18 december 1998 - Akumal, Mexico

Viva Mexico!

Mexico! Fred's return and Mathias first encounter. We get over the border without any troubles and head directly for the town of Akumal some 50 kilometers north of the border on the East coast of Yucatan.

Akumal turns out to be a high-class resort place with expensive-looking restaurants and security guards everywhere. We manage to convince one of them that we can camp on the parking lot just outside the resort facilities. The restaurants turns out to be ok prices, but there are NO PEOPLE here. Well, there are some but the beach bar has capacity for ten times more. But it is happy hour so we down bunches of Coronas and margaritas and stumble back to the van...

Festive Mexicans

There are handful of Mexicans closeby, sitting on a huge case of brew and playing a guitar. We quickly pull out our own guitar and spend hours singing, playing and dancing with these festive locals. Again, what a contrast to Belize where everyone was just spaced out on drugs. These Mexican fellows are fun. They teach us some Mexican classics while one guy keeps opening new bottles with his teeth. The only thing we can remember here the day after is that lyrics contained some rhymes on "rosa" and "mariposa" and we only vaguely remember the chords which the little guitar guy taught Mathias with great enthusiasm. We crawl back to the van with difficulty after some brilliant fun.

19 december 1998 - Akumal

 

It was bloody hot sleeping in the van, but we manage to sweat it out and get up late. Down to the beach for some snorkling which was ok but not spectacular. We decide to look into some scuba diving and end up arranging a dive to a "cenote" for almost $100 each. Mathias thought it was 100 pesos first, and nearly has a nervous breakdown when he figures out the real price afterwards. These guys must make ridiculous amounts of money!

Cave Diving


Off we go with the van filled up with scuba gear and our guide, Josepth. What a moment: The van is loaded with scuba diving, caving, kayaking, rock climbing and camping gear. Daisy is loaded to her max! The cenote is called Taj Mahal and when we arrive we are immediately attacked by an Irish woman who goes completely ballistic when she spots the kayak on the top of the van! How sad to see a kayaking fanatic seperated from her gear! We carry the scuba gear down to the blue water in the cenote. From the surface it is just a little watering hole in the jungle. You can sense that the water continues underneath rocks that surrounds the little lake. That's where we are going. We decent slowly into the water, and suddenly we can see the dark caves disappearing down into the void. We had expected that the light from the surface would always be visible somewhere nearby as we dive, but soon we are deep inside the dark caves with no visible way out. Very scary feeling. Is is really cool floating through the cave structures - a much more elegant way of travelling through the cave than the crawling and wiggling through mud we are used to from the dry ones and that we have strived to perfect from our local mentor and hero Dave Grosvenor back in Bristol. Anyway...


The van is loaded with scuba diving, caving, kayaking, rock climbing and camping gear.

Occationally, we would pass these "haloclines" which is where the water changes from being saltwater to freshwater or vice versa. It looks like a blurry mirror surface in the water, like the bottom of the cave is filled with some strange fluid. When you cross it, everything goes completely blurry for a few seconds before visibility goes back to normal. Our guide said that there have been a fair number of casualties in the caves because people panic when they suddenly cannot see anything as they cross the haloclines. Ten minutes into the dive, We have a potential problem as Fred's diving light slowly stopped working! Unfortunately, our otherwise competent guide has forgotten a spare. We manage to get by with two lights between the three of us, but it doesn't make it the rest of the dive less scary. Occationally, we can see some daylight coming down from where the roof has imploded to create other cenotes in the jungle. We surface in a couple of them. One called the bat cave, has just a couple of square foot holes in the ceiling and a bunch of bats hanging in a couple of clusters here and there. A death trap if you fall into the holes from jungle above!


We have a potential problem as Fred's diving light slowly stopped working

We pop up in the first cenote after about 45 minutes in the cave system. Although expensive, it was well worth the price to taste a bit of the cave diving experience. A great rush. Sometimes adrenaline costs...

The evening is spent partying in Akumal with a couple of American chics. They showed us "the other" bar in Akumal, La Buena Vida, where before we knew it we were laying a solid foundation for a severe hangover the next day. We slept in the van parked just outside the bar...

