Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cohiba Daydreamin’

With apologies to one Mr. James W. Buffett of Pascagoula, MS

My wife Lisa and I just got back from Cozumel, that beautiful little beach & jungle island jewel off the coast of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. We try to go back there every few years. We love it – the weather, the warmth (especially this time of year), the laid back attitude and lifestyle, the beaches, even the humidity! This particular trip was, more than anything, a beach vacation for us. Other years we’ve taken the offspring along, or only gotten to visit for a few hours from a cruise ship. This year was just us and the shopping and the beaches… and some restaurants… and a series of bizarre incidents involving cigars.

We saw and did so many different things that my mind is a numbed blur of memories. We saw a good sized lizard of the JC variety, running on his hind legs like a bandit across the road in front of us. We saw a HUGE iguana draped down his owner’s front from shoulder to ankle, waiting for an unsuspecting tourista to take his picture.

One day we went on an ATV tour of the interior of the island. We jarred our bones on the rocky trails, and saw cenotés (the mysterious underground streams & lakes of the Yucatan), caves, and iguanas, and ate a lot of dust from the machines just in front of us. Curiously, Lisa didn’t really like the trail and at one point, simply drove off into the bush. That got her in trouble with the tour operators, who warned her, “Señora, the road is THEES way!”

Another day we went shopping in town, lured by the attractions of $1 cerveza, vulgar T-shirts, and cheap silver jewelry. And who knew that differences between countries in pricing structures, import tariffs, etc. would mean that one can get a Rolex or Cartier watch for just a few hundred dollars?

We had two windy-wild ferry rides, to and from Playa del Carmen, that bracketed a nice stroll down Playa’s famous 5th Avenue. While there we saw an unusual bunny-lizard-lizard-bird act and we have photographic evidence to show that we weren’t under the influence of the local tequila.

There was an older gentleman at the restaurant where we ate lunch one day whom we thought was marvelously color coordinated, with a turquoise straw cowboy hat and a turquoise and green striped shirt. Then he stood up to reveal his red, white, and blue, stars & stripes shorts – apparently not yet a “fashion-don’t” while on vacation in Mexico.

And of course, the beaches. Our perennial favorite has been Playa San Francisco – San Francisco Beach. When we first stumbled across it in 2001, there was one sleepy little beach club and very little else. Through the years, it’s grown, gotten competitors on both sides (Paradise Beach Club and Carlos & Charlie’s Beach Club), and is a whole lot noisier. Still, the sand and water are to die for and for a day it was great to be back on familiar ground – or sand. We met some nice folks off a cruise ship, and had a relaxing sun-drenched afternoon filled with interesting conversation, boat drinks and cerveza. Best of all, I was able to successfully conduct a discrete beach-side negotiation involving several of the legendary Cohiba brand cigars imported from a rather large, but relatively unknown island in the Caribbean known as Cuba.

We got bold the last couple of days and rented a little four wheeled unit called a Rhino. This is kind of a four wheeler but with a body, a roll cage, and two seats side-by-side. No rear-view or side-view mirrors though. I tell ya, lack of mirrors and sharing the road with jeeps, taxi-vans, mopeds, busses, and even semis made this little machine one wild ride!

While tooling around the island one day we came across Playa Palancar, the beach opposite the famous dive reef of the same name. To get there you pull off the main road and drive a small dirt track across about a half mile of back water, jungle and swamp. This trip was much more interesting to us after we learned that there are salt water crocodiles in the area. However, the beach club was quiet and well removed from the cruise ship traffic, being located at the south end of a $40 round trip taxi ride, and the cerveza and boat drinks were nicely chilled. Best of all were the wide expanses of that incredible neon-electric blue-green water the Caribbean is famous for. Playa Palancar is our new favorite beach.

All in all, this was a good trip and we can’t wait to go again. In fact, ever since we got back we’ve been wondering why the hell we came home.

Oh, the Cohibas? Tragically, all were lost in a series of small, mysterious fires. For reasons I’m sure you can understand, I am unable to identify the arsonist or the exact circumstances surrounding the blazes. The only thing I can say for sure is the culprit must have been well paid for his work. He was wearing a shiny new Rolex.