Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sunrises, sunsets, and magic
An amazing 6 hour drive took us to the beautiful Pacific Coast of Mexico. Mountains, volcanos, mango and agave and banana and coconut farms, produce stands (spicy tamarind treats, sweet shredded coconut balls, coconuts, yum!), beautiful little mountain towns. So nice to be back in the tropics! We arrived at a little beach called Chalacatepec just before sunset.
It is an amazing and magical spot. A five mile drive down a bumpy dirt road from the nearest town, Chalacatepec is a timy fishing village right on the beach. By tiny, I mean that only 3 fishermen live here. Their few open-air tiny shacks, the turtle refuge up the dune, and a few palapas on the beach are the only buildings in Chalacatepec.
Locals from the nearby town (and surprised to see gringos), and random surfers in-the-know are the only visitors to this quiet, rustic, beautiful place. This beach is a rocky point jutting into the ocean, and a big smile of a bay where the swimming and surfing are safest. It was nice to be off the beaten path, to be totally roughing it for a few days (yes, even digging a hole to use for a bathroom), to be where it was quiet and natural and real.
Camp was set up in one of the palapas right on the beach. No one there but us and the fishermen till the next day! After dark we climbed up the rickety solar powered lighthouse on the point, where we were surrounded by ocean crashing into rocks by 320 degrees. So dramatic and powerful. Then, one of the most beautfiul experiences of my life! We went for a late night swim with bio-luminesence, something that felt straight out of the movie Avatar, but absolutely real! So magical! Sparkles of it lighting up in the wet sand where we walked, the waves and sea foam glowing and sparkling from it, glowing sparkles churning around hands and feet in the water while splashing and swimming around. I was euphoric and giddy, totally delighted in this close interaction with magical creatures. One even stuck glowing to my eyelash when I came out of the water. Hermit crabs of all sizes crawling all over the sand and in the brush during the night. Zillions of trails covered the sand in the morning.
Dolphins in the surf and yoga on the edge of the beach in the morning. The fishermen came back with loads of fresh caught fish, and walked over to our palapa to give us 2! So sweet! One of the fish we cleaned and cut into tiny pieces and made into fresh ceviche for lunch. It was incredibly delicious and so immediately fresh! The larger fish, similar to tuna, was cleaned right on the rocks. We fed the scraps to huge albatross and seagulls and pelicans circling above, and gave half of the fish to an indigenous family who were gathering crabs on the rocks. We sampled some of the fishmeat, fresh caught, fresh cut, uncooked....so amazing and vital. Salty from the sea. Lounging in a hammock, next to the lolling waves, crystal blue sea, deep blue sky, pristine, magical. Amazing sunset! And a delicious fire cooked dinner of fish, veggies, and mole sauce (that I bought at an amazing Mole Tienda in Guad.).
I awoke in the middle of the night to a stray beach dog going through our stuff, but was only coherent in time to see him run off with our huge bag of tostadas. I awoke again to a beautiful sunrise. Sunrise yoga on the beach is the best! We spent 2-3 hours each picking up loads and loads of trash from the beach and the dunes. It is amazing how the absence of littering laws is enough to make people not take pride in the beauty of places like this. We shouldn´t need littering laws! It felt really good to help bring back this magical place to it´s untouched state, and then to swim for a long time, cooling off in the beautiful sea.
We drove back to Guad. by a differnt route, this time heading north on the coast through Puerta Vallarta. Just south of this tourist destination, the houses and landscaping are stunning and outrageous, but Puerta Vallarta itself is way too touristy for my taste. We ate dinner in a small mountain town on the way home. One big table was set up on the street, with all guests eating together. The other local diners were obviously not used to seeing tourists, let alone gringos, and were so happy to talk to us, learn about us. They were so friendly and kind. I had no idea what they were talking about, though. I was soooo wishing I knew Spanish better! But, luckily Kelly is fluent and was able to return the kindness of these people through conversation.
