Tropical Delusion: Misadventures in Paradise

Tropical Delusion: Misadventures in Paradise

by Jeff Ashmead


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Tropical Delusion: Misadventures in Paradise by Jeff Ashmead

What if you quit your job . . .

Sold everything . . .

and bought a small hotel on the beach . . .

South of Cancun, Mexico and down a long narrow road ending in turquoise blue water, you will find Soliman Bay. Here is where most people's dreams are found, a small bay, white sand and palm trees, and a reef just offshore full of colorful fish. If you are visiting, the dream looks real, but if you intend on staying the locals have one bit of advice - guard your sanity.

Though it may not seem possible, this comedy you are about to read is 99% true. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

May you laugh at our expense.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475921922
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.49(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tropical Delusion

Misadventures in Paradise
By Jeff Ashmead

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Jeff Ashmead
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-2192-2

Chapter One


Liberty, I have come to believe, is when you have sold everything and all you have left is a big wad of cash. Paradise is a place you run to when you need to escape one of life's bad dreams.

Sherry came across a real estate listing that looked to be an incredible deal, Casa Seis Machos, a six-bedroom hotel located on the beach on Soliman Bay, seventy-five miles north of Cancun, Mexico. When Sherry Googled the name, she found it had a rental website and called me over to take a look at what she had found. The home page picture was taken from out in the water just above the surface toward a palm-tree-lined bay, the beach had white sand, and a grass roof palapa stood just back from the shore with a hammock hanging in its shade. Rising behind this was the small hotel, two stories, brilliantly white, framed in windswept coco trees, its six patios gazing out over the Caribbean. It was beautiful.

Sherry and I had met six years earlier, at about the time I was awakening from exactly the kind of bad dream I wanted to run away from. Divorce. It happens. There were no kids; there wasn't a fight, just this staggering realization that things were not what I believed them to be. Sherry, one might say, came to the rescue by helping me put distance between memories and living my life.

We met in the course of my employment, standing in soggy mud and drizzling rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. A gas technician with two days of stubble armed with a notepad and a smile, I talked with Sherry about the installation of gas plumbing for her palace-to-be, which stood behind her in a cathedral of glue lams and plywood. It was then that Sherry locked her eyes on mine and started making plans that had nothing to do with her building.

Sherry had worked for Hewlett Packard for thirty years, for the most part hopscotching around the world keeping projects for the multinational technology company on time. When most people retire from a job that demanding, they usually glide in and find a place to park. Sherry was just fueling up.

She started visualizing us running away together early in our relationship; the million-dollar house she had just built, soon became, for her, another "been there done that" and it was now time to move on—plus, there were too many other attractive women in this part of the world. It was during a vacation to Cancun, twenty-four hundred miles away and a day trip down the coast to visit some ancient ruins, that, in the clear blue sky, lush jungle, turquoise Caribbean waters, and white sandy beaches, Sherry found the remote hideaway she was looking for. And I was soon convinced it would be paradise.

The sunny photos on the Seis Machos website were enticing and, for me, foreboding. When Sherry got an idea in her head, she was a train moving at top speed.

Sherry called the reservation number, and a lady answered in German. Unfazed, Sherry asked, "Hi, is the hotel still for sale?" and the woman quickly switched to English to tell her that the real estate listing had expired, but yes, it was still for sale. If we'd like to see it, the six partners and family would be there the following month. After a few more questions, Sherry hung up and emailed a few folks we had become acquainted with in Soliman Bay from our previous trips down there—what did they know about the hotel? One person replied that he had taken a look at it, but didn't like it. That the shore at that end of the bay was rocky with coral, and the neighbor ran a nudist resort. Coral and nudity might be problems, but not showstoppers. We had to go see it.

The state of Quintana Roo makes up the easternmost portion of the Yucatán Peninsula, with over five hundred kilometers of coastline forming bay after bay on the dreamy Caribbean. These bays are part of the second-largest reef on earth, second to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Here an exotic variety of fish make the reef their home, along with lobster and conch, not to mention the occasional shark and, of course, three different kinds of sea turtles—the hawksbill, the loggerhead, and the green sea turtle. Along this coast and in these bays, turtles nest their eggs every year starting in May and the last of the hatchlings make it out to sea by October.

Just inland from the bays, and common along the entire coast, is the mangrove—tangled masses of roots sprouting from seawater ponds growing gnarled branches with yellowish-green oval leaves. They're all protected—the Mexican government does not allow any construction or deforestation in mangroves. And inland from those lies the jungle—not the Amazon rain forest kind of jungle, but thick masses of shrubs and trees that serve as stopping points for hundreds of species of migratory birds and butterflies.

It is impossible to say anything about the Yucatán without also mentioning Mayan ruins. The entire peninsula is dotted with Mayan ruins dating from around 700 A.D. They can be seen along the highways, on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean in Tulum, or standing atop a pyramid in Coba in the middle of the jungle where, in the distance, irregular humps of green tell you there are so many more yet to be discovered.

