All That’s Treasure is not Gold

Xcalak, Mexico

As a kid, did you ever go on a scavenger hunt?

Growing up, my best friend Susan and I were blessed with very, very inventive moms whose creativity abounded with super cool “events” they planned for us and our neighborhood friends. Birthdays always had a theme and very often handmade invitations.  

One Halloween they transformed Susan’s garage into the scariest haunted house I’ve ever experienced.  I still shudder when I think about being blindfolded and plunging my hand into a bowl of guts and brains (cooked spaghetti doused with cooking oil). It let me know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I wasn’t cut out to be a surgeon, as I garishly squealed with the rest of the kids. 

Awesome times!

One of the slickest things our genius moms concocted, for our pre-pubescent pleasure, was the neighborhood scavenger hunt.  We divided into teams and each team was given a list of obscure items to find, in the homes of unsuspecting neighbors.  It was like Trick or Treating for trash.  Usually, we had a time limit and the team that found the most junk on the list won. Our moms could have worked for Disney!

With all the scariness in the world, I doubt if creative mothers nowadays could pull something like this off, but for us, back then, it was an ultimate quest for troves of junk bounty that was our treasure.  It was a blast!

John and I felt something akin to this childhood delight the first time we walked down the beach at our house sit in Xcalak.  Unbelievable are the things that find their way into our oceans and finally wash up on beaches. We didn’t find any messages in bottles or Spanish doubloons, but we found some really cool stuff.  Likewise, unbelievable was the exorbitant amount of plastic trash that found its way to our beach. Not so cool.  Here’s the cool stuff first.

Going for the Gold

John made our pursuit for beach treasure into a game that included:

Alphabet Soup: 

After we found the first few letters, it became a quest to find the entire alphabet. We got close.

Ready for Action: 

A friend told us that he had collected quite a few Barbie shoes on our beach.  We never found any, but did find action figures. Ka-Pow!

Magic Anyone? 

We think a mermaid may have lost this wand. 

Whoa Bows:

Although we never found any buttons, we did find plenty of bows!


Love was definitely in the air, in the water and on the beach!


A Bone to Pick: 

We’re not sure, but maybe we found the missing link?  Now this was creepy!

Uncool Beach Stuff

I was so excited about our first romantic stroll down the Xcalak beach.  Nothing like a shoreline loaded with trashy plastic, cardboard, glass and cans to kill the mood.  We found out that the majority of trash (mainly plastic) that washes ashore in this part of the Caribbean comes from cruise ships and a few countries that participate in illegal dumping into the seas.  According to Beachapedia:

All cruise ships generate the following types of waste:

    • Gray water” from sinks, showers, laundries and galleys
    • Sewage or “black water” from toilets
    • Oily bilge water
    • Hazardous wastes (including perchloroethylene from drycleaning, photo-processing wastes, paint waste, solvents, print shop wastes, fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries)
    • Solid wastes (plastic, paper, wood, cardboard, food waste, cans, and glass)
    • Air pollution from the ship’s diesel engines

A 3,000-passenger cruise ship (considered an average size, some carry 5,000 or more passengers) generates the following amounts of waste on a typical one-week voyage:

    • 1 million gallons of “gray water”
    • 210,000 gallons of sewage
    • 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water
    • Over 100 gallons of hazardous or toxic waste
    • 50 tons of garbage and solid waste (that’s TONS folks!)
    • Diesel exhaust emissions equivalent to thousands of automobiles.

Sad huh?

When John found this little guy, he decided to do something about it.  He spent at least a couple of hours everyday ridding the nearby beach (about 500 meters each way) of trash.  When neighbors and visiting tourists saw what he was doing, the clean-up effort caught on and we began seeing piles of trash and debris gathered for disposal all up and down the beach. 

We realize that cleaning our beach was just a small drop in the bucket of what needs to be done, but there are global efforts from groups like Ocean Conservancy that are fighting for trash-free seas.  Check out a copy of their 2017 Report.  

I think it will blow your mind.  

Clean Swell App

Also, check out the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app.  

This app allows everyone to join a global movement to keep beaches and waterways clean.  All you have to do is download the app, and then head out to your favorite beach.  The app helps you record each item of trash you collect, and then share your efforts with your friends and family.  

It’s a lot like the scavenger hunts that Susan and I used to love, only this time Mother Nature, rather than our moms, is smiling!  


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2018,House Sitting,Mexico

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