Peel me a Mango: Cancun, Mexico


We hit the ground running, shed our multiple clothing layers for the 30-degree warmth, got through passports/customs at the airports and onto a bus for the station near our basic hotel in Cancun center. I had only initially booked this for the first two days of our seven, to see whether we’d like it, which we quickly decided we did. So I booked the remaining days and we had our home base. It included a swimming pool, continental breakfast and free unlimited Wi-Fi, though only one of its reception guys speaks reasonable English. This, we are told, is tolerable out here away from the city’s real Hotel Zone, but in that place English knowledge is a must in the hospitality industry.

Mexico, for local comparison, has about 28 times the land area of Georgia, and with 120 million people, some 30 times its population, too (and in both cases, roughly a quarter of them in the capital city, so… about 30 million in Mexico City). Cancun is a city of about 630,000, on the Yucatan peninsula, this being originally a major center for the Maya people (about which more in future). The city began to be developed as a tourism hotspot almost from nothing by the national government in 1970, so it’s very young and has sprung up very fast.

Since it was about midday by the time we settled in, we opted for a foot tour of the local area to orient ourselves rather than racing off to the sea just yet. There are many indoor and outdoor markets here, with a bewildering variety of fruits and vegetables and more, a good collection of which my wife bought to show at our village school in Svaneti and wow the children and her colleagues. Some of these I knew from either Zimbabwe or Indonesia, such as mangoes, avocados or the huge jackfruit. Others we were seeing for the first time and had to ask what they were called. At least someone was usually on hand to help us with our nonexistent Spanish.

We decided to do a mix of restaurant-hopping and cooking for ourselves, splurge and save, with a few special excursion treats afforded by the savings. This served our budget and interests well, as we wanted to see more of local life than five-star hotels would offer, but also to experience some of the really special things too.

The markets include several shops called Botanica, which seem to offer a range of products from simple natural remedies to outright spiritualist and occult items. Their signage affirms this, with Death a prominent personage. Catholicism has fused most interestingly with the ancient local religions.

Day Two saw us take a local bus to the free beach zone tucked between endless hotels with their more exclusive, although not unavailable, fronts. But ours had permanent huts for shade, first come first served, and we nabbed one of these. Slather on the sun cream to our winter-white bodies, and plunge into the Caribbean, the sheer intense hues of which, greens and blues, were a delightful assault on eyes much too attuned to half a year’s snow’s rather more limited palette of white through deadly cold glacial. The salt air’s smell, salt water on the tongue, and crash of the small but powerful waves added to the entire sensory experience. An Eden, really, although summer’s 45-degree heat can be missed. Spring is just right. And the local serpent, the crocodile, sticks to the lagoons, which is one less worry in the sea.

The sun cream, however, was either out of date or not nearly enough, as we discovered by evening. Parts of us turned virtually lobster red, and we had to add painkillers and aloe gel to our treatment, along with more of the cream, a second source which seemed to stop any further burning. Typical British tourist, I looked! It did not spoil our week, though, mercifully. More adventures to come.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

Tony Hanmer

12 April 2018 20:28