Friday, June 26, 2015

A Night of Terror

Dawn - five minutes after six in the morning
Exhausted.  Her scraped and bleeding limbs drifting uselessly in the waves Teresa lay on her back unable to move.   Her mouth and nose covered by the shallow water she struggled to breathe.  She had lain in this painful position for hours. 

In the dark of the night Teresa had mistakenly stepped off a rocky ledge, landing hard on the beach below.  She knew she was in trouble, big trouble.  Dawn was breaking and soon the hot tropical sun would bake against her body slowly killing her if the lack of oxygen didn’t do her in first.  If she could just get one decent breath of air, perhaps she could survive a bit longer.  Just a little bit longer.

Turtle hole at top  right of photo - she flipped over here
A noise!  She heard a noise that sounded like two voices with a background of sharp and excited yips.   Trembling with fear Teresa again futilely twitched her limbs.

“Oh god, she alive!” shouted a voice.

“Awesome”, I exclaimed, “let’s flip her over!”

“How the heck to you flip a large turtle?” asked my neighbour Amy, with a bemused smile on her face.

“Carefully, very carefully!”  I laughed, set my camera down on the rocky outcropping, and ran to one side of the turtle. 

Shaking her head at the absurdity of the situation Amy released the leash of her young puppy Bosch and joined me.

“Okay,” she said, “on three.  One, two, three!”  And we flipped a large, heavy Loggerhead turtle right-side up.

Different tortuga - Gaspar helping her dig a deeper hole
With a flurry of splashing flippers Teresa the Tortuga struggled to turn around – paddling, pushing, soaking both Amy and I with a slurry of seawater and sand.   We were euphoric; laughing and shouting happily when the turtle managed to speed off into the deeper water, and away from her night of torment and terror.  I had mistakenly put my camera too far out of reach, and by the time I grabbed it and pointed at the fleeing tortuga she had gone.  Damn!  The three dogs, Amy’s two dogs Bowser and Bosch, and Sparky were very quiet.  They stared at the departing creature unable to comprehend how it would swim out that far, that fast. 

Teresa the Tortuga - swimming fast to freedom
Tortuga flipping is not my normal routine at five minutes before dawn.  Sparky and I usually do his first walk of the day at half-past six along the sidewalk to the gas station and back, fifteen or twenty minutes tops and then it’s time for morning coffee.  

This morning I woke up at half-past five and decided to head out early.  Because it is turtle nesting season I tucked a small camera into my pocket, hoping maybe, just maybe I would get lucky with photos of a mama turtle laying eggs. 

Tortuga dug this up - looking for the perfect spot

From mid-May to October the female turtles typically arrive after sunset and search for a deep stretch of sand, digging one, two or even three test holes before settling on a location and depositing over a hundred eggs.  

The turtles are normally gone well before dawn, however, occasionally a female will still be laying eggs at sunrise having spent too long searching for a perfect nesting site during the night. 

A bucket full of baby turtles about to be released
Before the creation of the turtle conservation program, and the Isla Mujeres turtle farm, the chances of a turtle egg hatching, and the new babies surviving were miniscule.  Dogs, birds, and humans all preyed on the eggs.  If the eggs did hatch then large fish and more sea birds would gobble up the delicious hatchlings as they dashed for the ocean.  Every year the Isla Mujeres turtle farm gathers the eggs, then raises and releases up to ninety thousand baby turtles.  It’s a wondrous sight.  

Wet and sandy Turtle Flipper
On this morning Sparky and I did our usual amble along to the gas station, and then I decided to walk back home along the beach.  About half-way home I noticed our neighbour Amy was out with their new puppy, Bosch, giving him a chance to have a morning pee.  Bosch was excitedly barking at something in the ocean so Sparky and I headed over to see what the excitement was all about.

As Amy and I stood discussing how sad it was to see a dead turtle, and wondering if she had been hit by a boat propeller the turtle twitched her flippers.  And that’s when the fun started.  By the time Teresa the Tortuga had successfully swum away our laughter had alerted Amy’s husband Luis that something was up.  He popped out onto their patio for a look, but the excitement was over. 

