Posted by: Kate | May 21, 2010

Meet the Vagabond

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While I was off adventuring in Alberta earlier, Robin got his hands on a 1981 Ford Van – A barely-driven, well-kept pop-top vehicle with only a couple of minute specks of rust. The interior bares extremely comfortable swiveling front seats, a foldout bed, a table, a small sink, lots of screen windows, a stinky fridge and a rectangular stove-top. All the windows except one side door have curtains for them. To top it all off, her colors remind me of our previous beloved road-tripping Toyota Van!

This thing throws heat really quickly, but it’s also got two tanks, and let me tell you, this thing is thirsty! While the van cost us 1,200$ and is exactly what we were looking for, the one downside is that it’s a monster when it comes to gas consumption. We are currently experimenting with different projects to make her her environmentally and wallet friendly.

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I took her for a spin the other day and she’s fantastic! Big and sturdy, this automatic shouldn’t be too difficult for me to drive around, except for the trailer we’ll be pulling around… More on THAT later!

I am so excited!! I absolutely love road trips, and this will be the first time that I road trip in something that has a fridge, a stove-top and an actual bed. The kitchen will be able to feed my cooking-healthy-food obsession, the seats will make for a super comfy ride, and the several windows will keep it looking nice and sunny inside. I still can’t believe how well kept and little driven this vehicle is. Again, the only real con is the lack of miles per gallon, but we’re working on that!

I’ve decided to start a New travel blog called Bohemian Vagabonds, you can stay tuned about our road trip there, but I’ll still be posting a bit about it here as well.

Posted by: Kate | April 19, 2010

The Beauty of Alberta

Wow. This 1 1/2 month solo trip through Alberta has been a fantastic experience. The people I met, the places I visited, the trails I hiked… It was all exactly what I had been searching for, and it was deeply satisfying.

I started in Edmonton, then went to Calgary for a week and a half, then made a short trip to Edmonton before making my way to Banff for a few days. Once back in Edmonton, I eventually made my way to Jasper where I spent a few days, before heading once again for Banff. A short trip to Calgary followed, finished by a couple of days of gathering my things in Edmonton before making my way back to Saskatchewan. I CouchSurfed the whole time I was in Alberta and either got rides from friends or hitchhiked to get around – Well, I bought a bus ticket once, after a blizzard hurrdled through and I needed to make my way back to Edmonton – 50$, ouch.

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There was so much beautiful mossy greenery around this Banff trail.

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A trail on the outskirts of Banff.

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The breath-taking yet non-photogenic scenery of trail 2A on the outskirts of Jasper.

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Happy as can be, climbing a tree in the depths of a Banff forest.

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The scenery from my beloved tree.

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The epicness of Mount Rundle, Banff.

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A spectacular view off the Hoodoos trail, with Mount Rundle and the Hoodoos in sight.

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To the right of the previous picture, more gorgeous scenery, with a beautiful storm in the distance. It was ridiculously windy up there.

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Near the peak of trail 2G by Jasper, one of its better, longer and not-as-trekked trails.

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I love scrambling! Not a smart thing to do when I’m out there alone without a first-aid kit though…

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Maligne lake. It was horribly cold there compared to the town and trails of Jasper.

Well as much as I would like to post more pictures, I don’t want to swamp you with them. It’s hard choosing, everything was just so beautiful! I didn’t want my adventure to end, but that’s alright, it never truly ended. Coming back to Saskatchewan makes space for my big cross-Canada road trip which will be starting before the end of May. Keep an eye out for my next post which will be dedicated to it, and our new road tripping van!

Posted by: Kate | February 18, 2010

Moving to Edmonton

I feel bad for not yet having written that big post with pictures I was planning on posting almost two months ago… But really, I do plan on writing it up eventually!

Nothing much has happened lately. Winter has been pretty tame since we came back. Right now I am getting ready to move to Edmonton for a short while, on a pursuit of happiness, soul searching, searching for challenges to better myself, that kind of thing. I plan on devoting myself to a gym, doing lots of volunteer work, attend green events and help bring awareness to people about the foods they eat.

