Sorry for the delay in new blog posts! We’ve been hard at working trying to find a new job (in my case) or be awesome at the job we have (Rob’s case) which sadly has not left much time for adventures! We’re doing what we can to line up some excitement soon though – suggestions always welcome – and in the meantime I thought I’d give you a sneak peak of how I’m spending my days now that I’m temporarily without employment.
You’ll be pleased to know that I’m not just sitting on my butt watching Netflix, especially now that the weather is getting nice and hot! The temperature is hovering around 25°C – 30°C with the lack of humidity making it feel extra toasty 🙂 Because of this the last few weeks have actually been a fun mix of house cleaning, long awaited task doing and getting out and about.
My day today started very nicely with brunch with some lady friends at a restaurant in town called Avogadro’s Number, which is located near the University:
As well as having a great name Avogadro’s has a very nice sheltered back patio so that you can enjoy your food out in the sun without getting burnt.
The food was super tasty, I had a vegetarian lasagna and a large coffee both of which I snaffled right down. We talked, we hung out, we caffeinated – solid way to start a day!
After brunch I spend some time back at home doing boring grown up things:
I wouldn’t say our house is spotless by a long spot, but at least it’s a little cleaner that it was this morning!
I’m also babysitting some guinea pigs for our friend for a few days, so I made sure to feed those chubby little guys:
The feeding was then of course closely followed by snuggles with the tiny friends, and letting them work off some of that chub by running around the apartment.
After that I went over to another friends house for an excellent afternoon of video games! We sold our game console before moving over here so it’s been about a year and a half since I’ve even touched an Xbox, and my goodness it felt great to break that streak.
We rocked out playing Call of Duty Black Ops 3, the latest in a series which is partly famous for it’s ‘Nazi Zombies’ side game. Yes, that’s what it sounds like – you get to shoot Nazi Zombies while running around trying not to get eaten. I think the idea is that you’re doubly justified in shooting them, which may or may not be how morality works. Either way, it’s truly magical:
I should take a minute here to mention some good news – I have successfully lined up a new job! Not just a new job – an EXCELLENT job 🙂 🙂
I’m going to be working for a company called Penton who basically do marketing for marketeers, so gathering lots of data on the industries that they may need, and then putting together reports based on that. My job will be to make sure that the relevant part of that data is organized and accessible, which I know sounds a little dull to the layman but to a spreadsheet nerd like me it’s a dream come true 😉
As a bonus the team look completely awesome, and they have a history of celebrating all major holidays with bring-your-dog-to-the-office-in-fancy-dress competitions. I’ve suggested to Rob that this means that we need to get a puppy of our own, but he remains unconvinced.
We love Colorado, it’s all kinds of awesome and all kinds of crazy as anybody who has come to visit us can attest. This is perfectly exemplified by the weather over the last week.
On Wednesday it was 70 F (21 C) and Cat managed to get sunburnt hanging out with friends at a pool. For some reason, she wouldn’t let me take photographs of her all red, but here is a dramatic reenactment of what happened:
Getting sunburnt in May is not out of the ordinary, however it looks kind of strange when it snowed heavily for the next two days.
This was actually quite a big problem at the University as the snow was unusually wet (for Colorado), meaning loads of tree branches were falling under the weight. They even closed the university for the afternoon which is pretty unusual for a city as used to snow as Fort Collins.
Fortunately, I managed to convince my work colleagues to come join me for a snowball fight before the university was closed. This was particularly fun seeing as a) I haven’t had a good snowball fight since I moved here, because b) the snow here is usually too dry to make good snowballs (but it was unusually humid last week), and c) a few of my work colleagues from dryer climates (e.g. Brazil and Thialand) had not seen a lot of snow and had only had 1 snowball fight in their life, and with rubbish dry snow.
Needless to say, we had a great time, even Cody (the guy taking this picture who got pelted 5 seconds afterwards), and notice the big tree branches freshly fallen behind us. We even managed to pelt our bosses window with some snowballs to let him know we were working hard on our experiments, thank you and sorry Chuck! At least we wore safety glasses…
If you are reading this from England, don’t feel too jealous of our fun weather and take solace in the fact it is at least warmer in England today that Fort Collins.
