Here we sit Camping on the Beach in Mahahual.
Rather, we are camped in a sand parking lot across the pedestrian path from the beach. Its an odd little town, Mahahual. 10 years ago a cruise ship port was built at the southern end of town and i cant stop myself from picturing what this tiny diving destination looked like before that fateful day changed its future. The beach is gorgeous soft white sand and just offshore a reef runs as far as the eye can see tracing a parallel line to shore. Take away the multiple dockings of ships dumping gringos onto the shores of town and this is certainly a place we would be looking for a piece of land to call our own, or at the very least a long term rental. Now the “town” is comprised of an oddly wide, oddly smooth and decorative concrete path that traces along the oceanfront. Lined on the right with restaurants and shops and on the left by sections of the beach roped off in equal parcels to the buildings on the right, claiming that sand as their own. Walking along this path, we are definitely not in authentic mexico. The vendors who leap in front of you to explain why their free welcome drink is better than the next, speak in clear and precise english. From habit we look to the wall to find a handwritten menu, but it isn’t there. Here they are printed in color, crisp and laminated, written in english, priced in usd and the prices are higher than back home. Our group’s first evening in town we got duped by the game and paid US prices for collectively one of our worst meals of the trip. I feel like we’re in a miniature vegas without the craps tables. These towns baffle and confuse us. People spend hard earned money on a cruise to a foreign land, but when they step off the boat onto foreign soil the place they have arrived looks and feels just like home. If the purpose of visiting/exploring the world isn’t to experience the culture and the difference/similarities of its people than why not just stay home?
We have now figured out that just a short block off the pedestrian street is a more mexican street where the shops and food service the locals and those willing to wander off the safety of the path. Its also clear that very few non residents venture here.
This is now the type of town that jen and i would have packed up/pulled out of first thing in the morning, but we had laundry needs and there was the allure of a volleyball net only 30 feet from our lot (and the availability of a group of people to play against). Our group here now consists of 9. We drove over with Bryon and Anthony from Team Astrid and upon arrival met Tad and Gaila of OverlandNow who had already hunted through town for the cheapest/best spot for our group. We spent that first evening alone before being joined the following day by Nate and Sarah of TLWS and by Enrique. This smaller group is far easier for us to deal with than the full Rally group and we are really pleased with those who have ended up here with us.
That said, we find ourselves daily trying to decide whether to stay (camping for a reasonable price in an odd little town with the company of good peeps) or breakup the band to head out on our own. We feel like such loners for even considering leaving, but we grown used to traveling alone and have been with others for over three weeks now. We also realize the impact each day has on our budget. The town is higher priced (even on the backstreet) and we cannot resist the social allure of heading out each evening to join the masses. We are having a great time, but cant stop thinking about the expense how many days we must be cutting off the end of our trip.
This is only one of our daily discussions. We are also plagued by continued conversation about the rally, or rather its dubious outcome. I think we are more annoyed by the fact that we are still talking/thinking about it than the actual outcome itself, but it remains a topic nonetheless. The entire time on the road we didn’t care about winning. Arriving to the finish line we didn’t mind hearing that another team had beaten us by a slim margin of points and were/are excited that our new friends are now the ganadores. But something lingers on. Why would things play out this way? Why would the judges confer and give us an award that we didn’t care about winning, wait until we are proud/excited at our accomplishment and then take it away? What exactly is the universe trying to teach us from this?
We talk and try to figure out the larger lesson but fail to see it. It isn’t to get us to try again, as i think the experience has us leaning towards retiring as rallyers. It certainly isn’t about the other team as we continue to travel with and fully enjoy the boys from Team Astrid. It also isn’t about the judges as they are definitely a couple of our favorite people met in the course of the rally. If we had simply been announced the winners of the 2wd class and that was all, we would have been more than elated by our accomplishments. But there is a lesson or backstory that we haven’t quite figured out…and that is why the conversation keeps rearing its ugly head.
Occasionally i picture someone phoning the results back to HQ and the editor on the other end of the phone laughing hysterically and after collecting herself saying “you realize you cant have a VW Bus on the cover as the winner, right?”. I gather we aren’t exactly the anticipated poster child for these events and there may well be deals signed and advertisements booked that even prohibit such ludicrous things. How can you sell hardcore overland gear to the masses and get them to build bigger and stronger rigs when a 45 year old vw bus outrallies them and is named rally winner? No, i don’t think these are the events that unfolded, but the vision still runs in my head. In reality it is simply an unfortunate series of events. One where there wasn’t a set (or shared) points model that was in the end simply too difficult to adhere to and a scoring system that could be tallied in different ways to conclude different winners. And, really, i’m a broken record but in the big scheme of life this isn’t a big deal- one that shouldn’t warrant more conversation between us or words typed here…and i hope these are the last of both.
The holidays…we knew these would be tough. But that doesn’t really stop them from hitting us with a bomb straight to the heart. The massive amount we miss our close friends (I’m sure) accounts for why we still sit on this beach with a group of new ones. We continue to attempt to fill the gap and distract ourselves with laughter and good times. But its christmas eve, the gap isn’t filled completely and we think often of what others are doing and why we made the choice to not be doing it with them. We miss them all horribly. Many of our portland friends are touring India, a trip we would have given anything to be on, but cant squeeze it into our budget – unfortunate timing to say the least. Others have travelled home to see family, or are sitting around the table with loved ones as i write. Several are likely slicing through the powder of early season snows or sit at home with their adorable young children. We struggle to reconcile this in our heads/hearts as well. Why are we driven and choosing to do this journey thing? This thing that lights us up in every way, but also happens to lead us away from loved ones at a time when we would love to be around them, sharing in the holidays and soaking up their very existence.
It almost hurts more that we made the choice to be away than that we aren’t with them. We know on most days that this path is the right one and that those we love are still there and that our love for them will easily be regained as soon as we can wrap our arms around them again. For now, we wrap our arms around each other and squeeze tight enough that we hope they can all feel our love and how much we miss them from afar. Today is christmas eve, and we will squeeze tighter than most.