A CHOPPY START TO COZUMEL
Updated: Jun 4, 2022
Two weeks in Cancun was sufficient. I think we saw everything we wanted to see. Getting to our next location would require taking a bus and then a ferry because we were headed to Cozumel!
In case you are new here, we are Will and Katy. We are a travel couple that is traveling around the world. We are on year two of our travel adventures where we try and visit as many states as possible during our time in Mexico.
TRAVEL DAY TO COZUMEL
We said goodbye to our first apartment in Mexico. We walked quickly to the ADO bus station trying to avoid being rained on. It drizzled a little, but we made it to the station and waited about 15 minutes before boarding the bus. (We purchased our bus tickets the day before)
The bus ride was quick; an hour and a half. For some reason, I did get a little motion sick. It wasn’t bumpy and it didn’t sway, so I am not sure what caused that. I decided that I definitely needed to take a motion sickness pill before getting on the ferry.
As soon as we got to Playa del Carmen it began pouring. We stayed in the bus station until it died down, which gave me time to drink a Sprite and let my stomach settle a little. We had time. We read that the ferry wasn’t leaving until 2 PM and it was only 11:30 AM. Once the rain stopped, we grabbed our bags and headed to the port. As we walked there we felt strong gusts of wind. I looked over to the coastline and saw massive waves. I am definitely taking a motion sickness pill, I thought to myself. We walked up to the Ultramar Ferry booth and found out the next boat was actually leaving at 1 PM. We quickly bought our tickets. With no time to spare, we needed to look for food. We saw a 7-Eleven right next door. We walked towards it but we quickly came to a halt when there was a line of ferry vendors and tour guides who were blocking the whole sidewalk, with their backs facing us. A little annoyed that they felt like they could take over the entire sidewalk I said really loudly, "disculpar," excuse me in Spanish. They turned around with a confused look on their face as if they were doing nothing wrong. We hurried into the store and purchased something to eat. We squeezed past the row of people, past the ticket booth, and up the escalators to get in line to wait for the ferry. The seats were first come first serve, the quicker we entered the line the better chance we had to find a seat we wanted, one where we wouldn't get wet. We got to the top of the escalator and put our bags on a conveyer belt, through a security scanner. We saw the line ahead of us and a few shops to the left of us, including another convenience store. There was a ferry worker there who guided us in the direction of the line. As we proceeded he said, "You can't bring that food on board." I told him its ok, we'll eat it in line. He chuckled and told us he was joking. My friend, this is no time for joking, I need to eat food so I can take my motion sickness pills, I thought so myself.
We reached the ferry line by 12:30 PM. We ate our food while standing in line and I took my pills. I was unsure if they would work since they were non-drowsy pills, would they be as effective as the other ones? We saw the ferry coming in at a distance, it didn't look like it was going to be an enjoyable ride.
A few people ahead of us in line decided to sit down on some benches that were being used to help form the line. There was a gap I didn't notice until a lady behind me yelled out to us to move forward. I looked up and said ok. I tried to put our snacks and drinks away so we could grab our bags, which were sitting on the floor, and move forward. Not even a minute had passed by before the same lady, who was 3 or 4 people behind us decided she wasn't waiting and moved ahead of us. Once we actually gathered our stuff and caught up to the lady, I looked up and said to her in Spanish, "I heard you, I told you I was moving up, just had to grab my bags." She had nothing to say in return. Will thinks she was surprised I spoke Spanish.
The ferry boat docked and our line finally began moving. We passed a few vendors in line selling snacks and empanadas! If we knew there were food options there, we would have much rather eaten that than the piece of bread with just cheese and lettuce we ate. We scanned our tickets and descended down to the loading platform. There were strong wind gusts. People were holding onto their hats, and shirts and dresses were blowing in the wind.
