Many of us in the Northern hemisphere dream of vacationing someplace closer to the equator at this time of year, and I had that opportunity earlier this month. A couple of my friends, Carrie and Donna, invited me to join them for a week in a villa south of Cancun. Carrie’s childhood friend, Bo, flew in from Maryland to join us. It was a pleasure to spend a week in shorts and flip-flops, a welcome break from home renovations. Donna, Bo, and I watched the sunrise almost every morning. I spent hours lounging on the beach, watching waves, reading, and playing in the warm Caribbean water. I also took a tour to Mayan sites and enjoyed time in Puerto Morales, the nearest town.
Saturday, 11 December – Travel
I got up at 5:15 and my friend Jessica gave me a ride to catch the 6:20 Airporter. United changed the terminal once and the gate twice, then delayed the flight two hours to bump off 18 passengers, starting with the lowest ticket price, due to weather. In my case, I was “lucky” to have paid full price. The take-off was bumpy, but it was sunny above the clouds and I timed my bathroom visit perfectly between seatbelt required stretches. I was one of only a few wearing a mask. Carrie and Bo met me at the Cancun airport. We picked up groceries on our way to the villa, where Donna was waiting. We had a late dinner with roast chicken.
Sunday, 12 December – Playa del Secreto (Secret Beach)
Still on west coast time, I slept through sunrise, but got up in time to take a beach walk before fixing eggs for breakfast. I spent much of the day in a lounge chair on the beach. I finished the book I started on the plane, took a short nap, and tried boogie boarding. We ate leftover chicken for dinner.
Monday, 13 December – Puerto Morales
I watched the sunrise with Donna and Bo then lounged on the beach, read, and fixed what became my standard lunch, a mini-quesadilla: two corn tortillas with cheese and leftovers. Carrie woke with a cold and tested negative for Covid. I kept my mask on and car window open while she drove us to Puerto Morales, 15 minutes away. Donna took Bo and me to her favorite shops and we bought a few small souvenirs. I got a t-shirt for Nick and a couple cute beaded birds for friends. Donna is still missing the pre-hurricane plaza, but her favorite bar, My Paradise, is still standing. We lingered there, on the white sand beach, sipping cocktails for several hours. Their mojitos are good. Carrie picked us up, we unsuccessfully hunted for covid tests, picked up more groceries, and headed back to the villa. I had time for a cold shower before Chef Beto come over and cooked us a nice fish dinner.
Tuesday, 14 December – a long Chichen Itza Tour
From door-to-door, my tour of Chichen Itza and other sites in the state of Yucatan took 15 hours. I wouldn’t have signed up if I knew that in advance, but I’m glad I went. Alberto, the villa’s caretaker, drove me to a nearby resort where we waited a half hour for the tour van. I was the first passenger and until an English-speaking Mayan guide, Philip Ernesto, got onboard, I wasn’t even sure I was on the right tour. I could have skipped our first stop, Cenote Suytun, a small cave with a pool of water inside. At our next stop, a touristy Mayan village, we enjoyed a buffet lunch, watched dancers, and had the “opportunity” to purchase obsidian carvings and other souvenirs. (I added a small elephant to my collection).
When we finally reached out main destination, Chichen Itza, we were given a short tour, mostly focused on a game involving rings and possible sacrifice, then were left to tour the site on our own, surrounded by the sounds of roaring jaguars and birds, thanks to the hawking of noise-making souvenirs. I bought a t-shirt for Alex. It was late afternoon when we reached Cenote Ik kil. Cenotes are sinkholes containing water. The Yucatan peninsula is essentially a huge limestone slab riddled with thousands of caves and cenotes. I walked down more than a hundred uneven, wet, stone steps to take a refreshing dip in this pool. Our last stop was in the town of Valladolid, where we barely had time to see a church and cross the street to a plaza where noisy birds were flying and birdman dancing. The sun was setting when we departed and it was bedtime when I got dropped off.
Wednesday, 15 December – Playa del Secreto
The sunrise was pale but pretty and the wind strong but warm. Donna, Carrie and I spent much of the day in beach chairs while Bo stayed inside with the AC. I swapped my paperback for another from a bookshelf in the villa. Carrie and I played in the water with boogie boards, occasionally catching a short ride. When Donna asked what I liked best about this spot, I told her it was the gestalt: the light, color, sound of waves, light breezes, warm shade, a few puffy clouds. I also took a call from one of the contractors working on my house; it’s always a risk to have work done in my absence and in this case something had to be redone when I returned. I fixed dinner, which we shared with a very hungry calico cat.
Thursday, December 16 – Puerto Morales
I filled a large trash bag during my post-sunrise beach walk; the wind brought more garbage ashore: mismatched shoes, toothbrushes, and other random plastic items, including lot of bottle caps. There was time for lounging, a quesadilla lunch, and short nap before Carrie drove us to Puerto Morales. I went out on a boat to snorkel for a couple hours. My camera battery died shortly after I stepped overboard, and the coral was not healthy, but I loved being in the water. Afterwards, I met Donna and Bo at My Paradise for cocktails. Carrie joined us for dinner, at an interesting seafood restaurant, and then we strolled around enjoying the Christmas lights.
Friday, 16 December – Farewell to the Beach
The wind was gone when we got up to watch a cloudy sunrise. One last time, I strolled and lounged on the beach, reading and enjoying the setting. When Carrie got up, we went kayaking, which was easy once we dragged our boats past the waves. I fixed another quesadilla lunch, then showered and caught a cab to the airport. Fortunately, I got there in plenty of time and my plane departed on schedule. Donna was not so lucky when she tried to get home a few days later; then the traffic was so bad that she missed her flight and was delayed a whole day. It was 86oF (30oC) when I left the beach. Fortunately, I had socks and layers handy since I arrived home in the middle a cold spell; it was about 38oF (3.3oC) when I got off the Airporter that night in San Rafael. My housemate, Linda, was waiting to pick me up in a warm car.