Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gran Cenote, by Savannah


Yesterday was awesome. We had a great time. Where did we go? We went to the Gran Cenote! This cenote is made from water. Cenotes are under ground tunnels. This is how the Gran Cenote was formed: Water seeped through cracks in the earth and began to clear out a space in the underground.Then it began to fill up a little with water, and stalactites and stalagmites began forming.  Now you can swim and snorkel there.


DSCN1326Out of my family, I was the first one to go in the water. I was also the first one to snorkel into-guess what-a cave! It didn’t go that far. We went out and-oh! I forgot to tell you about the bats! I wasn’t afraid of them. I thought it was cool.DSCN1365DSCN1358

We swam out of the cave and into a tunnel. There were very small tunnels you could barely go through in that huge tunnel. Then Isa and Calvin wanted to get out. They were cold. So I stayed in and saw 2 turtles and got to take my life jacket off to go through a really small tunnel. I love the Gran Cenote!    




Boat chores- Water tank

We’d decided we wanted to clean out our fresh water holding tank, as our filter had been clogging pretty quickly and looked icky.  So we were waiting till our water ran out so we could clean it.  Sunday night around 7pm we found ourselves with out water.  So David set to work opening the tank and cleaning it out.  The top of the tank is in the floor of the engine room.  After opening the lid and climbing in he found the tank separated by 3 baffles into compartments with a narrow opening.  We woke Calvin up from bed, it was just after 8 and he had just fallen asleep.  And set him to work thru the baffle holes to scrub down each compartment.  DSCN1260

Rob and Heidi had come by for dinner and luckily were still around and offered their help.  Heidi was quite the trooper in helping empty the shop vac several times after clearing out the dirty cleaning water.  David said when he opened the tank there was a little water left in the bottom and it was very clear, but as we washed down the sides of the tank it became murky and yellow brown—gross.  So they wanted to vacuum out all the murky water before we refilled.


Here in Mexico we run our watermaker to refill our fresh water tank rather than use the water on the dock.  It tests to make sure the water going into the tank is clean and drinkable.  It is then run thru a whole house filter—the one that has been clogging—and goes out to all our pipes.  We then refill drinking water jugs that we keep in the fridge so we always have cold water.  For those we use another counter top water filter that we had taken to Poland with us last year.  So, even though the tank needed a good scrub, our drinking water was getting quite filtered and was clean by the time it reached us.  We are hoping we will cut down on how often we have to clean the whole house filter by cleaning out the tank.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Akumal Beach

DSCN1210The day following our trip to Tulum and Coba, David and I had planned to take the 3 oldest kids to Akumal to swim with the Turtles.  But with the kids up most of the night sick, we weren’t sure anymore.  Around 10am Calvin seemed fine and Isabel a little tired.  We talked with them and decided we would make the drive to Akumal Beach and then only spend an hour out in the water, as they both really wanted to go.  Savannah felt great of course, she was sick much earlier in the week and was passed it.  The trip started out good.  But then Calvin started feeling sick again, I think the car made it worse.  It was a good thing Isabel brought a bowl in case she got sick, because Calvin used it twice on the way there.  Isabel on the other hand, went to sleep for the hour drive.DSCN1211

DSCN1227Once we arrived both sick kids felt so much better. We got them changed into wetsuits and off we went in search of turtles.  A friend from home mentioned this beach and the turtles, so after looking it up and reading a bit I learned, you head to the public beach in Akumal and swim out about 100 yards to the grassy areas and look for turtles. There are lots of people snorkeling out in the water so if you head towards a group they are most likely looking at a turtle. There are boats and snorkel shops offering trips, but I don’t know what else you get from them other than a short boat ride out the short distance from the beach which is easily swimmable.  And of course the snorkel gear if you don’t have it, but that you can just rent at the parking lot without a tour group. 

Rob and Heidi had come earlier in the week and told us the turtles were huge.  I was not prepared for how big they really are.  They are 3-4 feet long and 2-3 feet wide.  They sit on the bottom munching on the grass.  After a bit they start to swim off and come up for air.  They are DSCN1230pretty fast swimmers.  They look like birds flying as they flap their fins.  It was so neat to watch.

In all we found 5-6 turtles.  Isabel and Calvin were ready to head back to the beach after a bit needing a rest.  David swam in with them, while Savannah and I stayed out looking for more turtles.  Savannah found a smaller one swimming by us.  She swam off to follow him and he was a fast turtle!  I had to swim fast to catch up with them or she would have probably followed him out to sea.  She had fun swimming with him.






