Local Knowledge #1

corona2If you don’t want to stand out as the stereotypical gringo in Mahahual, make sure and drink something other than corona every once in a while! The locals here almost never drink it. It is seen as the gringo beer. Instead, drink a cold Victoria, Bohemia, or Negra Modelo!

mexican beer

And if you really want to get local, drink the Barrilito. That’s the one that never seems to make it to the trash cans…eh hem…

serveimage

Chacchoben Ruins Tour with Mayan Trips

Yesterday was a sleepy Sunday in Mahahual. The spring breeze was lightly blowing, sending up dust from the beach sand that collects in town and gives a light sugary coat to everything during the dry season. My wife and I headed out to a late morning coffee, sipping slowly and chatting easily with a few locals about how their week had gone. We usually have plenty to do surprisingly, but on this particular Sunday we really didn’t have anything on the agenda and the beach was out of the question because we had gone diving the day before and were already sun-kissed to the brink of a burn.

As we meandered lazily back towards our house trying to figure out how to spend our day we ran into a good friend of ours, Carlos, who runs a tour company, Mayan Trips, at the local corner store. He seemed awfully preoccupied with something, given the present vibe of the town, so we asked him what was going on. He told us the cruise ship for the day had just docked and he was stocking the supplies for his tour to the Chacchoben Ruins. Then he just casually asked, “do you want to go?”. We looked at each other and thought why not? Our Sunday was set. We were to meet the van on the corner in 40 minutes.

The comfy white van pulled up just at the moment that we arrived to the corner and when the door slid open and the cool air conditioner hit us it was the perfect antithesis to the blazing sun. We loaded in and spoke to two adventurous older women, who were the only other passengers that day, and the friendly guide. We were on our way.

The ruins rest about 50 minutes from town and on the way the guide spoke to the curious tourists about local flora, fauna, customs, income, you name it. he was a wealth of information and happy to do it. We sat back and enjoyed the ride and AC while they chatted. We had both been to the ruins before with some friends of ours but were unable to really take advantage of the experience because of a heavy stomach bug I had been fighting that left me too weak to walk far without stopping, let alone climb, so the excitement was building to get another crack at it and have a guide to fill us in on the goodies.

When we arrived the guide offered us waters from the icy cooler they had brought for the passengers and showed us to the gate. If you have never been, the ruins are very impressive. We have visited various ruins around the peninsula and other parts of Mexico and something about Chacchoben is very special. It hasn’t been packed like other ruins we have visited such as Tulum and Chichen Itza either time we have visited and a lot of the tall trees and jungle vegetation remain intact, giving you a nice shady canopy to protect you from the sun. It also somehow makes the experience feel more authentic when everything isn’t clear cut. You feel like you are really seeing the Mayan world as it was.

Entering the park and taking the nice trail the first thing you come to is a huge pyramid known as Templo 24. Not a lot is known about Chacchoben but experts date the settlement of the area to around 200AD and most of the major structures to around 700AD.

20180408_14121120180408_145521

Off to the right there is a little trail that leads to a small area of ruins that isn’t on the maps of the park. Being ever curious, I decided to Indiana Jones my way down the trail to see what was at the end and even though these ruins aren’t on the map and aren’t big compared to the others, something about the juxtaposition of them against the back ground of the surrounding ranch was sublime. It is a beautiful area and I enjoyed this section just as much as any other. Ask your Mayan Trips guide about it and if he has time he may take you!

20180408_140751

Getting back and course and traveling down the trail you pass through “Plaza B” where you get a nice view of the other side of Templo 24. Then you enter the area known as “Las Vasijas”. This is the area where most of the trading and commerce of the site was done. It is a long stretch of sunken earth bordered on both sides by steps that definitely make it seem like a good place to bargain shop.

20180408_14483020180408_14492420180408_144911

After leaving Las Vasijas and continuing on the trail you come to the side of a platform that is easily two stories high. You just get the feeling that it is holding something truly special on top. Once you come all the way around to the front you can see the only stelae that remains from Chacchoben sitting peacefully in front of the main staircase that takes you up to the “gran basamento” where the other two pyramids sit.

20180408_14411620180408_144151

As you arrive to the summit and get a glimpse at the majesty of “Templo 1” you suddenly forget about your profuse sweat and lack of breath. The beauty of this main platform and remoteness of the location make you feel like you have stepped through time and the owners are just out hunting and will be back soon.

