Monday, January 31, 2005

Our Trip to Cozumel

We left early Saturday morning. This was my first time flying, so it was my first time going through all of the lines and desks and security stuff. We were selectees, so we got special attention from the security folks. They made us stand all spread out and wanded us and patted us down, then went through our bags. It was annoying but we had got to the airport plenty early so we had lots of time.

I was pretty nervous about flying, and sitting forever in the plane and taxing slowly around didn't really help... but once we were up off the ground and in the air I was okay. The changes in altitude made my stomach feel yucky. The baby could tell, too, when the pressure changed, through my reaction or on her own I don't know, but she kicked and bounced around any time it happened.

We changed planes in Houston. The airport was terribly big and confusing and not at all fun. Our next plane was a larger one, with three seats on each side rather than two on one side and one on the other as on the first plane. I didn't like the big plane as much, I think because it was so full of people. It made me feel claustrophobic. Each flight was about two hours long, and by the end I was ready to get the hell off the plane, especially the big one. So I have decided that I do not like planes. They are too noisy, too crowded, very uncomfortable, and I don't like feeling yucky. However, taking off was fun and seeing the land from above and the different layers of clouds veiling the land was fascinating. I spent most of our time in the air staring out the windows. I also read for little periods of time, but couldn't concentrate well. Mr. Peach dozed a lot. I don't see how people can sleep on planes, it's so loud...

We arrived at Cozumel at about noon, and circled around the northern half of the island, lower and lower. The water along the coasts is a gorgeous shade of blue and so clear.

When we got off the plane I immediately took off my jacket, it was so warm! It felt marvelous! We went into the airport and stood in line to go through customs, had a brief moment of anxiety when we couldn't find Mr. Peach's ID. It was on the ground. On through customs with no problems, got our bags, then outside. We stood around waiting for a taxi before Mr. Peach asked and was told that we had to purchase tickets for shuttles to go to our hotels. Back inside, tickets purchased, shuttled to the hotel.

We were dropped off a few blocks away from the hotel as the main road beside the ocean in San Miguel was under construction. We lugged our bags for a while but didn't find our hotel so we asked one of the many merchants standing outside of the stores along the road for directions, and he pointed us there. We made it there, paid for our room, and were shown to it. This was the Palma Dorada Inn, very inexpensive but nice and clean. We stayed there for the first two nights of our vacation.

We immediately showered as we were so hot and sweaty from hauling our bags around in the sun, then took off to explore the town!

The area around the Plaza of San Miguel is definitely tourist-oriented, lots of shops selling the same assortment of Mexican handicrafts and souvenirs, workers standing on the street, yelling, "Hey, look here! This is my shop, come look inside! Something for your wife? Waiting for baby?" It was amusing at first but rapidly grew less so until it was downright irritating.

We did buy some fun stuff though... gifts for our families mostly. Some brightly painted ceramic animals for my younger brothers, black coral bracelets for my sisters, a silver dolphin bracelet for my mom, tequila for the remaining male members of my family... Mr. Peach's dad got a ceramic pig, his mom an embroidered outfit that turned out to be too small, his brother a crazy wooden painted creature, a Mexican blanket for his sister... For the baby we got a little embroidered dress and hat (just in case it's a girl!) and a silver rattle that chimes like a bell when you ring it... I got a tie-dyed sarong and some silver bangles for myself. Mr. Peach bought a really nice hand embroidered tapestry that tells a little story. Shopping was fun. I like getting things for people.

Eating there was great - a variety of delicious things. Everywhere we went we were served chips and pico de gallo - no salsa! Where is the salsa? Is that just an American thing? I love salsa. I hate pico. The chips were good though, and most of the guacamole we had was simply scrumptious. One restaurant served a really spicy cheese dip and several others offered more sauces that were much too hot for me. One of our favorite restaurants was La Choza, a thatch-roofed place near the Plaza that served Yucatanean Mexican cuisine. I had chicken kebabs (brochetas de pollo!) there that were unbelievably good. La Lobsteria was another nice place. We ate there twice and I had Coconut Shrimp and Margarita Shrimp. Both were excellent, as was the lobster Mr. Peach had there the first time. I love seafood, so yummy. A breakfast place I liked was Jeannie's Waffles, where I had, of course, waffles. The worst restaurant was La Palmera, right next to the waterfront off the Plaza. It was expensive and the food sucked.

