Vegan Banana Oat Pancakes

banana pancakes

When I first went to the doctors and was diagnosed with salmonella I was told to avoid dairy products. I’d been avoiding cheese for a while but this meant cutting milk, yoghurt and butter out of my diet too. Nightmare!!

This was easier said than done, as most of what I eat for breakfast consists of milk, yoghurt or butter. After a few weeks of eating soya milk porridge, I was getting extremely bored. A quick search on the internet was the solution (as always). I found a perfect vegan banana and oats pancake recipe, which I’ve adapted to fit our limited ingredients.

On Sunday morning I decided to make them and surprise Rob with breakfast in bed.  It was a bit of a risk, Rob is full fat, meat with every meal kind of guy, and so it could have backfired. But he loved them and I think you will too!

pancake

Ingredients

  • 350 mls unsweetened soya milk (or non-dairy milk of your preference)
  • 90 grams rolled oats
  • 2 ripe bananas chopped
  • 60 grams plain flour
  • 1 tbps baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Serving

  • Honey
  • Pecan nuts
  • Sliced banana

Method

  1. In a blender, blitz soya milk and oats until smooth. Add the bananas, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and blitz for a few seconds more. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a little oil and spread around the pan. Scoop batter into the pan in roughly 1/4 cup increments. Reduce pan to medium-low & cook pancakes until air bubbles appear & the underside is golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip & cook 3-5 minutes more.
  3. Top with sliced bananas, pecans and honey.
Perfect for a relaxed Sunday morning…

This made about 15 pancakes, so we put the batter in the fridge and ate them again the next morning. You can also freeze the batter to use later.

The Mission – In search of a blood test

mission

Today was ‘Mission Day’. Our mission was to get the nearest city for a blood test, to see if I had fully recovered from my stomach illness.

mission

Previous blood test results, showing my many contaminations.

Unfortunately, there were a few things standing in our way.

The first problem – The nearest city of Chetumal is 4-hours away. Thankfully a neighbour was giving us a lift there, so that was easily sorted.

The second problem – The neighbour couldn’t give us a lift back and we needed to get back to our housesit before nightfall, to keep watch over our new home in the jungle.

Confident things would work out fine; we took a leap of faith. We would get home somehow.

A rude awakening

Things didn’t start too well…

When you’re woken up for the second night in a row by a mouse defecating in your kitchen, there is something in the back of your mind that tells you this isn’t going to be your day.

Only a matter of hours after posting about how wonderful it was in paradise, we discovered we had a mouse living in our bodega. After trapping the mouse and a thorough deep clean of the kitchen we thought we were done.

Sadly not.

The next night we discovered the mouse had friends, and they had decided our kitchen was their own personal snack bar and toilet. It’s unbelievable how such a small creature can make such a big mess. I have never seen so many tiny poos.

At 2am we began a 2-hour clean up. I disinfected, Rob uninstalled the oven where they had made their smelly nest. This time they would definitely be evicted.

Drama over, we looked at the clock only to discover that in 40 minutes our alarm was due to go off. Any plans of sleep were abandoned; it was going to be a very long day ahead.

Whilst eating breakfast, Rob stopped to tell me something. I knew it must be important; he never pauses when food is in front of him.

He said, “We’re both going to be tired and grumpy today Jones (that’s me) and we have a lot of travelling to do. You and me are a team, no getting snappy with each other. Lets get through this together.”

We find a pep talk can be the difference between a major row and a thoroughly pleasant day. Hopefully this one would work…

The journey begins

At 5.30am our lift arrived and we began the 4-hours of fun to Chetumal. For the first hour we headed along a bumpy road, which has more craters than the moon, towards the small town of Mahahaul.

We stopped at a mechanics. We’ve not had any transport since arriving here and the car we can use, whilst housesitting, was finally ready to pick up from the garage.

We’d clearly just woken the mechanic up, as he emerged from his house topless and rubbing his eyes. After much a apologising from us for disturbing him from his slumber, he handed over the car. The first mission of the day was a success. Transport sorted.

Unfortunately despite the car being fixed, there was no way it was capable of such a long journey, so we paid the mechanic and left it to pick up at a later time, continuing on with our neighbour.

The blood test

Suprisingly the 4-hour trek to Chetumal seemed to fly by and we were soon on to our main mission of the day – the dreaded blood test.

mission

Check out the needle! (A prop on the doctors desk thankfully) The blood test was so quick and only cost about £15 – Clinica Carranza

Armed with the previous tests results and the Spanish word for ‘repeat’ we visited a clinic. Within minutes I was having my blood taken again and told to come back for the results in 2-hours time. This was too easy! Second mission of the day a success.

With a couple hours to kill, there was only one thing to do. Eat!!

