Friday, June 24, 2016

A once in a life time happening – er, depending on your age

Monday June 20th Summer Solstice & Full Moon
The Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and a full moon, both happened on Monday June 20th.  It’s a once in a life-time event, depending on your age and the time zone that you live in.  

The last time this event occurred was in 1948.  Lawrie was six and I wasn’t even a gleam in my father’s eye, so we decided we should commemorate the night in style. 


No, we didn’t dance naked around a bonfire while howling at the moon, but we did cook a yummy steak dinner and open a special bottle of Argentinian Malbec.  Three weeks of a boring low-carb, alcohol-free diet were tossed out with the wine cork.  Heck, this might be the last summer solstice, full moon in our lifetime.  Let’s go crazy! 

Mid-afternoon on Rueda Medina
Even Mother Nature was in a celebratory mood.  After five days of grey and damp weather we had sun, glorious sun enticing flocks of day-trippers from the hotel zone in Cancun to the island.  

It seemed that every one of the thousand-plus rental golf carts were out on the roads, overloaded with tourists.  (There is one perplexing trait in a high percentage of visitors; they feel compelled to holler and yell when touring in a golf cart.  Why is that?)  

Street Vendors out in full force
Rental bicycles, and motor-scooters jammed the roadway, filling spaces between the golf carts.   Boats coming into the harbour were at their maximum capacity for passengers.  Amazing considering just a few years ago the island was deserted from the end of spring break until students were released for summer vacations.  Local hotels have been reporting record-breaking occupancy rates for the entire year.  There doesn’t seem to be a slow season on Isla Mujeres anymore.

Hundreds and hundreds of golf carts
A quick drive around the island Monday afternoon confirmed that the popular beaches were packed with sun-worshipers in an assortment of sizes and ages.  

Everyone appeared to be enjoying the warm water and brilliant sunshine.  Restaurant waiters hustled to and fro with drinks and food. They don’t seem to have a problem keeping their weight at a manageable level; back and forth trudging through the hot sand hundreds of times a day.  It’s a great workout.
Summer Solstice on Rueda Medina 2011
We spent the evening watching the sunset from our street side deck, then slipped over to the ocean side upper deck to enjoy the moon rise.  

Last Monday’s balmy weather, another glass of fabulous red wine, and great company was a perfect way to celebrate this rare evening.   And, yes, we are back to our boring low-carb, alcohol-free diet – for at least another month.

The next summer solstice full moon is predicted for 2062.  Lawrie will be 120 years old.  He says he’ll be there celebrating!  Me, at 111 years old?  I’ll probably still be battling fat cells.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Our favourite oceanside deck - full moon rising

Friday, June 17, 2016

Paradise from another perspective – Wow, just wow!

Amazing starfish shape!
Did you know that the five, red pathways at Punta Sur Isla Mujeres are actually in the shape of a starfish? 

We didn’t.  

It’s a bit like discovering the three thousand year-old chalk image in the hills of England is really an ancient 360-foot long rendition of a white horse.  

Okay, maybe it’s not that notable, but for us the starfish was very cool to see.  

Caution - the four carbon-fiber blades are powerful
Expat David Daniel captured the image with his newest boy-toy: a DJI Phantom 3 UAV.  Also known by the misnomer of drone, the UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAS Unmanned Aircraft System comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Highly conscious of the potential danger of the remote-controlled UAV, 
David pointed out the four whirling carbon-fiber blades as they spun up, lifting the vehicle aloft.  

David: It's easy to fly this UAV

Then with a noise akin to a hive of active bees the aircraft sailed away, hovering off the southern point of Isla Mujeres as it broadcast streaming video to David’s I-Pad.  

Woohoo!  What beautiful images.  

Wow!  Isla Mujeres from Punta Sur
For both David and Diane Daniel traditional photography is an outlet for their creativity, and operating the UAV gives David yet another instrument for crafting beautiful images.

At Punta Sur, a family of curious Argentinian tourists quickly gathered around David as he manoeuvred the UAV for better images.  

Apparently interested curiosity is a familiar reaction, typically with the technology savvy under-thirty crowd, and especially Europeans. 

Images difficult to see in bright sunlight
When operating the remote controlled device he and Diane are mindful to not intrude on anyone privacy.  They don’t buzz low over crowds, or deliberately focus on individuals.  

