well, the long-anticipated and waited-for trip to isla mujeres has come and gone– i’ve been back for over a week now, and am just now finding a little time in which to write about the experience. but perhaps “experience” is not the right word, as i had taken trips out of holbox to see the whale sharks in the past, but i had heard that it was somewhat different. and i HAD tried last year to check it out– take a look at my old blog “awwww, ratzzz!!”– maybe not quite spelt that way, but you get the idea. still, isla mujeres had been a good time for me, and so i took heart and decided to check it out again.

and so i left cozumel, trailing a variety of people– the sharkbaiters as i call them, little buncha people out of iowa, my girlfriend lynda and several other odds and sods– the ferry to the mainland, then by bus to cancun, and taxi to the second ferry over to the island– a matter of about maybe 3 hours really, although it might seem a little longer coming back all tuckered out. much more convenient than holbox, although not quite the same “feel”– holbox laid back, a tetch dumpy and much more comfortable– isla mujeres a bunch more uptempo, a little higher scale dumpy in my opinion, but also interesting to walk the streets of. once again i stayed at the world-famous hotel d’gomar, as did all the other victims, assembled here for the “official crew shot”well, mayhap not quite WORLD famous….

beverages optional, repeatedly optional. some chips that had obviously lain in someone’s store window since the gettysburg address and assorted other munchies. everyone left alone for almost an hour until it was time to go looking for some dinner– “la lomita” or some such, i remembered it from the last visit, and the black bean soup as fine as ever, also the fish tacos and a couple of bottles of something cold. the service not exactly the ritz, nine people putting the waiter a little “in the weeds”, but plenty of laughter to make up for anything.

i was up early the next morning to test the coolth of the sand betwixt me toes, take a look around the island and relax, aided and abetted by one of the famed sharkbaiters (truth be told, THE bull goose looney sharkbaiter hisself!!), and then up on the roof of d’gomar’s pile to shoot the town while the sun began to leap up out of the blue ocean– the water so shallow it is quite teal for long distances, courtesy of all that bright sand.

8:00 a.m. and we arrived at the pier, shipshape and ready to rumble. the boat and boat captain i had anticipated not there, but rather another, captained by toro (bull), driven by cholas (this means “mestizo” or “half caste”, but i was informed that in the vernacular it referred to the size of his head, which was of grand proportion indeed, a true yucatecan head. as a sidebar though, my most enduring– not to mention endearing– memory of cholas was when he leaned over to rig a rope at the bow and blessed us all with a huge “plumber’s butt” of truly EPIC proportions!!), his son. two stroke motor though, and plenty of burned oil smell, but i was to find both of the crew to be quite adept and helpful and easy to get along with– they knew their stuff and i was impressed with how they handled things– the boat and all the snorkelling etc.

bang bang bang!! went the boat, a launch, as we revved it along, heading out to see the whale sharks– hard on the kidneys, and reminiscent of why i don’t much head out to dive on fast boats too much these days. a shorter trip than from holbox though, and toro kept telling me how much superior the clarity of the water was than coming out of holbox– i had a good memory of how cloudy and green that water could be, and was excited to see the whale sharks in their entirety (of course, i have been recently informed that the boats coming out of holbox go further, out of the gulf waters, and also enter into the clearer caribbean depths, don’t want to give the wrong impression here). it took a total of about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the site. and there they were, one or two at first, and some of us jumped into the water and pedalled around with the whale sharks. just small groups, twos and threes, to keep the stress from the sharks to a minimum– but the feel of being in the water with such magnificent animals immensely satisfying– they seem to be motoring along in a mellow manner, but one can only keep up with them for a couple of seconds before they slide on past, wagging their large-scale tails behind them. to see them in the clear water was like a magical opening into another dimension, hard to believe that you were actually there, having it happen up close and personal. i took as much advantage of my turns as possible (pain in the front of my ankles all week, i kicked so hard, making finning as a guide this last week somewhat of a trial– but worth every moment!!), we all did, finally wearing out and lolling back on the boat cushions as the boat turned round and made for port once again. we’d seen something in the range of 50-60 “wee beasties”.
sandwiches were served, basic whale shark launch lunch, but later there was some decent ceviche closer to land, even better when we spiced it up with some good habaneros picados.

unfortunately i had to return to cozumel that afternoon, some prior engagements, and as i mentioned earlier, the trip back seemingly considerably longer, but the weariness leavened considerably by being able to stop in at our fave east indian food place in cancun and chow down on something curry. however, the sharkbaiters stayed behind and went out again the next day, reporting an even better time– this time the motor was a 4 stroke and not so hard on the lungs or stomach.

and there you are– isla, your whale sharks left me agape, mouth wide open, wanting to go back for more– in time, in a little time……

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