Key West / Miami from above

Landed in Key West, Florida, went through the customs, allowed to proceed.

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Night flight above the Overseas Highway towards Tamiami / Kendall airport.

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Buzzing Miami Beach the next day…

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3609 mia

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PCM MMCZ MMUN KEYW

Back in Playa del Carmen after 5 days in Tulum. Airport waiting area very informal, more like a bus station.

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Fuel tanks too low – insufficient fuel to fly direct to Cancun. With no avgas available locally, I had to plan for a short flight to Cozumel (MMCZ). But Cozumel was further away from Key West than Cancun and I wasn’t sure about the range, so to be on the safe side I decided to stop one more time in Cancun to refuel. I was excited to see a row of 4 Boeing 737s waiting in line for us to land.

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Rainy season, daily storms and the usual overcast. I spent 2 hours gathering stamps and receipts and clearances for the international departure, and in the meantime the weather deteriorated significantly, with 1500ft overcast extending 60 miles North East. Staying overnight in Cancun might have been an appropriate solution, but I was so loathe about going again through the whole bureaucracy that I decided to fly and see if I could make it – else turn back.

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20 miles out flying at 1000ft under the ceiling and through the rain – and the ATC clears us to climb to 7500ft so I said let’s try puncture the clouds. Bad decision, of course, so the next 20 minutes I had to struggle to maintain Laura, attitude, altitude, heading and airspeed under control… long story short second scariest story in my whole flying experience. Time passed, overcast dissipated so we climbed to 7500ft for the final 3 hours of the flight back to the USA.

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Tuned into the Jose Marti / La Habana ATIS weather briefing. Flying just outside of the Cuban airspace – close enough to glide to the shore in case of an engine failure.

Peaceful landing – again under overcast – in Key West after the longest leg of our journey.

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Tulum ruins

The Maya ruins in Tulum might not be the biggest nor the best preserved aboriginal sites, but they sure are located in the most spectacular setting, on cliffs overlooking white sand beaches and some of the clearest water we’ve seen so far!

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3593 tul

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Tulum

As we got busier having fun during the trip, I also got more and more frustrated with uploading and adjusting one by one the pictures to the blog… I wish I knew about the new features of Word Press 4.0 a while a go, makes media management so much easier. So, time to catch up:

Plane parked in Playa del Carmen and we got into a “colectivo” bus and one hour later we arrived in Tulum to meet Tudor – old friend from Bucharest. Last time we found him in 2010 in D.F., now he is the owner of “Curandero” club in Tulum.

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Unfortunately, Tulum is an impractical and unorganized resort: most hostels, restaurants and clubs are located along the main highway and the beach is about 3km away with no public transportation linking them. However, the biggest surprise so far was the “cenote”, a unique local feature consisting of a naturally occurring pond in the middle of the jungle. Furthermore, underwater caves and tunnels (some longer than 10km) connect these openings. The water is very clear and filled with fish and turtles. Once you swim in one of these you never feel like going to a regular pool again. Absolutely amazing!

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Tudor hooked us with Easy Chango scuba diving school that raised the cenote experience to the next level by taking me diving in caverns as deep as 18m. After 2 more dives in the open ocean I acquired my PADI open water certification, while Laura preferred to remain closer to the surface and just snorkel around with the turtles :-)

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3587 tulum

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Palenque to Playa del Carmen

Palenque is a 6 months fresh airport so no piston engine fuel is available yet, only jet. Our plane is certified to use automotive fuel but security won’t let us bring flammable substances through the terminal so I had to take off with 10 gallons and fly over marsh land and swamps to the nearest airport with fuel – Ciudad del Carmen. 45 mins flight would need 6-7 gallons (considering 8-9 gallons per hour burn rate) so I had just 30 minutes of reserve – not too much room for navigation errors. Fortunately VORs and GPS worked well and we landed in MMCE still under power :-). From there a low flight under tropical showers and finally arrived at a tiny airport in Playa del Carmen, completing the first segment of our trip without incident!

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