To be fair, we didn't even try to do Cozumel justice. Mexico's biggest island is world famous for its scuba diving and snorkelling, but we figured we'd take it easy and simply pop over for a day trip on the ferry from Playa del Carmen, as there's no point in rushing things when you've got so much time to do it in. Besides, a trip on the ferry sounded like fun, and it turned out to be a better idea than another day on the beach, as the weather suddenly switched from the pure blue skies and 30 degree humidity of the early morning, to a mid-morning of overcast and ominously thundery skies.
Of course, it chose to do this just as the ferry set off on the 45-minute crossing. We'd grabbed a seat on deck at the back of the ferry, where Peta struck up a conversation with a very friendly local family whose matriarch insisted on smilingly talking to us in Spanish, despite us obviously failing to understand a word (our Spanish is basic, to say the least, but we're learning something new every day, particularly in the area of optimistic sign language). Luckily one of her daughters spoke French, having spent eight months living there, so we spent the first half of the journey chatting in basic French while the mother kept jabbering on in animated Spanish, punctuated by loud laughs and giggling fits.
The torrential downpour struck us without much warning, though perhaps we should have taken more notice of the bruised skies hurling towards us as we boarded the ferry. Peta and I retreated under cover while the hardier locals braved it out for another ten minutes before they too ran laughing and screaming under the awnings. The rain kept pummelling the sea until we eventually bobbed into Cozumel harbour, and after a quick dash from the open-air gang-plank into the terminal building, we stood there wiping the drops from our eyes while torrents of water flowed down the main drag in San Miguel de Cozumel, the main town on the island. We'd long since abandoned any plans to go sightseeing around the island, and figured we would head for the only bona fide tourist attraction in San Miguel, the Museo de la Isla. The only problem was getting there, as the roads were now little more than fast-flowing rivers.
It was certainly entertaining, river-hopping along the sea front from traffic island to traffic island, while taxis ploughed through the rapids, pushing wave fronts in front of them and over the shoes of the befuddled tourists in the taxi queue. We eventually reached the museum and drip-dried ourselves among a number of interesting exhibits about Cozumel's history and underwater coral kingdoms, while the storm slowly abated, leaving a steaming Cozumel behind to be explored. We headed into the backstreets for our first meal in a proper, local Mexican restaurant, where we stumbled through the menu in our faltering Spanish and enjoyed a lovely meal for a pittance, and at last it felt as if we'd actually started travelling, albeit in a rather minor way.
We even made friends in the main square with an American couple who'd seen us in the restaurant and thought it worth mentioning, as not many tourists made it that far off the main plaza. They told us all about the diving in the area and pointed us in the direction of a pretty decent coffee joint so we could stock up on caffeine before braving the return journey to Playa. And after bumping into the giggling family of locals once again in the main square, we smiled our way back on the ferry, happy to have made our first excursion of the trip. After all, you have to start somewhere, and start we have...