Mexico: making sushi

We are now in Flores in Guatemala, only arrived yesterday so I haven’t had the chance to do much yet as most of the day was spent sat on the bus. So here’s some more journal entries from our time on the beach at Tulum.

Our new (and crazy) friend Jorge has taught me several new words in Spanish but when I put them all together to create a sentence it was something like ‘I want to eat but my food is under the bed with my clock and watchstrap’….not too sure when I am ever going to need that but then you never know. Of course Jorge thinks it’s hysterical.

The communal breakfast table at Shambala throws out some interesting opinions and characters; a healer who announces that she cannot use a torch because as soon as she does its batteries run out….her friend apparently won’t let her use her booklight. We suggest it may be Mexican batteries but she insists they are Duracell. Her mobile phone is constantly being charged because ‘she sucks the energy out of things’. Maybe I should avoid sitting next to her. 2 days after being here she falls in love with the Buddhist visiting from Spain, who looks uncannily like Father Christmas, and is a truly lovely man. Dave comments that if they marry and she becomes Mother Christmas the kids will be gutted as their battery operated wish list will be very short lived. Her meeting with the Buddhist was predestined years previously; in her dreams she was repeatedly visited by a man with ‘diamond blue eyes’… but the Buddhist’s eyes are hazel we point out; but apparently we failed to notice that in the first 2 days his eyes were a dazzling blue before they changed. His flowing locks and silver beard apparently didn’t feature in her nightly visitations.

In such company conversations usually turn to the philosophic (2 Buddhists at the breakfast table) or surreal. The Spanish Buddhists had joined the healer on the beach the night before and at breakfast were enlightening us all about the green lights they had seen in the previous nights sky. They believed these lights to be some sort of visitations describing them as ‘beans’. Enthusiastic to help it took me several attempts to explain the pronunciation…’beans’ is like rice and beans (we are in Mexico after all), BEINGS like human beings… but misinterpreting my point (and sensing my scepticism) they retorted ‘no no! they are not human beings they are from another planet’. If an alien can ever be arsed to venture this far to laugh at us; I wonder if he risks being chucked in a pan and served up with rice. The Buddhist and the healer have since announced their marriage. I wish them all the best, their love may have grown quickly but it is definitely sincere.

Another colourful guest is a beautiful ball of enthusiastic energy called Marianne. She’s an ex-dancer now based in LA as a make-up artist but born in Morocco. She did Madonna’s nails once for a shoot and regales us with hilariously insecure Hollywood anecdotes. Dave and I went with her to Tulum town to eat huge pizzas at the Italian owned Basilica. Somewhere between being handed the menu and ordering I got bitten on the nose by a mosquito causing my nose to swell up like a balloon, the irritation rapidly spreading along my cheek stretching the skin taught and shiny. Sitting opposite me Dave found this absolutely hilarious.

Ominous black clouds moved in and it went black along the Boca Pila stretch of Tulum beach for almost 2 hours when Hurricane Ike (following the path across the Gulf of Mexico already churned by Gustav and Hannah) passed on the horizon. At least the high winds left in its wake blow away the mosquitoes. We are on hurricane watch daily on the computer – so far so good. Hopefully Ike will keep passing but selfishly we realise that it will wreak havoc on some other place; tearing up houses and trees leaving communities devastated before it blows itself out.

We are also on Mexican Federal watch. The Feds appear to be the Mexican FBI. They drive around wearing black balaclavas and armed with massive guns which they hold proudly in front of them whilst straddling the trucks. It’s a mesmerising display of intimidation and machismo. They are allegedly trying to close local hotels in the vicinity of Tulum ruins and possibly further along the Boca Pila road down to the biosphere reserve, a stretch of tourist goldmine with guaranteed money pouring in yearly. We drive around to see where they are parked up and find them at a hotel at the beginning of the Boca Pila road. We drive back and close the main gates of Shambala but thankfully they don’t venture down the road. A day later I see a heavily armed truck drive by but am told that these are the marines and not the Feds; there’s a lot of firepower and dark sunglasses on display in Mexico.

I rescued a very large insect resembling a grasshopper from the sea, getting swirled around in the surf, trying but failing to catch a grip on the sand. I fished him out and too big to hold in my hand placed him on my arm where he started to clean the sea water from his body and legs, twitching his antennae, the thorn like spikes on is long sprung back legs beaded with water. I put him out of harm’s way on a palm tree in Shambala’s grounds. It was about a foot long and 3 inches high; I regretted not having my camera to hand. I had a thought that maybe it was a giant locust and we would come out the next morning to find every palm tree in Shambala stripped bare as the locust ate it’s way through the grounds.

Not so pleasant, I also found a big brown scorpion in our clothes in the open suitcase. I tried to catch him – rather out the room than in it – but he was too quick and escaped me so the horrible little bugger got zipped in to the suitcase and I promptly forgot about him. Several days later we moved rooms and I asked Dave to shake the suitcase but to watch out in case the scorpion was still inside. The scorpion hit the ground outside the room and Dave jumped a mile in the air. I took my flip flop (Haviana’s of course) and guiltily squashed him flat. I’m not a big fan of killing anything but I’m also not a fan of sucking poison out of my ankles.

The Mexican National Independence day was on 15 September – and they kicked off with fiestas and drinking in Tulum town – driving funny knackered double decker buses illuminated with red, white and green festive lights up and down the main road; filled with drunken Mexicans….and most likely a drunken driver.

Jorge took Dave and myself, Marianne, Anya and Annameke snorkeling at Dos Ojos cenote. It wasn’t possible to take photos as there’s nowhere safe to leave the camera whilst we swam from one amazing cave to another. Cenotes are natural underwater pools or sink-holes, created when part of the cave system roof collapses. They are all connected by a huge underwater river in the Yucatan. In some areas the stalactites were so long reaching or the cave roof so close above our heads that we had to be careful not to hit them. Snorkeling reveals a stunning underwater grotto of rock formations and stalagmites and cracks in the rocks which show through to far deeper underwater caverns below. Jorge and Dave bravely took deep breaths and swam under the cave roof looking for air pockets en route to swim from one under water cavern to the next, emerging in an interior enclosed cave filled with bats. I was also able to access this by a steep metal ladder leading down through a narrow gap in the cave to the pool below. It was a great trip made more amusing when Marianne accidentally stuck her hand in a pile of bat shit; believe me that stuff REALLY stinks!

I spent an excellent evening with Adrianna, her practicing her English and me fumbling through my few words of Spanish with Roc, one of the Buddhists as translator – in the kitchen of Shambala making sushi of all things. Adrianna is a chef and as we had all decided to eat in at Shambala that night Adrianna decided to teach us how to make sushi using small bamboo mats wrapped in cellophane and mountains of stickified rice and packets of seaweed, which I was amazed was available in Tulum. Sushi seems to be quite the craze in Tulum these days with several restaurants open around town. Adrianna’s sushi was by far the best and she had even managed to get the essential ingredient of wasabi.

We have given Jorge a new catch phrase, to know him you would appreciate it more; ‘first there is me, second there is me and behind me is me’. He’s not entirely a selfish man but let’s say he has his priorities in his own particular order. Jorge is a hilarious character and would doubtless get us all into loads of trouble given the opportunity. We feel we have made some great friends in Mexico with Roberto and now Jorge and Adrianna and we sincerely hope that we are able to spend many more memorable times with them in the future.

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