While swimming back in we found 3 stingrays. They are also neat to watch munch on the sand and grass. They swim quite gracefully as well. As we watched them I could see their eyes watching us, on guard. They would swim away more readily than the turtles as we watched them.

The kids all loved the trip, Calvin and Isabel were happily playing in the sand when Savannah and I made it back to the beach.  They were happy and well for the uneventful trip back to the boat.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba

IMG_5177What are they?  Mayan Ruins.  Chichen Itza is the most well known Mayan Ruin site, being one of the new 7 wonders of the world, and a world heritage site.  It was quite a large city and has had a great amount of excavation and preservation done.  It is the most visited ruin site in the Yucatan Peninsula and its temple is well known.  David and I, as well as my brother Rob,who was with us on this trip with his new wife, have visited these sites in the past.  It was fun to share them with the kids and my new sister in law Heidi.

They do not allow visitors to climb the temple at Chichen Itza anymore or any of the ruins in the city.  But they are neat to look at and have quite a bit of engravings on the buildings compared to the 2 other ruins we visited.  The city was established and built between 800-900 AD.  We were not planning to hire a guide, but self tour the site.  David changed his mind and hired a guide after we entered the city for our private group.  We spent more than 2 hours with him and paid him $50 USD.  He spoke very good English and knew a lot about the city and the Mayan and Toltec people who lived there.  It was fun learning new things and having most of our IMG_5188questions answered.  We learned that the area open to the public for viewing is the ceremonial center of the city and would have had no trees during the time it was used.  They would have kept it cleared of trees for easier access to each building.  It is very hot there, I can not imagine walking across the city without a little shade.

Because Chichen Itza is such a big tourist site, the city paths are strewn with street vendors all selling the same souvenirs.  The kids had fun looking at everything and asking about prices.  It was fun to walk away and say too much and have the vendor lower the price as we walked away.  In the end Calvin was the only one who really wanted something, a jaguar whistle.  He did not have enough money to buy it and none of the vendors would sell it for the amount he had.  So he had to leave without it.

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Chichen Itza, so we knew we had a long drive home.  We stopped just outside the city for a quick dinner at a little Mexican buffet.  Calvin loved it and asks to go back there.  They had 4-5 different options at the buffet, and oddly, Jello for dessert.  IMG_5207

IMG_5185When we returned to the boat it was straight to bed for the kids.  Savannah said her tummy was hurting her, but we sent her to sleep.  Just a couple hours later she was up throwing up.  We had her sleep in the extra room near us, which was good because she got up another 6 times during the night to completely empty her stomach of everything in it.  The next day she had a low fever and was tired.  We wondered if it was the food or the flu.  We all ate the same food and no one else was sick.  IMG_5178

DSCN1175The next day we snorkeled nearby so she could stay on the boat and rest. The day after we headed south to Tulum.  The ruins on the seashore.  The temple of Tulum is built on a cliff overlooking the Ocean with a beautiful rocky beach below.  It is quite scenic.  The ruins site is not as large as Chichen Itza, but was a large shipping city in its time.

It has most of its city wall intact with entrance and exit to walk thru.  The kids had a great time there trying to feed a lizard crackers.

DSCN1182DSCN1188We spent the morning at Tulum.  Afterwards we were all hot and sweaty and hoping to snorkel in a nearby cenote or at a beach, but David wanted to head 30 miles inland to Coba, since we were nearby.  DSCN1196



Coba is a neat site.  It has a taller temple than Chichen Itza AND they let you climb it. The temple is over 130 feet tall. The site is not nearly as restored, but money for that cause is hard to come by in Mexico.  Coba does not have as many buildings, but land wise, it is bigger than Chichen Itza.  It is also more in the jungle at the present time, so it has a different atmosphere which I like.  The building and stair ways have tunnels running under and through them that you can still walk thru.



We walked over a mile to the big temple site and then started the climb up. Calvin counted 116 steps on his way up.  He wanted to count them again on the way down and came up with 123.  Hmmm…

He must have taken a different route down then up.  We noticed that at Coba the rocks used to build were not cut as uniformly as at Chichen Itza.  This may account for Calvin’s difference.  Some steps were big, and others had half steps in between.  