The next day was another big travel day. Early in the morning, Kelly took Lucas and I too the bus station where I practiced my Spanish a lot. I found us a bus, and bought 2 tickets, to Mexico City. After a 6-7 hour ride and some icky bus station tacos, I got us a taxi to the other bus station in Southern Mexico City, Tasquena. The taxi ride was actually pretty fun, though no seatbelts and slightly crazy driving. It was a good way to briefly see this huge city, the murals, the street vendors, the beautiful parks, the amazing graffiti art, and all of the smog.
The one hour bus ride to Tepoztlan from Mexico City was so amazing, a magial and powerful ride for me, as I came closer and closer to what would be my home for the next month or more. Through beautiful lush mountains, we descended into the valley where the town of Tepoztlan lies surrounded my towering rocky cliffs and beautiful mountains. This city is the legandary birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the serpent god of the Aztecs, some 1200+ years ago. So, this place is loaded with magic.
Tepoztlan is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to. Cobblestone streets, beautiful flowering trees and vines everywhere, amazing stoneworked walls, hills of beautifully painted houses with gardens and animals, all so clean and tidy. Surrounded by amazing mountains! And populated by many stray dogs and the occassional stumbling drunk.
In our first night here, we saw more gringos than we had on the rest of our trip, and by a lot. It is definitly a growing tourist area, but still maintains a wonderful charm and authenticity that create some of it´s appeal.
We found a cheap and modest room, with a shared bathroom, for $16 a night, and then went out for lots of delicious street food. Fresh tacos, delicious nieve (I had mango and mamey) and then the oddest treat of all: corn on the cob, slathered with mayonaise, rolled in grated cheese, and sprinkled with chili pepper.
Our second day in Tepoztlan took us on the rigorous, but wonderful, hike out of town and up the mountain to the Aztec temple pyramid of Tepozteco that overlooks the town at a 400meter elevation.
The temple was built 1200 years ago in honor of Tepoztecalt, the Aztec god of the harvest, fertility, and pulque (a fermented corn drink.) Countless stairs and steep switchbacks led us to the peak. It was hard, but so worthwhile to see this temple with the best view of the valley.
Those Aztec priests knew what they were doing, and they were for sure devoted to their God. Lava rock was carted up this crazy steep mountain, pieced together in percision, carved, and situated in a special vortex of magical views and natural energy. We were momentarily swarmed by these crazy animals, the Tejon-coati.
They are weasel/raccoon like animals, but very tame and gentle and a little overly friendly, trying to climb up our legs and drink out of our water bottles.
And on our way down the hill, a stray dog apparently adopted us, accompanying/leading us down the mountain, into town, and even into the restaurant where we had lunch. Here we had to ask it to move on, leave us, go outside. I was half surprised to not see it waiting for us outside when we were done with our meal. And this meal was phenomenal. A beautifully decorated restaurant, pollo enchiladas with verde sauce, it felt like a splurge, but was probably only $15 total for the two of us.
The last night Lucas and I had together was unfortunately stressful and annoying. Lucas discovered that he has lost his debit card. And I discovered that there is nowhere in this town to exchange american money and that my bank won´t allow my debit card to be used in foreign countries without a block being lifted. How was I supposed to know that before leaving Portland? I suppose if I had bothered to read the fine print....Anyway, it was too late for either of us to get a hold of our banks, and Skype wasn´t working anyway, so we had to surrender and wait until the already busy morning to deal with our banking drama. Luckily, Lucas´ card hadn´t been used and he was able to cancel it over Skype. The electricity went out in the internet cafe just before I called my bank. So I had to find a calling card, and figure out how to use it. I got ahold of my bank, who emailed me a form to fill out. I had to print it out, fill it out, fax it to them and wait for it to be processed before getting money out of the debit machine. It all worked out, but made for a stressful last day. We packed up, found delicious vegetarian tamales, had more nieve, and found a Taxi to Tashirat, where I am now staying.
I was sad to have my time with Lucas in Mexico come to an end. He took the Taxi immediately from the gate of Tashirat to the Tepoztlan bus station. And I walked through the gate into the next phase of my journey in Mexico, alone, but with a whole new group of wonderful people.