Isla Mujeres

by Michael J. Navin

"Isla Mujeres"

(Island of Women)

Let me begin by stating that, although this vacation was a roller-coaster of emotions (sorrow, helplessness, pure joy, relaxation, frustration, etc.), it will always be remembered and cherished. Five days spent with the best of friends, enjoying each others' company, while our day to day problems were temporarily set aside.

Since our vacation with Wendell and Judy in Key West 3 years prior, we have been planning this trip with the excitement of school kids. Our time in Key West had been so refreshing that we could hardly wait for the next adventure.

The week prior to take off, the roller coaster took a dive and I felt that our plans would end up in the toilet. Early Tuesday morning, Perry, a close friend, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with 5 major blockages in his heart. He was scheduled for open heart surgery at 6 am Thurs., our plane left at 6:40 am Fri. Upon visiting Perry Wed. we put on a brave front (a man thing). I told him that he had better not die because, Lana, his wife, would probably move in with me and I would have to put up with 2 wives. He promised that he would never put me through such hell. There was no reason to say, that in reality, if anything did go wrong, his family was my family and visa-versa.

Wed. afternoon Darlene found out that Shirley's (Judy's mom) cancer had worsened. It was hard for me to look into her eyes; there was so much pain there.

Needless to say, the trip to the airport Fri. morning was not without some second thoughts. We both knew that there was nothing we could do in either case, but yet going on vacation at this time was not easy.

Everything seemed to be going according to schedule until we landed in Cancun; there was no one waiting for us. The resort was supposed to have someone at the airport to take us to a ferry that would take us to the island were the resort was located. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach someone at the resort, we hailed a cab. The ride to the ferry was an adventure in itself; they drive crazy, I was pissed that we had to find our own ride, we did not know for sure if Judy was going to make it, and we did not know at this time if Perry was off the ventilator or not.

Upon reaching the ferry, we discovered that we did not have tickets waiting for us as promised, big surprise. After reaching Isla Mujeres we caught a cab to the resort. Our travel problems disappeared as we started across the bridge to the resort and recognized 2 tourists standing on the bridge admiring the beach, Wendell and Judy. After a round or two of long hugs and throwing our luggage in our room, the party was on.

The first afternoon was spent exploring the resort, getting a half-assed plan together for the next day and just enjoying each others company. Although it had been 3 years since we had all been together, we needed no time to get reacquainted.

The resort was actually an islet of its own off of the main island, with a wooden bridge between them, which added to the beauty. It had its' own calm, white sand beach and a great area for snorkeling. On the other side of the islet (the Caribbean side) the water was to rough for swimming and had a rock reef that broke the waves, it was an awesome sight. There was an area on the rough side of the islet called "The Kings' Bath" which you could snorkel in. The rock reef had formed a barrier from the waves of about 50' in diameter. It was great to see star fish, crabs, and colorful fish of all kinds in calm water while you heard the waves crashing against the rocks and spraying water overhead.

Our rooms overlooked the Caribbean with a constant roar of the waves hitting rocks. From our window you could also see the teykee huts with either a hammock or a massage table under them.

The resort had a gift shop, computer access, game room, exercise room, pool, and a sit down restaurant, buffet style restaurant, open air bar with stage area, and several areas where you could sit at tables in the open and just relax.

I'm not even going to try and keep things in order, as in, on what day we did this and what day we did that. I am not good at remembering things like that and couldn't care less; I know we had fun.

The first line of business was to obtain transportation; which on Isla Mujueres is usually a rented golf cart. Being the golfer in the group, Wendell was delegated the position of driver. Darlene did try her skills at the wheel and ran into the back of a taxi within the first 15 minutes, so her driving privileges were taken away. The island only being 5 miles long and  mile wide made the golf cart perfect for cruising; we had plenty of room for the four of us, bottled water and bags of trinkets that the women picked up along the way.

We spent a good day exploring the island and deciding what we wanted to do first. We stopped at some type of park area that I have no idea what the name was. It was ran by a old Mexican couple that spoke no English, so Judy was the only one who had any idea what they were saying. You walked through the park area with Iguanas running across the paths, and hanging out in the trees (big Iguanas). It was full of ruins of an ancient garden, with archways, sun dials, and a lot of stone artifacts that we never did figure out the meaning of. There was an ancient well that had a stairway to walk down into; none of us had the nerve to go down into it. There were also pens with monkeys, alligators, wild pigs, and a deer.

There was supposedly a turtle farm that we never found and Garafon Park which we had heard so much about was closed because of hurricane damage. We had been told that Garafon was one the best snorkeling areas in the world so that was disappointing, but we had plenty of other things to do.

We ate lunch at a restaurant across from North Shore Beach, which is the islands public beach. While eating, I dashed across the street to come to the aid of 2 women looking for someone to take their picture together. I felt that it was the least I could do to help fellow tourists. Darlene and Judy insisted that my incentive was that they were young, beautiful and scantily clothed, but we know better; I didn't even notice their thong bikinis and large, firm .......... oh never mind.

