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Hound Dog

Sep 9, 2010, 2:58 PM

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Quintana Roo as the Latest Kid on the Block

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The thread announcing the fire bombing of a cantina in a rundown section of the boomtown Cancun City just keeps hanging in there like a scab on a diabetic that won´t heal and, what disturbs me is that since August 31st, this has remained the introductory thread to the Southern Mexico forum so we have this event born, apparently, of local gangster attempts at extortion reminiscent of the times of prohibition in the U.S. and that thread, by default, headlines the Southern Mexico forum as if, just by virtue of being there, it defines life in metropolitan Cancun so I, for one am fed up with this anomalous event defining life in Quintana Roo - a far more complex place than is understood among those who have not ventured there except to explore the besotted environs of the unrepresentative beachside hotel zone known commonly among tourists as Cancun.

Cancun City is a new boomtown of about 500,000 souls that owes its very existence to the plastic tourist enclave of the Cancun hotel zone and, before the Mexican government decided to create Cancun from the desolate wetlands of the lagoon south of Isla Mujeres, there was virtually nothing there. It´s actually a pretty attractive city for a boomtown originally designed as a place to house those charged with developing the hotel zone. In some ways, it is a nicer place to stay in that area than the sterile and overhyped hotel zone but before one does that it might be even better to stay in other places along the Caribbean in Quintana Roo or even along the Gulf in neighboring Yucatan State.

I have a Humble Oil Company road map of Mexico from 1952 which I think is fascinating. In all of Quintana Roo (mas o menos 50,000 SK) , which only became a state in 1974, the only highways shown on the roadmap were the seasonally negotiable dirt road from the old colonial city of Vallodolid in Yucatan state to Puerto Morelos on the Caribbean, the short dirt or gravel road fron Santa Rosa on the Yucatan/Quintana Roo border to the Xiatil ruins, a distance of maybe 40 kilometers at most and the all-weather gravel road from Chetumal to Bacalar, a distance of maybe 35 kilometers at most. That Humble Oil Company roadmap, which was typical of its day, showed the rest of Quintana Roo as a roadless and uninhabited wasteland. Today, we know that that vast territory from old Puerto Morelso to Chetumal and inland to the Campeche and Yucatan state lines was inhabited primarily by the Maya and crisscrossed by a network of interconnecting trails and rudimentary roads. Many ancient Mayan cities in ruins were to be found in desolate back-country areas and the urban center of this unmapped region was the city today known as Filipe Carrillo Puerto but these lands, including the extraordinary wetlands, jungles, beaches and offshore reefs were primarily of interest only to the local indigenous people until the powers-that-be saw the goldmine this region could be for international tourism.

It´s amazing how things have changed in less than 40 years. Better get there before they pave over the coast and turn the area into Disneyworld South.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 9, 2010, 3:02 PM)



tashby


Sep 9, 2010, 4:04 PM

Post #2 of 5 (5826 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Quintana Roo as the Latest Kid on the Block

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It´s amazing how things have changed in less than 40 years.


No kidding. I only know the last 25 years, but it's incredible. The first time I was over there was around 1985 on a dive trip to Cozumel. (We didn't even fly into Cancun, so never saw it.) One day we took the ferry over to Playa del Carmen.....I think PdC had ONE paved road in town at that time. We hired a guy with a van who took us south to some cenotes, and then onto the ruins in Tulum. (There was virtually nothing else at Tulum then, nor was their anything much along the coast. Puerto Morelos was certainly there, but didn't appear to be much. From the highway, Akumal appeared to be some beach hut rentals with hammocks. Maybe one hotel, etc.)

About 15 years later, we returned to the area for a beach vacation. We'd arranged to rent a condo in Akumal. It was a completely different place. (I knew that ahead of time since we'd reserved the place, but still....the change was mind-blowing and I wasn't really prepared for it.)

Now, whenever I hear someone say, "I can always go back..." about a place where they wished they'd spent more time, I reply: "Not always."


Hound Dog

Sep 10, 2010, 10:08 AM

Post #3 of 5 (5780 views)

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Re: [tashby] Quintana Roo as the Latest Kid on the Block

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Now, whenever I hear someone say, "I can always go back..." about a place where they wished they'd spent more time, I reply: "Not always."

Tashby:

Perhaps never for any number of reasons. I still remember the world´s most beautiful sugar white sand beaches at Destin, Florida which, in my youth, were largely developed in a rudimentary fashion with simple vacation cabins and shacks for fishermen. The wide and splendid beaches were magical and mostly deserted. Today, the beaches are obscurred by ugly high-rise condominiums as far as the eye can see interspersed with tawdry eateries and juke joints. A disgraceful desecration of a God-given paradise. My wife, on the other hand, grew up in France and still remembers the Camargue of her youth; the primitive wetlands extending to the coast south of Arles and entirely undeveloped. In 1970 they formed the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue and today, this once untrampled and isolated region is visited by countless thousands of tourists visiting areas opened up for visitors without the necessity of their trekking into primitive areas for a glimpse of totally undeveloped marshlands. Much in the Camargue has, thus been spoiled by tourism but, what the hell, at least more folks get to experience the wetlands.

We can´t go back to these places without lamenting the loss of our childhood innocence so, instead, we visit our new primitive wetlands/beaches along the Pacific Coast from Tehuantepec, Oaxaca and then along the Chiapas coast to the border with Guatemala. That place has changed since the 1950s as well as, back then the coast, at least in Chiapas, was very primitive and isolated. No doubt we are trampling on someone else´s Destin or Camargue of the 1950s without even realizing it. We would not even have attempted to go there 50 years ago and now we unintentionally sully some other kid´s memories with our presence. That´s the way of the planet.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 10, 2010, 10:11 AM)


YucaLandia


Sep 10, 2010, 11:03 PM

Post #4 of 5 (5718 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Quintana Roo as the Latest Kid on the Block

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Favorite places, now long gone?
Cozumel & its awsome reefs before 1985.
Sanibel Island, with incredible shelling before 1970.
Shenandoah, Yosemite, & Yellowstone (nearly tourist-free) before 1970.

Yucatan's back-country ruinas y grutas are our current candidates for enjoying now, before the herds arrive.

... or is it all just nostalgia?

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Read-on MacDuff
E-visit at http://yucalandia.com


Hound Dog

Sep 11, 2010, 10:29 AM

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Re: [YucaLandia] Quintana Roo as the Latest Kid on the Block

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Favorite places, now long gone?
Cozumel & its awsome reefs before 1985.
Sanibel Island, with incredible shelling before 1970.
Shenandoah, Yosemite, & Yellowstone (nearly tourist-free) before 1970.

Yucatan's back-country ruinas y grutas are our current candidates for enjoying now, before the herds arrive.

... or is it all just nostalgia?


A good question, Yucalandia:

Despite our choosing the Chiapas Highlands as our second homefront in Mexico (the other being at Ajijic on Lake Chapala AKA Peoria Upon Sump), we still have a love affair with the Yucatan Peninsula. While looking around Mérida back in 2005 with an intention, at that time, of perhaps moving to that city´s historic central district, one of the several side trips we took was the drive from a hacienda/hotel where we had overnighted in Sudzal through Izamal up back roads to Dzilam de Bravo and then along the coast to Progreso and back down to Mérida. In those days, there was still a lot of hurricane damage along this primitive, almost deserted and mysterious coast with its shacky fishing villages but we were really taken with that area as a place to spend some time in the winter renting a beach house as opposed to buying in a coastal area where severe hurricane damage was always a possibility. (Do not think we overestimate the destructive force of hurricanes. We were married and first lived our married lives at Mon Luis Island on the mouth of the Isle Aux Oiseaux River on Mobile Bay in a house that, after Hurricane Frederick in 1979, disappeared from the face of the earth). We fully understand the gamble one undertakes by building a home on a hurricane coast. Remember Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis to say nothing of New Orleans?

So, anyway, we were deterred from our intention to spend some winter days along the Yucatan Gulf Coast by the house project we undertook in Chiapas in 2006 but this winter I think we may head back to that coast for a couple of weeks of relaxation in a rented beach house. Just one thing. We have been told that, since those days when this desolate but beautiful coast so intrigued us, the area has become the in place for NOB retirees, especially Canadians, to settle and buy or rent beach homes. If, indeed, this formerly poverty stricken and isolated coast has been overrun with foreign retirees, maybe we are in for a rude awakening when we return. We hope not.

In addition to the Yucatan Gulf, we also drove that year down to Bacalar and the coastal village of Xcalak in Quintana Roo on the Caribbean entertaining the idea (although not too seriously) of, perhaps, renting a lakeside home on Lake Bacalar or beach house on the coastal dirt road that runs between Xcalak and Majahual. As beautiful as Bacalar was, it had what to us was a disturbing melancholic air about it that discouraged us from the notion of spending any significant length of time there in the future. So we drove over to Xcalak and spent some time looking at beach houses north of the old village still largely deserted after severe hurricane damage that had occurred some years earlier.

Some of the beach homes on the Xcalak-Majahual road were quite charming and situated upon deserted beach fronts of great beauty to be shared (occasionally) only with the most vicious and hunger-crazed mosquitoes we have ever seen anywhere (and I have been in the Minnesota north woods so I know of what I speak). Despite the great beauty of this coast, we had the uneasy feeling that it would wear thin rather quickly and to say the services at Xcalak were primitive fails to convey the sense of complete isolation one feels there. After looking at several of these beach homes for sale or rent (at outrageous prices), we headed back to Xcalak village to enjoy a cold beer at a lodge there and asked someone who lived there what it was that one did all day in such a glorious but isolated environment a serious drive from the nearest good shopping (or medical care) at or near Chetumal. So, he related the typical day in Xcalak:

(1) After walking the dog along pristine and deserted paths, go diving among some of the most beautiful coral reefs on the planet. Then, perhaps a bit of time fishing in the Caribbean.
(2) Late lunch overlooking the beach with a fine tequila or dark rum chaser.
(3) Continue to drink booze and beer until one reaches a state of immense relaxation and passes out.
(4) It is now tomorrow. Repeat (1) through (3).
(5) Head for Chedraui in Chetumal once a week to restock food and booze. This takes all day and is the highlight of the week.
(6) After six months of this, if you are still alive (they don´t do liver transplants in Chetumal), place beach house for sale on the internet for an exorbitant price, head back to Des Moines and pray for a telephone call from a sucker looking for a retirement home on a magnificent beach far from the madding crowd.

Maybe Lake Chapala and the Chiapas Highlands aren´t so bad after all and at least near Dzilam de Bravo, it´s not that far to Mérida.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 11, 2010, 10:39 AM)
 
 
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