Travel journal: Isla Mujeres

It is my third day here on the island-laundry day. I hand-washed my grey T-shirt and jeans (so I’ll have something nice to wear once the sun goes down) and they are drying very quickly on the clothesline. This is the fifth time I’ve been to the Yucatan Peninsula, and needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy my time here.

Two new backpackers checked into my hotel today, one tall, pretty, and fashionably lean. They don’t seem to be overpacked which instantly impressed me. I always err on the side of not bringing enough when it comes to this sort of thing. When the customs agent tells me I don’t have much stuff I get a big smile and know I didn’t overpack (happens every time).

Today, my dad, Jane, Beto and Francis (islanders), and I drove all over the island-stopping at sights where I could snap photos and for lunch. The family-owned stall specialized in fish enchiladas. Halfway through lunch Francis mentioned the fish was baby sharks taken from pregnant mothers that fisherman had caught. It reaffirmed my decision to order the beef variety of enchiladas.

I’m staying across the street from my father at the Hotel Carmelina, where my rate is $25/night for a double. I have a porch with a white patio chair and an overhead light bright enough so that I can read out on the balcony. You can see the ocean from my room and the heavily-tattooed hotel guests stay up late smoking cigarettes and drinking $1 bottles of Sol, Corona, or Dos Equis. This is definitely my kind of joint.

The ocean here is as blue as you’ve seen in pictures and it’s as refreshing and clear as a swimming pool. I haven’t gone properly clubbing yet, but my favorite bossa nova (novo bossa?) joint the OM Lounge is right up the street. If I have some energy at midnight tonight, I’ll put on my clean, sun-bleached jeans and go have a dirty martini or a mojito on the second floor with the beautiful people. The decor is a combination between an opium den and a tropical tiki hut. Seriously, the place is one of the hippest (for lack of a better term) places I’ve ever seen.

I was up at dawn yesterday so I could photograph the beach on the Caribbean Sea before it fills up with topless girls sunbathing, tourists, and young, Mayan girls from Campeche selling their friendship bracelets, shell jewelry, and handicrafts. Afterwards, I went to private hotel that allowed me to photograph their beautiful pool overlooking the sea.

My half-assed plan is to go on a 2-tank dive on a reef, and to take a boat over to Cancun where I can take a few more beach/pool photos to show the magazine. I’d love to shoot a magazine cover for them and I let them know that before I left.

Some simple pleasures I’ve found here so far are as follows:
· Aluxes coffee shop has a cup of house blend (with free refill) for 150 pesos ($1.50)
· Kahlua ice cream dipped in coffee grounds (but not overdone) 150 pesos
· Breaded fish fillet dinners widely-available for $5-$10. I simply cannot describe in words how good the dish is.

My days here are spent snorkeling, walking the island, reading my two books, and siestas. I sit on my third story balcony and dad yells up for me with invitations to go eat, have dessert, drinks beers, or whatever. Downtown, the street market vendors slang cowboy hats, marble pot pipes (and the stuff that goes in them), Cuban cigars, and skeleton sculptures for the Day of the Dead.

Yesterday I met a backpacker from Brooklyn named Daniella who was here in Mexico for two months. She literally sat down at my table and when I was finished with the page I was reading I said hello. She had taken overnight buses to Cancun all the way from Tuscan, Arizona and was sick of them. She was off to Mexico City that day, but not before we had time to trade some stories for an hour or so.

There are two or three hostels on la Isla and I always seem to run into the nicest girls from there-crazy, adventurous girls traveling solo for months on end from Norway, or England or New York… God bless em.