4th December 2020 I booked a 10 day dive trip to the Socorro islands in Mexico in the hope that Boris Johnson would keep his promise of restrictions being lifted during Christmas. As I could not fly via America, I booked a flight for the 26th December via Paris- Mexico City- Cabo San Lucas. On the 17th December a new (Kent) variant appeared, whereby most European countries shut their borders to enter from the UK including France. It was a week of HELL. I put all my cards on this trip…I’ve become accustomed to solo travel ever since I did my first trip to Thailand in 2011. I love travelling on my own because it’s the ultimate freedom and forces me to meet new people. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about compromising. Needless to say how much I missed this during the year of Covid-19 when independence and freedom were the last on the list of opportunities.

As the situation was getting worse and worse by the day I got more and more angry, frustrated and desperate for my trip..I saw flights being cancelled, borders being shut but in my mind I hadn’t given up. My flight to France at 6am on Boxing Day was still ON! I did all the requirements, negative Covid test, packed my bag, bought a new underwater strobe, ordered spare batteries, my mind was set on this trip and for some miraculous reasons I found myself on that plane early morning on Boxing Day. I felt as if I had won the lottery! Empty airport, closed shops, hardly any people, fast check in and security, I stood there in that huge empty space and in that moment it was all that mattered.

The plane from Paris to Mexico City was full..

The whole trip to Cabo San Lucas was a whopping 30hours but I didn’t feel tired. As I was in the taxi from the airport in Cabo to my hotel I stopped the driver on the main strip, I listened to the live music from the car, watched the people having fun in the bars….and from that point I left Covid, the restrictions, the demoralised feeling, the fear, all the ‘walking on eggshells with people’ and the cold winter behind. I crashed in my hotel, next morning I went to the gym, had breakfast, checked out and headed straight to my Liveaboard, Solmar V.

It was warm! I had a bit of fear what the group would be like based on my last Madagascar experience with the French group but the fear was gone after I checked into the boat and met my roomie, Katy. Lovely girl, passionate about diving, super laid back, I knew I was going to have a blast. Maybe I didn’t think of the extent of blast I would be having! Once everyone was on board we left and it took us 24h to arrive from Cabo to San Benedicto island.

The famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas
The first group of dolphins en route to the Archipelago Revillagigedo

During the first 24 hours we could drink alcohol from the afternoon as we were not diving, so Bernard our wonderful bartender was bringing the Margaritas and within the first 6 hours the Tequila group formed..

Mark and Todd, the American brothers, Manuela and Filipe from Brazil, Katy from California, Klaudia from Poland living in Mexico, and our divemaster Rodrigo from Mexico. What a group this was!

The first (check out) dive wasn’t very successful for me as I had a 5mm brand new wetsuit and I didn’t have enough weights..my team saw a Manta, so they didn’t wait for me! I adjusted my weights and went down after trying to follow the bubbles, but couldn’t see them so I came up after 10 mins. But at least I was set for the next day with the right weight!

29th December

Fantastic schools of Hammerhead sharks, really action packed dives, Mantas on each dive. I was in my happy place!

30th December

I saw my first ever whale shark!!! The most emotional part of the trip! So so so so so so so happy!!! And for the record, I DID NOT RIDE THE WHALE-SHARK despite the rumours of my Tequila Team…..

Every afternoon after the last dive we sat on the sundeck or the front of the boat, sipping Margarita, watching the sunset, talking about our common passion travelling, diving, talking about life, bonding and making lifetime friendships…

31st December- The last day of 2020

I got up at 5am and did a pre-dive workout in the morning, we did 3 dives on this day, all wonderful again. Whilst we were on our last dive, the crew decorated the boat, the party scene was ready! We dressed up for our ultimate New Year’s Eve party and the rest is history.. Some illustrations below.

I will summarise this from now, every day was a magic, every day we celebrated life and our luck to be there together, every day we were grateful for this opportunity. The Tequila Group is still going strong from different parts of the World via WhatsApp.

10 days without internet was just what I needed. All we did was eat, sleep, dive, party. I did a fair bit of learning on this boat, Luke started introducing me to the fine details of underwater photography, I met this wonderful individual Taj who is travelling the World, and through his amazing videos and photos he is not only doing the best motivational speeches but also promoting his religious beliefs. Check out his YouTube channel Revelation of Hope Ministries.

