TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Westin Lagunamar: Week 2

Part 2- After the Deluge
Thursday and Friday were the wettest days we have seen in a long time. After the exciting Costco trip on Friday we were prepared for the worst on Saturday and almost had our fears fulfilled as it was raining when we were drinking our morning coffee on the patio. But guess what. The rain stopped. And before long, we proceeded down to the pool to read, swim, and sit in the sun. It was very pleasant. And because we had not planned anything big to do because the weather had been so bad, we just took the bus up Kukulkan Boulevard after lunch to the Coral Market a few miles north.

At this market which is described by many as a "flea market" there are many stalls featuring tourist goods. Colin, our grandson, bought a backpack and a poncho. We purchased a small poncho for Caidin, his little brother. The bargaining was not too intense, though every store featured at least one salesman who would follow us up the walk claiming his were the cheapest goods. This means we probably paid too much. A Starbucks was spotted a block away and we did our best to use up some gift cards on iced coffee drinks.

Upon our return we went swimming then barbecued steaks we had purchased at Costco. I do not know what type of steaks they were, but they were great.

Sunday presented even more sun, so we got up earlier to get a bus to Playa Tortuga and take the catamaran ferry to Isla Mujeres. This is a long narrow island off the east coast of Cancun that is named either for small statues of females that Spaniards found on beaches during their first visits or for the place where pirates left their women before they sailed off into the Caribbean in search of plunder. On the boat to the island we purchased a day's use of a golf cart to explore the island. This driving was fun and after getting out of the small town at the north end, Colin took over at the wheel. He drove well though he seemed to recognize that even signs in Spanish that indicate stop - ALTO - should be obeyed. Along the shore we saw large iguanas and even had to swerve to avoid them. Isla Mujeres was described to as as a more authentic, real Mexico than that found in Cancun's Zona Hotelera. If so, the real Mexico is widespread poverty, some wealthy coastal estates, and considerable roadside garbage easily accessible on golf carts.

Lunch was eaten at the north end of the island where we dined on the beach on tacos, calamari, and chicken (not all together). Very good food at the Zazil Ha restaurant at the Na Balam Hotel. Many of the hotels in the region after Mayan gods, places, or terms. After dining Colin drove us around the island again in time to get the 2:30 PM ferry back to the mainland. Unfortunately we discovered that return times for the ferry are every hour on the half hour EXCEPT 2:30 PM. So we waited at the pier in the shade and let the sea breeze and sound from a Mexican presidential political rally down the street wash over us. As we pulled into the port of Playa Tortuga, we observed a girl jumping off a Bungee Tower on the pier. I told Colin I would pay for his ride. He declined.

The following day began very cloudy but by 8:30 AM the sky was clearing and we felt it worth heading to the pool. There were very few people around so we basically had the pool to ourselves for a couple of hours. I jumped some waves in the ocean while Donna read and we struck up a conversation with a gentleman from Boston. Lunch in our room was simple and we then walked a half mile or so to a restaurant called La Distilleria to get a couple of T-shirts. The place is a bar modeled after an old tequila factory, hence the name. Not long after returning to our room a real thunder and lightning storm erupted right over our hotel. I got some video but it did not really do the storm justice. Of course, the window in our bathroom was awash as rivulets of water ran down to the tub.

Tuesday broke sunny and bright so we spent the good part of the morning by the pool. But by noon the heat driven clouds came in and the rains fell once again. Later as things dried we walked to La Isla Mall where we tried to find the Liverpool Department Store where Donna had heard she could find a purse she had seen a young girl carrying on the boat from Isla Mujeres. Unfortunately, there are few signs around the mall and it was after some looking that we found the store on the second level only because its doormat read LIVERPOOL. But no similar purse could be found.

On arriving back at our resort, it was our time to try to blend our own Margaritas. Colin helped us to do this. They were very good considering our recipe was sketchy and mixing skills amateurish. Wednesday was largely spent by the pool. The nearest elevator to our room was under repair so Colin and I had to walk down stairs, a literal trip for me as I stumbled on a landing and scraped my hand on a wall and somehow banged up my foot. In the afternoon we took the bus to Walmart to do what we hoped would be our last shopping. We barbecued burgers and chicken in the evening.

Colin and I took an excursion to Tulum Thursday morning. We were picked up in a small van which we thought was our transport only to discover we were to be moved onto a larger bus further up the Boulevard. After collecting a few more tourists we drove into Cancun to get the major roadway into Tulum, about two hour away. The bus load of passengers was provided with a guide Mary speaking in both Spanish and English about Mayan history and the local area. Selling customized jewelry and posters with names in Mayan characters was part of her presentation. People could order theirs on forms that were passed around but they never managed to get passed to us. The ride became more pleasant after the narration stopped. As we neared Tulum we were given stickers with the number 9 on them. This, I guess, was to identify our group. The bus took until 10 AM to reach Tulum one of the earliest landfalls of the Spanish in Mexico. The invaders never stayed around because they saw no gold here. The scenery was flat green overgrowth with vacant buildings and political signs, sort of like Florida. Many tour buses were in the parking lot. Mary gave us our marching orders: go through the jewelry store to the toilets first, then meet at one of the convenience stores to get supplies (water, bug spray, etc.) that we might need. Colin and I had beverages, sun block and bug spray so we were ready. I did, however, pick up a small package of cookies.

Beyond the shop was a wide thoroughfare lined with merchants selling other necessities: Cuban cigars, ceramic skulls, wooden masks, and serapes. At a large square bordered by a Subway and many more shops we got in line by Mary who tried to differentiate us from the dozens of other tour groups as we waited for the tram to take us into the archaeological site. The tram was driven by a Massey-Ferguson tractor and carried us about half a mile out to the coast where the ruins were like sun-bleached bones jutting out of well-maintained lawns. Through a few pathways and under a stone arch we ambled in a long line until we approached the first ruins. Our English-speaking guide, a man, took over and led us to a shady area where he spoke intelligently but too lengthily about the orientation of the structures and how the Mayans used number patterns to help organize their understanding of their world. Then we passed to another building where he showed some of the unique architectural details that we would nor have understood. For example, the corners of one building have designs on them which, when viewed from the right angle can be clearly recognized as faces, some happy, some sad.

After this we were set loose on our own to study the ruins on our own with clear instructions to return to our starting point, the Dairy Queen near the park entrance, by 12:30 PM. A word about Tulum weather: very hot and very humid. We were sweating profusely in the sun but nevertheless walked up by the largest temple overlooking the sea to catch the view. Small boats were in the water and it appeared there were about a hundred tourists who had fled their guides and were swimming in the turquoise breakers below. A long queue had formed to get the tram back to the park entrance so we walked. During the walk I was reminded about my bruised foot with every step. Approaching the main square we caught a show where some decorated Mexican dancers climbed a tall pole, then, as another member played a small pipe and drum combination, slowly descended spinning around the pole on ropes attached to their legs. Lower and lower they spun as their ropes played themselves out. We were hit up for a tip by another man who expressed chagrin when I gave five pesos, all the change I had. Subway seemed the safest bet for lunch, so we picked ours up somewhat disappointed that five dollar footlong does not translate easily into Spanish with its pesos and meters. I got a 15 centimeter 60 peso Italian BMT. Doesn't actually work as a song lyric. On the way back we dropped a few members of our group at an aquatic play area, Xel-Ha.

Friday and Saturday were spent by the pool and, last night, packing. We were leaving at noon on Sunday and have a four hour layover in Houston.

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