There was absolutely nobody about the hostel. I made a beeline to the computer room, but it was locked and the sign said it opened at 8 am. Ok, so its not quite 8 am. There was a little security guard hanging about - I asked him what time it was. He replied in spanish and it didn't make sense, but it was early and my spanish counting skills still aren't great. So, he showed me his watch.
It was 5:30 am.
I haven't voluntarily gotten out of bed at 5:30 since, well, ever! Jeezus. Three hours until the computer room opened up! Hours and hours and hours until my roommates woke up. Holy hell. And I was absolutely, 100% awake. There was no going back to bed. Why can't that happen here at home?!
So, I grabbed my camera from the room (quietly, I hoped) and took off for a morning stroll. The town made so much more sense in the daylight! The hostel is actually located right on a beach - not the best beach in town, but a beach nonetheless. I walked along their ocean walkway, sat for a little while, explored the rocks looking for critters, took some pictures... It was still really early when a man, likely in his mid-twenties or so, approached. He was wearing a backpacking backpack and looked a bit rough - like maybe he had spent the night sleeping on the beach. He tried to make conversation with me, which was a disaster. I got my spanish phrasebook out, but that didn't really help. I struggled for a little bit, he laughed at me. Eventually, he asked me, and I swear to god I am not making this up "You want romance?"
Its 6:30 in the morning. How do I respond to that?! Now I felt just a little unsafe. There really weren't many people around, I didn't have a phone, KF was still asleep... I laughed and told him no. I think he asked why. I know I told him that "boys are stupid." I think he agreed. But he wouldn't go away. He definitely overstayed his welcome. Eventually, he said, in English "you want to be alone?" And I said "Si! Gracias!" And he left.
In retrospect, he was kinda cute. And foreign. He might have been Italian. He didn't smell bad. Perhaps I should have taken him right then and there, on the rocky beach.
He left, and I decided it would be safest if I would head back to the hostel and chill until everyone else was up. I sat in a hammock for a little while and read. It was nice, but I was ready to DO something!! At 8, "continental breakfast" was served. Not bad, right? $8.50/night for a bed AND breakfast? Yeah, well, free breakfast consisted of instant coffee or tea and two (two only!) pieces of white bread. Oh yes, you could put jelly on it for extra nutrition.
Seriously, it was like county jail! People standing in line to receive their ration of white bread and water. I ate it though, because I was starving, but the thing is, it just left me hungrier. I prayed that the coffee was made with filtered water, but didn't ask. I really didn't care. I needed coffee. I had already been awake for three hours!!
Eventually, we set off for the beach. It was a lovely day, and Moon told us that the best beach in town was just 3 blocks from the hostel. I got some bottled water, slathered up with lotion and we just sat, basking in the warm, warm sun for several hours. But by noon, it was HOT. And we were HUNGRY. And the fun of the beach had about worn off, so we went in search of food and found a great little loncheria.
Just like every other outdoor restaurant we came upon in Mexico, the tables and chairs were Coca-Cola issued red plastic patio furniture. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but as the trip progressed, not once did I see white patio furniture. All red. All Coca-cola.
I bucked the system and ordered a beer. AH! Beer with lunch! Yay vacation. Ate tostadas, but had to pick the lettuce off because we had been warned that eating lettuce was as bad for gringos as drinking the water. I was so sad - my little intestines wanted the roughage. But the food was WAY better than the food we had had the night before on gringo boulevard and still was some of the best food we had on the entire trip.
Unfortunately, after two beers, I had to pee. Using one of the three spanish phrases I know, I asked where the bathrooms were and was directed to the market next store. I wandered around, saw guys making tortillas on a machine, lots and lots of lovely mangoes and bananas, and the locked bathroom that said 5 pesos.
Seriously? A pay to pee bathroom? I hadn't expected that and I had no money on me, so I had to walk back to the table, get pesos and come back. I was issued some toilet paper from a guy who I wouldn't have chosen to handle my toilet paper right before I used it, and went into a grubby little room. Once again, there was no toilet seat. There was no toilet seat at the ferry terminal, or the bus terminal. And I think I only encountered public toilet seats once or twice over the next 10 days. Why no toilet seats? Can anyone tell me? I felt kinda ripped off - I mean, 5 pesos should have covered the cost of a toilet seat and some hand soap.
After that, we just wandered around for a while. I needed to find sunscreen (damn you, TSA!), KF needed a phone card. Isla Mujeres is a really cute place and I really felt comfortable there. Yes, there was touristy crap, but there was still real life going on. Fisherman bringing in and selling their catches, kids going to school, entire families scooting around on single moped...
The island is about 5 miles long, and skinny. Moon told us that the best way to see it was to rent bikes, or a golf cart. It was waaaay too hot to rent bikes, so we rented a golf cart for two hours and buzzed around the island. We went to the sea turtle sanctuary, and through a couple other little towns. Yeah, it was more expensive than maybe it should have been, but we paid cash, so it was in the budget.
We had to move rooms when we got back to the hostel. Don't ask me why, and the fairly unhelpful person behind the desk couldn't really tell us, so goodbye hole in the wall, hello bunk bed in the room next to the ping pong table. I did not like our new room at all. It was really hot, there was a skinny dark bald guy asleep in one of the beds (he looked menacing, even asleep), and the only bunks available were to top ones. And the bunk beds looked really, really rickety. Sinking feeling again, but what are you going to do?
Suck it up and move on.
We decided to go on a eco-tour the next day - snorkeling and then hiking at Isla Contoy, a tiny protected island park 13 miles or so from Isla Mujeres. Breakfast and lunch provided; we would be taken care of all day, shown the sights. We were really quite happy about that.
So, even though the room was loud and hot, we managed to get a good night's sleep and get up ready to go the next morning. Too bad for us that there was a small craft advisory and Captain Tony cancelled our trip.
We were really sad. I really wanted to go see the Mexican birdlife. And sealife. And be taken care of. We weren't really quite sure what to do with ourselves all day. We had seen just about everything on the island worth seeing and it was SO windy that even laying on the beach for another day wasn't really the most appealing thought. So, we sat on the beach for a little while and decided to get ourselves off the island and to our next destination. We packed up, said goodbye to our roommates (the dark scary guy was actually very nice once he woke up), had another lovely lunch at the loncheria (I ate the lettuce that time. Screw it). We caught the 1:00 ferry back to Cancun, easily negotiated public transit back to the bus station and bought our tickets to Merida.
I think Isla Mujeres was my favorite part of the trip. If we had unlimited time, I would have liked to stay another couple days and see Isla Contoy and bike to the ruins at the very southern end, but we had so many places on the list to get to in such a short period of time that sticking around and wasting time hoping for the weather to clear seemed silly. And after my initial reaction to Poc-Na, I was almost sad to leave it. The people were so friendly, and had been to so many interesting places. And, believe it or not, I was not the oldest person there, by far! There were several people in my age range hanging around, and several retirees. Retirees!! I hope that when I retire, I'm still cool enough to chill at a beach front hostel.
Next up; what we did in Merida, where it was SO BLOODY HOT I could hardly stand it....