Over lunch, despite our droopy eyelids and sleep deprived brains, we hatched a plan to get back to our housesit.

The plan involved catching a bus, hitchhiking and picking up our freshly repaired car in Mahahaul. It required the kindness of a stranger, but everything else seemed to be going our way, why shouldn’t that?

Heading back to get my test results, I was feeling quite anxious. At this point I was beyond tired of being ill. We’ve been in Mexico for 7 weeks now and so far I’ve managed 10 days of not being sick.

I started to get the feeling that there was something seriously wrong. Although I felt better, there were still bouts of nausea. I needed the results to come back negative, to know for certain that I was in the clear.

Insert drum roll here…

The results all came out negative! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to see that the horrible bacteria has gone from my body. I am officially no longer diseased!!

I now had a real spring in my step. The day just kept getting better and better. I felt like a female version of the Fonz, need a jukebox fixing? A nudge of the elbow and I’ll sort it for you.

Making friends

And so the journey home began. Rob wandered off in search of an ATM. I sat people watching in the bus station. Every now and again someone would try to sell me something, I was offered food, drink, knives and vitamins. Imagine if I’d sat there all day, I would have a massive array of household items!

Despite my lack Spanish, one of the things I about travelling is the short interactions I have with local people. This usually involves a few words in the local lingo and a lot of gestures and miming, but it’s always fun and rewarding.

Whilst sitting waiting for our bus, a cute little boy came and sat next to me. He had big brown eyes, a dirty little face and not a single ounce of shyness. In Spanish he asked me my name and from there the conversation flowed for the next 5 minutes.

We chatted about our ages, where we came from. Simple things, but this bright-eyed little chap made my day.

Then he was on his way again. He had to head on for the more pressing matters in a 6 year olds life; friends to play with and bubbles to blow.

The day we were dreading, was filling me with happiness.

All was running smoothly. We got on our bus to the town of Limones and within ten minute of departing it, we were in the back of a kind strangers pick up truck heading to Mahahaul and the Holy Grail, which in this case was our car.

mission

Warning! Hitchhiking in the back of a truck is bad for your hair.

On the road to Mahahual there is a military checkpoint. Despite their huge guns and intimidating uniforms the soldiers are incredibly nice people, always greeting us with huge smiles.

Mainly they seem bored and in desperate need of entertainment and company. They couldn’t give a monkeys about us being in the back of a strangers pick up truck, sandwiched precariously in between the side of the truck and a huge fridge freezer.

We exchanged names, ages and our marital status with Umberto the soldier. He taught us lots of new Spanish words, none of which I can remember now, but mainly he continued the positive feelings we were getting from the day.

Homeward bound

Once in Mahahual, we bid farewell to the kind strangers and picked up our car. Food again became our priority. Having recently been told about a place that does fish and chips we had to give it a go. It’s our national dish after all. It didn’t disappoint. The fish was so fresh and the batter was remarkable. I still drool when I think about it now.

mission

Delicious!

Our final feat was to head back up the bumpy potholed road, keeping our dinner in our stomachs. With this successfully achieved, and having been awake for 17 hours and on the road for 13, we collapsed in to our bed before falling soundly asleep by 9pm.

After a bad start to the day, we were both of the opinion that it would be a massive struggle trying to get things done whilst fighting off tiredness. But despite this everything just fell into place. It was an adventure, with friendly people, great food and peace of mind.  A negative became positive in more ways than one.

What could have been day full of stress and grumpy exchanges, turned out to be a day we both really enjoyed. Sometimes you get a weird feeling that the world is on your side.

Banana loaf – Cake o’clock

Banana loaf

Our rental apartment in Playa Del Carmen was missing one important thing. An oven!

When we arrived at our housesit, in Mexico, I was very excited to see one proudly nestled in the middle of our kitchen. In my mind an oven means one thing, cakes!

Banana loaf is great in many ways. It’s tasty, quick to prepare and it gets rid of those slightly brown looking bananas left in your fruit bowl that you were never ever going to eat. Plus it contains fruit, surely that makes it healthy??!! Maybe not, but who cares? Cake is good and there’s no point denying it.

It’s perfect for ‘Cake O’clock’, which we introduced in our last post, life off the grid in Mexico. Basically, whatever we are doing at 11am we have to stop and make time for cake and a cup of tea together.  Such a simple thing, but trust me, it will enhance your life!

Ingredients

• 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
• 80g melted butter
• 200g sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 180g plain flour

(feel free to add in some chocolate chips if you have any)

banana loafbanana loafbanana loafbanana loaf

Method

No need for a mixer for this recipe.

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
2) With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
3) Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.
4) Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
5) Add the flour last, mix.
6) Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour (approx). Cool on a rack.

