Friday, April 27, 2018

Food, exercise and culture. What a great idea!

Getting ready to roll with tour guide, Jose.  

Hop on a bicycle and hit the road with Cultura Cruisers to discover the charms of Isla Mujeres in a very intimate way. 

You will experience amazing traditional Mexican foods and learn about the Maya culture. It’s a win-win situation. 

You can nosh your way around the island and work off the calories at the same time. 

Golf cart food tour with guide Jose

The adventure is a hundred times more fun than staring at a television or checking social media posts while your legs repeatedly pump the pedals of a stationary bike in your local gym. 

However, if you are not keen about the cycling idea they also offer the less strenuous version of touring in your own golf cart with a bilingual guide. 

We originally met the very personable creators of Cultura Cruisers while we were enjoying a yummy dinner at Javi’s Cantina on Juarez Avenue. 

The partners explained their vision of building relationships, educating people’s taste buds and contributing to a sustainable economy for the islanders. Their passion is connecting the love of people to the love of food and culture.
Tacos barbacoa, enchiladas verde and salbutes con pollo 

We think the following quote nicely sums up their business model:

“We often write #morethanjustafoodtour because Cultura Cruisers is more than just a tour; it’s more than just eating the foods; it’s bigger than that." 

"It’s an experience."  

"It’s about exploring the colonias, on a bicycle or in a golf cart, with a local tour guide who will share the authenticity and beauty of Isla Mujeres; who will explain the history, ingredients and flavors.”

Hacienda Mundaca  for history, with Liliana

“Bellies and hearts will be full as our guests eat delicious, traditionally made foods. Isla Mujeres is magical, such a rich culture with incredibly beautiful and kind people, so we hope our guests come cruise on the roads less traveled with us, enjoy the vibes and taste the flavors of Isla Mujeres. The tour guides also stop at various historical/cultural spots to share their knowledge and history of the island.”

“In our world today, Cultura Cruisers feels it is crucial to connect and learn from others while building authentic relationships.  

Although our tour guides are bilingual, food is a language without barriers and an awesome way to get to know people, places and cultures that differ from your own.”

“Cultura Cruisers is about contributing to the numerous locals who are part of the Cultura Cruisers team; everyone from our bike mechanics to our tour guides, the local who stores the bikes to the local owner of the papeleria, (the stationary store) who makes the weekly photo copies of paperwork, the numerous cocina economicas (inexpensive eateries) who prepare the delicious foods to the locals who share their homes and their kitchen tables with our guests to the panaderias (the bakeries) on the tour; it's truly about community.”

Here’s the link to their website

You can also find them on Instagram @culturacruisers, Facebook and Trip Advisor!

Chucho doing routine maintenance

What a great way to experience paradise.

All of the photos in this article are courtesy of Cultura Cruisers. 

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky


Isla Mujeres Mystery series!  
Available on Amazon as e-books or paperbacks. 
Enjoy the adventure.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Plogging your way to a cleaner paradise and to better health

For several weeks we have been reading islander Kai Creamer’s Facebook posts about the next plogging day on Isla Mujeres.

Plogging?” I asked, “What the heck is that?”

Well, according to Kai, it is a movement that started in Sweden and the name of the activity comes from the Swedish plocka up or pick up. 

The activity combines picking up trash with jogging to create the fun and memorable name of plogging.  Many islanders had already incorporated the idea into their daily exercise routines but now they can also join the group for a laughter-filled workout. 

I’m pretty sure some of the items that are found along the streets can be pretty gross, and others quite entertaining. I have on occasion discovered discarded underwear, male and female, that I did not pick up but pondered the possible scenario that lead to the removal of their underwear among the scorpions, spiders, and ticks.

But back to plogging. Every Wednesday the next weekend's route and meeting place are posted to the group’s Facebook page. The distances range between 1.5 and 2.5 kilometers. 

The participants meet at 8:30 in the morning and are provided with gloves, re-cycled plastic grocery bags for the trash and water refills for their personal water bottles from a larger twenty-litre Garrafon

A number of the members bring their own grabbers, those handy devices that were originally designed for people with mobility challenges to reach and pick up items. 

The biggest challenge for the group is getting a supply affordable of the trash grabbers. In Mexico they are hard to find and are expensive. 

If any travelers from the USA or Canada have room in their suitcase for a few of the dollar-store variety grabbers the group would really appreciate your assistance. They each cost around $1.00 to $1.25, although the better-made variety costing around $10.00 each would probably last longer. 

As Kai says, the speed of the activity depends on the amount of trash to be picked up. Sometimes the group is stationary in one area picking it clean before moving on. They generally stop by 11:00 in the morning, and convene at a one of their local sponsor restaurants. 

Both Mango Café and La Tarima offer a complimentary refreshing lemonade for the ploggers. Some of the group will often linger longer at the restaurant to take advantage of the group members discount and enjoying a well-earned late breakfast or early lunch.

On average the plogging events attract around fifteen people but on occasion the group has swelled to as many as forty participants. Kai and the group members are planning a second route for Wednesday afternoons for the folks who for various reasons can’t participate on the weekends or in the mornings. 

Here’s your chance to have a few laughs, get some exercise, and help our island in paradise. 

Here's the link to their Facebook group page for more information.
Photos courtesy of Kai Creamer.

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky

Join the adventure!
Now available as e-books and paperback

Friday, April 13, 2018

Time to take a breath

Just breathe!

