Bobbing in the blue, warm water of the Caribbean. To the horizon a string of mega-resorts along twenty-kilometers or so beach, each with their own sections of that beach with chairs and Mexican waiters serving pina coladas.
Mexicans with shirts over their grande Coca-Cola proportions bob around on the gentle waves with me. There’s hardly a foreigner in this section, one of the few places you can get down to the beach without passing through a resort. It’s the end of the beach where most of the nightclubs are clustered together: Coco Bongo, Mandala, and some other joints.
It’s late afternoon, the warmth of the day shows no interest in abating. I get changed ready to try a restaurant Lonely Planet recommended halfway down, at kilometre something-or-rather, the long Zona Hotelera Kukulkan road.
It’s a long walk in late July heat, pacing myself, sipping bottled water. Sipping, I think this ain’t Mexico City, which I had left that morning. In ‘DF’ I was looking for la oficina de correos when I met a French man who asked where I was heading to next.
“Playa del carmen is nicer”.
I’m guessing I might agree as I stumble across a mega-mall with Louis Vuitton, steak houses and American donuts, everything in US dollars, with plenty of Americans to boot. The mix is different from Los Angeles though, there there’s more Mexicans and black dudes. Here they are the white apple pie, pilgrim types, except they show more leg and cleavage.
I find the place and have a delicious pollo mole, a limonada and a Victoria beer – much better than the more famous Carona which tastes to me like horse piss. The mole is one of the best things I’d eat for two weeks. Before I left for Mexico a friend shouted me to a trendy Mexican restaurant at the Paris end of Collins Street, Melbourne. I think if you want good Mexican, you’d be better off going there than Mexico.
“Do you want to pay in dollars or pesos”, the hostess asks.
“It’s Mexico”, I say, “I have to pay in your money”. She smiles, an acknowledgement that you’re kidding yourself if you think Cancun is Mexico.
I make my way back up the road in the dark, the sun’s absence doesn’t seem to have affected the heat too much. I barely have the energy to get back, the taxi drivers urge me to grab a lift. I look over to the road, it’s Friday night and the traffic’s not going anywhere fast and I’m too cheap to pay the five bucks into town.
I pop off the path to take a piss by the mangroves at the edge of the laguna. Mid-stream I hear something big moving near me, I can’t stop mid-stream so I jump back and keep pissing and I walk back from the shadows, sounds like whatever it was was heading away from me, and I don’t want to go too far back as I’ll be in the light beside the side of the road. I zip up as soon as the last drops are gone and keep going.
Back at Kilometre 2 or 3, or something, I stop for a double espresso at the Hard Rock Cafe. In this heat caffeine just keeps you from nodding off. All the waiters speak English, but I practice my Spanish anyway.
Out on the street, around 9.30/ 10 p.m., there’s still plenty of families about. A cute Mexican accosts me and tries to sell me a wrist band to get into one of the clubs, with an open bar, for about $75 USD.
“You’ve got to be kidding”, I say to her, “I don’t even really drink that much, and I haven’t got dollars, only Pesos anyway”.
“240 pesos without the full bar.”
“Sure” I say, thinking I’d probably be better off going to bed.
The music is okay, I bum a cigarette off a young Mexican as I drink another Victoria cerveza. Some beauty pangent thing goes on with a host who I can only describe as a try-hard wanker. Some British woman pops out her tits to plenty of applause, some Scandinavian type young men pour back the hard spirits, a Mexican waiter gets pissed off because I get a free bottle of water off of him without giving a 5 buck tip. I take a tour of the place, heading past the pool, though the thronging crowd and down by the beach. No one interests me, still I talk to a few people. There’s a group of overweight Scottish girls standing around a table, I ask one of them whether she plans to go anywhere else in Mexico. No, she says, her and her friends have just flown straight from Scotland to Cancun for a week then they’ll go back again.
“You’re not at all interested in anything else in Mexico?” I ask.
She shrugs her shoulders.
Around 12.30 I decide I’ve had enough, the Scandinavians look like they are well on their way to comatisation, young American lads have their tops off with their bulging arms and six-pack stomachs showing as they puff out their chests and snake their way through the crowd crying ‘get me a mirror baby I could look at myself all day’. There’s something very effiminate about manicuring your body in such a way I think, noting the lack of chest or even leg hairs. The wanker try-hard host is trying too hard to get the crowd roused, in their inebriated state I’m not sure anyone is listening. I’m too old for this shit, even when I wasn’t too old for it, I didn’t get into it, I was the pothead hippy type. I could still handle that scene, maybe a joint and a glass of Stones ginger wine. The excessive alcohol scene just doesn’t do it for me.
I pass a guy virtually sexually assaulting a young woman not far from the bar, no one does anything, she politely, awkwardly, struggles from his sloppy drunken embrace and heads out of the place with her girlfriend. Here men can be bastards, what happens in Cancun stays in Cancun.
I’m old and it’s not my scene by a far way man. I prefer a bunch of hippies half chillin on pot and Stones ginger wine talking about changing society and flowers and shit to these off their head twenty-something twats. I head back to my hotel. There’s people still swimming in the pool. It’s a cheap place and there seems to be more Mexicans than I imagine stay at the more ritzy Americano hotels stretching along the horizon over looking the crystalline waters. I take a dip for a few minutes, embracing the tropics then head upstairs to watch a bit of Mexican TV before crashing.
I wake around 8.30/ 9 with sun streaming into my room. The best thing for a hangover is not drinking much the night before. At 40, I can only handle two or three beers and still feel fresh in the morning. After breakfast I head down to the lagoon and take a few photos of the ‘crocodiles in the lagoon, don’t dangle your hand near their mouths‘ signs, thinking there’s no chance of seeing a crocodile around here when a Mexican yells out to me, in the soft way Mexicans yell, ‘cocodrilo!’ (with the upside down exclamation mark at the start), and points to the water beside the boat which has just unloaded a group of tourists.
I take a photo and a short movie of the cocodrilo. At lunch I tell some friendly Mexican guys at a cafe that I saw a small cocodrilo.
“Oh,” one of them says, “one of the cocodrilo bit the arm off a homeless man a few days ago”.
Bobbing in the Caribbean again in the evening, I decide my piss in the mangroves could have turned sour. As could the open bar.
Cancun’s a bit ugly, superficial. The Caribbean’s nice but you got to be careful, you can be standing right next to a cocodrilo, floating just near the surface of the water and you’d never know.
The next day after hot cakes, and another terrible coffee, at McDonalds, I head to Merida. Got to remember to ban my daughter from ever going to Cancun.