In the meantime, Robin will be at his family’s in Saskatchewan working on various projects, keeping an eye out for that roadtrip we’re planning, and trying to help his family sell their house. We have yet to figure out what we’re going to do with the sailboat this summer – It’s too early to start making decisions.

So that’s that. I will keep updating my food blog UnReFiNeD http://nocrapdiet.wordpress.com but probably won’t update this blog unless some big news comes up.

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Some pictures of food I’ve created recently, including my latest creation – Vegan Fruitcake Muffins. I am really into the whole healthy-eating thing, maybe I *should* consider turning it into a career…

Posted by: Kate | December 30, 2009

Airports and Winter Wonderland

Sleeping at the Cancun airport really wasn’t that bad. We got there at 10pm and settled onto some seats with our luggage. Unfortunately, all seats are separated with a bar, but fortunately, we found a spot that was missing a bar and I camped there for the night, rotating positions by the hour, with Robin at my feet. We had our towels and a meter of flannel I bought to keep us warm. It got pretty chaotic around midnight as lots of planes arrived at the same time – Ottawa was dealing with freezing rain and there were lots of delays. But afterwards it was very quiet. I woke up at 5am, Robin slept in… We were never bothered by anyone.

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The biggest problem of course was eating our type of diet while stuck at an airport for 17 1/2 hours (We had planned to deal with it, but our flight got delayed 2 1/2 hours.). We ate a bunch of fruits (hadn’t passed security yet), lost our lentils & veggies to the heat, had oatmeal (rolled oats and cinnamon plus agave nectar for Robin) with some bananas that we mixed in one of our tubs – the most expensive thing was the hot water for it, at almost 1$ for each little styrofoam cup. We later found red apples at almost 1$ each past security. Beyond that and a tiny tray of 9$ papaya and melon, the rest was all fast food and candy bars.

Ottawa wasn’t too cold, we had missed the freezing rain and it was about -1 degrees when we arrived. The next day we got all our stuff from the boat without hassle, and the next morning we headed off to Saskatoon, arriving at almost noon. The weather had been hideously cold a couple of days before we arrived, but it’s been not bad since. I enjoyed Mexico, but it’s not like I was sad to come back. I like Canada, and I enjoy the snow. Well, I’ll be dealing with a whole bunch of it for the next few months! What felt strange was not coming back to the cold and the snow, but coming back to live at Robin’s family’s place. Things feel familiar yet not, and it’s exciting.

I’ll make a big post with pictures when I get the chance, and I’ll get Robin to post too. Until then!

Posted by: Kate | December 26, 2009

Flights

A quick update before we head for Cancun airport – Christmas was rather uneventful but pleasant for us here. We’ve got all of our stuff ready to head out to the ADO bus station. Our flight is at 1:35pm tomorrow, and we arrive in Ottawa at 6:35pm I think. We’ll spend the 28th gathering all of our things from our boat and head to Saskatoon at 7am the next morning, arriving in Saskatoon at 11am, I think. We may or may not be able to check our e-mails before we arrive back to Robin’s family’s place, so, Merry Holidays to everyone!

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Posted by: Kate | December 23, 2009

Christmas on the Beach, New Years in the Snow Drifts

My birthday was NOT the day I was hoping it would be. I’m not the type that usually celebrates my birthday or anything, but I was hoping to this time. Atleast I got to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas until the day after, but as for the rest… It was a grey cold day, which eventually turned rainy. The organic market had no corn, and the health food store had no rice milk for my two planned feasts. I celebrated my birthday mostly in bed, from a cold that suddenly surfaced from yesturday, after walking around in sandals when it was cold out. The house we stayed in was awesome, but always cold, and eventually all the cold and the strain of constant travel got to me. It quickly got worse and I felt horrible. I also got a headache as a bonus. Let’s call it the cherry on top of the cake. Robin suggests that I celebrated my birthday on another day… I am really considering that! Maybe one of these last December days, while we’re in Ontario or Saskatchewan.

