Friday, June 30, 2017

An early morning chat with a mama sea turtle

Turtles mating in front of our casa
“Are you awake?” Sparky asks jumping on the bed and jamming his wet nose into my face. My eyes pop open. It’s early, not yet sunrise. 

The sky is still a dark grey, slowly lightening to a paler hue as the sun creeps closer to the edge of our world.

Max our newest rescue pooch can’t yet jump up on to our bed, so he settles for putting his front paws on the edge of the mattress. Max has a bit of weakness in his hind end from an encounter with a vehicle. 

Rescue pooches - Sparky and Max on beach near our casa
In a previous life he slept in the street and this last January was accidentally run over. He was patched up by the great folks at Clinica Veterinaria de Isla Mujeres, and fostered by fellow Canadian Sylvie Staines for a few months while he recovered, then we agreed to adopt him. He is gaining strength daily but he is still uncoordinated and frequently stumbles, landing on his face in a tangled heap of legs and feet.

“Can we go out, please? Pleeeaaase?” I can hear toe nails clicking on the tile floor as Sparky jumps off the bed, and both dogs commence the pee-pee dance in our dark bedroom.
Another mama turtle heading back to the ocean near our casa

“Okay, okay, just give me a minute.” I say as I blunder around in the gloom looking for clothes, house keys, and my wrist watch. I think about taking my pocket-sized camera but change my mind. What are the odds of seeing a turtle this morning? I think, a big yawn stretching my face.

The dogs and I parade downstairs, leaving Lawrie to slumber in air-conditioned comfort. I switch on the coffeemaker as I pass by, and open the door for Sparky and Max. The boys scoot outside and quickly discover the fresh turtle tracks in our neighbours’ yard, at Ronda and Bruce Roberts casa.
Sparky and Max investigating turtle nests

Noses to the ground they follow the scent from the yard to the ocean and back, searching. A mix of terrier and several other breeds Sparky normally has an amazingly accurate sense of smell, but this morning his is off the mark. 

I looked a little to the south of where the boys are sniffing and there she is, the mama sea turtle, about to tip over the edge of a three-foot drop onto the beach. I quickly stand in front of the turtle preventing her from using that route. 

2015 -  the turtle that Amy and I turned right-way up
Two years ago another neighbour, Amy, and I had to right an upside down tortuga who had flipped off of a four-foot drop. 

It’s a two-person job to get them turned right-way up again, and at this time of the morning there is only me in my caffeine-deprived zombie state.

“Okay, mama, how about you pick a different route.” I say to her, wondering if I have seen this particular turtle before, wishing that I had put my camera in my pocket.  She’s a beauty, long and wide, and healthy looking. Perhaps a Kemp’s Ridley, or a Loggerhead, I’m just not sure.
Turtle eggs dug up by another nesting turtle

The females, and only the females, do return to the same beaches year after year digging deep holes and laying up to one hundred and twenty golf-ball-shaped eggs. 

But in all honesty, unless you really study the markings and scars of an individual I think one magnificent mama turtle looks like another magnificent mama turtle, especially in the half-light of 5:45 in the morning.

Different night, similar turtle heading back to sea

I could have imagined it, but I thought I heard her hiss at me, for getting in her way. 

Keeping my fingers well away from her strong jaws I briefly stroked her smooth carapace, then she decided to move away from this strange creature. 

Turtling, or the hunting of turtles, was banned in Mexico and the USA in 1990 just twenty-seven years ago. 
This mama turtle could be old enough to remember the times when it was legal to hunt her species for meat, oil, shells or anything useable. She probably doesn’t have a great affection for humans.
Hatchlings in front of our casa in 2015

She slowly turned and found a slightly less hazardous route to the beach, while I trailed along beside her, making sure that if the dogs did notice they wouldn’t harass her. 

It is fascinating to watch the cumbersome progress of a full-grown turtle flippering her way across the sand to get back to the ocean, and once she hits the water she is as graceful as a ballerina.

When she was safely out to sea the two pooches and I turned back to the house.  Organizing two big cups of coffee with a drizzle of caramel on top, I woke up Lawrie and related my morning encounter with the tortuga.

