Isla Mujeres, México
It rained all day. But it's warm enough, so I went for a three hour walk in the rain. Isla Mujeres is only 7km long and less than 1km wide, and lies between the Gulf of México and the Caribbean Sea. The waves washing up on all sides, the saltwater lagoons in the interior, and the rain running down the rooftops and flooding the streets, all make it seem as if this island is only barely land. It belongs to the water.
I walked through the interior of my mid-island neighbourhood, spotting a kingfisher and a snowy egret in the lagoon. The poorer streets are in the middle of the island, and the contrast between poverty and casual luxury, which you find side by side in many parts of México, is shocking yet somehow normalized. Winding my way across the island, I walked along the east coast, which is rocky and unsafe for swimming. The taxi drivers kept honking at me to offer a ride. Why is the gringa loca walking in the rain? I happened upon the lovely Mango Cafe for lunch and a cappuccino, grateful for the friendly staff, hot food, and the chance to dry off for a bit before heading back.
Location: Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, México
Length: 5 km
Date: 12 February, 2019
Random Walk, Mérida, México
It wasn't a walk in any intentional sense, just going about my business today on foot as usual. Even in my short time here, I'm starting to run into people I know as I walk around town, including my new amigo Asunción. Pink houses are everywhere, even though Mérida is known as the white city. Nostalgia is beginning to creep into my days.
Location: Mérida, México
Length: 6 km
Date: 5 Febrero, 2019
Daily Walk, Mérida, México
Advice for the morning walk through Itzimná: Stay on the shady side of the street. Watch out for big holes in the sidewalk, and low-hanging awnings and trees. Say buenos días to the people your pass. Make friends with the security guards. Take your time crossing Avenidas Pérez Ponce, Jose Diaz Bolio, and Circuito Colonias. Notice the street dogs who hang out in the vacant lot beside the business school with its garden of henequén. Don't fall off the sidewalk where the curb is knee-high. Keep to the streets where the white-winged doves are louder than the traffic.
Location: Colonia Itzimná, Mérida, México
Length: 2.5 km X 2
Date: 28 Enero, 2019
The only way to visit Uxmal is on foot. The restored Mayan city is well over 1,000 years old, and the tapir-nosed rain god, Chaac, watches with many eyes from most of the facades. There are macaws, tortoises, feathered serpents, and two-headed jaguars as well. And the living grackles, iguanas, big orange orioles, and a vulture on top of a pyramid. It's an amazing walk, with plenty of stairs.
Location: Uxmal, Yucatán, México
Length: 2 km
Companions: María, Elena, Ronaldo, Raúl, y los Migueles
Date: 26 January, 2019
A stormy Sunday morning walk along the beach. It was unusually empty because of the wind and even a little rain. People were fishing from the small pier, and pelicans were begging for handouts. The long pier runs six and a half kilometers out into the Gulf of Mexico, a highway over the waves to get to the cruise ships and freighters that dock out there. I walked to the working side of the beach, where the fishing boats were hauled up and the seaweed hasn't been raked off the sand. "Hola, m'hija," a man greeted me, and I was happy to be called his daughter.
Location: Puerto Progreso, Yucatán, México
Length: 5 km
Date: 20 January, 2019
Historic Centre of Mérida, Mexico
When I left the sun was throwing long shadows from the east, and when I returned, from the west. An all-day wander around the beautiful colonial Mexican city of Mérida. The city used to be a great Mayan city called T'hó, which was taken over by three Spanish men named Francisco de Montejo in 1542, and built over using enslaved Mayan labour and limestone.
As a foreigner, so far I stick mostly to the historic centre of town, the tourist areas. The beauty of it is partly from the sun. But then there's the colour, and the huge green trees, the centuries-old churches, the narrow crowded sidewalks, the hectic dirty market, breakdancers in the park, old mansions everywhere, the historic walking tour that was a part of my all-day walk, the craft vendors, the secret courtyards. I took lots of breaks, sitting in different plazas in the shade and resting my feet, just one among many enjoying the day and each other. The city is lively, lovely, but the air sounds and smells like traffic.
Location: Centro Histórico, Mérida, Yucatán, México
Length: 10 km
Date: 11 January, 2019
Night Walk, Toronto, Ontario
We had walked a lot already, roaming the city for hours at a time. After a late supper and wine at Aloette, we walked along Queen St. W. from Spadina to the skating rink at City Hall, and back to our hotel. The last walk of the day, a winter night in the city among the streetcars, pedestrians, towers and lights.
Location: Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
Length: 1.5 km
Date: 3 January, 2019
New Years Day, Burlington, Ontario
A loop walk in the west end of Burlington, through the neighbourhoods and cemeteries just off of Plains Road, past the Austrian Club and Easterbrook's hotdog stand. Through a busy parking lot and down the trail into the wetlands of Hendrie Valley, following the path along Grindstone Creek, through what we used to call Lamb's Hollow, and across into Hidden Valley. The creek takes us from the end of one valley and through another, where we climb the hill and catch up with Plains Road again. Muddy and chilly, this walk, but lovely and long, with footbridges.
Location: Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario
Length: 9 km
Date: 1 January, 2019
Winter Solstice, Burlington, Ontario
It was a short day, and a grey day. The trees blackened from last night's rain. The sailboats are grounded, and the docks pulled out. The far shores of the bay architected by Hamilton's steel mills and the Burlington Skyway. There are many trees down in the park, decomposing in the damp. This walk is one of my old routes when I'm here: through LaSalle Park, down to the waterfront on Burlington Bay, follow the trail along the shore (where it is busy with overfed squirrels, ducks, geese, chickadees, swans, and birdwatchers), up the hill through the woods, past the old brick high school I went to, and back through the neighbourhood.
Location: Burlington, Ontario
Length: 4 km
Date: 21 December, 2018
Waylaid Walking*, North Railway St., Medicine Hat, Alberta
The other side of the tracks. Every tree was planted, every brick was formed with clay and fired with gas. Old hotel signs still in place to catch the eye of long-gone train travelers. Windows bricked up or boarded over, but the buildings still stand. The trees still stand. Polished railway tracks still cut through town. The road stays in place as its uses change and decline. Small odd businesses in between empty buildings: arts and crafts, bars, car parts, repair, cleaning, fueling. The flour mill just a historic monument beside the overpass, as the real business now seems to be moving people to the big stores up the hill. Steamer trunk / tree trunk: imagined journey from Europe by boat, by wagon, by train, unpacking in the surprising prairie wind and staying for a hundred years. The railway tracks link to a colonial past that still haunts this street. Moving natural and unnatural resources, settlers and curiosities, indentured labour, buffalo death, grain and fuel, bricks and dishes. The tracks are a direct, if limited, line through time and space.
* "Waylaid Walking (inspired by Walter Benjamin's practice)" proposed by Charlie Fox is Walk 49 from the book ways to wander edited by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind (Axminster, England: Triarchy Press, 2015). This international walk was one of a series organized by Blake Morris of A Wander is Not a Slog; it was walked on the same day in Manchester, England by the Loiterer's Resistance Movement, among others.
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta
Length: 3 km
Date: 2 December, 2018