Yes. That’s right. We’re going back to Canada! Yes, this is very sudden, and it cuts our vacation into half the length we planned for, but there are a couple of reasons: 1) We have a Plan A we’ve created that we are very serious and excited to do this Spring and Summer, and for it to work, or atleast be of decent ease to do, the sooner we return to Canada, the better. 2) We found some super cheap tickets back to Ottawa from Cancun. It seemed that the further west we planned to go, the pricier or atleast more difficult it would be to travel. We weighed our options and prices and decided to go ahead with Plan A. But we’re not telling you what it is yet! You can try to guess in the meantime ;P

So after a 12-hour drive through the mountains at night, we are back in Merida, and I’m now at the coughing stage of my sickness. Feeling quickly better, and by tomorrow I should feel good enough for the beach. We are going back to Tulum! Christmas with the beach at our toes and fresh coconuts at our reach. We will stay until the 26th, and head to Cancun for our flight the next day.

When I get back to Canada I plan on making a BIG post about Mexico and what it has to offer. Not now. Right now the mosquitoes are getting worse and worse as dusk creeps closer. Robin is currently catching some Zs since our ride to Tulum will be at 6:30 tomorrow morning. He’s happy to be back in warmer climate. But we’re both, again, eagerly waiting to leave Merida. We like the city, but have noticed that it’s very taxing on our body compared to all the other cities we have been to. I’d add some pictures to this post but this computer won’t allow it. Next time.

Posted by: Kate | December 17, 2009

Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas

Merida was great to visit, but the smog and earsplitting noise of all the vehicles, scooters and buses lacking upkeep quickly had us researching where we would go next.

We befriended a couple from South Korea and found out they were heading to Palenque, our next destination, so we decided to travel there together. Soon after, another girl from Korea who was staying at the same hostel as us joined our group. And so after 8 hours of failure of sleep during our night-time bus ride (384 pesos each, and a smart money-saver from spending on hotels for those who can easily sleep in vehicles), we arrived in Palenque at 6am, dark, cold, and raining. That didn’t stop us from seeing the ruins though. While everyone had breakfast at the bus station and waited for the sunrise, I scouted the area for hostels and hotels. Before arriving here I had done some research on the town of Palenque and was surprised by all the negative comments I read about it, but it’s really a nice little town, surrounded by beautiful lush vegetation. The main road was all mud and clay from construction in progress. The locals mostly kept to themselves. I enjoyed what little time I spent there.

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The ruins were amazing. That is, after you get past all the persistent tour guides and merchants, which you will find in the ruins area as well. (Collectivo: 10 pesos each, Park entrance: 22 pesos each, Ruins ticket 51 pesos each, and 15 pesos for 2 bags of stored luggage). I feel fortunate that I got the visit the ruins while it rained, not only because of the lack of tourists, but, I can’t describe it, is was just so beautiful and tranquil. For a while the rain was a mist, and the clouds slithered between the hills – I couldn’t help but think of Mushishi.

But the rain got heavier and heavier. We went ahead of the group in search of the museum but later realized that it was a very, very long walk through the forest, by waterfalls and some lesser known ruins. We hadn’t seen anyone in a long while, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and we were getting poured on. Suddenly, while climbing through a neat tunnel entrance from what seemed to be residential area ruins, we heard a loud sound, repetitive. I tell you, it sounded like a dinosaur, and Robin says it sounded like a jaguar, but a friend of ours later suggested that it might be a big black monkey. The museum was very interested and filled with beautiful artifacts, definitely helping us understand more about the ruins since we didn’t know much about them at first. We decided to take the road and walk back to the entrance of the ruins. We had really cheap raincoats on that we were happy to purchase at the entrance for about 15 pesos each but that didn’t stop our sleeves, shoes and pants from getting soaked. It was a fantastic walk back, and no picture could be as good as seeing it with our own eyes.

We split from the group as they headed to Oaxaca city, a 14 hour drive from Palenque, and stayed at a nice little hotel for 150 pesos total. We thought of staying a few days, but the rain was constant and it was said that it would go on for a couple more days, so the next morning we choked down some oatmeal after our late wakeup (and lack of a watch, which Robin lost in Merida), and took a 4 or so hour drive with the OCC bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, a very nausiating trip for some. The best thing to do is to just close your eyes. The worst thing to do is to look outside all the time. If you want the inbetween, watch the movies. But I couldn’t help but look out the window. It was s beautiful, and for the first time I got a good, quick look at little Mexican villages. Little homes scattered here and there, some held off cliffs with wooden planks and missing floor boards, free range chickens, and the villagers themselves, washing clothes, making food, trying to sell food and crafts by the street side. It was really interesting to watch the flora slowly change as we headed deeper into Chiapas. We stopped in a city called Ocosingo long enough for me to take a walk in the slanted city. Once we arrived at San Cristobal de las Casas, I fell in love.

