Sunday, January 15, 2017

Puerto Morelos on the Yucatan

Puerto Morelos on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Jan 4-14 2017

“Jeanne, look down here!” Ray called me as we started out from the shore with our snorkels and masks. A small ray, with faint spots, was lying quietly in the sea grasses. One moment later we were floating over the biggest Spotted Eagle Ray we have ever seen! And it isn’t running away! It seems to be turning around, watching us! That skinny tail must be almost a meter long. OK, as long as we do not provoke it, we can enjoy watching how it moves like a delicate winged creature through the water.

We had arrived from Havana, Cuba the previous afternoon and that was our first opportunity to go swimming. One of the reasons we like Puerto Morelos so much, besides the long stretch of white sand beach, is the ease at which we can enjoy the corals and tropical fish without having to go on an organized snorkel boat trip. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is just 500 M offshore, closer to the shore in Puerto Morelos than anywhere else along the Yucatan. In 1998 the area made a protected Reefs National Park. You cannot fish in the park and you are not permitted to swim out to the reef, but anyone who can swim 100 M can go from shore to find corals and schools of fish to keep you interested for hours. Yes there are barracudas hovering around the smaller fish, but if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

We are not being visited by our children and grandchildren this year so we have rented a simple, one-bedroom apartment just a block from the beach. Christina, a former Argentinean woman, lives in a unit on the front of the house. She has expanded her home to include five studio or one-bedroom units, spread over two floors. Our unit, on the ground floor, has a kitchen and separate outdoor room in the former garage. The outdoor has comfortable wicker chairs and a table, plus a hot tub, which we don’t use. The units are reasonably priced and popular with American and Canadian tourists, several of whom return every year. Our host, Christina, has been great in responding to our problems, first by replacing a hose herself on our gas stove, and then buying a new mattress for our bed. We couldn't ask for better service.

We have stocked up with groceries at the large grocery store on the highway that runs along the Yucatan about 2 km from Puerto Morelos. There are small stores in town to supply our needs if run out of basics and there are a number of ever improving restaurants in town to sample. When we had problems with our gas stove the first day we went to for great shrimp tacos and sampled our favourite shrimp ceviche at La Petita en la Playita. After a recommendation from our Ottawa neighbours, Kevin and Linda, we skipped our usual fruit, granola and yogurt breakfast in favour of brunch at El Nicho. Our verdict, echoed by the crowd of locals and tourists who eat there each morning: El Nicho rivals our Ottawa favourite, Stoneface Dollys in Ottawa. We are back to our own home cooking again but we have a few more restaurants to sample before we leave.

The downside of Puerto Morelos is the high winds brought by El Norte (OK blame Canada!) after three days of perfect visibility for snorkeling. The snorkel boats, and Ray and I, are patiently waiting for the winds to die down before heading out to explore the corals again.

What are we doing in the meantime? We go for a walk on the streets, exploring both north and south of town, in the morning and walk the more than 2 km stretch of beach in the afternoon. I have also signed up for yoga three mornings per week. The popular classes are led by Melissa on the roof terrace of the small apartment complex, Abbey del Sol, a few blocks from our apartment. Melissa teaches a form of Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga, which is different from the Iyengar Yoga I have been learning in Ottawa, but I am adapting and enjoying the classes.

On one of our beach walks, we were pleased and surprised to be greeted by Carol and Lise, from St Jerome QC, whom we met 3 years ago at La Petite Prince and saw again 2 years ago when Erica and family were here. In the meantime, they bought a cottage near Mt Tremblant and didn’t come last year. We renewed our friendship over drinks one evening and we will meet them for dinner one evening, before they return to Canada next week.

Now if that El Norte wind will just drop down a bit more, we will be back circling over all those multi-coloured fish again.

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