Over a week since the first entry and we´ve packed an incredible amount into the last few days - exploring new towns, visiting Mayan ruins, kicking back on white-sand/turquoise-sea Caribbean beaches and drinking lots of Tequila.
The single activity that has occupied the largest proportion of my time since our arrival though, has been my attempts to learn the language (this is exclusive to myself - ´Little Brother Ollie´ insists there is "no point" in him "wasting his time", he is after all "only here for a few days"!). Spanish is the primary language throughout Central and South America (except Brazil, where Portuguese is the standard) so I am determined to gain a general understanding as soon as possible, and hopefully become quite proficient by the time the trip ends.
I wasn't completely unprepared for this - I've been listening to many hours of Spanish-learning CD's over the last few months, but the reality of actually speaking Spanish out-loud to a native Spanish speaker is quite different to listening to someone repeat phrases on a tape. I've never been much of a linguist and viewed language lessons at school as a pointless chore - everyone speaks English anyway, right!? I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who had this attitude at school (and some, like 'Little Brother Ollie', remain faithful to this viewpoint long after school has finished for them) and it is actually based on sound logic. It does seem like everybody speaks English - one of the most fascinating things is seeing two people from very different countries with their own proud languages (e.g. Norway and Israel, Holland and China) communicate through the only language everyone seems to share; English. Ironically, this is proving to be one of the main obstacles in my attempts to learn Spanish.
|Tulum hostel communal area
On the occasions that this first hurdle is overcome, the main thing I learn is the meaning of the English phrase 'be careful what you wish for' rather than any new Spanish vocab. Everyone seems to speak at a hundred miles an hour - although, in reality they are probably just speaking as fast as I do in English - and even if I know the words they are saying, by the time my brain has worked out one word in English, I've missed the next five.
|Trying to learn!!
|Town square in Vallodolid
I'm trying to be patient with this, but still can't help feeling extremely envious whenever I overhear another 'gringo' converse effortlessly and competently in perfect Spanish. Like I say, it has only been a week so I need to be realistic. Once I get down into Guatemala (probably in another couple of weeks) I plan to enrol in a Spanish-learning school and live with a local family for 3/4 weeks in order to completely immerse myself in the language. Hopefully this will help and I shall report back on my Spanish-speaking progress soon.
|Vallodolid Cathedral interior
The hostel we stayed at in Tulum has been the most social and party-orientated of the trip so far - the combination of a big outdoor communal area, cheap beer on demand, and lots of young travellers created a couple of late, boozy nights and lazy starts the next day. Still, we met lots of cool people, had a fun time, and didn't completely waste our days in a drunken haze; we spent one of the afternoons on a short day trip 30km north to the town of Akumal.
|Locals street-dancing in Vallodolid
Next port of call was a place called Vallodolid (pronounced 'bay-o-dolid) about 100km inland from Tulum. We broke up the journey by stopping en route to spend a couple of hours exploring more ancient Mayan temples at Coba. These ruins are spread over a much larger area than Tulum, and surrounded by lush, green forest rather than sparkling, blue sea. The main attraction here is the fact that you can climb to the top of the tallest structure (Nohoch Mul - at 42m high, only 3m below the tallest remaining temple on the Yucatan peninsula). The view from the top really is breathtaking; thick jungle fanning out in all directions as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by a couple of lagoons and interspersed with the tips of other nearby temples.
|Me at Coba
Our last two days have been spent on Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) just off the coast of Cancun. It's a very cool, chilled-out island where not much really happens, but that was just what we needed really after the non-stop travelling of the week before. We stayed in a hostel right on the beach with a big group of friendly travellers; days spent frolicking in the sea (astonishingly beautiful, again!), late afternoon volleyball games (gradually increasing in levels of competitiveness) and then cocktails at the beach bar way into the early hours - let's just say it was tolerable...
I've have returned to Cancun for one night after dropping Little Brother Ollie off at the airport for his flight home - which means I'm officially a solo traveller (for the first time ever!). A little bit disconcerting, but I'm heading straight back to Isla Mujeres tomorrow for a few more carefree days on the beach - I will stay strong!
Until next time.... (more photos below)
|Pastel colours in Vallodolid
|El Castillo at Chichen Itza
|El Castillo at Chichen Itza
|Columns at Chichen Itza
|El Castillo (note - no tourists)
|Chichen Itza ruins
|Chichen Itza ruins
|Under the sun shaft at Cenote Dzitnup
|Swimming at Cenote Dzitnup
|Me & Ollie at Cenote Dzitnup
|Exploring passageways in the Cenotes
|Cenote Samula (no artificial light)
|Isla Mujeres volleyball court
|Isla Mujeres beach