Punta Molas trip. We tried to do it early in the week so Adrian could focus on re-opening Especias. The winds conspired to make this a no-go. Adrian stopped by to apologize for not being able to do the trip, but it wasn’t his fault.

We did a lot of bike riding. We rode into town to do some shopping or grab a lunch several times. Sunday is a great day to ride a bike on Melgar as there are no ships in town and the road is clear. I did a little mountain biking on the north end and used my helmet cam. It was very early in the morning so there is some glare, but you get the idea. You can see video of the MTB area’s at VHoldr’s website at:

http://vholdr.com/video/mtb-cozumel-mx

I also posted the video on Trip Advisor. You can find it at:

tripadvisor.com/VideoGallery-g150809-Cozumel…

I fished a little bit, snorkeled some and generally killed time.

Cozumel Restaurant and Beach Reviews Anyone?

Finally, some of you know, Denise and I maintain a large assortment of Cozumel beach, restaurant reviews and Cozumel maps for our guests. I typically offer these to anyone that requests them and have to e-mail them. We’ve now added a few of these to our website. These won’t be updated as frequently as the ones in our condo, but feel free to download a pdf copy of them at:

cozumelcondominium.com/activities-in-cozumel…

That’s it. We’ll be back in January- or maybe December if we keep thinking about it.

MinneSNOWta
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for Cozumel, Alexandria
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1. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Awesome, awesome, awesome - thanks for all the work involved compiling this info...think I will read this several times before January trip with mi Madre. Always love your pics Mark, you do a great job. (Denise is just so dang cute!)

Thanks! Appreciate it!

Rockport, Texas
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2. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Nice report and pics. You've inspired me... maybe I will compile a report after my next trip next week!

Ottawa, Canada
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3. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Very nice report, and no wonder it took a while. You had a lot to remember. I'll check out the photos later on, but I know I'll enjoy them. Thanks for taking the time. Larry.

Columbus, OH
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4. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

As always, great trip report! Thanks for the link to your beach and restaurant reviews...we used them on our last trip and our next trip is only 10 weeks away so we will use them again!

Cozumel, Mexico
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5. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

I agree -- the Mega store is great. I had been bringing things over from the Playa one for awhile--nice to have one in Cozumel.

But I dont know how you have missed microwave popcorn--have been buying it many places on the island for years. Chedraui, San Francisco and many small stores have it. Sometimes they do hide it well , though.

I think Biancas pizza is the best. Recently when I had a friend there from Switzerland, she had a long discussion with Bianca and told her it was the best she had eaten outside of Europe.

Yarmouth, Canada
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6. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Great review!

~S~

Concord, North...
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7. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Thanks MSFL for the review and pictures. Make me homesick. Will be going back in a few months................unless We can go sooner!!!

Claude Dill

Minneapolis...
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8. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

printed off your beach and restaurants reviews. i will check them off one by one as i go through them. nice job.

olive branch, ms
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9. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Thanks so much.

You give the best trip reports. The pictures and narration really bring me back!

Anacoco, Louisiana
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10. Re: Trip Review- Better Late Than Never

Keen Sandels!!! Now I am sorry that upsets me....I have never paid $90.00 for a pair of shoes, but I did, and I LOVE my keens!! I most probaby would have walked around Cozumel looking at people's shoes...It would have taken a few drinks to get over that one...Thanks for the trip report, can't wait until Feb.!!