Adrift on the Island of Women
Sleeping, eating, lurching around between Ireland and Mexico. The beginning.
Isla de Mujeres, Mexico
11th May, 2001
The heat, my head. The humidity, my head. I feel as if someone is trying to kill me by means of a blow dry and perm.
I left Dublin on Monday 30th April for the seven (nine? eleven?) hour journey to Mexico.
The Yucatan is seven hours behind Ireland so we were treated to an day that stretched out forever. At some point in that day I was on top of a Dublin Bus looking gloomily out over the old city that I meant to leave behind, and at another I was negotiating passage on a Mexican ferry boat. In between
is a void filled with the empty pus of an airline strudel.
I arrived at Cancun, looked at the 20km line of beach hotels, and immediately left. A little up the coast is a small island, Isla de Mujeres, 8km of sand and drowsiness. I take the ferry. I was in combat mode coming to Mexico, ready to think fast and move on my fee, to secure accommodation against the hordes of holiday makers also looking for a good deal. I am ready to defend myself and my bags from sharp-eyed hustlers and two-dollar porters eager to help me up the ferry port for all of ten meters. I am cat-like, alert, ready
There's noone here. Some guys near the jetty flop vaguely in my direction in a half hearted attempt to offer me help but seem to collapse halfway in the heat. The hotel keeper seems genuinely suprised that I might want to rent a room, and yet the room is clean, large and comfortable. There are no threats, and no need for my mosquito nets, my padlocks, my insect killers, my knowledge of TV karate. I'm almost disappointed.
There's noone here. It's the off season, and all the shop keepers, waiters and giant floating water bike guys want to be my friend, in a harmless sort of way. Everywhere there is food. vivdly colored native art, T-shirts, and eager, eager shop keepers. Even the doctor sits outside his own little shop, waiting, patiently waiting, perhaps viewing my so-far healthy limbs with depondency. I wander the restaurant street deciding which one I shall grace with my custom tonight, I wander through my empty hotel singing like the phantom of the opera. I wonder if the entire island economy now depends solely on me.
The heat, the jetlag, the heat. I sleep, I eat again before shuffling off to another stretch of golden beach for another kip. Other travellers show up. They eat, they sleep, they eat and lurch around in the crushing heat for a shady place to collapse. Hola! Muriel and Laura, on your advice I went cycling around the island. But you did it at 5.30am and I waited till almost noon. After a distance that in Dublin would barely have carried me to the shops, I collapsed, exhausted in the heat and had to be fed beer and nachos to rebalance my vital essence quickly .
I go diving. There's a cave here, the cave of the sleeping sharks. How wonderful to go down there and bore my friends with my incredible courageousness for years after. But on the other hand, um, sharks...
I decide an a couple of reef dives to get me in the mood. Beautiful, of course, like swimming in, well, a tropical fish tank of course. Overhead, a bunch of snorklers go by, 12m up, like a herd of sea cattle, we very cool scuba divers signal to each other. I turn upside-down to wave up at them, and immediately entangle myself in a flurry of tubes, fins, fish and rock. Bottom feeders the snorklers think, and move on.
Dive guy admits there haven't been many sharks around this year. So The Cave of the Sleeping Sharks is really just The Cave. I give it a miss.
Must leave Mexico before I turn into a blob of languid torpor. But...not yet... just a few more tasty treats... just a got to catch some more zzz's... Buenos tardes, Miranda, thanks for the food advice.
All the local people have treated me well. As sit out of the restaurant terrace for my last night. I watch them. This town is a one kilometre across, on a 8 km island. There is nowhere to go to, yet they all own motorscooters, flying around and around singly and in pairs all night, every night. Around and around. What yearning drives them to move and move in these continual circles? Restless feelings can find respite in movement, for a time, and now their restlessness fills me.
Time to go... to Cuba.
Mayan Temple, Isla Mujeres
Hat & Spoon