The minute our cruise ship arrived in Cozumel, Mexico, my husband and I walked past the pre-fabricated cruise ship passenger shopping area, tour operators and boat rides at the docks, until we found a guy quietly renting motor scooters.
We got a scooter for just $45 American for the day; he made us take helmets, but then put them in the storage under the seat. The scooter dude drew us a map to the Mayan ruins at San Gervacio, and that’s where we headed.
We made a few circles around downtown San Miguel trying to figure out his map, but after we saw a huge Quiksilver store and an Atlantis Submarines building we wondered if we’d ever left Lahaina. After doing a complete circle around town we passed by the same moped rental stand where we started. Deciding the shop guy must not venture far from his place of business, we scrapped his map. Besides, how do you get lost on an island?
Weaving our way through avenue after avenue we discovered some of the more Mexican areas of town: electronics shops, pawnshops, supermarket, university and finally a small highway that took us to San Gervacio.
Taking the moped to maximum speed we sped through the Cozumel countryside, Motorcycle Diaries-style. It seemed like everyone had a three-wheel bicycle sporting one wheel behind your butt and two others in front supporting a bench. I saw one guy using his as a moving van, hauling boxes, a lamp, futon, clothes and a television.
Absorbing all this at 35 miles per hour was intoxicating. So when the motorcycle cop suddenly appeared behind us it was a total buzz kill. He grilled us in Spanish about who rented us the speed devil scooter and why we weren’t wearing helmets. When we said we didn’t speak Spanish, he motioned to his helmet and pointed at our heads. Remembering that the scooter guy had put them in the secret compartment under the seat we produced our protective headgear and put it on. After a call to his headquarters the cop sent us on our way with a flick of his hand.
Finally, we found San Gervacio. We paid our fees to go in and walk around. These ruins were populated from 300 to 900 AD. The Mayan people fashioned a stout village there with huge walking paths that ran north, south, east and west across the island. Other Mayan people at the time traveled to Cozumel because of the fertility goddesses that resided in temples here.
Walking around, I found small holes in the ground and asked our guide what kind of animal lived there. He chuckled and explained that the Mayan people tunneled out storage areas and rooms underground to get out of the intense heat. He invited me to climb in the hole and check it out. After I was crouched in he mentioned that Mayans were also very short and could fit in these tunneled rooms easily. Me, not so easily.
All of this learning made us hungry so we headed back into town to find some authentic Cozumel grub. We decided to try the avenue bordering the university, figuring students—like everywhere—would eat good and cheap. We soon found a little place across from the university serving carnitas.
We went for the tacos, which were about 50 cents. The three ladies there spoke no English and giggled at our broken Spanish, our lameness with the pesos and our anxious hunger.
I marveled at their little taqueria, decorated ceiling to floor with pig mementoes and trinkets. There were happy little pigs everywhere to keep us company while we devoured roasted pork. MTW