This is not the first time that one of our neighbours has righted an up-side-down tortuga.  

We can only hope that Teresa the Tortuga survives to return, again and again, to this beach.  

Sea Turtles mating
But, she will likely have an aversion to that particular stretch of sand where she back-flipped off a rocky ledge onto the sand below. 

While she was struggling to survive, her mate was probably drifting off-shore at south point wondering where she was, and why his breakfast was late. 

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, June 19, 2015

10 Good Things About A Tropical Storm

Arrived home in this ...... wet, wet, wet!
Nails scrabbling on the marble tiles Sparky dashed inside – his whole body, ears to the tip of his tail, vibrating as he vigorously spun the water from his fur.  A few minutes earlier we had tried to meet up with Alexis and her dog Perogy for a doggy play date of carefree running and swimming, but just as we arrived at our meeting place the storm hit – with a vengeance.  This was the start of a four-day tropical depression with driving rain and stiff winds. 
Alexis and I ran to our respective golf carts, shrieking with laughter as the rain obscured our vision and soaked us to the bone.  Both dogs were not impressed, hunkering down inside the open carts, looking for a dry spot - anywhere.  By the time I had driven ten minutes the streets were flooded, rivers of water flowing from the higher elevation of Las Glorias, engulfing the lower level main road.  Golf cart motors struggle in deep water and I spent the next fifteen minutes searching for dryer streets as I wove my way back to our house.
Oceanside view from our house during storm
“Come on, baby.  You can do it!”  I pleaded with the cart as it threatened to stall at every flooded intersection.  “Just a few more blocks.”  I really didn’t want to walk home in the downpour with a short-legged mutt dragging along beside me, and there was no way in hell that any taxi would have picked up two soaking wet passengers especially when one is a very wet dog.
We arrived home, and as is the norm in a rainstorm the carport was occupied by other people hiding from the onslaught.  They moved aside as we parked, grinning at our bedraggled condition.  Lawrie brought me two large dry towels, one for me and one for Sparky.  As I scrubbed the dripping water off my hair and then mopped the dog’s fur I thought there has to be something good about all this rain, there has to be an upside.
So, let’s see:
Five minutes before the storm hit - hot and dry!

One: Soft hair!  Yep, rainwater is great for my hair, leaving it very soft and curly.  I can save money on hair conditioner.  Now if I had planned ahead I would have caught a few gallons in a clean bucket to use later in the week.  
Lawrie on the other hand doesn’t have to worry about hair conditioner.  He’s got a nice smooth head

Two: Soft fur on Sparky.  He needed to be walked.  He doesn’t know about weather, and storm forecasts.  When a guy has to go, well, he has to go.  Thomas the Cat on the other hand was happy to hang around inside and use his clean, dry litter box.  He is obviously much smarter.

Three: Clean railings on the upper decks.  On both sides of the house the railings are sparkling clean, or they would be sparkling if the sun was shining.  The thick cloud cover was grey and angry, so the railings were clean, not shiny.  Still, it’s a positive.
Wet and hiding with all the stuff we brought in from patios

Four: Clean decks.  When the wind was gusting to 50 km/h the decks were swept clean of sand, salt, plant leaves and pet fur. 

Five: Less traffic.  The island pretty much comes to a standstill.  Most islanders use bicycles, motos or golf carts.  During storms these are less than ideal as a form of transportation.

Six: Kids get an extra day or two off school.  When the storm hit on early Friday morning some kids were already in school, but a lot had stayed home.  The windowless schools are designed for hot tropical days not tropical rain storms.

Seven: The rain washes salt off of the electrical connections and wires – reducing electrical arching, and possibly increases the life of the electrical connections.

Eight: Refreshes the salinas.  Salinas are landlocked salty ponds that at some point in their history were connected to the ocean.  Now they are surrounded by land, houses, and roads.  

They can become quite stinky during the winter dry season.  A pounding rainstorm supplies fresh water, and allows the excess to exit through the pump houses into the ocean.  The wading birds - cranes, storks, egrets, herons and spoonbills - really appreciate the fresh water.

Nine: Island cars get a good washing up.

