A short trip to Mexico just before Hurricane Emily hits

In the summer of 2005 I took a short trip to Mexico. Little did we know that a hurricane was heading directly for the place we were. It started getting serious when the businesses in Cozumel started boarding up their windows. The first few days were hot and humid and perfectly sunny. There was talk of a storm heading our way but that seemed far off. The cruise ships kept arriving and flooding the town with thousands of tourists who appeared to be glad to be on land and completely lost at the same time. When the ships were in the streets in Cozumel were packed—barely enough room on the sidewalks to squeeze by as they attempted to avoid the hawkers and touts and try to buy at the same time. Much better when the ship collected its minions and sailed away.

We were able to get out just before the storm hit. We took the boat back to Playa del Carment leaving behind a town with windows covered with plywood and looking like it was ready for just about anything. And it was just about to be slammed by a major hurricane. We took the bus back to Cancun stayed overnight and had a flight out early the next morning. When we arrived at the airport we walked into a chaotic flood of people—not panicked but close to it. The terminal was wall to wall people with not one single open space to drop your bag and wait in line. I turned around to walk out and smashed my head into a CNN camera and just about knocked the cameraman down.

The terminal we wanted had very few people—no idea why but it was a relief but only until we got to the counter. No room on any flights. We asked for anything they could get us into but there were no spaces at all. We walked out to the pay phone (pre-cell phone days) to call the main office as the ticket counter attendant told us to do. As we were making the call the counter person came out and said she found us two space. Last row on the last flight out before the airport was closed.

We were so happy to get out as the hurricane wreaked havoc on the area. Cancun was flooded and the airport did not open for almost a week after the storm.

Cozumel on a good day is a great place to visit. Take a car and drive around the island and spend time on the far side of the island where the beaches are wide open and empty. You will have the beach to yourself. Visit the historical sites and the museum while you are there as well. Completely worth the time and effort to see them. And walk a few streets back from the water front to really understand the place. Most of the cruise ship tourists never ventured away from the main drag.

As far as photography goes be ready to clean your camera as the salt spray is quite heavy when the winds are strong. Pay close attention to the afternoon skies as the cloud formations are extremely dynamic and expansive. The images I took on my trip in 2005 where really at the front end of my time with a digital camera so not quite what I would shoot today but were a good place to start. The light is tangible both day and night.