20 december 1998 - Playa del Carmen

Kayak Surfing

Next morning we wake up early due to the overheated oven that we sleep in these days. We are fairly seriously affected by the previous nights activities but nevertheless we manage to get the kayak down from the roof and get it out into the sea where we have spotted some excellent surf. Fred starts the show and excercises full control over the elements and has no problems. Mathias on the other hand catches a few big waves and looses control on all three of them and pulls the emergency handle instead of practicing the eskimo roll that he knows he can do but has problems even trying when the shit hits the fan. We spend a good hour of fun before we head back, clean up the van, get some breakfast and head off in search of more adrenaline rushes. We are in cave county now, no point in looking for whitewater rivers or big rock faces - Yucatan is flat as a tortilla but holed like a swiss cheese.

Show cave

We spotted a sign for a show cave just opposite Akumal so we head in on the 3 kilometer dirt road into the jungle. No problem - Guatemala has hardened Daisy for everything. We arrive at a "reception" where a guy explains to us about the cave. We quickly make him realize that we are not in for the guided tour but we want to explore the cave on our own and especilly have access to go beyond the "path" and tourist route through the system. He shows us some photos which looks excellent but he is not very happy about our adventurous ideas. "Peligroso" he says, and we get even more interested. Eventually he heads off to ask his boss if we can go in (paying the fee) with our special conditions. He returns quickly with a big no, we have a quick look at some monkeys in chains and leaves the place. Damn! It looked pretty good.


"Peligroso" he says, and we get even more interested.

Cenote swiming

Disappointed about this lack of confidence in the Willerup Brothers we carry on on the days program. A cenote near Cabo a bit inland from where we are. Daisy quickly get us there and -plim- we meet a Danish family from Jutland who is travelling around in a campervan - 4 kids and two parents! We thought our trip would be extreme - but this is seriously hardcore. They have been on the road since july and are going back home in march. Whoa. Very nice people - they work in Lego and there youngest son is called Mathias.

We go down to snorkel in the cenote and it's cool. We can naturally only surface the cenote but this is serious cave diving material again and one thing is for certain - if you lived down here you'd be into cave diving. Anyway - we swim around, try to climb the huge overhangs and leave. (It's beautiful, well worth a visit. Bring scuba kit and diving lamps).

Climbing

Our appetite for more action has only just begun this Sunday 4th day of advent. We've planned for another thourough investigation of the crag at Tulum. According to our fellow contrymen all the sites in Mexico is free on Sundays so that couldn't be better for a second visit to the seacliffs of Tulum. Geared up with our bouldering/soloing gear (shoes and chalk) we cross over the ruins and head down to the beach where we had been climbing a few days before. Primary objective was to explore the coastline further south - Mathias had just been rounding the corner last time when a hold broke off and he was spit off the cliff into the froathing ocean. (Don't worry I only fell a meter or two). This time we'd be equiped with sticky rubberboots and chalk to keep those fingers from slipping. Mathias starts of the lowlevel traverse and Fred follows a bit after.

Mathias: "I didn't feel good at all - the drinking from the day before was still affecting my body and I didn't have the confidence that had led me up Tulum Pillar a few days earlier. I knew this traverse was getting hard just on the point where I had fallen off on the previous attempt. I also quickly realised that the choice of rock boots wasn't actually helping much - it put way too much force on the foot holds, which was more likely to break off and which they oftened did. Not good for building confidence. Anyway - I get to all the way past the point where I got to before - good traversing. I get to a point where I try to bridge over fairly high above the water and I chicken out. Instead of going for the committing bridgemove I pull the handle and climb up to safety. I wait for Fred, but after a few minuttes of no Fred I carry on on foot to check out if there is more rock here south of Tulum. I get a fair distance away but the coastline flattens and we didn't find that hidden 100 foot splitter. I go back to where we started the traverse and start the traverse again to catch up with Fred who I assume is still on the route. I get around the corner but no Fred. Hmmm, I start getting nervous. Solo/bouldering is naturally a bit dangerous if you fall of and hit a rock in the water but surely Fred is okay. I traverse back again onto the beach and still no Fred. Okay, this is no time for fooling around. I take of my climbing shoes off and start walking out into the water to find out where the hell my brother has gone. Luckily I only get out into waist deep water as Fred appears on the cliffs above me, with a relief himself as he had started being really worried as well and was looking for me up on the rocks. :-)

We spend a hour or so of playing around on what we now know is the only rock in the area and it is really good stuff, but neither of us has the guts to solo the lines all the way as Mathias had done last time. Beer is bad for your true attitude.