Put your feet up, breathe in, breathe out, and relax! 

The high season crowds are starting to thin out giving everyone on the island a much needed break. 

Most of the schools are back in session in Canada, USA and Mexico reducing the thick masses of families traveling to sunny locations for the annual spring vacation.

Dropping off friends at Ultramar boat

There were many afternoons this year when we avoided Centro between the peak hours of eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon, when the fleets of golf carts are at their busiest. 

Sunburnt day-trippers from the Cancun hotel-zone pour off the tour boats and are caught up in the swirl. Typically most first-time visitors rent a golf cart, tour the island, snap a hundred selfies, and get back on their assigned boat by late afternoon. It’s a good way to get an overview of the island, but there is so much more to discover than white sandy beaches and spectacular viewpoints.

Even though the many islanders employed in the hospitality industry love the increase in tips, by the time high season starts to wind down everyone is exhausted and longing for peace and quiet. 

The tempo will ramp again in late June when summer holidays bring North American and European families to the island to snorkel, dive and swim with the manta rays and the whale sharks.

Participants of procession

Last week, just as we were dropping friends off at the Ultramar passenger boats to begin their trek back to their summer home in Canada, we got caught up in the annual re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

At least two or maybe three thousand worshippers were following the actor depicting Christ, who was dragging an enormously heavy cross. There were Roman Centurions, the Roman judges and officials, and a crowd of followers many who were dressed in period costumes. The event started in the morning and encompassed all three of the larger Catholic churches, ending around three in the afternoon at the large church in the square.

So hot many of the participants in procession used umbrellas
It’s a fascinating contract to see the participants of this solemn religious procession trekking six kilometers under the blazing sun and at the end intermingle with scantily-clad tourists. Just one of the many oddities of living in a tourist destination.

For a few weeks everyone can take a breath, spend time with their family and friends, and rest up for the summer onslaught.  April and May are our favourite months on Isla. The weather is usually hot, sunny, with little or no rain and the streets are somewhat quieter. It’s a perfect time to enjoy our island paradise.

The almost-famous Sparky

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky


Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

Books 1, 2 and 3
 available in e-books, or paperback on Amazon.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Protect your noggin’

Four on a moto common sight on Isla

It’s always a huge surprise for new visitors to the island when they see multiple members of a family riding scooters or motorcycles – and frequently without helmets to protect their heads.

It’s pretty common to see mom or dad operating the moto with one child balanced in front of the driver, and the other parent tightly gripping one, or even two other children in their arms. 

We are so accustomed to the sight we hardly give it a second thought. 

However, not so with a group of caring individuals who decided to encourage a safer environment for the younger generation.

In June of 2014, long-time visitor Andrea Healey and her daughter Danielle Chesney brought much needed medical equipment to Giovanny Avalos for the Red Cross. When they delivered the supplies Andrea asked Giovanny what he saw as the greatest need for the islanders. He replied that it would be his dream to see all youngsters wearing helmets when riding on the family motorcycles.

After their vacation was over Andrea and Danielle returned home and gave Giovanni’s idea a lot of thought. They wanted to be culturally sensitive, and not be the bossy foreigners telling people how to live their lives. 

They started small asking people to purchase helmets at a local hardware store and leave them with at the front desk of Marina Paraiso Hotel. Managers, Brad and Tiff Waring, had generously volunteered to be the collection point for the helmets. The initial distribution was handled through the schools, with teachers helping to identify the students who urgently needed the safety gear.

The second phase of Helmets for Isla was to collect donations and order in bulk from a Mexican company. Their first order was for 50, then the second was 420 and recently another 400 were ordered. In total there has been close to 1350 helmets distributed through the schools, through Volunquest, and through the churches.

Every helmet that is handed out comes with a contract of responsibility signed by the parents. These contracts are all about safety, educating both the parents and children of the importance of a well fitted helmet while riding a moto. But frequently the children won’t use the helmets, because it’s just not ‘cool.’ It’s always a slow process to change the habits of a lifetime.

Islander, Jessica Contreras has recently mobilized a group of volunteers. These locals are not shy about approaching their neighbours asking why their child is not wearing a helmet and educating them about the program. 

Her brother’s company Prisma Golf Cart Rentals generously sponsored a huge banner to advertise the campaign.

Most recently Jessica has been into the high schools and those students are now very motivated to wear head protection since their friend Jorge died in a motorcycle accident on St Patrick's Day. He was not wearing a helmet.

Some of the students do not have helmets, some have helmets that are too small and they have removed the padding so they are large enough to fit on their heads, and some have helmets that are cracked, broken or damaged. Helmets for Isla now has a waiting list of two-hundred and fifty teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, all of whom have made a written request for a helmet.

As Andrea said, “Our ultimate goal is to have a safe and well-fitting helmet for every child on the island, but are short-term goal right now is to get enough helmets for all of the teenagers who have requested them. We feel if we can get the adolescents on-board then hopefully they will encourage their younger brothers and sisters to wear the helmets too.”

Helmets for Isla is a worthwhile cause. 

If you would like to help out, below are the links for more information.

Hasta Luego
Lynda and Lawrie

Isla Mujeres Mystery Book #3

Murder and mayhem on a tiny island in paradise. 

Available on Amazon as an E-book for $2.99 USD
or paperback for $11.99 USD