Jan. 2 to 25, 2010
Warning: The following blog entry is not to be read by anyone suffering from the winter blahs. The beach photos may make you decide to never talk to us again. You’ve been warned.
I let out a deep, slow moan, which made Roz giggle. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her. I could also hear the surf on the beach, ebbing and flowing nearby. There were chimes above me that tinkled in the ocean breeze and occasionally, I’d hear the laughter of a child or a drunken adult. The masseuse began working my lower back and again, I moaned. “How are you doing there Trond?” Roz asked. I answered with a long sigh that got all three women laughing. This couples massage on the beach was turning me into puddy. Much more of this and I’d have to leave in a bottle. I tell ya, sometimes travelling can be a grind, but today, it was pure joy.
But before you click away to eBay in disgust, let me assure you that travelling isn’t all pretty women rubbing your body on the beach (although I wish it were). Travelling can be a challenge and sometimes, even a drag. Only a few days earlier, Roz and I had been quarrelling to the point where I told her that the day she stops liking and respecting me is the day that it’s over – I don’t care how much history we have. She responded that she didn’t think I was respecting her, citing the previous day’s row at a restaurant where I, tired of her griping, told her to smarten the fuck up. It wasn’t one of my finer moments. But we both apologized later, realizing that the travelling was taking its toll on us. We still had a lot to learn about life on the road, about each other and more importantly, about ourselves.
Travel is like that. Unlike a holiday at an all-inclusive resort, travel forces you into the unknown and often past your comfort zone. Over time, this creates stress. A couple of years back at a Horizons Unlimited travel seminar, a seasoned world wanderer recommended treating travel like a job – hit the road for five days and then take a couple of days off. Repeat as necessary. Otherwise you’d burn out and no longer enjoy it. I finally understood what he meant.
Roz was making this adjustment to travel, learning not to expect anything (which invariably leads to disappointment), but I wasn’t giving her the space to do this. I do now. And she’s learning to just accept things as they are instead of how she wished them to be.
(ROZ: Yikes. I didn’t know this was going to be a “warts and all” tell-all blog. But in the spirit of “how NOT to travel”, I will chime in with my observations about travelling versus holidaying in the hopes that you can learn from my and our mistakes. Actually, there are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned. As much as I love travelling, this journey was a whole new ball game, since I had never been on the road for longer than a couple of months before. The ride into Pie de la Cuesta was long and hard and got me thinking about how half the struggle is about finding the rhythm of the journey – drive, stop, stay a day, drive, stop, rest 3 days, go, stop, go … After a while, it wears you down and all of a sudden little things turn into big things. And all of a sudden the person you love most in the world is the one who’s driving you nuts and who you want to escape from. After our little blowout, I realized that it wasn’t up to Trond to make me happy, or the food at a restaurant, or a beach, or a town. If I was going to let external forces determine the state of my happiness on this journey – or for the rest of my life – then I was doomed to be one miserable wretch. So taking my cue from all those wise masters before me, I stopped looking outward for my happiness and looked within. Which isn’t to say I’ve achieved enlightenment, but at least I’m able to recognize what’s out of my control and try not to let it stress me out so much.)
So there – we earned our massages that week. Furthermore, the next day I accidentally swallowed a mouthful of green lagoon water which, an hour later, had me puking my guts out and weak the following day. I think you get my point – it’s not all sun and scented oils. Now that you know how hard travel can be, I can continue with our story: a glorious month of beach-hopping, drinking beer and chilling out with naked people.
We had been in the seaside community of Pie de la Cuesta for a week now, but it was finally time to go. We had burned through a half-dozen paperbacks, swam to our hearts’ content and ate enough grilled chicken to make me go cluck, but I was itching to post our blog and move on. So in the second week of January, we packed up and made the 20-minute journey into Acapulco, where we found the La Torre Eiffel Hotel. It was a little old, but seemed nice enough at first (and since it was an “our pick” in the Lonely Planet guide, we thought it would be ok). From there we explored the west end of Acapulco Bay – not as high end as the east bay’s hotel zone where we brought in the New Year, but still nice. The famed zocalo was quite dirty and full of hustlers, one of which I dispatched by pretending only to speak Swedish, so we didn’t stay long.
