Friday, June 23, 2017

Isla Mujeres, Getting Situated

The journey is worth it, but man what a journey! Monday morning we got up at 3:30. Our buddy, Dave picked us up at 4:00 to take us to the airport. We flew to Phoenix and sat in the plane for ten minutes before disembarking. Then we had to run to the other end of the airport to get our next flight to Cancun. (A quick side note against American Airlines… They now charge you $33/pp to sit together! When I asked the lady at the counter to try to put us together, she replied it was a full flight. In the rows around us every couple had been split up and each said the website showed all side-by-side seats had been booked. After a confusing and time-consuming process the passengers relocated themselves before take-off. What a scam!)
Then we were met by AGI transportation and taken by van to the ferry. If possible I will always do business with AGI. They were very professional. We took a thirty minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres. AGI met us there and put us in a taxi to our hotel, Cabanas Maria del Mar.
The streets were flooded calf deep in rainwater from the storm we just missed. After the 105+ temperatures of California, the cool breeze felt wonderful. We joined the locals and tourists in our flip-flops and headed out for dinner, slopping through the puddles. It was a lot of fun… really!
We found a restaurant with grass-fed beef from the peninsula. It’s called Dopi’s, El Rincon de Los Sabores. My carne asada street tacos were amazing. Several chalkboards adorn the walls covered with various comments from visitors from around the world. While we were eating this guy came in with his accordion. Nothing unusual about that. A table motioned him to stop and play for them. What made it funny was when he unzipped his back pack with one hand and reached back to turn on a boom box. He then pulled out his cell phone and you could hear a computerized voice state that it had paired with a blue tooth device. He chose his song and suddenly we had a one man band! And oddly enough he had a large coconut nestled in next to his boom box. Such an odd mix of things.
The beer here is incredibly cold. The bars pride themselves in having sub-zero refrigerators, so the beer borders on being a slushee. Every frig has a lit-up indicator of the temperature. The norm is for it to be below zero Celsius. At Lola Valentino’s it was negative four! Joe wasn’t happy because that’s the only time I will drink beer is when his is cold enough :) I won’t order my own, I just drink his.
We’ve traveled a bit and I have to say that the people who live here are nice, super nice. Though you can’t really tap into that if you don’t know Spanish. At one point we were on a mission to find a place to exchange dollars for pesos. So we asked around. Everyplace was closed that does exchanges. (Not a real problem, as most places accept American dollars)  At one restaurant the whole bar joined in the problem solving. We had gotten about half a block away when the bartender trotted up to us to tell us the owner said she’d exchange our dollars if we wanted.
Our Street
Missing are the obnoxious condo salesmen from the mainland. The next day we wandered the through the tiny town unmolested. The salespeople from the little tiendas politely invite you in. One place asked Joe if he wanted a cigar. “No thanks.” “Tequila?” “I don’t drink tequila,” Joe answered. “Cocaine?” We laughed. Someone who doesn’t smoke cigars and drink tequila might prefer cocaine? Too funny :)
The North Beach is popular for its gorgeous sand and calm shallow water. We were still chest deep at about fifty yards out. But if you go around the tip of the island to the east the water is rougher and the beaches form in little half circles edged by jagged coral. We’re staying at Cabanas Maria del Mar on the beach.
Today is day two on our quest to find wine. No easy task, I tell you. First of all is the fact that no one wants to admit they don’t have the answer you seek. They would rather send you the wrong direction than to see that disappointed look on your face. But Joe and I were prepared for this. It’s the same everywhere in the Latin culture. I don’t mean to say that I can always tell whether or not the directions are correct, I’m just saying I am not surprised when we are led astray. One thing I’ve learned is to listen to the directions and if they are very detailed, then it’s probably correct. “Turn left, not at this next street, but the next one. Go one block down to the OXXO and turn right. Go about halfway down the block and it’s on the right.” It was true and I came away with a bottle of Argentinean Malbec.
The next difficulty is deciding where to eat lunch. This island is small, and the northern tip is maybe a half mile round. There’re lots of choices of places to eat though. We usually decide based on what type of beer they have. Joe likes Bohemian Obscura or Negra Modelo (Just don’t ask for a Negro Modelo, unless you want a black man that is, then ask). We discovered a great beach bar by the marina. The bartender named Mike (Miguel) is an absolute sweetheart. They have the best beef tacos I’ve ever had. We went back today and met Mario.
Mario had a t-shirt that had the superman logo on it, but he’d added Jesucristo, Superhombre, Dios Verdadero on the three sides of the big S. He mentioned he’d lived in the states for most of his life. Naturally I asked where he’d lived. He named several places, but all that stood out to me was San Quentin and Folsom Prison. He proceeded to give the best, most impassioned testimony to his becoming a Christian I’ve ever heard. It was truly an amazing experience to see the ferocity of his love of Christ. We’re going to get together with him next week on his day off.
Then a tropical storm swept the flat little island. The wind came out of nowhere. Rain came in the stores like someone was throwing buckets of water sideways! People ran, laughing, for shelter. A young boy held my hand as I stepped up into his store. Golf carts slopped through the roads that had temporarily become rivers. I understand now why the central street going down the middle of the island is the most popular… it’s at the top of the tiny hill, so the water flows down the streets to the sea.
This brings up the daily question… raincoat or no raincoat? An umbrella would be nice, but it’d have to be a very strong one. Mine isn’t. So I wore an adorable bright pink raincoat and discovered it’s not color-fast. Now my white tank top is tie-died pink. So I’ve progressed to the huge orange poncho I bought for Costa Rica. Now I’m dry, but I look ridiculous! I usually just go with getting soaked by the rain… I dry off pretty fast.
So that leads to the word Humidity. There’s hot and humid and there’s cool and humid. I’ve only known the hot and humid one, which isn’t entirely true because I was born on the northern coast of California. That’s cold and humid. Right now, here on Isla Mujeres, it’s cool and humid. Everything is wet and sticky. Because of that we use the air conditioner. It pulls moisture from the air. I wasn’t thinking about that today. All I thought was how nice and cool the breeze felt, so I turned the AC off and opened the windows. I propped my feet up on the bed and read Tarzan for awhile. When I went to stand up, I almost fell. The stone tile floor was covered with a thin layer of water. The room was like an iced over lake and I was like a 101 Dalmatian puppy! I dried the whole thing with a towel while Joe safely took his nap. Five minutes later it was an ice rink again. I shut the doors and turned on the AC. Lesson learned.

This Malbec tastes good.

The story I’ve always been told is that Isla Mujeres is Golf carts and scooters only. Not true. They have cars here, especially taxis. It’s not terrible, but they do have plenty of cars. I was disappointed because I thought it would be so cool to have the quiet of no cars

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