the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (leaving NZ) - fast forward to the following trip (havana, cuba)
Day 2 - Time to hoof it over to Cancun, starting in LA
At an un godly hour - the alarms started screeming. Yes, The Hoofs alarms, there were three of them to ensure we got up at 3:55AM. Who new unemployed people would get up that early. Then it was back to my favourite airport in the world - good ol' LAX! Must say that this time it was quite efficient and sppedy, cause that could be in large part because it was 5am. Either way, a reasonably pleasent airport experience.
To add another airport onto our list of visits - we hubbed through Houston and then down to Cancun.
Cancun airport experience was like something I have never seen or experienced before... and I've been through a few airports - large and small, developed and underdeveloped. When we first came off the plane we were lulled into a false sense of organisation and comfort, walking straight into the lounge and duty free area. Nice, spacious and not crowded. One flight of stairs and it all changed. People, more people, cues with no direction. Immigration was packed - but there were cues. Long cues, we were about 20th in the cue... but that's okay - there was some airconditioning so the sweet didn't bead up immediately. So through customs we went and hit baggage claim and the mess of cues to go through customs xrays - note they were all in the same room. Now imagine a room built to service a small tourist town. Then shove in it the number of people who would be travelling to the "premier" tourist destination in Mexico. The cues went from the xrays to the baggage carousels, around the baggage carousels, over the carousels - I reakon there were a few people hiding under the carousels. Coming through customs we stood beside carousel #1 - but we needed to get to #5. Through the mess of people who looked less organised the a bowl of spagetti bolognese. After some crowd surfing, and climbing over carousels we made it to where the bags were. Then tried to join the spagetti cues. Luckily for us just were we joined was the xray for "families with small children". I tried to claim Hoofy was a small child but to no avail. However they then opened it up and with some tactical use of elbows we got through in record time. I think some may still be back there hiding under carousels.
Then there is the hotel. Now we are not weathy travellers, we have a tight budget with everything bought online based on a highly scientific formula of cost, tripadvisor, pictures, gut feel and a hell of a lot of luck. Up to this stage we were 1 good deal out of 1 hotel. How was Dos Playas going to perform? After travelling past some magnificent resorts, a few dodge ones and a few abandoned/hurricane damages one - we got to the pride of the 70's - Dos Playas. Its not a magnificent beautiful resort, but hey, The Hoof wasn't expecting that. It's got a smallish pool, a bar, and a bed which is comfortable. And it doesn't smell like someone couldn't get to their room in time on a late Friday night.
Needless to say Hoofy was keen to get out and look around.
Hoofy checking out the view, and keeping an eye on the security guards.
Time to check out the local sights and sort out some grub. After jumping on a "locals bus" we rode down to the party zone of Cancun. After a long day we weren't feeling overly adventurous so wondered round a while politely declining the millions of offers of food, wares, and the "best party in town". Living life on the edge we rocked up to the Hard Rock Cafe - feeling like a burger. Hoofy was initially nervious but we promised to protect him from the chefs.
After the fried stuff at the Hard Rock we decided to give the bus a swerve and walk home. 45 minutes later we finally got back to the hotel and pretty much crashed out - aware of another early morning tomorrow.
Day 3 - Chichen Itza
Those damn alarms, not again. A little later (6:45am) but certainly not the unemployed time I was hoping for. Well we had a special trip to go on today. One of the reasons we decided to go to Cancun, other than the tons of american chicks here partying it up (damn it, I thought spring break was still on! Few hot chicks left, mostly older chicks who really shouldn't be wearing that bikini with sarong... bucket!), was that thee Mayan culture and civilisation is facinating and Hoofy was damn excited about climbing some pyramids. For those of you who don't know, Chichen Itza was the centre of the Mayan civilisation from early on until around 1300AD - when the city was abandoned. Although it is readily debated whether despite being abandoned it is still the cultural centre for these people - as recently as 1540 the then governor of the region considered making Chichen Itza the capital. Enough of the history lesson, that's for another day. But check out the main pyramid or temple (strictly speaking its not a pyramid because it has a flat top but anyways).
