Thursday, April 10, 2008

images

Photos:

Video:
video

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

home.

It was a long day - we got up at 5:30 and pulled out of the hotel at 6am, with the cook and her husband in the back seat. We were dropping them off at the bus in Limones. So we got to Playa del Carmen around 10:30 I think, and we wanted to be at the airport at 1. That's a hell of a lot of time to waste in such a disgusting place. We figured we'd eat something, since American Airlines doesn't provide food on the plane.

Did I say disgusting? Yeah, but I can't possibly say it enough times to equal the disgustingness of the place -- and it's better than Cancun, which is saying something! It's just drunk people and bad restaurants, lots of bars, tacky tourist shops, and American stores like Starbucks and American Apparel. Plus it was blazing hot, and I don't do well in blazing hot, when there's no relief.

We picked the least horrible-looking restaurant and Marc ordered quesadillas, and I ordered fruit. First, it's hard to imagine how they could have such bland and boring fruit in a place like the Yucatan. Mealy tasteless cantaloupe, bland worthless watermelon, and meh papaya. But the quesadilla....small corn tortillas with grated plastic cheese inside. Not melted, not grilled, just grated inside the tortilla.

Finally we headed for the airport, fought with the car rental place over the lack of air conditioning, and got to the terminal, with 2.5 hours before our flight.

We didn't know American had been cancelling flights by the hundreds. The line snaked through the little snaky thing, then went out and down the airport, past two or three other airlines' ticket agents. It was a hell of a long line, and not moving very fast. The other people were reasonably calm and patient, as were we, and surprisingly, we got to the gate just as the flight was boarding.

The flight was ok, though we had to circle for awhile because there were no free gates at JFK. How that could be possible, I have no clue, since they'd cancelled nearly a thousand flights. And then there was a lot of construction on the Triborough Bridge, so we got home after 10pm. What a long, long day. But it didn't diminish the pleasure of the vacation, which says something about how great it was.

I'm sorry for it to be over, but it is good to be back home. No wind tunnels while I try to sleep, and excellent dinners with the best company in the world. Another successful and wonderful vacation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

nature

We spent the morning snorkeling at a place that's just a 15-minute walk up the beach from our hotel. Some of the walk was really gross, through turtle grass and trash, but that was just a bit in the middle. Once we got past that, it was white sandy beach and turquoise water again. We actually snorkeled much longer than I thought we would, because it was so much fun. We saw fish we hadn't seen at the other place, including one fish that's shaped like a triangle, that was eating another fish. Sushi, I guess.

So loads of fun, paddling around and showing each other new fish, bobbing in the water and soaking up the sun for one last day. I put on gobs of intense very water resistant sunblock AND a shirt, trying not to get more burn on my back -- that degree of fortification seemed to do the trick.

We saw some other interesting stuff, like
The base of a coconut palm
These beautiful flowers in the midst of gray devastation:
The ubiquitous palm tree
Sunset(s)

And a few shots of the hotel dining room, where we had nice breakfasts and some really good lunches:

The best part of my breakfast every day

Monday, April 7, 2008

food and weather

We have amazingly good vacation luck - especially where weather is concerned. The weather report we'd been watching before we got here showed partly cloudy skies and some rain. We worried a little. But we've only had rain once, during the night, and except for those couple of extraordinarily windy days, it's been perfectly gorgeous. Like today. Blue skies, constant breeze, cadet blue skies, drifting white clouds here and there. Big horizons and blue patchwork water, with white sand. Kind of breathtaking.

Too bad my back is too sunburned to snorkel. Despite several slatherings of sunblock with the embarrassing number 40 attached, my back got burned yesterday. Marc's sunburn is turning, of course, to a beautiful deep tan. So he went out without me this morning to snorkel at the point, up the beach from our hotel. He saw a couple of new kinds of fish, and hoped that I'll be unburned enough to go with him tomorrow. Me too.

Lunch the last couple of days has been disappointing, but today marked a return to yumminess. We had empanadas, really crisp and flaky. One was filled with cheese and potato, one with beans and cheese, and one with little bits of chicken and red peppers. They were hot and crunchy on the outside and really luscious on the inside. The salad was shredded cabbage, tomato chunks and thinly sliced radishes, with some cilantro and lime juice, I'd bet. The starter was watermelon cubes with fresh lime for squeezing, and the standard pico de gallo and black bean bowls for dipping chips into.