It’s a combination of things. The cold air is familiar to me, and there is a wonderful air of seclusion from the rest of the world at almost 7000 feet up, nestled between the mountains. The architecture and streets are lovely (I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect, safe sidewalk in Mexico), decorated with bands of different-colored flags. The people are very friendly too, with lots of dreadheads and French-speaking travelers, many who have decided to call this city home. It’s a great experience to get out of the ¨city¨and head up the hills and meet those who live in little shacks. The markets are fabulous, and there is an excellent health food store and vegetarian restaurant downtown called Tierra Verde. When something is to be celebrated, it’s celebrated loudly! Horns, whistles, and lots and lots of fireworks. I have very sensitive ears so it’s tough on me, but it’s nice to see everyone so festive. Otherwise, people seem pretty relaxed here compared to other Mexican cities I’ve been to so far. What else? There are barely any mosquitoes. I really do love this city, it’s my favorite in Mexico as of yet, and I believe it’s the same for Robin too, but what he’s really hoping for is to climb some mountains. I’d totally be up to hiking up a mountain and spend a night up there, sleeping in our hammock and mosquito net, a bit of food and a pot for hot water, but we would FREEZE! It can get cold here, but not humid.

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We went to Chamula on an eventful Saturday after hearing many recommendations to visit the little town 10 minutes from San Cristobal, and we were disappointed. Three main reasons: 1) It was very touristy. 2) You had to pay and get a ticket to visit the church. Not only is this wrong, but it looked like the locals could get in free. A donation would be more appropriate. It’s not supposed to be a tourist sight. Anyway. 3) There are LOTS of beggars. I have no problem helping those who show that they truly need help and make an effort, but for those who go around from one person to the next asking for money got on our nerves, especially the persistent ones, and especially the persistent, incoherent, drunk ones. At one point I had bought a small cantaloupe and took a bite out of it while sitting near the market. It tasted poorly and I didn’t want to eat it. At that moment a young boy followed by others his age approached us, asking for money. After turning them down, I decided to give them my cantaloupe halves to two of them, who quickly dug their dirty fingers into them. Uh-Oh. Of course, suddenly we were surrounded, I don’t know, maybe 7 of them, grinning from ear to ear. So we moved onward. I saw this happen to others in a slightly different fashion. There really are a lot f beggars in Chamula. We made our way to the hills, very pretty and tranquil, and got to enjoy the scenery, but really, we don’t know what the big fuss is about Chamula.

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We’ve decided to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas until the day after my birthday. I will feast on organic corn on the cob, organic dried mango, my ABC pudding, baked potaotes with onions and carrots and garlic, my banana bites, and a walk up the hills to visit the locals! Then, who knows, we’re still working on that. We won’t be going to Oaxaca city since it’s expensive and a long drive to get there, not to mention supposedly very touristy, so we will head South and ride the coast Westward. Back to the beach with us! But San Cristobal de las Casas will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope to visit it again in the future.

Posted by: Kate | December 4, 2009

Culture Shock

We arrived in Merida on November 27th and have been here since. And I must say, it’s completely different from the northern cities of Quintana Roo – I feel like I’m in a completely different country! The people, the architecture, the prices, Everything is so different! The market is something to definitely not miss! The prices are really amazing and there are all kinds of produce, local dishes, clothing and anything else you can think of. But we find it to be very noisy and decently air polluted – I guess it’s because of the corridor-type streets. When we first got here, it was a little depressing feeling. All the streets, all the buildings looked the same – run down, about to go into ruins. But at night, the city comes to life! There are so many free activities, shows and museums to go to. The Anthropology Museum of the Mayas is not free, it costs 41 pesos to visit, but is worth it. Wonderful collections and information about the Mayas and their way of life. The little Maya women are sweet, and some of them have shown great interest in my dreads. Too bad I can only converse a bit with them because of the language barrier. I’ll discuss more about Merida another time, as I’m a little stressed for time right now.