Photo - Isla Mujeres al Dia Facebook page
During mating and nesting season, May to October, there is a good chance of seeing a turtle on the beach. 

I just have to get back in the habit of taking my camera with me when Sparky and Max need their morning pee walk. 

If you have the chance to watch a wild turtle please do it quietly, and don’t shine flashlights or cellphones on her. When taking photos don’t use a flash. She might abandon her efforts and off-load her eggs in the ocean; a bonus for the fish but a loss for the turtle conservation efforts.

Hasta Luego 

Lynda & Lawrie

Treasure Isla
Have you got yours yet?

$2.99 USD on Amazon e-books

Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just fun photos - computer malfunctioning caused by the wet & humid weather we have been having!

Sunset view at Ballyhoo Restaurant

Fun colours at the top of Hidalgo Avenue
This one is on Juarez Avenue

A couple of blocks south of our house

Another fun combination

We'll hopefully be back in operation by next Friday!
Cheers Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, June 16, 2017

The chaotic colonias of Isla Mujeres

Business and residential mixed together
The neighbourhoods of Isla, the colonias, have a vibrant atmosphere with a chaotic mix of residential and commercial, much like the small towns in Europe. 

They are lively and lived-in. New visitors occasionally remark that they see extensive poverty. We see diversity. We see hard-working neighbours and friends who live where they work, and work where they live.

Tiny tienda on Juarez Avenue
On Isla Mujeres the tiny store-front businesses intermingle with modest living spaces. In the street just south of our casa there is a myriad of small houses and apartments interspersed with a variety of establishments. The majority of the proprietors live behind or above their business. Within a few blocks we can get our golf cart repaired, purchase a gift for a child, visit the veterinarian with a pet, get our laundry washed, or documents photocopied.

Lawrie at Orlando's Golf Cart Repairs

There are two dental offices just a few blocks south of us. One is situated on an upper floor of a house, and in front of the car repair business. The other is tucked behind the air conditioning and appliance repair shop. Our favourite upholsterer is located between two houses near one of the island’s animal shelters.

If we are hungry or thirsty there are several little tiendas selling sodas, eggs, bread or snacks. Our preferred tienda carries a good selection of fruits, vegetables and freshly squeezed juices. A tortilla factory operates six days a week scenting the air with the delicious smell of freshly-baked corn tortillas. When they close for the day, an evenings-only restaurant sets up in front selling tasty food to their neighbours. Two nearby stores sell cold beer to compliment the evening meal.

The guys having their morning get-together
Scattered in amongst the businesses are the long-time residents; living and working their entire lives on Isla. Every morning a group of seven or eight people from adjacent dwellings gather on one large street-side verandah, to share a sociable cup of coffee and the local gossip. 

Another man walks two blocks south to buy his morning newspaper, returning to sit outside his front door while he carefully reads each page. In the evenings, when the sun has shifted behind the buildings another long-time resident sits on his shady patio waving at passersby, and shouting pleasant greetings.

Vibrant colour combinations are common.
Every home on the island is unique, whether it is an expensive house or a humble dwelling. 

Cookie-cutter neighbourhoods are virtually unknown with the exception of a new development of beautiful high-end homes at the southern end of the island. 

Typically the colonias are an unruly mix of brightly coloured buildings and unfinished houses, varying from simple huts to three-storied residence. 

Until recently a mortgage in Mexico was almost impossible to obtain. 

Even now with an increase in the availability of bank mortgages the interest rates are astronomical compared to the three percent that a Canadian or American would pay in their own countries. Consequently buildings are finished when, and if, the owners have a few dollars to spend.

We love the chaos, the colour, the vibrant feeling of lived-in neighbourhoods. It’s what makes Mexico so interesting.

Hasta Luego 
Lynda & Lawrie

Isla Mujeres Mystery
Have you got yours yet?

E-books $2.99 USD on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo
Paperback $11.99 USD on Amazon

Isla Mujeres Mystery series; a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Murder and mayhem. Pirate treasure and hurricanes. Lovers and families. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt, Sparky. 
Come join us for the adventure. 

