Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cancun Beach Recovery Update

Just a real quick update on the beach recovery project in Cancun, things are moving along! I went out to have a look at the action this week and my jaw quite literally hit the ground. I started talking to myself, just one word over and over "!" We had been in the area a week previously and the difference is astounding. Check out these before and after pictures (as close as I got to being in exactly the same position, close enough that you get the general idea). These photos were taken from the Playa Cabana beach club behind The City discotheque.

Lifeguard Chair Before
(there is literally zero beach below there, water
was crashing against the wall)

Lifeguard Chair After
(Just a bit more beach)

Looking towards Punta Cancun Before
(here you can see the water hitting the wall)

Looking towards Punta Cancun After
(can't even see the sea!)

This is truly an impressive project, incredible what they can do in a week. The project is full steam ahead now, all the protests that were being put forth by environmental groups have been overturned and the sand moves on. I'll be honest, I am of a mixed mind on this. I know that it is absolutely essential for Cancun to have a beach in order to keep thousands of people employed. I also know that this will have a negative impact on the environment as they drag sand from Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. One can only hope that the partners in this plan do try to minimize the damage to the reefs and the eco-system. On another note, since we have already "been there, done that" with beach reconstruction only to see it disappear, it's essential that the partners follow through with their maintenance plan and to ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent further erosion of the beaches. While I support the project this time around, I would be against them trying to do it again if it fails, throwing millions of dollars away and destroying the eco-system. Do it right, maintain it and bring us all the joy of these gorgeous white beaches (and let us keep our jobs hallelujahamen).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

My friend Steven who writes the blog Travel Ojos nominated me to share three of my best travel secrets on A Canuck in Cancun as part of Trip Base Blog tag. The final list of travel secrets will be published in a special blog post and shared everywhere! (Now I am not sure I want to tell, the point of a secret is shhh, right? Just kidding of course, happy to share a couple off the beaten path places that I love). If you are a regular reader of this blog, you've heard me speak of these places before, but let's share the wealth, shall we?

1. Isla Holbox- Awww, my happy place. This small island off the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula is relatively undiscovered. No huge resorts, no theme parks, no timeshare salesmen, just small palapa style hotels on an unbelievably gorgeous stretch of beach. Holbox is best known as a jumping off point for swimming with whale sharks, a once a year phenomenon that will knock your socks off. It's also a great place for bird watching, with a population of flamingos and other birds gathering on the "Isla de Pajaros" off the west side of the island. To get to Holbox, you have to make your way to the small pueblo of Chiquila, about 2 1/2 hours from Cancun. Once in Chiquila, make your way to the docks and catch a small boat for a 20 minute ride to the island. Be sure to bring cash, there are no ATM's or banks, it's a truly rustic retreat. There are some "high end" palapa hotels like Sandra's, but reasonably priced hotels can be found. To really get in the rustic groove, bring a tent and camp out at Ida y Vuelta's camp ground. For a fantastic meal, you must try the famous lobster pizza at Edelin's, heavenly! This is truly a place to get away from it all and one of the best kept secrets around.

2. Cenote Azul- Cenotes are becoming more and more popular with tourists, especially with the development of "eco-parks" like Hidden Worlds and Aktunchen. For those who don't know, a cenote (pronounced "seh-noh-tay") is a natural sinkhole in the limestone, usually filled with fresh water. They were the main source of water for the ancient Mayans and considered to be sacred places. Quintana Roo and Yucatan are chock full of these wonders, many of them still undiscovered. Cenote Azul is still a local's secret! While you'll pay $50 USD (or more) to go to the cenote parks, Cenote Azul is a mere 50 pesos to enter. Take a walk down a rocky jungle path and before you even see the cenote the aroma of "fresh" will hit you. At the end of the path you'll discover a little Eden, a great place to swim and refresh, investigate the beautiful jungle fauna and even snorkel and chase the abundant little catfish that thrive there. Jump off the cliff if you dare! You won't find many tourists here, but on Sundays the local families fill the rocks around this natural pool.