Now sit back, grab yourself a brew and enjoy ‘Cake O’clock’

Banana loaf

Housesitting off the grid in Mexico

As I type this I am sat on the beach surrounded by palm trees. In the distance I can hear the waves gently breaking on the shore. The temperature is 30 degrees but the shade and sea breeze keep me cool. I must be dreaming? Surely I am going to wake up, look out the window and see the cold sleeting rain of Scotland bucketing down.

off the grid

The view from our beach

We left Playa Del Carmen over two weeks ago now for our new home. For at least the next 3 months we are house sitting well off the grid, it’s 15km to Xcalak the nearest town. If you can actually call it a town. It is made up of dirt track (the main road), a few rows of houses, a couple of restaurants and the odd shop. Still, it has a certain charm.

A tortuous journey

The journey here from Playa was a tortuous one, the distances small, but the roads painful. It started with a 3.5hour journey to Limones on a jam-packed bus. From Limones no buses go to our final destination, so a friendly new neighbour came to pick us up. She informed us that it was going to take another 2 hours to do the last 70km of our trip. With a cheeky grin she said, “it’s going to get a little bumpy”.

First though we headed to Mahahual to stock up on food, as there are no supermarkets in paradise. Mahahaul is the nearest ‘big town’. When I say big, imagine a small village with 4 corner shops and you will probably be close.

Here we took part in what felt like a supermarket sweep. We ran around the small corner shops throwing random items into a trolley, we had no plan, no list and no idea what we need, but we had food. Well maybe more chocolate than actual food, but snacks are important!

Our journey for the first hour was rather pleasant, a concrete road with the odd crack and bump. We definitely could cope with this. We began thinking ‘Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all?’

That’s when the shit got real! The 15km from Xcalak to our housesit can only be described as a quarry with mammoth sized potholes. 1 hour of back breaking, bone shaking pain. The road to paradise was definitely testing us.

We finally arrived at dark and had absolutely no idea where we had landed, or what it would look like come the light of day. After a warm welcome by the house owner we were left to our own devises and chose to collapse on to our new bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

Waking up in paradise

The next morning we rose early like giddy children on Christmas morning. The sun streamed into our bedroom and we excitedly opened the doors to reveal our new surroundings.

Palm trees cover our bodega, and lead to a small opening onto the beach and down to the sea. Even after 2 weeks here we still look at each other and say, ‘can you believe this?’ It’s like no other place I have ever lived. Put simply, it is stunning.

off the grid

off the gridWe have already slipped into a nice routine, waking early, usually to the sound of birds. This isn’t as idyllic as it sounds, as they are really loud and sound like they are killing each other. It is better than an alarm I suppose.

After breakfast Rob heads out to the dock to exercise and follows this with spot of gardening. This is one of the tasks the homeowners asked us to take care of. They were extremely laid back about our duties, but we both need a purpose to our days and gain a sense of achievement from helping to tame the jungle. Rob is in his element and can often be seen wielding a machete as he hacks up coconuts on the beach.

off the grid

off the grid
Rob getting some exercise in the best gym ever

I take the time to tidy our home and have become a stereotypical 1950’s housewife, as I make use of our oven to bake cakes. This has added ‘Cake O’clock’ to our day, whatever we are doing at 11am we have to stop and make time for cake and a cup of tea together. Where possible, I suggest adding ‘Cake O’clock’ to your lives!

off the grid

Bring ‘Cake O’clock’ into your lives

Then we carry on with our tasks. There is ALWAYS sand on the floor in our house. It drives me crazy, especially when it gets into our bed. If I wanted to sleep on the beach I would, I don’t, so sand in the bed it just not on! (The small things you moan about when there are no real problems to deal with)

We have limited internet, you can actually watch it quickly evaporate before your very eyes on a little cyber bar chart, and we are totally reliant on solar power. To cope with this we have banned any internet action before 12pm, and mindless browsing is just not allowed. Although we still waste far too much time checking Twitter and Facebook.

Simple pleasures

Taking ourselves away from the computer gives us time to gain pleasure from the simple things, such as our surroundings and the creatures that inhabit it. There are 3 or 4 greedy pelicans that regularly dive from our dock hunting for fish, making a huge splash as they go. We like to watch them as they scout out their next catch and leap head first into the water.

100s of crabs meander about the area. I think I might have witnessed some crab love making the other day; they looked intimate and were making funny squeaky crab noises. After making Rob come and look as well, we left them in private.

off the grid

Most crabs find shells to call their homes. This little guys likes to break the mould.

We occasionally hear the faint rhythmic knocking sound of a woodpecker, and even managed to catch a glimpse of him once. There are also rumours of jaguars and alligators roaming the encroaching jungles and swamps, although we haven’t seen any signs yet.