YUM I love watermelon.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

saving daylight

Mystery solved with the whole time thing: Mexico changes the clocks today, spring forward and all that. I've been so confused, since all maps show us in the Central time zone but we were 2 hours behind NY. Now the world is right again, one hour behind.

I could've titled this post wildlife day, because it's been great that way. After breakfast we loaded our gear in the car and went back to the shipwreck spot we found yesterday. On the way, as we passed a huge mangrove field, an enormous flock of birds flew up in response to our car and we saw roseate spoonbills among them. White versions and white herons, plus the gorgeous pink ones. We'd heard about them at dinner last night but we weren't expecting to see them. It was very cool. Of all the days NOT to have our camera!! I tracked down this picture on the web:

Photobucket

On the way back, guess what was crossing the road? A tapir. An honest to goodness tapir. They look like they're surely related to pigs, right? Their closest relatives are horses and rhinoceroses. I know. You'd never guess that. Again, no camera (and thanks, wikipedia, for the photo):

Photobucket

And in between, we snorkeled. The weather was absolutely, positively perfect. Warm but not scorching, a small breeze but not a wind, and relatively clear water in so many shades of blue. Turquoise, and aqua, and teal, and pale pale blue, and navy, and greenish. We saw more than a dozen kinds of fish, orange ones and blue ones with yellow tails and plate-shaped blue ones, and a black one that looked like a big angel fish and striped ones and a big red one with a bug eye. A sargeant major. Little brilliant yellow ones with a black dot, and some soft yellow orange ones with no decoration. Fish that looked like gravel. A reddish-brown one with a weirdly shaped belly. A wide variety of striped fish, vertical and horizontal versions. We saw a large ray with a big head, and we saw it swim away, flapping its wings. A passle of pelicans - big ones - sitting on the wrecked ship, looking all shy with their big old beaks lowered against their chests. Little sand lizards on the beach. Needle fish in the shallows, swimming fast in formation.

Since we don't have an underwater camera, we quickly found images of a few of the fish we saw today:


It was so much fun, snorkeling side by side, seeing the beautiful fish and spending this lovely day together. At the water's edge, the water was sometimes in these little pools. Some were cold and some were really warm, so we spent some time just playing in a warm one before we left.

We're both bright (and hot) pink, but I know how this will turn out. Marc will develop a deep tan, and I'll peel and return to my whiteness. The white girl's burden, I suppose.

Here are a few more photos Marc took on his walk this morning.

Keep away - is that a little devil?
And oh the irony. No tirar basura means no littering.
SO Mexico.
Hurricane sale, you could probably buy this pretty cheaply.
Frigate birds flying overhead like the Nazgul.

Really, so much fun. The days are long and relaxing, who could ask for more of a vacation....

before we leave for the morning...

...we're heading out to the ship for some snorkeling, but Marc took a little walk along the beach road while I was getting ready this morning, and took several great pictures, including these:

No trespassing a la Mexicana.
I have no idea what this sign means, exactly, but I love it:
Tracks.
Doesn't this remind you of Maxfield Parrish?
He also got some great shots of the ever-present frigate birds, which I'll upload later this afternoon, if the connection is working. For now, off to breakfast and then to the beach.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

just beachy

At breakfast this morning (banana pancakes for Marc, yogurt and granola for me), we asked Marcia about the possibility of getting onto the beach from other locations along the shoreline. She drew us a little map of a place with big waves for body surfing, and a place with a sunken ship that is good for snorkeling. All within 30km or so....so off we went.

Most of the drive was on a paved road, but the last potholed bit (10 hard km!)
was on this sandy road:
There was a place to pull in and park, so we did.
This tree reminded me of Beckett for some reason:
And the beach looked like this:

AMAZING. Nice sand, gorgeous water. We swam. We floated. We walked.

Then we got back in the car to drive further, looking for the alleged ship.
We parked. We walked.
We saw coral and shells.
And watery grasses:
And in the distance? A mostly sunken ship.
With a big pelican in the foreground. Lots of pelicans around here.

It's at the end of a pseudo pier of sticks. Actually, the sticks have a net underneath,
to catch fish. Marcia said this is bad news. And illegal.
Tomorrow we're going back to snorkel all around the ship.
Today we just walked and swam, checking it out. We won't take the camera tomorrow, so we took all the photos today.