Upon arrival to Cabo, when we started to have signal our bubble slowly faded. We had our last night, people were checking emails…and I became so sad. I wanted this to last forever! As I opened my phone on the 4th January..we all know what I saw: ‘England is going into a three months Lockdown’ It wasn’t a totally unexpected piece of news so I decided to postpone my return date…and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland continued…

Katy and Komathi stayed for an extra night so we booked a hotel in Jose del Cabo, went for sushi and cocktails and then mezcal tasting. Rodrigo, our DM joined us..it was a fabulous night.

Next day they left and I joined Manuela and Filipe and their friends from a previous Galapagos Liveaboard Casey and Philip in Cabo Pulmo National Park to do some more dives together. I think on the whole trip these couple of dives were the coldest..17 degree water. Stunning dives though, I was hoping to see some bull sharks but they were not around sadly. I changed my UK SIM to a Mexican SIM as I knew I would stay for longer.

After one night in Cabo Pulmo we all went to La Paz, and reunited with Klaudia.

I feel it was so nice to hang out a few days more with half of the Tequila Team! Baja California has definitely been one of the highlights of the whole trip! As I started working online I could not do the trip with them to snorkel with the whale sharks but it was ok as we had a fantastic interaction underwater with one on the Liveaboard..my first one ❤

However we did a tour together to Santu Espiritu to dive with the sea lions! Very cold day, very cold water but it was worth it!

The next day we separated 😦 But I officially got the title of Founder of the Tequila Group ❤ I still have my little badge:)

I took an overnight ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland and took the bus to Puerto Vallarta to see my bestie Bea who moved from Hungary to Mexico in October 2020! She was kind enough to let me stay with her for a couple of weeks. She lived at Marina Vallarta, a really nice part of PV. I was OK not to cram these 2 weeks with things to do. I just wanted to hang out, have nice meals, chill on the beach, talk about life. But we are both travellers, so it’s inevitable that something just randomly happens…so as we are walking in the Zona Romantica one night, we got stopped by a sales man selling us an opportunity to visit a 5 star hotel, have free breakfast, listen to a presentation and get a half price whale watching tour…..where is the catch..? Of course we said YES! We agreed that he would pick us up the day after at the address we gave him (trust is a big thing in these countries both ways and somehow it works!) and we got a voucher of a tour, date of our choice. So..let’s talk about time-share. It was a brand new concept for me. In Mexico it’s huge! Americans love buying time shares. This part of Mexico is like the extension of California..so what you do, is go to a fancy hotel, listen to a presentation individually not as part of a group, go through some complex financial formulas showing how much of a good deal you are getting by purchasing time share in this hotel compared to the amount of money you are currently paying to do your annual holiday and voila, the champagne pops and the cheerleading starts! In that 2 hours that we were there a few bottles popped…needless to say I can get carried away with these kind of things especially having visualised my next fitness retreat there so I nearly bought a time share too! Grateful to Bea and my risk averse husband for talking me out of it…

She introduced me to all her friends who were mainly Hungarians, it was like being in Hungary! Dinners, drinks together, shared traditional home cooked Hungarian meals and felt yet again extremely lucky to have been able to share all this together.

If anyone is looking for investment opportunities or buy a holiday home in Mexico, don’t look any further! Katya is the person! What an amazing girl! here is her website: http://katyahomm.com

During my stay with Bea I made a rough plan on how i was going to spend this time, I worked out a rough itinerary in Mexico and I was going to finish my trip with a huge dream! A Galapagos Dive Liveaboard. The prices of these liveaboards were heavily discounted and I went with the approach that I might as well do it if I was that part of the World. What I did not expect was that the UK was going to introduce hotel quarantine.. 2 weeks after me booking the Galapagos trip, the whole of South America (including Ecuador) went onto the UK’s red list which meant that upon arrival I would have needed to quarantine in a hotel for a total of £1700 so I worked out that flying back to Mexico (or to the US in case Mexico went onto the red list in the meantime) was cheaper than coming home straight from Ecuador and stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from my house! See travelling (especially during COVID) is a bit like playing chess. You never know what the next move is! The unpredictability is that I’m hooked to beyond the necessity to experience different life situations and cultural differences.