But being the only rock miles around we are content with having ticked it, and head off to new ground - Playa del Carmen to drink, eat and be merry. Great place. Loads of people, real Mallorca-feel and and incredible selection of restaurant with superb food. We spend most of the evening at a big place which has live reagae played by some pretty competent dudes. Most notable was the drummer who was a spitting image of Animal from Muppet show.

21 december 1998 - Playa del Carmen

 

Morning. Heat. Sweat. - We spent the night in a big car park and soon find ourselves consuming an excellent breakfast at The Coffee Press - a recommendable little breakfast venue.

A bit affected by the previous night heavy consumation of coronas but also due to the fact that we need to spend a week until the 26th in this region we decide to take it easy.

Windsurfing

We rent some windsurfers and take them out for a ride. It's been a while since this sport was on the menu, but we both get the hang of it again pretty quickly. The wind is okay, but not that strong. There are some cool waves though which we manage to surf. Good fun. We also find the local internet cafe and spend two hours of reading emails, updating our frontpage and send some emails. Fast link and fairly cheap. Yoist.

Next item on the day is picking up our laundry which for various reasons was still in Akumal. Last thing of the day was getting the car washed. We find a great place where two or three young guys spend an hour or two cleaning every little detail inside-out.

And then we headed for the bar. Got stiff.

22 december 1998 - Pumal Camping

  - makker with planter for 100 pesos
- generel sump typer
- flink canadisk makker
- god snorkling, hummerfest

23 december 1998 - Puerto Morrellos

 

We wake up complete rejuvenated after a perfect nights sleep finally. Fred tried to sleep outside in his hammock but gave up because of strong winds from North-East.

E-mail disaster

We still have a few days to "kill" an decide to finally make our way to Cancun, the biggest town here in this region. Before we go we stop by at the internet cafe in Playa del Carmen (1 peso per minutte). This turns out to be a bit of a longer visit than we expected - we had sent a mail to our friends@willerup.com maillist two days before an was expecting a few replies but we got much more than that. The mail had bounced back from our cousin Niels' email system and by some mistake in his system the mail was bouncing forwards and backwards between his email system and our mailing list. The result was that everybody on the list had gotten around 100 emails from us, and we had gotten close to a thousand. Big mess, especially when you are on a pay by the minute line and everything is a bit limited. Thanks to Martin Liversage for explaining the whole mess to all the people out there.

Cancun

Anyway, shaken (but not stirred) we carry on towards Cancun and after an hour or so we arrive in this huge tourist resort. It's terrible. For some obscure reason we suddenly find ourselves in the Wet'n'Wild aquapark - wasting our money. After that we check out the mall, the hard rock cafe and all that stuff. We lasted 30 seconds in hard rock etc.

Senor Frog's

On the way out of town Fred has an unfortunate hallucination as he thought he saw a bikini contest in progress when driving past Senor Frog's. We go in, but there is no sights of the bikinis. "The whole stage was packed with scantily clead women! I am sure!" It is very lively but totally contrived. Lots of families and a party dude on the stage who is putting on little beer drinking contests, and waitresses who force tequilla shots down everyone's willing throats. We get out after some dinner and after Mathias managed to get pretty drunk.

Don

We end up in Puerto Morelos just South of Cancun. Mathias is asleep in the back, so I try finding a place to park the van. I bump into Don who is driving a van down from Arizona, loaded up with mountain bikes, two trail bikes (!) and a surfboard. He shows us a little coastal road, where we camp out right next to the beach. I have a few beers with him sitting on beach rambling about stuff. He turns out to be quite a character - 50 years plus, in great shape, completely obsessed with machines. As he said: "when we go, the guy with the most toys wins".


The guy with the most toys wins

24 december 1998 - Playa del Carmen

Cancun surf

We decide to check out the surf in Cancun that we saw a glimse of the day before. Mathias rents a boogie board and Fred takes out the kayak. It was tough. The waves were fairly big but not unmanageble - the problem was that they came really close to each other without ever letting up. So it was really tough to get out there, particularly on the boogie board. We do catch some good waves though, but end up a little sooner than expected back on shore trying to catch our breath. After a few days of only drinking exercise, it is good to get some sportive action in again.