Overall, Sherry loved the state, but particularly the middle center of the coast, called the Mayan Riviera, near Tulum. Here it was far from the loud tourist hotspots of Cancun, and was yet to be invaded by towering beach resorts. This is where Sherry was determined to find our home in paradise, overlooking a soft white beach, crystal-clear water, and perhaps a few surfable waves.

It was time for us to see Seis Machos in person. At five o'clock in the morning in the Cancun airport, nothing is open but the tired eyes of immigration officers stamping passports. I had only the weekend available, so we flew out late Friday night, stopped over in Houston, and then continued on to Cancun. Since we were using the old terminal, Avis Rent-A-Car was only a five-minute walk away; we could take advantage of their twenty-four-hour service to get an early start, and settle in before meeting with the Machos at nine.

The car lot gate was locked, but the fence didn't connect to the neighboring wall, so we slipped through and headed for the office. We stepped through the unlocked door, only to find a phone and a scattering of papers covering the counter—no staff. Fellow travelers joined us, and we all mused on what to do next. Sherry and I were anxious to get moving, so we weren't particularly excited about this delay. I found a business card lying on the counter with the manager's cell phone number, picked up the office phone, and gave him a call.

"Hola," came a tired voice. I started to explain, but after just a few words, the manager realized with alarm the situation and announced, "¡Ya me voy!" He was on his way. I hung up and announced to a now-crowded office, "Open twenty-four hours—starting at seven a.m."

We waited with hands in pockets, milling about the lot, looking up with hope each time a rental car pulled up to the locked gate and the person got out hoping to return it. We, wanting to rent it, they staring back at us with questioning looks, needing to catch a flight. One car after the next was abandoned in front of the gate until it resembled a freeway traffic jam. Finally the man on the other end of the phone arrived. And of course he came alone. Antsy to get going, I jumped in the first car blocking the now-unlocked gate, found the keys on the visor, and pulled it inside the lot. The manager joined me with a set of duplicates, and before long we had a neat row of cars in the lot and a clear exit for our adventure.

Finally heading south on the highway, we noticed material-laden trucks and workers by the droves swarming new resort sites. It seemed every time we drove this stretch, another resort was going up. The race was on to get our own.

We finally turned off the paved highway and onto the Soliman Bay Road, here a long white line of crushed limestone through a green carpet of mangrove stretched out before us. We drove half a mile until the road ended in a T near the beach and turned right on the narrow road that followed the crescent curve of the bay. We drove past several beach houses and palm-filled lots till we finally came to a high stone wall protecting the privacy of a group of thatched-roof huts (casitas). A sign on the wall read Nature Beach Resort, Clothing Optional. We figured we must be close and continued past a vacant lot to the next house.

The real estate photos of Seis Machos had detailed views from the bay and the beach, but we didn't know what it would look like from the road. We'd envisioned the words Casa Seis Machos artfully painted on a roadside wall or on a sign planted among flowers at the entrance. Instead, we found it in the driveway nailed to a tree.

A VW van was parked inside and, recalling the German accent Sherry had encountered, I imagined the owners bringing it all the way from the Fatherland. We stepped out of the rental car and gazed at the top half of the hotel over a curtain of green palms; we were finally here and it looked imposing. I took a deep breath, and we ventured forward, crossing through the property's chest-high wall. To the left of the driveway stood a small stick hut with a clothesline, and to the right, what looked to be the caretakers' residence, a tall, grass-roofed casita with stick walls varnished the dark color of molasses. In front of us stood the garden, tamed by the edge of an overzealous gardener and chastened of any wild rebellion. We continued along its curving pathway bordered by a row of hedges standing at attention with crew cuts, and tall, erect palms keeping watch overhead with jungle-boot leggings of white paint on their trunks to protect them from insects.

Arriving at the foot of the stairs, we craned our necks back to take in the bulk of the two-story building. It had been freshly painted with a coat of ship white paint and red trim and, as we stood there with mouths open looking to the heavens. Behind us the caretaker came out of the casita. "Hola, buenos días," he greeted us, and before we could barely respond, he headed up the stairs to get the owners.

Gunther and his wife, Eva, approached us with big smiles, a click of the heels, a German "Willkommen!" and an English "Nice to meet you!" I almost saluted, but shook their hands instead. Showing the way, they led us into the common area of the hotel's kitchen/ dining room, where there was a long wood table and the remains of a late breakfast. Gunther introduced us to their partners and friends as a mix of hellos rang out. Then he showed us two rooms, one downstairs and another upstairs.

