Isla Mujeres, 17-23 Feb 2005
Photos found here: http://home.comcast.net/~scarlett2fire
My story, the story of my visit to Isla Mujeres, begins beyond the end and before the beginning. The time on Isla is fluid motion. It could go without saying. Words cannot do it justice. I am compelled to attempt. This is the reason for telling.
First, I start at the end. Thursday, February 24 2005, back in Washington State after 6 nights on Isla . . . the questions begin. Almost every dialog goes something like this:
Other Person (OP): Where did you get that tan?
OP: Ahh, that's why it looks so natural. I didn't think it was a tanning bed.
ME: You're right.
OP: So where did you go in Mexico?
ME: Isla Mujeres.
OP: [blank stare]
ME: [pause] You're probably wondering where that is . . .
OP: . . . yes
ME: It's off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. You fly into Cancun airport, 30 minute taxi to the ferry dock, 30 minute ferry to the Island and you're there.
OP: [eyes light up with look of recognition] Cancun. I see. It's near Cancun. Is it a resort?
ME: It is near Cancun but it is not a "resort" in the way of Cancun. It's nothing like Cancun. It's a small Island less than 5 miles long and little more than half a mile wide at its widest point. There's a small village (4x6 blocks) at the north end with a beautiful beach called Playa Norte or Playa Coco.
OP: What is there to do on the Island how do you say the name?
ME: Isla Mujeres . . . Ease-la Moo-hair-ayes or Ease-la Moo-hay-rays. [then comes the inevitable request to spell it.]
OP: So what is there to do on the island?
[still afraid to try pronouncing the actual name]
ME: Everything and nothing.
OP: [blank stare]
ME: You can do anything you want or you can do nothing at all an art form unto itself on Isla.
OP: [blank stare & pause] Uh, where do you go for activities?
ME: You're already there. Activity is all around you if you chose to notice it and join in.
OP: Where do you stay? Are there hotels?
ME: Everything from 5 star luxury to $20.00/night rooms and everything in between.
OP: So how did you find out about this place?
ME: I was meant to know.
OP: [blank stare]
Back to my story. Before the beginning of my visit to Isla. How I know I was meant to know.
I'm a traveler, an intrepid traveler. I travel at every available opportunity where ever my whim takes me. I travel on my own. I travel with a partner. I travel on my own to meet a partner traveling on their own from someplace else. I travel.
After many visits to Europe visiting Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul, and many more, I've soaked up enough history to satiate myself on that part of the world, for now anyway. Asia seemed to be calling next but not strong enough. Beach, tropical beach, heat, sunshine, water this call rose above the fray and pulled me toward the southern Americas, maybe the Caribbean. I researched looking for the "perfect" tropical beach. Palm trees a must, tranquillity a desire, timelessness always a possibility. Choices eventually narrowed to Grenada or Costa Rica. Asked a friend if she was interested in joining me. Answer is yes. She's never been off the continent so we make this a true adventure for her and decide on Grenada.
Made reservations for 11 nights over thanksgiving week 2004. Our choice La Sagesse Nature Center a lush tropical garden surrounding a quiet beach with palm trees, solitude and the possibility of timelessness. The nature center includes a small, quiet guesthouse utilizing the old Plantation home for its center of activity. (http://www.lasagesse.com/) We booked air tix through British West Indies Airways (BWEE), on July 30th and started dreaming of paradise.
Dreams of paradise soon became nightmares of paradise lost. Ivan started brewing off the coast of Africa in late August. I watched in horror as it headed straight for Grenada. Sept 7th Devastation 90% of all structures on Grenada damaged, many are destroyed, disappeared, gone without a trace. Some are "merely" missing roofs, windows and doors with personal belongings scattered throughout the land. Ivan heads toward Mexico then hangs a right approaching the gulf coast and eventually the mountains of North Carolina.
Oh my God. My family is right in Ivan's path. Homes are damaged by wind and water but the people of my family are not injured. As I follow the storm with great concern, I hear about damage as far west as Cancun with mention of Isla Mujeres, a name that enters my consciousness for the first time but gets lost in the shuffle . . . for now. Ivan, devastation and enlightenment. So much to do. Travel plans in turmoil. Sending relief supplies to people in Grenada whom I have never met but my heart knows their pain.
My travel partner refuses to consider continuing with our visit to Grenada in November. Me, I'd have gone anyway and found a way off the Island if it seemed not right to be there. But she's insistent about salvaging our thanksgiving vacation by going someplace else. Costa Rica flights were now too expensive. "Mexico would be good." she says, "I've been there before. Stick with the west coast. No hurricane damage." Okay so leaving the continent is no longer important. I focus on the Pacific coast of Mexico. In the meantime BWEE promises a cash refund for our air tix to Grenada minus a change fee. Great. We can use that to pay for our alternate beach vacation.
Cruising the net, I stumble upon Zihuatanejo. Wow this could turn out okay after all. It doesn't offer quite the same solitude as rural Grenada, but it's pretty darn close to what we're looking for. I book it.
November rolls around and its time to leave for Zihua. Refund from BWEE hasn't come yet. No problem. Pay with plastic and use BWEE refund to cover charges when bill comes due. We go. We like it. I can't get enough of the sun, sand and water. But this is my first time traveling with this particular friend and I found myself unable to relax with her. We have different travel styles. Neither right nor wrong. Just different. Her hermitage on the hotel room terrace baffles me. My free spirit burdens her. My chats with fellow travelers and locals bore her. I need a trip on my own. Hummm, I wonder what the Caribbean is like?
We get home. Still no BWEE refund. They are processing a lot of refund requests right now. Be patient. I know the money is coming. If I can get a deal on plane tix, I should be able to afford a room on a beach somewhere for a few nights. Check work calendar. Decide on dates. Get on-line. Go to US Air web site. News is out that US Air may not survive bankruptcy and I have frequent flyer miles to use. Disappointment. No FF flights available anywhere near a Caribbean beach on my travel dates except Cancun. Yuck. It's on Mexico's Caribbean coast, but I know enough about Cancun to know I would not like it government planned resort loved by Americans especially spring-breakers. Double yuck. I'll pass.
But wait. What was the name of that Island off the coast near Cancun? Google to Isla Mujeres. That's it. Now how is that pronounced? Thus begins the end of my search, but my journey is just beginning.
I booked the FF tix and began to read all I could find out about Isla history, suitable accommodation, beaches all while waiting for my BWEE refund. Three days later BWEE calls happy to inform me that my travel vouchers are ready. Can they have the address where I want them sent? Uh excuse me. Travel vouchers? I was excepting money. Oh, didn't we tell you? We've had so many refund requests we decided to process them all as vouchers. Nope. No one told me that. "Just three days too late," I think, "I'm already booked for Isla."
Its just FF flyer miles, but they have value if US Air survives. I'm pissed. Then I think what the heck. When Ivan hit, I was game to go to Grenada but missed the opportunity based on my travel partner's concerns. Why should I let a little thing like money stop me now? I'll budget real small. I ponder the fact that my journey to Isla will happen primarily as a result of and even despite BWEE's false promise of a refund. Isla here I come. This was meant to be. I'm happy.
