Cozumel, Mexico

Posted: February 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary, travel | Tags: , | No Comments »

I originally wrote this while in Mexico last month, but I never published it… I intended to illustrate it with photos but as I don’t know if I’ll get around to doing that I guess I’ll just hit publish and be done with it!

January 28th, 2012

The diving is superb, but the town shows the strain of hosting the cruise industry. Cozumel is a small island, about a 30 minute high speed ferry ride away from Playa Del Carmen on the mainland of the Yucatan peninsula. I’ve come here to dive, but between dives there’s lots of time to spend exploring the island and ruminating on my thoughts.

Cozumel hosts cruise ships, I can’t believe how many ships dock here everyday. I picture the Caribbean sea as swarming with these enormous floating cities, plodding their way though an unmarked but well trodden highway in the water. Everyday, except Sunday as far as I can see, brings at least 3 and sometimes more cruise ships into the port of Cozumel. Something like 15,000 visitors who will stay a single day and be gone by 6pm in time for departure to the next Caribbean port waiting to sell them slightly different trinkets and expensive brand name gear identical to what they can get at home in Canada, the USA, or Europe, perhaps for less money.

Despite my griping, I’m sure the local citizens are happy to host these transient guests, they bring a seriously huge amount of money to an island who otherwise would have to depend on the money brought in by scuba diving tourists, who spend their money on the next tank of air rather than Mexican silver bracelets, rings, diamonds, and expensive watches.

The local satisfaction with this state of affairs notwithstanding, the huge infrastructure built up for these visitors which are gone by sunset makes the downtown of Cozumel feel like a ghost town at night. There are quite a few non-package tourists on the island, mostly staying in hotels in town or in super budget accommodation like my own, going to sleep early to dive the next morning… which also contributes to the ghostly’ness of the town at night. I think, minus the cruise infrastructure this would work, but the overall relaxed vibe of divers and the frenetic activity of the cruise passengers makes Cozumel feel like an unsettled place, unable to find it’s real groove.

I, unsurprisingly, was here to dive. The reefs around Cozumel are some of the best in the world, fed with a steady current that whips around the island, keeps the water temperature constant, and helps prevent the depredations of runoff and temperature change which are rapidly killing coral reefs around the world. During my 4 days of diving these reefs I’ve seen (numerous times) nurse sharks, sea turtles, octopus, rays of many sizes, trumpet fish, lobster, crabs, drummers, and countless other fish I don’t really know the names for.

Apparently someone stupidly introduced Lionfish to cozumel, a fish I’ve seen many times while diving in Thailand but one that lacks any natural predators in the Caribbean. The reefs around Cozumel are actually a national park, protected from fishing and probably more lucrative as a tourist destination, but for the Lionfish the park authority has decided to let the dive masters working the reef everyday take on the job of natural predator. It was on one dive where we saw three Lionfish that we had a really cool experience with a nurse shark – after having fed the first Lionfish to some grouper hanging around our divemaster decided to keep the last one in his pocket.

As we were getting close to the end of our dive, I was in fact just about ready to start my safety stop, a nurse shark swam up to ask our dive master for the tasty fish in his pocket. In case you don’t know, a nurse shark is a pretty tame shark, this one was about the size of a medium sized terrier and pretty much acted just like a puppy who wanted to play and smelled a treat in your pocket. This nurse shark hung around, swimming up to each of us and generally distracting us all as we tried to maintain an even depth of between 3 and 6 meters before surfacing. Even after he was fed he stuck with us, perhaps convinced that we were holding out on him, but eventually we all surfaced and he lost interest. In the end, we spent a good 10 minutes hanging out with the shark, it was perhaps the best experience of a solid run of great dives I had on the island.

Cozumel has been great, despite its conflicted personality, and it does seem to satisfy both the divers and the cruise passengers (not to mention the package tourists, but they really don’t spend lots of time in town anyways), and in the end it was a much needed mini-break for me before my big travel which should be starting in June/July of this year. I’ve had great dives, a ton of sun, and am ready to return to the frozen north… not to mention excited to finally see Pipes again when she returns from her adventure in Thailand.

Hello from Cozumel Mexico

Posted: January 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Yes I’m travelling again, so that means writing a blog post. I am currently enjoying a cool breeze in the common area of a cheap but clean and so far good quality hostel in downtown Cozumel Mexico.

Today was pretty jet lagged (due to a stupid idea on my part to leave friday night, overnight in montreal, so I could catch the earliest saturday flight to cozumel. So that wasn’t my best plan, but I did make it to my hostel before noon today so I guess it worked, if you count having only had about 2 very much interrupted hours of sleep as a success.