As you know we’re loving life here in Fort Collins, and Fort Collins is an amazing town. While here we’re trying to enjoy as much of the local experience as possible, and so we decided to give one of the major past-times a try – home brewing! Despite the fact that there are an insane number of local breweries lots of people also try their hand at brewing their own beer, as well as the occasional wine/ moonshine.
First things first, we had to buy the equipment. Not much is needed for home brewing since there are really just two main steps – boil it all up and then leave it to sit for a while 🙂 For the boiling we just needed to buy a large enough pot, and a thermometer to monitor everything; For the fermenting we needed a storage container, an airlock and a second thermometer. Finally, a siphon to move the beer between containers and sanitizer to keep everything nice and clean. Generally people make beer in five gallon batches, although we decided to just do little one gallon batches to start with. This is quicker so it lets us do more experimentation and means that we’re not spending lots of money on ingredients if our beer is going to taste weird 😉
This brings us to part two – buying the ingredients! Again, this is fairly straightforward. To make beer you need malt extract (or grain, if you’re feeling fancy), hops, yeast and water. We started off nice and easy using malt extract, which meant that we could skip the whole business of extracting malt extract directly from the grain. Don’t worry though, we have given that a go since.
And now for the hard part – actually making the beer! First things first, get a pot of water and get it boiling. While doing this you want to weight out your malt extract, which is kind of like treacle in consistency:
Mix that into the boiling water, and make sure everything is nicely blended. This then boils away for an hour, and you add hops throughout the boil depending on what kind of flavor you’re going for. For this recipe, which is an Amber Ale, we need to add hops right at the start and then some more right at the end:
I wish I could somehow convey the smell of the hops through this blog, because they smell amazing. This made up for the fact that the hops look very much like rabbit pellets…
Once we’d thrown a few hops into the mixture and got the thermometer set up (all of which made my inner Chemist very happy) we left it to boil away for a little while:
We start off with about two gallons of liquid boiling away, and this boils down to just one gallon over the hour. Once it’s all boiled down you throw in the rest of the hops, give it another five minutes and then move the whole thing over to some ice water to cool right down:
It’s kind of hard to see in the picture but the resulting liquid is now pretty cloudy and not looking that great. This is why you need to be careful while filtering, to make sure you don’t end up with an overly chewy beer…
Whilst the beer is filtering you get to sanitize everything else that is going to be used, since you definitely want to avoid getting any foreign bacteria in the mixture. These will result in a bad tasting final result, and if you’re very unlucky the extra gas production may cause the whole thing to explode. Not ideal in a rented apartment, so we sanitized hard! After that we siphoned the beer over to the container…
We then checked the alcohol content to make sure that we weren’t going to accidentally blind ourselves, and continued to cool the whole thing:
The beer really needs to be kept below about 25oC while fermenting so that the yeast doesn’t die, which is not that easy when the ambient temperature is 30oC…
Once the beer finally cooled down we put the airlock in and left it, and it now needs to sit in the dark for a few weeks to figure itself out! After two weeks fermenting we take the airlock out and replace it with a seal so that the beer can carbonate, and voila.
Fingers crossed we get a tasty final result, so watch this space!
We’ve been very lucky that during our time in the States we’ve gotten to see some really amazing places, and some places that are truly unique. Casa Bonita was both, but also somehow a total mess… There really aren’t the words to describe the experience, but nonetheless we will do our best!
For those who don’t know Casa Bonita is a Mexican Restaurant for families near Denver that was made famous after it featured in an episode of South Park. It was already quite well known (for reasons that will become clear) but the South Park episode was extremely funny and portrayed it as a place of true lunacy. We’d been meaning to go for a while, despite the fact that the food is widely regarded as some of the worst in Colorado, so we mentioned it to Pete and Jonno who were both very excited to find out that it was a real place.
It does. It exists.
As you can imagine we did not have a lot of trouble spotting it from the road, and we were impressed right away!
