Costa Maya, Mexico. We were scheduled to dock at 7:00am, and we did. I was up early again and as was becoming my morning ritual, I made my way up to the Marina Deck to get a tomato juice and see what the weather was like. Needless to say the weather was beautiful (we really were lucky to have great weather all week). The view coming into Costa Maya was breathtaking as well.
After a quick buffet breakfast (is there such a thing?) we all decided to meet on the dock and wander off together. Rick had been speaking with someone on board who told us to bypass (or at least not spend too much time at) the 'mall' in Costa Maya. Costa Maya as of now is just a huge open air mall with jewelry shops, souveniers and a huge swimming pool in the middle. I heard that the port is just developing and it really looked like it. For our first taste of Mexico ever, however, it was really beautiful. Anyway, this guy Rick spoke to said to walk about 30 minutes out of town along the beach and there will be another smaller town. Prices are cheaper there and the whole area is less crowded. We all agreed this sounded like fun and we set off.
After taking a trolley-bus down the pier and into town we proceeded to pass right through the 'mall' area. Not exactly sure of where we were going we asked an older gentleman where the beach was? He pointed down a long white-sand road, bordered on each side by trees and debris. This was real Mexico. Thus began what we have come to know as 'white-sand death march (down iguana lane)'.
"Hey Rick, I think those are buzzards circling us up there. Are you sure you know where we're going?"
- Bobby, after walking in the sun for almost a half hour and not seeing anything yet
After about twenty minutes of walking down this road with no shade in sight, our tight group of nine began getting longer and longer. Rick and Cindy trudged ahead, sure that there would be a town ahead. Carrie, Ashley and I followed about forty feet behind wondering why we didn't think to bring water, and Cathy, Pete, Bobby and Nicole brought up the rear about a hundred feet behind us, wondering what they'd gotten themselves into. We spotted three or four big iguanas sunning themselves on some broken cement blocks just off the path and we were beginning to think that maybe those really were buzzards we'd seen earlier.
Catching up to Cindy and Rick we finally came to the edges of a small town outside a big yellow building. There were seats beneath a couple little huts on the beach and we decided to take a break. Before long what appeared to be a waitress we would come to know later as 'Manel' came out to us and asked us if we came from that boat off in the distance. We all nodded and asked if there was someplace we could get some bottled water. She said "sure!" She'd get us some. A couple minutes later she appeared with 5 bottles of water. "One dollar each" she announced. Happily we paid and proceeded to drain the bottles. By this time, the rest of the group caught up with us and ordered some more water. Manel told us that while they weren't open yet, we should go further into town and "go shopping". If we came back in an hour they'd be open and have live music and drinks. We agreed and said we'd see her later. After a bit of a break we headed further into town.
Not too much further we found a little beach with chairs and umbrellas near what appeared to be a bar. We all unpacked and settled in. Between our broken spanish and their broken english we all ordered beers and Ashley put on her water wings to go into the water. Sitting there on the beach was the highlight of our day so far. The guy Rick spoke to was right after all. The prices were reasonable, the crowd wasn't too bad and the scenery was beautiful. After a little while a mexican man with a guitar strolled by strumming and singing in spanish. Nicole yelled out "La Bamba!" and the man with the guitar went into the longest, authentic-spanish version of La Bamba I've ever heard. We all sang along and felt a bit goofy, but we were having a really great time!
We all gave him a dollar and he strolled off to entertain some more people. We all took turns walking along the beach and playing in the clear blue water. Ashley spied a whole fleet of baby jellyfish (too young to sting) and had the time of her life trying to catch them. Cathy and Pete wandered off and picked up a ring at one of the local shops. Beautiful silver ring, they told us that the guy was asking $110. By the time they left him, Cathy had the ring on her finger for $12!! Goes to show, if you pay what they first ask you to - you just got ripped off!
"Where are we?" "Costa Maya!"
- Rick, asking one of the locals if we had walked far enough to be in another part of Mexico
After getting pleasantly toasted by the sun we decided to start heading back. Bobby and Nicole and Pete and Cathy had mentioned a taxi - I don't think any of us wanted to take the 'death march' again, and wandered off into some of the shops before heading back. Carrie, Ashley, Cindy, Rick and I started to head back toward the big yellow building to see what this live music was all about. Thus begins the adventure...