The Dolphin Ride was an excellent day. We loaded up our golf cart and headed to the water park on the island with anticipation. I had been telling people at home for 6 months that I was going to snorkel with sharks, which was one of the parks attractions. After catching an 11' shark in the Keys and bragging for 3 years that I wasn't afraid of "no damn shark", I was trying every way possible to back out, with no luck. When I found out that, in reality, there was a plexiglass wall between me and the sharks I was back to talking of "kicking some shark butt." It was pretty cool to watch as 10 Tiger sharks swam within inches of me, I'm so brave.

The highlight of the day was the women swimming with dolphins. After a short class, they got in the water with 2 dolphins that shook hands (flippers), kissed their cheeks, let them hold them, etc. Each of them had a turn to swim out about 100' from the side and then the dolphins would come from behind and let them grab a fin in each hand and pull them back to the side. The next trick was even better; they swam out and laid face down in the water with their legs stretched out straight behind them. The dolphins came up from behind again, but this time they put their noses in the ball of the girls' feet and pushed them forward until they were standing out of the water on the dolphins noses. After the dolphin ride we all went to a room to watch the video of their experience; it was almost as exciting as the real thing.

Of course we spent an afternoon of shopping that I thought would be boring, but actually I had a good time. The shop keepers and street vendors are just like I imagined them to be, pushy. They try to drag you off the street to sell their wares; which of course are better and cheaper than anywhere else. Wendell, who I never thought of as a "haggler" over prices, spent  an hour of intense negotiations with a jeweler over a present for Lacy. He was all smiles as he joined me on the golf cart and announced "I got the best of him."

This story would not be complete with out mention of the wild night life. Everyone that I talked to who had been to Cancun told me that Isla Mujeres was laid back and relaxing, but that Cancun was the place for partying. I've heard that Cancun is an all night party with thousands of people, several bands on the beach, a steady stream of liquor, wet t-shirt contests and other goings on that I probably couldn't write about. Well I'm here to tell you that it's not true, Isla Mujeres in the place to party.

We were up every night till at least 10:30 or 11 and the night of the Mexican Fiesta we didn't make it to the room till after midnight. During the Fiesta everyone in the resort sat out on the beach at tables, listened to Mexican music, and played some pretty risquà games. One game, that Wendell and Judy participated in, couples were chosen from the crowd and one person sat on a chair, while the other danced suggestively in front of them and then they traded places (Yes!! Wendell). Then they had a longest kiss contest, I think that Wendell and Judy came in a close 2nd. Another contest, that Darlene and I joined, was the rope contest. Women lined up facing the men and each side had to snake the rope in the top of the first persons' shirt and out the bottom of their pants, then the second person brought it up the bottom of their pants and out the top of their shirt, so on and so on. There were probably 10-12 people on each team. As expected the women kicked butt, the men didn't allow their teammates to help with the rope while the women didn't seem to have a problem letting the other women put their hands inside their clothing, go figure!

Another night they had some Mexican dancers that performed dances from different areas of Mexico and included people from the audience to join them. We got our pictures taken with them. We were party animals.

One night they did a thing where they started with 2 people from the audience dancing on stage and when the music stopped they had to go into the crowd and pick another partner. The next pause in the music that 4 had to do the same until there was probably 20 on stage, including Wendell.

As with any trip, there are things that stand out in your mind and it was on one of these "wild nights" that I had one. Wendell and I were sitting at a table on the deck while Judy and Darlene were on the dance floor with several other guests dancing, laughing, without a care in the world. We could hear those two above the rest, imagine that. After a loud outbreak of laughter from Judy, Wendell said, "It's been a long time since I've heard her laugh out loud like that, that's good." For Wendell, that's a speech. For all that they've been through together and to still care so much for each other is inspiring.

Our fishing experience was not as luxurious as the one in Key West, but almost as exciting. Instead of a large fishing boat like Key West, we had a flat bottom fiberglass boat with a canopy. After some communication problems with our guide, which left the resorts' guide pissed-off, we headed out to sea. As I said it was not a cruise ship but we caught some barracuda and a red snapper so everything was going fine. Suddenly, another boat appeared, seemingly out of no where, with 6-8 Mexican Federales in camouflage and our guide was telling us to let him do the talking (Oh, Shit). They threw ropes from their boat to ours to secure them while they jabbered back and forth with our guide. Not understanding a word made it all the more frightening, but at least I didn't see any guns. After what seemed like an hour (probably 10 minutes), they released our boat and left. Our guide said that they were making sure that we were not refugees from Cuba that were sneaking into Mexico. I thought of asking if we looked like Cubans, but I was just glad not to be eating beans and tortillas in some Mexican prison, so I let it go.

The last day is always bad; having to go our separate ways after having such a good time, is hard. The trip to the airport, unlike the trip from the airport to the resort, was smooth sailing. We had tickets for the ferry; the cab to the airport was waiting for us, no problems with customs. Darlene did have to leave some vanilla that she bought at the airport and tried to sneak on in her carry-on luggage.

Before this trip we had talked about taking similar trips every 2 years instead of waiting 3 like we had done since Key West. But, by the second day, I think that we were unanimous in thinking that even 2 years was to long and that we should try for every year. Although the atmosphere and scenery was great, I honestly think that we could go to Bullfrog, Indiana (I made that up) and still have an enjoyable time, it's the company, not the location.

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