We will be leaving for Palenque tonight, an 8 hour trip to Chiapas, finally. Robin is really looking forward to it. I think he wants to get out of the big cities much more than I do. We will visit the ruins and then make our way to San Cristobal De Las Casas. We made friends with a Korean couple at the hostel we’re staying at and will be traveling with them to Palenque. We’ve been staying at Sta. Lucia hostel and it’s been great. I feel more free when I’m at a hostel. Of course, it always seems that a third of the things in a hostel don’t work – The water regularly shuts off, sometimes there’s only cold water, the toilets don’t always flush, and amusingly enough, the ceiling is falling down on us. But it’s great. We’ve been paying 95 pesos per person per night and get breakfast, internet, and a bunch of movies we can watch, with a kitchen that has an oven and a blender!

We first couchsurfed for a couple of nights here, and went to a gruta with our host – It was Amazing! A gruta is basically a really big cave. I can’t remember the name of the one we went to, but it’s huge and not fully discovered yet. The Mayas hid there while the Spaniards came to try and conquer them. Our guide, after a tiny fee of 300 pesos for 5 people for the entrance and guide, explained to us (In Spanish, thankfully our host was our translator) the life of the Mayas in the caves. Truly amazing, and sometimes scary! I kid you not, sometimes the cracks we had to go through were so small, I felt I could barely fit through. For 4 1/2 hours we walked by stallactites, maya pottery and vampire bats, crawled vertically and horizontally through small cracks, and climbed over holes with ropes. When I get the chance, I’ll post pictures and the name of where we went. We drove around a lot to get to it but we were lost. I’ll make a guess and say it’s about an hour from Merida.

Guess what Robin bought today… A hammock! A high quality hammock made in Merida. We were directed to this great hammock store by a friend who knows where to get the best, and paid 420 pesos for a beautiful beige and turquoise double-size hammock with hanging ropes, all of high quality and extremely comfortable to sleep in. We can sleep 2 in it, which will come in handy for the places that don’t have beds for us to sleep in. Robin is so happy… and I’m really happy about the mosquito bed net I got! Again, I’ll post pictures when I get the chance.

There is so much to say… but so little time! Until next time!

Posted by: Kate | November 26, 2009

Coconuts and Whatnot…

Today was our last day at the beach, because tomorrow we’re headed to Merida! We bought 1st class tickets, a 4 hour ride through ADO, and it cost us 188 pesos each. 2nd class was about 1.40$ less, but it takes 10 hours to get there! We’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon and either going to a hostel or staying at a CouchSurfer’s place.

It was a fantastic day at the beach, and this time I went snorkeling on my own. I came across a turtle, but it got scared and quickly swam away. I saw a beautiful big colorful fish, mostly green with some red, yellow, orange, blue, purple… really stunning. Sometimes I’d get water in my snorkel, and sometimes I’d have to calm myself after worrying about how far away I was from the shore. It wasn’t a relaxing experience that’s for sure, but I was less scared than last time. I got crisped though… I seriously burned the top and right side of my right thigh… really badly. It had been previously aggravated by the sun, being a place that rarely sees the sun, and then it got cooked through the water while I was snorkeling and surfing the big waves (quite a crazy experience!), usually facing the same direction… Robin burned his left arm and shoulder, but he’s doing pretty well… with his machete!

Robin’s had an urge to buy a machete since we got to Mexico, and he finally bought one yesturday. We cut open 6 coconuts on the beach, all were loaded with delicious coconut milk, and 2 had lots of coconut meat that Robin ate as a delicacy. We sure got a bunch of stares, but it was a blast.

I had forgotten to mention in my previous post that a big reason why I don’t take that many pictures anymore is because I wouldn’t get to enjoy my environment as much… I’d be too busy trying to rush and grab a picture of something, then be frustrated that the camera wasn’t fast enough, and then realize that I had missed the whole thing with my own eyes.

