Tag Archives: akumal

Who Are These People

These are the people who juggle, and ride unicycles for a living and make a mean bean sopa. They are the people who will swim with me all day and stay up with me all night editing the photos. They will get robbed, speak Spanish with an Italian accent, drink tequila at 10am and sit on the beach until all hours to watch the moon rise and never miss a beat. They are the people who will ride miles and miles into the jungle on a bike with flat tires just so I can pet a few dogs. These are the people who make me coffee and then make me laugh until my stomach hurts. These are some of the most talented, creative, inspiring, thoughtful and caring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and we get to live together and make art in the Mayan Jungle on Yal Ku Lagoon in a restaurant-turned-residency in Akumal, Mexico.

These are the people who let me take pictures of them.
All the time.


Jaqueline Cole & Luca Bray


Jaqueline Cole & Luca Bray in Real Life


Jaqueline Cole • Maribel Bianchi • Marina Fomenka • Ali Goodwin • Amy Clay


Ryan Walter Wagner & Karl Saliter


Karl Saliter & Luca Bray


Ali Goodwin & Luca Bray


They are the people who remind me every day how lucky I am.
Without saying a word.

ONDARTE | January 2012 | Akumal, Mexico


These are my people.

Amy Clay – USA
Ryan Walter Wagner – BC
Karl Saliter – USA
Jaqueline Cole – Mexico
Marina Fomenka – Russia
Alec Von Bargen – Photographer & Ondarte Founder
Luca Bray – Painter & Funny Italian Guy

(Alec isn’t in these photos because he had to go to the States or something. Don’t you worry. I’ll get him.)

Jungle Tails

This morning I thought I’d ride my bike over to the pueblo and look for my friend Vincente and his horse, Hijo. When I first found this horse, he was tied off to a lamp post in the middle of the soccer field in town. It was tragic and beautiful and a little bit funny to see this horse just standing out there next to the goal posts. Listen. It’s Mexico. I can’t get all worked up about a lonely horse or a bunch of stray dogs. We’d be here all day. I have loved many and saved a few. In these parts, animals seem to be scattered around like loose trash. Some have homes. Some don’t. It’s hard to tell with most of them. Of course, I want to pick them all up.

As I was finishing my coffee and packing up to go find Hijo, a woman approached the breakfast table flashing a flyer covered with photos of rescued dogs. “They are out in the jungle,” she said to me when I asked where these dogs actually were. “Out in the jungle? Like, just out there? Are they with anyone?” Something in my chest tugged and my trigger finger started twitching on my camera strap. “They are just out there. There’s a guy who feeds them. But they are mostly alone. If you see one you like, just take it.” And that’s when, at my insistence, she gave Marina and I directions to a place several miles deep into the jungle, down a narrow dirt road, through puddles that were more like overflowing cenotes from the previous days rains, to find these jungle dogs.

“Just keep going,” she said, “until you hear them.”













Ask me how hard it was to leave those familiar brown eyes and that sweet black snout behind in the jungle. A couple of the dogs died this week from snake bites. Dogs really shouldn’t live deep in the jungle, nor should most people, but for the most part, these dogs have it better than most people despite what it might seem at first glance. They are lovingly cared for, some for years, by a few folks from away, with all their shots and medications and plenty of food and fresh water and clean kennels. These same good people are trying hard to build a new shelter, outside the jungle, and will arrange free transportation to the US or Canada for any one of these dogs. Just say the word.

I never found the horse. I asked around and nobody had seen him. I’ll try again mañana. Sometimes, they tell me, he’s over in the school yard.

Every day is like this. We wake up, we have coffee, and then something that could only happen here, happens. I’m pretty sure Marina and I could ride our beach cruiser bikes with their flat tires and bad chains and their missing peddles and their falling off baskets just about anywhere and never get enough of this place. Ever.


For Asher, Lukey, Rusty, Rosie, Posie, Putney Sue, Peluchîn, Petey and Clyde. With love, you lucky dogs.

Asher Bean, 2011 ~ Rescued, 2000








Stranger Days

The day begins at the crack of dawn, with a hint of hangover, a bummed ride in the bed of a Mexican pet cremator’s pick-up truck sitting next to a plastic tub containing a dead dog, to the closest biggest town 45 minutes North by highway under a blazing Mexican sun to meet up with a couple of mules from the States who have a stash of new photo equipment to replace what was stolen a week ago by El Hombre in a blue shirt and flip flops.

A Playa, Por Favor

A buenos dias at the guard, a duck under the gate, a mile or so hike into the Zona Hotelera on the fancy end of Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue, and I was met by a familiar face in blue shorts and flip flops.

The transaction went off without a hitch. Well, there was kind of a hitch. My dear friend J.P. announced his engagement to his darling Kelly and she flashed a little bling to prove it.

The Soon-to-be-Bilodeaus a.k.a. Mules in Flip Flops. And a Mexican guy.