Not that we were looking for décor as we were considering buying, but the male influence and German austerity were immediately apparent. Each room had a sturdy wood frame bed, two sturdy wood chairs, a table, a picture, and good ole' 150-threadcount bedsheets the color of drab green surgical gowns. We stepped outside toward the beach to see the front of the building. Each patio had sliding glass doors to view the bay, and framing that view were security bars—the accordion type. The kind you'd find stretched across a pawn shop late at night in a bad part of town.

"What's that?" I asked, intrigued by what looked like a turret above the roof line. Gunther led us up a ladder and opened a hatch to show us a water tank and a small water heater. "Gravity," he explained. The water was pumped up out of two cisterns—one located under the house, the other under the garden—up to here, and gravity took it through the building. I started to ask the next question, but he sensed it coming. There was no city water or well water. All the water was delivered by truck, and rainwater was collected on the roof.

We descended from the turret, and Gunther walked us out to the second-story deck, which was basically the roof of the kitchen/ dining room. It offered a beautiful view of the bay but was impossible to enjoy, as the newly painted white walls were reflecting the sun, allowing us to be both blinded and microwaved at the same time. Gunther explained that they'd had a grass roof over the deck for shade, but it had blown away. It was hard to imagine the calm breeze blowing in from the bay could become such a forceful gale, but I'd seen my share of coastal storms.

The beach was next. Crossing a chaise-strewn terrace full of Speedo-attired sun worshippers, we uneasily smiled, trying to keep eye contact and not look below any belly buttons. We descended a few stairs to the sand, where a waist-high retaining wall made of coral rocks stood midway between the building and the water. This made the beach in front of Seis Machos about thirty feet wide before it drifted off into the calm bay. Like the web picture, a hammock hung in the shade of a sombría, its varnished tree trunk posts planted deep in the warm white sand, and the long, hanging ends of the grass roof fluttered in the breeze. The shore was rocky, but they had removed coral in front of the hotel to make a sandy-bottomed tide pool. I grinned at Sherry. "I think I know where they put that coral," I said, and felt the ocean breeze on my face. Beyond all the details of the hotel—the barred windows, the missing patio roof, and the primitive water system—there was one reason to buy, and I was looking at it: the bay was drop-dead gorgeous. The water was a trinity of turquoise, emerald green, and sapphire blue. A white line of surf stretched across the reef a half mile out and the blue Caribbean filled the horizon beyond. It was like you were standing in the cover of an exotic travel magazine.

We exited the beach and we all headed back up through the building and returned to the parking area. Sherry and I took a peek in the corner hut—storage, mostly gardening items. Then we were looking over the caretakers' casita when I thought I heard a faint sound like crumbling crackers. Puzzled, I looked at Gunther. "Do you hear that?"

He nodded slightly and walked over to one of the varnished tree posts that made up the casita's frame, then pointed to some holes a bit smaller than you could stab a pencil into and said one word: "Termites." I was still standing eight to ten feet away, and I could hear them. I opened my mouth in disbelief.

Gunther patted the corner log gently. "Everything you build needs to be of concrete."

Then the caretakers, Gordo and Dora, came out of the casita with their one-year-old, naked but for a T-shirt. They nodded that we could look inside, but it didn't take long. The small space was home for but a few items and nothing more. In summary, it was a shack—a disintegrating shack. I wanted to ask Gunther why he'd let this happen, allowed his caretakers to live this way, but I held my tongue and instead told Gunther that Sherry and I needed to talk and would return around noon.

While Sherry had stars in her eyes and great plans in mind, the place reminded me of a beached ship. She saw design; I saw work, a lot of work. Still, we agreed that at the rate of increase in property values, the land alone would be worth the asking price in a year or two.

At noon, Gunther, Eva, Sherry, and I sat at the long table in the kitchen. Putting on a face of as little interest as I could muster, I stated our offer. Gunther nodded—he liked the offer, but he really wanted the full amount. I held our offer there, keeping my expression emotionless. Gunther nodded again. Since he didn't have to pay a real estate agent, he reasoned, he could counteroffer to meet us in the middle. It sounded good to me. Sherry bounced once in her chair, and I had to laugh. I'd seen her deliberate for hours over paying a long-distance charge to call a friend, but if she saw a good investment, even if it was over half a million dollars, she couldn't hold herself back.

While we were in an agreeing state, Gunther added that he would need Seis Machos through April. He had some guest reservations to honor, but more importantly, he had friends and family he wanted to share Seis Machos with for the last time. We said yes. Gunther put out his hand, and we shook across the table.

"In Mexico," Gunther said, "it's customary to seal the deal with tequila." Eva brought over a bottle and shot glasses the shape of beer steins—an amusing mix of cultural symbols. Gunther poured and toasted, "Mi casa es su casa." Yes, indeed, it is.

Hand in hand, Sherry and I walked back to the beach, sank our feet in the water, and surveyed what we had just committed ourselves to. I turned my gaze to Sherry's vibrant smile, but my eye was quickly drawn to a couple walking up the beach toward us. With their tanned skin and well-worn beach attire, they looked as if they lived here. I guess it's time to meet the neighbors, I thought.

