Cheers from the Playa

I haven’t really noticed this elsewhere in Mexico but here, lots of the cars have small shrines on their front bumpers: “Bless my home and my family” on this brand new SUV.

The bougainvillea in this town are amazing, huge and fantastically coloured.

From the Adoquin there are many peek-a-boo views of the playa between whitewashed buildings. One of the big main local hotels along the beachfront here is for sale; perhaps you have always wanted to be a hotel proprietor in a warm climate …?

Down at the Playa Marinero the fishermen have a unique way of “docking” their boats. They all have small round logs that they put out to make a pathway across the sand between the ocean and their “parking spot” up on the beach.

When the guys know that a fishing boat is coming in, they set out these logs,

while the fisherman waits at sea in his boat.

Then the man onshore waves “all clear” and the fisherman revs his engine and blasts onto the sand and up the beach to rest at the stop of the sandy incline.

Once parked, the bins are opened and the caught fish are for sale – lots of sierra and red snapper this time.

And swordfish.

We tried Los Crotos Restaurant beachside the other night for dinner and had a ringside seat for all the action, that being one or two wandering troubadours and a couple of begging dogs.

The dishes of shrimp were enormous, all this for 148 pesos (about $12 CAD, I think).

I have been surprised not to have seen much in the way of wildlife here, but the other day an iguana appeared in one of the trees around our pool; the cat was very interested in it but they didn’t get into a fight, luckily.

On our usual walk up Playa Zicatela yesterday, we saw enormous waves and the red flag was flying.

As usual, someone was swimming out beyond where the waves break, even though the red flag means no swimming. People who do this always think that the flags don’t apply to them, until something happens and they get into trouble … this beach is not swimmable – the waves are too big, the currents are too strong, and there are hidden riptides all along the beach.

No-one was having much success catching the waves this day.

After a tasty breakfast at Dan’s Cafe, we checked out a few places with rooms to rent: this one with a beautiful outdoor space looked great!

I also investigated one of Puerto’s language schools, the Experiencia Puerto off the Adoquin. In addition to classrooms, it also has rooms for students to stay in while taking classes. The compound, which is in the style of an old colonial hacienda, was very attractive. The language schools here all teach surfing as well; although I’m too old for that, if I were younger, Spanish and surfing would be a great combination of stuff to learn while spending some time down here …

And, finally, here’s Pam preparing our afternoon poolside treat – cheers!

El Pantheon and La Playa

I love pelicans and they are very plentiful here, especially down on Playa Marinero and Playa Zicatela, where they can get a sniff of the fish being caught around these parts. Apparently there are still plenty of fish in the sea here …

Along the main city beach here is also an inexpensive campground, right on the sand, which seems sort of unusual in a beach town. Between the campground and the ocean is a small “lagoon” of sorts, part of an estuary, I think, in which lots of birds enjoy spending the day, like this egret. We avoid walking through it; Pam thinks it must be boiling with mosquitoes.

On our way back from the Manialtepec Lagoon the other day I noticed that we had driven past a small cemetery and was interested in going back to take a look at it. I found a quiet shady route from the house to the pantheon “The Woods”, as it is called, through a hilly local neighbourhood. It is right near the beach and beside an elementary school.

Sometimes the graves in Mexico are very brightly painted; these, though, are mostly white, like the ones at the cemetery Ty and I visited in Progresso.

After a pleasant walk through the paths communing with the shades of the dead, I made my way back out to the street, past several houses for sale and rent (likely this is a nice place to live, given the silent neighbours), and down the stone steps to Playa Manzanillo, my favourite beach in P.E.

I had quite a long chat with the servers at the beach-side restaurant; it was a quiet day and they were likely bored with not very many customers to serve. I took the opportunity to practice my Spanish, which, if I do say so myself, is getting quite good.

Playa Manzanillo is on one half of a small curved bay, the other side of which is Playa Angelito. I’ve never set foot on Playa Angelito, simply because Manzanillo is so sweet that I just can’t seem to get over there. But this day I did at least walk over the small rocky point separating the two beaches to take a few pictures of it.

At the top of the steep steps that run down the beach is this shrine dedicated to Puerto Escondido’s black Madonna. It sits under a shady small palapa which also shelters the numerous taxi drivers who ply their trade here.

