Puerto - Tapachula
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
5Trip End Dec 15, 2006
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....has been a while.
Spent way longer than I intended in Mexico, but finally am in Guatemala now. Here's what I've been up to since the last blog.
Spent about 4 more days in Zihua. Kayaked, snorkeled and explored during the days. Afternoons - beach or poolside, sun and swilling obnoxiously large cocktails. The pretentious ones people on cruise ships drink, with tropical fruit tacked onto a pineapple to make a smiley face.
Bussed south to Acapulco
Checked out the Quebrada Cliff Divers. They'd held a mystical intrigue for me since I saw mumīs photos of it as a kid. Was pretty remarkable, but I'd imagined them jumping from even more dazzling heights.
Also hit up a surf shop owner to take me out to a local break. The next day 2 Mexican pro surfers who were friends with the shop owner took me and his son to a spot named Revolcardero, which literally translates as to knock down, roll and trample on. It's an angry little wave that sucks up over a shallow sand bar, tubes for a few seconds, before dumping into a sucky undertow. Was an average surf, but good preparation for the punishment to come at Zicatela.
Only spent one night in Acapulco, quite a big and busy place. Not sure what the attraction is really. One curious observation here was a lot of the public city buses are owner drivers, who are free to decorate and personalize their buses as they wish. Most have tinted windows and fancy paint jobs, some theme theirs on a movie or band. I rode in one whose interior was decked out with suggestive red curtains and pink neon lights
I was planning to stay at a nondescript town about 5hours south, and make my way to a remote surf spot from there. But my bus from Acapulco had some mechanical problem not long into the trip, which meant we sat on a stationary bus for 4 and a half hours! I'd have been arriving about midnight with no accommodation booked, so decided to continue on to Puerto Escondido.
Puerto is a stunning, seductive beach town that tempts travellers and surfers to abandon further travel plans and stay for ages. It has an international reputation for the Zicatela beach break aka 'MexPipe'. Here I saw the biggest waves of my life. Huge hollow barrels I've only seen before in movies. It's unreal to watch. Stacks of people competing for a wave, one claiming it and making a suicidal, sheer vert drop to occasionally make it out of a barrel but more often get eaten and spat into a savage whitewrath. I spent 14 days total here. The first 2 were easily the biggest swell. But disappointingly I didn't have my camera with me to capture it. Got some pics of smaller days though.
Puerto kinda has everything - world class waves, lots of bars and restaurants and a relaxing vibe. Monday night is one of the biggest party nights. Being a magnet for surfers, there's naturally a lot of testosterone floating around. The guy-girl ratio is at least 10-1. Things can get competitive in the water too. Especially at the nearby point break, La Punta. Here I experienced the worst case of localism I've ever faced. Some aggressive pricks with ego problems who ruin it for everyone else. (still bitter).
But in general most people there were pretty cool. La Punta was smaller than Zicatela so surfed there 1st few days. When swell dropped a bit and I felt more comfortable I braved the beach break. Was awesome. Even the smaller waves have an incredible force. A huge surging wall of water, displaced by a couple of metres, causing a screaming fast tubing wave. Such a buzz being out there and because I had my wits about me (being slightly terrified) I surfed a lot better. You never want to get caught inside or turn your back on the wave or you can be in trouble. People die there and many get seriously injured. Everyday heaps of boards get snapped. And usually no one uses a leg rope. Partly because it will either rip your leg out or rip through your board and partly because your board is apparently less likely to get snapped
Was out one morning when it was a bit bigger, hovering a little away from the main peak. But got impatient during a lull so paddled further inside. Picked up the first wave of a hefty set. Was a righthander, which I rode directly into the impact zone! I wore the next 4 waves on my head! And can unreservedly say got the working of my life! Was scarey - Big waves! I felt like a piece of dust in a storm. Was at the total mercy of the wave, being contorted and thrust about against any effort of mine to move. I survived, albeit shaken up and humbled.
