Nan and I arrived home on Monday night from our vacation in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We cut our two-week trip short by five days due to work concerns and lousy weather. The remnants of hurricane Karl were still causing rain when we arrived, transitioning seamlessly into hurricane Matthew's near miss, with its own downpours and high winds. When it wasn't raining, the heat, humidity and sand gnats drove me mostly indoors to sit in our air-conditioned Color de Verano penthouse apartment reading Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, a topical, enjoyable page turner. Nan toughed it out without me, getting as much "beach time" as possible.
Every time we go to Isla Mujeres, and we have been there eight times now, we spend time with the same friends, see the same sights and eat at the same restaurants, but we always make an effort to explore new areas and try new restaurants. This time, we even went on a "parade of homes" tour with a real estate broker named Rogelio and our Spanish instructor, Juan Torres. There are still oceanfront and lagoonfront lots for sale on the island, but they are ridiculously expensive for foreigners and would require an inordinate amount of work to build on, not to mention extensive communication in Spanish.
We tried three new restaurants: Chuuk Kay, a new Mayan-themed place located on the Laguna Macax channel and managed by our friend Ventura, whom we know from his days at Na Balam's Zazil-Ha bar and restaurant and from Brisas Grill; Rooster, a new, upscale place at the north end of Avenida Hidalgo that features wonderful creations by chef Sergio but unfortunately does not take credit cards; and Mango Cafe, an excellent breakfast and lunch place that is usually closed by the time we drive our rented golf cart past its location on the Caribbean side's main drag, but which we were lucky to find open one afternoon for jerked chicken tacos, grilled chicken empanadas and ginger lemonade.
The Sunday before we returned home on Monday was our best day, even though it had its share of rain. But we were out on our friend Ariel's panga for some snorkeling, so we expected to get wet. We had run into Ariel on our first night, working as a waiter at a new restaurant on Hidalgo, and agreed to do a boat trip with him. I asked if we could invite our good friend Juan Gomez's family to join us, and Ariel agreed enthusiastically. September ("septi-hambre") is always a very slow month for business, and Ariel told us he had not had a paying boat trip in more than a month. If you're down that way, please call (011-521-998-165-6332 from the US) or email (email@example.com) him for a boat trip of your own.
Ariel, his wife Rosi and her son Chris met Nan and me with the panga on the beach across from our apartment. When Juan showed up with his wife Paula, kids Manolo and Paulina, and nephews Paul and Daniel, we all piled into the boat and headed over toward El Ferito, the little lighthouse that marks the entrance to Isla Mujeres's large bay. There is a partially submerged wreck there, a casualty of hurricane Wilma back in 2005, that is a natural haven for sealife. Juan and the kids put on lifevests and snorkel equipment before jumping overboard to see what they could see. A dark passing cloud soaked everybody left on board. Already wet, I jumped in too, but all I saw in the churned up water was a school of needle fish.
When everybody was back on board, we headed east for a slow circle around Laguna Macax, admiring the many yachts that are moored in its protective waters. Juan and his family could just see the top of their house in the Lol-Beh colonia over the mangrove treetops. The kids were intrigued by the inhabited "plastic bottle island" that floats on the opposite side of the lagoon. We departed through the channel and passed by Sac Bajo, where "the white house," another casualty of hurricane Wilma, sits abandoned except for its caretaker unit. From there, it was a short trip down the western coast to Playa Tiburon, where Ariel had arranged for "tic-n-xic" barbecued grouper, with rice, pasta, salad and tortillas supplied by Rosi and Chris. Delicious!
We plan to return to Isla Mujeres next June, when we will sail the new boat there from the United States. More on that later...
This blog is an account of the pursuit of a dream, to sail around the world. It is named after the sailboat that will fulfill that dream one day, Whispering Jesse. If you share the dream, please join me and we'll take the journey together.
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