Posted by: lianadevine | 16 January 2008

Tourist Mecca

The Holiday Season, which started slowly with Virgen de Guadelupe Day on December 12, picked up speed through the Posadas from the 16th to the 23rd, hit its peak with Nochebuena on the 24th, gained momentum through the Navidad on the 25th…we injected our own wedding anniversary on the 29th…showed its firepower (literally) on New Year’s Eve, that drove it on toward Dia del los Reyes on January 6th, and ended abruptly on the 7th, when all the decorations were unceremoniously removed. Kids were back to school, government offices reopened, life resumed…and we prepared to leave Bacalar.

Calvin insisted we host our Despedida and cooked up a big batch of chile con carne to serve to the friends and family who would come by to see us off. Doña Mari and Pati supplied handmade tortillas, Yara and Ramón made BBQ pork tacos, and brought special longaniza sausage from Tlaxcala, where they had visited Yara’s relatives over Christmas. We also had opportunity to try chapulines, a delicacy from Oaxaca that Bartolo said is the “food of the future”. I tried one, but I’d have to be on the brink of death before I’d make a meal of these chile-coated…crickets.

January 9th we got up early to see everyone off to school and work, then we pulled out and headed north to Cancun. On the way, we stopped near the resort where my step-sister and her family would be staying, to see if we could park on their grounds. While I checked out that situation, Calvin dealt with another situation: a puddle of fuel I’d spotted under the parked bus. It was a resort-roadside pitstop,Roadside repair at the Swanky Resort but after a fuel pump and filter change we were off and no worse for the wear.

We arrived at El Mecoloco Campground in Cancun a couple of hours ahead of Shaunna and Lyle, and parked next to their Green Tortoise tour bus. It was like old home week – I told Shaunna this is like resuming a conversation with a friend. We mixed work and play over the next three days, helping them get ready for their passengers on the 13th. My highlight was the megashopping trip to Costco, A Thing-full of Grocerieswhere we loaded 5 carts with food and supplies. I played “The Price is Right” as I tried to guess the total bill, and I had so much fun spending other people’s money!

We arrived home just in time to host a dinner party for our Mexican cousins,Canadian Dinner for our Mexican family Lumeda, Julian and their baby daughter Pamel, who live in Cancun. While Shaunna and Lyle unloaded and packed in their groceries and supplies, Calvin and I prepared Caesar Salad, BBQ pork chops and tortelloni with lobster sauce. It was a token Canadian-style meal for our Mexican friends but supplied entirely by Costco Cancun.

We took a day off to play on the 12th, going by car ferryLyle on the jam-packed ferry to Isla Mujeres across from Cancun. Driving to the south of the 5 mile long island, Calvin took aim and ran over a coconut so we could enjoy a roadkill coconut.Roadkill Coconut We hiked around the southernmost point, down by the rocky shore where the ruins of a temple to the goddess of fertility, IxChel, stand guard. Continuing back north, we passed both new construction and old shantytowns, extremes of wealth and poverty that divide the classes of inhabitants in this island paradise. On the north end of the island we hit sand and water, driving over a bridge that leads only to a resort. We got out and got our feet wet, then headed to a seafood restaurant for lunch. This was in the heart of Tourist Mecca, but even this small dose was more than enough.

Surprisingly, the Cancun we saw was NOT the Tourist Mecca we’d avoided for so long. We didn’t go to the hotel zone, so found the rest of the city pleasantly similar to any big Mexican city. This was not the case in Isla Mujeres, an island so small that it is hard to get away from the tourist trade that keeps it alive.

We saw Shaunna and Lyle off early on the 13th, then packed up and drove south to the Playa del Carmen area. While investigating possible campsites on our way north, we’d picked up a tip that proved fruitful…and here we are 600 metres from the resort where Susan, Cal, Mark and Lise are staying. We have a nice beach, a bar, privacy, security, all for 80 pesos a day ($8.00 CDN).

We drove to the resort Sunday afternoon to make a plan, then the family walked up the beach to “our resort”.Beaching at “Our Resort” We snorkeled, swam and shelled; Mark and Lise harvested and enjoyed coconuts from the nearby palms; Cal remarked at the quiet here, not missing the vendors and boom-boxes; Susan and Lise and I explored the tidepools; Spike came out for a walk – not venturing too close to the water, but eventually did the cat thing on the sandy beach, so I took him back to the bus. Susan walked the beach back to their resort, so it was only Cal, Mark and Lise who enjoyed the view of the “real Mexico” as Calvin drove them home along the backroads from our beach camp.

The following day, we picked up the family and went into Playa del Carmen for a shopping excursion. Calvin drove through some back streets to give them a view of the “real” Mexico before we hit the glitz that attracts the tourist dollars. The bartering was fun at first, and when the sun got intense, we stopped in a shaded restaurant for lunch. But the endless array of shops and schatschkeShopping in Tourist Mecca became repetitive, tiring, expensive and frustrating, eventually driving us to a walk down the beach instead. When we got back to the Thing, we went to a “real” grocery store and picked up some supplies for the authentic Mexican meal Calvin and I would make for our Canadian family.

Lise helped me prepare the nopales and the chile rellenos, and we steamed the tamales we’d brought from Bacalar. It was nothing like the meals they had eaten, or probably would eat, at the resort. For dessert, we tried mamey and papaya, while Calvin rolled through our trip photos to date. We said goodbye to them, having enjoyed a portion of their all-inclusive week, and Calvin drove them home in a tropical downpour.

The rain has stayed and so have we.

At 80 pesos a night (compare that to 250 pesos a night in Cancun!), we decided to stay on here and wait for our friends, Harry and Maryanne, to arrive from home in early February. We went to send them an email, and got a message that friends Doug and Lisa were in a resort 5 km from us, so we’ve made contact with them and will spend a day with them, hopefully in the sun. But rain or shine, we can treat them to a drink at our bar.

The Bar at “Our Resort”

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