Here's the 2nd diary entry of Intrepid Den as she travels on from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido.
Oaxaca to the Puerto Escondido
10am, I boarded the bus with my super new huge bag and began the 250 mile
journey south to the Pacific Ocean. I
was just thinking how much Mexico reminded me of India, when we pulled into a
town which had the same 3 wheeled tuk tuk taxis. If it wasn't for the music, Mexico and India
would be very similar – the same poverty, the same desperate street sellers
along the road, the same skinny forlorn cows, donkey and goats grazing on the
side of the road and the same absolutely appalling roads! There are pot holes everywhere which slows
the traffic to a crawl and then, for some ludicrous reason, there are speed
humps – can you imagine speed humps on the M1???
I settled down for what was supposedly a 7 hour journey (how was that possible
to cover 250 miles?) and suddenly I wished I'd had a pee before we left. No matter, I was sure we'd stop for lunch but
no – it was as if our macho driver was on a mission to prove that he could
drive for 7 hours without a pee! Thankfully,
the weaker of us demanded a stop or two and he looked at us as if we were
failures – never mind that he got out and peed too...
so the Sierra Madre. It just goes on and
on and on and on. Just when you think
that you must be descending, up you go again, hour after hour and this is just
a two lane road where overtaking should be banned but isn't. Luckily our driver wasn't a complete maniac
and finally, we arrived at the little seaside town of Puerto Escondido. We were unceremoniously dumped at the side of
the road and once again, I got out my mighty Rough Guide to Mexico and
approached a burly policeman with a very curiously shaped and very long thumb
nail(?) and pointed at the map thinking he'd understand that I wanted to know
where I was and he'd just point it out.
No. So I looked at my language
section in the back of the guide and said
“donde este?” Why I said that I don't know because he began
to tell me in such earnest I didn't have the heart to tell him I had no idea
what he was saying and just nodded and motioned “right at the next corner”,
said “muchos gracias” and smiled. He
smiled back with the obligatory gold tooth and off I went with my unfeasibly
don't know how hot it was but after a few yards, I was pouring sweat like a
cartoon character. I was hot. I was real hot. The pavement was full of high kerbs and steps
and no place for a three stone bag on wheels.
Why I didn't get a cab, I don't know – well I do, it would be the old
budget thing again, never mind if I lost another wheel or 2... I came across 2 completely stoned dudes and
asked if they spoke English and to my utter relief they did and gave me
finally I arrived at my hostel, I may have been delirious with heat and
moisture loss but managed to garble that I had a reservation. The young man who looked remarkably like
Antonio Banderas (good) asked why I hadn't called ahead and he'd have picked me
up. Words literally failed me. He told me how pretty I was (it must have
been my wild expression) and offered to carry my bag and physically buckled
under the weight of it. He lent it
against the wall, it fell over and almost broke the gate. We both looked at this gargantuan bag and
probably thought the same thing – what the hell has she got in there? Anyway, there was no way either of us was
going to lug it up a flight of stairs and so he put me in the only ground floor
room he had – never mind that it had 2 double beds and is clearly designed for
4. We simply didn't care! He dumped the bag in the room, gave me the
key and I headed straight for a cold shower.
They never have hot water ever, ever, ever. But this time they did – unbelievable but who
cared. I washed 3 days of grime off and
prepared for the next leg of my adventure.
was only supposed to stay for 2 nights but I just knew I needed longer. The Italian owner, Mario, said that I could
stay as long as I liked and we got talking.
What a legend! He's 75 but looks
way younger, was sent to military school in England when he was 9, studied
architecture and a the age of 23 went to Benin as an engineer and built a water
purification plant with absolutely no experience and it just went from there,
working all over Africa, getting caught in wars and god knows what and
surviving. He is one of those people who
are totally full of outrageous but true stories and we talked the night away –
he didn't even mind me slipping out to buy a bottle of very warm wine – he did
however think I was insane to drink it – serve at “room temperature” has a
totally different meaning in the 40 degree heat of Mexico...
the morning I went in search, as always, of coffee – and found it at, of all
things, an Italian coffee shop! The
town, like all towns in boiling hot places, is all painted white and rises up
into the surrounding hills. It's full of
little shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, all wonderfully painted but which
will not fit in my bag. It's fairly
empty at this time of year except for lots of Canadians, They come down from the freezing cold and
stay for the winter. One such creature,
replete with straw hat, gnarled countenance and very blue eyes happened to be
sitting next to me and so we got talking.