That night, we watched the famous cliff divers of La Quebrada, which was only five minutes from our hotel. Holy crap, those dudes fall a long time before hitting the water. Roz was quite taken by the young, muscular divers – I may have to find her one for her 50th birthday next December. Then again, maybe not.
Back at the hotel, we discovered that not only were there no lights working in the common area that gets a wi-fi signal, but the wi-fi was shut down by 10 pm. The hotel proprietor could only keep repeating “Sorry, sorry”, but wasn’t in any hurry to remedy the situation. We realized that we couldn’t stay any longer at the Sorry Hotel and decided to continue down the coast the next day. After shopping for supplies at a Walmart and a Home Depot (I know, weird eh?) we hit the road and said good bye to Acapulco. (Full disclosure: until we got here, I thought Acapulco was called Alcapoco. Or Al Capono. Anyway, Roz still messes with my head by calling it Alcapoco to me).
The road to Puerto Escondido took us away from the coast and back into the mountains for a while. It was a nice change from the coastal scrub and made me realize how much I love vistas of valleys and peaks. I guess at heart, I’m a Norwegian B.C. mountain boy. The road was slow going. Unlike the Michoacan coast, which was pretty devoid of villages, this stretch of road kept hitting a town every five minutes. I was barely able to bring Yuki up to speed when once again, I’d have to slow down for the ubiquitious village tope (speed bump). And each one was different. Some were small and gentle while others were so square that you’d have to almost stop to cross them – and they’d still jar the snot out of you. It got pretty tiring, so by the time we rolled into Puerto Escondido eight hours later (in the dark – remember not to travel this way), I was pretty spent.
We found the cool Hostel Shalom, a wild labyrinth of hallways, cabanas and dorm rooms, and pitched our tent near the swimming pool. My driving efforts were rewarded by discovering a nearby strip of excellent restaurants. As it was my day to choose dinner, we ate pizza that night. Not the greatest, but a pretty good effort. After an excellent sleep, marred only by the occasional barking of a nearby pack of dogs, we spent the day exploring the local beach and meeting people. Dave, a fellow Burner (no, not a pyromaniac, but the nomenclature for a past attendee of Burning Man), pulled into the hostel on his Suzuki 550GS motorcycle and we had a good gab about Burning Man and the joys of being naked. In a beauty parlour (me for a haircut and Roz for a pedicure), we met a lovely couple named Gabriela and Michael. She’s a Mexican artist and he’s a Canadian publisher/painter who split their time between both countries. Then later that evening, while playing scrabble around the pool, Roz and I were joined by a hard-drinking Welshman surfer and a cone-rolling Swiss dude. It was a fun day!
(ROZ: Full Disclosure: While every attempt is made to make this a “family friendly” site, you should know that partaking in the fruits of the “cone-rolling” Swiss dude’s labours was perfectly legal. To our delight, Vicki had told us in Novillero that it was now legal to possess 5 grams of weed in Mexico. This was later confirmed by Michael and I have since done my due diligence and discovered these news reports from August 2009. Viva Mexico!!!)
The next morning, we left the Hostel Shalom and checked out a nearby self-contained apartment. It was part of the expansive and stunning “Dolphin House”, that was being house-sat by a wonderful spiritual couple, Rebecca and James. She’s a sexy writer and he’s an amazing painter who together, are writing a book about their work. Check out their very hot, sex-positive site: www.venusandherlover.com. The four of us hit it off instantly, so Roz and I moved in. For the next nine days, we worked on the blog, explored the local beaches and shared a couple of great meals with our hosts.