When I am out and about walking around the town, I like to take my own shade with me … in different styles.

Saturday is market day around here so Pam, Cec, and I hoofed it up the road with the clattering metal cart to purchase fruit and veggies for the coming week.

Some of the locals don’t even bother to look as we pass by …

Mexican markets have the best produce; huge beautiful veggies for about 1/10 Vancouver’s cost. I am fascinated with the enormous cauliflowers here.

Something we would never see a home is a doggie strolling through the meat section of the market, hoping to capture a little something something …

Saturday is also the day when fresh fish comes to the market; here Pam and Cec are discussing the possibilities presented by the sierra, a white fish available in P.E.

After agreeing that it looked good, the man expertly filleted it for us.

Just outside the market, I saw this car with a Madonna shrine on its front bumper.

and a San Francisco shrine on the wall “downtown”.

Almost every day Pam and Cec stride Playa Zicatela beach and stop either at Dan’s Cafe for breakfast or the Bar Fly for a lemonade with mineral water. Sometimes I join them on the march.

Some of the local hotels have the most beautiful bougainvillea flowers, enormous bunches of multi-coloured blossoms.

The other night we headed down to the Adoquin to Pascales, to enjoy a tasty grilled dinner and the music by a local duo with a pretty good virtual back-up band.

All in all,a pretty good place to spend some time.

 

Hola from Puerto Escondido

When the opportunity came up to visit Puerto Escodido, Oaxaca with friends P & C, I leapt at the chance, even though I am currently working on a contract for SFU. I figured that I can just as easily do my course development work here poolside, as in the rain in Vancouver.

Puerto Escondido is what Puerto Vallarta used to be many moons ago, a traditional Mexican fishing village, albeit at 70,000 population, no longer a tiny one.

Our place is just above the coastal highway and the Playa Marinero, the beach where fshermen sell their catch right off the sand, and about four blocks from the Super Che, the gigantic, air-conditioned local equivalent to a Super Store grocery store, although it sells much more than just groceries, including appliances. The casa has a nice peekaboo view of the huge Zicatela Beach, the two mile long surfing playa that attracts boarders from around the world.

Along with the four of us and a small black female cat, two large green parrots are ensconced poolside in a large white metal cage. While they don’t really talk, they are certainly very vocal and make some very funny noises.

Along with the parrots, roosters, and barking dogs, the pelicans make this part of the world their home; they are funny, large beasts with very sentient eyes.

Most mornings see 3 or 4 of us hoofing it down the long stretch of Playa Zicatela, often in search of breakfast at Dan’s Cafe, a local crowd-pleaser, whose hotcakes I can enthusiastically recommend.

Walking back along the road, we sometimes check out the shops selling mostly beach wear, surf boards, and jewelry.

A local guy who works for a finca (coffee plantation) invited us in to look at the coffee beans he was drying and explained to us how the unpredictable climate was causing havoc with coffee production: “It rains when it shouldn’t, and when it should rain, it doesn’t”.

Since I’m not inclined to sunbathe, I sometimes lie poolside a white ghost, wrapped up in my scarf like a mummy.

The other morning as we walked along we heard the sounds of a brass band pumping out latin music, only to find that it was the accompaniment to a funeral procession leaving from the church.

The church is situated in a beautiful small plaza at the top of a stone staircase; inside it, a black Madonna presides.

We’ve also walked along the seaside andador, a stone walkway that travels the base of the rocky cliffs here from the Bahia Principal to Playa Manzanillo.

Slightly disconcerting was the sight of a young, seemingly disconsolate man sharpening a knife in the shade of a big rock.

This route has lots of colourful graffiti on the stones.

After clambering up the staircase at the end of the walk, we chatted a bit to a woman with a very elaborate set of biblical decorations from small plastic toys, including a Nativity scene, in her front yard.

Once ensconced at the beach, we sampled some very tasty shrimp dishes and enjoyed watching the local families frolic in the very warm  water. Since most of the local people can’t swim, they cluster just at the ocean’s edge enjoying the relatively gentle waves in this bay.