But first I have to find a room. My search for accommodation becomes more complicated with the reduced budget. I usually don't do a beach vacation without staying right on the beach, preferring small hotels and private homes or villas. In Zihua we stayed in Hotel Brisas del Mar on Playa Madera. Beautiful place. Small, intimate, unique, run by a local family, close to town yet on a small quiet beach used by local residents and out-of-town guests. Perfection. (http://www.hotelbrisasdelmar.com/)
As I look at options on Isla, it slowly becomes clear that 6 nights in a room on an Isla beach will use up most of my budget. This has to be a small budget trip. Damn BWEE, again. I come to terms with the fact that I may have to stay in town. Yes, I am laughing at myself now for taking even one minute of my time worrying about this. But I did. And BWEE has since been forgiven.
My room search. I am torn between Bucaneros downtown and Casa Maya on the beach. Yes, on the beach, with a view, and within my budget. But staying at Casa Maya would eat up most of my budget. Still I can't decide between the two. So I post my dilemma on the isla-mujeres.net message board.
The general consensus is if I don't mind stairs, go with Bucaneros and use the money I save for eating because Isla has such great food. Food. There's great food on this tiny little Island, worth saving money for, worth sacrificing a room on the beach? And I love stairs.
So I booked Bucaneros (http://www.bucaneros.com/) telling myself I don't need to be right on the beach. It's only a few blocks away and I like to walk. Plus from photos on the net Centro looks like an interesting place for walking. I'm trying to convince myself staying in town will be great. I'm really not so sure. Yes, I'm laughing at myself now for taking even one minute worrying about this. Do you see a theme here?
So I'm all booked. Now I can kick back and read up on the place I have chosen for my much needed solo get away. The more I read the more excited I get. This place has potential.
Every year for much of my life I have spent at least a few days on a beach somewhere. The ocean calls me. Edisto Island, SC, has been my long-standing favorite beach vacation spot. I started going there as a young child when my family lived in east Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. We loved driving down into the flatlands and going to the beach for our 2-week vacation every year.
Edisto has never lost its magic for me. There are no high-rise hotels. In fact there is not a single hotel on the Island. Local zoning laws forbid it. There are camp spots on the state park beach. There are condos near the marina where the sea meets the lagoon and the shrimp boats dock along side the schooners. But the entire strip of non-park beach front is single family housing, and I always stay where I can walk right off my deck onto the sand and into the water unobstructed including the view. There are palm trees but they grow beside and behind the first-row houses, not in front. Edisto brings out the child in me and I like it. I feel fresh, innocent and renewed.
I head for Isla hoping for even a tiny bit of that feeling of renewal. Little did I know . . .
Day 1 - Transportation:
Off to the airport right after work on Wednesday 16 February 2005. Red eye SEA to CLT. Early morning flight CLT to CUN. Arrive CUN 11:15am Thursday 17 Feb. With no checked luggage I quickly go through customs. Green light and I'm on my way out the door.
Trying to ignore all the transportation opportunities being hollered in my direction. I'm booked on Best Day Shuttle for my ride to the ferry. I'm looking for a sign with my name on it but there are so many signs. People everywhere looking for other people. Oh my.
Just as I'm thinking maybe the shuttle was a mistake how am I ever going to find it, I realize that several people are not hollering at me but are coming along side me and asking who am I looking for. Wow. They are offering to help me even though I haven't paid them for anything. So I say "Best Day" and someone takes my hand. "Follow me" he says.
What's up with this? Is he going to usher me over to his shuttle bus and try to tell me Best Day has left without me and why don't I ride with him? AKKKK!! What am I thinking. No negativity. I'm on vacation. I decide at that moment don't worry, go with the flow. It's the right decision and became one of my mantras for the rest of the trip.
I'm led by the hand to a group of people gathering around a guy with a clipboard. My giving hand angel gives my hand a big squeeze and says, "Best Day" as he walks off to help someone else. Best Day, indeed.
Feeling the tropical heat as the clipboard guy gets Best Day's travelers organized and into the two or three available vans, I slip off my pants from under my dress and savor my body's ability to breathe again. I love the heat and the feel of tropical air on my bare skin. My mind immediately goes to Isla. North Beach is topless optional. My happy mind is dreaming of the sun, water, and freedom from clothing.
Before I know it we are at the ferry dock. Only one other couple in the van and they got dropped off at a hotel a couple miles south of the dock. Missed the Ultramar by 2 minutes. Not to worry it runs every half hour and there's a tequila bar within yards of the ticket office. So I buy my ticket and have my first shot of tequila looking out toward Isla from just above the ferry dock.
The ferry arrives and I'm swept onto the upper deck, bag in hand. As the ferry moves toward Isla a feeling comes over me that I can only describe as a feeling of solace. A strange word under the circumstances, I know, but it's the only one that seems to fit. I can't explain. We arrive at the Isla dock.
Day 1 - Isla:
I disembark, walk off the dock and face the boulevard. Despite all I've read about people trying to help with my luggage (one small rolling carry-on) and offering everything from taxi rides to time share opportunities, nobody says a word to me. Weird. Its not like folks are being rude. It's more like I belong. I don't look like I need anything. I'd read about the tricycle guys and so much wanted to start out by utilizing their services, but they're nowhere to be seen.
Ahhhhh, so this is how it's going to be. Forget all the trip reports. It's now me and the Island. We'll make it together on our own. We don't need someone else's story. Great. I start walking to Bucaneros.
Before traveling to Isla I purchased and devoured all the information on Laura's map so I have a general idea where Bucaneros is located. But things are always a bit different from what I picture when looking at a map. So imagine my surprise when I reach the Zocalo, look to my left down what turns out to be Hidalgo and realized Bucaneros is a block and a half down the street. Magic.
It's 12:45. I check in, pay, and go to my room. I like it. It has everything I need closet space, decent bathroom, big tub and shower, bottled water dispenser right outside my door (very handy), balcony overlooking Hidalgo, lock box for my passport and extra cash, fridge for my leftovers (I'm not a beer drinker), a smattering of dishes and eating utensils, and a coffee maker.
OOOPS! Nirvana is over. There are no coffee filters and no coffee. I also want a fifth of tequila for the room. Must take care of this before going to the beach. Time to go shopping. I've read that real coffee is hard to find on the Island, but I'm feeling up to the challenge. Plus, I remember its me and the Island. We're in this together and somehow I trust this Island. This becomes my second mantra as I leave the room chanting my first one go with the flow.
I find the supermarket on the Zocalo. First stop, tequila. Want something new and different so pick a bottle with a mellow yellow glow that costs a little more than average. Next stop, coffee. What, no filters? Then I look around and realize it's true all the coffee is instant coffee. Three entire shelves of it. What are they thinking?
Okay, there's gotta be a way around this. As I'm paying for the tequila I ask where can I buy coffee that drips through a filter. I'm pointed in the direction of Marita's, a small store back toward the ferry dock. I remember reading that Marita's specializes in carrying items sought after by visitors but generally hard to find on the island. They should have coffee. My confidence is rising.
Marita's is easy to find and . . . Score they have filters. But I'm incredulous when all I see for coffee is more instant. They must be hiding the good stuff behind the counter. So I ask. Nope, no drip coffee. They point back in the direction of the supermarket telling me I can find some down there. I explain that the supermarket also carries nothing but instant. "No no, not the supermarket. Look in a small store near the corner just before the supermarket." He said the name, but with my limited Spanish, I wasn't quite sure what it was. There are only a couple blocks between Marita's and the supermarket so it can't be too hard to find.
Trusting I will find coffee, I pay for the filters and start walking. I get to the designated corner and see nothing remotely resembling a grocery store so I round the corner onto Hidalgo and there is a little mini market. I go in. No, they don't have coffee, but there's a store around the corner about 4 shops down toward Marita's that has some. I was just there and saw nothing but clothing stores and such. Doubt starts to surface. I open my mouth to protest. Stop. Go with the flow. Trust the island. "Gracias." I walk.
