Xcalak – yeah, go ahead and pronounce that one! :)

Xcalak is a sweet, great little town of about 3 streets with alleyways back and forth all over the place. We ate at Toby’s that night and had the best snapper dinner ever! Since the next day was Sunday, he wasn’t going to be open but he gave us the password to his wifi and said to come on in and use the facilities anyway. Even all closed up, the tables and chairs and power and wifi were all still accessible – we frequented Toby’s during the time we were there to show our appreciation.

The whole town is less than a mile long and ½ mile wide with little shops and restaurants and “convenience” stores all over the place. About the only way to tell what they are is to look inside because there may or may not be a sign outside. There are never hours of operation posted because everyone just knows when and what everyone else is doing. To find anything at all is by guess and by gosh…or asking someone on the street. All the people we came across, just all of them, were smiling and friendly and helpful even (or especially) when they found we didn’t have a clue what they were saying half the time. We tried our minimal Spanish all the time anyway but then they answered us in Spanish and we were lost. lol Pointing and waving and gestures were the norm, usually with smiles and laughter.

It was a short dinghy ride to the pier to tie up and it was never touched while there (although we took the key anyway just to remove temptation). It was usually a wet dinghy ride, however, because the water was never quite calm; we got very used to carrying the computers and stuff inside garbage bags. At the bottom of the pier (the only one in town) we did finally see the second tower we were supposed to line up out on the reef: the “red and white structure” was more of a faded brownish-yellow and beige and only about 20 feet tall. Now that we knew where it was, though, it would be easy to find for the way out.

A trip down to the Port Authority building was fruitless (the first of many) as the gate was locked and there were no hours of operation posted (as usual). This would happen often as you will read later.

On our travels around town, we did find a store that carried beer and cigarettes and the laundromat – which we tried to take note of – so that was a bonus. We also saw a place that advertised breakfast, right off the pier, so figured we’d try there the next day. Being Sunday, we didn’t figure on anything being open but we were hopeful. As it turned out, our hope was misplaced – nothing was open at all so we had just a quiet day on the computer and then swimming around the boat a bit. The water was clear to the bottom (as we had found all along the coast of Mexico) and warm and clean and oh so refreshing. I took the opportunity during our stay in Xcalak to wash my hair, albeit in salt water, and felt like a human again.

Xcalak was a little place we could have stayed longer and explored the area but the time came to move on. We needed to get our zarpe (exit papers) from there before hitting Belize the next day so we started with another trip to Port Authority. Maria, the agent, did not speak English at all and made no attempt whatsoever to try. Between gestures and translations and holding out papers, we were able to express what we wanted and tried to tell her when we were leaving. She said at first that we could get our zarpe and then wait for the weather to be good before leaving, the next time we saw her she said something different. Finally the day before we wanted to leave we gave her our paperwork in the morning and said we would be back that afternoon between 2 and 3 pm to pick it up – figuring that would give her enough time to complete it. For paperwork that should only take 10 minutes, we knew that 5 hours may or may not be enough for her specifically.

We returned at 2 pm and the building was locked up so we went down the road to have a drink and wait a bit. Coming back at 3 pm we found the gate still locked and no one in sight. We walked around the town a bit more and returned at 4 pm – still nothing. Her dogs were there barking at everyone, her truck was in the carport, there were voices upstairs but no one answered when we called out. Asking the navy guys down the road about her office hours, we were told she was supposed to be open 9-5 every day but she probably went upstairs for a nap for the afternoon. We yelled and rattled the gate and called and totally made a nuisance for over ½ hour and there was no answer at all. “Ticked off” didn’t begin to describe how we felt. We wanted to leave at 6 the next morning because we had noticed the reef was perfectly quiet at that hour – no wind, no waves, total calm.

In addition, a storm moved in while we were in the street and we got blown and drenched before getting back to the boat.

The next morning, we were there before 9 am and lo-and-behold she was open. She hadn’t done a thing with the paperwork so we sat to wait. In the meantime locals dropped in for a chat and she stopped everything to talk with them. Hour and a half later we finally got our zarpe and could leave. We beelined for the boat and pulled anchor right away. It was a little rougher through the reef than it was earlier but still not bad at all. A short rollercoaster ride and we were gone from there.

Xcalak was a great little place and we would love to head back there but, if we have to go through all that again with Maria, the so-called Port Authority agent, we won’t be back. Shame that. She ruins the whole experience of that beautiful village.

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