COLUMN: Nothing fishy about this tiger tale

NANAIMO – Family vacation to Mexico provides column fodder.

Returning home after two weeks  of family vacation in Mexico’s Riviera Maya left me with no doubt why Canada is referred to as the Great White North.

Even if it is B.C.’s southwest coast and these days the only part of the country above freezing, it’s damn cold when you leave blue skies, blue Caribbean waters, white sand, tropical breezes and 28 C for -1 C, fog and the grey waters of Georgia Strait.

However, there’s no place like home, and after 16 days away, counting travel, we were ready to come back to reality.

It was nice while it lasted, and provided a couple of incidents for column fodder even though I did my best to not think about work.

But, when someone asks how was my holiday and I can reply – “Great, I got bit by a tiger, went nearly nose-to-nose with a barracuda and there was a midnight fight in the plaza bar.” – it does deserve some explanation.

The tiger bite came about during a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Playa Del Carmen when a vendor approached us with a tiny monkey in the palm of his hand.

For $10, my daughter could take a picture of the monkey on her son’s head. At two-years-old, Nathan was a little unsure about the photo shoot, but posed bravely for the shots just the same.

I wandered into the store, thinking it was no life for the monkey even though I realized people have to make a living.

But when I came upon another vendor offering the same photo services with a white tiger cub and a jaguar cub, I was really turned off. It was nothing short of abuse of the two cats that deserved to grow up free, roaming a jungle.

A tourist was attempting to get the jaguar onto his lap for a photo, and as the cat squirmed the handler tried to calm it. In doing so, he dropped the leash that was attached to the tiger and it promptly bolted directly toward us.

My wife smartly jumped out of the way, but figuring I could control this white ball of albeit big fluff, I reached for the leash as the tiger went past my leg. Feeling a tug on the leash, the cat stopped, wrapped one paw around my leg and latched onto my calf with its mouth.

I, in turn, moved equally as fast and escaped with little more than a couple of pressure marks, but can honestly say I survived a tiger attack.

The barracuda sighting came on a snorkeling trip to Akumal Beach where we expected to see nothing but turtles.

But on our return to the boat we rented, the big fish was gently floating under the vessel, clearly as interested in us as we were in it. It wasn’t aggressive and I got within a couple metres with the underwater camera. It was big, impressive and dangerous looking, but certainly not what one thinks when you hear the word “barracuda.”

The fight in the plaza bar, however, was exactly what one would think when two guests consume too much alcohol and develop an attitude because they were taller than most of the people around them.

I don’t mean to imply the fight was a highlight of our trip, but an opportunity to tip my hat to the staff of the Viva Wyndham Azteca resort, who handled the situation in a professional manner, trying their best to defuse the situation.

It was quite clear the men were used to getting their way through violence and intimidation, but they grossly underestimated the staff and security who quickly had them on the ground in wrist locks once punches started to fly.

The guests in the bar, who up until then were enjoying a fun time, erupted into applause when the police arrived and took the two away in handcuffs to spend the night in a very different all-inclusive accommodation.

All that excitement occurred in the first four days of the trip and we had to, after that, find our fun in the sun, sand and surf. It wasn’t hard to do and it was a vacation none of us will soon forget.

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