It felt like chaos as we boarded the ferry. The boat was rocking side to side so hard. Workers were holding down the ramp to get onto the boat and cautioning everyone before they stepped on. We piled into the boat and tried to find seats somewhere in the middle. Will found a bench in the middle, but towards the back. It would have to do since there were no other seats. The ferry just kept getting more and more filled with people, leaving them no option but to stand. I turned to the lady sitting next to me and asked her if they always filled these ferries to the brim. She said no, and usually, it's a bigger ferry with another level above with more seats. She seemed as confused as I was. Finally, some attendants opened up the indoor seating area and the seating area above us and motioned for the people standing to find a seat. Which was a good thing, because the boat was rocking so much I doubt these people standing would have made it 45 minutes without falling over.
The ferry began to leave the dock. It wasn’t raining but the waves were choppy the whole time. The musician welcomed everyone on board and tried to lighten the mood. He began singing songs and asked people to sing along with him. I sat there listening and trying to keep my mind off how I didn’t want to get sick. I picked one spot to look at and didn’t look out into the water. Up and down the boat went. Screams erupted as gushes of water from the waves splashed all over those on the side; it even reached us at times. I put my head down on the back of the seat in front of me and that felt good. So I stayed that way the rest of the trip. As we approached the port of Cozumel, I looked up, and the waters were nowhere near as choppy as the waters around Playa Del Carmen. It was such a relief that I didn’t feel sick. I did feel drowsy, however. I guess the pills weren’t non-drowsy after all.
We disembarked the ferry and grabbed our bags. With one backpack on our back and one backpack on our frontside, we began walking to our next apartment. It was about a 25-minute walk. But because I was so drowsy and felt weak, the walk took much longer. I had no energy to carry my 50 lbs worth of bags. When we finally made it to our apartment our host greeted us and showed us around. We got an Airbnb with great amenities like a pool, snorkel gear, bikes, and paddle boards. I hoped that the weather would clear up so we could take advantage of it all.
We quickly dropped off our bags and set out to look for food. We were famished since we didn’t get time earlier to grab actual food. We stopped at the first restaurant we found since we saw some others from the ferry eating there. I overheard them talking on the ferry and it sounded like they came to the island often, so we thought this might have been a good spot to eat. The food was really good, but we felt it was overpriced. Especially since we were already a mile away from the port. In addition, we felt rushed. They quickly took our order and then forgot about us. It was just an unusual experience. We didn’t order much, since we thought we could find cheaper food. At least we had some kind of sustenance in our system. We continued looking for more food. We walked around and found a grocery store with a Burger King nearby. Being exhausted and just needing food we stopped in there to see if they had an Impossible Whopper. They did have some sort of veggie whopper so we took a chance and ordered two. The burgers had an odd taste. They didn’t taste like the Impossible Whopper, but at least we got to eat. We stopped at the grocery store, bought some essentials, and went back to our apartment. We just wanted to shower, unpack, and get ready to watch some sports. It was the playoffs for both NBA and NHL. Both our teams were playing, so we settled in for the night.
On our first day on the island, we walked around scoping out markets. It seemed very quiet; not much was happening. We were trying to figure out the scheduling of the lifestyle in Mexico. We realized it was Sunday, but it was already the afternoon, and everything was very quiet. We finally stumbled upon a little local bar, Cerveceria KUSAM, that brewed its own beer. We sat down for a couple of drinks. The waiter asked us if we were going to watch the Carnival Parade that night. We had no idea there was a parade! When we first got off the ferry the day before we did see a big sign saying that Carnival was happening until Wednesday, but we didn’t have the schedule for anything.
Thanks to this man’s suggestion, after we left the bar, we continued walking around looking for where this parade would be. We did notice barriers being put up and people walking into town all dressed up in vibrant costumes. After walking down Avenida Rafael (the road parallel to the water) we came to a big open area, Parque Quintana Roo, with tents propped up everywhere. There was street food and a variety of vendors. This was where the whole town was hanging out! I asked a few of the food and merchandise sellers if they were here all the time and they said no. They were just in the location during the Carnival. For the first time, we found and purchased a couple of rice tacos and a bag of Dorilocos. Will had been wanting to try the Dorilocos. It is a Mexican street food where the base is a bag of Doritos and they top it with all kinds of things. Different vendors have their own toppings. This one had melted cheese, corn, peanuts, jalapeños, and the white crumble cheese they top everything with in Mexico. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this snack food, but the first bite took me by surprise! It was delicious! We walked around seeing what else was around and what the locals were selling.