This thing is amazing, the symbolism + the architechural skill to create it is unbelievable for the time. The staircase is tapered to be narrower at the top than the bottom, the meant that when the high priest was up the top speaking (given he doesn't have a PA system) his voice was carried and amplified by the staircase. Pretty cool huh! There are a thousand more amazing points about this but I will leave you with one more, the stairs symolise the days of the year. There are 91 stairs on four staircases. Now the maths wizz's of you have probably already said in your head "but there are 365 days in the year, not 364 which is what 91 X 4 add to. You would be correct - there is a single step into the temple at the top - therefore 365.
Naturally Hoofy was pretty excited, being a geek on historical civilisations.
There is much to tell about Chichen Itza beyond this main temple. But instead of rambling on here are a few more sights which the Hoof, Hoof'ess and Hoofy thought were pretty damn amazing.
In the backgound pocking up above the trees is a building called "The Group of the Nuns"
And The Hoof decided to go inside for a look around - unfortunately no Iguana's to case out and scare the Hoof'ess
So then we had a the pleasant 2.5 hour trip back to Cancun on a comfy ol' bus. Rather than take the bus back to the hotel we bailed in the Cancun party area, same one as yesterday and pulled up a seat at the Taco Factory for dinner. Not bad for cheap mexican food - after a few tortillas with some questionable sauces we decided to make the hike back on foot. No worries 40 minutes later we were back at the hotel. With all this walking by the time I get to the UK either the Hoof's already impressive thighs will be monsters, or they will have faded away to be normal human thighs.
Day 4 - Chilled Hoof
After a few days of running around it was time to take a chill pill. A bit of air conditioned shopping, on the hunt for an internet cafe to up load the latest onto hoofdakker.com and check emails. Pretty uneventful morning all in all, found a wireless cafe and did the required tasks. Then back to the resort for some sun worshipping.
Leigh and Hoofy were enjoying the sun, and Hoofy was certainly enjoying his resting spot. I better keep an eye on him.
Bit of book reading, magazines, some music. Not a bad life, now this seems more like what a pair of unemployed travellers would be doing. Except we had to keep a close eye on the womenising Hoofy. Every few minutes his tail would start wagging furiously as another topless chick strolled past. He kept racing to the camera but the Hoof'ess was always too quick. Sorry guys, no evidence was obtained.
The area of Cancun is impressive. I haven't talked much about it yet as we really haven't had the time to observe. The place seems to be in the middle of a massive construction boom with at least 10 major resorts under construction, and down the south end where there is more room there are 3 or 4 massive housing estates being developed. But the contrast is that there are at least 4 resorts which look abandoned, damaged perhaps by last years hurricane but no work happening. Its almost like the know how to build structures but don't get around to finishing them - fitting out the resorts or furnishing them. On saying that there are some bloody impressive resorts around - just to note, ours is not among them.
This looks out to the far point of the island of Cancun - prime location with some massive resorts.
Day 5 - Coba
Two days ago Team Hoof had ventured out to Chichen Itza, a very well beaten track full of tourists. Today was about going to a more remote location, out into the jungle to visit a Mayan village and go to the tallest Mayan temple in the area - a less visited temple in the ruins called Coba. Another early start for a 7:30am departure by van (no buses on this trip). Out into the jungle, about an hours drive and we reach a village where we exit the vehicle. We were heading to a sink hole which translates to "Frogs Mouth" - a sacred place revered by the local Mayan village. This is there source of water and therefore life for them. To get there we had to first paddle across a lagoon - onto canoes we went. Traditional canoes made of plastic... a more recent addition to the Mayan transport options. Given the Hoof'ess can't swim there was some hesitency but there was no choice - it was the only way to get there.
Hoof'ess was on the front - and didn't appreciate the rocking of the boat that Hoof did.