Well, it is Christmas Eve tonight, and what better place to celebrate than Playa del Carmen! We head back down the coast early afternoon to what is now our familiar little hangout. We have decorated the van with flashing Christmas lights and some tinsel we got in presents from the family at home. We give them a call to get a bit of the homely christmas atmosphere here in the 30 degrees celcius beach place that we are in.

Don Pollo

Late in the afternoon we are parked down by the beach and run into a big, entertaining Mexican that we had met when we rented windsurfers a few days ago. We called him Don Pollo because he was on about his roasted chicken shop which according to him has the best chicken in town. We happen to be playing some Tull on the stereo as we are about to leave, and Don Pollo goes crazy right there! "Hey man, Jethro Tull..." We are pretty impressed because we are playing one of the lesser known tunes, I think it was Cold Wind to Valhalla. So he turns up the stereo to full volume and sings in the street. Before we know it his bike is on top of the van, he is inside, and we are heading for his chicken joint - we have to meet his best friend from Mexico City who is also a Jethro Tull fan. We attract a fair bit of attention, as we drive down the street with Christmas lights flashing, the stereo cranked and Sergio shouting abuse at everyone out of the window. We arrive at the roasterie a bit later where Sergio cranks the volume even further.


Christmas lights flashing, the stereo cranked and Sergio shouting abuse at everyone

We soon meet his wife, his friend from The City and his wife, plus bunches of kids - mainly boys in their teens. As a welcome salute we play Bouree on the guitar and flute for everyone there. Sergio is extatic and soon invites us for their Christmas dinner. We hestitate a bit - in Denmark a Christmas dinner is a very closed thing for the family and we didn't feel like intruding into their evening. But we quickly accept as they pour us a couple of cups of tequilla. We agree to come back an hour or two later...

After sampling a few bars in downtown Playa, we return to the chicken shop but in true Mexican style they are not even close to being ready. They are preparing the food at the shop, and then we are supposed to go to his home. There are some interesting dynamics going on between the wife from the City and the others - it soon becomes obvious from her trips to the bathroom and her "runny nose" that she is into some serious drugs. Oh well, the rest of us stick to the tequilla served in little clay cups. Eventually, everything is ready and we follow everyone into what Sergio describes as Bosnia Hersegovenia - the residential area of Playa del Carmen. Not a bad name - it is certainly very different than the tourist areas downtown. After some very bad roads twisting between delapidated, one-story concrete buildings, we arrive at the house.

It is very simple inside, with just two large rooms and little furniture. We pitch in our camping chairs to the party and some beer and tequilla we bought earlier. We cannot help thinking what a major ordeal it would have been to invite strangers into a Danish Christmas with all our stiff traditions. We can definitely learn a bit from the open-hearted Mexicans in this area: we don't feel awkward at all sitting on each our camping chair drinking yet another tequilla with a Corona on the side. The kids eat first while their parents serve them. Then the parents (and us) get seated, and the kids leave to cruise around town. The dinner is basic but excellent, and of course spiced up with numerous toasts and talking and The City wife - and now also her husband - leaving for the bathroom a few times.

Mayan Tobacco

After the delicious dinner the head of the family displays what we later realize must be some special Mayan tobacco and he also pulls out a little pibe with strange inscriptions and says that we are now all going to smoke. We decide it is better to do what he says - a bit like the old peace pibe principle. We have already toasted numerous times consuming a couple of bottles of tequilla, so we are starting to have a bit of trouble with keeping the stiff upperlip, as the pibe passes around the table. We didn't inhale, of course.

We are not sure what happened the rest of this festive evening. Once we went on the roof to the house and Sergio was philosophising about stuff up there, looking at the stars. And we eventually made it back to town without driving into anything, and spending a few more hours at the beach bars and dancing places.... Feliz Navidad!

25 december 1998 - Playa del Carmen

Hangovers

Next morning we are quite affected by hangovers and Mathias discovers that he left his camera at Sergio's last night. We spend most day trying to find his place again in this Bosnia Herzegovina place - a bit scary to drive around this rough place in our van that radiates "tourist", but as always people are friendly and helpful. We do not succeed in finding Sergio's place - it was all a blur when we left 12 hours earlier. Sergio is not at work either, so we will have to stay another day here and try to find him in the morning.

So we spend Christmas day in Playa - eat some good food, and look at all the new people who have arrived for the Christmas holidays...


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