The lights of Cancun glistened off the glass sea as we stood on a wooden pier jutting into the ocean, the water clear enough to see bottom in the moonlight. We knew a flashlight would have turned the water fluorescent with fish if we had one. A five-piece band put the sounds of U.S. and Mexican pop hits out over the water as we took the chance to wander off from rope-swing seats and the buffet of ceviche and mole’ our hosts at the Casa de Los Suenos put out for a Day of the Dead Bash.
And that was about as hectic as it got during a five-day stay on Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun during the week when Sandy caused so much damage on the East Coast. Off the coast is where we stayed, too. There was talk of taking the ferry that ran every half-hour from the island to Cancun and back to check out the mainland on a day trip, but the beach and golf-cart lifestyle of the island was too docile to leave.
The island exuded tension release at every turn. Perhaps it was that golf carts and scooters were the transportation modes of choice. The only cars were taxis, since it didn’t take long to cover the 4-mile cliff-lined land mass on a golf cart. The white sand beach covered the north end, which also happened to be where we were staying at our hotel, the Privilege Aluxes. So we opted for hours of bliss at the beach — under the palm branches of a palapa, on a canopied bed, or in the water–waiters at the helm.
Golf carts beckoned as well and drove us to a sculpture garden with brightly painted iron works amidst a Mayan ruin on a cliff. Surreal and scenic for a mere $3. The Tortugranja, a sea turtle farm and sanctuary, was on the way. The cart also ended up at an Italian restaurant overlooking Cancun eating veal cheeks and chile en nogada ravioli with goat cheese.
The cart took us where the residents and workforce live, with tight streets and wall-to-wall dwellings. The moneyed get sea views and cliff topped real estate.
Tourists do their shopping right out the front door of the hotel, where there also happened to be a cantina owned by a Texas woman who would allow only country and western tunes through the restaurant speakers. Six blocks by six blocks about covers the area where small shop owners can get your attention with cigars, silver, trinkets and souvenirs. Shots of tequila greet the perspective customer in several shops on the strip.
A walk on the beach took us through restaurants with plastic patio furniture sitting under tents in the sand. A trio of fishermen cleaned their catch of red snapper, rinsed them in the ocean and took them to our chef to be on the menu. For those with a taste for sausage there were the two nighttime hot dog carts near the ferry dock, featuring bacon-wrapped dogs with fried onions, ketchup, mustard and mayo.
The water was warm, the temps were in the 80s, and Sandy was blowing up the East Coast. We watched it on the news.
Doug Hissom writes a weekly environmental column for Baltimore Post-Examiner. He has covered local and state politics in Wisconsin for more than 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper. An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.