We’d read a little about Casa Bonita before going, and the first thing that was surprising was the capacity. Casa Bonita seats over 1000 people at once, and the entrance to Casa Bonita is not unlike a theme park. We walked a little way to the first till, and placed an order for our meal. We then walked even further in order to pick up our meal, and then carried that over to a server who told us where to sit. Strangely the advice we’d been given from friends was to avoid actually eating anything that you ordered, and to instead just consider it the price of entry into Casa Bonita. If we absolutely did want to eat they suggested either ordering something not-Mexican (odd, for a Mexican restaurant) or ordering something so cheap you wouldn’t be disappointed. It became clear why when we saw our food appear through what we named ‘the food hole’:
Undeterred we carried our plates over to the server, and requested a table near the waterfall. Oh, did I mention? There is a freaking waterfall in the middle of the restaurant:
It’s no excuse for a waterfall either, it’s a ridiculous 30 foot high. The waterfall then leads into the diving pool, into which Cliff Divers jump every 15 minutes or so. Again, yes, you read that correctly.
We had a great timing watching Bo the cliff diver do his thing. There weren’t many people eating and Americans love participation so we had a great time yelling out our dive requests, although our lack of dive knowledge meant that the requests were generally either ‘front flip’ or ‘back flip’.
As promised the food was truly awful, and the very strong smell of chlorine from the pool wasn’t a big help. There was a lot of it though!
The highlight was probably the Sopapillas, which are little pastry pillows that you eat with honey. The flag on the table was excellent – you raised it if you wanted attention, or if you needed anything refilled. Here is Rob using the flag to cover his mouth so that he’s not tempted to even try and eat any more:
After the food came the true treat, which was exploring the restaurant itself. As I mentioned it’s very big, but also very much compartmentalized. It’s split across many levels and each area is decorated with a different theme.
It was very confusing, and there was much weirdness along the way. Sights that we witnessed included this random fake(?) dead body hidden in the mines:
This corridor, which had a list of previous employee names up on plaques:
Pete suggested that these may be the names of people who died carrying out their Casa Bonita duties, and having tried the food that was definitely a possibility.
After that weirdness we were granted a wonder – the view from behind the waterfall!
Rob was very excited, although he’d forgotten to let his face know:
After this brief flash of beauty we were treated to the true horrors of Casa Bonita, starting with the fortune teller!
Pete and Jonno bravely put a quarter into the machine and received their fortunes, which surprisingly were not ‘you will get severe food poisoning’ or even ‘help me, my soul is trapped in here’…
We then moved on to the puppet show, which mercifully was not playing when we were there:
This was next to this blatantly haunted, screaming tree
This all lead up to Black Bart’s Cave, which was actually pretty fun. It’s basically a dark, enclosed cave filled with spooky stuff that jumps out at you or spits you with air. We genuinely did scream a few times, and I think as a child it probably would’ve broken my fragile mind forever.
By this point the mixture of strong chlorine smell and extremely salty food meant that we all had headaches, so we decided that it was probably time to head out! That said, it was an extremely exciting afternoon, and we definitely recommend visiting if you get the chance 🙂
Sorry or the delay since our last blog, we’ve been having a great time hosting more friends, the lovely Pete & Jonno! They’re exploring the area for 10 days, and we got to have a great time joining them in their adventures last weekend 🙂
Our fun times revolved mostly around experiencing various animals, initially by eating several of them. Before you start to be concerned, rest assured that we haven’t gone insane! There is an amazing deli in Old Town Fort Collins called Choice City that does a range of tasty sausages, and we’ve had our eyes on them for a while now.
We treated ourselves to a whole range of meats, and were very excited:
Here are our tasty specimens up close:
We were extremely lucky that the wonderful Pete offered to cook for us, and he decided to pair the sausages with some veg as well as mustard mashed potatoes ❤
We cooked up the tasty sausages, and all got very excited by the assorted meat smells:
We were very happy with the final result, beautifully plated up by yours truly:
From top to bottom the final sausages are: Antelope, Boar, Bison, Duck, Rabbit & Rattlesnake.
They were all pretty great, so we were very satisfied by our assorted sausages! My favorite was probably the Antelope which was really nicely seasoned, and least favorite I think was the Duck. The Bison was super juicy which was really nice, and the Rattlesnake and Boar are definitely not to be sniffed at. All in all, our exotic meat meal was a success!
