Friday, July 21, 2017

It ain’t easy!

Another spectacular day on Isla Mujeres.      
It sounds easy; tour around Isla Mujeres on a golf cart. Just point the front end, stomp the gas pedal and off you go.

Caritos de golf aren’t fast and are relatively easy to steer depending on the overall condition of the vehicle. Uneven pavement, unmarked pot holes, or the numerous speed bumps, called topes, can jostle a poorly maintained vehicle around.


Richard and Lawrie - our island vehicle
A typical golf cart is just darn basic. It comes equipped with four wheels, a steering wheel, seats front and back and a one-cylinder seven-horsepower gas engine. 

They don’t have turn signals, brake lights, windshield wipers and of course no seat belts, airbags, or baby seats. In the slightly upgraded models a horn is included and if you are lucky it might actually work. 

Your arms are the turn signals. (Although it seems at times that drivers born after 1980 were never taught how to use hand signals.)


Accident in front of our house
When driving on Isla indicate your movements, lane changes, and direction changes clearly or you will find yourself being driven in a cop car to the police station. There you will pay for the damages to the vehicle that you hit, damages to the vehicle that you were driving, the other persons’ medical bills, your medical bills, and a number of vague traffic ‘fines’ that can mount up to several hundreds of dollars.


Busy streets on Isla Mujeres
The whole process of straightening out your accident can burn up hours and hours of your vacation time.  We know from personal experience after helping other folks deal with the situation. 

And please, don’t think about leaving the island without paying for the damages. You are a long way from home, and Mexican jails won’t win any Trip Advisor Awards for Excellence. 

(Prisoners are not fed, they must make their own arrangements for food and water to be brought in to them.)
Move over - we're coming through!
But the most important accessory on a carito de golf is the rear view mirror.  Make sure your rental vehicle has one, and check it frequently.  Motos, motorcycles and scooters will pass on either side of you. 

Drive as far to the right-hand side of the lane as you safely can because other vehicles will pass on corners, hills or wherever there is a little bit of space. 

For a taxi driver time is money. If you are hogging the lane the taxi drivers will become impatient and pass you, expecting you to move over and make room for their vehicle to squeeze by.


Vacationers - let's go to Isla and rent a golf cart!
During the year when families are on vacations watch out for young children steering a golf cart. 

It’s illegal, but for some reason folks think that the streets on Isla are quiet little country lanes with a few golf carts puttering along, and that it’s a cute idea to teach a youngster how to aim a vehicle on a busy road. 

Look again folks. There are ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles, propane trucks, or tractor-trailer units, over a thousand rental golf carts, plus hundreds of taxis, motorcycles and bicycles all vying for limited road space. 

There is no 'slow season' on Isla anymore. 
Another challenge of driving on Isla is the abundance of drivers posing for ‘selfies,’ weaving back and forth in the lane as they try for the perfect shot of themselves and friends. 

Add a few cervezas and margaritas and later in the afternoon we hear the ambulances whizzing past our house, responding to yet another accident involving golf carts and motos, or golf carts and taxis, or golf carts and pedestrians.


Watch out for unmarked hazards.
One of our island-born friends, recently lamented, “They think they are in Disneyland when they come to Isla.” 

Enjoy your visit to the island, and don’t become one of the accident statistics. 

It’s not the way to finish up your vacation in paradise.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie






~

Treasure Isla
Have you got yours yet?



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.  
$2.99 USD on Amazon ebooks.

https://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Isla-Caribbean-adventure-Mujeres-ebook/


The cover of Treasure Isla has a new look courtesy of one of my favourite mystery writers Carmen Amato. She is the creator of the popular Emilia Cruz Detective series set in Acapulco. 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Accurate weather forecasting, island-style

Good morning from Isla - what's the weather today?  

Our weather forecast for the next ten days is a chance of a thunderstorm, with temperatures ranging from 31 degrees Celsius to 36 degrees Celsius.  That’s hot! 

And maybe it will be true, and maybe it won’t.

We’ll let you know at the end of the ten days.


Photo taken from internet news - summer snow storm in BC

Being Canadians we are totally obsessed with weather. In Canada the conditions can vary tremendously in one day from hot and sunny to downright cold with snow and ice, but hopefully not in the months of June, July, August, September or October. Although driving through the high-mountain passes of British Columbia in August we have experienced snow. Not our idea of a fun summertime road-trip!


Getting wet - but the sun was back in 15 minutes
Here on Isla we still compulsively check two different internet weather sites. I like Intellicast and Lawrie prefers Weather Underground. Other island friends use Windguru, or Accuweather, plus a relatively new one called WeatherSpark. May to October we both also check NOAA, the American based National Weather Service for potential tropical storms.

The strange thing is the forecasts are only about 50% accurate, even with the satellite images and computer modeling. The forecast might be for a chance of thundershowers with the possibility of 117mm of rain, about 4.5 inches, but we’ll have a hot sunny day with absolutely no rain.

Looking from Isla towards the storm over Cancun

If we happen to look towards Cancun, a few miles to the west, they likely will be experiencing the forecasted rain. 

Now that’s the very odd thing, because there are no mountains in the state of Quintana Roo. It is a relatively flat piece of land with the highest point in the entire state being located in the south-western region, and rising a grand total of 230 meters above sea level, or about 750 feet. 