After Puerto Vallarta I travelled to Oaxaca. It’s a city I missed out on in 2014 and it was very high on the list! It was kind of an adventure to get there because not only the time of my flight changed from Puerto Vallarta but also the day and the city of stop between the two so instead of flying on Monday via Mexico City I flew on Sunday via Monterrey. I didn’t plan to visit Monterrey, I tend not to visit cities on my travels but I have to say Mexico City is amazing but I already covered it back in 2014. The good thing about Monterrey was that again it proved to be a good thing trusting people. My first instinct is always trust humans. I arrived late – must have been after 10pm and I booked a hotel for the night but didn’t really look up how to get there. There was this guy at one of the bus stops at the airport and I thought he was waiting for a bus that goes to the centre of Monterrey. But it was just drop off bus to the short and long term parking so he told me to come with him and that he would drop me off at my hotel. We chatted, he just came from a weekend in Cancun. He dropped me off and asked if I was hungry. Of course I was so I thought I’d return the kind favour of dropping me off by treating him for dinner. In my dreams…super gentleman, he said ladies never pay in this country when they are with a man. Ha-ha! so we went for a takeaway dinner (it was lockdown so couldn’t sit in anywhere, we sat outside and ate, then he kindly showed me the city, dropped me off my hotel and we said bye. It was nice to spend the evening in a city you don’t know with someone who does! Next day I had my corporate class on Zoom and as my flight was in the afternoon I got to see the fifth largest square in the World called The MacroPlaza. 400,000m2! Super impressive!

After the short sightseeing I flew to Oaxaca – my Airbnb was phenomenal!

Lovely Travellers, we made truffles together on the first night!

Oaxaca is a lovely colonial town with highly creative artistic, culinary and craft scenes. Top class museums, fascinating markets, easygoing vibes.

Oaxaca is always the home of the BEST mezcal that Mexico has to offer. It’s an agave based sipping spirit- tequila is a type of mezcal. You can get reposado (rested) or añejo (aged) which are smoother, you can get bottles with a worm inside or caterpillar that feeds on the agave. It’s usually served with mix salt and chilly and orange as opposed to salt and lime.

The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites, the most famous one is Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital. It means White Mountain. Pics below.

As part of the tour we visited little villages along the handicraft route.

Upon arrival I got dropped off at a market as I wanted to stock up with mezcal. I love markets! the colours, all the character and the weirdest combination of things from live animals to fresh cheese, flowers, Mexican fight masks and the list could go on….

Oaxaca is also famous for it cocoa. The most popular form of consuming is as hot chocolate!

Sadly due to the COVID restrictions I couldn’t explore Oaxaca to its full potential, realistically there is so much to see in the mountains from the little pueblo magicos (magic villages) through the different ruins and ideally you do this by hiring a car.

As there were so may restrictions I decided to take a night bus down to the Oaxaca coast to Puerto Escondido. I almost forgot the joy of travelling on a night bus but I very quickly remembered the ice cold journeys, uncomfortable seats, people falling on you. I always thought that getting on a night bus tipsy is always better than sober as you fall asleep quicker but I definitely disagree with this after the 4-5 night bus journeys that I did from Oaxaca through Chiapas to Yucatan.

But it’s usually worth the struggle…arrived at Paradise quite literally…

I stayed in a wonderful hotel La Hacienda de Las Suites, which became my second home. I met so many wonderful people there, Patricia and Hansen from Buffalo NY, Gina and Roy from NYC. Luiss who worked there was a dream!

Next day I was already on a whale watching tour, swimming with dolphins, visiting the most beautiful virgin beaches..

Next day Gina and Roy’s friends arrived to celebrate his birthday and we had a beach party with lots of Coco Loco:)

It was time to move on. Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. It was a bit of a shock to the system arriving from 31 degrees to 11! Another colourful colonial city with its cobbled streets and charm. I walked around on the day I arrived and the next day did a tour to the Cañon del Sumidero and a pueblo magico nearby Chiapa de Corzo.

The day after visiting the canyon I checked out of the hotel and took a tour to Palenque. We stopped by Agua Azul and Mizol-Ha waterfalls. Both beautiful!

And we finally arrived at Palenque. Set in the middle of the ‘jungle’ the temples are the best examples of Maya architecture in Mexico dated back to 100BC.

I got dropped off at the bus station where the guard kindly offered me to look after my stuff whilst touring the magic town of Palenque. I had about 4 hours until the night bus.

I arrived at Merida early in the morning next day. Checked into my hotel, and my lovely friend Ana Karen whom I met for the first time in 2014 (see my blog post from back then) and then a couple of other times after was coming that night to spend a long weekend together after years of not having seen each other! I was very much looking forward to seeing her because somehow we always connected through life/job/lack of father figure in our lives etc. I was out and about exploring the town, markets during the day, she arrived late. Some impressive art was displayed for everyone to see free of charge… lot of political messages behind some…

I also realised that Mexico and Hungary have a lot of similarities and yet they are the complete opposite when it comes to mindset. The ultimate pessimist meets the ultimate optimist…somehow this exchange does work though!

