Tuesday, February 24, 2009
We ate leftover sandwiches Saturday from the market for breakfast. The "Cuban" was weird -- some kind of hotdog-like sausage with very sweet pork. It was slathered with a mayo-cheese nacho texture sauce. The Zurich was better, made with ham, turkey and gruyere cheese on a baguette.
We took a local ferry over to the Isla de Piedras – Stone Island – instead of taking a cheesy "Watneys Red Barrel" tour. Like when tourists talk about getting away from the tourist traps and seeing the real country - well this was getting right down to the real nitty gritty.
The ferry was tiny little boat that was floating very low in the water. We happened to get on a boat with a funeral party. Is that a bad omen?
Once on the isla, we checked out the map and started walking.
And walking, and walking. There were a lot of abandoned buildings, stray chickens and pitbulls. I had no idea if it was going to be half a mile or 10 miles to the tourist beach.
I noticed a boat on a dock with an unlucky name I had to photograph.
While on the dock, a party boat pulled up. We asked how far to the malecon (maricon, heehhee). The next thing you know, we’re swept up on the umm, "party tractor" with a bunch of college kids from Mexico City who were continuously chanting “Hey hey hey!” It was better than being stranded out in the middle of nowhere with stray rabid pitbulls.
We hit Restaurant Cardon, which had a long stretch of deserted beach. I felt like I was in a Corona commercial. They had a boat for rent, but unfortunately the sea was too churned up and the visibility to low for snorkeling.
The boat could also tow an inflatable “banana” thing that held four riders. No one wanted to suffer the indignity, not even the chanting teens. I decided the amount of tequila it would take to make it seem like a good idea was directly proportional to the amount of tequila it would take for me to fall off and be lost forever at sea.
Stray dogs wandered past, children swung a baby in a hammock, and a chicken ran around the restaurant pissing off the cooks who could never quite shoo it away for good.
The water was shallow quite a ways out, and it was fun just hanging out alone in the ocean letting the waves gently lift me off my toes and set me back down. Something pinched my little toe. Maybe I just got my toe stuck in a little tiny shell. But I really had to shake a leg to free myself.
We settled in for a lazy lunch back at the palapa. The fish tacos were unusual in that the fish was battered, fried, and then smashed into the tortilla like you would make a quesadilla, then the fillings – the usual liberal sprinkling of queso fresco, lettuce, and salsa were sprinkled on top.
Peel and eat shrimp
The traditional dish of Isla de Piedras is Fish Zarandeado. You split the fish in half and grill it.
I sniffed around to find the fish grill around back, but other than filleting, there was no action.
I asked the fish man what the fish was called. He said, “Macho.”
I asked, “Como ti?” to see if he was kidding.
He laughed and said, “Si. Como yo” with an ironic surprise that made me think he had not been thinking of that before. Later the waiter told me the fish was “mulleck”. So my final answer would have to be mullet, Alex.
One source said it is brushed with soy sauce but I couldn’t taste it. All I could taste was flaky, meaty, smoked goodness. That was the best fish I’ve eaten in a long time, especially when eaten with your fingers while your feet rest in the sand.
You can also order it fried. Here they are frying the fish
I decided drinking coconut milk from one of the coconuts piled up might be a good idea. My waiter said they weren’t at their best, but the milk was OK. He suggested a “coco loco” to liven it up. OK, what the hell. This was definitely a going with the flow day.
I watched the bartender pour in tequila, lime, beer, salt, and a little grenadine. Then he decorated it like it was a Mardi Gras float. Then they served it with a "sidecar" that was an entire pitcher to refill the coconut! I said, "I didn't order this."
They pointed to the coconut drink and said, "That's the coco..." then pointed to the pitcher of tequila and danger and laughed, "and that's the LOCO!!!" OK, I can deal with a humiliating tourist drink and not lose my dignity. But I was not in the mood to get trashed and start yelling, “hey hey hey!” so I only drank about 2/3 of a coconut. That is the official measuring system of Gilligan’s Island.
Not really sure of what to do next, we made a deal with the tour guide and soon were back on the party tractor. Hey! Hey! Hey!
Then onto the party boat. Hey! Hey! Hey!
We assumed we’d catch our own taxi, but ended up on the party taxi too. Hey! Hey! Hey! The driver didn’t want to hang a u-turn before heading to the hotel, so he surprised them by telling them to get out on the wrong side of the busy boulevard. I was a little concerned about their safety. But it seems that a group of teenage girls jumping up and down shouting, "Hey! Hey! Hey!” stops traffic faster than any crossing guard.