Back to home base for lunch. Every table has a nice collection of sauces:
And lunch always comes with fresh pico de gallo.

Yum.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday at Mayan Beach Gardens

So the pattern is true: good breakfast, great lunch, meh dinner. Tonight it was chicken fajitas, and not even good ones. The chicken wasn't seasoned at all, and they were accompanied by dry rice and black beans, refried. Green and red peppers, barely cooked, and a very few onions, nicely cooked. The small corn tortillas were wonderful, though - homemade and warm and gritty. Don't get me started on the whole communal dinner talking with our fellow guests thing. Yuck. We're just too shy.

But breakfast was nice - we love vacations in warm tropical places because the fruit is usually good. Vietnam had the best fruit so far, but this was nice....

I forgot to take a picture of the rest of breakfast. We took a little walk on the beach road and saw these cool things:

leaf
I thought this poor bare tree looked like a crayon or a pencil.
In the previous post I wrote about poor little Mahahual,
and how it looks like a ghost town. See?
They've got the beach party set up, but no people:


But look at this -

Beautiful, huh?

We got a bit too much sun; poor Marc has a touch of sun poisoning, surprisingly. Usually he just tans so nicely, but not this time. Even I have some color, which is always startling to me. So I don't know how much we'll lie in the sun tomorrow; maybe we'll poke around the Sian Ka'an Reserve, if we feel like it. I just hope it's not so windy.

weather

What you have to understand when you look at the scenery photos is that last year, Hurricane Dean came in and completely destroyed this whole part of the Yucatan coastline. Its eye passed over Mahuhual, which is 25km from here. The cabanas were destroyed, the trees were destroyed, everything, twisted wreckage or dead. It was the 2nd most powerful hurricane to hit the Yucatan since they've been keeping records, apparently.


It makes for some eerie landscapes. The sunset photo in the previous post looks like something from Apocalypse Now -- at least that's what I thought when I took the picture. It was devastating for the region; they'd just built a huge pier for cruise ships (destroyed). They'd just done a major renovation project on Mahuhual so it was cruise-ship-people friendly (i.e., mostly bars, restaurants, and tchotchke shops) - all destroyed.

This morning after breakfast we drove into Mahuhual to look for a new face mask to replace Marc's, since the strap was about to tear in half. It was like a ghost town, very very sad. They're rebuilding, and it is great looking for what it is. Photos to come. Still, it's very sad.

I'm feeling a little like Quasimodo, who went mad with the bells (the bells! the bells! the bells!), but for me it's the wind. It never stops blowing. Marcia said the winter has been very windy; today it's been ~23 miles per hour without stopping for even a second. It blows on my face all night, which makes my hair tickle my face and wakes me up. It blows in every corner of our cabana, when we're trying to get some sun on the beach, when we're doing any damn thing. Growing up in Texas, I'm used to the wind. But still. Good grief.

We went snorkeling again this afternoon, but the winds were so high the water was choppy with big waves so I came back to the shore after just 5 minutes or so. Marc continued on, snorkel trooper that he is, and had a nice look around. More starfish, more red and yellow and blue fish. I watched nervously from my chair on the beach, watching his red snorkel tip.

For lunch we had salbutes, which were amazingly wonderful. That's the pattern; breakfasts are very nice, lunches are amazingly wonderful (yesterday was chicken enchiladas in a homemade mole sauce that was so subtle and delicious), dinners are meh. Last night? Spaghetti with chicken or shrimp in the marinara sauce. Every day I forget to take my camera to lunch with me; tomorrow I hope I remember.

salbutes
Photobucket

Having a simply wonderful time. Sun and good food, relaxing and reading, wandering around together, walking on the beach. Really good times.

the morning after

Last night after dinner, we took the camera and tripod onto the beach - the night sky is so amazing here, and we thought we could leave the shutter open and get some great star pictures. Capture the Milky Way, even. We took several photos and this one was the best:

Click it to see it bigger. Wish you were there.

Yesterday we snorkeled a little; there's a small bunch of coral a short way out from the shore, so we puttered around and saw dozens of small yellow fish, some large blue ones and a red one. The best thing we saw was a very large red starfish.