Around the corner and 4 shops down, I enter a clothing store and ask for coffee suspecting they'll think I'm crazy but who cares. I'm in the flow, trusting Isla. "Coffee?" the salesman asks. "Yes, coffee" I reply. "Come over here" he says and off the shelf from amongst all those clothes he grabs two beautifully labeled, small brown-bag packages each of which contains about a pound of organically grown coffee. I always buy organic at home. This couldn't be more perfect. I'm ecstatic. "How much?" "Seventy pesos.." "Deal." Magic.
Back to Bucaneros. In my room. Now I have everything I need. Dig out my travel clock. It's only 1:15. Wow time moves slow here. Put the clock away. Who needs it. I never like clock watching anyway, especially at the beach. I quit wearing a watch years ago when I realized I just kept losing them. I'd take them off because they annoyed me and I'd leave them places, sort of like I do with sun glasses which I don't wear anymore either for the same reason. They can't be that important if I can't hold onto them.
Beach. As I gather my beach gear (thrift store table cloth, book, bottle of water, room key, pesos) and drink a little more tequila, I start to wonder if North Beach will live up to its reputation as one of best beaches in the Caribbean. Every Island seems to have its prize beach and everybody thinks their prize beach is the best in the Caribbean. But I have a feeling North Beach will be the best in its own way and Isla hasn't let me down yet.
I walk. Straight down Hidalgo. Shop owners and vendors everywhere vying for my business. But my business is the beach so I mutter a series of polite no gracias' and keep walking. Because I'm not much of a shopper, this comes easy. All the vendors seem perfectly happy to divert their cajoling toward the next person coming along. There are plenty of shoppers on Hidalgo.
I fell in love with the walk down Hidalgo from Bucaneros to North Beach. On my second day, the vendors already realized I was staying in the neighborhood. By then rather than hearing "Senorita, come in please, you want a dress, a wrap, something else? I have it, whatever you want" I heard "Hola, senorita. How are you doing today? Beautiful day, no?" So refreshing. I love belonging in the neighborhood, my neighborhood, for a few sweet days anyway.
But back to my first day. North Beach beckons. I pass right by Jesus Molina's shop without seeing it even though I meant to look for it. I wanted to find it so I could come back later in the week and buy some real Isla art created by Jesus, the one thing I might want to carry home with me. But for now, oblivion. I have almost come to the last street I must cross before reaching the beach. I'll discover Jesus' shop later that day. In fact I'll make my first tourist-like purchase from Jesus but I'll be so high on sun , tequila and lack of food that I won't realize it's him or his shop . . . until a few days later. But that's another part of my story. It can wait.
North Beach. I'm almost there when to my right I notice a big construction project. It's got to be a hotel. Looks to be about 2 or 3 floors tall, so far. Hope it doesn't get any taller. From the ferry it looked like the tallest building on Isla is about 4 floors. That seems about right for Isla. I'd hate to see a tall eye-sore raised right on North Beach. And with that thought, I walk between a dive shack and a beach bar emerging onto North Beach.
North Beach. Unbelievable. I feel the energy. Warm vibrant air, soft cool sand, the colors, the throbbing heart of the universe, it's all around me like drumz at a dead show. I've found a new home.
Tempted to walk the entire beach just to take in all the sights and sounds, I head to the right. Looks like the larger part of the beach is down that way. I don't get far before I see a perfect spot for relaxing in the sun with my book. There's the cutest little baby palm tree, really just three palm fronds sticking out of the sand, about a foot tall. It calls me to join it down in the sand. So I do. Ahhh, the life.
After reading a bit I start to feel sleepy. Suddenly it occurs to me I haven't slept much in the last 48 hours. I slept on the plane, but plane sleep is never as good as real sleep. I can see from the sun in the sky that it's only mid afternoon. Too early for bed. Must be time for that walk down the beach. Leaving my stuff where it is, I take my pesos and head out to explore and perhaps find a place I'd like to stop for guacamole and more tequila.
I walk east toward Buhos, Na Balam, Avalon that way. The beach is much wider down here. Later someone (Mr. Disaster, you'll see what I mean) tells me Ivan had moved a lot of sand from west to east and that's why the western side of North Beach is now fairly narrow while the eastern side is much wider. Although it's cool to see so much sand in one place, I like it better back where the water is closer to the palm trees. So after rounding the corner to check out what I'm missing by not staying at Casa Maya (not much I discover, nice place but glad I saved my money for food) I head back to my baby palm tree and sit contemplating the universe.
Drumz are now flowing into space. It's time to find a bathroom. Gather all my stuff this time, using my cloth as a bundling purse, I look to the west and wonder if there's any tequila waiting for me down there. Start walking. End up at Sunset Grill. So these are the expensive NautiBeach Condos next to Sunset Grill. They look very nice from the outside at least the part I can see as I walk to the bano.
Back at the Sunset Grill bar I choose a swing, sit down belly up to the bar, and ask if they have tres generations tequila. Sorry, will this be okay? She shows me a bottle I don't recognize so I ask if it's smooth for sipping. She offers me a taste. Yummm. Pour me a double shot, no salt but a slice of lime, por favor. I get a huge double and a little paper plate full of lime slices. I like this place and make myself comfortable. Maybe I'll watch the sunset from here.
Within 10 minutes I've made my first human friend. Bunch of guys on the other side of the bar all jollyed up talking about what they do for a living. One declares, "I've met people from all walks of life on this island, except maybe a farmer." He then turns to the guy next to him and asks, "so what do you do?" Guy says, totally deadpan, "I'm a farmer." After guffaws all around, the first guy says, "no really, what do you do?" "I'm really a farmer." Playing along, the first guy says "so what do you grow?" The response: "A little bit of everything, but mostly potatoes and all organic." The first guy can't believe it. "You're serious. Where are you from?" Answer: "Washington State."
Okay, now I'm looking at the amount of tequila in my glass. I haven't drank that much. Maybe he did say "Washington State." In fact he probably really is from Washington because all true Washingtonians know that when traveling and asked where you're from, you can't simply say "Washington." You have to add "state." Otherwise folks assume you mean Washington DC and start talking politics. This must be avoided at all costs so you quickly learn to say "Washington State" every time.
This guy could be a neighbor. I raise my voice enough to be heard across the bar and ask exactly where in Washington he is from. "Oh it's a small town you've probably never heard of it. North of Seattle. It's called Burlington." My response: "Near Mount Vernon." He picks up his drink and heads in my direction. Mr. Unbeliever says, "Oh, I see. Can't even get you involved in a little conversation before you leave us for a woman. Haw, haw. Good move." And with that he and his buddies went back to their jollys, leaving me and the farmer be.
I have a nice chat with the farmer. Can't remember his name but a great guy with a vegan girlfriend back home who didn't want to travel at the time. The vegan part I remember because when he offered to show me a place with the best chicken tacos on the island, I told him I'm pesco-vegetarian (seafood only), at which point he rolled his eyes saying it's a good thing I'm not vegan like his girlfriend because the seafood on this island is to die for. Turns out he is right.
I'll get around to eating eventually. Right now I need more tequila. No. What I really need is to move on around the corner. I've decided I want to watch my first Isla sunset from Sergio's. So the farmer and I part ways for now. We ran into each other a few days later back at the Sunset Grill where he was drinking beer when I walked over from my baby palm tree looking for guacamole. I joined him and we chatted some more. Still a nice guy.
