February 10, 2015
West Coast Mexico: Redux.: the Final Miles
It was an eye opener when I first checked out the map of Mexico, taking note that the distance from Tijuana to Acapulco was 2000 miles!
After the wild trip through the teeming centro of this truly quite fabulous metropolis, and the liberation I experienced as I drove up to the empty highlands once more on the way next morning to Pinotepa Nacional, the rest of the coast of Mexico figured in my mind as a kind of afterthought over the almost 1000 miles remaining.
I was by this time quite thoroughly steeped in the magic of the land as it had become even more tropical. Everywhere I was in view of the beaches and the rolling surf, I once again imagined swimming in the Pacific waters. As I rolled through the thickness of the coco palm groves hung with bunches of green cocoanuts, as I gazed upon the many fields of papaya hewn down waiting for the wet ground and the damp air to settle and compost the old leaves and stems, as I slowly and carefully navigated my way over the topes in the very small towns, visited the local aborrates for vegetables and fruit obviously grown within a few miles of these places, the tenderness with which I had first viewed the waters of the bay at San Felipe ripened and settled even more into my sensibilities.
I was assimilating the sights, sounds, aromas, color and the people into my heart-mind. Without available wifi, I was rather focused on the driving rising very soon after the sun, cleaning up, drinking my green morning elixir, walking around a bit before settling into the driver’s seat to travel even further down the highway.
This southern west coast is much less populated, towns are fewer. Didn’t mean the roads were any better but the travel was easier because there was much less traffic, fewer trucks and more wide open space over the land, the fields and the mountains in the distance. There was less of the teeming subliminal buzz sounding in the space. There was quiet on the highlands and from my view above the shore, there was only a echo of the ocean’s eternal tides.
These were 6 mornings awakening in assorted settings, 6 days adjusting even more to the tropical air, the damp heat that my northern body was not used to, and 6 nights contending with no-see-ums biting, mosquitoes biting and the juiciness of sweating through the close, hot darkness.
One afternoon, I made a quick turn down a road that turned out to be about a 3 mile trek to the beach. Somehow, the entry invited me and after all this time eyeing the surf and not actually getting wet in it, I had decided to check it out. The track was narrow dirt for about the first mile, and it soon became even more narrow alongside the living fences of sticks in the ground that soon grow again, with the growth of palm, grasses, and flowering bushes leaning over the road.
Closer to the shore line, I noted in the distance a large condominium complex, a little indistinct because of the lay of the dunes. It seemed to be quite extensive and when I made it nearly to the shoreline, there were posts and a chain across the entry, a small guardhouse about a 100 feet into the area. I was not going there, so rather than foolishly driving myself to the shore in sand that was sure to capture a loaded van, I parked nearby.
Changing into my bathing suit, putting the water bottle, a small towel and my camera into my shoulder sack, with the purple noodle in my hand, I trekked over the dunes to the beach. Standing at the edge of the Pacific, I once again became enthralled as I had first been as a kid standing in the waves of the very chilly waters of Oak Bay. It seems that all the beaches where I have ever been swimming meet in the sand and surf I am presently standing in.
Sure enough, when I was sitting in the waves, they were much stronger than I am at this time and along with the delicious saltiness of the water and foam, there is: sand. Above is the tropic sun more directly overhead than ever. I can feel it burning into my head and over my exposed skin. Wonderful
It was nearly evening when I finally cleaned up enough of the sand, ate some salad and made my way back up the track to pull off road into a small clearing to sleep. A man came along speaking me through the broken window in the back of the van: May I stay here tonight? He said yes…in English. I was content. But it was a big night and the first with really swarming insects. Not much sleep and the guy shone a light on me about 4 am wanting to know if I was sleeping. Well, darling, not now with the light in my face!
Next morning, it was important to find a supply of water and so at the next highland area, where there was a sign reading, ’agua artesian’ I pulled off to fill up and use the banos (bathroom). Gregory showed me his mescal liquor as we talked, as he filled up my jugs, about his business growing agave, brewing and distilling, his children and his property here; seems the artesian waters made a lot of difference to his product.
Onward, shorter distances than had been the ride to Acapulco, until there was a small town and at the southern edge, alongside a dirt road going deeper, there was a comida with a large front yard and just the right place to park. Soon in the evening came Rosie and Ramon to open. They provided meals and parking to some big trucks traveling through.
