18th Oct onwards…….
For two months we explore this sleepy tropical outpost. We are in Oaxaca, the Southern most state of the Pacific Coast of Mexico. A few more hours and you end up in Guatemala.
Puerto Escondido hangs on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It has been sixteen years since we last visited; then, no children, no mortgage, no responsibilities. Things have changed for us but in a good way and the changes we see in Puerto are also positive. Tourism has grown but the charm of a sleepy laid back coastal town is still there. There are more beachside palapa restaurants, more backpacker surf hostels, more gringos building beachside places to rent out, more bodyboarders, more international injection with sushi bars and pizza places popping up, but in the end the flavour is the same. There will be no highrise here, no 5 star luxury hotels, no $200.00 a day golf courses or high end fishing trips.
The mood is sleepy, laid back, lazy dogs, beer on the beach at perfect sunset after perfect sunset, rice and beans on fresh corn tortillas, palm trees and humming birds, sharing papaya with our resident iguana…get the picture? Decisions are tough to make…another swim or a siesta? Sudoku or a book?
Is it time to eat? I don’t know, are you hungry? Life is cruisey here and without a vehicle we explore on foot, colectivo or by taxi.
Mostly we walk.
Along the wet sand from Zicatela to the Point, watching schools of manta rays fly through the air, synchronising their dance above the sun sparkled water. Or in the opposite direction from Zicatela towards Playa Marinero where a sculpture of two hands rise out of the rocks open palmed, a symbolic offering of thanks against the perfect sky or perhaps an acknowledgment of receipt and gratitude. There are many gifts to be had here.
The waves on Zicatela are powerful, ranked amongst the best in the World and swimming here is not recommended. Lifeguards rescue unknowing tourists daily from the treacherous undercurrents which the surfers use to their advantage to get out into the line up quickly.
Marco heads out to surf almost daily while the girls and I content ourselves with wallowing in the whitewash.
Some days we walk to Playa Principal, where the fishermen haul in their daily catch in brightly coloured lanchas. Here, in the afternoon, Mexican families come down in their hundreds for the Puesta del sol(sunset) and bathe fully clothed in the calmer waters, letting the gentle waves flop them around like overgrown rag dolls. Restaurants line the beach and women carry trays of fruit salad and fried bananas to customers on the waters edge.
From Playa Principal we walk the Cliff walk, a series of concrete paths, steps and bridges, cut into and built around the natural cliff faces. This leads us up to Manzanillo reef where Marcos mum joins us for several weeks in November. From her Oceanfront condo we walk the neighbourhood streets together, past a tiny store where the owner and family sit outside watching soap operas under the shade of a giant tree, past the parrot who says “hola ” and surprises us one day with an entire verse of a plaintive Mexican folk song, down the cobblestoned street where we peer through open doors to catch a glimpse of other lives, past the old man in the wheel chair who always smiles and wishes us “buenos tardes”, down the stairway and past a series of stone archways which would be beautiful were it not for the rubbish and overgrown weeds, past the military barracks where teenaged soldiers stand guard with loaded M16s, onto the adoquin lined with restaurants and souvenir shops and tables and blankets filled with craft from surrounding villages.
Sometimes we have company on our walks. Two dogs from the neighbourhood, Muneca and Duke adopt us and follow us out in the morning and afternoons, declining our company in the heat of the day, preferring then to lie in the shade like any sensible creature would.
They follow us to the Language school where we have enrolled the girls in Spanish Classes. Muneca is wonderful; a smiling, talking, tail wagging hound blend. Duke is a cool dude, king of the neighbourhood, lovable but a little on the goofy side; we cringe when he chases motorbikes and cars, inadvertently starts fights, makes a quick detour into a hotel swimming pool for a dip, or runs across the highway in front of oncoming traffic because a horse on the other side has sparked his interest. They follow us to the Hotel Santa Fe one night where Sharon is treating us to dinner and despite our urgings, sneak in and hide under the table. “They’re not our dogs” we say to the waiter apologetically. He smiles and gently shoos them out with sprinkles of water from a silver bowl. After dinner we find Duke in the street still waiting faithfully to escort us home in the dark. One day he pees on one of the hundred of lounge chairs laced along the beach. The owner of the chairs throws the bottom of a beach umbrella spike at him whacking him across the face and then proceeds to threaten Marco with the sharp metal end, cursing in Spanish and waving his arms at these ^$#@#^&* perros pissing everywhere “He’s not our dog ” Marco repeats again and again..this becomes a common refrain in the weeks to come until one day the neighbour tells us that Duke has been sent off to a friends ranch after another neighbours complaint. We think a ranch will probably suit the big oaf just fine. Lonely Muneca visits us in our casa but doesnt venture out as much without Duke. Within days however another neighbourhood duo has filled their place as our trusty companions.
In the evenings we stroll the short block down to the beach, watch another sunset and think about how lucky we are to be here……