*** We’re home! I’ll have another post coming about our last couple of days, as well as a lows/highs post and plenty of photos. Joshua also has a special treat for y’all coming up, so check back in. Thanks for following along with us, for all of your kind comments, and your encouragement! We feel so lucky to have been able to go on this adventure 🙂 ***
It’s pretty crazy how at one point yesterday, we were riding the collectivo back to Cancun and I was feeling miserable, wishing this trip were just over and I was back home. Fighting back waves of nausea, I had to desperately ask the bus driver to stop twice, just for me, to get off and vomit.
And then just a mere hour later, I was crying, but this time I was just so taken with the moment, with feeling so thankful for being alive and here that I couldn’t help myself.
Here’s how it happened: I was a pretty much a pathetic little dishtowel (or however that saying goes), and Joshua packed up everything, carried most of our stuff, and ushered us to the taxi, to the collectivo, to the next taxi, and then to the ferry.
After vomiting, I was feeling a bit better, but the line for the ferry had me sweating and just praying to get it all over.
We boarded, and for better or worse, we elected to sit on the sun deck.
As soon as the ferry began moving, the breeze cooled us off, and a sun weathered man with deep wrinkles around his mouth and eyes sat down, plugged in his amp, and began playing his guitar and singing.
You may have heard that the water in the Caribbean is blue. You may have heard it is turquoise or the color of the sky. I can verify all of the above. The water was, to quote Joshua, “stupid beautiful,” and the man singing was perfect. I loved it. I loved being there, above the water, on the boat, listening to the man, holding Lu and watching Lily take it all in. Joshua and I just kept making eye contact, like is this real?
So I got a little choked up. I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for this life that I’m living. And I was maybe a little overtired from heat exhaustion and illness, but hey. When it comes to thanks, it’s all good.
After about 20 minutes, we arrived in Isla Mujeres. We could tell immediately that there was a generously wide, sandy, and sea-weed free beach. PRAISE HANDS.
We walked to the shop of our next AirBnB host. Gladys owns a shop where she designs, makes, and customizes swimsuits. It was fun to see her little workshop, and she was warm and talkative, asking us about ourselves and telling us about herself as well. Another quote from Joshua: “I think AirBnB owners are pretty much exclusively living the dream.” Once we had cooled down, we walked to the Mercado and bought some groceries for breakfasts and dinners.
Afterwards, we decided ice cream was in order. I have decided we will get ice cream every day before leave. Because. I had mint (there’s a big part of me that feels like if you’re gonna have ice cream, it should be mint), and it was the perfect thing for my still queasy tummy.
Back at Gladys’ shop, her husband, Gunther, loaded us all up into his truck and we drove to Punta Sur, on the other end of the island. On the way, they gave us some great advice on how to spend our next few days. This is something that’s been great about staying at AirBnBs. While I love that we’re paying families instead of large businesses, the best part is getting to have a meaningful conversation with a person who has lived in the place you are visiting, and in most cases, they have some great ideas for places to eat and check out. It’s especially nice to get advice tailored to young kids.
(On a side note, Joshua left our Lonely Planet on the collective the second day in Mexico. There was self-loathing involved, and we decided to buy the soft-copy version for the phone, computer, and my kindle to save on cash (those LPs are expensive!). We have used the soft-copy version, but mostly, we’ve relied on the recommendations of our AirBnB hosts. AirBnB accomodations are certainly a bit more expensive than hostels or cheap hotels ($15 – $30 for hostels/hotels and $45+ for Air BnB), but in most cases, they’re well-equipped, fun spaces, with hosts that are willing to dispense advice and help with navigating transitions to and fro.)
When we got to our cute little studio, we immediately hit the bed. It’s a king size and there’s AC, so the sleeping that occurs here is primo. While I rested with the girls, Joshua went on a little adventure, walking along the shore, swimming a bit, and finding some shells.
After nap, we had a quick dinner of rice and beans and went for a walk to the point. The Caribbean side of the island is rocky and a bit more treacherous for swimming, but the surf is beautiful. I’m on the hunt for little crab legs, and Joshua has a serious fascination with circling frigates.
At the point, there’s a sculpture garden and cliffside path that takes you down to tide pools. We watched the sunset and raved about the paradise we’ve found.
The next morning, we woke feeling quite relieved. The night before, Lily had puked twice before bed, and we had just crossed our fingers and covered the bed in towels, praying we wouldn’t be awake all night/sleeping in a pile of vomit.
And it was fine! Twice before bed, and it was over.
We had a breakfast of papaya and croissants, packed up, and hitched a taxi to Playa Norte, “El Mejor Playa en el Mundo.” A sandbar extends out for maybe 200 meters around the northern end of the island, and Lily walk out, touching, nearly the whole way. The water is the palest blue, there are tiny little white fish, and the sand is white and free of seaweed. The waves are so gentle, and it’s the perfect beach for kids. Actually, it’s just the perfect beach in general.