Ten: We meet new people.  Frequently when a nasty storm rolls in it catches people unawares and our carport fills up with islanders hiding from the rain.  We usually put on a big pot of coffee and invite everyone inside to wait for a break in the weather.  Sometimes it takes ten minutes, and sometimes an hour but everyone is happy to be a little dryer, and we get to meet a few more locals.
Several days later when our tropical depression made landfall in Texas, it had become Tropical Storm Bill.  We hope our American friends don’t get too badly battered.   Our carport is nice and dry if you need a place to hide from the rain, and we make pretty good coffee. 
Return to nice weather 

In the meantime, we are happy with the return of light breezes and warm sunny days!

Lynda & Lawrie

This sign at Punta Sur made me giggle - Do Not What?...

Friday, June 12, 2015

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere - a dog's eye view of Isla Part 2

Happy Hour at Nico's @ Isla 33 - photo by Shane
Hola, amigoes! This is Sparky, or you can call me by my Spanish name Chispita if you like. 
It's my turn to write the weekly Notes from Paradise.
For those of you who don't know me, my people tell me that I am a purebred Mexican low-rider. That's pretty cool don't you think?   A purebred Mexican low-rider. I think it sounds kinda sexy: low-rider. But, I really want to tell you about a fun thing that happened to me when we were out for an evening ride in the golf cart.
Happy Hour - 1/2 price appetizers and drink specials
Last Friday we stopped at Isla 33 Resort & Villas complex, on the eastern side of our island. There was a big sign at the entrance Nico's @ Isla 33 Restaurant that said: Happy Hour. It looked like there were a bunch of happy folks there, so we stopped to investigate. There were two guys, Poyo & Payo, playing guitars and singing good tunes. 

Luis - pouring a glass of wine
There were lots of people chatting with friends, and sampling great smelling appetizers. 
There was a really nice man by the name of Luis, who poured a light-coloured liquid into a big glass and handed it to the lady that I hang with. She seemed to like it a lot. I think Luis poured her a second one later on.
My people ordered something called, Sliders. The three Sliders looked like little hamburgers, the perfect size for a small dog like me. I could smell cheddar cheese, bacon, Gouda cheese, caramelized onions, and other great stuff. They kept saying how good the Sliders tasted. Unfortunately I didn't get to try any of them, and it was really hard not to drool all over my people's sandals.
Sparky's Spanish speaking friend, José Cauich
But the coolest thing was this nice man, by the name of José Cauich, came over to me and started speaking my language: Spanish. 
I knew exactly what he was saying. “Acuestate.” Boom! I'm laying down.
“Sientate.”  And now I'm sitting.
Easy, I get this guy.  The man and woman that I have lived with for the last year and a half, have always spoken another weird language, trying to get me to do stuff, but darn, it's hard. 
First I have to figure out what they mean, and then translate that into something I know how to do. I just wish they would learn to speak Spanish to me. It would be so much easier. 
A lot of my friends get adopted by people who don't speak Spanish, and I guess they all have the same problem. 
Gotta learn a new language, plus figure out the new people. It can be a big headache, for a little dog, even a special and sexy dog like me, a purebred Mexican low-rider.
Personally, I am really not clear on this Happy Hour stuff.   I think we were there for more than an hour, and everyone was still happy.
Eat, drink, be happy!
Friday's 5 to 8, at Isla 33 Resort & Villas, on the Caribbean side of Isla Mujeres.
I might see you there next time.
Hasta Luego, mi amigos


Friday, June 5, 2015

The problem with pah-king

When it's busy - everyone ignores the signs & yellow curbs
Flinging his long arms out wide to their full extent, he said, “you should write about the pah-king problem on Isla.”
Yep! We do have a pah-king problem on Isla, a big problem. 

(Translation: Parking, spoken with a New England accent!)

Double yellow curbs - and lots of no parking signs
In 2011, a previous Presidente (Mayor), decided that parked vehicles were unsightly and should not be allowed on streets where arriving tourists could see them. 

The busy main road, Rueda Medina, servicing the beaches and restaurants on the west side of the island was torn up, the sidewalks widened, and the driving lanes decreased to a tight-fitting one lane in each direction. 

