Yesterday began with a sore throat, most likely contracted from the elderly Italian gentleman who coughed the entire day of the trip to Celestun, the pink wonderland. (Etiquette tip: do not cough on strangers in a closed van, or at the dinner table. If you are sick, even if you have booked a nonrefundable tour, stay home. No one wants your germs.) Fortunately for me, it improved, as I am currently traveling solo, with no one on whom to cough, and warm salt air does wonders for all things respiratory.
This last portion of the first phase of my post-retirement life finds me on Cozumel, Mexico's "Island of Swallows" (of which I have yet to see very many, but so it goes). I could fall in love with this place, despite the frenetic horror of the cruise-ship area, where every shop has hawkers calling from the entryway or even the sidewalk, attempting to entice customers into the store with the absolute best prices on silver, artwork, t-shirts, or whatever the case may be. (Note to the young man near one shop: calling "Hey, sweetheart" to a 60-year-old woman with whom you are not acquainted is not likely to make her patronize your establishment.)
For one thing, how many towns center a plaza near their public beach with a fountain commemorating a Mayan goddess? This particular monument to Ixchel is a modern creation, totally separate from the ancient ruins on another part of the island, but communing with the goddess of love while sitting on a park bench has its charms.
Right across the street from the Ixchel fountain is one entry to the free public beach. Cozumel's beach clubs are the places to go for beach umbrellas, chairs, and lifeguards, but with this as the view from a handy rock seat in a grove of palms, I was content. Yes, those are the water's actual colors. Sigh.
But rock seats grow hard, and with the throat much-improved from a good seaside rest, it was time to wander northward, to explore a little more. A sand path leading past a patch of coastal scrub forest proved too enticing to ignore; it led to this view.
This segment of beach, while it felt isolated, was not uninhabited by humans. Two young bicyclists had wandered in, another young man was watching his friend snorkel (and with the rocks and the waves, having a spotter did seem like a good idea), and yet another youngish man was simply wandering the coral rocks, drinking in the view, as was I. He struck up a conversation, in the course of which I asked for the name of a plant, seemingly growing right out of the rocks, totally unfazed by the salt spray. (I should probably add that my Spanish is "poquito y malo," and his English was even more rudimentary than my Spanish, but I have enough words to ask questions, and pointing helps.) This yellow composite with succulent leaves is the plant in question.
It turns out that Crispino (my new acquaintance) is from the country and knows quite a lot about plants. This one is good for abejas (bees, of which I had seen quite a few visiting the blossoms) and makes excellent miel (honey). He was pleased that I had been a profesora whose estudiantes had planted a jardin para las abejas, bees being muy importante. As I continued to wander (stay tuned for pictures of fossils and other delights in a later post), Crispino brought me a spray of bloom from another pollinator-friendly plant, a small tree with blossom clusters that look like those of black locust. (Alas, the pictures did not turn out.) He did not know the scientific names but gave me the Spanish common names; alas, they have vanished from my memory, but the quest to ID the plants will continue.
Obviously, a common interest goes a long way to transcend the language barrier.
Heading back toward my temporary home, I stopped for lunch at one of a cluster of thatched palapas, this one housing the only café in the area not blasting music. A New-Agey instrumental was playing softly in the background, but the sound of the waves predominated. This was the view from my table.
The cafe's weather-beaten German owner moved to Mexico thirty years ago for business but fell in love with Cozumel when he visited (which seems to be a theme among the expats I have met) and has now been here more than fifteen years. The café boasts not only good food and a view of all the seaside action, but a golden retriever mix who lounges on the deck boards and occasionally looks hopefully for a handout. (The dog was not interested in my vegetarian baguette.)
Well-fed, I finally left the café and headed for home. Not wanting to brave the gauntlet of hawkers in front of the stores, I strolled the seawalk and was rewarded with the sight of a snowy egret, looking lovely and elegant as they always do. A perfect ending to a perfect day's wandering. (Keep going below the picture.)
A few moments later, the egret pooped on a rock. Back to reality.