Strolling up to the building we sat up on the deck area and looked around. No music but the scenery was just as beautiful as down the beach. Manel came over to us and said how happy she was to see we made it back! Cindy, Rick and I ordered beers, while Carrie and Ashley stuck to bottled water. We sat for a while when Manel saw me taking pictures and asked if we wanted to 'be the band'? Not sure what she meant, it took a while for us to figure out that she was offering to take our picture behind all the musical instruments on the side of the dance floor. She said we could go home and tell everyone that we played the Tequila Beach Club in Mexico!! Oh, what the hell... let's do it! Too bad we didn't record our session. We rocked.
Shortly thereafter, Manel offered us some chips and salsa. After politley refusing for fear of the vegetables in the salsa being washed in 'authentic Mexican water' she finally sat them on our table and announced "you like them! they're free!" Well, I for one was really hungry by now and decided that the chips alone would be safe. Everybody dug in. Cindy saw me eying the salsa and said that she'd have some if I did. Deal. If we were going to get sick - we'd get sick together. Rick and Carrie just shook thier heads at us.
"What do you think they wash the vegetables in? Milk?
- Rick explaining that it was possible to get sick from eating the salsa
Soon after the real band showed up and started whooping it up with some real mexican music. We couldn't understand a word of it but we yelled and clapped just the same. Some of the youth counselors from the ship stopped by and said hello to Ashley. They sat down and ordered sodas and got a big plate of chips and salsa as well, which they polished off in short order. Figuring that if they ate it, it must be O.K., we all dug in a finished ours too.
Still having a great time we all noticed a huge line of what must have been twenty or so dune buggies coming down the white sand road we walked to get here. Manel yelled something in spanish and grabbed a bottle. Her and another waitress ran out into the road to flag down the buggies. As each slowed to a stop, Manel stuck her head into the cab and welcomed each person in the vehicle to Mexico with a shot of 'Mexican Champagne'. It was a riot!! Lots of people refused at first, only to be convinced within moments. She never forced anyone, and there were quite a few cars that went by without stopping at all, but the ones that did stop got a real treat!
Seeing us cheering and egging the dune buggies on, Manel made her way back to us and gave Cindy and I a shot (Mexican Champagne tastes alot like a warm margarita - but it was good). Carrie refused on the premise that she hadn't had too much food yet today and Rick just looked at us and shook his head again. It didn't take Manel long to convince him though. Soon enough Rick, too, gave in to Mexico! A minute later she came back with a shot glass filled with Sprite for Ashley and pounded it on the table to make it fizz up. "This is for you!" she announced. Ashley took it a bit hesitantly and drank the whole thing! We laughed and clapped and congratulated Ashley on her first 'shot' in Mexico!
Moments later, the band still in full swing, Manel and the other waitress came over to us and dragged Rick and I onto the dance floor. I'm actually pretty happy that the place wasn't too crowded yet. We had to look ridiculous! But, yes, we were swept away by mexican ladies and danced to island music in Mexico.
Sadly, the afternoon passed and we figured it was time to head back to the ship. We asked Manel if there was a way we could get a taxi from here. "Sure! I call one for you!". She came back and said that one would be by in about a half hour and would that be alright? Indeed it would. "Uno mas!" we cried and ordered one more round to pass the time.
Right on time a taxi-van pulled up and we all piled in. Moments later we were at the pier again and walked back to the ship. I remember thanking the security guy on board as we checked back in for taking me out of Costa Maya - since I think, if left on my own, I would have stayed forever!! Thank you Costa Maya and thank you Manel and the Tequila Beach Club for making our first taste of Mexico a memory to last a lifetime!
- All of us at the Tequila Beach Club
Dinner that night was marvelous as usual and afterwards Carrie found it in her heart to give back all the money she had won the previous night in the casino and then some. Cutting our losses, we pried our way out of the casino and looked for less expensive entertainment elsewhere. With Ashley being in 'the program' we had the ship to ourselves. We wound up back in our room and decided to try some room service. About a half hour later a guy showed up with our pizza and sodas and we watched some T.V. (Channel 15 is the camera view of the front of the ship. Even at night. Kinda boring after dark. Channel 32 is the 'Everybody loves Raymond' / 'I Love Lucy' channel - no commercials though) After pizza we decided that we liked it so much we left our room to go find some more. Arriving at the Coral Seas Cafe, we each got a couple more pieces of pizza and sat out by the pool. Talking over the events of the day we found ourselves relaxing more than we had in the past six months. The pool area was mostly deserted and the warm breeze was blowing over the deck. After nearly falling asleep in the deck chairs - we went and collected Ashley from the Children's playroom and headed to bed. Another perfect day!
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