Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day Five: Costa Maya, Mexico

We woke up at about 6:30am to get fed and ready for the Jungle Beach Tour on the coast of Costa Maya, Mexico. Costa Maya seems like a sad reflection of what it may have been in the past, but at every turn the natives tell you that the country is in the midst of rebuilding after Hurricane Dean ravaged the city. As you look into the city from the level of cars and such, you don’t notice destruction, so much as dead trees and dry grass. Coming from Dallas, this time of year the grasses and trees looks mostly like that anyway, so it took a look from the upper deck of the ship to truly appreciate how far reaching and complete the devastation was.

A half hour ride brought us to a resort deep in Costa Maya, where the private beach area has been reclaimed and they offered parasailing, scuba diving, kayaking, Sea Dooing, and more, plus an open bar, a restaurant, and a gift shop. Boo and I parked under a palm, spread out and got some sun for a bit before deciding to walk the beach. My Boo loves to walk and given the opportunity, he woulda walked around the complete perimeter of the beach area, but we stopped when we couldn’t see the resort anymore and we feared dead things would pop up from the sand.

The beach area near the resort was raked constantly by the groundskeepers, but past the property, seaweed and trash washed up onto shore until the piles formed a seawall of its own. We started to walk barefoot down the beach, then realized that the hostess wasn’t joking about the possibility of syringes and broken glass along the beach, so we put on our flip flops and moseyed on down the beach. We started collecting shells and coral, then noticed larger shells further up on the beach, so we would walk up and down the beach gathering these gorgeous shells from inland. What was sad was seeing the sheer amounts of crap washed away by the hurricane that had suddenly been rejected by the sea. Baby shoes, sandals, hair product, medicine bottles, tvs, all kinds of crap… We returned to the oohs and ahhs of a couple of ladies who were sunning near us and admiring the haul of seashells and coral we’d made. Soon, they were off on their own hike and returned later with some giant shells of their own. We decided to get some sun and read, so we parked on our beach chairs and tried to read, but mistakenly made eye contact with the people selling parasailing tours. Okay…$100 per couple for 15 minutes of sailing was a bit steep anyway, but their inability to hear “No” made it less and less likely that we weren’t going to go. It kinda became a game then to hear how low they were willing to go to get us onboard. By the end of the day, the sailing was down 25% and the time up an extra 5-10 minutes. I don’t begrudge them the selling of their services in a tough economic environment, but don’t harass me. No sooner than I’d get done with one and start reading again, the other one would wander over “just to check on us “ like suddenly we’d discovered a few more dollars that had magically appeared in our pockets. If money just magically appeared in my pockets, I’d certainly not spend it on parasailing with the not so cute Italian sailor with the cigarette breath.

We dove into the warmish water and swam a bit before walking the other end of the beach. Here we hit the motherlode. Photo ops, fun sandbars, and more importantly, HUGE conch shells in all sorts of colors, just lying around on the beach. What we decided was that the storm either washed all these shells up onto the shore, or it changed the shape of the island and where we were standing might have been underwater over a year ago. Whatever the case, like crackheads in an abandoned crack lab, we ran around picking up the best of the best of the shells. We took what we found to the sea to rinse them out and knock out or drown whatever might have been living inside of it currently (which, in hindsight, we didn’t do NEARLY well enough) and dragged them all back to our towel o’ treasures. Satisfied that we’d done good and had been productive, we went to the restaurant to eat, partake of the free beverages (Pina colada, YUM! Sex on the beach…not so much…) and get ready to leave.

Maria, our hostess, loaded us on the next shuttle back to the pier, where we had the pleasure of riding with the “party group.” Let me just say, I don’t do well with the drunkie former sorority girl whoopin’ and hollerin’ in an enclosed space. Especially if she’s like within arm’s length. She boarded the bus, all ponytail and temporary tatts at volume 11, with her husband, her friend, and her husband’s friend Mike. We know Mike’s name because when they couldn’t sit beside one another on the bus, she hollered his name repeatedly and talked about him the ENTIRE bus trip back. (Which, in retrospect, was done because Mike and his wife must’ve seen the trouble signs ahead… they found a nice pair of seats in the middle of the bus, surrounded by other guests so that, we’ll call her Amber, and her husband, were forced to sit WAY in the back away from them). I shit you not, Amber talked, and talked, and talked and talked for 30 minutes straight about how she could hear Mike up ahead and he was STILL talking… I tried to sleep, but like a freakin’ Tourette’s attack, she’d yell Mike’s name and when he’d ignore her, she’d go back to bitching about Mike and his inability to shut the hell up. Hmmmmm….We finally arrived at the pier and got to get her final bit of sorority girl pride when she, draped across the shoulder of her husband, started yelling “Boomer Sooner, Baby! You UT boys never shut the hell up!” at Mike when he stood up to get off the ship. The knowing looks on the faces of the people seated around us said we’d all give our last dollar and a kidney just for a muzzle.

We dropped off the shells in our room, showered, then went to grab a bit o’ food. The pier was full of some great shops (and I LOVE to shop), so we went back down and picked up some souveniers for friends and family. (Mental note for next cruise to Mexico: bargain! First, we coulda got a better deal on most of the stuff we picked up: vanilla, jewelry, tee shirts, etc. if we’d just bargained. I forget I’m not in America and they expect you to bargain. A couple of shopkeepers got a couple of high payin’ suckers on the first round of shopping, but I’ll remember next time. What we got was beautiful and we had fun, so that’s all that mattered.)

We make it back to our room and decide we need to clean the shells with the high powered sprayer of the showerhead. As we open up the towel, we realize, to our horror, that ummm…we had passengers that we’d smuggled aboard. By passengers, I mean 2 or more huge, Peter-Brady-in-the-Hawaiian-episode-of-the-Brady-Bunch spiders. Luckily, I saw them and Boo didn’t. If he’d seen them when he opened the towel the first time, only the dogs on the pier would have heard the scream. I took the heel of my Via Spiga to them (their dress shoes have like Doc Marten heels…huge, blockish, and heavy as hell). I never saw them again, because I kept the towel wrapped around them and wadded it up in the floor of the bathroom for the Save our Oceans program person to pick up when he did his next laundry run for our room. God bless his soul when he flips that towel open again.

That particular hazard avoided, I cranked the hot water in the shower and sprayed the hell out of the shells that might’ve been the home to any additional critters. We still managed to flush out another pair of smaller spiders that had been hiding and waiting to kill us in the night. Bastards. Luckily, we didn’t decide to give the shells away as a gift to our tablemates. The scene in my mind of the carnage following a spider landing in a lap of any of our dining companions is both funny and horrific at the same time.

Dinner was Italian and wanted to be truly delicious, but I think that we’re a little too coached in the ways of critiquing food in the manner of Top Chef/Gordon Ramsey. My plates were done well and the presentation impeccable. Boo’s lamb was overcooked and the sauce ladled on with too heavy a hand. Desserts were just lovely, and our waitstaff sang “O Solo Mio” to us mid-dinner.

Afterward, we hit the casino for some gambling, or as I like to call it, “feeding the machine some money so someone else can go home richer.” Jack and I started out ahead and managed to parley that into utter defeat on both fronts. So, we strolled back to our room for blogging and slumber, because Friday was an early morning wake-up in Cozumel!

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