Isla Mujeres Trip Report-Arrival Feb 3, 2005
Fairly uneventful flight except when Kimberley gets called back down to the check in counter because she stated her birthday as a date that hadn't occurred yet. She obviously needs a rest. I guess all three of us needed a rest. I was running on 2 hours of sleep. We agreed we were pooped but pumped!
We were seated in row 2 on a very big and full plane. The leather seats are exquisite turquoise. Row 2 should be an advantage for the immigration line but there was a whole section on the form that we had not filled out and so we waited for quite a while in line. But then green lights and we are on our way. Met by a driver from AGI holding a sign with our name. The 3 Sisters agree that it was worth every penny of the $38 US to see him there.
At the port that we were dropped there was no opportunity for a slow boat. Just missed the 11:30 am ferry so we had a couple of minutes to get our bearings. We met Judy who lives on Isla ˝ of the year. Her husband is the artist who has pictures hanging and for sale at Caso O’s. She had been to Cancun to get some framing done and could not wait to get back to her island. LOVED the ferry trip - identified Garrafon and Lancheros from the water.
We decided to get some groceries and have some lunch before cabbing it to Punta Sur. Consulted our trusty map and recommendations of others and decided upon La Lomita. Wow-what a great way to start. Homemade Papa Fritos (French fries) that were perfect with the squeeze of provided lime. We also shared shrimp with garlic and polo frito (fried chicken) with “pink” rice and fushia coloured onions.
We cracked our first cervesas while we unpacked and then headed to the pool for the late afternoon sun. Met Steve and Lorelai from Minnesota and a couple from Montreal who were also staying in the villa. While Kimberley and Sue lied in the hammocks under the palapa I went to explore our neighbourhood. Judy spotted me as she was watching the fading sun from her condo balcony and waving good-bye to the Garrafon day-trippers. I got just a bare glimpse of the sunset over the palm tops from our veranda.
Made us a light pasta supper. The wind was changing direction (from south to north) and kept blowing the gas flame out on our stove. We shared coffee on the veranda and chatted about things learned that day. For Sue: that even the word “EEZ LA” sounds like a happy sigh. For Kim: the amazement of travel-slept in our own beds and then had lunch at La Lomita! For me (Kath): that God made a colour I had never seen before-the colour of the water on the ferry crossing. We tried to read but I heard lights clicking off at about 7:30! The adventure awaits….
By 9:30 am I had already seen the sunrise, walked and explored for 2 hours and had coffee with my sisters on the veranda. My first impression is that this is an island of contrasts: the coral cliffs and the garbage dump, the resort homes and the Colonia, the vast ocean and the locked beaches.
We had a wonderful breakfast of oatmeal, mango/banana/pineapple/brazil nut yogurt and slices of fresh pineapple. We had thought that we would go to Garrafon but the wind brought in clouds & drizzle so we headed into town instead. Our plan that first day worked so well we repeated it every other day-walking downhill to Lancheros to catch the bus and cabbing it home when we were full of margaritas and had groceries and shopping to carry. We met the most wonderful couple from France via New York. This was their sixth year to Isla and each year they stay a week longer. When I saw this beautiful woman again it was at the Fat Tuesday event-she greeted me like I was an old friend.
Met another fellow from MN who lives on Isla. When he heard we were Canadians he said he had many friends from Calgary, Regina and Montreal. We shopped and then went to the Sunset Grill for lunch. Shared all the board recommendations: Coconut Shrimp (even though it is not usually served at lunch) were huge, lovely and sweet, Nuke Nachos and Chicken Chimichangas. I’d never tasted them before but Sue said that they were the best she had ever tried. Even loved their chips and salsa but actually loved that everywhere. Had Strawberry Margaritas that knocked us on our butts. The waiter got us beach chairs and Sue & Kim had siestas while I walked the beach. Upon return it started to rain (pour in fact) but we had brellies and walked to the big Supermarket to buy more groceries. Was getting the hang of Centro by then but still had not found the Navy store or Hortenza’s. Because of the rain we cabbed back to the villa for books and siestas.