Here's the view from our porch:
Our beach:
Marc walking from our room to the dining room:
We're in the one on the right (the best one, of course):

And here's a shot of me, posting on this blog. Every vacation we have a photo of Marc pacing in the airport, and one of me with the computer. That makes me laugh.

Posting:
Sunset:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

getting here

No problem getting here, at all - flights on time and easy, no problem of any kind. We flew out of JFK, which was weird for us, but once we were there, we fell into our normal routine:

Marc paces.
I make our nest of Important Travel Stuff.
And I read

We landed in Cancun on time and got our rental car with minimal trouble. So far so good.

We rented a car with air conditioning; either Mexican air conditioning = just a fan, or we didn't get what we are paying for. So the 5+ hour drive was spent with the windows down and my hair blasting me in the face. We stopped in Tulum for gas and to buy water, when we learned the next problem with our car: it won't go into reverse. Marc and I both know how to drive a stick, but neither of us could get it into reverse. So I pushed the car backwards and Marc steered, to get us back on the road.

Shalom, in Tulum? It made me laugh. Our people are everywhere.
This blue was so gorgeous, and the distressed-ness made it even better.
Welcome to Tulum.
Silver, silver everywhere and not an earring purchased!

We got to our hotel well after dark, which was what we expected. The place is so remote, and there's no electricity out here at all, so it was pitch black (which means the stars are amazing - the Milky Way is dazzling), but we made it without problem. When we parked the car in a bank of sand we realized that getting out, without reverse gear, could be a problem. That's one of our missions today, to try to figure out the gear problem.

So we got here and took our stuff to our room, and then it was time for dinner.

It's a kind of B&B, and dinner is the social event....and neither Marc nor I are social. At all. There are two other couples staying here, plus Marcia, who owns the place. One couple is from Minnesota; he's a lawyer and she's a loud mouth. The other couple is from North Carolina, and we think they're father and son but we don't know for sure. The Minnesotans are older than we are, and we think the NC son is around our age. So, dinner.

Marc and I were really dreading having to sit and make small talk with strangers; it's not something either of us is good at, and we were really tired. But the main thing is that we're not good at it, and we find it painful. We sat at the end of the table, across from each other, and hoped we could just talk to each other, but it didn't work that way.

The Minnesotan woman regaled us with tales of China, the way they have people who shovel out the latrines and they use human waste as fertilizer!! Wow, so interesting! We may not be socially graceful, but we'd never talk about that at dinner with strangers.

So we made it through dinner pretty painfully. The meal was good; we started with a small green salad (with goat cheese, which I love but Marc hates), then fish with raspberry chipotle sauce, some kind of cubed baked yucca, we think, and grilled zucchini. Dessert was wonderful -- these little fried pie things full of mango. I loved them; they had a crispy sugar coating, and the mango was truly luscious.

We went to sleep shortly after dinner; even though this is in the Central Time Zone, we're 2 hours earlier than NY instead of one. They must not change the time as we do, I can't figure it out. All the windows were open so there was a very nice breeze through the room all night.

Still, sleeping was hard. It poured rain in the middle of the night, and we're just a few yards from the water's edge so we heard the surf all night....both of which sound great, but somehow they just kept us awake. Maybe it'll shift and we'll be lulled by it, I'm sure we will. The bed is just two twins pushed together, so cuddling is hard. We're either both on one twin, or one of us falls in the crack.

The beach is not pristine, since Hurricane Dean wiped everything out, but the beach right at our place is kept clean. Still, after this morning's walk, our feet have big bunches of tar on the bottom. But we are right on the beach, and I do love walking in the surf.

Marc said the rebuilt cabanas are very different than the old ones, but there's still a nice outside area (now a porch, then a palapa) with a couple of hammocks, and two chairs for watching the ocean. I really love sitting out here; in fact, I'm lying in a hammock as I write this.

See? Nice view from the hammock.
Breakfast was pretty great - I had banana vanilla pancakes, with bananas in the pancakes and on top. Yum. Marc got scrambled eggs that were full of spicy peppers, so much it made him hiccup. Double yum.

Today I think we're going to just hang out around our own place, lie in the hammocks, walk on the beach, rest and relax. We brought all our snorkel gear and we'll do that later, probably not today.

The internet connection is dicey but it works off and on, so I think we'll be able to upload pictures pretty easily.

Off to lie in the sun for now. Adios.