Having just passed the two week mark, there is so much to learn! I can’t begin to express what a unique place this is. In so many past journeys to Mexico I have been saddened by the destructive arm of tourism that seems to have left no stone unturned…from Cancun on down the Riviera Maya to Tulum it is one all-inclusive resort after another; the Old Mexico of my childhood replaced with a Disney World version that simply wants to sell margaritas and curios.
Here it seems we’ve found a Mexico of a hundred years ago, albeit with internet and air conditioning. Reachable only by boat or air, this place is a sanctuary that is full of life and slim on people. So far we’ve seen a parade of colorful birds and deer and little black foxes; in the bay we’ve crossed paths with turtles, manatees and eagle rays; at night in our room geckos appear, on the hunt for bugs.
The community is just over forty souls, divided between the two lodges, which are fifteen miles apart, connected by a sandy strip of road along the coast. Many of these people have been here for decades, since all of this began. Over the last few weeks we’ve met everyone and learned a good many names and the personalities and stories to put with them. They’re learning us too, and daily we see more smiles. I think we’re going to like it here.
Johnny’s Spanish is rocketing along, and mine is growing more technical by the minute. Salt on the wind invades every crevice, and all things mechanical are constantly in need of upkeep and repair…words like four-stroke, gaskets, gears and overhaul are all starting to roll off my tongue.
This place was a Mayan outpost in its earliest incarnations, a place where they kept fresh canoes and supplies for speedy travel. The ruins are still very much standing; there is an idol in one of the rooms called the Chac Mool, and a sacrificial stone outside where they procured blood for his offerings.
In later days this was a coconut plantation, and the remnant palms of that operation are everywhere. The Casa Blanca buildings are built from the bones of the originals, and when it is windy here you have to watch out for missiles and wayward fronds.
One of the first families still lives here, the oldest of whom worked the copra camp, as it was called. They are a hospitable and laid back bunch and don’t seem to want for much, though they live a simple life. They sold their stake to the land long ago, but retained their right to live and fish here. The don calls me Rosa.
It’s definitely easy to forget what year it is here, but never what country. There are always tortillas and beans in the kitchen and Spanish on the air, and always in some corner of your eye is that unbelievably blue Caribbean Sea.
Johnny and I have discovered monster jacks that ride the surf off a rocky point near the lodge; on days when the wind doesn’t drive the surf too hard they take us for a ride. We call them poor man’s permit, because they seem to want to eat everything we throw at them; they charge hard and get up to thirty pounds.
At night tarpon circle off the dock at the edges of the light. I hooked one that had my reel screaming until he blasted off into the dark. You can catch a bonefish anytime you like from our resident school; there are some up to ten pounds, but it’s the little guys that go for flies…the big boys wait for the fishermen to come back and throw them the spoils.
We’ve taken a few boat rides so far, one to the far end of Espiritu Santo Bay, and one deep into the mangrove lagoon behind the lodge. The lagoon is very clear and you can see the fish (snook, cuda and tarpon) coming from a long ways off. Tomorrow we go for permit.