That evening we found out that the rumour was true-there is nothing happening on the south end at night. We tried the lounge at the Spa-closed and then thought that they must have a bar at the Castile. Instead we walked home for another villa night. Learned that day-Sue: that Mexican cats don’t look like NA cats and Kath: that no matter how much you wish and hope, you cannot control the weather.
Thought that because it was my second sleep in a new bed that I’d sleep like a rock but no. Up for the long sunrise and a short walk around the Punta Sur road.
When the weather turned out to be overcast and iffy again, we made sandwiches and packed for both the beach and other adventures. I do need to describe these sandwiches because they packed really well for the beach and were delicious. We bought buns at the big Supermarket that were brushed with something sweet-we thought honey. At the same place we bought this mild white Mexican cheese that tasted really buttery. The final touch was the Lime Mayo (Light no less). Highly recommended. We rented a golf cart and toured the island. We found Hortenza’s and when we bought so many dresses, tops, purses and beads she gave us all little gifts in thanks. We stopped by the pier beach and had a picnic that included another favourite –“pepitas?” which were the salted and roasted pumpkin seeds with a squeeze of lime. The beach vendor that we bought them from was named Marie I think. We loved her-she was so warm and affectionate with us.
We rented a golf cart and ended up at a Zama’s Beach Lounge on Sac Bajo. Is a beach lounge the same as a beach club? We ordered $5 margaritas and Kim tipped another $5 so we thought that we were safe in occupying their lounge chairs for a while. They were setting up for a private wedding reception so we knew that we did not have long. What a beautiful place for a wedding. We were south of Villa Rolandi and understand why this is considered such a primo spot. We loved this part of the island so much that we accidentally caused bodily injury to Sue. Kimberley was driving and I was supposed to be navigating for speed bumps. We were both distracted by a beautiful private home that we hit a speed bump at full speed and poor Sue who was sitting in the rear, hurt her back.
Made a quick change for dinner and decided since we still had the golf cart to head into town for dinner. Watched the sunset from the pier at Sergio’s-exquisite as promised.
Went to Picus for “mixted” ceviche & fresh fish. The ceviche was fabulous-even better I thought than when I ordered later in the week at Casa O’s. Sat right in the sand by the water’s edge. Everyone around us was drinking cokes so we did the same assuming that the voter’s no liquor ban was in effect. The we walked around the town square and purchased some beautiful silver pieces from the shop right on the square.
Learned that day-Kim: sunsets are beautiful many places, Kath: saw the both the sunrise and sunset and knew that it was good and Sue: rewrote a Madonna song-
Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild & free
This is where I long to be
La Isla Mujeres
Made a pot of coffee before my sunrise walk and Kimberley joined me. It took a very long time because of an even thicker band on cloud than the day previous. By the time it rose we had sat for an hour and had started to walk towards Punta Sur.
The wind was from the south which I understand brings fairer weather but the water was so rough that we are not permitted to kayak or tube. In the middle of the previous night the north wind ceased, there was stillness and then the south wind started up. I knew the direction of the wind because my bed in the Villa runs parallel to a north window & even though I could hear the wind in the palms, there was no breeze through the window. I love the placement of my bed-I can see both the Atlantic and the Caribbean and the swoosh of the palms sounds like a light rain. Kimberley and I settle in at Garrafon while Sue goes into town to return the golf cart. Arriving at 9 am when the park opens has assured us that no one is there and we have prime pickings.
We all had such a wonderful day that we concluded that it was worth every penny of the $15 US. Kim snorkeled, Sue swam in the pool & I walked the cliff paths to Punta Sur. We enjoyed watching others on the zip line and coconut ice cream for our first time.