Sergio's, sunset. It's a good thing I have my water bottle. I find Sergio's and plop down on a lounge chair fully expecting to have to buy something if I want to hang out. I'm determined to avoid any more tequila until I've had something to eat. Nobody comes to take my order. Good. I drink my water and soak in the sounds and sights of Sergio's. A nice looking, very tan young man in the chair next to me says service is really slow around here at dusk but he's going up for a beer. Would I like anything? No thanks. I've got everything I want but you're very kind to ask.
When he gets back we strike up a conversation while waiting for the sun to set. He tells me he was in Thailand when the tsunami hit. He was near a beach in one of the resort towns on the coast where everything was washed away. I'm all ears How did you manage to survive? He was in a taxi headed to breakfast when they realized something wrong. It was the noise. The roar was unbelievable. He told the taxi driver to keep driving, drive fast and don't stop for anything. Getting no argument from the driver, they drove all the way to Bangkok without stopping. In Bangkok when they found out what had happened, they felt lucky to be alive. The driver refused to take any payment for the trip. Good story.
But that's not all. I asked him how he knew that the noise, the roar meant trouble. Was it instinct or experience. It was experience. So I asked what experience. As it turns out, before he went to Thailand, he spent some time on Isla. He was on Isla when Ivan hit. Not Ivan again. This guy is starting to spook me. I've been in almost every type natural disaster there is a volcano eruption (St. Helens in 1980), Hurricane Hugo (1989 in Virginia), several tornadoes, a flood, Nisqually earthquake at 6.8 richter scale (Feb 2001 in Washington). I've never been in a Tsunami, but I own land on the Washington coast. Perhaps we'll have one after I build a house there.
Back to Isla and Mr. Disaster. He's cute but I seriously consider asking him to vacation some place where I'm not. His disasters happen on vacation. Mine happen where I live. Before I can say anything, we're both distracted by a bunch of hooligans out in the surf dropping their drawers for a sunset photo-op. Oh my.
And now for the final act of the day sunset. It was magnificent. I decide right then and there that I will watch the sunset from a different location every night. Some folks want to try a different guacamole every day. I want to see a different view of the sunset every evening. That becomes my goal for the week. I'm very ambitious on vacation.
Maybe it's time to head to the room and clean up for dinner. Gotta eat something before I crash. Walk by Jax and head for Hidalgo. Everything looks different after dark. Shops are still open. Maybe even more shops are open. Seems busier than before. Then it dawns on me. Of course. All the sun worshipers are now in town instead of on the beach. Duh.
Back at the room. More tequila. Probably not real smart but I have a nice high and I want to keep it. Shower, throw on a dress and go in search of food. I walk north on Hidalgo checking out each restaurant as I go. I recognize a lot of them from reading the message board. Maybe Chili Locos will do, but must go to the end of Hidalgo first to make sure I'm not missing anything.
Getting a bit tipsy by now. Not processing information too well. Maybe before I eat, I'll do a little shopping. Why? I need a shot glass and I want one that says Isla Mujeres on it. As spaced out as I am, I still know you gotta go to the touristy shops to find something like that. So I head back south down Hidalgo. There's nothing north of where I'm standing but the beach. No trinket vendors on the beach after dark.
First store I see as I'm headed south is on the right. Nobody calls out to me trying to get me in the store, but I walk up anyway and ask, "Do you have any shot glasses with Isla Mujeres on them?" I have no idea I'm talking to Jesus Molina and I've totally forgotten about looking for his store. He politely tells me he doesn't carry anything like that and points me down Hidalgo saying, "You'll find one. No problem." But before I walk off some colorful little boxes catch my eye. I like boxes and decide to buy one from the nice man who has no cheesy shot glasses.
Walking back down Hidalgo, I find my shot glass. No problem. Jesus was right. I take both new prized possessions back to my room. That's more than enough shopping. Now I have got to eat. I find myself at Chili Locos but before I can find a table a voice calls out from the back, "Come back here. We have room at the bar." Oh boy. I bet he has tequila too. I head for the back. The bartender introduces himself as Jorge. It wasn't until the next day that I realized (from what I had read on the message board) that he was the owner of Chili Locos.
I sit down and the two guys at the bar introduce themselves. One is Grant from Great Britain, the other is Jeff from Canada. They seem to be friends with Jorge and offer to buy me a drink. I accept after making it clear that I will buy them a drink in return but I have a sweetie back home and must mind my manners. I don't like unmet expectations and refuse to foist them on others. The response: "No problem." (See a theme here?) Drinks all around. I have no idea what brand of tequila it is. Jorge assured me it was some of his best and it definitely went down smooth. Trust the Island.
Food. I'm in desperate need of food, but my foggy brain can't deal with the menu. I know from the message board that the house special is a seafood chili rellano (thus the name of the place) and it's supposed to be good. I order one. It comes but I don't wanna eat at the bar. I want a table. No problem. Jorge goes out to the restaurant, grabs a table and two chairs, sets then up next to the bar stools and Grant joins me for more conversation while I eat.
Nice guy, this Grant. See a theme here too? I only saw one person act ugly the whole time I was on Isla but I'm not going to waste much space on that. He's ugliness was brief and probably hurt his own self more than anybody else anyway. Back to Grant, a nice guy. We're getting on quite well, chattering away when he reveals that he is only paying $27.00 USD per night for his room What? Is it a dump? No. It's quite clean and comfortable, he asserts. I wonder out loud what it's like in comparison to my room at more than double that.. Grant seizes the opportunity for humor. "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours" he says. I just about fall off the chair from laughing so hard. Great idea. Lets go to my room first. I have tequila. Where's Jeff?
Jeff took off a while ago and I missed it. Grant and I now abandon Jorge who smiles as he makes me promise to come back and see him again. I promise and do visit with Jorge several more times while on Isla. But now I'm walking precariously down the street with Grant thinking what am I doing? I just met this guy, I'm taking him up to my room and I'm drunk. Trust the Island. But he's not the Island. He's a guy. Go with the flow. But the flow might be off from too much tequila. Stop. Think. I've been around a lot of people over the course of my life. I'm a decent judge of character even on tequila . . . especially on tequila because that's when I most need my gut instinct. Trust yourself. Okay. I can do that. I lead Grant up to my room. He graciously keeps me from tottering backwards down the stairs as I attempt to keep moving forward. I hope Grant's room is close by.
In my room Grant admires the finely appointed interior. The indirect lighting is a nice touch in combination with the beige, tan and brown color scheme. The room feels comfortable and welcoming. I offer Graham a shot of tequila and suggest we sit on the deck and enjoy the sights and sounds of Hidalgo while we sip. He's all for it. Then I realize I have only one shot glass. No problemo. There are glasses and cups in the kitchenette, so I grab a big tumbler and ask Graham how much he wants. When he indicates a tiny bit in the bottom, I give him a single shot in my new shot glass (properly washed) and I take the tumbler pouring myself at least a double. I bet Graham thinks I'll never make it back down the stairs. But I do.
After we down our tequila we head to Graham's. Thankfully it's just around the corner, about a block from my place. He shows me his $27.00 per night room and I really am impressed. It's not nearly as finely appointed as mine and the common area looks out at the building next door, but it's clean and has everything a person needs when staying away from home. Hmmmm. If I get a cheaper room I can stay longer next time. I file this thought away, hoping I won't forget it by tomorrow and not cognizant of the fact I'm already thinking about coming back to Isla.