Time has slowed down, but despite this the days fly by. We can quite happily just stare out to sea, watching as the mesmeric ocean turns different shades of blue in the sunlight. I have no idea where the hours go.

off the grid

All this relaxing, sitting about and not really doing much has slowed my heart rate down to very healthy base rate. So this week in order to rectify this, I put my fear of water to the test with a jaunt in a kayak. In the past such activities caused me palpitations and even the sight of a kayak would make me feel dizzy. This time however I was relatively calm and once out in the sea I didn’t even have to do the usual self-talk to calm myself down. I’m still taking small steps in over coming my fear.

Rob has been off snorkeling in the coral reef which protects the coastline here just a couple of hundred metres from shore, but that’s a little out my reach at the moment. I’m in the perfect place to overcome my aqua phobia, so one day… Maybe?

Food for thought

Unsurprisingly food still occupies a healthy amount of our thoughts each day. Between 12 and 2pm we eagerly listen out for the food truck, they are supposed to come most days. Being so far from town, the food truck is our only regular source of food. You never know what they are going to bring, so it’s a bit of a lottery when it comes to meal times.

So far in 2 weeks we have had just 2 trucks, this is less than ideal. After the first week we were contemplating eating rice and beans ever day as our stocks dwindled. We eat for pleasure and not just for sustenance, so the thought was a little depressing.

Thankfully after a trip into town, (Mahahaul) we were once again fully stocked with all the necessities to make simple, but tasty food. This time we more prepared and went with a list and a plan.

The trip was forced on us due to a reoccurrence of my Salmonella bug. After 4 days of being off antibiotics, my ‘Ghost face’ returned along with those familiar stomach gurgling noises, nausea, and lack of appetite. I needed to get to a doctor or at the very least a pharmacy; we sent an email out to our neighbours.

Although our nearest neighbours are a mile away there is a strong sense of community, with a lot of ex-pats making their home here in the winter. Everyone is more than happy to help each other out. We are currently without transport, if you’d seen the road you’d understand why cars and any other vehicles tend to break down frequently, in order for us to get into town we borrowed our neighbours truck.

Thankfully the clinic in Mahahaul was very helpful. They gave me more drugs to take and recommended I get another blood test in a week or so. We’ll have to visit a city for that, when our car is fixed, but hopefully I will have finally kicked this persistent bug.

Life off the grid…

Living off the grid does come with some difficulties. Our life is certainly different here. We don’t have the all the usual conveniences on our doorstep, we can’t just nip to the shop if we run out of milk, we have to be mindful about turning lights off at night, and being ill is even more rubbish than usual. But we are really embracing this opportunity. Life is simpler and the pace slower. The people are friendly and the place is beautiful.

For once we seem to be living in the moment and not chasing greener grass.

off the grid

Our 4 year anniversary – His and hers views

Anniversary

Today marks our anniversary. It’s 4 years since Rob and I first met. In this joint post we look back on the remarkable changes we have seen in our lives together….

Anniversary

A rare picture of us together

Her view…

When I first met Rob, I was living in a city centre apartment in Manchester, North England. I had just spent the last 3 years there studying for my doctorate. The day of our first date I had attended a conference day at Manchester University, where I was presenting the finding of my years of research. At least it was an eventful day and gave us something to talk about.

Looking back I hadn’t realised how unhappy I was. The doctorate was harder than I imagined and despite being a psychologist I hadn’t really noticed the signs of stress taking their toll on me.

Years of stress

3 years of studying is a long time and despite the doctorate being my main focus, life still happens around you. During this period I lost some important people. One of my closest friends died of cancer and my Grandad, probably the most important man in my life at that that time, was in the grips of dementia. I travelled home frequently to be with my family during this time, using the 3-hour train journey, there and back, to get on with my academic studies.

Life was full on at this point, every minute of the day had to be accounted for. I was working 7 days a week and probably 12 hours each day. There wasn’t time to relax and there certainly wasn’t time to grieve.

I graduated in December 2009 and with the studies finally behind me, I decided that something had to change. I needed time and space and after being single for a very long time, I needed to think that there was at least a possibility of meeting someone.

Life changer

As clichéd as it sounds, meeting Rob really did change my life. Shortly after we met, he had to move to Scotland. Rather surprisingly it was to help save dolphins. After 18 months of living 450 miles apart, I moved to Scotland to be with him.  Fast forward 2 and a half years, and we are celebrating our 4 year anniversary in remote and beautiful part of Mexico.

Rob has changed me as a person. I’m happier now than I have ever been. He has taught me patience, kindness and love. He lets me be vulnerable, without making this feel like a weakness. He makes me feel brave, like I can do anything and achieve anything if I set my mind to it. He makes me feel safe and secure, always reassuring me that ‘It’ll be fine’, however much I’m freaking out.

Most importantly he makes me feel loved and accepts my love in return, without conditions.

It’s incredible where life takes you when you open up.

anniversary new york

A surprise trip to New York!