Saw the sunset over the harbour while on the bus into town. We had two food let downs that evening - El Pueblito was closed at 4:15 even though I walked there and checked in the am and he assured me that they would stay open until 5. Since we also weren’t keeping very good track of our days (a lovely thing on holidays) we did not realize that our 2nd choice-La Lomita was closed on Sundays. So we ended up at Fayne’s and it was the perfect choice. A great place to people watch and the Super bowl was on as well. Sue ordered a fabulous pork tenderloin cooked in banana leaves with a citrus sauce, Kimberley had a sampler and I had Lobster Fettuccine. With mango margaritas to wash them down-all was well. We had planned to leave after Paul McCartney because the wind was quite chilly on Hidalgo when someone bought us another round. It was never identified who. We went to warm up at the Coral Sea dive shop and email family at home. I was obviously liquored because of mis-spellings in my email-“veranduh” being one of them. We checked the weather forecast while there-partly cloudy and 84 until our departure-looking good!
Learned that day- Kimberley: that God created a whole other world under the sea, Sue: how to withdraw money from a Spanish ATM and me: how much fun life is with 3 margaritas warming your insides.
By 7:30 am I had been up for 2 hours. I had walked to my sunrise spot in the dark. The weather was most pleasant so far. I met Steve from our Villa on the road and he told me that he had brought US Strip Loins with him and they were treating Tino the villa owner and his girlfriend to a steak dinner in the villa palapa that night.
We walked the beach from Indios to Lancheros. Indios was line after line of beach chairs-yuck! When a party boat arrived to the club to the north-Paradiso (?) the staff were all lined up in order of uniform colour to greet the day trippers-another yuck. Unfortunately there were no lounge chairs at Lancheros but since we got there early, we propped our feet up on a low wall (our coffee table) and were right under the palms because we knew that we were going to need the shade. The breeze that day was from the west off of the water and relived the heat. We had lunch that day of tic-n-xic which we really enjoyed until we had it again the next day on Contoy-and the difference was that Contoy served it with guacamole as we found Lancheros to be a little dry. Kim had a Cuban pork sandwich from the Cuban lunch stand. She said it was very good but saved ˝ so that she could feed the dogs. Wonderful shopping right on the beach for beads and silver. Bought Kimberley her birthday present there- a solid silver neckband with a variety of beautiful amulets. Kimberley went back to the villa for a siesta in a palapa hammock and Sue and I stayed. It got so hot that we had to sit with our chairs in the water!
I walked over to the vacant and uncompleted villa by our place for sunset and met David who is also at Villas Punta Sur. He explained that the two partners who were building this place disagreed when the project went over budget and so that is why the place sits empty. How sad-the floor plan and views are amazing.
Walked to Casa O’s for dinner to celebrate Kimberley’s birthday. The surroundings were as beautiful and romantic as the claims. I had Ceviche Mixto and Lime Soup and as I indicated earlier it was delicious but I like Picus even better. Sue had Asian Chicken and Kimberley Tarragon Chicken. The service was tardy-they forgot for an hour that we had ordered Key Lime Pie but the evening was still perfect. Lots and lots of laughs. We walked out to the end of their pier before walking home.
Learned that day- Kimberley: to carefully select your holiday reading material (she had just finished a disturbing novel that really bummed her out), Sue: that only little breasts look pretty when exposed to the sun, not the big fake ones and Kath: knows that she wants to travel more as the kids leave home because a place like Isla makes the grey-haired set young and fun-loving.
I began to understand why I rose so early every morning-I so loved it on Isla that I did not want to miss a single moment especially my sunrise walks. As I wrote in my journal that morning I was so excited about our trip to Contoy-little did I know. I walked to the Cave of the Dawn that Day and got some beautiful pictures.
I wrote at 12:30 on this day-“this journal is soaked, by leather sandals are soaked, the beach bag from Bali that I borrowed from my daughter is soaked. Why did I pay $40 US to do this? The crossing was very rough and we got drenched! Sue had trouble with her contacts and the salt water and could not open her eyes the whole trip. I cannot believe that there were not messages on that message board to wear a rain poncho and pack everything in plastic!” Sue and Kimberley loved the off shore snorkeling ‘cuz you could stand up for a rest because it was so shallow. For them the trip was worth it.