In the morning I awoke having been affected through the night with what I had seen the previous day. It took a huge investment to erect 3 miles of electric poles and wire, it took big bucks to architect, to excavate and to build the huge condominium complex that I had seen. It was not a stretch to imagine the profit motive that impelled the ‘investment’ of something in the order of 5 million dollars to do all this and to assimilate the satisfaction that came with the activity. But it saddened me because although I saw the charm of the place, I knew that the people who bought or sold these places or rented these ‘vacation’ condos there hardly noticed anything beyond the days of their lives. They could not see more than what they could see.
What were they missing that was so obvious to me? I sat with Rosie and Ramon and drank a coffee with them. Along came Rosie’s good friend and these two women first made a bowl of corn flour, with lime in a bowl of water. This handsome woman friend kneaded the dough with splashes of the water until it formed a ball of damp dough. Then out came the stand made by a local ferreteria with his torch to press the corn dough into tortillas. A few sticks of wood supplied by Ramon were fired up in the cement cook-stove/fireplace made with a sheet of iron over the fire to cook the tortillas and add them to the stash for the next trucker’s meals.
I could see their beautiful and comforting, fruitful friendship beaming on their faces and on the sweet face of Rosie’s daughter. I could see the dedication of Ramon to the care of this woman, his wife and to his lovely daughter. It warmed and heartened me that there was indeed a deep core of love in humanity’s heart on our planet. I went on my way happier and well fed by their coffee and their loving kindness.
I drove through Huatalco further down the coast where I went to find a bank to cash traveler’s cheques. It was another exercise in the noticing that the money that makes these centers into tourist ‘attractions’ beautiful, glamorous, well groomed and efficient also marginalizes the barrio and the people who were to be seen polished and uniformed in front of the hotels or in small neatly done mercados, ready for some really needed tourist dollars. I did my business and left hurriedly following behind a convoy of busses.
The week passed and the days became checkpoints of interest in my memory now being recounted to you a couple weeks later.
The Saturday morning found me in the heart of , at the totally grimy, musical, noisy, thriving and crowded downtown market square. The iconic cement cathedral with its front area becoming a park formed one side of the square, while around the rest of the way were the hole-in-the-walls mercado stuffed with colorful merchandise. Roaming the streets everywhere were bicycle carts with various foods being pedaled about by an assortment of young men cooking or dispensing cold fruit drinks from their coolers. People sat in their best attire on the benches in the cathedral park, and on the curbs at the sidewalk’s edge. The talked, gesticulated, shouted, sang and bellowed out their joy along with the bargaining for the goods they wanted. The scene captivated me entirely as I ever so slowly moved the van at a snail-like speed through the throngs of both ethnic Indians of the local area and peoples of obviously Hispanic origin.
Here was I, a 21st century almost mythical traveler, making my way through at least 2 centuries of life. It was unmistakable from the past except for the prevalence of the ubiquitous plastic which eventually would be basura dunned up on the sides of the streets and buildings.
A clean shaven cop in a police car, sitting with his partner, “stinking badges” on their uniformed chests and guns on their belts, a rifle stashed on the seat between them, shouted out to me pointing to the road out of town. I’m gone leaving the magic of centuries behind.
Further and further still I went, following a path of the now resting and rusting bus that drove Ken Kesey and the kids of the acid cool aid test. They drove stoned all over America while my choice is not to be stoned on any substances down the west coast Mexican roads onward to Ecuador . Further!
Not all is dismal, decaying and dirty in the towns of Mexico. I came upon a interesting two year on-going historical renewal project happening in the town of Ixtapac situated near a high wind area in the province of Oaxaca. It seems the local political light decreed that the town might be restored to a tidiness, a historical color and integrity by a coalition of all the people with the government of the state. The result, after one year, is that there is a noticeable clean up everywhere of the roads and streets, the centro of the town has been face-lifted with coats of colorful paint the choice of Mexican hearts everywhere and the spirit of the place has been resurrected sufficiently that such as casual traveler as I am has noted quite a difference.
Driving through the town, I came upon one of the last cuota roads, paying my 30 peso toll, onward I went through dry, very windy uplands planted by giant wind turbines turning steadily in the gusty wind. It was one of the best roads I encountered and so, taking advantage, I drove a comfortable 80 km through to the end of the day.
Finally, I found myself on Monday morning, January 26th, at the border town of Tapachula next to Carmen on the Guatemalan side. My drive through Mexico was ending and I was about to face a quite different kind of experience as I crossed through to a different country.
Little did I know what new adventure awaited me as I closed in on half way to my destination: Ecuador!