Too bad for you if you get stuck driving behind a beer delivery truck, the garbage truck, or other slow moving vehicles.
Next large No Parking signs, a circle surrounding a large E (Estacionamiento) and a slash through the letter, were installed. And finally the curbs were painted bright yellow on both sides of the street. There! No more unsightly cars will be parking on this street. In Mexico a red curb indicates don't park here – ever! A yellow curb signifies stopping to load/unload is allowed. A white curb says parking is okay – unless you are trying to park in front of a store, garage, carport, or house. In these locations you are likely to find that frustrated owners have blocked the curb with plastic chairs, traffic cones, or buckets of concrete festooned with no parking signs. Parking illegally can result removal of your vehicle license plate and a hefty fine to get it back. But, here's the fun part, no one knows where or when the parking restrictions will be enforced. It's a game of chance!

A very rare bit of white painted curb on Juarez Avenue
Earlier this week we drove around the downtown/centro area of Isla looking for white curbs where parking is allowed. Rare! Really rare. What we saw were dozens of streets with yellow curbs on both sides of the road. One side, by common practice, would be filled with parked cars, golf carts and motos, while the other side was left open for moving traffic. On some streets, like Juarez, the accepted side for parking changes from block to block. You have to be a local to figure out the system.

Big lot next to passenger ferry - priced too high for locals
There are still three or four places in centro that are commonly used for parking, but none of them are near restaurants or stores. The biggest lot is beside the new passenger ferry terminal. It's a convenient place to leave your vehicle if you happen to be going into Cancun for shopping or appointments. It's not a convenient location if you plan to eat at a restaurant or shop at a store. On any given day this large, newly upgraded parking facility has only five or six vehicles inside the fenced area instead of the usual thirty cars the lot held when it was just a dirt lot. The facility operators have doubled the price from $5.00 pesos per hour to $10.00 pesos per hour or portion of an hour. For locals who may only earn between $8.00 and $10.00 dollars a day the price increase was just too much. The lot sits almost empty - day after day after day.

Across the street is the Joaquin Golf Cart lot
Another parking spot on Rueda Medina is inside the Joaquin Golf Cart rentals near the port captain's office, but space is very limited. The cost is exactly the same as across the street at the bigger municipal parking lot - $10.00 pesos per hour or portion of an hour. In this lot you leave your keys with the vehicle as the employees usually shuffle carts and cars around during the day. Golf carts out for rental, cars allowed in. Golf carts back, cars get moved around.

Vehicles tolerated on this private lot - for the present.
The other two common places to park are on private property, and the cars are, for the present time, tolerated by the property owners. In the late afternoon, or early evening both of these locations quickly fill up with dozens of supply trucks: Bimbo bread, chips, cookie distributors. At some point in the future one or perhaps both of these empty lots will be developed – and there goes the only convenient parking for centro
For the downtown merchants, store owners, restaurant operators parking for their customers is a nightmare. And, if you have to do any business with the Municipality, forget trying to get into their small lot. It is always full, with cars double-parked behind, blocking everyone.

Mousehole England - we brought the traffic to a standstill!
However, no matter where you travel parking can be a problem. I remember many years ago when we were travelling in southern England, we stopped our car in front of a hotel in the quaint village of Mousehole. By the time the owner had supplied us with availability and nightly room rates our car had successfully blocked traffic in the entire town. Within minutes we had a spit-spewing, red-faced British policeman screaming at us. “Move the *#%ing* car!” When the policeman stomped away to sort out the mess we giggled uncontrollably at our stupid-tourist moment. We spent two relaxing nights at the hotel and still giggle over that first impression of Mousehole.

Everyone needs a parking space sooner or later
People drive vehicles, for work, for travel, for entertainment. It's reality. We need someplace to leave them temporarily while we enjoy a meal, or do a bit of shopping. On Isla Mujeres it would be great if the powers-that-be would just pick a side on each street and allow parking. It's going to happen anyway.

Pah-king! It's a problem, but we'll make room for you, somewhere. And we promise not to yell: “Move the *#%ing* car!”

Hasta Luego    Lynda & Lawrie

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