Then we found a spot to watch the parade. Avenida Rafael was lined with people. More people were walking in toward the water from town. The parade started and we stayed for about 10 minutes. We saw a few floats and then headed back home. It was so fun to see the locals get all excited about this Carnival. It's not big like Mardi Gras, or Carnival in Brazil, but to the locals of Cozumel, it was a big deal!
On our walk back to the house we passed by a multitude of places that had people and lots of action. I think everyone in Mexico just waits until dusk/night to do anything!
We like to eat dinner around 5-6 PM. But the problem for us on this Island has been that no restaurants seem to the open at this time. There is a time frame from 4-6 PM that there aren’t many places opened. At least in the area we are staying. We decided to take up one of the recommendations of our host and go to a restaurant near the house called El Morro. I saw on Google Maps that it was open. We walked over and luckily for us, it was! The food was delicious. I got a dish called huevos motuleños. It turned out to be a breakfast dish, but who said you can’t have breakfast for dinner? The plate begins with a layer of red tomato sauce, then a layer of black beans. Toritalls are laid on top with more beans, eggs, and cheese. It was topped with green peas and plantains (I asked them to hold off the pieces of ham that it came with). I think that dish became my new favorite dish! Will had a delicious breaded fish with a side of white rice and beans. This was the first proper sit-down meal we’ve had this time around in Mexico. We usually are always grabbing street food because we just assumed the food in restaurants is too expensive, but this was only $13 USD and it came with chips and salsa as an appetizer and a side of bread for the meal. Not bad at all.
PUERTO MAYA PORT
It was time to film our next YouTube Video. The Airbnb we booked came with free bikes so we decided to ride over to the Puerto Maya Port in hopes there was a cruise docked and the markets were opened.
As we were unlocking the bikes I was getting nervous. I had not ridden a bike in over a year. The last time was in March of 2021, when we biked to the Mes Bridge near Shkodra, Albania. But as the saying goes, “it’s just like riding a bike.” I hopped on, began pedaling, and instantly began gliding on the road. I just had to get used to riding on the street with cars and mopeds zooming by.
20 minutes later we reached the port. We found a random pole to lock up our bikes.
Cozumel is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. Most cruise-goers only have the day to explore and look for their souvenirs. Our mission for the day was not to look for souvenirs, but for a local’s story. Just across the Puerto Maya port, we met Mario who is originally from Veracruz, Mexico. After a short time living in Mexico City, he eventually moved to Cozumel for a better quality of life.
He began showing us his shops and all the merchandise he had for sale. As he went over the various items, I ask him more questions about his life.
He’s been living on the island of Cozumel for 35 years. His recent children were born there and he loves the island life, except for one thing; hurricanes. He’s lived through many hurricanes: Gilbert in 1988, Opal and Roxanne in 1995, and many others. He explained the process of having to board everything up. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get through the whole storm, unlike on the mainland. He explained his thankfulness that he lives in a house made with proper materials that are in the center of town. Sadly, there are many others who live on the perimeter of town whose houses are made of cardboard and straw roofs.
Mario opened up his own business 5 years ago. Since then, he’s grown from one shop to four, all within the same plaza. All his shops are owned and operated by various family members. Unfortunately, things took a turn in 2020. He had to close down his shops for about a year and a half due to the pandemic. He told us that things are slowly picking up now that cruises are running again, but the cruises only arrive about 50% full.
Out of gratitude to Mario for sharing his story, we began looking for something to purchase from him. As always, we were in search of handmade items. Although Mario doesn’t make any items himself, he does sell items that are handmade from various parts of Mexico. We ended up buying a little statute made with fishbones. He shared with us the process of how it was made.
Once we made our purchase the mission was over. When left that plaza and walked around a little more. We ended up going into the Carnival port area and saw how the shops there differed from the ones we had just come from. The ones inside the port are prim and proper. The ones outside of the enclosed port were built and manned by hard-working locals.
Satisfied that we got to hear another local's story, we grabbed our bikes and headed back home. The whole ride home I just sat there and processed everything that happened. Taking it all in.
Until next time... What could possibly be next?