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Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ATMs. Mobile networks. Hostel staff. None of them work on Isla Holbox. Even the electricity takes the occasional 5 minute break.

That's how ultra-chilled this island is! The perfect escape from the Ameri-madness that is Cancun. The perfect spot for a short holiday from our travels. Here we shall rest our weary traveller bones.

The weather was mostly warm and sunny but occasionally it rained non-stop for hours. Those days the drainless roads were flooded up to at least a foot. Wading through the white mud is fun if slightly dangerous. But never fear! This town of only golf carts and bikes has about 3 cars plus a massive vacuum-cleaner type truck that works it's way around town sucking up puddles.

It took a little longer for Dee to slow down but Mario dove straight into island life (see previous entry) - walking barefoot through the streets (all still made of beach sand), chatting with locals and travellers alike. French Canadians, Argentinians, Italians and Spaniards seem to be the ones most attracted to this slice of paradise. 

The lively middle-aged French Canadian ladies kept us amused with their musings. We never knew that German-speaking Italians existed until we met three lovely ladies - Julia, Silvia and Karen - from the border town of Bozen. With imperfect Spanish on both sides, it was still possible to get to know Italians, Marialuce and Gigetto (aka ;) who eagerly shared tips from their Latin American travels. Sadly they had to leave all too soon!

Jaret from Montreal kindly shared his tuna-like catch with us one night. Just half of this mammoth fish was plenty to feed 7 of us - Belu and Martin (Argentina), Albert (Spain), Vinnie and Luiza (Brazil). everyone chipped in and soon we have awesomely fresh fish, guacomole, taco's, salsa's and even hot chips. A few more lovely meals were enjoyed with our new friends with a new dimension added to every dish by Albert's special blend of habanero-garlic oil, whipped up as quickly as he whipped up a jug of sangria. Belu and Martin invited us to join their morning ritual of "mate", a communal tea that kickstarts the day of many an Argentinian. And thanks to the three super-friendly Argentinian ladies who kiss-hug greeted us - Pilar, Carla and Mareada - we are now the proud owners of the mate set that they accidentally left behind. That'll confuse people even more who make failed attempts at guessing where we're from!

Our hostel/hotel/campground has the right idea, targetting all 3 markets, bringing them all together in our common area. Somehow it works but it's easy to see how it could all go wrong. When we arrived the owner, Jose Lima, was present and the place was abuzz with maintenance and cleaning. Everyone was super-helpful and super-friendly. But when he returned to his Cancun home, his absence was painfully obviously. We were forced to nag for toilet paper, purified water and bedding. At 50 pesos per bed we wouldn't have expected much but the bar had been set. Even the guys in 500 peso private rooms were no longer getting their fruit platters in the mornings. "No hay" (There isn't any), they were simply told. 

At 50 pesos (2.50 quid) per dorm bed, we could stay here forever... or at least until we run out of cash, whichever comes first! Serendipity was on our side as effectively ours was a private room with only 4 beds, 2 of which were almost always free. That's the cheapest we've found in all of Mexico! Casa Maya (a popular name as there's 3 on this tiny island of 1500 inhabitants) had more surprises - use of beachfronts sun-loungers and palapa-covered hammocks and tables.

Unlike the tourist hotspots you can easily find your own space on the beach. There's a better chance if you head left of el centro - the sand is seaweed-strewn, dotted with weather-beaten cabanas, a few holiday homes and ugly concrete barriers created pseudo-private beaches. Right of centre the beach is pristine and uninterrupted. Here they have worker bees to sweep away what the sea washes up. That's where the fancy hotels and restaurants are located. Less chance of feeling like you're on a deserted island though!

On Holbox you don't get hassled by an endless tide of beachside vendors. Only a grand total of two pioneering Mayans stroll the beach to sell their colourful wares but these young women just smile and giggle from a distance until beckoned. Occasionally the hammock-pusher shows up, And then there's the dodgy-looking dude trying to sell the few bottles of honey-shampoo he manages to carry.

Often backpackers are forced to flee the island when they run out of cash. Touristy types or those travelling with daddy's plastic can afford to stay longer as many hotels and expensive restaurants accept credit cards. The big players don't seem to care that after more than a month the ATMs are still out of order as effectively it means more business for them. Don't worry, little guy, we'll support you... as long as we can!

The little guy's voice maybe soft and often unheard, but there's fight left in him yet! Throughout the town faded posters on tree trunks creates an awareness of a "Traidur" (traitor) in town. If the whispers are to be believed, apparently someone sold out his community knowing they were getting a raw deal but let it happen anyway. Something about property at the northern end of the island. I guess we'll never really know the full story...

Fully rested and recuperated after 16 days, we were ready to once again hit The Road Lees Travelled.
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