I had the ‘Tag’ removed from my ankle at 10.35 this morning (actually I lie, it was actually cut off my wrist). My name was carefully checked on an official list against my room number, and only when the exit barrier was slowly lifted was I allowed to leave. After an extraordinary week of luxurious seclusion and protection I identified with the elation of a woman being freed from a Mexican penitentiary.
The car swept into the Yucatán freeway, did a smart u turn, and sped rapidly towards the ferry terminal at Playa del Carmen, the gateway to the island of Cozumel.
A week in a ‘ Gated’ luxury holiday resort was more than enough for this adventuring Grandma. I felt like yelling “Freedom!”
Vidanta Grand Maya Resort is in many ways quite shocking as well as breathtaking. Over the years it has been reclaimed from the natural Mexican jungle habitat and developed into a landscape of well tended, nay manicured, jungle broadwalks and pathways. The boards, (which are cleaned and scrubbed daily by an army of Mexican workers) meander past live crocodile enclosures big enough for a family of ducks. Newly cemented walls allow male iguanas to sunbathe and strut their February mating stuff , displaying vivid orange and red throats and heads to female iguanas who entice them by laying and burying between 30 and 80 eggs
Vidanta, a massive man built residential complex, far removed from real life, allows homo sapiens to feel safe from fellow humans and, equally protects them from nature itself. This is a costly, beautiful, ultra clean and safe environment as long as you don’t step off the well trodden path.
And yes, the paths are well trodden, stomped and beaten. It’s on average a half mile from most designer apartment blocks to the watering holes, spas, and sun loungers by the pools. Gentle daily exercise appears to be seamlessly built into this experience. The scenic, winding. jungle paths stream with lines of moving people; walking, limping, jogging, ambulating with determination. These are mostly well heeled, white middle class Americans and Canadians, many are completely lost on their particular journey but determined to reach the destination on their map marked FOOD, SPA or POOL. Gyrating columns of often confused clientele extend warm greetings to each other as they wander happily along the sides of the blue marbled waterways that flow into crystal clear swimming pools.
Choose your pool: perhaps one surrounded by luxus soft sun loungers ; one with a central swim up bar for an early Happy Hour ; for those who want to gaze into the future there’s an infinity pool and, closer to the sea, there are the frenetic aqua aerobic activities and family pools all linked together with giant stepping stones. For those of a more ‘retiring’ nature there’s a ‘Sanctuary’. This hidden enclave has four-poster beds shaded by draw-down blinds (take your own book or lover) and defended by well planted tall trees. There is privacy, security and exclusivity abounding at a price.
No money changes hands – the personal Tag on your arm and ‘your signature’ (carefully identified with your credit card) ensure that you can painlessly eat, drink, or be pampered in a superior Spa environment and, if desperate for retail therapy, you can go shopping at any moment without a care in the world.
Soft soothing music accompanies guests at all times along the paths and sidewalks: drifting through the trees, wafting along the waterways , finally enveloping all who enter the temples of consumption. It’s at once seductive, soothing and alluring like the Siren call in Greek stories.
As we speed along the highway the memories begin to fade and as I join the queue of noisy day trippers to Cozumel I’m plunged into another world. I roll my two suitcases onto the ferry and half an hour later Cozumel hoves into view. I breathe in the fresh island air. My scuba fins and diving gear are ready for action and I can hardly wait for the next six days of a truly natural world and the freedom of the ocean.