They introduced themselves as the owners of Nature Beach, Zora and Michael. Michael had a firm handshake and a Mexican accent, but Zora stood back, her Bohemian look contrasting with her unfriendly vibe.

"Are you interested in buying Seis Machos?" Zora asked rather bluntly.

"We just did," I said.

A welcome to the neighborhood would have been nice, but instead we got a question: "You're not going to build casitas, are you?" They must have thought we were also buying the empty lot between Seis Machos and Nature Beach.

I looked past her to the building. Not seeing how I could even begin to construct a mass of smaller buildings on the same lot, I answered, "The one building is fine, no."

"It's beautiful here. Are you going to live here?"

I nodded. "Sounds nice, maybe."

"Are you going to rent the rooms as Gunther has?"

In my head, an alarm sounded. She was overstepping her boundaries for gathering information. Sherry said nothing, and I wanted to do the same, but Zora waited for a response. "You know, I don't know what we're going to do. This is the first day, and I'm out of here tomorrow."

With a tone that sounded deceptively like concern for our well-being, Zora asked, "What will you do for money if you live here?"

A short answer to an intrusive question: "We have rental property."

Zora went on to inform us with a sprinkle of acrimony that it is illegal for foreigners living in Mexico to make money here. "You have to have a commercial FM3 permit."

Stunned at the indelicate reception, we had no further information we wanted to share. Likewise, Zora and Michael had no more questions or advice. We all simply said goodbye. As they walked away, Sherry and I locked eyes—What the hell was that?


Excerpted from Tropical Delusion by Jeff Ashmead Copyright © 2012 by Jeff Ashmead. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Dream and The Reality....................1
Rough Start....................18
The Move to Mexico....................29
Welcome to Paradise....................42
Road Duty....................55
Ill Winds....................76
Attitude Adjustment....................94
Finishing Touches....................111
Happy Innkeepers....................131
So This is Paradise....................150
Out to Sea....................166

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Tropical Delusion: Misadventures in Paradise 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sample drew me in and i expected a witty story about the pitfalls of expats trying to make it in a tropical paradise. Mostly the author drones on about being over charged for everything because he is a gringo and laysnout chapter after chapter of work delays. In one, he talks about a satellite dish not being installed until March but the next chapter picks up on the consruction of the house still happening in December. This book could've benefit from a better editor. I was disappointed in the book and longed for the witty, colorful story that Maarten Troost wrote in "The Sex Lives of Cannibals". I'll never visit the bay talked about in the book because it seems it is only filled with expats with sour dipositions who need to charge high lodging rates to make up for their high construction costs. I got it in the 1st few chapters that the work was progressing slow, I was disappointed that the book was almost only about that and didn't develop into a more hearty read. By page 138 I just wanted the author to find his backbone, get the job done and move along with both the project and the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Knowing the author, and considering spending a week at the B&B the book is about, I was excited to read Tropical Delusion. Despite all the craziness and corruption they had to deal with living in Mexico, Jeff's description of the beaches is what I took with me. I still have the dream of moving there, myself. The book is a page turner and a quick read. The story is endearing and exciting, and Jeff does an amazing job describing the scenery and characters. The organization of and transition between stories is a little scattered, but for his first book, Jeff definitely succeeded in hooking me in from the very beginning. For anyone planning a move, or even a vacation, to a smaller community in Mexico should definitely read this first! Great reality check and lots of tips for survival!
DAW-L More than 1 year ago
On my first trip to the Carribean many years ago I was warned that if I entertained thoughts of buying property there as my own piece of Paradise, I might want to try living there for six months or a yeat first. Those words came back to me as I read Jeff and Sherry's misadventures in building a villa on Riviera Maya in Mexico. This three year adventure makes for great reading as I suffered their set backs with them and marveled at the level of humor with which they met each new happening.
USNPH2 More than 1 year ago
Humorous description of building a luxury house (to be rented) in Mexico. A must read if your are considering doing this, but a good read also. For an "In Joke", look at the buckets on the beach on the cover picture and then re-read the book's last paragraph.
JuliaBIowa More than 1 year ago
This is a "must read" for anyone contemplating building a house in Mexico, particularly in the Riviera Maya area. Jeff Ashmead writes a chronological description of the trials and tribulations of building a small luxury hotel, in a land more foreign than he had originally thought. His dogged determination to build it "his way in his time," created a Medusa style monster, out of the people he had to deal with. His initial joy of moving to "paradise," turned into something else in this engaging, and fun to read, expose about Soliman Bay, Tulum. Reviewed by Julia Brenton, Iowa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I joined a few days ago and shes my kit she picked up cometkit and brought her to result one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hi Coldstar." She mewed.