And since we were already on the beach, and it was already almost 10am, and it was Kelly’s 40th birthday, and they had just announced their engagement, and I had come all the way from the Jungle in the back of a pick-up truck sitting next to a dead dog in the damp heat, we ordered a couple of Dirty Monkeys.

Because it was really, like, 11am, in Maine.

Dirty Monkey.

We laughed. We walked. We waded. We downed a few more Monkey’s, and devoured a dish of guacamole. I squinted into the sweltering January sun only to see that I needed to find the bus back to Akumal. And pronto. My clouds had arrived and my lagoon project waits for no man.

I’m here to work, people. I had pictures to take.

Playa Sky + Hottest Day Ever

And I would have taken them except the bus forgot to stop in Akumal to let me off, even after I hollered in perfect Spanish. The driver shrugged then turned his eyes back to the road, stopping finally, in the center of Tulum. His apology was weak but the up side was I could stay on the bus and he would take me the 15 or so miles back to my town. Or so he said. In perfect Spanish. Returning to my seat gave me the few seconds I needed to recall the final destination on the ticket. The bus was set to continue on a few hours farther South, to a small town on the border of Belize. I quickly asked the driver if he was going to bring me back to Akumal after Belize.


I got off the bus. Pronto.

And at 2pm I was standing in the center of Tulum with 70 pesos in my pocket, a few thousand dollars worth of camera equipment in my pack, about 2 inches of water left in my bottle, no food and boy, did I have to pee.

I found a taxi and for 280 pesos he would gladly take me home. But for 50, well, for 50 pesos he could bring me right back out to the highway, to the entrance of the Tulum ruins, where the Collectivo buses stop and go every few minutes. Sure. Bueno. Vamonos.
I gotta pee.

It was still early by my lagoon project standards, the sun still had a few hours to go, and since it really is quick to jump into the white van with the tan locals on the side of the highway, I thought I’d take advantage of the tourist trap that is ‘Las Ruinas’ and find a bathroom. I found it alright. And it cost 10 pesos per pee. Crap.

10 pesos to my name? No Collectivo in Mexico would care enough to take me home. This much I knew. And I could hold it if it meant I had to hand over another camera. I decided I’d risk a snake bite behind the “Best Cuban Cigar Shop in Mexico.” I’ve relieved myself in riskier places.

And that’s where I found them.

Seis y Seis, No? Piña, Perro, and Mona Loca (that’s me).

I yelled DOMINO! and before I could even think about those snakes, I was swearing and swigging and slamming down tiles, having the time of my life. My sweet summer of double sixes on a sailboat had prepared me nicely for victory after victory. Two hours later, my clouds were almost gone, the tequila was definitely gone, and I should probably be going, too.

But not before I promised “Piña” and “Perrito” that their new Amiga would return real soon.

They made me.

Dominos in Tulúm with Piña, Perro, and Mono Loca (that's me)

Dom-i-NO! Que Madré, Amiga!

I hopped on the Collectivo and tried not to put my foot in the vomit on the floor.
For 20 Pesos.

At least I was headed back in the direction of the clouds.

A Collectivo to the Clouds

If I could just get past millions of fire ants.

Fire Ants. Everywhere.

I followed their lead and I made a run for it.

Ants. A lot of them.

Straight to the Super Chomak Market to pee. For free.


And as the Mexican sun set behind me with practiced perfection, I walked the 2 miles home in flip flops, all my new gear intact and not a peso to my name, along the most beat up road, where the very best of intentions hovered.


I’ve had stranger days.

P.S. I’d like to remind the lovely Kine and her mate from Norway (two wonderful strangers I met on the bus, who distracted me from my own stop with their plans to travel for 4 months from L.A. to Africa)…
Write it all down, girl. Write it ALL down.

All Too Good

I have arrived and I am all in one piece for the most part. There is the small issue of a freshly broken toe and a recently stolen camera but hey, it’s Mexico. Let’s start there and say that the rest is just part of the story.

And this is going to be some story.

I’ve been here for a little over a week now, and it feels like forever and like I just got here just yesterday. Time doesn’t tick at the same speed, and surely days have names, in a few languages, but I have lost them all in a blur of sunshine and full moons and new friends and things that go bump in the night that you can’t find on Google. I have written a blog post in my head every day since I saw the color of the water. But as it goes when you are trying to get back to living, my days are so full of snorkels and sightseeing and work, taking photos of everything in between, I hardly have a breath left at the end of it all to write it all down. But I have been. And all of it will sooner or later, end up right here.

For now, just know that it rains in the Mayan Jungle, too, and those of you who think I am “living the life,” let’s take a moment to remember that this very “life” has come at a very steep price for me. I’m choosing sea turtles and tequila over shivering and shoveling snow for a bit. Can you blame me?

I have a lot to tell you – believe me – there are stories here in Akumal that BEG to be told. So hold on to your horses, and keep your eye on my new website. As soon as I get back from tomorrow’s ‘turtle time’ I’ll start writing. I promise.

Turtle Time – Photo By Ryan Walter Wagner


This is all too good to keep all to myself.