At one point in my life it may not have been as noticeable, but after living in the desert for more than a decade, the blast of humid air that hit me as I got off the plane was unmistakable. We were in the tropics. Our flight into Cozumel arrived on time and as we walked down the ramp (you know you are some place good when you get directly off your flight onto the tarmac and not into the building) the sun, the smells, and yes the humidity were all welcome sensations as we made our way to immigration and customs. I did not expect the first thing that I would hear in Mexico would be a Latin/jazz version of a woman singing Guns ‘N’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” in the terminal, but it helped pass the time while we waited to get through immigration. It didn’t take very long since we were the only flight that had arrived the entire morning and the line wasn’t long and soon we were through and getting our luggage. We were here.
One thing I quickly learned is that distances can be deceptively longer than they appear on Google maps. I thought it would be a good idea to walk from the airport to the ferry terminal instead of taking a taxi. Why not walk and get to see a little bit of the town? Well, another thing that you can not tell from Google maps is if the sidewalks are cracked, uneven, or completely non-existent. A rolling suitcase is useless through the town of Cozumel. Without this walk though, we would not have experienced the real town of Cozumel. We would have only seen the sanitized street along the water full of souvenir shops, restaurants and jewelry stores that the day tourists from the cruise ships see. We would have missed seeing the level of disparity in income without seeing the homes that were no more than shacks, that had no windows and only broken wooden shutters to cover the window and the laundry hanging on lines in the dirt lot next to their house. We would not have learned that apparently there are no leash laws or licensing of dogs based on the amount that were simply wandering the streets with no collar and looking care-free and happy. Even the three-legged dog didn’t seem to have a worry in the world. We would have missed out on the smell of the taqueria stand that was just a few tables under a tarp with an open kitchen attached to someone’s house. We would have missed out on trying to get directions from children on the street corner laughing at the foolish tourists dragging their luggage through town. In other words, would have missed out on the real Cozumel. And thankfully I have an understanding wife who puts up with my sometimes questionable decisions and after a “15 minute walk” through the heat that ended up taking 45 minutes she was still able to smile along with me.
The ferry had live entertainment for the short passage to Playa del Carmen.
The resort we were staying at was a short ferry ride across the water in Playa del Carmen, so after checking out the schedules we decided to get some lunch before heading across. We were on vacation, so it was hard to pass up playing the tourist and we decided on lunch at the epitome of a tourist spot, Margaritaville. There would be plenty of time for authentic food over the next few days. Anyway, I am a long time Jimmy Buffett fan and who can pass up the obligatory photo op with a real life fake pirate. Plus, it has never taken a twisting of my arm to have a margarita. Sitting out on the patio by the water, through the sunlight shimmering on the water we could see the cruise ships in port, smell the coconut scent of suntan lotion, and hear Jimmy singing about fins to the left. Enjoying the shrimp fajitas was easy. All we had to do was try to avoid noticing the under-clad and overweight people at the table next to us trying to relive glory days past by doing the Macarena along with the music. After a couple of margaritas it took me a minute to shake off the sticker shock of our $750 bill before remembering we were in Mexico and it was in pesos.
It was a fairly short walk back to the pier, with the most difficult part being trying to dodge the pushy vendors out front of the shops. On the short ferry ride across we were entertained by a local band playing only for tips. It may have been the nearly 24 hours of constant travel, the gentle rolling of the boat as it skipped over the waves, or the feel of the warm late afternoon sun but I was wearing down and was looking forward to simply getting checked in, washed up, and rested. When we got to the pier in Playa del Carmen, I knew that my marriage was worth much more than the $10 cab fare to the hotel so I didn’t even consider mentioning walking and happily accepted the first offer from a taxi driver for a ride to our resort.
Cozumel, Mexico November 2014