I was super tired after the series of night buses and parties that I didn’t quite recover from so we had a bottle of wine together with Karen at the hotel balcony and then I crashed. 

The next day we decided to hop on another bus in the morning and visit a coastal town called Celestun which is famous for its flamingos! Such a fun day!

The day after was our last day together. 😦 We did some errands and shopping in Merida..had an emotional lunch together followed by a very quirky dinner recommended by my friend Gina at the Saloon Gallos! If you are in Merida, go there! And to add a breakfast place to this: El barrio! These 2 places were just magnificent! Food, service, atmosphere. I had a really fun weekend with Karen! I stayed one more day in Merida after she left, mainly teaching, gymming (those occasional opportunities when I could get my hands on the weights!!)

Next stop: Tulum!

I have been in touch with Luke from the Liveaboard throughout the whole time, and I booked a Photo workshop with him, along with a few photo specific dives in the cenotes. The Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s largest number of underwater sinkholes (cenotes). Formed when limestone is gradually eroded over hundreds of years, cenotes are excellent places to dive, and as turns out to improve your underwater photography skills!

I would highly recommend Luke to anyone, if you are up for having a FUN, interactive and in-depth photo course and cenote diving experience, check out Luke’s website! http://www.lukecoleyphotography.com

Aaron and Michael were a lot of fun to dive with too, Michael used to live in Ickenham, around the corner from me!

And some of my best photos from these few days:

Once the photo course finished, I had a few more days to spend in Tulum before flying to Ecuador to the Galapagos islands.

Tulum was a very different place in 2014. Very remote, backpacker vibes..now, all prices set in US$, booking system, minimum consumption etc. It has gone through an extraordinary change! But I still love Tulum! The beaches..the atmosphere. Ibiza of the Caribbean!

Another dream came true visiting the Tulum Jungle Gym!

I got my PCR test done and the next day I took a bus to Cancun where my flight departed to Quito via Mexico City.

Next stop: Returning to the Galapagos islands after 9 years!! I was beyond excited! I became a certified diver a month after I visited Galapagos in 2012 and nobody could believe that I was there and didn’t dive! So it was time to make up for the lost time!

I arrived at Quito very late in the evening, booked a hotel close to the airport as my flight to the islands the next morning was super early!

Getting to the Galapagos is not as straight forward. You need a so called ‘salvoconducto’ (permit) to enter the islands. This needs to come from the hotel you are staying at, or in my case the dive company provided it. You need to specify exactly how long are you staying on the islands. You have a very strict list of prohibited items (mainly food) that you cannot bring onto the islands. They are very particular about their eco system for a reason!

When I saw the islands from above, I knew I was home!

The way you get from Baltra airport to Santa Cruz is to take a bus to the ferry station, hop onto a ferry and ride to Santa Cruz where you can either continue by bus to Puerto Ayora or by a taxi. I had a taxi waiting for me. I stayed one night at the lovely Hotel Coloma, went to Playa Aleman and Las Grietas on the same day as I arrived, had dinner and the next day my taxi picked me up from the hotel and took me to Calipso, the most luxurious Liveabord I have ever been to!

Calipso operated with half capacity which made this whole experience so much better! Full crew, half of the guests, undivided attention! Wolf island was my favourite day…every single dive on that day (4 of them) was just an hour of adrenaline with schools of hammerheads, dolphins, sea lions and many other amazing sea creatures! The group was great as well! I felt much more confident than on any other liveaboards before..I guess the one in Mexico was the closest but not quite like here as I pretty much have been diving 3 months in a row by the time I got to Galapagos!

The rooms were amazing, food was fantastic, and having known the language I got treated like a queen by the crew! It was almost like a private trip. The schedule of the 9 days were pretty much like, dive, eat, dive eat, dive, eat, party, sleep:) I am still in touch with most of the crew, the captain delivered the sad news to me that after me standing at the front of the boat admiring the beauty of Darwin’s Arch, it is now only history….It collapsed a month ago. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen it in its full beauty. It’s interesting that I also got to see Lonesome George in his last days in 2012 and a couple of months after he died. I wonder why I have such a strong connection with Galapagos.

The last day was a land day. We visited collectively a tortoise ranch and then went to Tortuga bay.

It’s funny to compare 2 pictures 9 years apart!

