Thursday, January 21, 2010

Out and about on the island of Cozumel.

We decided to "take the day off" and not go on the boat. We instead slept in just a bit (only about 30 minutes) but took our time with breakfast and gearing up for a shore dive here at the club. Our goal was modest, to fin against the current until we found the sunken mini Mayan pyramid that was rumored to lie a property or two up the coast. The water is only 20 ft out there, and there's no reef per se but plenty of local sea life. The sun was bright and strong, lighting up the fish very well, although the visibility seemed to be down just a bit. We were in the water for quite some time and found the underwater landmark -- along with a plethora of little skates, anemones and fish. Hilarity ensued as we endeavored to use our cheap underwater cameras to take pictures of one another "standing" stop the structure in amusing ways. The highlights were a puffer fish, a beautifully marked Peacock Flounder, and a Drum Fish! I followed more parrotfish, tangs and others. The dive is so easy you can really play with the locals, and often they seem almost just as interested in you! We saw some small schools of different fish, too. Loved it. The current gave us a nice workout, and when we turned, we were whisked back to our starting point before we knew it.

Then we hopped into our rented Jeep for the day and headed out of town. Through the other cruise ship port area we drove, then onto some resorts, and then we visited another ruin site, but it was really just one building and a bunch of vendors selling the usual souvenir wares. One did have some beautiful silver, and I bought a seahorse pendant with inlay of the "Mexican opal". We drove down the island to Punta Sur, went up in the light house, enjoyed the stunningly beautiful beaches with their vibrant green blue waves and pristine white sand beach. Such a lovely coastline, with churning surf and rocky areas. There's not much out there; the "forest" takes up much of the interior, and the federal government owns the beaches and leases only a rare spot of land to the few places to catch a drink and a rest there.

With the top down and the wind in our hair, we were doing the island right. But after a bit we felt toasted, so the top went up. It was HOT out today. Freaking boil your brains hot -- and it's not the hot season here. Whew! We were sweating buckets.

Lunch consisted of a shared loaf of french bread, a hunk of cheese, and a bottle of wine. There was something really fabulous about speeding down the nearly deserted highway eating fistfuls of bread and cheese, and swigging from the wine bottle as it was passed around.

Next we did the Tequila Tour at Cava Antigua. We can't quite discern if it was just a tourist trap or not, but it was fun nonetheless.

Back into town we sought out a jewelery store upon recommendation. There is so much jewelery for sale here, and so much of it of really poor quality. I favor sterling silver over gold, and colored stones over diamonds... I'm a cheap date. We've bought a few items during the trip, one was a beautiful seahorse pendant and a solatiaire ring of a color change stone. I love Alexandrite, but could never afford a real specimen, and am drawn to the options, most of which are lab made.

While the gentleman assured me it was a natural stone, it's likely a lab created tourmaline. But it's beautiful nonetheless. They simply call it "chameleon stone." The tip off to whether the stones for sale in a store are real or not is to look at the selection: if they are all of a consistent color -- they are likely not natural stones. All gems, from diamonds to tanzanite, will vary in color. If a jeweler has a full case of a certain type of stone exactly the same color... they aren't real.

That's one thing I really dislike about Mexico -- the hucksters, and the lack of standard pricing on things. You have to haggle, and the quality of everything is questionable at best. And it's not like the prices are super cheap or anything.

We topped the evening off with a fantastic meal at Pepe's Grill, a truly fantastic restaurant, recommended by Mario and supposedly a locally owned place. Amazing service (traditional old style with a waiter watching your table like a hawk and swooping in at just the right moment for any perceived need), a wonderful menu and enough flambe options that we quite literally had our own chef table side for most of the meal giving us a show of food and fire. Fantastic seafood.

Back to the roost, and we sat up on the patio with new friends, recounting tales of the day. Tomorrow it's on the boat early in the morning, perhaps a shore dive in the afternoon and then out of the water by 4pm to give myself a full 24 hours before flying.

The end is looming near. This has been, hands down, the best vacation ever. But perhaps vacations are like dives: the best one always seems to be the one you just did...

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