3. Tacos Rigos- "Que Ricos los Rigos" (how delicious is Rigos!) is the tag line for this taqueria in Cancun. With over 20 years in business downtown, it's a favourite with locals for their delicious and inexpensive tacos. Go for lunch and order from the "comida corrida" menu, a starter (usually three soup choices), a main and a dessert for 53 pesos, a bargoon! I'm addicted to the regular old tacos de arrachera, but Hubby loves to freak me out by ordering the "tacos de ojo" (eyeball tacos). The walls are covered in a huge mural of cartoon characters, bright and garish and ever so fun. Rigos is not too far from Market 28, so we occasionally see tourists in there but it's still pretty much a secret spot for most travellers.

Now, it's my turn to nominate five bloggers to participate in the "Three Best Kept Travel Secrets". I'm going to step outside the box and nominate some folks that are not necessarily in Mexico and not necessarily travel bloggers, I'm just dying to hear what they have to say!

1. Sara of La Gringuita Diaries in Chile
2. Fned of Fned's blog in Paris, France
3. Minshap of Both Sides of the Coin in Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
4. Gary of The Mexile in Mexico City (DF as we say)
5. Mindy of The Rosas Standring Family in Tulum, Mexico

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lionfish (Pez Leon) in Quintana Roo

The first time I heard about the "pez leon" was in this post from Anna, a fellow ex-pat in Mexico blogging in Cozumel. Since her post in April, I have read various reports of lionfish problems in Quintana Roo and today I had my first up close and personal encounter with these deadly reef assassins.

A bucketful of deadly beauty

We were having a lovely day on the beach in Puerto Morelos when we noticed a man going in and out of the water with a net and a bucket. We didn't think too much of it until a news crew showed up to interview the man. (An "only in paradise" news crew in bikini and swim trunks no less). I got my metiche (nosy) nose in the mix and approached to hear the interview and get a peek in the bucket. I saw the most beautiful fish, striped like a tiger with gorgeous wing-like fins. I promptly stepped back when I realized that I was looking at the deadly "pez leon" or lionfish. There were five in the bucket and the man said that there were a "monton" (a whole lot) right off the shore of the beach. The interview drew a crowd (I'm not the only metiche out there) and afterwards there seemed to be fewer people braving the waters on this beautiful Sunday.

Hard-hitting News Crew

The pez leon is not native to the Mexican Caribbean and is fairly new to this region. The first reports I can find are from the beginning of 2009 when people started to find this predator in the waters near Cozumel. The lionfish is more commonly found in the Indo-Pacific but have shown their ability to adapt to the warmer waters of the Caribbean Sea. There is speculation that the species was released into the Gulf of Mexico after a hurricane hit in Florida in 1992, destroying an aquarium with a few of these creatures and emptying them into the ocean. The lionfish is dangerous as it kills the coral in the reef, preys on other marine life and has poisonous spikes that can do significant damage to humans and could be deadly. The lionfish apparently has no natural enemies in these waters to help control their population and they are reproducing and spreading rapidly.

The CEA in Akumal recommends that divers report any sightings of lionfish but to NOT try to touch or capture this dangerous creature. Several environmental agencies are working together to capture and eradicate the population of lionfish in the hopes of preventing further damage to the reefs and the marine life that make this area home.

photo courtesy NOAA

While this all seems dire and serious (and it is for the future of the reefs), I have read NO reports of humans being harmed by the lionfish in Quintana Roo. They tend to keep their distance from divers and snorkelers and do not aggressively attack, but all who enter the waters in Quintana Roo need to be aware of these creatures. Do not approach them and do not touch them, report any sightings to your dive master or snorkel tour leader. If the worst should happen and you should come in contact with the poisonous spines, seek medical help immediately.

We enjoyed the rest of our day at the beach and yes, we did return to the water, perhaps a little more trepidatiously and more aware of might be lurking, but no little fishies were going to scare us off. We'll be back in the waters soon (and keeping an eye out for these gorgeous killers).

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Need a Little Something from Canada

This is what we call a shameless plug. Begging perhaps. A little cry for help. My good friend Matt from Toronto and his fiancee Kate have created a little ditty and entered the video into a contest to win a trip to Mexico. Now, I must admit, I'm being a bit selfish in my request for your votes, I would be the biggest winner in this whole thing as I would get a visit from some great friends from Canada! Oh sure they could win a free vacation, but I'm betting they'll bring me some Triscuits if I ask real nice.

Check out their video, it makes me smile!