Cheers Lynda and Sparky

Friday, June 9, 2017

Forget the beaches and the turquoise water, Isla Mujeres is really about the party!

North Beach early in the morning before the crowds arrive
Yes, the beaches of Isla Mujeres are some of the best in the world, and swimming in the clear turquoise Caribbean Sea is extraordinary, but, the island party scene is just good fun. 

Great drinks. Music & dancing, all day and into the early hours of the next day. 

We all have our favourites, but there are literally dozens of places you can find good drinks and great music on the island. Places to spend a lazy afternoon, after working on your tan in the morning. Places to enjoy an evening meal and listen to great music. And places to dance, dance, dance the night away.

Lawrie and my great-nieces with the giant Margs
You can’t go wrong with Ballyhoo’s, for food, drinks, and atmosphere. 

Located on the beach, behind the PeMex gas station on Rueda Medina they have in our opinion the best sunset location on the island. 

Depending on the time of day or the month the view includes the comings and goings of a variety of boats; the big and sexy sport-fishing boats, the modest little open deck pangas, the catamaran jet-drive passenger boats or the slow and plodding car ferry. The best way to start a party is with one of their eye-popping big Margaritas.

Soggy Peso
And of course everyone thinks of the Soggy Peso when you mention killer Margaritas. 

The big jug on the bar counter-top contains their special recipe, made with four bottles of tequila, four bottles of orange Controy, and the words freshly squeezed lime juice whispered over the blend. The Margs are strong and tasty. 

Typically customers are happy with one, or if they are feeling frisky maybe two Margaritas, however the record is twelve plus two to go. 

Jeff Current with customer, Cathy, who joined in 
In the winter season local entertainer Jeff Current gets the crowd dancing to favourite tunes, during his Isla Animals fundraiser nights. 

Watch out for the Soggy Peso’s pet spider located above the sink!  It likes to drop down for a visit with unsuspecting newbies. 

The Soggy Peso is a perfect mix of silly fun, great songs, good food and killer drinks. When they are at capacity, the gate is closed.

The Joint - on an island tour with family
At the southern end of the island near Garrafon Natural Reef Park, is The Joint Reggae Bar n Grill. It’s another good venue for a pleasurable afternoon listening to live music every day from 1 until 4 in the afternoon plus on Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5 until 8 in the evening.  It’s an enjoyable halfway-stop when touring around the island with visitors or on your own. We’ve heard the food is awesome, but we haven’t tried it yet. Just too many choices and not enough time.

Slow Down Food & Art   FB photo
On the windward side of the island are a few more of our favourite places to eat, drink and be merry. (Or is that eat, drink and get married?)  The newest is Slow Down Food and Art, located in the front of Antonio Fabre’s intriguing art studio. They have a limited but very tasty menu of sliders, Argentinean-style empanadas, and salads. It’s a tiny, two-person operation perched on the edge of the road, across from a gorgeous view of the sapphire-blue water. Open from 11 in the morning until 8 at night, except Sundays, or when they are in Cancun getting immigration papers sorted-out or when the chef is sick ….. you, know it’s Mexico, they are open, except when they’re not.

Villa la Bella photo
And of course don’t forget Villa la Bella for their Cadillac Margaritas with a shot of Grand Marnier on the side. They also serve the prettiest Pina Coladas on the island, or maybe in all of Mexico. 

That’s the place with the well-known ‘beer so cold it will make your teeth hurt’ sign. 

The award winning bed and breakfast has a bar open to the public, unless they are at capacity then the gate is closed. The location is spectacular, the drinks yummy and the view is killer beautiful.

In the same neighbourhood is Caribbean Brisas Bar and Grill, with its colourful atmosphere, live music and delicious food. We have always enjoyed their amazing menu choices. 

Caribbean Brisas Marg - FB photo
A recent addition to their drink choices includes Margaritas made with ingredients like cucumber, chaya, mint, or habanero. Now you can get a buzz while drinking your veggies!  It has to be good for you, right?

