My last day I visited the Turtle Bay Bakery for my final, buttery, crispy sticky bun — for which the bakery is renowned — and good coffee. Also to ask owners Bart and Jennifer about the best way to get to the airport.
I’d also planned to visit Yal Ku lagoon, about a 40-minute walk from Akumal or a 15-minute bike ride, and asked Dario for some time off from bay patrol and to borrow a bike.
As I peddled carefully along the half-paved road, pockmarked with bone-breaking potholes I feasted my eyes for the last time on brilliant red hibiscus and other orange and yellow blossoms along the way. I inhaled the warm, soft, moist air, knowing that soon I’d be breathing the cold, dry Colorado air.
Arriving at the lagoon — free for eco-volunteers, but $9 for others — I entered an intriguing maze of tropically landscaped garden paths with stunning sculptures perfectly placed under palms, in little leafy nooks, or at the end of stone pathways. There were even sculptures out on little islands in the lagoon. I was so captivated I almost forgot about the lagoon.
It was an overcast day, threatening rain. I planned to just take a look at the lagoon, but threw in my bathing suit and snorkel in case I decided to swim. I finally extricated myself from the sculpture garden and headed to the lagoon. It was even better than I could have imagined — absolute paradise — and there was no question that I was going in.
The lagoon was clear, calm, sheltered water with no worries about sharks or ocean currents. A subterranean river empties into it causing an inversion with the mix of salt and fresh water. Platter-sized silver and black striped angel fish, parrot fish and some kind of gorgeous celestial blue fish schooled and sheltered beneath islets and submerged rocks. Other snorkelers floated dreamily past, mesmerized by the beauty and stillness. This was the most magical and wonderful thing I’d experienced on my entire trip. I wanted a house on this lagoon!
Yal Ku was a special gift. I’d had an unpleasant time the night before. After an interminable wait for one of the Eco center administrators who had a car, we made an abortive journey to Tulum to a new restaurant that had invited all of us for a free meal. When we arrived it turned out that the invitation was for another night. Things like this were always happening — misinformation. I hadn’t brought much money and we ended up going to a restaurant. In this mostly Mexican group I felt really out of it as the other volunteers and staff who had been together for months/years joked and teased each other in Spanish beyond my comprehension. Also most of them were in their early 20s — a whole other world from mine. As they drank beer after beer becoming more and more jovial my feeling of boredom, frustration and outsiderness increased exponentially. Finally, they left around 11, only to decide to go to a disco next. Normally, I would have been up for this, but I had decended into a funk. I took a collectivo back to Akumal and went to bed, only to be awakened by mosquito attack around 2 a.m., causing me to dig out my already-packed mosquito net and reinstall it. I couldn’t wait to go home to Boulder.
But this day was the complete opposite — complete joy and harmony — causing me to realize all that I would miss when I left. The old Yin Yang again, which was constantly happening during my month’s stay at the Eco center.
The day continued to get even better with my last kayak out on Akumal Bay and seeing the giant parrot fish again. Then that night one of the American guides from the Akumal dive shop had an elegant beach-side wedding with all sorts of colorful characters, including — finally! — some single women and other people my age. There was ceviche, filet mignon, shrimp, toffee cheese cake and five different types of tequila — creme (sweet), tamarind, coffee, cinnamon, and a killer habenaro. Along with the great food, drink and company was dancing to oldies, salsa and reggae music. A fabulous evening and another much-appreciated gift after a mostly difficult month. I’d been living like a college kid for the last month and finally I was back in my own world. What a relief!
Although this whole Eco-volunteer thing had been a somewhat taxing and disappointing experience, I realize that it accomplished what I’d wanted — a change of scene, an adventure, a challenge, a way to help protect the environment, an opportunity to meet new people and experience a different perspective on life and the world, and an escape from the onset of winter in a beautiful, warm place by the sea. I also learned about the 20-something culture and now know who Modest Yahoo is, what an “Emo” is, as well as what riding “bitch” in a car means.
I’m back in Boulder now, and would you believe my contact lens is STILL in Mexico City. I’m raising hell with UPS and will have another installation in the never-ending saga of the lost lens. I keep thinking of my contact lens being like Tom Hanks, the UPS guy marooned on the island in the movie, “Castaway.”