Now, head over to the Hilton contest site and give a big thumbs up vote for "Why Kate Deserves to Go to Mexico" (you can vote once a day, more if you go to a different internet cafe every hour). You could help these ever so lovely people escape the dreary Canadian winner and help me get a little bit of love from home. (And Triscuits.)

Vote for me! Er, I mean, vote for Matt and Kate!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vicks on the Soles of My Feet

After my little adventures in chasing Ida last week, I've come down with a nasty infection. Now, logically I know that it is a myth that you get sick from being wet or cold, you get sick from coming in contact with germs and bacteria, but regardless, I am blaming Ida. Wading in flooded streets just to run to the corner store, going to the beach to capture waves on film and getting a wee bit wet, then the ins and outs of air conditioning inside/humid and warm outside, somewhere along the way my system lost its ability to fight the germs and here I am at home with a nose full of mocos. It really hit me like a tonne of bricks, totally fine and healthy as a horse on Sunday night, a tickle in my throat Monday morning and by Monday afternoon a full on "Ithinkimgonnadie" sicky woman moaning on the couch.

I thought I would be ok just using the usual remedies, lots of liquids, echinacea, vitamin C and rest. And of course, Vicks Vaporub. If you live in Mexico, you know that Vaporub (pronounced vah-poh-roob) cures all. Not only does it get spread on the chest and back like mom used to do, but under the nose (in the nose in some cases though I am trying to convince Hubby that this is NOT appropriate or healthy) and on the soles of the feet. Soles of the feet? Ok, the first time I heard this I nodded and smiled and smeared baby Max's feet, all the while thinking it was a bunch of horse hockey. Now it's just part of the routine. Why or how it works is beyond me, but we slather the stuff on our tootsies, snuggle it all in under warm socks and somehow we feel better. Chinese medicine indicates that the feet are connected to the rest of the body (reflexology anyone?), so I suppose there is a good reason for it, just seems odd to me. Whatever floats yer boat, eh? (Such a Canadian expression!)

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling worse, having trouble catching my breath so off to the hospital we went. I don't have a GP here, I just rely on the ER if things get beyond my ability to self-medicate. Amerimed ER is our hospital of choice, we never wait to see a doctor and the price is right. Heck it's cheaper than the rate our pediatrician charges for a regular consultation. I paid 400 pesos for an ER visit, yep, less than $40 USD. No surprises in the diagnosis, an infection in the throat and upper respiratory system, antibiotics, painkillers and a decongestant were prescribed and an order to stay home for three days of "reposo" (rest).

So here I am, groggy from meds, walking around on squishy, greasy, Vahpohroob covered feet and trying not to cough on my boys. Drinking herbal tea (specially imported by Rivergirl, thanks amiga!), sleeping most of the day away and reading crappy books. The house is quickly becoming a disaster area, but I just don't have the oomph to get off my butt and clean. I can't smell anything anyway, so if something is rotting somewhere it's just going to have to wait. I'm CRAVING hot n sour soup from my favourite Szechwan restaurant in Toronto, but methinks I'll just have to make do with Hong Kong (not nearly as good). I should be back on non-greasy feet soon, but for now, I am off to bed (yes again, the dishes can wait!) to sleep away the sickies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hurricane Ida a Non-Event in Cancun

Well phooey and phew. "Phooey" because we had such an exciting build up and then nada (we like a little storm excitement around here), "phew" out of relief that nothing horrible happened. Hurricane Ida has come and gone from Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula, making her way into the Gulf of Mexico. We did have a lot of rain this week, but not what I would consider "hurricane rain" and certainly no wind came our way. Even when she was at the closest point to Cancun, we were dry and wind-free. Friday and Saturday brought much heavier rains than today when she was supposed to make her biggest impact. There was some serious flooding downtown, but that's it, no pasa nada! Back to real life, school and work tomorrow and hopefully sunshine will be returning very soon. Usually after a big storm we're back to blue skies fairly quickly, I suspect by tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday the tourists will be bronzing their backsides on the beach once again.

I took a trip out to the hotel zone this morning to grab some photos and video of the ocean, I was hoping for some waves and got'em! I got kicked off the beach at Playa Delfines by Civil Protection, but snuck back in to a couple of different spots. I'm such a rebel.