There was a nice breeze up at the top which cooled us off before we started back down.  No one tumbled, we all made it safely down.  Matthew of course stayed at the bottom with Suzie taking his afternoon siesta, but the rest of us all made the climb, including Benjamin.  IMG_5250

Well to follow our theme of visiting Ruins, and then getting sick.  That night David and I did not get much sleep.  Isabel was the first to start in around 1am, throwing up.  Near 4 am poor little Matthew threw up all over his bed.  And then around 5am Calvin came down and said he had thrown up too.  For a few hours he and Isabel had to take turns tossing their bellies in the bathroom.  Poor kids.  It was a long night.  Now we’re sure, it was the flu, it found us—even in Mexico.  We are still waiting for Benjamin to take his turn.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shopping in Mexico

When we first arrived we went into the downtown area of Cancun and shopped at a Mexican supermarket.  Same on Isla Mujeres, we shopped at the new Chedraui, which is a Mexican version of a small Walmart with food and other needed items. 

The day after we arrived in Puerto Mujeres, we rented a car—we needed it for some inland excursions to ruins and such, but we also wanted to do some more provisioning.  David and I headed into Cancun to Costco and Walmart.  Shopping here was like shopping in the United States, almost.  Lots of the same Kirkland brand products that were simply shipped here from wherever Costco gets them, just more cost than in the US.  I was able to get my 6 pack of romaine lettuce, a 6 pack of colored peppers, a big bag of frozen chicken and so on.  Even a new swim suit for Isabel who has grown a little taller, the exact swim suit she had that was now a little short on her.  Of course we had the Costco hot dog and soda—no relish for a condiment—jalapeno’s of course.  They did have more Mexican products, and less of the products they just don’t use here.  Walmart was a similar experience.  It was almost like I was back home—just more Spanish.  Although I heard more English in Costco, than any where else in Mexico, other that a resort. 

One of the things I really enjoy about traveling is experiencing less tourist things and more of everyday life in the country we are visiting, and this experience took away from that.  I will look forward to more shopping at the local Grocery Stores, but I am happy to buy in bulk every once in awhile, especially for our family size.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Puerto Morelos


After a week on Isla Mujeres it was time to head south again.  This time we headed about 30 miles south to the main land of the Yucatan Pennisula to the town of Puerto Morelos.  After paying only $230 for a week in Isla Mujeres at Paraiso, we had to adjust to more than double the price at Marina El Cid.  However, the kids are happy.  The higher price comes with the grounds of a nice resort.  They have a nice beach with beach chairs and umbrellas and a big pool with water slides and high dives over rock waterfalls.  The kids love the pool.  There is even a little kiddie area for Benjamin and Matthew with a little slide. They also have a kids club if we wanted to drop the kids for an afternoon, and several other activities onsite like volleyball, ping pong, a fitness center, and outdoor evening shows. 

Puerto Morelos is located south of Cancun.  It is a small town with a national reef park off of it’s main beach.  I am excited for time to snorkel, it is suppose to be pristine.  The area is also located in the Riviera Maya, with Cenote’s and ruins nearby.DSCN1052

My oldest brother Rob was married last weekend. He and his wife, Heidi are spending their honeymoon in a nearby resort, which is why we chose to stop here at El Cid.  We are excited to spend time snorkeling and visiting Mayan sites with them.  It’s so nice of them to let us hang out on their honeymoon.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Isla Mujeres

We docked at Paraiso Marina on Isla Mujeres and were welcomed by a few of the boats around us.  They are seasoned boat travelers that live on their boats fulltime and have spent the last few years here in Isla Mujeres and visiting places nearby, such as Cuba and Guatemala.  It was nice to visit with our fellow boater with a wealth of knowledge and learn from them.  Docking here for the week was equal in price to the 2 nights we spent at La Amada in Puerto Juarez.  Paraiso is not the nicest marina we have stayed at, in fact we wonder if the pilings will truly hold us in strong winds, but the neighbors and staff here are nice and helpful, and it is a great location.  We are docked across the small bay from the popular snorkeling areas which makes it easy to make a quick run on the dinghy over for an hour of snorkeling.  DSCN0743

DSCN0744DSCN0745Our second day here after school work was finished we unloaded the bikes and trailers.  Suzie and I, and the 4 older kids headed off for the 1.5 mile bike ride to the beach.  David stayed behind to work on a few boat projects while Matthew napped.  We had a nice time enjoying the clear water and beautiful sandy beach. 

