Somebody tell me I’m not in Cancun anymore, the Latin vibes of Caribbean Mexico are echoing in my ears like an unstoppable tour de force of sound, penetrating the rhythms of the soul, well past the airbus touchdown and screeching runway wheels bracing for the vacation breaks.
In reality, coming back from Cancun always gets me down, it’s that living on Isla time thing that really throws me. Since back in 1987, when I first inhaled the Caribbean sea spray and launched the first episode of my personal love affair with Mexico’s Caribbean, culture and history, I’ve been addicted. As much as I enjoy Cancun though, she’s always been the staging ground for my wider adventures in the Yucatan, particularly in my scuba and free diving days, and expeditions to the Maya ruins.
Growing up, I spent a large portion of my youth along the South Jersey Coast, learning the ins and outs of boating, fishing, water sports and a laid back atmosphere not very conducive to the day to day hustle and bustle of Northeast living that as an adult I’ve also become attuned to. Cancun played right into that background with its world vacation destination status where I was able to slide beneath the polished shell of tourism, to the earthier people side, that was the real Cancun, and not some megalomaniac’s small buck, big bang Hollywood production falsely showing the behind the scenes Cancun.
The first trip in 1987 had an obviously more youthful and fit me wandering the ruins at Chichen Itza for two days, Tulum and El Rey for another, diving and drinking in Cozumel for a few nights and wandering my favorite place in the region, Isla Mujeres, for a day or two. In between, I celebrated a divorce, my first and preferably last, tanked out more than a few tourist bars and local cantinas and spent a lazy day and night in a Hemingway like fishing village with a ferry called Puerto Morelos sipping homemade Mojitos.
Twenty two years later I find that Cancun has grown up and older as have I, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, however I still clasp the now middle age gal closely to the heart as I swept out on yet another travel adventure, utilizing Cancun as the base camp, this time with my lovely lady and wife Ruth at my side, as she has been for so many previous trips and explorations.
This most recent trek had us scurrying up the coast from just shy of the beautiful beaches of Isla Blanca to the still mostly rural Maya ruins at Coba. The trip, part vacation and part mission, I set out to find all that negative media I’d been reading about and to stock pictures by the hundreds for this blog and elsewhere for future use. In reality though, I set out to free my soul once again from the chains that hold us down in life, the responsibilities, to once again remember that time in life when I was just a kid, crabbing and fishing off some shanty pier in a Jersey Coastal village with my father and grandfather, lazing about in the sun, thinking about how great it would be to catch the next wave or what wonders a drivers license would do for a young man.
Cancun can do that for me, help me to remember, focus on what really is important, and it’s not the job, the bucks, the politically correct creed but rather it’s family, religion, nature, and people. It’s that fresh sea air on a towering sunrise or the sweet tears of a sunset in the tropical forest that return me to the soul. A Maya native clinging to the land proudly offering me a seat at his table, a drink from his family’s cenote, and the smiles on his child’s face. It’s a long time Mexican friend and his family sharing stories and dinner, holiday greetings and that inner soul that stretches through language, national boundries and political parties, a thing called friendship and trust.
Before I drift to far here, and trust me in near future blogs there’s more to come, I need to pass on the news worthy details for the fact orientated curious; Cancun is safe, Playa Del Carmen is safe, Tulum is safe, in fact, the entire length of Quintana Roo seemed relatively safe for visitors, tourists and locals alike, as safe as I’ve experienced it.
The weather was downright spectacular, clear, sunny, temperatures in the 80’s (f) and rain was very hard to come by.
The beaches, while still in need of the much publicized sand replenishment project, were going through the annual natural replenishment cycle, where the sea returns much of the sand she has taken, in the late winter and spring seasons, this after the late in the year tropical storm season has washed much of them away.
The Cancun Hotel Zone was packing them in, I don’t know what the final tally comparisons will look like compared with previous years but occupancy by all reports and my own eye witness anecdotal estimates was purring along at a solid 80% plus with the major tourist venues doing strong business. The restaurant and shop businesses appeared to be off from previous years, no statistical proof on this, but perhaps many tourists who still ventured out on vacation despite the irresponsible reports in the U.S. media were packing it in tight at the hotels and not heading out and about. Certainly, the all inclusive aspect of many hotels have also continued to sting the local businesses and the worldwide recession is of no help either.
While I wrap up this Cancun: 2009 primer, let me say that for the better part of two weeks, we wandered the coast and parts of the rural areas and the downtown areas of Cancun without issue, spoke with many locals, tourists and even the policia, and found nothing that would deter me from visiting Cancun or anywhere else in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo. In fact, nothing did, we drank and ate in sidewalk cafes in Cancun City late into the night, played and partied throughout the Hotel Zone, raised havoc in the afternoon in Playa del Carmen on St. Pat’s day and lazed about in no name cafes in both the towns of Tulum and the very rural Coba, well into the tropical forest. We didn’t experience the mordida, we didn’t get murdered, robbed or assualted, of course we weren’t out and about raping and pillaging either though on a more serious side, we don’t visit drug dealers, prostitutes or lawyers either while on vacation.
And, now since I cleared the path for them, I hear that U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be visiting Mexico.
I wonder if Obama has ever had a Mojito?
To Be Continued…
Hey, how’s it going, my rhythm, good for enjoying…