David said even with the new advanced cameras measuring distance from space is difficult.  A few times they used the UAV to try to locate a pod of dolphins that cavort along the eastern side of the island, only to discover that pinpointing a fast moving six-foot creature is nearly impossible.  On the other hand, flying around a stationary object is a breeze. 

Diane Daniel, keeping our very hot dog Sparky company
UAV’s are primarily fun toys used for taking great videos or stills from a vantage point normally unavailable to photographers.  They also have useful commercial applications; for instance when two Canadian friends recently decided to sell their home and the real estate company immediately scheduled an aerial photo session with a UAV.  

It’s the new standard for real estate listings.  David says he operates his UAV just for the enjoyment. 

My photo of David's DJI Phantom 3 UAV 

Currently the UAV’s owned by individuals now vastly outnumber military drones, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.  The popularity has created a few hazards, necessitating new laws to govern their use.  Whether you refer to them as drones, UAV’s or a UAS they are banned within five miles of airports worldwide, and prisons in a number of countries.  The newer models are equipped with updated software that has no fly zones, or hot spots, prohibiting the vehicle from lifting off.  Older version still exist prompting many countries to erect signage at airports forbidding the use of this type of equipment. 

The drone's photo of me taking its photo
It turns out our home is within that five mile radius of our local almost-abandoned, and seldom-used airport. So no high-flying photographs of our casa.  It’s probably a good thing, I think our ‘dainties’ were still hanging on the laundry line.

If you would like to see more great photographs and videos visit David and Diane’s New Nomad’s Facebook page.  Here’s the link.
Their photography will wow you!

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Come to papa!  David Daniel and his new toy.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A thirsty weekend - election time in Mexico

2016 candidate Juan Carillo in centre - won election
The liquor departments in the grocery stores are roped off.  Large signs proclaim: No alcohol sales today.  

The local cantinas and neighbourhood beer stores are closed up tight.  Good grief!  This is Mexico.  Normally beer and bottled coolers are sold in every corner store, all year around.  

What’s happening? 

2016 Media truck 
Well, it is election time and Mexico has a dry law, ley seca, prohibiting the sale of alcohol on the weekend of the elections.  This year it fell on Saturday June 4th and Sunday June 5th.  The good thing is if you are a foreigner, not a Mexican national, you can still access your favourite beverage in bars and restaurants that cater primarily to tourists.  The fine to the business owner for selling alcohol to a Mexican national during the election weekend is 50,000 pesos!  Yikes.  That’s a lot of lost profit for a two dollar cerveza.

2010 political signs painted on wall
The rotation of the three-year terms for Municipal Presidente, and the six-year term for the State Governors are coming to an end.  National President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term started December 1st 2012 and runs until 2018, at which time he is ineligible to run again for this office.  It is also the law in Mexico that once a candidate fills a position, he or she cannot run again in the following election for the same position.  They can try their luck with a different municipality, or perhaps the Senate.  In the following election cycle, three or six years later, the previously elected official is allowed to run for re-election.

2013 PAN party parade
The election weekend is preceded by a boisterous few weeks of parades, car-mounted loud-speaker announcements and of course speeches; lots of speeches making politically-motivated pledges that, like any political promise, may or may not come to fruition.  

It’s what politicians the world-over do.  

Promise heaven and earth, yet deliver only air.

2013 Alicia Rincalde - it rained on the parade
The evenings leading up to the June election are typically punctuated with beeping moto and car horns, loud music, cheering supporters and hundreds of participants parading in various locations around the island.  Because our home is situated on a main road, the parades invariably pass us at some point during the procession.  We are not Mexican citizens, and therefore can’t vote, but it is very entertaining to watch the process.  Canadian elections are much more subdued relying primarily on television advertising and televised debates.  This loud and crazy stuff is a lot more fun.
2013 buzzing around the annual fishing tournament

In 2013 a very large parade for the PAN party was led by several young people on in-line-skates waving over-sized flags, trailed by a cadre of bicycle riders and a drum corp.  Next came the walking contingent lead by the candidate and followed by the inevitable motos, golf carts and vehicles.  Everyone was cheering, waving and yelling their candidate’s name.  Organized chaos.

