Celestun, Mexico

Gulls fly over the gentle surf as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico at Celestun.

Celestun is on the Gulf of Mexico. It is famous flamingos. Thousands flock here to nest. Thousands of bird watchers flock here to see them. I came for swimming and beach time. I got neither.

I had an epic second class bus ride from Mérida. By calling out the class of the bus, I'm not being snotty. While the first-class ADO offers truly great service, my experience with SUR was less pleasant. It wasn't just that a 100 km journey took three hours, it's that I don't think the buses shocks had been looked at since the Clinton administration. Ducking into every town between Mérida and coast meant secondary roads, which meant twists and dips. As I had boarded on a street corner near my apartment, the only seat left was in the second to last row. Every bump was felt. I was green by the time I arrived. Not a problem, I burped, it's nothing a beer under a beachside palapa can't cure!

Author enjoys a cold beer under a palapa before the weather turns.

The beer was indeed good, and the view excellent. So far so good. If only I'd noticed the clouds forming in the distance. But we'll get to that. My food was disappointing. This was to be a theme of my visit. I love the simple meals you can get at cocinas economicas (simple and homey lunch counters) and  I'm not exactly a three-fork-dinner kind of guy but I hate tourist town dining. My beer was cold but so was my rice. The fish was overcooked as were the random assortment of vegetables. Oh well. I didn't come here for the food, I came for the beach and flamingos, which I would see tomorrow! But first a wander down the beach. Who knows what I'll find!

Prior to arriving, I had read that the beach had many shells so I wasn't too surprised to find ones like this. It was perfect. Then I saw another and another. In some parts, however, the beach was shells. Slightly treacherous on the feet but good for abstract photos.

I regret not getting down onto my belly to get a better angle of this shell. The internal spiral of this is incredible.

A sea shell with a beautiful sprial sits on the sands of Celestun beside orange seaweed.

The hero image at the top of the page was sunset that night. Truly beautiful. One of the benefits of being on this side of the Gulf of Mexico is that you get sunsets over the water. Superb. I suppose I should have paid more attention to the clouds. The next day held drama.

Fairy lights above the pier at Celestun contrast with ominmous black clouds.

The Weather Changes | Storms

I must admit, I haven't been paying attention to the weather. It's so consistent that it's rarely needed. I was caught out one afternoon in Mérida but a downpour but I was able to hide out under a store's awning and it soon passed. This storm was something entirely different. I awoke to an utter downpour. Really, like monsoon season levels of rain. No flamingos today. Instead, once the rain had died down to a light drizzle, I decided to go for a walk on the beach.

Sunday in Celestun with Poison!

How's that for a (only-slightly-misleading) header‽

Yes, the rain had gone. Slowly, as the morning progressed the clouds dissipated too. It wasn't hot so another walk seemed in order. As I passed a palapa restaurant, the owner yelled at me to watch out. She pointed to a blob on the beach.

This is a Portuguese man o' war. It is dead. It's still possible to cause pain. This wasn't the creature that the restaurateur pointed to. This is another one. One that I saw after a dozen others. On my walk, I stopped counting at 30. Now, it was a pretty long walk, but I have to say, any desire to go in the water took a bit of a bath.

So let's just marvel at the Portuguese man o' war. They're really quite something, but they're not jellyfish. Instead they're siphonophores, and a bloody colony of individuals!

What is a Portuguese Man o’ War?
The Portuguese man o’ war, (Physalia physalis) is often called a jellyfish, but is actually a species of siphonophore, a group of animals that are closely related to jellyfish.

And with that, it's time to end our visit to Celestun. Don't worry, the bus ride back to Mérida, while still frustratingly long, will be less queasy. That's because I was thinking, arrived early and snagged a seat at the front. To end, enjoy the pretty lights of the pier at sunset. Beaches and sunsets, what a great combination.

The sun sets through the clouds passed the pier at Celestun.