There is so much to do here on the island of Cozumel that it is sometimes difficult to choose an activity. So, when someone else extends an invitation I am quite content for several reasons. First of all, I’m happy I don’t have to make a decision and, secondly, I get to spend time with friends. Yesterday I was invited to join a group of women to go to Punta Sur, which is an eco park on the south tip of the island. Imagine lush jungles, crystal waters, soft breezes, and lots of laughter. In fact, it was an absolutely perfect day! And, since that’s not something I would say easily I’d better get started with the proof.
But, just before I take you to our version of paradise, let me tell you a perk we get when we live here. As a local, we can apply for a “plan locale” card, which enables us to go to various sites on the island for free, and, yes, you read that right. Since the powers that be assume we will give much back through our time living here (think food, housing, entertainment etc.) they let us apply for this card. But, getting that card can be just a bit of a hassle, at least it was for this expat. So, for those of you who might want to apply, let me make it easier for you. The office is a large building on calle 30 and is almost next to the Pemex gas station on Benito Juarez. Assume that, because I didn’t tell you the name of it, I’m not a journalist, but you can ask around. Once there you will need copies of your Ultra Mar card, your residency card, a utility bill, and your passport. It took me three trips. But, I’m not complaining since yesterday was the first time I’d ever used it and the day more than made up for it.
We rode in two vehicles that we filled with our snorkel gear, towels, a cooler for water, and us. It’s a long ride to the other end of the island and, seemingly, longer over the bumpy, dusty road that leads back into the park, but the view is spectacular. The road winds between the water and the foliage where you can see a lot of the local wildlife. After about twenty minutes, or so, we were stopped at the gated entrance by the security guys who were both bilingual and quite friendly. The cost for non-residents was 156 pesos, which is about 14 bucks usd and (it’s worth mentioning again) for us locals it was free, but they do check our cards carefully. Once checked in you can head to the beach where Victor and Manuel will grab some hammocks for you so that you can laze under a protective screen while gazing at the waters. I made a pest of myself with Victor since I wanted to learn how to tie hammocks to just ropes (no hooks here folks) and he laughingly, and patiently, worked with me. I did, however, have to sit in the hammock I did all by myself, but, thankfully, I had a good teacher.
There are choices for food, drinks, and activities. They have an “all you can eat” buffet that’s quite reasonable, or you can just grab snacks and drinks at the beach bar, which is what I did. The whole day cost me less than 60 pesos (mostly because Tina wouldn’t let me contribute to gas, but I do want to say thanks again for the lift). On the beach there is also a nice group of women who set up a canopy and cots for those who want to get a massage with the jungle behind them and the ocean in front. Or, for those who are a bit more adventurous, there are kayaks available, a lagoon boat ride to see the crocodiles, nature paths that go through the jungle, a very long beach to walk on (in almost total isolation), and, of course, the ocean. Our group opted for food, drinks, hammocks, walks, and snorkeling.
The other ladies headed over to the buffet while I grabbed my camera to take some shots. Off and on, it was a bit of a cloudy day, but that made it even better since there wasn’t always the hot sun to worry about. I strolled along the beach for half an hour and, other than the wildlife, did not hear a single human sound. I can’t explain how eerie that can be, at first, when realizing that there was no sound of traffic, no dogs barking, no people talking. In other words, there was no “white noise,” only the sounds of the waves gently slapping the beach and the birds singing their songs in the jungle. It was quite tranquil.
Once I was completely serene, I headed back to the hammocks, which remained my central point all day, to wait for the others. I wanted to get a group shot while on the beach before we got into the water. I was able to get that shot, took pics of others, and even got into one of the shots myself (ironically, I’m quite camera shy). Once we were finished with the cameras we got out our snorkeling gear and headed down to the water.
Now, the picture on the left shows where we first swam to before leisurely floating down along the reef. In the shot I was trying to capture a flag that was the marker. However, there was a bit of wave action and the flag kept going over. So, to get an idea, if you look for the brightest shade just before getting to the darkest blue on the top of the pic, you’ll see where we went. But, since I don’t have an underwater camera, these next shots were taken by a new friend, Robin. She showed me a great little camera that she picked up in the states for about 50-60 bucks. I’ll be getting one soon, you can believe that, but, in the meanwhile, thanks for these shots, Robin.