Done looking at Graham's room we retire to his common area with a drink. I brought a little tequila along with me. Four or five rooms have doors to the common area which is a wide roomy deck, one level up. Below it (I think) is a patio for the ground floor rooms. Anyway we barely sit down before we are joined by a guy from another room. Don't remember his name. Then a woman named Ingrid joins us from a different room. They heard the talking and want to be sociable. Fun. Ingrid is great. She and I ran into each other on an almost daily basis the rest of my visit. Ingrid has 3 more weeks on Isla. I don't remember the total time she visited on this trip but visiting Isla is a regular thing for her and she always stays as long as possible. I instinctively understand.
Day 2 - decompressing:
I have no idea when I stumbled back to my room and I don't really remember doing it. I'm pretty sure Graham at least offered to walk with me but don't remember if he did. The next thing I know it's about 1:00pm on Friday, my second day. I wake up feeling much better than expected, but not as good as I'd like. I head to north beach for some healing sunshine. Just what I need.
By early evening I feel better than ever, ready for some tasty nutrition. I decide to combine sunset watching with dinner and head to Picus. Have the conch ceviche. Think it's going to be an appetizer but it turns into dinner. About 60 pesos. A true bargain. It tastes fabulous. The conch is tender and the mix of flavors so balanced I'm tempted to start picking it apart trying to determine the exact ingredients. But that thought disburses quickly. Right now there's another fabulous sunset to distract me from "working" on something. Perfect timing.
I like to walk after dinner, so that's what I do. As I walk I realize I have yet to get my camera out of my bag. Unusual for me. I like photography and have a decent eye for color and composition. But I'm so swept up in the experience of simply being on Isla, that I haven't felt the urge to do anything other than enjoy. I think about going to get my camera. No. That can wait until tomorrow. No urgency. That's another thing about Isla. I don't feel like I have to do anything. Sweet. I keep walking.
Day 3 - Healing:
Saturday. No plans. Great. Head to the beach. Visit baby palm for a while. Head back from the beach, exhausted from a rough day. Yeah, right. I notice Jesus Molina's shop (still not realizing it's his shop) and stop to look around. I'm looking at some of the stuff out front when a guy comes up to me and says, "I remember you. You were in here a couple days ago." I say, "You must have me mixed up with someone else. I've never been in here before." He starts to insist but I'm adamant so with a sad face he drops it. I continue to look around, go inside and spot a shelf with some colorful little boxes. Suddenly it all comes back to me. I've been in here before and I must have been a lot drunker than I thought. I find Mr. Sad Face and tell him he is right. I was in 2 days ago, it was my first day on Isla, I was drunk on tequila and didn't remember, but as soon as I saw his little boxes I remembered buying one. Big smile. Pat on the back. Understanding. I say, "Gracias, mi amigo, for understanding."
"So what's your name?" I ask. "Jesus, Jesus Molina." "What? I've been meaning to look for your store but haven't gotten around to it yet." "Here it is . . . how did you know to look for it?" So I explain about the message board. He's thrilled to know folks are talking up his work on the internet. "What do they say?" he wants to know. I have some print-outs in my room and offer to go get them so he can see for himself. He's all for that, so I do. When he sees, he wants copies. We go the copy store. Walk right past the back of Chili Locos through what looked like a delivery area. I don't see Jorge, but he tells me later that he saw me walking with another suitor. I don't try to explain. Jorge's a trip. I can't quite figure out when to take him seriously. I like him a lot. When Jesus and I get back to his store I spend some time looking at his art. I purchase two originals, a painting on flat wood and a painting on driftwood, both of which he signs for me. A very gracious man, Mr. Molina. I'm glad I didn't cause him to have a sad face for very long.
Do late lunch/dinner and watch the sunset at Playa Tiburon. Had Tix-n-Chix very good. Moist spicy fish, rice and warm tortillas. Watch the sunset with a double shot of Sauza tequila while they close up shop. A sweet, extremely handsome young man (really just a boy, 18 maybe) working a jewelry stand starts chatting with me after he gets his jewelry put away. Asks me how I got there. Taxi. Asks if I liked tequila. Yes. Asks if I've tried a particular brand. Never heard of it. Tells me he's got some back at his place. If I want to come for a visit and try some he'll give me a ride back to town afterwards. I politely decline. I know he's probably just looking for company, but I also know if the opportunity presented itself with this young man, "no" would be the last word coming from my lips. Sweetie back home, you know. Oh my, what am I thinking. I forgot my mantras. Too late. He's already gone.
I ask my waiter if I will find a taxi out by the road. "No problem. Taxi coming." Wow. They've already called one for me. Walk out and down the driveway. Several employees standing around chattering in Spanish. No taxi, so I ask where's the taxi? "Coming." They point down the road. Sure enough here it comes. It pulls up and they all jump in making room for me too. This is cool. Now I know why they've already called the taxi. I figure I'm paying for the staff to ride home and I don't mind one bit. An adventure. Trust Isla. Go with the flow. Sure enough they get dropped off one by one on the way to Centro. Nobody pays but me. I'm perfectly happy to be of assistance. My mantras are working again. Healing.
I go out for my evening walk. Walk by Captain Tony's to see if he's going to Contoy tomorrow Sunday. I packed my mask and snorkel and I wanna see some fish and sea life. There's a sign on the window saying "Contoy Sunday 9:00am." Cool. I'll be back tomorrow. Damn. Have to set an alarm to make sure I don't miss the boat. Go home set the alarm so I don't forget later. Then go back out for more walking.
What a pleasure walking the streets of Isla after dark. The temp is perfect. The breeze cools my sun-baked skin. Life could be better, it could always be better, but for now I'm at a loss to understand how.
As I walk by Chili Locos, I hear my name. I love the way my name sounds when voiced by Isla residents. Mee-kee. It's musical. I turn. Jorge owns the voice. "You promised to come back and see me." He sounds disappointed. This is when he tells me he'd seen me with Jesus. I assure him I had every intention of coming back to say hi. With several more days on Isla I'm not in a rush to do anything. "You're here now. Please sit. Have some tequila." I laugh. No tequila for me tonight. I'm enjoying my walk and want to keep going. I get a sad look and a big hug to send me on my way. But first I have to promise to come back soon, preferably when I want to sit and chat. No problemo. And I do, eventually.
A little later I find myself on the broken (so sad) malecon walking south with the wind in my hair. Feels great. There's La Pena. Mr. Disaster told me it's his favorite club but doesn't starts rockin' until at least 11:00pm. I know it's nowhere near 11:00pm but I decide to walk through, entering the back door by the sea. It looks deserted but the door is open so what the heck.
It is a surreal journey walking through La Pena from back to front. There are about 7 people total in the place. Nobody speaks to me and I speak to no one. The chairs are crazy looking as if they've each been carved out of a single tree by a wild man on psychedelics. I have to touch them. So I do. I wander among the chairs, running my hands along them as I walk. Still no words. I'm not sure the folks in there are even talking to each other. Are they alive? I walk out the front door turn left and there's the Roca Mar a block or so south. I walk that way.
Love the open air lobby at Roca Mar. The concept appeals to me. Our hotel in Zihua had an open air lobby but it was way different from the one at Roca Mar. Both are equally interesting, just different. Lot's of folks hanging around talking to each other. What a contrast with La Pena. Ask if there are any vacant rooms to look at. No, come back in 3 days. Stephanie who's chatting with Ino at the counter offers to show me around the grounds and explains which rooms are best and why. Love the set up with the pool area overlooking the Caribbean. Great breeze and surf sounds. Almost all rooms have a view to the sea. It's easy to understand why people rave about this place. Stephanie always stays here when she can. This time she can't get in until next Tuesday (the vacancy occurring in 3 days, I bet) so in the meantime she's staying down the street and coming up to visit in the evenings because she likes the atmosphere. I can see why.
