Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Isla All By Myself -- Well Almost!

I found these photos from October/November 2004 the other day. That trip to Isla was really special because it was my first trip to Isla by myself. Actually, it was the first trip out of the country I'd taken by myself. Right after I booked it, I woke up the next morning with one of those "what the hell have I done" feelings, but I quickly got over that. And actually, Craig decided he was able to come and spend a week out of the three weeks I was there, so I wasn't totally alone. It's a trip I remember fondly because the island was still relatively 'new' to me despite a couple of previous trips. I arrived solo with a bum knee, having had surgery on it six weeks prior. The trip was booked before I knew I needed knee surgery, so the sand vacation probably wasn't the brightest move. I did end up having to do two more months of physical therapy after I got back home, but the trip was worth all the ice packs and hobbling around.


I spent the first ten days of the trip at Color de Verano in Apartment 2 on the third floor. Craig arrived four days after me for a week's stay. At the time Verano had great views of the bay and no construction noise whatsoever. Since it was the lowest of low season, we rarely even heard a peep from JAX next door. I spent a lot of time out on the balcony watching the island go by, and Craig saw some highly unusual things over the wall in the lot across the street where the big condominium project is now being built. Some love trysts in cars and buses, and even a local who conducted his daily morning constitutional on the lot. Gross! The photo below was the view out over the bay from the balcony!

The lighthouse was just in back of our apartment, but with the door to the bathroom shut, the light was blocked. And there was no karaoke at the lighthouse bar then. The apartment was totally decked out with beautiful wood built-in furnishings, cable television, full kitchen, DVD and CD players, etc....

I took advantage of the free bikes at Verano and rode all over the island. The first morning I got up really early and started out on the bike. Out past the Navy base in the colonia at that time, there was a short stretch of road that was undeveloped and overgrown with vegetation. I was thinking it was kind of spooky out there alone when along came a motorcycle with two guys. The guy on the back had a large machete. I almost wet my pants on that one! After a week of struggling to pedal that bike all around the island, a new friend pointed out that the back tire was flat. Once I aired it up at the Pemex, biking wasn't nearly the struggle it had been!

Here's the view down the street from Verano. Notice how quiet it was at that time. There was a middle-aged man with a wolf whistle motorcycle horn who would greet me early every morning as I took off on the bike. He must have been driving up and down waiting for me. I called him (and a few others) the Horny Bachelor.

The cemetery was just down the street. I've never figured out the symbolism of the angel hands. Are they pointing to heaven with one and telling us to be quiet with the other (so as not to disturb the lucky residents up there)? Maybe a good Catholic can fill me in. We didn't have those angels in the cemetery in Oswego, Kansas!

My favorite spot on the beach back then was right behind the lifeguard palapa in front of Maria del Mar. It was still there in spring 2006, but I think it's now washed away?

After nine wonderful nights at Color de Verano, it was time to move since they supposedly had another booking. Strangely enough, the booking never showed up, but I spent the next three nights at Maria del Mar in the Castle rooms. We were in a room on the top floor which was a real struggle with my knee. Here's the view from our balcony.

The Stripe's back then spent their days around the beach in front of Maria del Mar. I wish someone could tell me what kind of mix these dogs are! The beaches at that time had a lot of sand. And it looks like the beach also had a lot of seaweed that wasn't being cleaned up. Maybe it's low season attitude or something! This is the beach by the Avalon lagoon in 2004. It also still had a lot of sand.

The Caribbean Queen beach was big and wide in 2004, just as it is now. But if I remember right, the area at Sergio's was starting to suffer from erosion then. I remember being in the Playa del Sol palapa bar at night with the waves lapping not far from the edge. And Jorge was tending bar then! He made great drinks!

After a few nights at Maria, Craig returned home and I was able to move to Media Luna for the rest of my stay. Here are some Media Luna photos from 2004! It's such a beautiful setting. If I was going to stay in town at a hotel, it would still be my first choice.

I spent a lot of hammock time on that trip. The pool at Media Luna was a great meeting place. I met some wonderful women from Canada who I still see on almost every trip. They loved Isla so much, they bought a condo! I met a lot of new friends, including a pal who's become a really good friend. I truly think you meet more people when you're all by your lonesome.

This is the sand path to the Caribe side over by Poc Na. I guess it still looks the same unless it's now blocked by the construction. I didn't notice in May whether the beach access had been shut off. I met this little guy with his coconut marked sandbox and he asked me to take his picture. I think his name was Carlos. I wonder what he's up to now! And I'm not sure if this little fountain by the old Perla Caribe is still there since they redid the malecon? It had a lot of charm!

The Hotel Garrafon dock on that trip was in fairly sad shape, but still basically intact. I think Ivan or a tropical storm had hit the island earlier that season and ripped out the new malecon, etc...

A Garrafon view from fall 2004.

Boats on the waterfront.

Does anyone remember this guy? He'd offer to take your picture for 50 pesos. I didn't need a picture, but I did take his. And maybe he wasn't very pleased about that?

I returned home the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in kind of a daze. In some ways, I felt like I'd stayed too long at the party. In other ways, I felt like I never wanted to leave Isla. The trip was quite a learning experience. It was the first time I'd stayed away that long on vacation, much less by myself in a foreign country! What did I learn? Self-reliance? A bit of confidence? I'm not totally sure, but I'm sure it stretched my brain in ways I'll never realize! :)


Sue said...

Great pictures. And yes, I agree that you meet more people when you're on your own. Solo trips have a unique appeal, there is something to be said for taking the bold step and forging out alone now and then. Thanks for sharing!

Isla Deb said...

What a great post, Beck! Absolutely wonderful photos. I, too, have very special feelings about my solo trip last May. And even though a friend joined me for awhile when I was there, I really enjoyed my time alone.

jeanie said...

I loved this post Beck! Our last visit was earlier that same year and I don't think Verano was even built yet. I'm smiling at your fave beach spot. Frank and I have been hanging out exactly there for 20 years. Really great pix!!!

Life's a Beach! said...

Thanks everyone. I felt like it was a bold step at the time, but now it's usually just me when I go to Isla. It's really fun when Craig can go, but it's also nice to have some solo time.

By the way Jeanie, Vee wanted me to relay to you that the link to her blog is on my Blog List. It's The Arial View. The book blog on my list is also hers. I couldn't find your e-mail to get the message to you!

Vee said...

Beck, I've gone to Isla without Tim several times, but I have a sister who is always happy to go with, so I've never traveled to the island solo.

And Jeanie, I lost your e-mail address, so I asked Beck to help me out. Please drop in anytime.