Once bitten, twice shy

After a rooftop brunch at Prima on Sunday, we decided on a whim to hit the highway and headed out to Cozumel’s San Gervasio ruins. The island interior is a parched, windless stretch of roadway, lined with fraying buildings resting against jungle, and a rest stop that was actually called the “Pee Pee Station.”

San Gervasio on Sunday is free to Mexicans; but for us gringas, entry was around $3. It’s a long drive from the highway turn-off to the actual ruins. The dirt road is decorated with beautiful stone monuments and a border of rock formations, purportedly created by the aluxes (pronounced “ah-loosh-es”). Aluxes are mythical Mayan dwarfs who emerge at night from hiding to conduct their business and play tricks on humans. But they can also bring protection, if you bring them offerings; or they can bring harm, disease, and dead crops.

Once inside San Gervasio, we saw only a few other tourists — the site was very quiet. But not for long.

“The gods are mad at you,” Oscar told me, as the mosquitoes closed in.

I swatted and danced around, shaking the critters off. “You must pay in blood,” he said.

Were the aluxes out to get me? All my life I’ve been a mosquito magnet, but this was more than I could handle. This was revenge, I knew, because no one else was being attacked. A bite here and there, sure. But my arms and legs were so covered with mosquitoes that I couldn’t even walk, I was too busy swatting them away.

We made our way through the buildings, and I tried to keep my cool. We spotted several prehistoric iguanas bathing in the sun. Teams of butterflies — mariposas — and birds flitted around us from all directions. Beacons of hope, it seemed, but no: I itched and I writhed; I writhed and I itched. I was still under siege; we had to leave.

Nothing a refreshing pit-stop at the cantina can’t cure. We had tacos dorado, stuffed with chicken; ceviche; sopa de camaron; and alitas — chicken wings! We also sampled fried lionfish, which are hunted by scuba divers seeking to protect the reef from the poisonous and ravenous nonnative fish that has migrated to the island in recent years. There’s not a lot of meat to the lionfish, but they’re salty and delicious.

Tacos dorados

Ceviche and sopa de camaron

Fried lionfish!