After this deplorable display, we decided to give the Wild Animal Sanctuary another visit, since it is an outstanding place. Happily it was still outstanding this visit, despite being almost impossibly windy!
All the regular favorite animals were there, so please enjoy the highlights of what we saw. There was some excellent camouflaging on display, so keep your eyes open!
Finally, there was an unexpected treat with this visit! Not part of the sanctuary, we were lucky enough to see these two Bald Eagles hanging out together:
I’m guessing the one on the bottom is a juvenile since he’s still very puffy, but despite his youth he still did a great job posing for photos:
If you want to see 1000 more pictures of these two eagles just shoot me an email, I got extremely snap-happy when I saw them 🙂
That’s all for now, but part two coming up shortly where you’ll get to hear all about our amazing visit to the truly ridiculous place that is Casa Bonita…
Back when I was in my first year at Warwick University (2007), two of my oldest friends came to visit me all the way from Birmingham and Southampton to meet my new girlfriend, known only to them as ‘Peck’. They called this trip the Peckspedition and came and surprised me and an unsuspecting Cat, who froze like a rabbit in headlights when two Bristol boys that she had never met ran up in public and bear-hugged her.
Last week (or 10 years later than the first Peckspedition), Josh and his girlfriend Hannah came out to visit me and Cat in Fort Collins. We had a lovely time, not just for nostalgic reasons (I have known Josh for 19 years) but it’s always nice to be able to speak proper English and show off the best bits about FoCo (Fort Collins) and ‘Murica (the USA).
Josh and Hannah made great use of their time and saw all the best bits including Estes park (picture above), New Belgium brewery, the Wild Animal Sanctuary,
They also took some artistic shots during the Arthurs Rock Hike around the foothills (Instagram much Josh?),
did a hike around a river up in the Red Feather Lakes district,
… and even saw a Buddhist Temple up in the mountains.
We were very grateful to Josh and Hannah for coming and visiting, especially as Boston was under a foot of snow so adjusting to the warm, dry, high altitude Fort Collins climate was not straightforward. So, we decided to end their holiday with the most American thing we could think of: country line dancing
Josh and Hannah are in the quite famous and semi-professional folk band Threepenny Bit (http://threepennybit.com/), so are very used to folk dancing and Cèilidhs, though are more accustomed to providing the music than the dancing. So, we did a couples line dancing class (learning the waltz) and had a great time, only crashing into each other about 5 times. Josh and Hannah were particularly impressed by “the wearing of cowboy boots and hats unironically” as well as the live country band playing a cover of the national anthem as their first song.
We had so much fun we had no time to take pictures, but I can assure everyone it’s one of the most fun things we have done in the US.
Finally, I am not one who likes being photographed, especially if I have to pose. But if I ever decide to record a country music album this picture is going in, thanks Josh for the awesome photographs!
The end is almost here, but luckily we managed to fit in plenty of excitement in our last full day here in Tulum!
We started with a treat that was part work/ part fun, and visited the Hard Rock Hotel on the Riviera Maya. They are well known for their amazing destination weddings, so I wanted to do a tour around so that I could learn a little more about what they do. Rob tagged along since he was interested to see the inside of this extremely fancy resort, so off we went.
I’m pleased to say that it was pretty damn awesome right away, and the whole thing reminded me of Vegas a little in how very over-sized and extravagant everything was. The first lobby that we came to was also totally stunning, of course:
It was made even lovelier by the fact that the above is in the ‘adults only’ section of the hotel 🙂
After seeing the main lobby we went straight ahead into the nightclub, which was pretty darn awesome. There is a conventional club area where you can party away, but we were way more interested in the club/ pool/ bar chill-out zone:
We then headed outside into the beach area, for those who insist on sunlight, sand and sea. It was being used as a relaxation area while we were there, but you can also get married at several points along the beach including here:
Again, probably would’ve taken a quick break from the tour here and taken a nap if they would’ve let me!
We then moved over to the alternative wedding space, for the more traditional people. They have a chapel which is surprisingly tasteful for a rock hotel:
The shades were down to keep it cool when we were there, but normally they open it up so that everyone can see the ocean. It was very lovely.