Stroll to the Zocalo for some food. One table has shrimp tacos. Best shrimp tacos I've ever had. Can't remember the cost but it's not much. Plenty of fixin's on the table too, including a killer habanero sauce. Lights me right up. This is what I needed last night before I hit the sack. This stuff could cure anything. Absolutely love it. Decide to have another. Okay bedtime. Snorkeling early tomorrow.
Day 4 - Trust:
Sunday. I get up to the sound of an alarm. Yuck. I came here to get away from this. Then I remember. Snorkeling. Head to Tony's. It's a bit after 8:30. I sit on the curb waiting for something to happen. A nice man with a warm smile comes out, sits in a chair next to me and starts chatting. He notices my bag and asks if I want to go snorkeling. I know he's not Captain Tony because I've seen Tony's picture so I say, "Yes, I'm here to go to Contoy with Captain Tony at 9:00." "Tony's not going to Contoy today," he tells me. I point to the sign. He sighs, walks over and turns the sign around saying, "I told (mutters) to take that down." Okay so no Contoy. Is Tony going anywhere today? Not today. It's a special day for his daughter. It's her birthday.
About that time a woman emerges from Tony's door dressed in her Sunday finest. Her hair done up in long auburn curls. She is radiant. She must be the birthday girl's mother. A special day for her too. Several people (family?) gather around as she struts her stuff, showing off her shoes, purse, dress, hair and pointing out how well everything looks together. Many complements from everyone, including me. She's diggin it. So open and appreciative with each other. Refreshing.
Snorkeling, not snorkeling, what's the difference? I'm not at all disappointed we're not going to Contoy. This family has a celebration happening. I feel good just enjoying the family to-do. I ask Mr. Warm Smile if there will be a snorkeling trip tomorrow. "Oh no, you don't have to wait until tomorrow. Come back at 10:00. If there are enough people I'll take you out to the lighthouse and Manchones reef." His smile is melting my heart. "Who are you?" I ask. "Tony's brother, Mario." He sticks out his hand for a shake. I happily offer mine in return. "Okay, see you at 10:00." I'm thinking I'll do Contoy next time I come to Isla. I have no doubt I'll be back. I've been here less than 3 days and I know . . .
Off to get a lite breakfast. Fruit would be nice. I hear someone calling my name, but this time it sounds regular Mickey not musical. I turn expecting to see one of my fellow travelers. It's Jeff Graham's friend from the first night Chili Locos. When we both discover we're headed to breakfast, we decide to have it together. He recommends Chili Locos, so we go there. No Jorge. This time it's Donna. The breakfast is fabulous. I have a mixed fruit crepe, or some kind of fruit in a crepe. The crepe is perfection and fresh fruit on Isla is, well, really fresh.
Ahhhh, just the ticket for a little extra snorkeling energy. If there had been Contoy today, I'd have missed breakfast and time with new friends. Yes plural. Graham stopped by to say hi and introduce his girlfriend who works as a massage therapist in Cancun. Can't remember her name but enjoyed chatting with her. Jeff and Graham didn't get a chance to say much once we got going.
Speaking of going time to go back to Tony's. By then a guy named Mark from Kansas City, Missouri (I think that's right) is there with his two kids, Gillian and Aaron. Four people is enough to go out so Mario fits the three of them with snorkel gear and off we go.
Love the snorkel trip. Swimming with barracudas, one as long as my leg, and bunches of little ones. Many other fish as well. Mario jumps in with us and swims along as a guide while his 80+ year old Dad (he's constantly doing something, stashing gear, pulling in ropes, whatever, but he never sat still) tends to the boat. The sea is rough out by Manchones reef. Big swells make the boat ride a blast. But it causes Gillian to get a little sea sick so we head back early. Mark's apologizing to me for the short trip. I don't care. She can't help being sick. Go with the flow. Its moving in the right direction.
While out, Mario asks the kids some questions. Trying to take Gillian's mind off being sick is what I figure. When Gillian tells him she's 15, Mario's eyes light up. "Tony's daughter, my niece, turns 15 today." I didn't understand the significance of this until later that evening as I was walking through the Zocalo and heard my name called out. This time a female voice. I turn. It's Ingrid. I tell her about snorkeling. She tells me about the HUGE coming out party that morning. It started in the church, then poured out into the Zocalo. A festive spirit, dancing, music. Cool. "At what age does a girl have her coming out party" I ask. Fifteen. I'm gushing by now. "I can't believe it. I'm out snorkeling with her uncle while you 're at her party. Small world." Ingrid says, "small Isla." She's right.
But back to snorkeling. Because our trip was cut short I decide to take my gear over to the Avalon bridge and see what's underwater there. Some nice guys in a golf cart offer me a lift. I saw one interesting fish with yellowish wings, one lone barracuda, and some schools of little fish. Enough of that.
Heading back to Bucaneros I happen to pass Hortensia's shop, another place I meant to look for but hadn't gotten around to yet. Stop, pick a fabric, order a dress and look at a few things on the rack. I only have a 50 peso and a 500 peso bill. My total was 100 pesos. Hortensia doesn't have change. Not to worry, she says. I pay her 50 now and 50 when I come back to get the dress tomorrow. Trust.
A tall thin guy with a handsome weathered face asks me how I heard of Hortensia's. My gut tells me he knows about the message board so I ask, "How do you think?" He's a bit taken aback, not sure what to say, but recovers quickly and asks if I'm a lurker or poster. Lurker. We chat a bit. He's getting his legs massaged and asks if I want one. Not right now gracias. I move on. Time to get my beach stuff.
Back at the hotel, I get change for the 500 peso bill. On my way back to the beach, I go out of my way to walk by Hortensia's and give her the other 50. I like paying up front. People work hard for their money. She trusts me and I want her to feel good about it. Mr. Handsome Weathered Face is still there or has come back. As he watches me unfold my beach cloth to get my money, he suggests I buy a purse for my stuff. No. I like to keep it simple, gracias. "Simple is good," he says and smiles.
More beach. My baby palm is all by its lonely so I plop my stuff down in now-familiar surroundings. I spend several hours every day with my little friend, very happy sharing space with this cute splash of green. Jeff comes by and laughs. "Not getting any shade from that thing.," he quips and walks on still chuckling. I don't want shade. Baby palm is good for sun worshipping.
My beach routine. Spread cloth. Take off cover-up or wrap. Oh yeah. I purchased a wrap in my first night fog. Don't remember buying it but it was in my room on Saturday. I got lucky and actually like it. I use the wrap to shade my water bottle. Keep it from getting too hot. Take off swimsuit top. Lay down and read. Skin feels hot. Go in water. Walk out about 40-50 feet. Turn around face the beach and fall backwards into the water. Giving my body up to the sea, I float. Effortless. Floating. Looking up every once in a while to make sure I'm not drifting out to sea. It's a wonder the portions of my body floating above water don't get more tan than the rest of me, but they don't. Back to my baby palm. Repeat until I feel like doing something else. Paradise.
