John proposed to me on my birthday in January at Sundance Resort, here in Utah.
But that was Plan B.
As I learned months afterward, he’d been plotting a romantic proposal that involved bathing suits, margaritas, and our passports. But a pesky little hurricane thwarted his plans.
Putting together thoughts on paradise for my guest post on 360 til 30 had me up to my neck in beach photos. My favorites are from our trip to the Yucatan Peninsula last October. We arrived at our hotelito, a teeny resort called Mezzanine on a dirt road in Tulum. I had stalked the website for weeks prior to the trip, and it exceeded my dreams! We were greeted with a margarita and a ridiculous view from our patio.
We spent the next five days with powdery white sand between our toes, exploring the nearly deserted coastline and frolicking in the warm aqua sea. We ate incredible food at a few nearby restaurants and made friends with local crustaceans.
Outside of our door each morning was a basket of coffee, waiting like a gift to be enjoyed on the patio. Oh, if only every morning started this way.
We ended more than one day at the Mezzanine bar with their special coffee cocktail/dessert. Watching the server prepare this concoction was mesmerizing, spilling fire like a waterfall between shakers and ultimately into our glass.
This was a place to stay forever. But our itinerary included a week at a location even more remote, a fishing lodge near the tiny village of Punta Allen. After our week there, we’d end the trip with another handful of days in Tulum- and unbeknownst to me, I would become betrothed. We said our temporary goodbyes to Mezzanine and started phase two of our Yucatan adventure.
When I say the lodge was remote, I mean it. We drove down a dirt road in horrible condition for an hour until the taxi driver would go no further. From there, we carried our luggage on foot down a dirt path, through a swampy water trail, and along a rocky route to a lonely dock. There, our ride was waiting- a panga (fishing boat) driven by Gaspie, one of the guides from the lodge.
We then enjoyed a two-hour boat ride through mangrove trees, populated by birds of every size and more than one alligator. A cold Tecate calmed my anxious thoughts. Where in the world were we going? How exciting! This was a true adventure.
After some time on the open ocean, we came around a bend and I saw our destination- a cluster of buildings on a palm-lined beach. This will do.
We had a glorious few days at the lodge, virtually isolated from the world. We dined on whatever fresh deliciousness the staff placed in front of us, usually fish caught earlier that day. It felt like we were on a deserted island- but with incredible food, unlimited margaritas, and luxurious shelter. John escaped on all-day fishing expeditions a couple of times, and I spent long, perfect days alone (save the fat iguanas) with a book, a margarita, and the sea.
I joined him on the fishing boat twice. It was incredible to be out on the water all day long, nothing around us but the blues and greens of the sky and sea.
One day, the sky changed. The water clouded. The palm trees leaned toward the ground as the wind blew in off of the angry ocean. The murmurs of the guides and the lodge manager included words like “hurricane” and “evacuate.” Apparently, Hurricane Rina was gaining strength- approaching a Category 5- and was coming directly at us.
Government trucks rolled by, headed to Punta Allen to force the residents to evacuate. The dirt road that was in such bad condition that we took a boat here to avoid traveling on it looked like the only way out. Along with a group of fishermen from Virginia (the only other people at the tiny lodge), we packed our bags and awaited the call to learn what would happen next.
At three in the morning, the phone rang. Out time at the lodge was up. We loaded up a few vans and waved goodbye to the perfect tropical secret, doubtfully hoping it would survive the storm so we could return someday. For the next five hours, we clung to the armrests and tried not to get carsick as we traveled through the jungle on the worst road I’d ever seen. We were relocated to an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen that I’m sure would have been lovely… if it wasn’t shut down and boarded up in preparation for Rina’s arrival.
Our trip back to Tulum was clearly not an option. About this time, John decided that he’d have to come up with another plan to propose marriage. While it made for a good story, this was not the magical and romantic engagement he imagined. We made the best of our situation, taking walks through the storm and drinking wine in our beautiful hotel suite. We diligently watched the flight availability to go home as early as possible as the wind and rain built to incredible levels outside. Downgraded to a Cat 4, then 3, and so on until Rina reached landfall as a tropical storm, we still had to block our patio door from flooding. Thank God for the World Series and the bathtub.
As you know, this little tale ends with glimmering diamonds and happy tears on the top of Bishop’s Bowl, just a few months later. John’s plans didn’t turn out the way he thought they would, but in the end, he got the girl.
And we have quite a story to tell about the trip when we almost got engaged.