20180408_14285920180408_142944

After wondering around the Gran Basamento for 30 minutes or so it was time to head back to the van. The tour is only about 4-5 hrs round trip so it is perfect for a cruise excursion. You can take more time if you are staying in Mahahual and have your own car but then you miss out on the info that the guide has to give.

There are some photos and information that I have purposefully left out of the article so I wouldn’t spoil your dinner if you ever decide to go. With the internet the way it is I try as often as I can to leave some things to wonder before that artform is lost to humanity! Taking the trip to these ruins is definitely worth your time and money and Mayan Trips was a great tour group to go with. For bookings you can e-mail mayantrips@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Menos Plastico en Mahahual

Hi guys! I just thought I would post a few pictures from this past Sunday’s Menos Plastico en Mahahual event. Incase you are unfamiliar with this group it is a group that holds monthly events dedicated to the promotion of recycling and education about the dangers of plastics to the ocean, reefs and beach ecosystems here in Mahahual. If you have been here lately you have probably noticed that there is less trash around and that is definitely due in part to their efforts.

They have a great event where there is food and music, educational workshops, activities for kids, a small farmers market and more. It is a great event and if you are ever in town you should definitely attend. Take a look at this month’s action…

29512326_10214615089624336_8610287480461352767_n29512405_10214615082264152_6789900284181293224_n29542477_10214615070543859_2345600146805787478_n29542909_10214615072103898_4083516327229575945_n29598294_10214615064743714_4885758455286833788_n29570996_10214615074703963_4040318807543956934_n29571077_10214615055743489_2168269658629281911_n29571167_10214615073103923_7717505194185020003_n29594703_10214615053983445_5561690820038904257_n29598367_10214615063183675_6047693714470528585_n29694720_10214615078864067_697457468112542740_n

We were lucky enough to have a great professional photographer who took these wonderful pictures for the event so I had to share! With groups like this and individuals pitching in around town we are starting to make progress. When you come and visit please participate in the “sin popote” movement and order your drinks without plastic straws! Thanks and we will see you soon!

Semana Santa in Mahahual Through the Eyes of the Locals

Semana Santa is a very important holiday in Latin America and especially Mexico.  Two weeks of vacation for play and religious reflection fall on the population every year, touching some differently than others. For popular vacation spots like Mahahual, the thought of Semana Santa brings a mixed bag of emotions for the residents as tourists flood our tiny town bringing everything that comes with the influx, good and bad.

We asked locals for their first thoughts when we mention Semana Santa in Costa Maya to take the temperature of various citizens and got some great responses…

“About 20 years ago I was chatting with a lady who has lived here more than 20 years. She told me that during Semana Santa she goes back to her home town because the little devils descend on Mahahual and put it ‘patas arriba’ ” (on its head)

“People use Semana Santa as a excuse to drink and party when you really should be abstaining from eating meat and stuff. Its about the death and resurrection of Jesus but people just get drunk haha”

“Traditions, parties and communion. It’s a time for reflecting on our faith through history”

“For me in Mahahual it means a lot of work! But I come from a place where there is a lot of wonderful tradition around the holiday so it is still special”

“I think that Semana Santa is a time for getting out of your daily routine, for taking a break from work, being with your family and doing what you enjoy the most…but for us who work in tourism it means more work!”

“Cerveza, fried fish and more!”

“Semana Santa in Mahahual means that the girls from Chetumal come to lose their virginity!”

“Semana Santa is a very important holiday in Mexico to celebrate your faith with your friends and family. It’s a serious holiday but we also use the time to have parties and enjoy ourselves.”

“Desmadre” (chaos)

“Semana Santa in Mahahual: traffic, trash, noise and drunks. That’s why I leave!”

“A little bit of celebrating, a lot of work, then the calm after the storm”

So there you have it, straight from the local’s mouths. It is a mixed bag of emotions here the same way you would expect it to be in any vacation town. When you live in paradise and the rest of the world has time off, they are coming to you!

Mahahual Locals Spotlight #2

This month in the Locals Spotlight we were privileged to interview Miqueas Gomez Vasquez, a talented local builder who specializes in abanileria (masonry/structural building). He is a master of his craft, employing his talents to build anything from closets to entire houses, and his infectious smile and honest, easy-going personality are an extra topping, free of charge, with his work. Let’s dig in…

IMG-20180306-WA0003

CML: Thanks for talking to us Miqueas. Tell me first where you are from and how did you come to Mahahual for the first time?