Sunset and dinner at Velasquze on recommendation of Mario, Tony's brother. Good choice. I have the most delicious garlic shrimp surrounded by the best buttered rice I think I've ever had, a dry slaw, two serrano peppers, onions, tomatoes and tortillas. Just enough of everything. I like the way they serve food on Isla. Just enough. In the states there's always too much food. I can never eat it all (except at the fanciest of restaurants) and I hate to waste anything so I end up eating too much or taking home leftovers, sometimes both. People who like those huge plates of food might find too little food on their plate at many Isla restaurants. But the prices are so reasonable, I say order two plates if you want that much!!
Also at Velasquez, my waitress is the best. She knows when to leave me alone (when I have my camera out for instance) and when I need something. She comes to take my order at exactly the time I'm ready. She's good.
It's Sunday night, so I head for the Zocalo. Have my camera. I love Centro at night and I'm ready to give up a little free spirit to capture a slice of it in photos. Church hasn't let out yet. This is when I see Ingrid and learn of the coming out party for Tony's daughter. Sunday night in the Zocalo is fun. Lots of food and families. Time for desert. I get a thin waffle-like concoction. The vendor fries it in a waffle-like iron, spreads it with chocolate and then folds into a V shape. It's so warm and crispy. Yummy. Downright delicious. Still full from dinner, I resist the urge to have another. I'm not a big person. Too much food too fast makes me miserable.
I snap photos as church lets out. Watch for a while as everyone gathers, eats, and visits. Then I head off for a walk. Wonder what I'll see tonight. After strolling for a while and running into a few more Isla friends, including a waiter who served me guacamole at one time or another in the last several days (everyone is so friendly and welcoming) I head home. Nothing planned for the rest of my visit. Great. How about some sleep.
Day 5 - Serendipity:
I'm not naturally an early riser, but I'm up for the sunrise on Monday morning. No alarm of course. I fix myself a seat in the window, using a bed pillow, and sit with my camera marveling at the beauty of slowly revealed daylight. Two more full days. It's gonna be another great one. Breakfast at M&J's. The green fruit drink is delicious.
I decide to take my camera to the beach, shoot some photos, then take it home. It's still fairly early. Not many people out on the beach. I get my photos (including a couple of Jesus in front of his shop) and head to Hotensia's to pick up my dress. It's done. I try it on. A little loose under the arms, she takes it in while I wait. Muchas gracias. I'm off.
I've seen a little apartment house that looks interesting. I want to check it out. Walked by it several times without even noticing it until last night when I saw someone open the gate and enter. Can't explain why but I wanted to be that person. Maybe this place will be my next Isla home. Nothing against Bucaneros, but the less money I spend on lodging, the more often I can visit Isla. Balance.
Find the apartment house, walk through the gate, see the sign pointing to manager's apartment but before I can head that way a voice says, "I'll be with you in a minute." I look. It's Mr. Handsome Weathered Face from Hortensia's. Trust the Island. Magic. He shows me around, shows me every room in fact. The residents are more than happy to let me look. I really like this place and the manager already feels like a friend. If I can get a room here when I'm able to come back, this will be my next Island home. I never make it back to Roca Mar to look at Ino's room because I know it's more expensive and I want to stretch out my money.
By now it must be around noon. Beached the rest of the day. Until early evening, that is.
I want to see Punta Sur and decide to make it my sunset venue for tonight. I know, Punta Sur is the place where the rising sun is first seen in Mexico. Watching the sun rise is what you're supposed to do there. But my stream is flowing the opposite direction, so I go with the flow and get to Punta Sur just in time to pay and get through the gate on Monday evening. I give the guard a little extra tip knowing he'll probably be working later than usual waiting for me to re-emerge from the gate after dark. I'm rewarded with a spectacular evening walk and some of my favorite sunset photos. Also get some nice pix of the landscape, the sculptures (I like some, hate others) and the surf all in evening's soft glow. Purrrrfect.
Now I have a bit of a dilemma. It's almost dark and there isn't a taxi to be seen. I expected this so wore light-colored clothing. I start to walk. I figure a taxi will come along eventually, and what the heck, it's less than five miles to town. I can walk that. No problem, especially with the evening breeze to keep me cool. I make it as far as the (fake?) ruins just up the road from Punta Sur's fake Caribbean village when this car comes tearing around the corner, screeching to an abrupt halt. A woman and 2 girls jump out and run to the ruins taking photos like jack rabbits. I see from the sticker it's a rental car. I ask if they want me to take a photo of the 3 of them by the ruins. You bet. I do it.
They ask if I know the way to town. Sure. How about you give me a ride and I'll show you. Hop in. So I do and off we go, stopping every few seconds to shoot photos of houses in the dark. I'm about ready to ask what's up with this. Before I can speak, the woman introduces herself and her daughters. She explains that they are vacationing on the mainland and came over just for the night, staying at Crystalmar. Got off the car ferry, drove straight to their hotel, checked in and now (frantically, it seems) need to shoot photos before ALL the daylight is gone. Just thinking about this makes my head hurt. When we get to Centro, they park and are in a souvenir store buying stuff before I can get out of the car. Whoa Nelly, you call this a vacation? I need relaxation. Back to my room. But not for long.
Tonight I'm getting a massage from Juan if I can get to his shop (a block south of Bucaneros, same side of street, green spiral staircase up the front of the building accessible from the street) by 7:00pm. I pull out my clock. 6:45. Perfect. I shower and walk down the street to check out Juan's massage skills. He is everything I need and want. Strong, rhythmic, soothing and stimulating. Bliss. I thought a half hour would be sufficient but he's so good I don't want it to end. So I ask for more. It's not a hard sell. He keeps going without a word. Big tip for Juan. I highly recommend his strong smooth hands.
I am primed for a slow, tranquil dinner. Manolos has seating in a garden. Sounds good. It is. The setting allows me to continue in my mellow mood. I have the fish specialty of the house. The fish is covered with a delicate mushroom sauce, as tasty as any dish I've had anywhere in the world. I can't believe how good I feel. How perfect everything is. I resist the urge to pinch myself. I know I am more alive now than ever. I don't care if I'm awake or not.
Day 6 Moon Spinning:
Tuesday. My last full day on the island. Don't think about that. Go with the flow. Breakfast at Alexus y Giovanni's. Don't remember what I ate, but it was good and very reasonably priced. As I'm sitting and eating solo, my waitress brings three bags of rice and a big empty canister over to the table and sets them down. She looks at me and asked in Spanish if I minded her sitting with me. "No problem." She sits, opens a bag of rice and starts pouring it into the canister. We start to chat and share basic information (name, homeland, family), she in Spanish and me in English, both trying to speak a little of each other's language. A precious interlude defying the trepidation some solo travelers have about eating out alone. Flowing. Becoming one with the island.
I head to the beach. After a few hours, I decide to do lunch today. I haven't had lobster yet. During my evening walks I noticed Poc Chuc had lobster tacos. That intrigued me. Go there. Three lobster tacos for less than $3.50 USD (don't remember exactly) yummy. Hummm, wonder what the fish tacos taste like. Just as good for a little less money. I also had a mixed fresh fruit shake. All for under $7.00 USD. I'll do a lite dinner tonight. But for now it's back to the beach.
Even though I always take my book to the beach, a lot of the time I ignore the book. There's a yin/yang, mellow/energy permeating North Beach. Even with lots of people, it doesn't feel crowded. Everyone has their own space and it's individual choice whether to share that space with others. I met some interesting people on the beach when I felt like interacting. But when I wanted to be left alone, I was. At times I'd close my eyes and drift into space. Other times I'd sit or walk with eyes wide open trying to take it all in. It was all good.
