Archive for January, 2010

Barefoot on the beach

January 9, 2010

We prepared ourselves from the journey from Oaxaca over the mountains and down to Puerto Escondido on infamous highway 175 or the “vomit” road. Numerous people told us the road was the worse road they had driven on. I laughed. I’m from California where we have real mountain roads so I wasn’t really bothered about some flatlander’s anguish of “bad roads.”  But the road was everything advertised and more. It is an unforgiving, unrelenting, twisting, turning, up and down, bender of a road and if you get car sick this is the road that could make you yearn for death. The good news is the Mexican government is building a new super highway to replace highway 175 and it should  be finished this year.

drive over these mountains was unbelievable

Puerto Escondido, or just Puerto as the natives call it, is still a sleepy surfing and tourist village of 50,000 people. Puerto gained its original notoriety from surfing; surfers arrived there in the 1970s.  If you want to visit a town that is not over developed and pretty much like it was 30 years ago and will be for another 20 years, come to Puerto Escondido.

Now don’t get me wrong, there has been construction of the manic kind in the last ten years, but prices for land are relatively cheap and you can still buy a beachfront property for a lot less than Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan or Manzanillo. Like Lake Chapala, there are many Canadians living here and they have built winter houses they live in four months of the year.  Guess which months?  The town is underdeveloped and just missed out becoming the next Cancun. That honor goes went to Huatulco, down the coast. It is a regular stop for cruise ships sailing coming down the Mexican coast. We visited this latest planned Mexican resort and it is nice and not overbuilt and well thought out with good roads and manicured esplanades but it also has one too many gift shops all selling the same bits and pieces we can all do without, of course that is true of so many places in Mexico.

I know some of you reading this have lived on the ocean and it seems the ocean draws a particular spirit of inhabitant. If you think the folks (mostly guys) in Lake Chapala dress down then you know beach town folks (mostly guys) look like they got all their clothes at a second chance clothing store.  The people we met who live in Puerto are an independent group and don’t care much for any social networking like we have in Lake Chapala. Some of the people, especially Americans, moved to Mexico and in particular Puerto Escondido to get away from the world and wanted a place to live without many laws and rules pushing them around. I think some of these people moved to Puerto so they can smoke in public and any place they damn well please. You know these people.

So what does this beach town have going for it, I mean, beside the miles of beautiful and deserted  beaches, kayaking in Manialtepec lagoon,

viewing the many birds that winter in the lagoons,

Great Blue Heron at Manialtepec

walking on the empty beaches and watching the sunsets

with a pina colada? There is no movie theater, one art gallery, no cultural events, less than handful of upscale fine dining restaurants and in the summer time you wakeup with and live all day in a debilitating heat and humidity. On first impression you wonder why a person would want to live here, but many do.  Once again if you have lived in a “tourist beach town” you know the attraction. Life in Puerto is an ocean breeze in a palm tree and napping in a hammock overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean. It is slowly driving up to the Mercado to buy a kilo of shrimp to cook for supper. Is it forgetting to put on your sandals and not owning a pair of closed toe shoes. It is a life that is one with the tides and the seasons.  Puerto is one of the world’s top surfing spots so there are always surfers to watch and there is an abundance of beautiful, deserted beaches to walk along and ­fascinating gigantic waves to gaze at. Maybe that is enough reason to be.

House construction has a definite tropical look to it and I have enclosed pictures of the roofs many of the most winter homes have. There are called “palapa” roofs and made of palm leaves tired together. We lived in a casita with a palapa roof and it was fine and held out the rain and wind, but in a hurricane a palapa roof looks good but are blown apart and hurricanes do come through Puerto Escondido every decade or so. Hurricanes Pauline and Rick in 1997 raked the coast and caused widespread flooding, mudslides and your basic mayhem and misery. As I said, in a hurricane, a palapa roof is “no bueno.”

As we folded our tent and headed out of Puerto Escondido we followed the Pacific coast toward Acapulco through the gorgeous terrain of Guerrero. We stopped for a night in  Taxco the city famed for silver.

Taxco, the silver city, covers very steep hills

It is no exaggeration that there is a silver tienda on every corner and many in between. Then aimed for Morelia and finally back to Chapala.

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