The next afternoon we headed out for some snorkeling.  Savannah, Calvin, Isabel and I jumped in the water—cool and nice temperature, and headed off to snorkel.  David and Benjamin were going to follow with Benjamin on our snorkel window raft.  But after a few minutes in the water, David made the wise decision to turn back to the dinghy as the current was quite strong and the further we drifted from the dinghy the harder it would be to get back.  So he headed back to wait for us and then drove the dinghy to us to pick us up.  We tried to head back as far as we could and used a rope line set up for snorkelers to help with this, but when the rope ended it was tough to swim up current.  A good work out especially since Isabel was hanging on to me. DSCN0751

Savannah and Calvin swim and snorkel really well.  I just keep them in front of me and they stay together.  I just have to look for their fins up ahead to check on them. The water is so clear it is easy to see if they need me at all.

That night after dinner we all loaded in the bikes to head to the downtown area to walk thru all the shops and small streets.  The kids loved looking at all the souvenirs.  The girls really want to get a Mexican dress to wear to Church.  DSCN0754

DSCN0791On our 4th day here David and I went out to breakfast.  I read about this little cafĂ© on trip advisor called Mangos.  We rode the bikes.  Breakfast was delicious.  I had coconut french toast, yum, and David had their unique twist on eggs benedict-really good too.  I also had a tamarind juice.  It was all so good, I want to go back.  When we visited Cancun a few years ago we stayed at an all inclusive resort  which we loved.  I loved the nice restaurant for dinner every night and not having to worry about budgeting for food or going out from the resort every night, but now I feel like we missed out on a great opportunity to try some delicious culture.  Well, we are making sure to get that in now.  At the grocery store here in Isla Mujeres I brought back a fruit that I have yet to figure out what it is, but it is really yummy.  We also picked up some Mango yogurt, fresh made tortillas, and a few other things more Yucatan style.  DSCN0760

Later that morning we wrapped up school early for an island excursion.  We loaded in the bikes and headed 3 miles to the south end of the island.  This is the most eastern tip of Mexico.  There is the remains of a Mayan temple built on a cliff.  In the last few decades a sculpture garden was planted here and some hiking trails winding down to the water were made.  We had a nice morning exploring this area. DSCN0766


We then headed back to the west side of the island to a beach grill for a local fish grilled in a Mayan sauce and some nachos.  After lunch we headed just up the road to the turtle research center.  Here they help hurt or deformed turtles and some other varieties of sea life. They had tanks with sea horses, even little teeny tiny ones, lobsters, and octopus. DSCN0799The kids had a great time watching the turtles and they even had a little touch tank where an employee helped the kids hold sea urchins, a tiny manaray, and a sea cucumber—which Calvin said looked like a poop.  It was well worth the $15 for our group to visit.DSCN0849


We were hot when we returned from our bike ride and after putting Matthew and Benjamin down for a short nap, David and I took the 3 other kids out for another quick snorkel trip.  It is fun being  300 yards from a quick snorkel.  DSCN0916

We went out to a spot we hadn’t snorkeled by yet, and then to an underwater arch, and then back to a sunk ship in very shallow water that some of the kids had snorkeled at the other day.  Savannah saw a little manaray, and several starfish in the water and there were lots of fish to see at all 3 places. DSCN0950DSCN0955

The next afternoon we loaded up the 4 older kids and headed back to the north beach.  This time David came and drove us in the dinghy.  Suzie stayed with Matthew for a nap.  We anchored the dinghy about 100 yards from shore in 3 feet of water.  DSCN0963DSCN0962This beach is so pretty with lots of shallow water in sand.  The kids had fun jumping off the dinghy and swimming in the water.  After a bit they wanted to head to shore to dig in the sand.  So I grabbed the beach blanket and a book and to shore we walked in the shallow water.  David and I sat reading while the kids played. DSCN0970 At one point Benjamin asked if someone would go to the dinghy with him so he could swim.  We weren’t quite sure what he was after exactly, after all we were at a beach, swimming could be done easily, no need to go all the way out to the dinghy.  We said he could ask Savannah to take him out there.  So he and Savannah headed out to the dinghy.  I had a suspicion he wanted to jump off the dinghy.  He had done it once earlier and was apprehensive about it, but apparently he was over that, and wanted to jump and swim.  So we watched him and Savannah jumping off the dinghy and having fun.  Eventually they made their way back to shore and the kids had fun playing in the sand and water for a little longer till it was time to go.  It was a great afternoon.  DSCN0969