His view…

I remember when I first met Kellie, she stood out from the crowd. Her hair was pillar-box red, she was wearing a 1950’s style dress and matching retro accessories. This might make her sound like a rebellious granny, but the girl was (is) cool.

On first impressions she looked cute and innocent, but underneath the image she possessed a very dark sense of humour and a ‘don’t fuck with me’ attitude. I have to admit, even though she stands at mere 5’2″, I wouldn’t have messed with her.

Intimidating, but intriguing and she made me laugh. Lots!

First date:

I thought she was completely uninterested in me.

Surely I bored her to tears with my dad jokes, love of wildlife and all things outdoors.

I was wrong…

She texted me the very next morning, whilst I was doing the, ‘I won’t text her yet, because she’ll think I’m a crazy stalker’ routine.

Second date:

I told her I was moving to Scotland to help save dolphins. Thankfully after her initial question of, “Do they have dolphins in Scotland?” she actually believed me and didn’t think it was some elaborate way of dumping her.

Third date:

Kellie drove me 4 hours north, to Scotland, so I could help save dolphins.

Not a normal third date I have to admit, but this pretty much sums up our relationship since then. The unexpected has become the norm and it makes life together exciting.

Surprise gifts

For my 30th birthday she surprised me with a trip to New York. My dream destination! We caught a show, ate our weight in pizza and ice-skated in Central Park.

When I had man flu and we were living hundreds of miles apart, she mailed me a ‘get well soon’ kit. It contained everything I needed to cure my ills; honey, detox tea and vitamins. She forgot to send a lemon in the package so posted it separately. This left me scratching my head when I opened the envelope with the lemon in it first. No explanation. Just a lemon in an envelope….

When I think back to our first date, I wouldn’t have expected this kindness from the ‘don’t fuck with me’ stranger, but Kellie is full of surprises. That’s part of what I love about her. Plus she makes me look tall(er).

She has opened up, become softer, but still has a tough streak. We often joke that I’m good at kissing arse and she is good at kicking arse. A nice balance.

It’s not all been rainbows, butterflies and adventure. With any relationship there are ups and downs. I call them ‘EXPLOSIVE MOMENTS’. But as the months became years, they have become fewer and fewer.

24 hours a day 7 days a week!

In fact despite being in each other’s company for nearly 24hrs every single day, for over 6 weeks, our niggles have been minor. They are none explosive gripes.

Travel has brought calmness. Everyday stresses disappear.

In four years we went from living hundreds of miles apart, spending occasional weekends together, to living in each other pockets day in day out.

Somehow it works.

Before we departed on this life-changing escapade, we were extreme budgeters. Our savings mission prevented us from doing what we loved. No treats, no travel, lots of frustration.

It all seems worth it now and we are free to roam as we please. I can’t imagine what will happen in the next 6 months, let alone the next 4 years.

The main thing for me is being able to share the highs and lows of life and travels with the rebellious granny…

BRING. IT. ON.

anniversary jump

Renting an apartment in Playa Del Carmen

Renting Playa Del Carmen

Nearly every man and his dog has written about renting an apartment in Playa Del Carmen, so I thought I would throw my hat in the ring with an option that no-one else seems to suggest.

We found an absolute bargain after weeks of searching online… (We were beginning to lose the will to live!)

Our Requirements

1) Cheap ($650 or £400 ish)
2) One month rental
3) With a kitchen and good space.
4) Furnished

Besides that we weren’t fussy, as long is was clean, had Wi-Fi, with supermarkets and restaurants nearby.

The Options

Many people recommend using Elizabeth, from Renting Playa Del Carmen, but we didn’t have much success with this option. Mainly due to our low budget, wanting to arrive in December (peak season), and only being willing to commit to a month.

The limited options Elizabeth could offer were either house shares or mid/long term rentals. There was a chance we could just leave it to the last minute to get somewhere, but we didn’t want to take that risk with Playa’s ever increasing popularity.

Elizabeth comes with recommendations from many happy travel bloggers, including Tell Them I Said SomethingWandering Earl and Never Ending Voyage, so I am pretty sure she would have sorted something, but the potential of being homeless for Christmas was not our idea of fun.

Others suggest just turning up in Playa, booking into a hotel room and scouring the streets until you find the prefect place. I went one further and contacted someone I knew who was already living there and asked them to keep their ear to the ground.

Unfortunately my friend hit a brick wall in his search. Being a white non-Mexican wasn’t helpful for prices. The quotes he received were at least twice the going rate, or again the landlords wanted long-term renters. This makes me question how successful I would have been if I had just turned up and tried to find something without the help of an Mexican, especially in peak season. If you know a local, go for it!

We also tried the local classifieds www.andale.mx which has plenty of mid/long term rentals, but we couldn’t find any short term renting opportunities.