Typically there are brightly-coloured signs painted on every available flat surface, and posters hung from light-poles or posts.  Three years ago one candidate had her full length image mounted on corrugated plastic boards that popped up all over the island, even during the annual fishing tournament.  Three small boats were hired to circulate around and around the tournament docks with her image standing proudly in the bow.  We thought it was an inventive idea.

2013 Agapito Magaña won the election 
Sunday June 5th was Election Day this year and it was a very quiet, subdued campaign.  We were barely aware it was happening.  We only saw one parade for each of the two major candidates.  According to a local source there are now limits how much money can be spent on promotions, a direct result of too signs and posters unclaimed after the 2013 campaign leaving the municipality with the cost of cleanup.  

Even the traditional victory parade for the winning candidate didn’t happen this year. 
2016 Juan Carillo PRI parade

Well at least we didn’t have to worry about being thirsty this past weekend.  We had wisely re-stocked our fridge with cold cervezas and wine.  Only to start alcohol-free diets on the following Monday. Talk about bad timing!  But as I like to say: fat cells have GPS.  No matter how many times we lose them – they find us again.  It’s time to send those fat cells packing, yet again. 

2019 will be the next municipal election for Presidente.  We are looking forward to the chaos and the parades.

Hasta Luego

Friday, June 3, 2016

The End of an Era – Magaña scheduled passenger ferry service suspended

Magaña boats January 2006
Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, is a small island floating in the Caribbean Sea.  Boats have always been an integral part of its history. 

Dating back to the 1550’s the days of the Spanish explorers, and first the settlement on Isla, fishing pangas, and large sailing ships were the main mode of transportation.  Later as technology advanced, and more people discovered Isla Mujeres private yachts, passenger ferries, car ferries and tour boats became part of the rhythm of island life.  So, when the original passenger ferry operators recently announced that they were suspending service it signified the end of an era. 
Magaña boats out of service May 2016

The two passenger ferries are now tied up at their family wharf in the lagoon and the employees have received their final wages.  The bigger party boat the Caribbean Princess is still plying the waters between the mainland and Isla, bringing day-trippers from the hotel zone in Cancun, but the regular hourly departures from Isla and Cancun are finished.  A victim of economics and stiff competition from the newer, sleeker UltraMar flotilla.

Larger and newer UltraMar boats - the competition 
When we first visited the island in 2002, the Magaña boats were the only option, and I must admit even though I don’t typically suffer from seasickness, riding the Caribbean Miss was a smelly, stomach churning experience as the vessel rolled through the waves, while clouds of smoky diesel fumes infiltrated the passenger area.  We gladly switched over to the more stable, catamaran-style UltraMar service when it became available.

Repainted in 2012 - nicked named the Barney-Boats

Over a period of ten years the UltraMar has added more and larger ships to their fleet, while the older Magaña transportation company retained their original vessels.  The once familiar white, blue and red ferry boats were repainted in 2012 with what was light-heartedly referred to as the Barney-Boat colours of purple and green.  It was an attempt to ‘jazz up’ the image of the aging ships, and attract more customers.  Sadly the new colours didn’t improve the ride or the service.

Sultana del Mar from Recuerdeos de Isla Mujeres FB 
But the most fascinating ship owned by the Magaña transportation company is the Sultana del Mar.  

We have written about her before as islanders such as Vivian Reynaldo, Dan Kane, Abby and Neil Fox, and boat captain Javier Velázquez Euan have shared their personal stories about traveling to Isla Mujeres back in the day.

Mario Burgos Sánchez
There are more stories about the Sultana del Mar posted on the Facebook page Recuerdeos de Isla Mujeres.  Islander Cuauhtémoc Zufita Landero in collaboration with our local historian Fidel Villanueva Madrid have been adding fascinating narratives about Isla’s past.  

A Google translation works fairly well translating the Spanish to English, but we still struggle with the finer details of the stories.  

Of particular interest to me is the story about Mario Burgos Sánchez, Carpintero de Ribera, the master carpenter who built the hull of the Sultana del Mar with ‘good wood, the right tools, and his hands.’

The Sultana del Mar was a grand old dame that is currently a sinking wreck.  Slowly, month by month she is sliding further beneath the waves taking a piece of island history with her. 

Sultana del Mar - May 2016  L.Lock photo

It is the end of a simpler time.  

A time when life was slower, unhurried.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie