There’s a magical place, a stunning Mexican island where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet, located 13 km off the coast of Cancun. It’s name is Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) which I’ve had the blessed opportunity to visit on a number of occasions. Its history dates back to the Pre-Columbian times when the island was sacred to the Maya goddess of childbirth and medicine Ixchel. In the 16th Century the Spaniards, upon arrival named it Isla Mujeres as a result of the many images of goddess that they saw before them.
At the beginning of this year after going through a bad break up from a three year relationship, I needed a reprieve from the my state of anxiousness and quite honestly an escape from Playa del Carmen. I started doing a search on airbnb and came across a feature picture that was very dark and a few other photos that had images of the furniture that I’d find in my studio apartment and somebody’s lounging legs from a terrace that had an amazing view of a body of water that I didn’t recognize. As the saying goes, “a picture says a thousand words” but in this particular circumstance, it was clearly not the case. However, in retrospect, am I ever happy that I took a chance on what was, at the time, one of the cheapest places on the island and brand new which meant that I could be the first international guest to try the place out! The other feature that really appealed to me was that it was off the beaten track and away from the typical tourist spots. Something told me that it was exactly what I needed!
I reached out on airbnb chat and got an immediate response from David who was very warm, friendly and accommodating. He confirmed that Carlos, his Dad would be picking me up from the ferry terminal in the afternoon upon my arrival. This interaction confirmed the initial, positive vibes that I had with little reference to anything concrete. The initial doubt that came to mind that questioned the places’ existence quickly left me. Upon boarding the ferry, all the rising tension that had invaded my consciousness for a number of days leading up to the holidays, suddenly became a quasi illusion. The combination of dark blue and turquoise jeweled water was enough to hypnotize me and I felt this surge of joy that gave me goosebumps as the breeze from the motion of the boat swept my hair back in movements that made me feel as though I was going to be swept away. Ahhh!! This is exactly what I needed! When the island as if in a dream came into sight, it honestly took my breath away for the third time and I was reminded of an extraordinary day that I had with my cousins; an unforgettable snorkeling tour and fiesta that lasted the entire day.
When I got to the terminal, I couldn’t locate Carlos so I reached out to David and within minutes, he appeared in a kind of farming vehicle, an old pick up that I imagined could have carried chicken coups in the back. Right from the get go, we began conversing with ease and he shared with me a bit about the history of the island and his family history. I was in my element speaking Spanish as I have always been and the mere sound of it had attracted me from the days of hearing Luis for the first time, on Sesame St. Yes, there is no better curative remedy to beat the blues than the soulful, melodic movements that come from the gorgeousness of communicating in this incredible language!
The drive was picturesque, winding along the island’s main thoroughfare that had an abundance of vegetation alongside it and varying views of the Caribbean Sea that were simply breathtaking!!! Their family place as I had anticipated, was located in a more secluded area with a jaw dropping view of la laguna Makax (Makax Lagoon). Carlos made reference to the golf carts that sat in front of the property that he mentioned were for rent and the primary method of transportation on the island. He also volunteered to take me to Playa Norte (North Beach) to explore the next day. I climbed the stairs in anticipation from the street level en route to the first level of the house that was aligned on both sides by what was to become the home of vegetables and plants. The house had a very distinct appearance and glistened in the afternoon sun. Carlos assisted me with my luggage to my private space that would be my home away from home for a few days. It was evident that there had been a lot of love put in to the construction of every detail of my studio suite from the floors to the ample kitchen space that was a fusion of modern and traditional Mexican decor. The bed was a litera landing pad and ultra comfortable. From the bedroom, I caught a glimpse of a rustic beach in the distance that I couldn’t wait to explore the following day. I quickly left my stuff and went up to the roof top terrace to catch the last couple hours of sun.
Upon reaching what felt like the top of the world, a rush of pure bliss struck me and the view from above was reminiscent of the sight from my community roof terrace in Vancouver that also has a spectacular view of Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park and Coal Harbour. I took a few silly selfies in my bikini and then got in to lounge mode on the chair from which the unknown legs from the picture had been depicted. I opened one of Haruki Murakami’s latest books “Men Without Women” whose title evidently suited my mood and the author’s existentialist sarcasm. Somehow it all seemed to suit the scene quite nicely as the sun began to set over the horizon. It was the end of another blessed day in paradise!
The next day, I went for a short run around the lagoon. It wasn’t the distance that I had tackled in the past in the days when I ran marathons but it was enough to break a sweat and take in the scenery that was characteristic of this area. Upon my return, David and Carlos suggested that we go to Playa Norte in about an hour and I took them up on their offer. Playa Norte is located in the northern sector of the island (which explains its name) that is protected from the onslaught of the open sea. It is actually one of the widest beaches in Mexico, about 100 metres wide between the level of the tide and the beginning of the dune vegetation. An interesting fact is that it was the first point of contact for the Spanish Conquistadores around 1517 which is now Mexican territory.
David, a Marine Biologist was a great guide and took me to an ideal snorkeling spot that was not overly congested as I experienced on a few tours that I had taken in the past. He explained much about the flora and fauna of the area and was evidently well versed in marine life. Out talk was enriching and educational. We eventually made our way to the open seas that very quickly became quite turbulent as the wind picked up and the outside temperature became chillier as it often does in the month of December/January in Quintana Roo. We didn’t last long in the surf but shared some laughs between conversation that was interrupted between pummeling by some pretty aggressive waves! Carlos who didn’t venture in to the water, greeted us with towels as we got out and we very quickly made our way back to his truck. It was a gorgeous day and later I was invited back to their family’s apartment on the first floor of the home to share some food and good cheer. Another tourist from Australia had arrived that evening and she joined in on the fun. My stay with the Gonzales’ family was unforgettable and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different that I would describe as a the full package deal without being a luxurious hotel.
Casa Gemelas overall is an incredible place of meditation and a unique escape from the full on chaos of Cancun. The Gonzalez family came to Isla Mujeres at the beginning of the 70’s when it was an island dominated by the fishing industry and his family a as consequence became fishermen. The gorgeous piece of land upon which their family home was constructed was a small, humble, family dwelling that had a palapa, small benches made of planks and a grill. Two years ago, Carlos began creating what is now a three story (including the rooftop terrace) glorious airbnb that offers its guests a home away from home experience.
By Leah T. Sakata