And speaking of gritty, sometimes on our trips we run across fellow Americans who don't care to see the realities of local life when traveling. Life outside of suburbia just scares them a little. One of my memorable encounters was with a couple from New Jersey while we were waiting in line for the water taxi to Yelapa, Mexico. After bragging about the 'deal' she'd gotten at her all-inclusive south of Puerto Vallarta, the woman asked me where we were staying. I told her we were headed to Yelapa where I'd rented the proverbial palapa in Yelapa. (Actually it was an open air house.) The woman's mouth fell open and the man and woman looked at us like we were crazed. You're STAYING in Yelapa? Is that safe? You're not coming back today on the boat? Are there any A.I.'s in Yelapa? Where will you find food? Are there any restaurants where you can dine? I patiently explained the village was perfectly safe and named some of the restaurants I'd read about with great food. The woman stared at me and smugly replied -- Well . . . let us know how that works out for you. Ha ha ha.
But back to this trip. We were staying at what I would consider to be a swanky little boutique hotel located a little north of town on the sand beach road. Our last afternoon as I was sitting in my lounger under the palms down by the water, a woman in linen pants, a linen top, and expensive hat and sunglasses approached. She looked a little out of place because Ambergris Caye is really very casual. Shorts, tees, and swimsuits. After making sure I was staying at the same place, she confided that she was rather uncertain of the location we'd both chosen. I assured her that the hotel and staff were wonderful, and the neighborhood was perfectly safe. She replied that she really didn't care for the surrounding houses and was afraid of the neighborhood, particularly the next street behind us that she could see from her back window. I bit my tongue and once again assured her that the neighbors were very friendly, and the area was perfectly safe. Truthfully, compared to lots of places we've stayed in Mexico, the neighborhood looked downright gentrified!
She then moved on to questions about food safety. She was afraid that the food on Ambergris Caye, especially fish, was not safe to eat. She was from the South and loved fresh seafood, but had decided to avoid it here. She thought she'd stick to the chick. She asked for a recommendation on a place in San Pedro that served good 'safe' local food. Someplace nice, but not too expensive. I mentioned that we really liked the food at Elvi's Kitchen, and assured her that all the local food we'd eaten, including the fish and seafood, was fresh and delicious.
Later that evening, after wandering into town and finding the restaurant where we'd planned on eating closed, we decided to eat at Elvi's again. Once seated, I noticed the woman in the linen pants from our little hotel seated right behind us with her husband. I gave her a friendly wave and she looked at me like I'd landed from Mars. She obviously had no clue who I was. Oh well. They left, and we once again enjoyed our favorite fish dishes. (The fish cooked in banana leaves Mayan style is amazing!)
The next morning after we'd checked out and were waiting on our cab, the woman from the day before once again sat down next to me in a lounger out front and started the same refrain. She proceeded to tell me about the place they'd eaten the night before and how they felt the place was just a little too 'local' for their tastes. She had no idea I was the woman in the booth behind her at the restaurant, and the same woman from the hotel yesterday who'd recommended the place! She started the same refrain again about the neighborhood, food safety, and asked me again if I knew of any nice restaurants in town where the food was up to snuff.
All I can say is -- some people should just stay at the A.I. and not walk in a block from the beach!
Riding a bike down a potholed sand backstreet in San Pedro Town earlier in the week, a couple of local guys laughed at me bouncing around the big puddles on the old rental and yelled -- Mama, you like da bumpy road? I looked at them and exclaimed -- I LOVE the bumpy road! -- and they just laughed and laughed.
Some people don't like the bumpy road when they're traveling and that's fine, but it reminds me to be thankful for my good fortune in life and appreciative of all the little luxuries in our daily lives here in the U.S. that we just take for granted. Like clean running water from the tap that we can drink and use to brush our teeth, infrastructure that allows us to flush the t.p. down the toilet, clean streets, readily available medical care, enough food on the table -- and the list could go on and on.
Enough. Here are some gritty photos from Picnik. If anyone knows of a similar online site that's as good, let me know!
House in San Pedro
Perfect vehicle for the bumpy sand roads!
Wall on Caye Caulker.
Boat in dry dock -- that would be the side yard!
Truck repair in the middle of the road!
Chuck and Robbie's Dive Shop
San Pedro Town door.
Be adventurous my friends and embrace da' bumpy road! (I've been watching way too many Dos Equis' commercials. Stay thirsty my friends!)