La playa y el pescado

June 6, 2007

I’ve just been swimming in the Caribbean, and watching the sunset, accompanied by Fran and a few 15 pesos Dos Equis beers. Can’t complain about that. Heck, even the crazy weather of the past week or so seems to have calmed down slightly.

It’ll all be over soon though. We’re leaving Mexico in a few days, flying up to LA, where we have one lovely night at LAX in an overpriced travellers’ hotel, then resume our round-the-world flights with a leg taking us to Toronto.

It’s been great though, and it’s mighty pleasant to start winding things up with some quality time on la playa. The rainy season was a bit of a worry, as we’ve been experiencing some huge storms just as we were psyched to go and get a nauseating tan. (Hey, how can we go away for seven months and not come home with a nauseating tan? It would have just been wrong.) It was fine while we were hanging out in the great wee town of Valladolid, checking out more ruinas (like the frustrating and over-subscribed Chichen Itza and the intriguing and thankfully deserted Ek Balam) and swimming the amazing cenote Dzitnup.

But heading for the beach, you know, you get greedy and desperate and want SUN. We headed for Tulum to hook up with Claire and Stuart, some folk we met in Oaxaca. We had a great few days hanging out with them, the rain blowing over for the most part. Which was a relief, as the place we were staying (Zahra – avoid) was a bit cruddy in its maintenance, and despite charging hefty prices neglected such basic matters as roofs. And plumbing that actually worked – the toilet got blocked by, er, natural waste, every flippin’  day.

In fact, Tulum generally seemed a bit cruddy. The ruinas there were inevitably picturesque, backed by the Caribbea, but as Dr Russell had said, they’ve been turned into something that looks like a golf course. Or even a mini-golf course. You know, put the ball through the doorway of the temple and it goes down a spiral onto the beach below….

The Tulum hotel zone seemed stupidly overpriced – beer is always a good marker, and here anything more than 20 pesos is getting daft. Tulum went straight for the 30 peso beer… Be serious. Even more daffy, this was a seaside resort where many places didn’t even serve any seafood. Considering I don’t really eat mamal and fowl meat, and love fish and crustacean meat, I was gutted.

Still, that issue has now been resolved. We shifted on up the coast, avoiding Playa Del Carmen on the ardent advice of Rach, and aliting at Isla Mujeres. Islands often have that unique vibe, or being laid-back and doing things at their own pace, and that holds true here, despite the monstrosity of Cancun being just 15 mins across the water.

Isla Mujeres is essentially just an 8km sandbar, but it’s got real character – scruffy, unpretentious charm. And as it’s still full of fisherfolk, you can get great seafood. Genuine, reasonably priced Mexican seafood. Tacos de pescado? Yes, please. Camarones? Si, señor, muy bien. Bliss. Seriously, when I’m backpacking around the world, eating is a cornerstone of the experience. And being able to eat really good, reasonably priced food just makes me a happy man. Especially when it’s seafood. And the beer is cheap. And the sun shines.

Fish tacos!

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