After the wedding specific stuff we went and looked at the more generic hotel stuff including one of their several ridiculous pool areas:
And their fancy hotel rooms:
The resort is very big, so it was actually a nice time to be inside looking at the rooms. It took us about 90 minutes in total to walk around the whole thing!
Once we were done with the tour we also took some time to check out the rock merchandise, and I definitely had a favorite:
These are the cannons that AC/DC fired during one of their shows at Download in Donnington! I’m not sure of the year, but was impressed by how sturdy the cannons are. Given that Donnington is right next to the airport I’m pretty surprised that these were allowed, but I’m guessing they didn’t get a lot of advanced notice :p
I’m also going to give an honorable mention to Elvis’s Pajamas, since I know that my mother would never forgive me otherwise…
The final cool thing that I thought deserved a mention was the webcams that they have in the gift shop. They are constantly showing live footage from other stores around the world, so it’s a little window into other hard rock hotels. I liked it, and would definitely set up a little ‘window to England’ in our apartment if there wasn’t laundry all over everywhere all the time 😉
Anyway, we had an excellent time visiting the hotel and I’m glad that we went. I’m also very glad that we were able to resist the frequent offers of strong, alcoholic drinks that persisted throughout the tour (okay, I had one…) because I think we would probably have missed our next day flight. It’s great that they’re complimentary and I’m sure the guests love them, but my poor liver!
After our tour we headed back to Half Moon Bay since we’d had such a nice time relaxing there before and we were hoping to drink a couple more coconuts before we left. We dug in among the fabulous hammocks there and read in the sun by the sea, which was very relaxing. The bay is also great for snorkeling so Rob did some more swimming with the fish, while I remained semi-conscious in my hammock home. The only pause in the lounging around was the tasty cake we had as a snack, to sustain ourselves:
You would be horrified to have watch me eat that chocolate brownie, it was gone in seconds. Rob had a strawberry cheesecake, and the guy brought us two spoons for each just in case we wanted to share. We did not!
Once we could lounge no more we headed over to Akumal bay next door, which is the place that is home to the turtles. The water was a little clearer today so visibility was better, but we weren’t too optimistic since I’d been very lucky to see the turtles the day before.
It’s still a lovely beach though so we set our stuff up and then went for another lovely swim in the sea. The turtles were poking their little heads above the water again which was so very cute, so we stood there for a little while and watched them.
Then, lightning struck again! I guess the turtles really like the Sea Grass on the people side of the rope, since another little turtle friend swam over to snack away. This was later in the afternoon by this point so there were not many people around, so I guess that’s why he didn’t mind swimming over. As you can imagine I lost my mind a little, and half drowned Rob by forcing him to get the snorkel on and go see the turtle. Again I don’t have any underwater pictures, but it was almost exactly like this:
It was a definite treat on the last day!
After we were done bothering Philip (we actually stayed way back since we didn’t want to scare him off!) we headed back to the hotel to tidy ourselves up. I’d booked us a tasty dinner for the evening, so we thought it would be good not to be totally covered in sand.
For dinner we went to the Kitchen Table, which is in the south of Tulum near the beach. The restaurant itself is actually in the jungle next to the beach, and the whole place is pretty much outside. As well as that the kitchen is out in the middle of restaurant instead of being tucked away, so every table is basically a chefs table.
As you’d hope from a beach-side restaurant they had some tasty fish options, and I had the very delicious Tuna Steak:
I then focused entirely on eating my meal, and failed to get a picture of Rob’s Pork Ribs. They were equally beautiful though, and he assures me that they tasted delicious!
We ate ourselves very full, and then sat there and digested for a little while whilst listening to the noisy jungle birds. Definitely a meal to try if you’re in Tulum anytime!