Our bargain

In the end we managed to find this place through Airbnb (I have not been sponsored or asked by a company to give these details, just merely helping fellow travellers).

Cost: $620 or £375

Main Features:

• 2 bedrooms (spacious and with double beds)
• Kitchen (with hob – no oven)
• Bathroom
• Living room
• Wi-Fi
• TV (not cable, but has USB slot for movies) and stereo.
• Air con in main bedroom, rest of apartment has fans.

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Pros:

– Lots of space. Many apartments seem to be studio, but having a bigger place meant Kellie and me weren’t on top of each other all the time. Great for a healthy relationship when you spend almost 24hrs together…
– Cinema, restaurants, take-aways, supermarkets, laundry, local shop all within walking distance.
– Great bus service/colectivos/taxis to town (On Av Luis Donaldo Colosio).
– Excellent landlord – Francisco. We never met him but he was always contactable via email or telephone, providing help or tips whenever needed.
– Weekly cleaner.
– Nice middleclass neighbourhood. It felt very safe.
– 2 double bedrooms. Means it could easily fit 4 people. (Although second bedroom only has a fan and no air-con, so fight it out between you to see who comes out cooler)
– The price includes electricity. In Mexico electricity can sometimes be as much as rent if you over indulge in your air-con.

Cons

– It’s a 30-40 minute walk from town, so if you love being centre of the action it’s probably not for you. But you can easily get a bus/colectivo for 5 pesos, which takes you along 30 Avenida and then walk to 5 Avenida or the beach etc. You could even grab a taxi for between 30 and 50 pesos, which will take you into the Centre.
– The Internet connection did cut out most days, but only for a very short period. Plus it was pretty fast so it wasn’t a major issue.

Overall

We grabbed a real bargain!

It was very cheap and a great base to explore the local areas. We took a road trip to Valladolid and Merida, headed to the beautiful Cenote Azul, Akumel (swam with turtles!!) and visited Isla Mujeres, which is a nice little island off the coast of Cancun.

The house itself was basic, but comfortable and had all the essentials. Being away from the centre wasn’t a problem for us, as it reduced the temptation to eat out every night and we really love to cook, so having a hob was great! Plus if we really wanted to go into Playa central we could easily get there.

I would say it’s a great option for people on a budget, who don’t need to be right next to the beach or in the heart of town. You will definitely escape the tourists here!

We like hearing from you, so if you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

Chickpea spinach curry – By Indefinite Adventure

We like to open up ‘Midweek Eat’ to fellow food lovers from time to time and this week we are happy to feature Sam, from Indefinite Adventure, with a tasty veggie recipe. Sam is a sometimes-EFL teacher, wannabe-minimalist, language geek who is trying to make it as a digital nomad with his partner, Zab.

Take it away Sam…

I love having a kitchen when I travel. For me, it’s up there with wifi, a comfortable bed and reliable hot water as something I really appreciate, and for that reason (among others) when my partner, Zab and I travel, we often rent apartments in order to have access to our own. And being mostly-vegetarian-often-vegans, sometimes it’s just necessary for our health (and sanity) not to rely on poor vegetarian options in places where people just aren’t used to the concept.

Having recently spent 10 months travelling in South America, one thing we really missed was South Asian style food. While in Chile, Bolivia and Peru it is possible to get spicy food (usually in the form of a chill dressing), there really isn’t much spice used for seasoning, and certainly finding Indian restaurants is almost impossible. I usually carry my own small but limited selection of spices in my backpack, so often can’t follow recipes exactly without going out and buying a new bag of something I’m only going to use once. So this recipe is my adapted version of a Jaime Oliver one, and is one of my favourite comfort foods to cook on our travels.

Chickpea spinach curry

Ingredients:

• 1 cup of brown rice
• 2 cups of water
• pinch of salt

• 1 ½ tsp cumin
• 1 tsp coriander
• 1 tsp black pepper
• ½ tsp salt
• juice of half a lemon
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

• 1 onion, chopped (white or red)
• 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or a tin of chopped tomato)
• tomato puree, paste or passata (optional)
• 1 can of chickpeas (240g, drained weight)
• spinach (4 handfuls if fresh, 1.5 cups if frozen)

Method:

1. If you’re going to serve this curry over brown rice (which I suggest), start off by getting the rice going as that’s what will take the longest. Assuming you don’t have a rice cooker, just put two cups of water for every one cup of brown rice in a pan, add a pinch of salt, cover with a lid and bring to the boil on the hob. Check it occasionally, but don’t mix it; the rice will be cooked when there is no water left as long as you keep the lid on. (For white rice, the method is the same, though you only need one and a half cups of water for every cup of rice.)

curry paste

2. The next step is to prepare the curry paste. Mix the dry ingredients (cumin, coriander, pepper and salt) together in a cup, then add the lemon juice, olive oil and chopped garlic.

onions with paste3. Now chop the onion and tomatoes and heat a glug of oil in a pan. I used red onion because in South America I found them more common and sometimes the only choice, plus they look cool! The taste will not be much different if using white onion. Add the onions to the pan and once they have softened a little, add the curry paste and stir.

