Playa Del Carmen, 12/4 Friday
Fate dealt me a setback this morning. A minor stuffy nose blew up into a raging sinus infection, and I felt lousy. The morning started with eggs, potatoes and ham prepared for all of us by Chef Randy. After some discussion about what to do, it was decided that because I was not feeling well, I would stay home, rest and watch Preston and Lauren while the others explored Playa Del Carmen, and did some shopping. After the others left for Playa, the kids and I retired to the beach for some recreation. Preston had already found a friend his age named Jacob. Jacob lives in Colorado, and he and Preston had already formed that magical bond that young boys find so easy to forge. They had a great time riding the waves that break over the reef of Half Moon Bay. What a great place for kids! You can be two hundred yards off shore and still be able to touch bottom! The water is as warm as a bathtub, and it abounds with fish and other marine life. About 1:00 PM, I called Preston in from the water, and we all had some "quiet" time for homework and journal writing. I read some of the completed parts of my journal to Lauren and Preston, and they were inspired to write their own "journals" and share them with me. It was a lot of fun.
Jacob and Preston returned to riding the waves about 2:30, and I took Lauren out for a "swim", which consisted of wading up to our knees in the warm, tropical water. The Playa people returned about 3:30 with excited descriptions of the buzz of Playa and their successful "regatea"(bargaining). They found a fantastic place for "sopa de lima" (lime soup), which just happened to be called "Karen's Grill". During their shopping, Karen bought a beautiful Mexican Sunface for Rod and Shandra, and they all enjoyed the greatly expanded "happy hour" which lasts from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM! And by the way, they DO put tequila in those margaritas! Karen also purchased some antibiotics in Playa for my sinus infection. It is amazing how many medicines can be obtained without a prescription in Mexico. I started taking the drugs in the afternoon, and was starting to notice marked improvement by the evening.
The afternoon provided more fantastic snorkeling with Mary and Randy spotting a huge StingRay in the shallows. It was much more humid today with higher temperatures and sunny skies. The Playa group had eaten a big lunch, so no one felt like preparing a big meal for supper. We decided to go to downtown Akumal and get something light at the Beach Bar. Karen and I drove while the others walked. The evening streets were alive with natives and tourists alike enjoying the excitement of a Friday night. A spin-off rock group from the "Grateful Dead" called "The String Cheese Incident" was plying in the Akumal "cultural center". The group featured one former member from the "Dead", and familiar rhythms echoed through the streets as we drove by. It was completely dark when we parked by the Beach Bar, and we were glad to see one of the many security guards step out from the shadows. They do a nice job of making tourists feel safe and secure. At the Beach Bar we all ate soups and salads and I tried a cheeseburger. We finished with key-lime pie and coconut ice cream. It all went down very nicely. We returned to our condo about 8:00, ready to call it a night. We found that the sun goes down very early in December, about 4:30 PM, and it gets light about 5:30 AM. We structured our days around the light, getting up early, and going to bed early.
Akumal Pueblo, 12/5 Saturday
The day came in typical of one you might expect in Paradise; warm and cloudless, the blue skies soft and inviting as the early morning sun began its ascent over the blue Caribbean sea. Saturday was another opportunity to visit the open-air market and buy more fruits and vegetables. While we were there, Shelley bought a hammock from the street vendor across from the Super Chomak. Then we drove to Akumal Pueblo where most of the natives live. Sometimes called South Akumal, Akumal Pueblo is straight across the road from Akumal, and the houses and shops reflect a lack of affluence found in the more tourist centered Akumal. What you do see is a lot of smiles and happiness reflected in the faces of the children and adults you meet in Akumal Pueblo.
After asking directions from a slightly intoxicated Mexican, we found our way to the local tortilleria where we patiently waited for the owner to fill orders for the locals before filling ours. While waiting, we observed the tortillas "in production" in the back room. Eventually, we got our "dos killos" of tortillas and proceeded out the door, giving away school supplies to the ever-growing group of children outside. Then we traveled back to the Vista Del Mar on roads so bumpy and pot- holed, that we could have used a 4-wheel drive. The tortillas were very tasty, as evidenced by the long lines of locals waiting to acquire them.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach in front of our condo, and everyone snorkled. Tom made the most exciting discovery when he spotted a sea turtle and spent some time following it around. In the evening we drove back to Akumal to "browse". We bought some Akumal shirts, postcards and stamps. Native children were roaming the streets carrying tin cans filled with candles that provided meager lighting against the dark night. They were also carrying festively wrapped boxes that contained pictures of "Our Lady of Guadeloupe". The kids were asking for money so that they could buy gifts and offerings for the Lady. The "Our Lady of Guadeloupe" event is a national holiday in Mexico, and the natives get very involved with the rituals and ceremonies. The "String Cheese Incident" was playing again in Akumal and a large assortment of old hippies was hanging out in the Akumal area creating a festive atmosphere. We returned to our condo and prepared an adequate meal of Mexican leftovers. After that we retired to the deck to watch a beautiful moonrise over Cozumel until time to retire, thus concluding another beautiful day in tropical heaven.