After our meal we had been thinking of going out to get a drink somewhere, but we were so tired that we ended up just heading back to the hotel and going to sleep. We had to get up pretty early for our flight and wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss it by accident – intentionally missing it was still up for debate 😉
We did end up making the flight okay, and without any complications thank goodness. We’re now back home and getting back into the rhythm of day to day life, and our sunburn is almost totally gone! Looking forward to our next adventure though, and we’ll be sure to keep the blogs coming from Fort Collins 🙂
Today we decided to take in a little history, so we spent the morning exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum that we saw previously from the beach. The site at Tulum was originally a fort that supporting the trading port there, as well as being the location of several temples and the local population. It’s actually pretty big, and a lot of the layout is still clear and intact. We were excited to get started!
The first thing that we came to is one of the most famous structures, the Templo Dios del Viento (Temple of the God of Wind). It’s pretty stunning, and overlooks the bay:
Since this temple overlooks the bay and is close to a small beach entryway it’s very likely that this was used as a look out post for anything approaching.
It’s actually not that big itself, and you can see that it’s surrounded by several even smaller structures. The theory is that these smaller structures acted as alters, since they are replicas of the temple itself but far too small to fit people inside:
We next moved on to The Palace, which was definitely looking the worse for wear compared to the other buildings which were reasonably intact. It was still looking very nice though, and we were very impressed to see that it was being guarded by several Iguanas:
You can see that the building originally had pillars on the front in very traditional style, and apparently at the time all of these buildings would’ve been very spectacularly painted.
The most interesting building by quite a long way was the Castillo (castle), which was massive and mostly intact:
Both the building and the additional walls that guarded it are still there, as well as several of the carvings on the building. The main god that was worshiped in Tulum was the Descending God, also known as the Diving God. He is depicted with his head down and his legs above him, and you can see his mural in various places around the site. It’s most prominent in the Temple of the Descending God, which is in the picture above but hidden behind that tree… Here’s a close up picture to redeem myself, and a sketch from one of the info boards for comparison:
This meant that we got to keep an eye out for this fresco, but our interest was still primarily in iguana spotting:
After we had finished having fun we headed down to the also lovely beach at Tulum to relax. We were pretty warm after walking around this site in the sun all day so my lovely husband broke every rule we’ve learnt in Fort Collins and bought me an extra large Starbucks Frappuccino with caramel and whipped cream. Was that special enough to deserve a mention in our esteemed blog? Perhaps not. Did I enjoy it very much, and feel hydrated for the first time all week? My goodness yes. As an extra treat while I drank this, we were able to continue our game of spot the iguana. This is because one had apparently escaped the ruins, and was sitting next to the table near us glaring at us:
After that we wandered around the local shops looking at the trinkets, and I bought myself a little replica Mayan temple to remember the trip by. We also looked at the very strange assortment of other gifts… I was very disappointed to pass up the Denver Broncos Luchador Mask, although I’m sure that if I were to wear such a thing in public it would only cause alarm.
Finally, we spent the rest of the day relaxing away on the beach. It was still warm way into the evening, so we hunkered down with our towels, bounced around in the sea a little, and then relaxed and read our books like the old people that we are in our hearts 🙂
I hope you’re keeping up with the blog posts, sorry that they’re coming a little thick and fast! We’re trying to stay on top of it so that we can remember all of the details for you 🙂
So, another day and more exploring to be done. Yesterday we decided to check out one of the most famous attractions in the area, the Grand Cenote. As I mentioned yesterday there are lots of underwater lakes in the area since the erosion exposes the groundwater, and the Grand Cenote is one of the most well known of these lakes. As well as being very cool geologically, these are a great place for snorkeling since you see lots of fish and sometimes turtles.
We got there in the morning before it got too busy and were pleased to discover that the Cenote is surrounded by some really lovely gardens.
We had a quick stroll around, and found yet another bird. We’re a little low on birds in this post, so take your time to savor this round of ‘name that bird’:
I’ll admit, we were taking our time walking around since there was a mandatory shower before entering the Cenote, and the showers looked pretty damn cold. Sadly though after our walk it could be avoided no longer, so we braved it and made only a few squeaking sounds when the water hit us…
Unpleasantness over, we were off! We rented ourselves some snorkeling gear, and got ready to start exploring.
The water in the Cenote was somehow even colder than the shower, so I faffed around and insisted on taking more pictures while Rob bravely entered the depths:
As you can imagine I decided not to take our fancy camera into the water, and instead shamelessly borrowed this photo from another website!