Puerto Escondido is very local and I like that about it. See some pics of our earlier visit here in 2012 here.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico – the “hidden port”

On our last day in Puerto Vallarta, as we were sitting on the Malecon having coffee, we felt the earth move … it was a small 4.7 earthquake with the epicentre 177 km south of PV, one more in a long series of west coast quakes this Spring. In addition, the volcano that dominates Mexico City’s skyline is waking from its slumber; Popo began to erupt at the beginning of April and is threatening to derail air traffic through Mexico City’s International Airport. Once again I had to worry about an ash cloud screwing up my travel plans (as in April 2010 when Iceland’s grand volcano erupted and almost put the boots to our trip to Turkey). But, luckily, we were able to take off with no difficulty and wing our way towards Huatulco – you can see the ash cloud in the above photo.

After a short one hour flight, we touched down in Huatulco, about 1,000 km south of Vallarta on the Pacific coast. As soon as we got off the plane, I could feel the heat – it reminded me of arriving in Siem Reap, Cambodia – dry and hot – about 8 – 10 degrees hotter than PV. Upon being told that a taxi to Puerto Escondido, 98 kilometers north, would be 1,590 pesos, we opted to take a collectivo, less than half that price. With us in the van were a local family, all of whom were hacking and coughing; we spent the trip north trying to avoid getting sprayed with illness producing vapours. About an hour and a half later we arrived without incident (and so far without colds) at the Hotelito Swiss Oasis, a small eight room facility with a pool half a block from the Playa Zicatela, Mexico’s top surfing beach.

The hotel is run by a great Swiss couple who have a golden retriever and four cats, one of whom tries to sneak into our room. It’s the beginning of the surfing season here and the town is beginning to fill up with young surfing folk. Staying at the Hotel with us are Brandy, a wild life biologist and college instructor from Montreal, Coco, a Dutch film maker, three Israelies, and an Australian couple who surf. Several of them are taking Spanish lessons at the school just up the road and Coco is doing research for her next film.

Playa Zicatela is a three kilometer long strech of beach onto which enormous Pacific Ocean waves roll. Great for surfing, it is extremely dangerous for swimming; in addition to the big waves, it also has bad currents and rip tides. The beach reminds me quite a bit of Long Beach or Chesterman Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

We had a very pleasant dinner on the beach our first evening.

This place is all about the surfing (sort of like Tofino … only bigger).

Yesterday, after a tasty breakfast at Mango’s just around the corner from the Hotel, we headed off down the beach to check out the area before meeting Brandy, Coco, and Tina at Playa Carrizalillo, one of the smaller swimming beaches about 2 or 3 km north of us.

Between Playa Zicatela and Playa Principal is a set of stairs to a viewing platform in the design of a castle battlement, from which is a great view out over the beach to the lighthouse.

Since we were travelling without a map, I had to stop and ask directions a few times; the guy in the picture below walked us part of the way to the beach.

Puerto Escondido is still very much a Mexican town; it’s about one tenth the size of PV and maintains its local character. Many of the townspeople have small restaurants in their homes, quite a few with pots of something or other on open fires, very hot in this warm area (just like the folks boiling huge pots of corn in 50 degrees on the highway in Turkey).

Ty was over-heating so we had a quick cervesa pit-stop at the top of the hill before trudging on to the beach.

From the top of the cliff 167 concrete steps down to the beach have been made.

Carrizalillo Beach is a small bay with a few restaurants and bars and beautiful water for swimming, snorkelling, and beginners surfing. Here, unlike Zicatela, the waves are manageable (although even these ones seem big to me).

Quite a few folks spear fish here; one couple used a paddle board to get out past the bay – she paddled while he fished.

Both Tina and Brandy are taking surfing lessons here; in Puerto, they learn the sport young.

This dad and daughter combination spent almost the entire afternoon in the water.

Later in the afternoon, an even younger dad and child combination gave it a go.

This boy could not have been more than a year old, maybe not even that, but he was obviously loving the experience.

Several times, dad put him on a boogie board, gave him a gentle push, and off he sailed toward the beach.

Unlike the very developed, urbanised experience of Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Escondido is much more mellow and laid back, with no concrete highrises and seemingly relatively little catering to the gringo presence. We like it.

See a few more pics here.