Miqueas: I am originally from Chiapas. I first came to Mahahual 15 years ago on a mission trip to teach people about the Bible. It was a very different place back then.

CML: I can imagine. Tell me what it was like…

Miqueas: Well it was a tiny blip on the map. No tourists, no lighthouse, no malecon, no casitas, nothing. The beach was completely virgin. There were no paved roads and the only way to get here was through the beach road. It took several bumpy hours from the next place. The highway that everybody uses to get here now didn’t exist. And nothing at the beach was there. Maybe two stores. It was really just a couple of huts and fishermen.

CML: Wow! So you came with a church group?

Miqueas: Yes there was a group of us and we stayed a few kilometers down the beach for a month in a little palapa owned by a foreign guy. I can’t remember his name now because it has been so long. But I think it is still there… We just wanted to educate people about the bible who had no other way of getting the education.

CML: Well that sounds like a great trip. So then you went back to Chiapas. When did you decide to move to Mahahual permanently?

Miqueas: I came back to Mahahual to live about six years ago.

CML: But now it was very different, right?

Miqueas: VERY different. They had built the malecon, casitas, the port, the lighthouse, hotels, restaurants, shops, everything.  It was really surprising. Suddenly it was a little town with a lot more business and things to do.

CML: Well I imagine that was a good thing for you. Did you always work doing the same thing or did you do a little of this and a little of that like everybody else here?

Miqueas: Yes at the beginning I did a little of this and a little of that. I dedicated myself mostly to plumbing but I even sold bread for a little while! I did mostly plumbing with a little abanileria (structural work) here and there until the abanileria really picked up. Now I do almost exclusively abanileria.

CML: That’s great. How about your family. Were you already married when you came?

Miqueas: No my wife and I got married here about 5 years ago. In the mayor’s office there was a judge that would come from time to time and do marriages so we got married there and then we had a party on the beach.

CML: Very cool! So you guys had all of the family down from Chiapas and did a big party?

Miqueas: Well it wasn’t that big. We had family but not everybody came because we didn’t have the resources to bring everybody down. We had friends and a few family members at the beach and had a good time. Then we went to Chiapas and had another party so it was ok.

CML: And your kids? Were they born here?

Miqueas: Well none of the kids are born in Mahahual haha. They were born in Chetumal.

CML: Of course! but they are growing up here and are happy?

Miqueas: Yes they love it. We always take them to the beach to play and there are better schools here now and other kids to play with so it is good.

CML: So what is the biggest change you have seen in your time here in Mahahual?

Miqueas: Well the most interesting thing is that there isn’t a big distinction between the low season and the high season anymore. Before when I first came, during the high season there were lots of tourists coming from the cruise ships like normal but then during the low season it was practically deserted. Now there seem to be people all of the time.

CML: How do you feel about that? Do you think Mahahual is going to keep growing or do you think it will stay small.

Miqueas: I think Mahahual will grow but not to the size of Playa del Carmen or Cancun. And growth is good because there are still a lot of things we need. The only thing I worry about is public access to the beach. In Cancun they put up a lot of huge hotels that privatized the beaches so the public practically have no way to just go enjoy the beach. I worry about that happening here.

CML: Yeah I think as a community we all need to be on our toes about that to make sure there is always a nice public beach for us to enjoy.

Miqueas: Absolutely

CML: Ok my friend here is your last question: What is your favorite thing about Mahahual?

Miqueas: That’s easy…seeing the sunrise and the sunset. More the sunset. There is something indescribable about it. It is really magical here.

CML: I couldn’t agree more! Well thank you again for talking to us and giving us a little peak into your life!

Miqueas: Thank you!

 

You can find Miqueas around town riding his red scooter or working on a job site. For project inquiries you can use whatsap +5219831855247.

 

 

Sargassum Attack! Costa Maya Mahahual Under Seige Again in 2018

1520116305098

It is back and smellier than ever. Sargassum season is in full swing for Costa Maya in 2018 and it is piling up along our shores.

Tourists run from it because when it starts to decay it smells like what I would imagine the early morning bathroom of a hungover whale shark on a Caribbean bachelor party would smell like. Locals dread it because it means early morning and late night shifts on the beaches along the malecon shoveling endless piles of it into wheel barrows to be carted off during by lumbering garbage trucks in the night.