Foamy Beach at Playa Delfines

Surfer's Heaven
(though I saw no one foolish enough to try)

I LOVE A Stormy Sea

I wouldn't want to swim in it, but it was gorgeous to look at

And video from yesterday's flooding downtown....

And that's that. My thoughts go out to of all those in Central America who suffered much more than we did here (at least 42 dead in El Salvador) and I wish lots of luck to those still in Ida's path. For those of us in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, we're all good, we're done with Ida and hopefully done with hurricanes until next year.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tropical Depression Ida- Cancun Weather

The last few days we've been watching the storm named Ida as she has made her way north over Central America. Yesterday it was a category 1 hurricane as it hit Nicaragua, lost strength over land and was downgraded to a tropical storm, then further downgraded to tropical depression. It is now moving into the Caribbean Sea and making its way to the Yucatan Peninsula. There is a lot of speculation about what may happen over the next couple of days, all we know for sure is that we are going to get wet! It's been raining all week and today it has really been coming down hard. Streets are flooded and word on the street is that tuna is a hot item in the supermarkets. The civil protection agency has put the state of Quintana Roo on low level alerts (green alert at the moment), advising the population to prepare for some bad weather.

In looking at the various weather sites, it seems there is no definitive forecast for what Ida may become in the next couple of days. Lots of speculation about her intensity, though it seems fairly clear that she will cross over the Yucatan Peninsula. Currently Ida is "just" a tropical depression, meaning lots of rain but no serious winds. We'll be watching the National Hurricane Center, Stormpulse and Dr. Jeff Master's Wunderground blog to see what develops over the next little while. It appears the worst of the bad weather will hit sometime on Sunday afternoon, with the storm moving into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. In the meantime, we're sticking close to home, trying to stay dry! Depending on what happens in the morning, we may just be making a tuna run ourselves, though I am not overly concerned at the moment.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cancun Beach Recovery Has Begun

After many set backs and problems and a pile of political back and forth, the beach recovery project has started in Cancun. I took a little trip out to the hotel zone today (Sunday) to see what I could see and to try to get some pictures. What luck, I could see, I took photos and I chatted with one of the guys working on the project!

Today they were working behind the Sunset Hotel. There was one large boat, two mid-sized boats and one little "panga" out in the water. Large pipes were coming from the big boat to the shore where several pieces of sand moving machinery were waiting. The man I was speaking with told me that there are two of the large boats, moving back and forth between Isla Mujeres and Cancun, taking turns bringing sand to the hotel zone. The large boats weigh about 15 to 20 tonnes when empty and are carrying 5000 cubic meters of sand with each trip. Unloading the sand onto the shore takes about 45 minutes to an hour, quite an impressive feat. The two mid-sized boats apparently take care of the large pipes, while the small panga runs desperately around with a "maya" (that's what the guy said!), a type of fence hanging in the water that they are using to try to prevent the sand from flowing back out to sea during the process.

My contact said they will be working north right now, heading from the Sunset to Punta Cancun (Dreams), then they'll work their way south along the hotel zone. He told me that all of the work in Cancun should be completed in about three months, they'll then move on to Isla Mujeres, then to Playa del Carmen and finally to Cozumel. I do want to be clear, the man I was speaking with was not doing so in any official capacity, so take the information as "word on the street" rather than gospel, I have no way of knowing if his information is totally accurate. Please don't ask me when the project will be at your hotel, I have absolutely no way of knowing that, sorry!

Here are some photos of the big event....

The Big Boys of Sand Recovery

Closer View of the Big Beast of Sand
(it's sitting really low in the water as it was full of sand at this point)

The Pipe Chaser

The Little Panga With Maya
(can you see the dark stain of sand trying to escape?)

Danger! No one was allowed past this point
for obvious reasons

Ta Da! The Sand, The Sand, The Sand is Coming!

How Many Men Does It Take to Rebuild a Beach?

I managed to take some video of the event as well, not the highest quality video, but video nonetheless.

And there you have it, we have begun! In a few months time, if all goes well, if the aluxes doesn't interfere and mother nature keeps her nose out of things, we'll have the big, beautiful beach that is necessary for the future of Cancun and the tourism industry. Good luck team, mucha suerte!

D is for Dengue, Depression and Dread

I'm currently sitting in my Cancun apartment, staving off the Covid 19 panic and using all my Jungle Kelly powers to maintain my cal...