As you can see, this group of ladies are quite the enthusiastic bunch. Whether posing for underwater shots, or just plain hanging upside down to see something closer, we all made the most of our time. And, here is where words might fail me. It was simply beautiful. Colorful fish, huge lobsters, flowing coral and swaying fans. There was one scene that just took my breath away when I first saw it. As luck would have it, the sun peeked back out for a moment and just off in the distance I saw dozens of sea fans gently swaying in the current with the sun highlighting their lacy patterns. After my frantic call out to Robin to come over with her camera I just stayed in one place taking it all in. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite that perfect before.
A little while later another friend showed me how to hang upside down so as to look into a small cavern to see a “big crab.” It took me a couple of tries, but then I saw it. ”Big crab?” That thing was huge!! It was about five feet away from me, tucked back into a corner, but when it reached its giant claw out a bit, I let out a scream, realized I was still hanging upside down and sprinted to the surface. It was a little while before I did it again and, contrary to my friends’ urging, I don’t think I’m diver material, I’m such a woos. But, of course I did, and the next time was when we got to see a group of very large lobsters. Most of them were hiding behind one who looked big enough to feed an entire family. But, I have to admit, I hope no-one ever catches him, he’s been around for a long while and it would be a shame for him to end up on a plate. Yea, I’m getting soft in my old age.
I’m not really sure how long we floated along. Seemed like quite a while, but then it was time to head back into the beach. We’d come quite a distance so there was going to be a walk back, but no-one was complaining. But, I suddenly turned into a little kid that didn’t want to leave yet. Thankfully, Joey agreed to hang back with me a while and I took some more of it in. Then, a bit later, she spotted a stingray. It was quite large and so elegant as it glided through the water. All grace ended, however, when it went to the bottom and dug for something to eat, the sand exploded around its focal point. But, then it just hovered on the bottom while the wings rippled with the current so we lingered. We also saw some rather large conch shells and were happy to note that they were alive and well, and not just discarded shells. We just drifted along spotting this and that, but, as all things do, it had to come to an end and we headed to the beach.
After that we all walked back to our hammocks and just chatted. Not everyone knew each other well and it was a great way to become friends. Stories were told and laughter ensued. For a while it felt like I was back in college and I relished every moment. Then I wrapped myself up in my hammock and just listened, napped a few moments here and there, and got ready for the day to end. But, there was one more thing to do. Maria came over and asked if I wanted to get some shots of the Cozumel (pygmy) raccoons that were hanging around the backside of the buffet area. So, off we went and I was able to grab some quick shots of the little guys. Now, they weren’t quite in their natural habitat, but the jungle was merely a few feet away. However, they seemed to prefer the underside of the building for their home. It does provide shade, safety, and they can get food readily. But, how I feel about that is a topic for another time. One cute guy came out and “hid” behind some gardening tools. I think he really believed he was able to just peek an eye while staying hidden. No matter, it made for a great shot.
Then it really was time to leave. We packed everything up, loaded it all into the vehicles and took off for one last stop, the lighthouse. A few of the gals still had enough energy to traipse the steps and get to the top, but most of us just sat, or walked around the area. I really wanted a photo of the gals up top as they waved until I realized that I left my camera in a car that was locked, and it’s owner was one of those peeking down from the top, oh well. Once they were back down, however, it was time for that one last shot. This time, however, we handed a camera to someone else so we could all be in it. And, yes, that includes me, I’m the one on the far right with the silly smile.
So, yes, it really was quite the perfect day, and one I hope to repeat, at some point, down the road. But, for now, I’m content to just get in my bed, turn on some music, and reminisce about flowing coral and waving fans. It’s a good life! So, with that said, here’s to Cozumel and good friends, may the two always go together. Salud!
Here’s to Maria, Joey, Bonita, Brenda, Gail, Robin, and Tina for being such a great group to hang with!!