It is a topic that is getting a lot of attention in the small pueblo of Mahahual as well as the rest of the Caribbean Coast of Mexico…

Sargassum is a type of sea algae that grows naturally in the Atlantic ocean and Caribbean Sea. The species that wash ashore are rootless, blooming and floating freely in the ocean until winds and tides bring it to shore. It has always been around, first described by early European explorers who dubbed one region of the Atlantic off the eastern coast of the U.S. the “Sargasso Sea” for its copious quantities in that area.

Sargasso sea

serveimage (12)

It serves a variety of positive ecological functions like providing a nursery for sea turtles, a home habitat to different marine creatures like the Sargassum Fish, shrimp and crabs, birds and whales, a food source for a number of little creatures once it lands on shore, and protects against shore erosion.

The problem is that since 2011 it has been amassing in record numbers every year on some of the Caribbean Sea’s most beloved tourist destinations, including Costa Maya. Locals see it as a nuisance and are at a loss about what to do about it.

Apparently, however, there may be a silver lining. Sargassum, it turns out, may be useful. Powdered sargassum has been an herbal remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, indicated for problems like goiters and thyroid issues due to its high iodine content. In Bermuda it is placed under banana trees as a source of fertilizer. Still others claim its phytochemical, vitamin and mineral content as just as robust as other sea weeds commonly eaten in other parts of the world. Yum! Take a bite…

Nobody knows for sure why the sargassum problem grows each year but some suggest it is due to rising sea temperatures, changes in sea currents due to climate change and some attribute it to agricultural fertilizer run-off into the ocean causing more of the algae to bloom.

Either way, we have a stinky problem on our hands again for 2018 and we need to start looking for a way to turn a lemon into lemonade. This sargassum can be continue to be a curse, or we could turn it into a blessing.

You never know, the next time you visit you might sit down to a nice plate of fried grouper on a bed of sargassum salad!

Carnaval Costa Maya Mahahual 2018 Review

It has come and gone like a flash. The pueblito has returned to its quiet and sleepy state from the figurative and literal hangover from this past weekend’s Carnaval activities. The only sounds are the blowing of the seasonal breeze through the trees and songs of the tropical Great Kiskadee and Yucatan Jay birds pirched in them. It was a great weekend of parades, dancing and entertainment in that familiar imperfect Mahahual style.

The events kicked off Friday with a parade leaving from our neighborhood, casitas, scheduled for 6:30pm, which started promptly at 7:30pm in typical caribbean fashion, and traveling down the malecon with music and candy for the kids, ending up in “the dome”. As residents of casitas we thought it would be nice to grab our bikes and get there early to make sure we had a good spot for the show. That turned out to be silly of us because the parade only left from casitas, it wasn’t for casitas, as evidenced by the main float cruising by at mach 30 without a single wave or candy thrown our way.

The events calendar said the parade started in casitas so ourselves and a few flabbergasted others were left eating dust and sucking exhaust fumes as the floats whizzed by. If you are coming next year, be aware of that fact. Things don’t always make sense so plan for other eventualities!

After regrouping we headed down to the dome to check out the other events before the music started. There was a good sized crowd in good participatory spirits compared to last year at the light house when only a few hundred showed up and had all of the energy of a crowd at an international insomnia convention. The kings and queens were announced, the local dance troupe put on a show, the vendors fired up the tacos and marquesitas and Carnaval was officially under way for 2018!

The kids took over the stage with their care-free and cutting edge dance moves and once the Dos Equis took hold, everybody else was moving too. Lights flashed, cans emptied and tails shook until the music stopped around 3am.

Saturday’s activities were published only on the local facebook page in plenty of time for people to plan their day…late Saturday morning.  So if you were like me and don’t live on facebook, you had no idea there was another parade and round of activities before the music started again, despite my best efforts to try and find out what the schedule of events for the weekend was…flamboozled twice by the parade!

We made it down to the dome Saturday expecting a smaller crowd with a little less enthusiasm but what we found was a sea of little brown locals, dancing and smiling, peppered with hairy white tourists and expats who were just as happy to be there. The energy was thick and the night was quality once again. The kids ruled the stage and the lights flashed into the wee hours.

Overall Carnaval in Mahahual in 2018 was a success. We might be a small community but we really felt big this past weekend. If the improvements from 2017 to 2018 are any indication of the trend for the future, I would say don’t risk missing Carnaval 2019! Just make sure you don’t wait for the parade in casitas!