Friday, March 29, 2013

Ah Mexico!

Well, Mexico.  I have retrieved the photos I can retrieve after my disastrous experience with Apple, iCloud, and the geniuses at the Apple store, so here goes.  Let’s see what I remember….

When I say that I love Mexico, I suspect that I mean a different Mexico from the one most North Americans love.  They, I think, judging from the people I meet on the plane and at the airport, mean the “resort” Mexico, where you can drink the water, brush your teeth with the water, put toilet paper in the toilet to flush, wash your hair because there is enough water pressure, reliably have trash taken away, and have lots of locals to take care of your every need.  

A perfectly wonderful way to visit Mexico, but probably not a lot different from resorts in Miami, along the Gulf coast or the west coast of the US.

The Mexico I love is the houses we rent in small, very small villages, where we eat most of our meals outside while we watch the cafe owners cook. The staff wash the dishes in the sink, by hand. Nothing fancy in these places except for great, fresh food.  Quite often the restaurants are on the beach.  The literature left in the house told us that the trash was picked up “most mornings” and that the tv and vcr work, but that the area gets “no television.” We could walk everyplace we wanted to go in the village and everyone seemed friendly, although a lot of North Americans seem to have discovered Puerto Morelos, a tiny town on the Caribbean between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.  At times it looked as if we were in a Ft. Myers, FL overflow area.  

We were a block off the Caribbean so that was a frequent destination for walks.  This was our local bar:
Bar on the left.  Massages on the right.

right on the beach.  

The second night we spent of our vacation, this storm headed our way. 

We took our pina coladas, made with fresh coconut milk from coconuts that had fallen on the beach, and walked a block to our house.  It rained, hard, for a couple of hours and then for the rest of our stay, we had perfect weather, no air-conditioning necessary, which was good because the house wasn’t air-conditioned.  

For a side trip we drove halfway west through the Yucatan, and then due north to Rio Lagartos, an even smaller town.  The waters off Rio Lagartos are protected (part of a UNESCO World Heritage site)because they are a great stopover for so many migrating birds.  There is a species of flamingos that winters off the west coast of the Yucatan, and then summers in the waters north of the Yucatan.  We were too early for the huge migration that comes in April and May, but we did see several dozen of the huge, brilliant pink flamingos that had come early this year.  We took a boat trip for a couple of hours at sunrise (yawn...not my best time of day) and saw many more species of birds that we don’t see often at home.  

Rio Lagartos

We stayed in a funny little hotel, the only one in the village, and since it was Valentine’s Day when we arrived, the rooms were staged for the holiday.  I was given the Honeymoon suite on the third floor, and it came complete with these swans

and toilet paper with hearts on it.  I was alone so the ambiance was kind of wasted on me, but the view from my porch wasn’t:
Mangroves in the distance off of Rio Lagartos

I slept really well until the rooster in the lot behind the hotel, where my door led to the outdoor hallway, decided to start crowing at ‘0 dark hundred 0'clock.
BAD, BAD showoff rooster

The drive through the Yucatan to get to and from Rio Lagartos was strange---our GPS, which was worthless, kept telling us to turn right,  But for miles and miles, there was no place to turn right.  It also kept saying “toll road.”  No toll roads at all.  Fortunately there was no way to get lost:  straight west, straight north.  The road, such as it was (infrastructure is not a big priority, or any priority, in a lot of places) went through tiny settlements of Mayan people:

Their homes have been built the same way for centuries.  The Mayan families sleep in them, in hammocks, but live the rest of their lives outside.  There are openings for windows and doors, but most of the time, there are no actual windows or doors.  Cooking, sitting, playing i.e.., living, takes place outdoors.  Unfortunately, the Mayans also live ON the road, and that makes driving through these little settlements dangerous (for them).  In one place there was a little girl, maybe three years old, sitting on the edge of the road as if it were a chair.  The ground dropped off from the road just enough to make the road a comfortable chair height for her.  No one else was around and she was completely oblivious to us. Driving incredibly slowly is the only safe way to get through these ten- or twelve-home settlements.  

The Mayans seem to primarily get around via very old wrecks of bicycles, with children straddling the rear wheel or sitting on the handlebars, on foot, or occasionally, in old cars.  Some had three-wheeled bicycles with large wire containers on the front for packages or people.  It is really a strange juxtaposition to see North Americans in tourist areas on their expensive bicycles: they are in the usual North American biking clothes and have helmets on.  It’s like seeing a kite next to an airplane---the difference is striking.  

There were cisterns on top of cinderblock structures near some of the homes, just as there were on top of homes in Puerto Morelos.  Because rain isn’t dependable I suppose that someone must come with a large truck of water and fill the cisterns in both the town and rural areas, but I never saw that happen so I don’t really know.  (I do know that in a house with multiple faucets, gravity isn't all that when it comes to creating volume and water pressure.) 

The black thing on the whitish stucco is the cistern on our house.

I also don’t know what passes for bathrooms and sewers in these Mayan areas.  I think that there might not be any.  The people are so far away from larger towns and cities that I also don’t know what they do to support themselves, unless they just live on what they grow or kill. 

If you listen to the news, you would think that carnage is everywhere in Mexico, but according to the State Department travel alerts, the most dangerous areas are in the northern part of the country, where drugs cross the border illegally and practically non-stop.  So we felt free to walk everywhere, even in the evenings, when we would go to the town square and watch the local teenagers being teenagers:  riding skateboards in the little park.  A few locals mingled with the a few dozen tourists at cafes and in little shops, which were all apparently open until the last patron left.

I went to the tourist areas in Playa del Carmen in order to take a ferry to Cozumel, another tourist attraction.  Terrible places thanks to all the tourists and the businesses they attract.  Crowded, noisy, crowded, noisy, and did I say crowded?

I took a video of our trip out to Cozumel, just in case the ferry sank and we all drowned.  (I had visions of the iPad with its video floating into shore, being discovered, and put on international news stations.) I am apparently only a fair-weather sailor; I was terrified.  The crossing was so rough that an attendant went up and down the aisles handing out barf bags.  Unfortunately, the video I took to show how rough it was disappeared from iCloud when everything else did, and I can’t retrieve it.  I did capture, not intentionally (I was too focussed on our imminent deaths), a woman vomiting into a barf bag, so maybe it’s better the video is gone because I WOULD have shared it with you.  

I hope that the village of Puerto Morelos is spared the development that has taken over Cancun and Playa del Carmen, and thanks to the Meso-American Barrier Reef System, a National Marine Park one hundred meters offshore, perhaps this is possible.  Cruise and cargo ships can’t come inside the coral reefs offshore so all you see from the beach are the small fishing boats that the locals use.  

I like to think I could live there at least part of the year, but there is no LYS, and there also is no mail service.  The only way to get and receive mail is to have it addressed to a "Don Someone," and pay him for each piece of mail you send or receive.  I have no idea how he gets access to the mail.  

NO LYS!!!  No mail service for internet shopping!!!  Impossible.

The view of "downtown Puerto Morelos" from the beach a block from our house.

1 comment:

Susan said...

It looks lovely. My husband's grandmother retired to Mexico and we went to see her frequently, but she was just in Baja. I have never been further south.