We swam and played in the sand for about two hours, delirious with satisfaction. When we went on this vacation, this was we had pictured. We’ve had a pretty amazing experience thus far, but we had yet to find a beach this beautiful, much less this well suited for the girls.
From the beach, we walked to Sea Hawk Divers and booked a snorkeling tour. Last night before bed, Lily had asked to ride a boat, and I’m not one to refuse a boat ride request, so.
From there, we walked to the Golf Cart rental. Yup. Joshua had set his heart on renting a Golf Cart to navigate the island. So. It was a little terrifying how you walk in, the guy barely looks at you, asks for your driver’s license and $44 bucks per day and then hands you the key and then waves you on. I actually asked him, “so, are there any, um, rules we should be aware of?” And he kind of laughed. “This is Mexico.”
We drove to Mango Café for lunch. Joshua had a BBQ Empanada which I envied, and I had the West Indies tacos which were pretty good.
The Golf Cart ride back to the studio was pretty sublime. I mean, as far as patina goes, Islands pretty much have the last word. The buildings are mottled with wear and their colors are a perfect blend of mint, blue, pink, green, and white. The waves crash against the shore, and little tiendas sell cocos frios and shell chandeliers. From the Golf Cart, you get a slow ride, plenty of breeze and lots of sun (sooooooo much sun, we’re baked).
Back at the studio, we napped. I read the last of The Girl on the Train and then picked up where I left off in The Whole Brain Child. Lily fell asleep in my arms, and though my arm fell asleep, I couldn’t bear to extract myself. How many more times will she sleep cuddled up next to me? Hopefully a few, but she’s getting older (Mom tears). An hour in, Lu scuttled up to me, helped herself to nursing and crashed out too. I felt a bit like a painted Madonna, with a babe in each arm. Blessed.
After nap, we packed up and took the cart back to the road. We hopped off in a few places to hunt for shells, and you guys. The sand on the Caribbean side of the island is pretty much exclusively comprised of crushed and whole shells, coral, and reef. We found LOTS of fairy treasure.
(On a side note, I could spend days searching for fairy treasure (much longer than Lily), and it’s deeply gratifying that Lily considers my taste in fairy treasure to be impeccable. Joshua offers up fairy treasure and half the time she tosses it out, whereas if she even sees me bend over to pick something up, she’s all over it: “got something for me, mommy?” I’m not allowed to keep anything J )
We drove to the north of the island for another dip. The sunset was spectacular and I tried to be cool and not bothered by all the drunk people swimming, but I kept on worrying that they would drop the drinks in their hands and spoil the perfect water.
After our swim, we walked into town for ice cream (Day 2, check), and from there, we made the slow drive home, Lily sandwiched between Joshua and me, with Lu strapped to my chest.
This morning, Joshua woke up early to run and then slipped back into bed to sleep in with the rest of us. We got out the door around 10, stopping to meet Gunther’s parrots on the way out.
We drove to Playa Norte and spent another couple of hours enjoying the waves and sand. Lily is almost completely won over to the experience, but Lu is still a little uncertain. She prefers to be held, and she likes even better to be high up on the sand, scooting about.
After the beach, we dragged our desiccated selves to the closest tienda for a bottle of water and then on to a Cuban restaurant (Qubano). The owner waited on us and gave some stellar advice, including tostones (fried plantains dipped in oil, lime, and onion sauce) and the Elena (a Cuban sandwich with cream cheese and jam. PRAISE HANDS.). And dos mojitos, por supues.
In a food coma, we walked our hot, sweaty selves to the golf cart and rolled over to Sea Hawk Divers.
Once outfitted in jackets and snorkel gear, we were dropped off back at the beach. I don’t know anything about boats so I won’t attempt to use any boat-y terms here, but the boat we rode was of the smaller variety, and we got a private little tour (they were nice to us because of the kids and because we’re renting from Gladys, their neighbor).
Chucho and Tito took us through the lagoon and then out to the reef. Lu absolutely revolted when we tried to put the lifejacket on her, so.
I’m not sure how much the girls liked the boat ride. They didn’t really go zen the way I like to do on a boat. But I did. I love boat rides.
And the snorkeling. Oh man. Sooooooo amazing. Blue fish, red fish, green fish, every color fish. Baracuda! Big barracuda! Puddingwife whisse, angelfish, parrotfish. Schools of clownfish swimming in a dance all around me, tickling my legs and arms and making me squeal. Three squid. Fans of coral, fully alive reef, purples and yellows and every color blue.
Our snorkeling guide, Tito, is a marine biologist and he would point to fish and announce their names. When he said “barracuda” I must have looked scared, even in all my snorkeling gear, under water. He laughed and said, “no worry, no bite.”
After my turn, Joshua jumped in. We urged Lily to have a go, but she didn’t want to get saltwater in her eyes and she was afraid of fishies biting her.
When we got back to town, we went in search of ice cream (Lily had a cone this time) and a few more groceries. We took the long way back, driving down roads we haven’t seen yet.
Back at the house, we stripped off our salty, sandy clothes and layed down. What a day!