March 23, 2006 GMT

Cozumel is Mexicos only significant caribbean island, it's famous for snorkeling and diving - and it's a nice, calm and not too expensive place to stay. After El-Arenal-like Playa del Carmen, Cozumel was quite a positive surprise - although of course also here you have the inevitable hords of cruise ship passengers and hence hundreds of tourist-trash-shops, all selling the same useless junk - with bored mexicans sitting in front, shouting at you "amigo, come in!!". I wonder when they will learn that this is putting people off rather than attracting them.

Another interesting and little surprising fact is that the only shop (of probably a hundred), that did not sell useless tourist crap but actually very beautiful handmade textile products (handbags, scarfs, plaids etc.) was owned by a canadian expat and the stuff was produced in Guatemale since (quote) "in Mexico you don't get that quality". Do I have to say anything else?

Reaching Cozumel is not easy at all - that's probably why the beaches are so uncrowded. First you have to find the car ferry, which up to now departed from Puerto Morelos, which is some 40 km north of Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately this ferry has secretfully been moved to Calica, which is a rather hidden place some 6 km south of Playa del Carmen. If you want to know about the departure times and prices, you will have to go directly to the quay (via a sparsely signposted gravel road) and ask - since nobody apart from the one official at the tiny "terminal" knows prices and departure times. Now that you know the times, price and place and decide to visit the island maybe the next day, don't be too eager to get to the pier, since the few paved parts of your way are extremely slippery in the curves, so that being a motorcylist you might suddenly and without apparent reason find yourself skidding over the slick concrete. Having survived this, recovered your bike and yourself, you will hopefully be toughened for the next trial: The first glimpse of the "ferry", which is so corroded that it seems to have more in common with the "ghost ship" than with a regular ferry, probably makes you re-think your plans. Is Cozumel really worth the risk of being buried alive in this death-trap? But then you just do the same as all the Mexicans around you - ignore the lethal hazard and enter the boat. The rest is easy-going: Two hours in the fresh air at a speed that could hardly keep up with a bunch of children on a rubber dinghy (Schlauchboot), then you arrive at Cozumel's half-demolished ferry pier and quickly find your way to the rather inexpensive and uncrowded accomodation.

I had selected the Hotel "Papita", which made a rather calm and quiet impression - exactly what I needed for a sound sleep. Well, I hadn't counted on the Mexican genius: At 10 p.m. all the aircon units were switched on and the entire patio vibrates with the deafening roar of some thirty prehistoric airconditioners at full power - and they are not switched off until 6 or 7 in the morning. I will never really understand these people.

Anyway I decided to enjoy the beauty of the place and booked yet another snorkeling tour: This time the equipment was really good and fit perfectly - no salt water in my nose!! :-) So I could so much enjoy the caribbean underwater world that I forgot to wear the t-shirt that I brought as sun-protection - and caught another light but annoying sunburn. Again I saw a seaturtle, many colourful fish and lush reef rocks - but the best was a flock of funny fish - approx the size of pigeons - that again and again appoached me curiously to see what strange kind of animal I am... I also enjoyed the air bubbles slowly rising from the divers below me like millions of little gemstones - or like swimming in sparkling water :-) So all in all it was a beautiful little adventure. However - as the guide book had announced "some world class snorkeling" - I had expected more. But I assume that also here hurricane Wilma had destroyed much of the forme beauty.

The snorkel trip was finished around lunchtime, so I had some time left for an island discovery tour - finding out that the rest of the island is very flat and boring (exactly like the northern Yucatan peninsula) - apart from a few beautiful beaches with beach bars where you can very well enjoy the setting sun - as far as the beach access is not closed at 5 p.m.

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at March 23, 2006 10:03 PM GMT

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