I’d write more but we have to head back and go to bed soon. Buena noches!

Posted by: Kate | November 22, 2009

Tulum

On our way to Tulum, we came across Josh, a CSer that we had previously stayed with at a host’s place! It seems Playa del Carmen is a great place to come across other CSers by chance. It turned out that they were going to Tulum the next day, so we decided to wait until then to go with them. I had never hitch hiked before so Josh educated me, and we caught a ride soon afterwards. We were to meet up at the ruins or the beach but we got caught up in town, meeting up with our host in Tulum.

Tulum is a fun little city with beautiful beaches. And contrary to what most people will tell you, you CAN walk from town to the beach. It’s not a short walk, it takes about 50 minutes to an hour to get from the supermarket San Francisco de Asis to the beach taking the Tulum ruins path. We take this path and go to the Zazil Kin and El Paraiso beaches.

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Speaking of the ruins, they are quite a sight to see if you’re interested in archeological sites. At the moment it’s 51 pesos to enter (about 4.50$Can) It’s not the biggest, tallest sight, but they are right by the beach and you can swim there. Also, even if you don’t get a tour guide, you can get snippets of information while walking around. Mind where you step though, as there are many lizards around! I stopped for a while to eat a banana, and a gorgeous lizard laying nearby caught a wiff of it and came right over to investigate. He circled me, searching for the delicious grub he was smelling, and took a bite out of my banana. I never feed animals I come across, but he came right for it and surprised me! I let him take another small bite and he ran away with a third of my banana!

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It’s hard to enjoy a sight like that with hundreds of other people around you though, taking thousands of pictures and smoking big cigars. I can’t expect to see the place all to myself, but I enjoyed visiting the ruins and learning about how they arranged the locations of the buildings to work with the equinox and the changing of the seasons.

But back to the thousands of pictures being taken… I used to take lots of pictures until I felt them losing any significance I thought they might have when I’d think about the thousands of people who had taken the same pictures, only in slightly different angles and with somewhat different weather. I find that if I spend all my time trying to take pictures of everything, I can’t really enjoy the environment. I really noticed that in the past sometimes, so I refrain from snapping pictures of everything and enjoy it fully with my own eyes, in real time.

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See that in the sky?

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Yes, the beach! The first day we went it was mostly cloudy, and very windy. Yesturday we fully got to enjoy the sun, the blue sky, the small breeze, the calm sea, the picnic, and the sunburns! We left early after having some oatmeal, walked all the way by taking the ruins road, went swimming, tanned, ate guacamole with crackers, rice and beans, and a bunch of fruit, watched the beach crabs dig their holes, and we went snorkeling! I was scared at first but have been forcing the fear away. I still have to work on trusting my snorkel, it feels very unnatural, but I eventually got the courage to go way out with Robin and swim with the fish! The coral reefs were beautiful and we got to see all kinds of fish. We were out there for a long time. We later walked on the cliff off the end of the beach (we were at Zazil Kin and Paraiso) and came back at dusk, passing by vehicles parked on the beach playing Bob Marley, how much better could it get! I wanted to play ball at the volleyball court but we were too burnt to go.

Robin still can’t get over the size of the aguacates (avocados). He says the flavor isn’t as intense as the smaller onces, but they are generally cheaper. Fruits and vegetables aren’t cheap around here, especially Tulum. I can’t wait for the open markets in Merida and Chiapas.

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While in Playa del Carmen we came across a tourist store infront of a neat reggae resto bar that sold Kariza designs, basically two pieces of fabric with a long strap that can be worn as a dress, skirt and shirt. My eyes caught one that reminded me of sakura blossums and I fell in love with it, but I knew I couldn’t get it at the price of 360 or so pesos. Even if I haggled, it would be more than I allow myself for clothing.

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We found another awesome store that sold a variety of shell lamps – Shells with wire coiled around them, hanging as a ceiling light, or little plugin light shells. They were so beautiful and created a wonderful aura in the store. I’ve yet to go to a beach and collect shells and rocks.

We will stay in Tulum for a couple more days, then head back to Cancun to go to Merida with some friends next weekend. We plan on staying there for about a week.

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