Me and Adrian went back to the boat to have the last party with the crew, the others left to the land to maximise their time on the islands and getting to know this heaven in earth also above the sea! What a fun last night..I could really imagine living there..on the boat..owning nothing, but owning everything by watching the sun rising and setting every day. I really don’t need much to be happy..it only seems the opposite when I am in London. I truly believe that I have two personalities, one is living by or on the sea..the other one is the city girl..In order to keep the balance, I need to experience both equally.

After we left the boat, me and Adrian spent a couple of more days together, visited another beach in Santa Cruz and Isabela island…and we got a tattoo together! My first ever! Im so so happy that I took home a memory from the Galapagos!

It was nearly time to go home!

As Ecuador and the whole South America was/is on UK’s red list, I had to find a way to avoid hotel quarantine..So I took a risk and went back to Mexico for the last 10 days hoping it wouldn’t go onto the red list. I chose to go back to Puerto Escondido, because Gina and Patricia were there and also because it was probably the most remote and least Americanised part of Mexico.

Next day I was on a fishing tour with my friend Shon Cruz. We caught nothing but my love for boats is endless!

I decided to visit nearby coastal towns, Mazunte, Zipolite so I took a bus and found myself in paradise. Mazunte is even more of a hidden gem than Puerto Escondido. I had the best room…it was so so simple. But that was all I needed! The smell of the ocean and standing on my balcony literally above the ocean!

I met Yosimar in Mazunte who owned a bar by my hotel. We became friends and he took me a few places which are more local rather than touristy. Introduced me to his friends..it was a magical day! Grateful for this experience!

These kids are so happy. They have everything. The sea, the sun..they don’t need the internet whilst the busy parents are not home, they don’t need a nanny, multi-generation living together, talking, eating together, living a pure life.

After Mazunte I went to Zipolite. Ana Karen decided to spend the last few days with me and she came directly to the Hotel I booked. It was called ‘Nude’. Zipolite is famous for its laid back, gay friendly, nudist vibes. It’s a magical place! Bigger than Mazunte but lots going on, and one night we went to a beach party. It was THE BEST! Seeing people dancing, being in crowds, under the stars with electronic music..it was like Covid never happened! We slept on the beach and it was safe and wonderful. I can still hear the waves if I close my eyes.

After Zipolite Gina, Diablo and another friend Marianne came to pick us up in the car and we went to San Agustino- famous for its snorkelling. We spent a day there enjoying fresh ceviche, seafood and of course Coco Loco. They all snorkelled but I still didn’t want to go into the water because of my tattoo. San Agustino is relatively close to Huatulco, which is more known than Escondido, Mazunte or the other coastal towns because they is where cruise ships stopped pre-covid.

When I first arrived at London, I got a job relatively quickly at an Italian company where I met Chiara. It was a strange company and being one of the only non-italian made it difficult at times to fully ‘blend in’, but I liked Chiara, and have been following her on Facebook. She moved to Mexico not long after we worked together, opened an Italian gelateria, found the love of her life and they had a beautiful girl. They opened a cooking school near Huatulco, so I decided to write her and ask if she wanted to meet up. I’m so happy I did! As it’s quite far from Puerto Escondido and most of my stuff I left there knowing that I would be flying out from there we spent 2 nights there. One in the little town where she lived (La Bocana), which was a paradise! And another in Huatulco city. Ana Karen had to work so me, Chiara and Isabella went to the beach! They live so happily in that tranquil place of the World. She doesn’t really miss the city, she created a simple but wonderful life for herself and her family. She is a true inspiration!

After Huatulco we took a super early bus back to Puerto Escondido so that Karen can start working at 9am (2h bus ride) and it was the final stretch of my trip. I reckon in these 10 days life gave me the best of the best having met Chiara, Ana Karen again, and one last surprise, my fitness buddy arrived from Brasil, Eliane!!! She came to Mexico as well to avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival to the UK from Brazil.

We said by with Gina, she has been a huge part of this trip for me and was sad to see her go. Same level of craziness and hunger for life!

We watched the last sunset and had a last party together with Eliane, her new friends and Ana Karen..which was an emotional rollercoaster! I felt sad, happy, grateful! My love for the sea and that lifestyle has become so strong..the positivity around me, the thrill of meeting new people, new inspirations. After a trip like this I always feel that my life shifted.

Settling back to the UK wasn’t easy. I lost a few clients during this experience but it was a ‘natural selection’. Grateful to those people who recognised how important this trip was for me and stuck with me.

I’m looking forward to sharing my next blog post..hopefully very soon! Thank you for reading and living this trip with me through my photos.

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