A TRUE BEACH GETAWAY: November 8 – 27, 2018
We spent it on a remote, off-grid beach on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, just 10 miles from Belize on the Caribbean Sea. Let’s begin our story with a daybreak video, the one time of day that we always spent in quiet contemplation of our natural world and its wonders.
Truly, the 3 weeks sped by as each day blended seamlessly into the next in our — somewhat dreamy — routine of sleep, lounge, eat like royalty, snorkel amid an underwater garden of delights, walk, feed & talk to beach dogs, write … and repeat.
On our way out to the reef, we were careful to provide our bodies with protection from the sun’s baking rays. The ocean out front — we stayed at a small inn called Casa de Sueños — is shallow for a long distance out, and it is walkable to snorkel. We chose to use the available kayak to reach coral clusters for snorkelling due to my aversion to the sensation of weedy strands and soft bottom on my legs and feet. Once viewing the fishes and other undersea delights, all else was forgotten as this magical world unfolded. Imagine, all this and much more is happening under the waves while we drift through our lives above the sea! We heard about excursions out to the distant reef to view manatee and their young — now that would be quite an adventure for hardy swimmers.
After snorkelling began the lounging aspect of our days, sometimes interspersed with a beach walk and exploration, writing, snacking, snoozing ….
We heard from our host that the ubiquitous land crabs, more active at night, loved to eat coffee grounds. One evening sitting at the kitchen table writing, I heard a great scrabbling at the door. Upon investigation I discovered the largest land crab I had ever seen, bigger than my fist and sans-shell, trying with some enthusiasm to break through the screen door into our kitchen. Cute and facinating when small, they can be a little creepy at this size & marauding — though this character proved easy enough to scare away with a light.
During our explorations and wandering, Aaron collected many photos of colourful and quirky birds, lizards and other natural phenomenon, with his astounding eye for nature & powerful zoom lens. He has generously allowed me to post an assortment of his captures, for your viewing pleasure.
The next groups of nature pictures are by Aaron White:
Seen above left is an anole with its throat flared in territorial challenge. These little ones seemed to be frequently trying to frighten us away from our shady sitting spot, claiming it as their own. On the right, we see the larger lizard who loved to dine on morning glory blossoms from grassy areas of our yard.
Exotic and colourful, the above winged beauties are a bird-watcher’s treat! Aaron was especially challenged in catching a photo of the orange oriole, so quick and flighty were its movements.
Ibis, white & gray herons, pelicans and frigates, all native, plentiful and a daily enjoyment in the beach and sky scape.
We travelled the 8 km into Xcalak only once in the three weeks at the beach, riding with a neighbour and joining local expats in the grand opening meal & social time at a local restaurant, Toby’s. Delicious, with several courses and lots of seafood (lionfish ceviche, prawns, etc) — and we would have survived without it. Though the location is truly remote, with no stores or typical amenities — power is solar generated (with generator back-up) and the nearest city is several hours away — planning ahead is the key to bliss at this beach. With fresh fruit and vegetable trucks arriving at the doorstep several times a week, as well as local fishers passing by with fresh seafood — one need only bring in staples to last the stay (though some items can even be ordered from the truck for the next trip). Need I add that all of these fresh food items can be purchased at a fraction of the cost to which we are accustomed. Best to have Spanish at least for the items you want, although pointing works too. Add in a propina for the vender, their services are highly worthy of customer support.
Imagine eating fresh guacamole and home made salsa almost daily, many varieties of fruits and vegetables including papaya, melons, bananas, oranges, cilantro, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce at times — with fresh limes to squeeze on everything from fruit to seafood! We were able to eat like royalty without ever leaving our paradise beach home. Check out the 10 lobster tails we purchased from the fellow who had just taken them from the sea. Delicioso!
I confess that a certain amount of my time & energy went into cooking for & loving these two — Bobbo and Curly. Though they belonged to a family down the beach, from whom they received good care —- true to their homeless roots, they were wanderers and opportunists. When they saw us coming, they knew they had hit pay dirt. It was most delightful that, when they spotted us in their travels, both would break into a joyful gallop to speedily cover the ground between us. Though Bobbo clearly had good cause to be suspicious of humans, he became a loyal, open-hearted companion during our stay at the beach. These two were an unexpected bonus, adding to the delight of our days at the beach — I felt sad to bid them adios.
Though hardly a pet, I did think this tiniest-ever scorpion was kind of cute. Aaron took a picture of it beside my finger to demonstrate its size. I have heard from Latin Americans that the smaller the scorpion, the worse the sting. Whether true or not, I kept a safe distance while sending this one back into the jungle.
While discussing the weather gets a bad rap in the world of conversation, I will mention that our days at Casa de Sueños were filled with baking hot sunshine, relieved for some portion of each day by a refreshing breeze. Only once — though dark clouds at sea seemed to threaten quite often — did the sky open up and dump its watery contents. I was drawn like a puppet to dance joyfully under the stinging droplets, face into the sky and wind. Being off-grid, our casa had only fans for cooling and this downpour was a welcome relief.
And at each day’s close, the daylight said goodnight in spectacular fashion. As though by magic, we were tricked out of missing the sun’s departure.
We were lucky enough to spend a period of full moon at this spectacular beach. The quality of light shining on our beach/jungle retreat in the night was enchanting and drew us outside to stand in its light for a time during those inevitable middle of the night awakenings. Aaron could not resist capturing its glory.
Sargassum — the seaweed which is washing up on shore in many Caribbean locales. It is a real problem which is being addressed with a number of approaches. So far, in Xcalak, the main approach appears to be raking it up and dumping it in the jungle to diminish the toxic odour that is emitted when it begins to rot on the beach. I experienced a sore throat and raw chest during the worst of it, though the jury is still out in the scientific community on the toxic effects of breathing rotting sargassum fumes. I can say it has a foul odour. Our beach was raked daily by a local man hired to do so.
The issue is so much bigger than this though, and can be researched further online.
Biting Bugs —- they exist in this area, mostly at daybreak and nightfall, and are minorly annoying. That said, we did experience some sort of hatch one evening and night —- and were tormented by biters that fit through the holes in our screens. A very tough night! We used a plant-based non-toxic repellent that seemed to be somewhat of a deterrent. The good news is that the scourge lasted only about 24 hours.
Environmental Initiatives — we became aware, from conversations with other foreigners living in the area, and first-hand accounts, that efforts are being made towards reef propagation, these initiatives being carried out by volunteers
— as well there is the obvious promotion of solar power as an energy source
WIFI —- It was actually not too bad 🤔, though cel phone service was nonexistent
Wheels — We did almost all the travel from the Cancun airport and then to Mérida with buses & taxis, no rental car, though we met no one else who was travelling without wheels. It was actually very doable since we were happy staying at the beach and had little desire to go anywhere our feet couldn’t take us. Our kind host, Jane, let us ride with her into Mahaual upon departure, to catch our shuttle bus to Chetumal.
Stay tuned for more stories of our Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico exploits!