Maybe I'm lucky in encountering such interesting people or maybe I just
choose the people who look the most interesting because he was also incredible
– a sailor who was caught in a hurricane – 40 foot waves crashing through the
windows and nearly capsizing the boat, a worker in a chicken factory – he said
KFC modify their chicken so much it doesn't have feathers anymore and they
can't even call it “chicken”. That's
right folks, coming to a table near you...
meant to go to one of the many beaches, but got talking to Mario again and once
the beer started flowing, I wasn't going anywhere! We talked all afternoon until it was dark but
I got the feeling that he was like a seaside town at the end of the season when
everyone has gone and suddenly, there is no purpose. His wife died 6 years ago and without her, he
feels pointless but I maybe managed to cheer him up and promised to write a new
blurb for his hostel listing.. There
isn't really much to do at night other than eat – fried everything with rice
salad and of course tacos and no matter that I now know how to say “no tacos”,
they still turn up wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm. But no matter, with my warm wine, my super
laptop and cable TV, I remembered that there is nothing that I like to do more
than write – hence this blog!
3 and I was determined to get to the beach so slathered tinted body lotion over
my very white body thinking it would give it a helping hand also confident that
the sun factor of 15 would be enough...
walked to Zicatelle beach where the waves are so powerful, it sounds like a jet
fighter flying overhead. This is home to
the famous Mexican Pipeline – waves so big that you can surf through the tubes,
and wondered if it was safe to swim. I
was reminded of my favourite film when Robert Duvall says “If I say it's safe
to surf this beach, it's safe to surf this beach” (name that film). I asked a surfer if it was safe to swim and
he looked at me as if I was mad. He went
into great detail about the undertow, how a wave could come from nowhere and
knock me over and I'd be disorientated and would have to hold my breath until I
figured out which way was up, and how people drown all the time and how he
wouldn't take his daughter there and that really, I'd be much better off going
around the headland to the safer beaches.
I went in anyway and it was GREAT!
The waves were huge knocking me over, dragging me under and spitting me
out, time after rollicking time. I
hadn't seen waves that big since a couple of days prior to a hurricaine hitting
palm beach when the lifeguards were practically begging me not to go in.
and happy, I lay down to sunbathe with 2 things I hadn't noticed – 1, I had two
indiscriminate logs of sand in my bikini bottoms which probably looked more
like something else and 2, the surf had washed off all my rubbishy sun tan
lotion. So there I lay, baking in the
baking heat, and along came a young man who waded into the surf, pulled his T
shirt up a la James Dean and started to pull on his todger!!! I wasn't sure I was seeing it right but there
he was, wagging it at me and grinning!
It seemed like time to go and it was just as well, because by the time
I'd walked back to the hostel, my legs were as red as my very red bag – oh how
I laughed.. I was reminded of the Russians in Goa who would lie on the beach
the colour of the whitest dinner plate and leave the colour of raw beef. My skin was so hot, you could fried eggs on
that didn't put the Antonio Banderas look alike receptionist off – he thought
it was “cute” and asked if he could take me to the beach on his day off – the
following day. Why not, I thought, I
didn't have anything else to do. So
moving swiftly on, he took me to the beach practically opposite for a swim. He's quite a sweet bloke but clearly wanted
more from me than I wanted to give and really all I wanted to do, was body
surf. So there he was, treading water
and serenading me(?), when a huge wave would crash over him and I'd turn and be
hurled off into shore on the wave, leaving him bobbing about with a surprised
look on his face. He kept asking me for
a “hoog”, yep, you've guessed it – a hug, telling me that he had a son but was
divorced and trying to do the right thing and how happy he'd be if I let him
take me out to dinner. Hoog or not, I
thought, why not – I really haven't got anything else to do.
out that he is divorced but has since remarried – to the cook at the hostel who
had seem him fawning over me!
Unbelievable! So, my last night
in Puerta Escondido was again spent in the excellent company of super Mario and
some rather good Mexican Brandy which travels a lot better than the wine does!
so after 4 days in Puerto Escondido, I once again loaded up my enormous bag,
gave Mario a huge hoog and set off up along the road to wave down a bus, pay
the equivalent of £1.70 and headed off the 50 miles to San Agustinillo.
of us got off at the abandoned, dusty crossroads and shared a taxi along the
dirt track into the tiny town. They were
German girls from Hamburg who, of course, spoke perfect English. I had already booked at the Posada Paloma and
they too came into see if there was a room – there wasn't – the circus is
coming to the next town, Mazunte, and everything is booked – thank god I'd
planned ahead! And so I was taken to my
room and what a beautiful room! Mosquito
nets draped around the bed, tiled floors, ceiling fan, little desk and chair
and even somewhere to hang all of my clothes and by god have I got a
lot... I don't think I've been as happy
with a room since my one in the fort in Jaisalmeer in Rhajasthan.
weirdest thing is though, everyone here seems to be retired Canadians. Apparently, the next towns either side are
the party towns – Dixie, the lady in the next room said they're all right if
you like dread locks and tattoos and I thought, yep, they're my type of
towns. I think they will be more like
Goa and Dixie even said that they are full of hippies who came in the 60's –
exactly like Goa... I am only booked here
for 3 days and just know, once again, that this is a room I want to spend more
time in, so I spoke to the ladies in reception and they said they'd see what
they could do. Later, an unfeasibly good
looking young man told me that I go and stay in his house for an unfeasibly
enormous price but when I said it was too much, he said he'd find me something
else for 2 days and then I could come back here. Dixie said “didn't you tell him you're really
good company?” - I didn't realise I was up for sale... So out for a walk along the beach and I am
astonished at just how beautiful it is.