4. Next add the tomatoes and a cup of watered down tomato puree or passata, or just water. Tip in the drained chickpeas, mix it all together and cover the pan with a lid to let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it starts to stick.

onions, paste, chickpeas, tomato, spinach

5. Finally, add the spinach. If it’s fresh spinach, you’ll need to use a relatively deep pan and cover in order for the spinach to wilt. If using frozen, just let it melt and turn the curry a dark green. Cook gently for another 5 minutes.

6. Serve the curry over the brown rice that should now be ready (and hopefully not burnt to the bottom of the pan) and enjoy!

finished curry

If this has whet your appetite for more from Indefinite Adventures here’s where to go:

You can follow them on their blog Indefinite Adventure where they chronicle their journey, write about the places they visit, the food they eat (preferably vegetarian, organic and locally produced) and the people they meet. They are also on FacebookTwitter and Foursquare.

I’m sick already!!

It had to happen sooner rather than later. Yes I’m already ill. I’ve been sick for over 2 weeks. I made it through a whole 10 days in Mexico before my body rejected its new home.

I’ve been suffering with nausea. No actual vomiting, but the kind where if you were to be sick you’d feel elated for a few seconds.

There have been frequent trips to the toilet though, enough to make me consider the need for some reading material in there. It’s not been constant and there have been a few days where I’ve felt ok, but it has definitely cast a dark cloud over some of our journey so far.

We thought it was something that I was eating which hadn’t agreed with my sensitive little belly. I felt worse when I ate cheese, so I’ve been cheese free for 11 days, but this did not provide the miraculous recovery I had hoped for.

No cheese for me

God I miss cheese!

We then noticed that perhaps red meat could be the cause, as this also coincided with what we call ‘Ghost Face’. My face drains of colour, I can’t physically move, and my stomach growls, as it decides whether or not to empty its contents.

So I’ve been avoiding red meat. But still it persists.

We never know when the nausea will strike…

Last week we were waiting an age to catch a bus back from town to our home on the outskirts of Playa Del Carmen. This is unusual here as there is pretty much a bus every 30 seconds, but every single one that was going our way was full. I don’t mean all the seats were taken, I mean full to bursting!

In Mexico personal space doesn’t exist. When you are queuing in a line, the guy behind you seems to want to be so close that he can smell you. When you think ‘oh those poor people aren’t going to get on this bus it’s too full’, you are wrong. Get ready to get intimate with the crowd of strangers squeezed in around you. Armpits in faces, butts to balls; this definitely isn’t the London Underground, where you can politely or impolitely ignore every other human being in your vicinity.

So the fact that these buses didn’t even stop means they really were full!

During the wait I started to feel sick. I didn’t want to say anything to Rob as I figured he must be bored of hearing about my ailments by now. After what felt like an eternity a bus finally arrived and it wasn’t full. It even had seats, so we hopped on.

That’s when things became even worse. The very second I collapsed into a seat I thought I was going to be seeing my last meal again.

I didn’t want to be sick on a bus. I’m sure my fellow passengers wouldn’t appreciate it. So when the bus stopped again about 20 meters down the road, I turned to Rob told him I had to get off and ran to the door in a cloud of dust!

I remembered his face being a little confused, but there was no time to explain. I hoped he’d work it out. He did and dashed after me.

Thankfully I wasn’t sick in the middle of a busy street in Playa, but I knew my stomach was not happy.

I couldn’t face another form of transport, so I made Rob walk all the way home with me. We trudged off into the night with me sick and completely disheartened. Why wouldn’t it just go away?

Halfway home I had a little cry. I’d been ill for 10 days and just needed to feel sorry for myself for a few moments.

After the tears had stopped, and a little pep talk from Rob, I had word with myself. I don’t like crying. I’ve been dead on the inside for years; I’m not totally comfortable with all this emotion, especially the wet stuff coming out of my eyes, but sometimes you just can’t help it.

The next day we wanted to set off early morning for our first Mexican road trip. It was meant to be an exciting, adventure filled 24 hours. Things did not go to plan. Instead of my bottom wanting to sit on a comfortable seat in an air-conditioned car, it preferred the confines of our toilet. I will spare you the specific details.

A few hours later than scheduled I donned my seasickness bands, hoping this would help with the nausea, and we began our trip.

Upon arrival in Vallodolid, our first stop, I felt sick again. So whilst Rob when out to explore I took a nap. Travelling is all about seeing new places, not just the hotel room. I was become increasingly annoyed and despairing at my bodies lack of co-operation in this adventure!

