For ever day the explorer meets his destination whether it is an obscure point on a map, a long lost artifact, or a unique and dangerous animal there are many more days of disappointment or frustration with many variables out of the control of him or his team. Today our bull shark would have to wait. The storm continued to hug the coast line and after asking the dive team over and over again we could not find a boat or guide that would take us down.
The team sat in our hotel room looking out the window debating our lonely fate.
We decide to trek to Tantun Cuzamil, an accent ruin here on the island which in Mayan means Flat Rock in the place of the Swallows. The spanish call it San Gervasio. The ruins were once a hub of worship of the goddess Ix Chel, deity of the moon, childbirth, fertility, medicine, and weaving. Pre-Columbian Maya women would try to travel to San Gervasio and make offerings at least once in their lives. In 1560, Diego Lopez de Cogolludo, wrote: “The pilgrims arrive at Cozumel for the fulfillment of their vows to offer their sacrifices, to ask help for their needs, and for the mistaken adoration of their false gods.”
But we are not there to look at ruins. We are on the hunt for the giant camouflaged iguana — Iguana iguana. These beasts, although herbivores, grow to as much as six feet long and weigh up to 25lbs. Green Iguanas have very sharp teeth that are capable of shredding leaves and even human skin. These teeth are shaped like a leaf, broad and flat, with serrations on the edge. The similarity of these teeth to those of one of the first dinosaurs discovered led to the dinosaur being named Iguanodon, meaning “iguana-tooth”. The teeth are situated on the inner sides of the jawbones which is why they are hard to see in smaller specimens.
On the way we stop to watch the local indigenous people prepare for Nuestra Senora de los Dolores translated as ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’. This prominent religious event is held on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday and celebrates the life of the Virgin Mary.
As we walk around these iconic floats we become silent with a sense of the sacred and holy indigenous festival that is about to take place.
We get back in the car to grab some local fare. As at every meal, we opt for the fish tacos. And as always they were remarkably good.
We make it to the ruins and search for these giant lizards. They blend into the foliage and landscape that they are almost impossible to see. Mike assures my niece and me that he has seen them before and takes us among the ruins in search. He tells us there are hundreds if not thousands of these around and kneels pointing out lizard poop on the leaves below. We become skeptical.
As I stand by a pre-Columbian cistern I listen to an old guide tell a group to be careful. A few days ago a man was standing just there at the same spot and a large green scorpion was sunning by his feet. These scorpions are plentiful here in central america and our much larger than their northern america counterparts reaching 5-7 inches in length. I look down at my flip flops and move slowly to the trail leaving the iguana to its hiding place.
We make our way to the other side of the island and refresh ourselves. Its been a strenuous journey so far and the storm seems to be subsiding. A domesticated red parrot lands on Mike and eats the top of hit hat off in less than a single second. Thank god Mike was not donning his usual ponytail during other dive trips.
I have some of the local hot sauce and my head sweats.
We head for the beaches and relax.
We must go back. Our prey — this killer of the sea — remains only a dream to us.