Anyway, as you can see it’s basically underground caves that you can paddle around in, and they were really quite spectacular. There were lots of fish swimming around (in fact fish spotting was so easy that we kept bumping into them by accident…) and the stalactites and stalagmites were beautiful. As well as that there were also scuba divers exploring the area, and watching the scuba divers was really interesting. They were a lot deeper than us, and so we couldn’t really see the area unless they were there because they would then light the area up with their torches. It was very beautiful seeing the caves illuminated, although I don’t think I’d like to be that deep underwater myself!
As well as the interesting fish I was also really interested by the bats in the cave. They were hanging from the ceiling in little groups, and occasionally flying around to move positions. They were very fluffy and cute, plus occasionally some of the more delicate tourists would see them and freak out with is always amusing.
After exploring the Cenote we headed to the beach for a little more snorkeling, further up the coast. I was very excited to explore Akumel beach, since apart from being stunning it is famous for the Sea Turtles that live there! Until a year ago you were able to swim right up with the turtles, but they have since put a stop to that since understandably it was not doing the turtles much good to have people messing around with them all the time. You can still swim near the area where they eat and usually catch a glimpse of them though, which was still plenty exciting for me!
We parked down in the shade and swam on out, and it was freaking awesome! The turtles are apparently missing the attention of local tourists since they were swimming up and down just on the other side of the no-swim line, so we got to see their little heads bobbing up and down in the water! Again, sadly no pictures for the sake of our camera so here’s one I borrowed earlier:
They were literally that close, just swimming up and down and looking fabulous. This was extremely exciting, and got even better a few minutes later. I was looking underwater with the snorkel to see if I could see anything, and one of the turtles swam under the rope and started eating the seaweed on our side of the beach! I was floating about two foot over him, watching him slowly chow down on sea grass. The water was actually not very clear, so I could only see him from that distance, but it did mean that no-one else was crowding around and bothering the poor turtle. I followed him around as he ate for a few minutes, but then I lost him when he crossed back over into the turtle zone. Still, good times! He was pretty big at about three foot across, and seemed very relaxed. A definite treat, despite the murky water!
After that excitement (and me possibly perforating Rob’s eardrums with my squealing) we decided to head on further down the beach. The neighboring bay is called Half Moon Bay, so we walked on over there to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. We found a bar that had hammocks, tree-houses and a mariachi band, so that was us very much set for the rest of the day. I spent a little time exploring the wildly unsafe tree-houses, and then settled down to read. Pure Bliss ❤
We’re continuing our Mexico adventures, and had an amazing time yesterday exploring the jungle at the Punta Laguna!
Punta Laguna is a small village about an hour away from our hotel, and part of the Ma’ax Yetel Koo nature reserve. This translates to “House of the spider monkey and the jaguar” from Mayan, which is the language spoken in this very traditional area. The Punta Laguna village specifically is very small with many of the residents having never visited larger cities, and the area only recently got electricity. As you can imagine their lives are very closely tied to this nature reserve, and they do a great job protecting it. Happily, they also do guided tours of the area, which we took part in!
It was pretty darn hot and humid when we got there, but we liberally applied our sun screen and bug spray, loaded up with water, and off we went. We had been told that the guides are both very knowledgeably, as well as being insanely good at monkey spotting. Our lovely guide demonstrated this almost immediately by spotting a Spider Monkey about 40 seconds into our walk:
Our guide pointed him out and walked us over, and told us a little more about the monkeys. Apparently they live in small groups of eight or so, and they constantly move around the forest throughout the day. They very much enjoy eating Elephant Ears, which are the pods you can see in the tree above. Our monkey friend looked very relaxed as he ate, and didn’t seem to mind us taking pictures from below.