Aside from the surf, it is a pretty social place. Stayed at a hostel initially where met loads of travellers including a Canadian girl who I ended up sharing a room with and touring with for a while. We did a trip for a couple of days to nearby beaches, Zipolite and Mazunte. Visited a crocodile reserve and enjoyed a break from Puerto. Unfortunately Reyna started getting sick and I recognised her symptoms as similar to when I got Dengue fever in Asia. Sure enough that's what she had. That was a bit of a downer. She ended up going home to Canada.
One day, I was coming back to the hostel and as I was about to step in the front door a snake came cruising out! Fumbled for my camera but was a bit late. Got my adrenalin going though! Stayed there a few days before moving to a hotel closer to the beach with a pool, kitchen and balconies to hang hammocks on. Some mad Aussies there. One was going home and wanted to sell his surfboard. It was brand new, so I bought it and managed to on-sell it for a profit - Sweet
Eventually wrenched myself away from Puerto, 11hours inland and south to the temperate city of San Cristobel. Was a relief after the sweltering heat of the coast. Stayed there for 4days, checked out the markets and did a day trip to the Palenque ruins.
At the beginning of my trip I met a Welshman in Mexico City who told me about an Orphanage run by an Australian couple in Tapachula, a town close to the Guatemalan boarder. I emailed about volunteering for a week or so and was welcomed to visit.
Pam and Alan Skuse volunteered for 1 year in 2000, but while they were there the organisation they were working for folded. So instead of deserting the kids, they stayed on and set up Mision Mexico. 6 years later they support about 35 kids between the ages of 2 and 16. It was a really cool experience. And neat to be part of their family for a while. Andy, another volunteer from Aus, and I were blown away by the energy and affection we got everyday from the kids. Some were so cute it was hard to imagine they had been abandoned or come from abusive pasts. The environment Pam and Alan have created, and the opportunities the kids now have is the result of years of their hard work and sacrifice. Their website is www.lovelifehope.com if you want to find out more.
I mentioned a background in art and before I knew it was at work on a mural for them. Pam had the idea of a space theme, so I used a design from a mural I'd done about 8years ago
I donīt think Tapachula gets many tourists, so it made it even more interesting being there. And we were probably a novelty to some of the locals. There were some great places to eat. Have discovered a lot more Mexican dishes than I previously knew. My favourites are tacos, quesadillas and sopes. Just round the corner from the Orphanage was an amazing taco stand. Meat cooked on a spit with pineapple soaking into it, sliced up and served on tortillas with salsa and a slice of pinapple. Complimented with coca-cola, itīs an unbeatable taste sensation!
Tapachula is about half an tour from the coast and is near a volcano. For some reason, maybe because of this geography, it gets the most extraordinary lightening storms and heavy rains almost daily at about 3pm. Sometimes the first crack of lightening is so loud and unexpected it would make you sqeal. Once while painting I was taken by surprise, jumped and knocked over a jar of paint and smashed a pottery ornament
Also, either from a charge of lightening or because of some dodgey wiring (and some bad luck I spose) I leant on the mains box while slipping on my sandals in the house we were staying at, and got electrocuted by the zap of my life! - Luckily it's only 110volts here, but definitely woke me up!
Pam and Alan also have a son and daughter living in Tapachula who are both married to Mexicans. We were well looked after by them and a few other Europeans living in the area. Worth mentioning was the weekly (sometimes twice weekly) poker games, which invariably got out of hand. In the worst case, due to a rule enforced by the non-drinking home owner (go figure?)it was a compulsory tequila shot for the winner of each hand! No wonder I ended up staying there so long! It was also after one of these nights, (I wasn't drinking) that by default I became the designated driver and had my first experience at Right hand driving an oversized van down crazy cobbled roads with direction from pissed Australians!!
So after almost exactly 2months I made it through the Guatamalan boarder. Is great to be here. I begin Spanish classes tomorrow. Will fill you in shortly....