While the girls snorkeled I went to the lagoon because the reason why I wanted to see Contoy was for the birds. I imagined beautifully coloured tropical birds like flamingoes, parrots and maybe even canaries. The birds I saw at the Lagoon were pre-historic and there was so many of them! To top it off it must have been mating season because the males were dive-bombing the females from yards up in the air and there was tremendous crashings in the trees. I could not wait to get back to the beach. I did have a beautiful walk and took some pics.
Yes-we learned our lesson. We couldn’t quite get our heads around going into town every day from the south end to see if Tony was going to Contoy. We thought we were safe by going through our landlord Tino who owns the Coral Sea Dive Shop. He made arrangements for our trip on A BIG BOAT! We were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt –he was deceived just as we were. The way home was no better. We were granted the back of the boat because of how horrendous our trip there was but we still got soaked and the smell of gasoline was awful. I could tell by the look on the Capitano’s face that the crossing was concerning him as well. We came upon a stranded boat full of people on the same excursion with little wee kids. They only had one motor that had failed (we had two) so we had to tow them until they got their engine started.
I came home and had to have a shower to warm up and wash the salt off of me. The girls made me a cup of tea and some soda biscuits. I took a Pepto and then we had a light supper of Chinese noodles from home. Once my tummy settled we were off again.
It was the Fat Tuesday fund-raiser at La Pena. What a gorgeous place-located right on the water with $1,000. Banyan tree chairs. I’ve heard since then that it is for sale. We were greeted with Mardi Gras beads but we had brought our own. Earned in the “authentic” manner from a trip to New Orleans the month previous. There were some great silent auction items-Sue was outbid on a rose quilt that she had her eye on. We met Judy & Clyde and Beth Marie from MN with whom we had shared the adventure to Contoy. She introduced us to Sylvia & Peter, another MN couple. I also got to meet Ellen (Princess Poop) from the message board.
Learned today- Sue: that it’s okay to ask twice to make sure that you’re on the Big Boat and not to smile for an underwater picture. Kim: that to be on open water is a humbling experience because of the power of nature. Kath: that’s it’s good to plan but not to over-anticipate.
I said I was not going to rise before the sun because I needed to get caught up on some rest. But I was up at 5:20 and made myself stay in bed until 6 in hopes that I would fall asleep again. When I could not, I got up for my last sunrise walk.
When I got back to the villa the girls were up and went on the same walk that I had been on. I assembled breakfast that I carried down to the palapa for their return. The grounds and garden were beautiful at Villa Punta Sur.
Spent a wonderful day on Norte. We were on the west side down by the marina where it was not too crowded and there was a beautiful breeze off of the water. Even though it clouded over in the afternoon-we all got lots of sun. Sue looks Mexican and people are surprised when she does not speak Spanish. We had a fun chuckle when an 80 year- old European gentleman walked by in his ill-fitting thong. We had lunch on the beach with a farewell portion of pepitas.
We loved Isla’s beautiful children and Kim took many pictures of them that last day. We met Hortenza’s girls who were doing their homework when we visited her again to pick up Kim’s custom-made dress. Her husband was there as well reading Prima Corinthians in front of the store.
Since we had our first Isla meal at La Lomita’s, we also had our last. The famous Chilies Rellenos were worth waiting for. We spent the evening getting packed and then sharing our memories of the trip while sitting on our much-loved and much-used veranda.
The cab was early and we said adios to villa Punta Sur, Casa O, Lancheros, etc. The crossing was so beautiful yet so bittersweet. We had sister hugs at the Villa-I could not imagine sharing my first Isla adventure with anyone else.
I will return one day for another sunrise…
Sue, Kimberley and Kath, Isla Mujeres, February 3-10, 2005