Today as I drift into space, it starts to dawn on me, if BWEE hadn't falsely promised me a cash refund . . . but wait . . . there will be time for reflection later. Right now I want to just be, to soak up the joy of each lingering moment. Being my last full day on Isla, I decide to stay right there and share the sunset with my neighbors and baby palm tree. My last sunset from my North Beach home. This time anyway.
I'm not the only person stretching out time on the beach this evening. There's a lovely couple next to me, probably in their 60's. He's taking photos of her in her swimsuit with the sunset as a backdrop. They both look blissful. It's obvious he wants the "perfect" photo. Just after the sun sets, I point out the full moon (it was fully full the morning of the next day) rising just above the palm trees behind us. He gets right on it, framing up the moon with the palms. He's so proud of his shot (it was a nice shot) that he shows it to me thanking me profusely as he moves the view-finder back and forth between his last 2 photos saying, "Look. I got the sunset and then the moonrise right next to each other. Can't wait 'til they see this back home. Beautiful." Makes me feel good helping out a fellow traveler. His wife is all smiles. Life is good.
My lite dinner turns out to be bean soup at La Lomita's. Delicious. And big. Could be a full meal even when I'm really hungry. Walking to Lomita's from Bucaneros takes no time at all. It's just a few blocks and I have my camera so take a few neighborhood pix. After dinner I feel North Beach calling. I walk north.
I love to experience the full moon from the beach, any beach. So on the way to North Beach I detour to Secret Beach, walking past the Poc-Na Hostel and out into the moonlight. Walk up to the Hotels Secreto and Media Luna. Both look very inviting. If you're inclined to spend the extra money, either of these would likely be a good choice. A beach dog wants some attention. I acquiesce. Then walk back to the street, come to Poc-Na on the left, turn right, passing Hortencia's (closed) on the left. I go two streets north and turn right headed toward the Avalon bridge. I haven't walked this strip yet. I'm impressed with the feel of Na Balam Hotel and its restaurant. Soothing atmosphere. Lighting is well done.
Walk onto North Beach by Avalon bridge. Na Balam's beach chairs are the perfect place to sit and enjoy the moon for a while. I sit. Bask in the moon glow. Take some photos. Batteries die in camera. I'm physically and mentally in a perfect place. Could care less about more photos. The moon will just look like a white ball against a black background anyway. Little did I know. I find out later a few of the moon photos are astounding. You can feel light radiating into darkness and in several there is a perfect pink halo around the moon.
Camera put away, I continue walking in the direction of Sunset Grill. I find myself singing:
". . . She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls,
I knew right away she was not like other girls.
. . . Once in a while you get shown the light,
In the strangest of places if you look at it right."
Good ol' Grateful Dead. Now I'm dancing on North Beach in the moonlight. Soon singing "Fire, Fire on the mountain . . ."
Singing, dancing, spinning with the moon on North Beach. I am one with the universe. It doesn't get much better than this. Exhausted, I grab my wrap and my camera from the sand and start walking home. When I get to Hidalgo I realize I have no shoes. Go back to get them. I find them where I left them.
Walking down Hidalgo I soak in the night atmosphere once more, smiling at the shop owners and vendors as I go. I have decided to go to bed early tonight so I can get up without an alarm and enjoy a leisurely morning on the streets of Isla before catching the 11:00am ferry to the mainland.
Plans made to be broken. I am just about to enter Bucaneros when I hear my name being called Mee-kee. I turn and see a man I had talked to earlier as I was leaving the Beach after the sunset. Takes a split second to change my mind about going straight to my room. I walk over. He's having dinner and a bottle of wine with a friend at Rolandi's and asks me if I would like to join them in sharing the bottle of wine. You bet. Of all the people I met on the beach, I had found this man to be one of the most interesting. Plus he's one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen in my life. Even if he were a bore, I'd share the bottle of wine just to look at him a little longer. I find out he is partly of Mayan ancestry, the other part Navajo (my part-Cherokee blood is boiling), and lives and works on Isla.
I'll call him The Philosopher. When I told him about dancing in the moonlight on North Beach and almost losing my shoes, he says, "If you loose them you don't need them." Okay. I figured that out about watches and sun glasses. But these are my Jerry Garcia Birkenstocks and they have special meaning to me. He shakes his head and looks at me out of the corners of his eyes as if to say, "When will you really learn?" I'm hooked.
We ask each other about homeland and family. When I tell him I have no children, he asks, "Does your body call you?" I do a double take. "Huh?" He says it again. I heard correctly but I've never had it asked this way before. In the states when people find out I have no children they usually ask, "Don't you want children?" I hate that question. It has so many negative connotations. It implies something is wrong with me for not having children, that I don't want children, but I should. However the question "Does your body call you?" is completely different. It implies that my body knows what's right for me and I simply respond to the call. I answer "no, my body doesn't call me. I can't explain . . ." He holds his hand up palm towards me, to silence me. "No need to explain," he says, "You will know." I thank him for asking the question that way. He understands. I'm intrigued. Magic.
I offer the Philosopher what's left of my bottle of tequila more than half, believe it or not. He asks if it's good tequila. Of course. He accepts so I run up to my room to get it, not wanting to take too much time away from such remarkable conversation. Back at the table I watch the wine disappear with sadness. The tequila is his for some other time. I do not want to drink it tonight. I want full comprehension.
I'm so wrapped up in conversation I don't remember his friend leaving but I notice the wine is all gone. He asks would I like to take a fresh bottle of wine down to south point (Punta Sur) and continue our conversation under the moonlight with the sound of the surf for company. He has a vehicle. He'll drive. Yes. Then I find myself doing the obligatory "Please understand that I just want conversation . . ." He silences me again. "I will honor your desire." We walk to his vehicle. I have no doubt he'll be true to his word. He is.
South point is magical under the full moon. I could not have planned a better way to spend my last moments on Isla. Actually I had planned much sleep and a leisurely morning. I would get neither. I am flowing toward the call. The call of the moon, the surf, philosophy. I am timeless, one with creation, trusting, learning, being. I will never forget these mystical moments. Isla making love with the universe. Renewal through Timelessness.
Day 7 - Saying Goodbye:
Go with the flow. Flowing into Wednesday morning. Time raises itself back into my awareness. Real world demands attention. Barely time to pack and catch the ferry. Pulling away from Isla, I sit atop the ferry looking back. I find myself crying. Unusual reaction to a place. I feel like I'm leaving a good friend. The island is my friend. I'm leaving her knowing I won't see her again for a while.
This is how I feel when I leave my friend, Cyndi. I have to leave her every year after MerleFest, a celebration of music centered around bluegrass but including music from all over the world. Cyndi lives in North Carolina and I in Washington State. We go to MerleFest together in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. It always hurts to leave. Those first few steps I walk, going away from Cyndi, are so hard. This is exactly how I feel leaving Isla.
The only thing that restores my harmony after leaving Cyndi is knowing we'll do MerleFest together again next year. As I write this, my story, I've been back from Isla less than 2 weeks. I already have plane tix to return in November along with reservations at the apartments managed by Mr. Handsome Weathered Face. This time I'm staying 17 nights around the week of thanksgiving. Go with the flow.
Isla calls. The universe responds. Flowing spirit.
The doorway to infinite possibility awaits each and every one of us. The sun will be reborn only if we can remember what it means to be children of the light. [http://www.gaianxaos.com/GalacticMayanFinalMission.htm]
Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. [http://worldebible.com/ephesians/5.htm]