Hola Amigos…we’ve just returned to Padre and it’s time to reflect on observations of the town, the kiting and this part of Mexico in general.
It’s not an easy task to get to El Cuyo without some planning. It’s a 2:45 hour drive from Cancun. Most ways the gps sends you are through small towns with several topes per town (speed bumps) so the going is slow. We came here in a van transport from Cancun and took the 180 Libre Road instead of the Cuota (toll rd). There’s a time zone change on the way, so you get here after a 3 hour ride or so and wonder why the local time seems wrong!! You also want to take this into account when you plan your drive back to Cancun and the airport—it’s an hour later there.
The main road enters town by means of a causeway over the pink lagoon where flamingos fish in the briny water for shrimp (that’s what makes them pink!). El Cuyo is very similar to Padre and Hatteras- it’s like a narrow barrier island with ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other. This lagoon is called Rio Lagartos. This road continues straight through town and ends at the pier. The shore runs east to west and looking out at the ocean you face north. There is a plaza with a church, park and basketball court. It seems that every little settlement has a well built basketball court, some are even covered. I guess it’s government recreation funding.
The remainder of the roads in El Cuyo are sand. The “hotel zone” is a road that parallels the beach and heads east out of town. Along this road you will find everything from abandoned log homes, small houses, and apartments to newer, more modern homes. Most are for rent. About 50% are abandoned or closed up (we think hurricane Wilma hit this area hard and some people never repaired their property). Only some of the rental houses available are listed online—mostly through air bnb. “Se renta” and phone numbers are listed on many more, but you’ll have to speak Spanish to communicate. The name of the road (Veraniego) translates to “Summer St.”
Houses on one side are on the water with beach access, houses on the other side don’t all have easy beach access. We have a each access directly across from our house, so access was easy.
The beach goes on for miles. To the west from our access, it’s 1 km to the pier and the center of town. To the east, the beach goes on for miles. When we first arrived in January there might have been one or two folks on the beach. The busiest we saw was one day when there were 20 kites and about as many people. We rescued a stranded dolphin, saw thousands of cuttlefish beach and then go back out to sea on the tide, and small fish and skates in the water. The shells on the beach are beautiful and I found part of a turtle shell, a turtle leg bone, and some very large conch shells. When the waves are quiet, the water is turquoise. Water depth is not over your head for about 20 or 30 yards—there are several sandbars.
El Cuyo is a fishing town. Many of the men go out in their pongos (big open boats with a high bow) and net or long line for fish. They bring their fish to the cooperative for cash and save a fish for themselves. The cash from the fish is used to buy all the other necessary things. On every corner and elsewhere there are small “tienda”- sort of like the mom and pop store from the ‘50s. They all sell chips and cookies and cold drinks and then have one or two items you can’t find elsewhere in town. These little tiendas are also suppliers of the cash income for some folks. There is no bank, there is no ATM, there is no really big enterprise. The pesos that are in town circulate through the tiny businesses and new cash comes from selling fish and the tourists.
Everyone is friendly and happily laughs at my really bad Spanish. Food is cheap-both in the stores and eating out. Just don’t expect to find real coffee to buy or drink. Nescafe is their coffee of choice and we’re glad we bought a bag of ground goffee in Cancun. There are two ‘good’ restaurants on town, the Miramar and La Conchitas. Both close aobut 6 ( around here the big meal is in the afternoon). After 6 small “loncherias” (snack bars) open and serve tacos, gringas, tortas, salbutes and other foods. Many time the four of us ate great food for about $14.00 total. There are two bakery shops and some evenings we bought 6 or 8 pastries for about $1.50.
There were two bars, but they were definitely local and we felt like we were intruding, so our night life was nil. (Except for the one English satellite TV channel that showed the absolute worst movies ever made). Several nights were spent playing poker with seashells for chips, PIG, Fast Track or watching a movie I downloaded and brought with me.
We met several couples and families while walking on the beach. Our across the street neighbor was John Seidel. A retired wildlife biologist from Colorado who has spent many winter here in El Cuyo. He was a wealth of information on the town and the fauna. We all took a trip to Rio Lagartos, the mouth of the estuary that forms the lagoon to the south of El Cuyo where the flamingos winter. A 6 foot crocodile swam past the boat. The salt mines are about halfway between the two towns of Rio Lagartos and El Cuyo. I included an annotated image to see the layout.
John used to competitively ski race and there were a lot of people that Doug, Butch and he knew in common. Small world. We also met the Polsen’s from Squaw Valley—Shannon, Lance and Lani—travelling around Mexico and learning to kite. Steve and Cindy from Plyouth, NH also stopped by for 3 days during their bicycle tour of the Yucatan
The wind wasn’t what we hoped for, the waves were unexpected, weather was outstanding, and both the locals and the people we met were great.