Sunday, July 06, 2008

Iguanas, sea turtles and a few things in between

I was bringing a lunch order home to the Ritz from a nearby taco stand (ten bucks for lunch for both of us) when I encountered this critter right outside the hotel entrance. I asked the valet what it was.

"That's Jorge," he said not quite answering my question.
Even the iguanas are treated like somebody at the Ritz.
Puerto Juarez. The jumping off point to Isla Mujeres.

Breakfast at Cafe Cito...watching the other tourists get soaked on Isla Mujeres.

Dinner at La Parilla, a local favorite, very theatrical and fun in that distinctly devil may care Mexican manner. Good food too. Our grilled platter of seafood, chicken and beef would have fed a small army.

On our way to the boat to go snorkeling off Cozumel. Guess which boat is ours.

I swam by this boat which at first glance looked something out of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner what with the sails down, the boat adrift, and people sprawled about looking half dead.
Turned out they were just taking a siesta between dives.

Complimentary drinks at the French Bistro in Isla Mujeres (followed by an excellent plate of shrimp in garlic butter sauce).

Chilling at our hotel...not bad for a default option. After awhile the Ritz went from being home base to just home period. We even ate there on the last night braving a menu that listed hamburgers at $18. Moises, our waitor, launched a full scale charm offensive. In the end our entire weeks fee at the Ritz consisted of this single meal. It was a nice way to finish off our stay.

Entertainment that night was seeing a sea turtle lug herself out of the surf and up onto the sand between the fancy palapa dinner tables, right up against the concrete wall that separates the Ritz from the beach which according to law is public land. We watched her dig for over an hour, sending showers of sand behind her with her powerful flippers. Occasionally we could hear one flipper scrape the concrete wall. Then she went still. We waited along with a small handful of others, mostly employees of the Ritz, waiters, a cook, three maids, and also two members of a conservation group that try to protect the turtles by collecting eggs and seeing that they hatch properly and that the hatchlings get back to the sea. The smiles of the maids who had no doublt seen this sort of thing before, seemed almost familial, as if they were welcoming a new member of the family. Lights were extinguished around her and everything was done to keep her from being disturbed.
When she began dropping eggs, the men invited Beth and I to help collect the eggs. She dropped two or three at a time into the deep hole she had dug so laboriously. Each egg was round, wet and somewhat soft, a bit smaller than a billiard ball. We collected about 120 eggs in all. No pictures since it was dark and we didn't want to disturb her with a flash. It was amazing to think about how far she had come and how little room there is here waiting for her. Twenty five years ago these beaches were empty, nobody lived here. Very likely she is old enough to have laid eggs on those pristine beaches. How much does a turtle remember of such things, I wonder. How surprised was she by that concrete wall, how close did the surf behind her seem when she gave up trying to advance and started digging? An hour later she would be gone, her tracks covered by wind and surf, her purpose swung toward another point on the compass.
Perhaps all she knows is a mysterious prompting that compels her to traverse the seas and visit and revisit these ancestral grounds. Our own promptings for traveling here were certainly not ancestral; in fact they were fleeting and superficial to say the least,and they hardly served any biological purpose that I can see, but perhaps they are instinctive insofar as human beings predisposed to be restless.
I came away from that evening mindful of how long journeys can be and of the myriad ways in which they can be interrupted, hijacked, constrained and terminated by sundry forces and circumstances, yet there are also currents that bear us along and there are yet places one can land and put down a seed. It is heartless and heroic at the same time. Theodore Roethke says it better than I can:
who being no bird yet beats his wings
against the immense immeasurable emptiness of things


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