Palm trees swaying, a steep beach with the obligatory waves pounding
around the bay and little cafes and restaurants hiding in the shade . And everyone is so friendly! I've been
holaing all evening. I even found a
vegetarian restaurant – not that I'm a vegetarian but by god could I do with a
salad and that's exactly what I had – a veritable mountain of goodness with
quinoa all washed down with (back in my room) lashings of brandy. Oh, how I like it here!
following day, I set out for a swim. Taking
no chances, I dressed in factor 30 sun cream and headed across the road to the
beach. Weirdly, the waves are bigger
here than they were on the “surfer” beach I'd left behind, but maybe it's just
the time of year. The beach is made up
of little bays, broken by rocky outcrops,
little fishing boats lined up on the beach and condors circling silently
above on the warm airy thermals.. It is
lined with little restaurants crouched in the shade, none of which has any
menus, and at night, little light. Never
mind. I found a bay with pounding
waves and other swimmers (you can't be sure there aren't rip tides...), dumped
my stuff and waded in. The waves were
huge! It reminded me of when me and my
brother Sean were little kids and we'd swim like dolphins in waves too big and
seas too rough for our own good, but survived.
This was similar! I felt like a
piece of tumbleweed, being hurled, rolled, dragged under and finally spat out
on the shore. When the waves break, it
is like a liquid avalanche; deafening, fierce, unstoppable and totally
wild. I loved it and must have been in
for an hour until the skin on my fingers looked like prunes. And It's a good job I like swimming so much,
because there isn't much else to do...
wonder what I expected? Somewhere like
Goa I suppose where I could live happily on £10 a day for everything including
an awful lot of drink... (There's that
old budget again.) But it's not like
that. People, mostly Canadians, come
here to get out of the cold and do here pretty much what they would do at home
– nothing. I have Canadian friends who
are an exception to this (Tannis, Keith and Shelagh) but the one's here are the
type who iron their shorts, polish their leather belts, eat and sleep – very
early. Weird. And to prove this point, I got talking to a
Canadian in a restaurant who came from Quebec and it was like wading through
custard. I was sure I was asking
interesting questions about architecture, culture, language, heritage etc and
he just didn't animate. In the end, I
gave up, ate so much chilli sauce I swear it's coming out of my eyes, left and
just went back to my room where at least I didn't have to try to talk to
anyone. Instead, I did some reading,
writing and of course, some drinking.
When all the lights were out, I headed to the bathroom and closed my
door to stop bugs getting in. As soon as I heard the final click of the
door, I knew I'd made a mistake – yes, I'd locked myself out!!!
was I to do? I tried to jimmy the window
frame off with a tiny coin I'd found on
the floor so that I could reach around the mosquito gauze but all I managed to
do was break a piece of the wood off.
Luckily, I could still hear movement in the next room so tentatively
knocked the door. “Dixie” came out and
on hearing my plight, was keen to help – this was EXCITEMENT! So armed with her knife, which also didn't
work, and then her torch, we wandered around the deserted, dark, reception
looking for help and finding none. She
asked if I had a phone and she could ring the unfeasibly good looking man
(Fabian) – yes, I do have a phone – in my room... In the end, she lent me a sheet and pillow
from their spare bed – she even offered to let me sleep in it but it all seemed
too much like a sit- com – the three of us saying good night like in The
Waltons with a little harmonica beep at the end, and so I went and slept
outside in a hammock, cocooned in the sheet to stop me getting eaten alive by
bugs and that's where I laid until Ramos, the so called night receptionist,
burst through the door like a rampant bear, filled his rucksack with cold beer
from the fridge (!???) and seing me as some sort of apparition, let me back
into my room.
morning I appealed for clemency, forgiveness, understanding and sympathy and
got all 4 – apparently, Ramos should have been there and it was all HIS
fault. Obviously I was happy to go along
with that one... Who knows what tonight will bring but tomorrow, the circus is
coming to town at the next beach along.
I almost wonder if I should have brought my juggling clubs with me but
realise that would have been even more insane that bringing the 6 pairs of
shoes in varying degrees of sophistication; from my old worn out mocassins, to
the fancy gold ones, to the stilettos which I only envisage wearing in New York
and maybe Bogota, Cartagena and Mexico City and ONLY to get in and out of taxis
or in my even wilder fantasy, limos – oh how I live in dreams!
will of course, let you know. So for
now, it's over and out from a place in Paradise.
Labels: intrepid Den, Mexico, travels through central and south america