There are more, dozens more, but all this talk of food and beverages is making us hungry and thirsty. Time to grab the keys and head out to an old favourite, or maybe try something different.

And when you’ve had just too much fun, you can regenerate your liver cells while soaking up the tropical sun on those sugar-white beaches and gazing at the turquoise sea.

Hasta Luego 
Lynda & Lawrie

Ahoy maties! 

Treasure Isla $2.99 USD on Amazon e-books

Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Hidden Gems of Isla

Ricardo and Rosa outside their store on Isla Mujeres
When you meet Ricardo Medina, it is difficult to envision the shy little boy who left school at the age of eight and toiled to help his young, widowed mother support his nine siblings. 

Both he and his charismatic wife Rosa have open-hearted smiles for anyone entering their store on Juarez Avenue – Ricardo’s Fire Opal.

Born in Acapulco, Ricardo moved to the young city of Cancun in 1979. At that time Cancun had fewer than ten thousand residents, a population less than the present-day Isla Mujeres. In 1974 the Mexican government facilitated the construction of an international airport for Cancun, and encouraged investors to build the sprawling all-inclusive resorts on the beaches of the Riviera Maya. The government then went on an intense marketing campaign promoting the Mexican Caribbean to the world. The tourists arrived by the plane load.
Ricardo and his son on one of the Magana boats

Ricardo found employment on the party boats plying the waters between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. His main function was to introduce visitors to Isla Mujeres and promote a time-share property on the island. He intended to stay a few months, save money, and find another job. Eight years later he was still employed on the tour boat run, plus working in a jewelry store near a lagoon in Cancun. The jewelry store was destroyed by Hurricane Gilberto in 1988, leaving Ricardo to find additional work elsewhere.

Original store on Juarez Avenue
And then a beautiful woman from the State of Veracruz, came into his life, Rosa Castillo.  Rosa and her sister had moved from Veracruz in 1990 and were employed at the Ultra Femme store in the Kukulcan luxury shopping plaza in the Cancun hotel zone.  Rosa says it was a heady time. She and her sister were paid decent wages, plus commission on items they sold to the huge influx of visitors. The tourists had money to spend, and they were spending it, hand over fist.

Current location on Juarez Avenue
When Ricardo proposed, Rosa accepted with one condition - no more working on the party boats. That was okay with Ricardo, he had a dream to be self-employed. Isla Mujeres was more affordable than Cancun, so the young family moved to the island in 1996 to start a new life. Their first store was in the same area of Juarez Avenue, but across the street. They were in business at that location for ten years, but changes happened with the property and they had to move. They were approached by the owner of the current location, asking Ricardo and Rosa to set up their business in his building. At Ricardo’s Fire Opal you will find an eclectic collection of beautiful Mexican crafts; Catrina figurines, paintings, dishes, decorative items, furniture, jewelry and Mexican fire opals.

Fire Opal 
So, what is a Fire Opal?  The national gemstone of Mexico, is a stone that can be either transparent or translucent, with colours that range from red, to orange, to yellow or brown. The most sought-after fire opals are transparent, with a high iron content creating the distinctive deep orange hue and an iridescence within the stone. Like a flickering flame. In Mexico the fire opal is mined at Magdalena in the state of Jalisco, and in several locations in the state of Querétaro.

Custom designed bracelets 

Ricardo says when you buy from his store, you get exactly what you are paying for; the silver is real silver, and the gemstone is the real gemstone. There are many fake fire opals in the market, so when buying make sure you trust the merchant.

Several times while we were chatting with Ricardo and Rosa, he repeated how thankful he is for his wife and two sons, his life, his church and his clients. The family has become good friends with many of their repeat customers. He is thankful, thankful, thankful to everyone.

Stop by next time you are visiting this little bit of paradise in the Caribbean. You might just fall in love with one of Ricardo’s beautiful fire opals, or a custom-made piece of jewelry. You will definitely fall in love with their warm smiles.

Hasta Luego 

Lynda & Lawrie

Coming August 2017 the sequel to my first novel! 

Treasure Isla 
$2.99 USD Amazon e-books

Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt.