24 Hours in Holbox

This year, Jorge and I have made a list of all the places in the state of Quintana Roo that we’d like to visit. We’ve already crossed many places off our list, although it’s not doing us much good since the list seems to grow every week!

Still, this weekend we were happy to go to the island of Holbox (pronounced “Hole-Bosh”), something we’ve tried to do unsuccessfully for a few years now.

Since we have no car, we had to plan around public transportation, which is very reliable but didn’t present us with many options for time. Here’s a rundown of how we got to Holbox:

  • 8 am Saturday: Took Mayab bus to Chiquila from the downtown Cancun bus station (cost: $85 pesos per person)
    • 3 hour bus ride, with stops in several small villages along the way
    • Arrival in Chiquila just in time to catch the ferry
  • 11 am: ferry to Holbox island (cost: $80 pesos per person, time: 30 minutes)
    • Note: most of the day, there are ferries leaving every hour or every 2 hours
  • Golf cart taxi from the marina to our hotel (cost: $30 pesos)

The island was absolutely stunning. The downtown area is quite small, with lots of restaurants, colorful shops, and sand streets. You won’t see any cars on Holbox! Only bikes, mopeds and golf carts.

We fell in love with the island and the hotel, although we were a bit disappointed in the water. The sand was white and powder-soft and the water in the distance was clear, bright turquoise… but right on the shoreline, there was either thick mud or brownish-green water with lots of sargasso. It was beautiful, but I guess we’re spoiled after spending so much time on beaches in Cancun and on Isla Mujeres. We’re very picky!

**Note: My friend Kelly tells me that the water is much clearer other times of year. Good to know 🙂

We came back only 24 hours later, around noon on Sunday, to catch the last bus back to Cancun. Here’s how we did it:

  • 12:40 pm: golf cart taxi picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Holbox marina (cost: $30 pesos)
  • 1 pm: ferry back to Chiquila
  • In Chiquila, there was a 1:45 bus that took the 3-hour route back to Cancun (cost: $85 pesos). There was also a bus at 2 pm that took a more direct route with no stops and took 2 hours (cost: $115 pesos). We opted for the 2 pm bus.
    • We would have loved to stay longer, but the 2 pm bus was the last one back to Cancun for the entire day. Travelers taking a car can leave much later, or you can take a taxi back for $70 US dollars.
  • 4 pm: back in Cancun

Even though we only had 24 hours on Holbox, we felt like it was just enough time to relax, unwind, explore the island and enjoy some amazing food.

Tomorrow I’ll do a separate post on our hotel, because it was AMAZING!

My First Alux Encounter

When I first moved to Mexico, I was fascinated by all the stories about run-ins with ghosts, hauntings and mythical creatures. Being the skeptical American that I am, I brushed it off as a cultural difference for several years.

But now… I’m starting to realize that Mexico is just filled with some crazy, crazy stuff.

Long-time readers may remember the stories about the mythical Yucatan alux (pronounced “ah-LOOSH”) that friends and family had told me. The stories made me start to think, “Maybe there’s some truth to this.”

And then on New Years Eve, I’m pretty sure I saw one.

Jorge and I were riding in a 15-person van from Cancun to Chabihau for his cousin’s wedding. During the 4-hour drive along the highway, we pass through mostly jungle with a few small villages along the way.

Around 7 pm, it was already dark. We were just leaving one small Yucatan village and entering the jungle again, going slowly because of the village’s speedbumps. Up near the driver, I saw the head of a black figure standing right by the van, in the middle of the road. From the height, the shape of the head and the way it moved, I immediately thought it was a child, except it was … blacker than black? As in I couldn’t even make out features or anything, just an outline filled in with entirely black. I was unsettled and wasn’t sure why.

As we passed the thing, I turned back and saw that the figure was actually hunched over and huge. It was shaped more like a dog than a child, but at the same time the street dogs in the Yucatan aren’t giant or black (at least none that I’ve seen!) Plus… dogs just don’t move like that.

I later told Jorge and his family that I’d seen an alux, and they didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

Father's Day in Chabihau

**Note: If I normally follow you and I haven’t commented on your blog in a few weeks, it’s because about 1/3 of the blogs I follow have been strangely blocked on this computer. Trying to figure out what’s going on…**

Ok, I am a horrible blogger! But it’s been a pretty busy month, which is awesome. I still haven’t shared my photos from my trip to Chabihau, Yucatan with you, and that was almost TWO WEEKS AGO. For shame. We went to the towns of Chabihau and Yobain for Father’s Day to visit Jorge’s family, and it was relaxing as usual!

The best tamales I ever had!

Jorge in his natural habitat… in front of the table.

Happy dogs!

flamingos 🙂 That's as close as they get, though.

Arrow!

"chilpachole de langosta" with lobster Jorge's uncle caught that morning... HUGE!!

A new beach house in Chabihau... I'm going to steal it.

Yucatan Folklore Part 4

I promised you a story about how Yucatan’s mystical aluxes are known for getting even. Here, it’s commonly known that you NEVER, EVER make fun of or insult aluxes.

Maria, a close friend of mine, is really into bike riding. From time to time, she’ll go biking up north towards Isla Blanca with her bike group. This is a fairly undeveloped area north of Cancun, and the roads are lined with jungle.

On one particular trip, Maria had stopped to eat an apple, then she threw the apple core into the jungle and yelled, “Take that, aluxes!!”

Big mistake.

She used to never have any problems riding there. But now, every time she drives along that stretch of road towards Isla Blanca, her tires go flat 3 times.

Yucatan Folklore Part 1

On New Years Eve, we went to Jorge’s Uncle Mike’s house for a gift exchange with his dad’s side of the family.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of Jorge’s dad’s family lives in a small town in the state of Yucatan called Yobain. This little town is filled with lush jungle vegetation, locals riding their bikes, people chatting with neighbors on doorsteps, and beautiful white-washed stone walls around many of the houses.

The Yucatan Peninsula is filled with incredible stories and superstitions handed down by the Mayan culture, and the town of Yobain is no exception.

After all the gifts were handed out, I sat around with Jorge, his father (also named Jorge), his Uncle Mike, Uncle Tony, Aunt Elsy and cousins Isis, Yaresbi and Damaris. Uncle Mike, one of the youngest in the family, spent the next hour telling us about some of the run-ins their family has had with Yucatan’s spirits, and I found myself with chills running down my spine.

This week, I’ll be telling you several of the stories Uncle Mike told us that night.

First of all, you should probably know a little more about the culture. The jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula are believed to be inhabited by “aluxes” (The “x” is pronounced like an “sh”… “a-loo-shes”). You’ll hear different stories about their appearance or where they came from, but everyone agrees that they have a child-like mentality. They love pranks, and will quickly get even with you if you insult them.

The first story took place years ago when brothers Mike, Jorge and Tony were walking through the streets of Yobain at night. Back when they were kids, this small town had no electricity and the streets were dark. They were walking along when they heard movement among some nearby trees. Startled, Tony calmed his brothers by saying it was probably just some other kids.

The three brothers continued walking until they reached the town’s central plaza. Here, they heard noises behind them but didn’t see anything, and began to feel frightened. Suddenly, Jorge was lifted up into the air by both arms by some invisible force, and the brothers could hear laughter. When Jorge reached a nearby corner, an older gentleman stepped out of his home. The invisible forces dropped Jorge back to the ground and left.

After hearing this story, I asked my father-in-law if he remembered this happening to him. He said that yes, he did.

More alux stories to come this week!

Mayan Legend: The Xtabay Woman

Some of you may know that my husband, Jorge, is from the Yucatan Peninsula, along with his entire family. (Specifically, near the city of Merida.) This particular area is filled with Mayan heritage and culture, which can still be seen a bit in Jorge’s family.

When we visited the Ek’ Balam Mayan ruins recently, we saw a “ceiba” tree (SAY-bah).

The ceiba tree we saw at Ek' Balam

My mother-in-law told us the Mayan legend regarding the ceiba tree.

If a man is out wandering around at night and passes by a ceiba tree, he just might see an “Xtabay” (ish-tah-BYE). An Xtabay is a seductive temptress who stands under the tree, brushing her long, dark hair.

The Xtabay will seduce the late-night traveler. Then, one of two things will happen:

1. The man will be led by the Xtabay off the path, deep into the jungle, to die. (This is the version my mother-in-law prefers.)

2. The Xtabay will ensnare him in an embrace, and violently kill him right there. He’ll later be found filled with the thorns of the ceiba tree.

thorns on the branches of the ceiba tree at Ek' Balam

Most of the Xtabay’s victims are found dead, but over the centuries, a few have managed to escape and tell their story.

According to my in-laws, you’re more likely to come across the Xtabay when you’re drunk. I don’t find this surprising 🙂 haha