Ok, enough about that, how about the food?

First meal of mexico was sorta a late lunch, I had to go to the dive shop to arrange details, size the equipment etc so after taking care of that I asked the owner/manager for the closest/best food. Ended up at a fairly busy touristy restaurant called La Choza, but despite the overabundance of tourist clientelle the food was still very tasty. I ordered the “Comida Nacional” which started with a tasty chicken noodle soup and ended with a plate full of beans, rice and fried beef. Good flavour but simple, and no real effort to spice it, not sure if that’s just how that dish is or if it’s the result of the tourist clients.

Cost with Cerveza – 107 Pesos

Next dinner at the closest place to the hostel – sorry I didn’t get the name. Unlike the restaurant near the dive shop this restaurant was pretty much exclusively mexican families, and they didn’t serve beer adding to it’s mexican family restaurant vibe. I had Fajitas Pollo con Quesa (chicken fajitas with cheese) and dang was it tasty! Enjoy some pics. Again not really spicy, but they did add some sauces which had good flavour but no heat.

Some photos here!

Hark – a post!

Posted: January 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

More than a full year since my last post! Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past year.

Trip to Mexico

No blogging from that trip but here’s Pipes’ post about our trip – she’s better with words than me for sure. I haven’t even managed to publish my photos from the trip yet! [edit – ok, published now]

Work, work, and more work

Over the past year I have continued to work on a pet project that has been too successful. Great in that something I set out make happen (despite significant organizational trepidation) has become a real thing, terrible in that we’re now in the bind of having to support it without any of the organizational supports that come with a normal project in my organization. Oh well, still I can’t complain, I’ve got a great boss and am basically encouraged to find new and interesting ways to improve (read shake up) the bureaucracy.

My brother joined the Canadian Forces!

That’s right, the same dude who used to cause so much trouble back in the old neighbourhood is now responsible for our national security – Jokes, he’s totally responsible 😉

Anyways, he finished his basic in late 2009, went on to train as a Aerospace Control Operator in Cornwall, and is now stationed in North Bay doing things he’s not allowed to talk about. I find it a bit crazy that my brother has an honest to goodness security clearance.

Boston (PAX East)

Another trip, another opportunity to blog missed! To be honest, as much as I love hanging out with my tribe of geeky video game nerds, I just wasn’t into it this time. It could have been because it was my third PAX (and I had just gone to PAX prime in Seattle in September 09), or it could have just been that I liked Boston so much I was more interested in exploring than in staying inside and playing games, regardless I had a great time. I met the marvelous H.A. Conrad and Bill Wadman (photographer extraordinaire [srsly – check out some of his work] and all around great guy) and bumbled around Boston for a good long weekend of fun.

Bought a condo

Yes I have had well over 30 different “permanent” addresses in my 30-something years on earth, so I figure the only way to slow that trend down was to kick it up to the next level and buy a piece of (theoretical) property. Pipes and I co-purchased a lovely 2 Bedroom condo in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood of Toronto and it’s absolutely grand.

Renovated a condo

Dang – it’s grand now, but it was a bit of a mess when we bought it. One full kitchen and bathroom reno, not to mention tons of painting, moving in, and furniture assembly (damn you IKEA) later, and we’re super happy with the results. For time scale, we closed in April 2010, moved in July ’10, and were finally “settled” by September/October ’10. Lots of hard work but totally worth it.

Family reunion

I don’t talk too much about my family, because my immediate family is a rather small group, but heck I have a huge extended family that I basically don’t know at all. So at the end of July ’10 I decided to take my mom up on an offer to visit a family reunion with a seriously Quebecois branch of the clan. It was a blast, however I was almost forced into getting a Bloc Quebecois membership card by a member of my extended family. Thankfully I made it out in one piece with my Canadian Federalist leanings intact.


Does it show I like to travel? Originally planned as a solo trip for me to go dive the Mediterranean, Pipes’ decided that Croatia looked cool so it happily morphed into a trip for both of us. Yes another opportunity to blog missed, but at least I uploaded the photos.

Sunset over Zadar

Christmas in Saranac Lake

And finally, we capped off the year visiting my mom in beautiful Saranac Lake, NY. Anyone who followed the Diner Dash will remember the place, no real wealth of photos this time, just a good visit.

Phew – a year worth of updates in a single post… perhaps this year I’ll manage more regular posting to this blog? We’ll see…. (well, there is this trip to Thailand coming up, maybe I’ll post from the road).