After the paddle the hiking began and the guide proceeded to tell us about the wildlife that is around. Nothing major as most of the wildlife is nocturnal. He started with the butterflys and catapillers - big mothers they were. The catapillers looked more like small brighly coloured snakes. This made the Hoof'ess uneasy but it got better. Spider Monkeys may be up in the trees and there are plenty of birds around. Oh, and there were crocodiles back in the lagoon we just paddled through. First thought after that piece of information was given was "how the hell are we going to get the Hoof'ess back to the vehicle". Then there are the snakes, puma's, boar's and iguana's. My favourite was that one of the snakes is called "Four Steps" by the Mayan's. Why, because it is so venamous that four steps is as far as you're gonna get. Now the brave Hoof was not too concerned with dreams of "Crocodile Dundee" racing through my head, but the Hoof'ess was certainly more on edge. Especially soon after when there was a load crash about 10 metres to our left in the middle of the jungle. Sounded like a boar crashing through the trees. So while Hoof'ess jumped behind the Hoof, I quickly got the camera out just in case it came our way. Needless to say nothing more happened and we were left wondering what it was.
We then got to the sink hole, a small cave entrance which we entered and then opened up into a huge cavern with the river flowing through it. This was one of 4000 sink holes across the Yucantan Peninsula and are the source of water for the Mayans. We all jumped in for a swim (except for the Hoof'ess), this must have been the most refreshing swim I have ever had. It was truly sensational - cool water after almost melting on the walk.
It was dark with only a couple of lights around - but the Hoof enjoyed the swimming break, after a diving bomb or two.
After swimming in their sacred pool a Mayan elder performed a little cermony to cleanse our souls and protect us. Then we were off again, back to the van and off to another sink hole, this one was also dried up and has collapsed so is not enclosed, but literally a big hole in the ground, probably about 100 mitres radius. We rapelled down into the sink whole - about a 30 metre drop. Now it wasn't a nice vertical slop, but had a nice wee negative slope in it.
The Hoof'ess was all prepared to go down - but at the last second chicked out - it was just too much of this land based mammal.
However the Hoof went down with a vengence - but he had the camera so no evidence! We then climbed up the far wall and zip lined it back to the start. Great fun!
Finally it was time to have lunch with the locals, a good Mayan buffet. Black beans, rice, chicken and soft tortillas. Went down like a treat - knowing the reason why we came on this trip was still to come. The areas biggest stair master - the tallest temple in the area with 194 stairs. Double the height of Chichen Itza.
5 star restaurant ala Maya.
Then off again to Coba. Needless to say Hoofy was loving this trip.
And he got to ride in the back seat - causing mischief as usual.
After some more driving in the 4WD van we finally got to Coba - an archilogical site which has not been cleared out like Chichen Itza. It is still essentially jungle with the temples and buildings themselves cleared of. After walking through some of the other buildings and hearing more history and information than you could shake a cow at we decided it was time to work on our butt muscles. I'll give the history lesson later. So off to the 190+ step monster. Unfortuntely it was 1.8km from the entrace area so a fair hike. No worries to the Hoof and Hoof'ess - all this will be doing wonders for the Hoofs thighs.
Then we turned the final corner.
Holy crap that's tall - even four hoofs weren't going to make this climb easy. Refer to the people for height!
We climbed the 194 steps to the top and it was no easy feat. These weren't your normal house steps, each one was about knee height and narrow. The idea back in 800AD was that it was difficult for the ordinary or working class to climb - increasing the impression that the high priest was above them and closer to the Gods. I should also note that this was the hottest day we've had here, few clouds and climbing in full sun. But the view was amazing, if anyone heads this way you've got to climb this one - before they close it of course. Once upon a time you could climb Chichen Itza but the volume of tourists has stopped this. Do it now!
The Hoofs on top of the world!
The jungle just seemed to stretch out like a very expensive carpet. Sensational. Being up there for about 15 minutes we could see how the High Priest would feel like he was king of the world - one step from the gods. The one down side, no shade. It was also one step from the sun and I was melting like an iceblock on hot day. So down we went. I definitely have a suggestion for the temple - they should build a waterslide off the back, a great way to get down and cool down at the same time!
Bloody steep is all I can say.
Now for a comment on Mexican drivers. Crazy. They definitely beat my driving. Although at the same time Mexican drivers are also very courteous and if there is a vehicle coming the other way in the middle of a rediculous passing manouver, the oncoming driver pulls as far over as they can. It provided a great rollercoaster end to the day - not sure if the Hoof'ess enjoyed it in quite the same way!