Valladolid

Valladolid – I missed out!

For the rest of the trip the waves of nausea continued, but thankfully it stayed away long enough for me to enjoy more than the car and our accommodation.

Last Sunday I awoke with the familiar rumblings and feeling of nauseas. ‘Ghost Face’ must have made another appearance as pretty much the first thing Rob said to me was, “I think you should see a Doctor.”

So off we trundled into town in search of a doctor. We went to Playa International Clinic, where met with friendly staff and waited 5 minutes to see the nurse. She checked my blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. They were all normal, so at least death was not close.

The Doctor asked me lots of questions about my condition. It’s about this time that I always feel like a fraud, it never sounds that bad when you actually say it out aloud.

I also learnt that when they stick that lollypop stick down your throat, to check your glands, I can’t say ‘aaah’ instead I make the noise ‘oooo’. Rob found this highly amusing and was almost wetting himself with laughter. Always supportive…

The doctor then listened to my stomach using a stethoscope. He didn’t need to! I could already hear it making whale noises without the use of fancy equipment. It was clear something was up, so I had to have some blood taken.

Within 15 minutes a nurse arrived, took my blood, and I was told to come back for the results in 1 hour!!

Kel blood test Playa International Clinic

Getting results always reminds of being at school, I want to do so well! The scores were through the roof. I had 3 positive tests. Which apparently in this case is not a good thing.

I have salmonella and high levels of some bacteria that you catch from a tick. Great!

Although, I have to admit that I am a little bit pleased there is actually something wrong with me, at least it wasn’t just my stomach being oversensitive to the Mexican food.

Now I have a concoction of 3 different antibiotics to take to get rid of the nasty little bacteria. This is ok, what I am more bothered about is the fact I have been advised to avoid dairy and fatty foods. I have no idea what I’m going to eat for breakfast and I’ll have to drink black tea. But it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things and I am sure I can discover some new tasty recipes.

Drugs

Being ill anywhere in the world isn’t fun. In fact if I had this at home, I’d have get up and go to work everyday. Here I can do as I please, so if I want a nap at 3pm, a nap at 3 pm is what I shall have.

Rob has been looking after me, providing tea (black) and sympathy when needed. Although he did admit today that he can’t wait for me to get better so that he can bully me again. Poor guy, you have to feel sorry for him, I’ve taken away at least 50% of his daily entertainment.

So with my new diet and drugs I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it clears up, as we have just dropped off the grid at our latest house sit in the remote town of Xcalak. The nearest doctors surgery is 2 hours away!

Thankfully the drugs seem to be getting the job done and I am on the mend, no nausea for two days now! Plus with all the inevitable weight loss, at least I don’t have to embark on a new year’s diet. Though I definitely wouldn’t recommend it…

“I don’t have time to change my life”

On Christmas Day we caught a bus to the beach so we could dip our toes in the Caribbean Sea. A rare treat when you come from the UK.

On the way we sat behind a young couple. The girl had a tattoo on her back, it was written in English so thankfully I didn’t have to consult my Mexican Spanish phrase book. It read:

 “I don’t have time to change my life”

A brief but incredibly depressing statement. To have that mindset and then go as far as getting it tattooed on your body as a permanent reminder made me feel sad for her. Surely there is always time to make one little change, isn’t there?

I’m really hoping it was case of lost in translation.

As a year comes to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and reflect on the past year. Over the last 12 months I found the time to change my life, both in small barely noticeable ways and it much more dramatic ways. I’ve tried to control less, to stress less and to listen more.

I’ve also sold everything I owned and set off on an adventure in Mexico. But we don’t have to make big changes to change our lives; sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.

At the start of a new year it’s customary to make a resolution or some kind of change to our lives. I know most of us don’t keep them, and after the excess of Christmas they usually involve eating healthy or joining the gym, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

I try to make a resolution each year. In 2010 I decided I was going to try to be more open with people. This in turn lead to me meeting a boy, moving to Scotland with him, leaving my life in England, before hatching a plan to travel the world together. I would like to add a disclaimer that not all small changes lead to this, but they can cause ripples that lead to bigger things.

So this year my resolution is to learn Spanish. It’s not ground breaking, but will certainly be useful on our current travels.

When I asked Rob what his resolution was he answered with a cheeky grin, “to continue being cool”.

I gave him the ‘No, I’m being serious look’ and he offered, “To learn Spanish”.

So we’re in this Spanish learning thing together, a bit of mutual support always helps.

Even if it takes the coming of a new year for us to make a small resolution, even if we forget what it was the following year and even if we don’t see it through to the end, we all have time to make one small little change in our lives. Go on, cause a ripple…

Cause a ripple