We tried snorkeling at Chankanaab National Park but the waves crashing against the rocks were just too fierce as we got in so we (after much effort, I might never have gotten out without Mr. Peach there, damn flippers) climbed back out and contented ourselves with sunbathing there. The park had some other stuff, gardens and plastic Mayan ruin replicas, a pretty little lagoon filled with colorful fish (and no waves! Wish we could've snorkeled there!). They also had a pen with dolphins and they charged $125 to swim with them, but just seeing them swim around the pathetically small enclosure with the great wide sea just a net away was enough to break me of any desire to do that. I don't want to be supporting that. All in all Chankanaab was pretty disappointing.

The other park we visited was pretty neat, though - Punta Sur, at the south end of the island. They had an ecological reserve there where we took a boat tour of the lagoon and got to see some crocodiles, and some tropical birds nesting - spoonbills, grey and red herons, frigate birds, and some others. There was also a lighthouse we climbed at the tip of the island (oh my god did we climb it. So hot and tall and winding...) and saw a great view of the sea and the island, and got to check out the prism-light-warny-thingy, which was quite fascinating. Punta Sur is also home to a little Mayan ruin, El Caracol, which was way neat. It was a Mayan weather station. It had a little tower lined with rows of conch shells, and when the wind would change speed and direction the sound of it blowing through the conchs would change; when the waves reached over nine feet they would flow through the bottom of the structure, indicating the approach of a big storm. Clever Mayans. There was a house there for the Mayan family who watched the weather station for these signs and warned everyone else.

We also went to Cozumel's 'big' Mayan ruins, San Gervasio. The remains of the buildings were all pretty small, but spread out. It was apparently a pretty big little Mayan city, and it was home to the temple of the goddess Ixchel. We learned at a museum in San Miguel that Ixchel was their goddess of fertility and pregnancy, responsible for creating the baby's facial features while in the womb. San Gervasio was an important place for Mayan women to go on pilgrimage to worship at Ixchel's temple, so that was neat to see. There were a lot of iguanas around the ruins, which were located in the central jungle part of the island.

The beaches there are lovely... some sand, some rock, and the water is just so gorgeous! The rocky beaches ("iron shore") were pretty to look at but not kind to the feet. Most of the sandy beaches weren't natural, but they sure were nicer for swimming. The second hotel we stayed in, Playa Azul, had a particularly nice little beach right outside, a little pier to break the waves and sand underfoot. It was nice to lay out on the provided beach chairs and tan, although sometimes it was just too cool on the beaches due to the wind! The ocean, however, felt wonderfully warm, and it was great to feel so buoyant. I'm just now getting to be big, and I've probably gained about fifteen pounds since getting pregnant, so it was nice to have baby weighing me down less. Down the beach from our hotel were a few hotels that had been deserted for a few years, their beachfronts overgrown, pavilions slanting downward into the sea... it was creepy, in an interesting sort of way.

The last hotel we stayed at, Ventanas al Mar, was wonderful! It was built onto a large rock right next to the sea, and hearing the waves crashing against the rock constantly was soothing, the ocean breezes so cool... It had plenty of windows facing east to the ocean and a little patio equipped with some chairs, and best of all, a hammock. That hammock was great.

The three days we stayed there I awoke about fifteen minutes before dawn each day and went and walked on the beach, watched the sun come up, looked at what the sea had washed up in the night...

...Which, as it turns out, was often a lot of trash. Every single beach we saw on Cozumel was littered with trash - toothbrushes, shoes, bottles, everything. It was rather disappointing, rather upsetting. My sister says it wasn't like that when she went, so maybe it's a seasonal thing. Maybe all the hurricanes washed it up. I don't know.

It sure made finding sea glass easy. Sea glass, I love it! Proof of the ocean's power, breaking and sanding and smoothing... you can tell how long it's been in the sea by the sharpness of its edges, the fogginess caused by the sandscoring. It's a good sort of trash.

The last three days we were there, we rented a convertible VW bug, periwinkle. It was fun to ride around in. The first time we put the top down it rained! That was the only time it really rained while we were there, other than the sky spitting on us a few times. That was also when we discovered that the windshield wipers didn't work! Which made for some scary moments, driving towards oncoming traffic in the dark with a filthy windshield...

Overall it was a good vacation. I was surprised by the disintegration of a lot of the buildings there, and the general poverty that was apparent further away from the touristy area, but I guess I shouldn't have been, Mexico isn't known for its great economic success. That's why they want to come to America, and I'm thankful I live here rather than there. But even where the buildings were falling apart there were tropical flowers growing, and the people were all pretty friendly.


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