Day 6 - Chilling again
Hoof'ess mission on day 6 was to get rid of her PermaSunglasses and shorts. Mind you the Hoof's permaboardies needed work. As well as more work on hoofdakker.com. Can't deny my faithful groupies the latest news. So while lounging in the sun I've been typing away - with the "occassional" boobie distraction. Where is that damn camera. More info on today will have to come later as its time to put the laptop away and go for a swim.
Fast forward to the evening, and being Friday night we headed into town. Starting with dinner at a classy establishment called "Mexitreme" - good Nacho's followed by some equally good Beef and Chicken Fajitas, not knowing what was in store in Cuba we ate well. Then we headed to Carlo's and Charlie's, a bar we'd eyed up the night before and seemed to be the most lively place on the strip. Best description was that it's a retro American College Themed Bar - but that doesn't do this place justice. This was the best bar experience I think I've ever had - its was side splitting, rib ticking hilarity.
One image of the inside of Carlos and Charlie's - even had a clown doing the Macarena
The staff were not waiters, but entertainers in themselves - jumping onto tables periodically to dance with certain songs, and others were running round doing tequila laybacks for anyone and everyone they could convince. After a few beers, and a few laybacks the Hoof was certainly enjoying himself, especially as a chick at the next table decided to do a strip tease for her boyfriend right next to us. The strip tease was relatively entertaining in itself, but the funniest part were three dirty ol' perverted men at the bar who'd left their wifes, or women behind to enjoy a "blokes night's". They weren't as subtle as the Hoof at enjoying the show, no they got camera's out, first taking photo's from where they sat and then one decided to walk around our table to get a front on picture! All the Hoof'ess could say was "ewwww, gross".
Early on in the evening the Hoof's were still fairly coherent.
Then the clown came by and gave the Hoof'ess a little doggie... awwww, how cute.
While the Hoof got a light sabre - other women in the bar were suitably impressed with the Hoof's large sabre. Needless to say a few more beers and tequila had been consumed... with more to come.
As we began the 40 min walk home (damn cheap dutchmen), the Hoof'ess spotted a souvener shop and she went off to do a little drunken shopping. No longer is there room for her clothes in her pack! Then we bailed, decided we couldn't be arsed walking and took the bus, which then almost flew past our stop except for some yelling and jumping by the Hoof at the last minute.
Day 7 - Flying Hoof
Our flight to Cuba was in early afternoon, so headed to the airport at about 11AM on a shuttle service. The shuttle started off fine, went past a few hotels to pick up more flyers... no problem. Then we drove a bit further and stopped at the last hotel. The shuttle guy went to the door man and no sign of the last pick up. 5 minutes, nothing. Finally these 2 American's came wondering up talking like the volume on the TV was at max and the show was Jerry Springer. Complaining about some story of how their rental car was stolen with the wallets and phones. Don't know what this had to do with the shuttle but anyway. Then they got in and started to tell everyone about their story, but not in English. In some warped version of American which I struggled to understand - characterised by large squarky laughs at their own jokes, and clapping like they do on Oprah when they are really happy with themselves - there was a lot of thigh slapping going on! All we wanted to do was get out before they perforated an eardrum.
Cancun airport is just too damn small, like at our arrival there were queues everywhere - and little organisation. To compound the mess, they had extra screening on for US flights due to the British plane plot having just being discovered. While it sounds wierd to say it, flying to Cuba rather than the States was a blessing, while the security screening queue for the US snaked halfway round the airport, the queue was non-existent for non-US flights. Our run through security took 1 minute. The irony is that there was no segregation of flights so as soon as we got to the other side we could have passed anything to the US passengers, didn't make a whole lot of sense really.
After a small delay we finally got on our bus which took us out to our plane. Approaching a 737 Mexicana plane the Hoof'ess, who does not fly well and definitely prefers larger planes, felt relieved and she stated "I'm relieved its a Boeing, not something like a Fokker". We watched as the bus sailed past the 737 and turned towards a much smaller plane, one which the Hoof'ess did not recognise and was not impressed by. After sitting down in our seats which had a surprising amount of leg room we pulled out the emergency instruction card which clearly stated "Welcome to the Fokker 100". Damn, now that's irony.
Over to Cuba