There is nothing very tall in the entire state to ‘snag’ the clouds to hold them over the city, yet Cancun seems to get more rain than Isla.

Showers headed our way
Over time Lawrie and I have become amateur weather forecasters. We look towards the ocean; if the clouds are dark and the horizon is hazy we have ten minutes to shut windows and pull in outdoor cushions. 

Then twenty minutes later we open windows and put out the cushions. It’s a tough life!  

When making your vacation plans don’t be put off by the forecast of grumpy weather. It may or may not be accurate.

Sign that was near the naval base - haven't seen it recently.
There was for a very short time a humorous sign, complete with a large stone suspended from a rope, posted near the Isla Mujeres Quinta Region Naval base. 

It pretty much summed up weather forecasting on Isla Mujeres. 

The stone is wet: it’s raining.  The stone is dry: it’s not raining.  The stone is swinging: it’s windy. The stone is still: it’s not windy. There is no stone: it’s blowing a hurricane. There are two stones: you’re drunk.

The morale of the story, you’ll know what the weather is going to be when it is happening.

Hasta Luego from paradise
Lynda & Lawrie



Treasure Isla
Have you got yours yet?


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. 

~

The cover of Treasure Isla has a new look courtesy of one of my favourite mystery writers Carmen Amato. She is the creator of the popular Emilia Cruz Detective series set in Acapulco. 


Friday, July 7, 2017

Enjoying yummy baked goods on a white sand beach - paradise

Alicia at Art Fair - yummy goodies
“Banana bread, my favourite!  No, wait, apple pie, that’s my favourite.” I say pointing at the display case at Cafeteando Coffee and Bread. 

Formerly located on Hidalgo Avenue, Alicia Giorello has recently re-located her bakery to the Palapa Leidy on Playa Norte in front of the IxChel condos.  It’s an excellent place to enjoy a freshly baked treat and to people-watch.

We got hooked on Alicia Giorello’s baked goodies at the weekly Isla Mujeres Art Fairs that take place in the winter season. We usually sell a stack of my children’s book at the fair, The Adventures of Thomas the Cat / Las Aventuras de Tomas el Gato, and my display space was frequently beside Alicia and her baked goodies.


Sparky & I at Art Fair selling books
In the beginning we had willpower, but over time, week after week, our resolve eroded and we were hooked. Every Thursday night a container holding two personal-sized loaves of banana bread or two individual apple pies would be carefully placed in the golf cart, to be enjoyed later on our upper deck. Wine and apple pie, or banana bread and beer. Yum!

Born in Argentina, Alicia Giorello moved with her two small children from Buenos Aires to Mexico twenty-seven years ago. She has worked and lived in several cities including Mexico City, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Puebla and Acapulco before moving to Isla Mujeres.


Empanadas
Alicia said, when she was younger, she primarily worked as a waitress but she was also an ede con. If I understood her explanation correctly that is what we would call a beer-babe; the scantly-clad hot-looking young women who supply the sizzle for marketing guy-stuff like beer, cars, motorcycles and boats. She laughed, adding she was an ede con a long time ago when she was much younger.

Seventeen years ago while living in Mexico City she met Daniel Garnica who was working at the school where her teen-aged daughter attended classes. Once her children were grown and away from home she and Daniel moved to Isla Mujeres in 2012 to start a new life. 

Alicia spent the first two years on Isla Mujeres managing different restaurants; the Argentinian Grill on Hidalgo, Roosters Deli, and Roosters on the Go. Then she opened her original Cafeteando Coffee and Bread location on Hidalgo Avenue. Besides the apple pies, banana bread, and brownies Alicia makes Argentinian empanadas using her grandmother’s special recipe. She also offers smoothies, frapes and coffee drinks.

Daniel, Jeff, Rhett,and Yoyo at Art Fair
Alicia’s partner, Daniel Garnica, is equally well-known as one of the behind the scenes guys at Isla Brewing Company – Cerveza Isla. The island microbrewery, owned by the personable Jeff McGahee and his enchanting wife Rhett, dispenses hand-crafted ales to the thirsty crowds attending the wintertime Art Fairs. 

That’s another one of our weaknesses, micro-brewed ales. In a perfect world the spent grain from the beer could be made into fabulous wholesome breads by Alicia. Hmmm, maybe we should suggest that to her the next time we are craving a slice of her delicious banana bread.


The view from Cafeteando Coffee and Bread


If you are wandering around the island, take a few minutes to explore Cafeteando Coffee and Bread, located inside the big palapa on North Beach at the end of Hidalgo Avenue. You just might get hooked on Alicia’s baked goodies.



Apple Pie and Chocolate Pie






Just leave some for us!

Hasta Luego 
Lynda & Lawrie










~



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.


* The cover of Treasure Isla has a new look courtesy of one of my favourite mystery writers Carmen Amato. She is the creator of the popular Emilia Cruz Detective series set in Acapulco as well as Awakening MacBeth, and The Hidden Light of Mexico City, and The Insider's Guide to the Best of Mexico.  Thank you so much Carmen for your assistance. 

The most recent in the series! Great read.



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


Treasure Isla
Have you got yours yet?



$2.99 USD on Amazon


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.