I’ll give it the "low key" star of approval, but you cannot say of Puerto Morelos that it is a mere humble fishing village (this to Ed, who remembers it as such). It's expanded enough to please the vacationing types who come here for the quiet and the lovely white sand.
Our beachfront hotel (Ceiba del Mar) is just a couple of kilometers out of town. It’s actually a lovely and unobtrusive place (with absolutely bargain rates at the moment: Mexico is only slightly recovering from a tourism slow down, what with the recession and the flu issues of last year) and when I sit down on a beach chair in the afternoon, I feel myself sinking in for the long haul. A good beach chair will do that to me, especially when there’s a lovely breeze passing through and the waves hitting the sand sound just right.
But by evening, the eggs of the Isla café are but a memory. I’m hungry.
We’re told that the fastest way to town is along the beach. That is one lovely walk – especially at sunset. At the moment that the sun throws colors to the eastern clouds, the pastel tones are airy and beautiful.
And even as the last rays fade and dusk sets in, the colors remain, as enchanting as in full daylight.
At Puerto Morelos, the main square is coming to life. The handful of eateries are filling up, the kids are playing on the playground, the churchgoers are moving in a procession behind the bearers of three statues – the Magi I should think, as it is January 6th.
We walk from one eating spot to another and I can tell that Ed is wishing for something more local. We leave the square and stumble upon a backyard kind of place (La Pepita), with tables spilling haphazardly over a sandy lot. In various spots, egg cartons are strewn about and lit to burn slowly, so that the smoke spreads like incense over the sprawling space. As we sit down, I can see their purpose – the bugs are out. We move a carton closer to our feet. The bugs move away.
The menu is simple – sea food. In a ceviche (raw, marinated in lime juice), fried, or grilled. (I later read that this is where the fishermen go: big plates of seafood and cheap beer.)
The waiter brings starters of beans and fish spread. We order guacamole and shrimp.
It’s all quite tasty and fine, though we’re stumped by the shrimp: they’re significantly overdone, by the standard of our palate. But is it us, or is it the shrimp? Suppose you accept the idea that shrimp should be grilled until they are firm, and I mean firm! Under such a premise, suddenly our platefuls are astonishingly fine!
So which is it? The mother figure of the place looks on. I catch her eye, and nod, she smiles, pleased. Clearly proud of her food. And this is enough to convince me that we are eating the shrimp as they are, for this cook at least, meant to be eaten. Spicy. Very firm.
We finish every last bite, delighted with the flavors and frankly, with the homeyness of the place.
It's late now. I suggest that we walk back by the road. Ed looks doubtful. We don’t know which road...
But how could we not find it? We are two kilometers away, straight on the sea. Just hug all roads by the sea.
It’s funny how easy it is to get lost when you don’t know what you’re doing.
We give up on the roads and find a path to the water, finishing our walk along a now dark beach. The wet sand is solid and easy to navigate. The clouds are scattered, the stars – bright as holiday lights. A thin jacket keeps me warm, the noise of the gentle waves momentarily erases the stress of too much work back home.