Now very bouncy and excited, we made our way deeper into the jungle. As well as the monkeys, the actual jungle was very interesting. Firstly, the jungle itself was very beautiful:
It was also extremely relaxing to walk through, since it was very quiet apart from little birds chirping away. Speaking of birds, we also saw some of these! They were extremely fast little things though, so this is the only one I managed to catch on camera:
We also saw several other little friends, including these leaf-cutter ants:
Plus these pleasingly easy to photograph iguana friends:
As well as the wildlife the jungle itself is actually virtually unchanged since Mayan times, so there are lots of old ruins dotted about that are really fascinating. Apart from being extremely old, these ruins are unusual in that the area around them is similar to how to was at the time (so you get a better idea of context) and they have also not been restored in any way by archaeologists. So these temples and dwelling were building by the Mayans over a thousand years ago, and they’ve been basically untouched ever since! It blew my mind a little.
So anyway! We walked around the jungle for around two hours, and saw all of the cool stuff above, plus the laguna itself:
This includes both the big lagoon/ laguna, as well as the various cenotes dotted around the place. Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes/ pits that form due to the limestone bedrock collapsing to expose the groundwater, and while most are fun the ones in this forest looked a little hardcore…
So anyway, there was lots to see, with the exception of more monkeys. This was totally understandable given that the whole reserve is around 5000 acres, and we told Max that we’d still had a great time. Max, however, did not think that only seeing one monkey was an acceptable monkey tour… In case it’s not already clear, Max is a total hero.
It turns out that Max’s brother is one of the biologists who studies the monkeys, and apparently the monkeys often like to hang around in his garden and eat the fruit there! So, out of the reserve and over the road we went to search for monkey’s in peoples gardens. We were allowed to sit down for a quick water break while Max searched ahead, which is good since we were both sweating pretty profusely.
Very quickly Max was shouting at us to come over though, and there they were! More Spider Monkeys:
They were in a tree just 20 feet or so away, so we were very excited. It was the closest we had ever been to wild monkeys, and we felt extremely lucky to get to see them. This record for monkey closeness was broken almost immediately when they bounced over to the tree above us, and started eating fruit over Rob’s head!
We stood there for about ten minutes watching them chow down on fruit, and it was pretty darn adorable:
It was very excellent. We babbled away excitedly to Max, took 10,000 more pictures, and then headed back to our car to desperately re-hydrate. Our conversation on the drive home was basically just the word ‘monkey’ over and over again, in varying pitch.
That evening we’d finally calmed down a little, and we’d booked an authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner at a place called Cetli. It was describe as a very small restaurant that served very amazing food, and that was definitely the case. We parked up outside in the conventional Mexican way:
We then went inside. Right away it was pretty clear that ‘small’ was being a bit generous. There were only three people working the whole place, a family, and they had clearly converted their house to make the restaurant:
There were also only eight tables, and we were told that food would take a little while to come out. We assured them that this was totally fine, and they gave us a starter of traditional Mexican dishes to tide us over:
Starting at the bottom, and then ascending left to right we have: Mince meat and cheese on a little bread thing, cheese empanadas, whole grain bread made in house, a spicy green dip, some garlic bread wrapped in a piece of dried leaf, cheese in a beetroot relish, orange sprinkled with fried crickets and finally some more cheese.
I am sure that these dishes all have correct names, but I absolutely can’t do better that the info above. Sorry!
I can tell you that it was all stupidly delicious, and that I wolfed down most the plate. Rob flat out refused to try the crickets, and also wasn’t a big fan of the grainy bread. I was a big fan of everything but the last cheese, and sadly whilst I did try the crickets they were not great. Cricket really does not have a lot to offer as a meat, in my opinion…
Anyway, already stuffed we ploughed on with the main courses – I had the Istak, which was fish in a white almond mole, dark chocolate and sesame seed sauce, and Rob had the amazing chile en nogada, which is poblano chilis stuffed with meat and spices. Rob definitely made the wise choice here, his food was unbelievable.
Finally, we decided to finish the night off with a cocktail at one of the local bars. There was a place nearby (strangely called Batey) which we were told did outstanding cocktails, and boy was that the case. I had a Mojito and Rob had a Caipirinha, and both were amazing – the highlight was definitely the fact that there was a guy there chopping up sugar cane, so each drink came with a freshly chopped up, sugary stick.
Despite being tasty, anyone who has tried Caipirinha’s knows that one is generally enough. Stuffed full and tired out from our adventures, we headed home and passed out like fatties 🙂