(ROZ: Meeting Michael and Gabriela, and especially Rebecca and James, was another turning point for me. Both these couples were living a lifestyle that Trond and I had talked about for years – balancing a creative life with travel while still earning an income, albeit not always a huge one. As for Rebecca, I can only hope to have her grace and beauty and sexy body when I hit my 50s. Meeting them confirmed for me that there are no accidents and that we can manifest what we need if we are only clear on what we’re asking for. Just that morning Rebecca had been telling James that they needed some money to cover some of his medical expenses, while I was telling Trond that we needed a private space with wi-fi to work on the blog. Then I saw their tiny notice on a call board as we were walking to the store. But beyond all that, it was just so fantastic to make such a deep, instantaneous connection with “strangers” who have now become as important to us as friends we have known for 10 years. I was beginning to see that the more I opened up and trusted the universe, the easier it would be to meet these angels and messengers along the way, just when we needed them.)
It’s interesting how technology has changed the way we travel. When Roz and I first explored Mexico in 1992, contact with friends and family was limited to writing postcards and, if you were keen, trying to phone them from the long distance “casetas” that some villages had. Now, thanks to Carlos Slim, the 3rd richest man in the world, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Slim), internet is available almost everywhere in Mexico, as are cell phones. While at the Dolphin House, we skyped friends in New York and Vancouver, wrote and transmitted a blog with our latest stories and photos, and plotted the next part of our journey on our GPS. Sometimes I wonder if this constant contact ever allows us to really get away from it all. Luckily, my love for my friends and family overcomes these thoughts and allows me to stay connected. But sometimes I still wonder…
(ROZ: I’ve also had to struggle with the role of technology in our travels. My past life working in offices required me to be stuck on a computer for most of the day, so a huge vision of this journey for me was about being “unplugged and reconnected”. I think I’ve found a compromise by letting Trond spend hours on the computer dealing with technical issues, while I limit my input to proofreading, adding my own comments and reviewing photos with Trond.)
After some frustration with the blog – specifically posting photos – I finally posted our monstrous entry. Beyond the technology, Roz and I were also learning how to work together. Selecting photos and videos, editing and/or uploading videos, writing and rewriting, website maintenance – it was a whole new process that was taking longer than either of us had imagined, but by the time we finished the epic “Mexicopalypse Now” entry, we felt good about the work and knew it would get easier with time. We celebrated with a day at the famous surfing beach of Zicatela, culminated by getting drunk on fresh mango and strawberry daquiris at a seaside bar. Watching the sun go down as we happily slurped the last of our daquiris, we knew it was time to move on.
With big hugs to Rebeca and James, we hit the road again. Next stop, Zipolite – home of the only clothing-optional beach in Mexico. Woo hoo! It was a short, easy drive for a change, so by late afternoon, we were driving around the cute town looking for a place to pitch our tent. After nixing the beachfront options, we found the ultimate high-end campground – Rancho Los Mangos RV Park. As the name suggested, it was an ex-mango farm (with the odd lime, orange and coconut trees thrown in for good measure), so there was tons of shade, which was a welcome relief from the hot, humid tropical weather. It also had a big, clean swimming pool and a separate section for tents that came with a hamock and hamock chair. Since we were the only campers, we once again had a luxury resort to ourselves (or at least a part of it.)
(ROZ: And once again, there were lots of critters around, so I was a very happy girl – two big cocks, er roosters, with their hens, one of which had a brood of six little chicks; two adorable puppies, a few cats, lots of birds and even a toad. Plus all the fireflies that illuminated the grounds at night. All in all, bliss. Except that the mango trees weren’t bearing fruit yet. Damn. Funny thing was, on the journey to Zipolite, I had joked to Trond that “Manifesting Mangos” was going to be my new mantra for the journey. Next time I’ll be clearer that they should be ripe mangos.)
Exploring the village, we met motorcycle Dave again who suggested a few good, cheap restaurants. He also gave us the grim news that a Canadian had just been murdered there a few days earlier – macheted to death in his bed. But it wasn’t a random event as it sounds like the 71-year old gay man was into a bad scene and may have been luring young boys into his bed. Whatever the story, it was kind of creepy. But all we could do was shrug our shoulders, go to the beach and drop our drawers. Can’t let murder get in the way of a good tan.
Over the next week, Roz and I got into the routine of waking up, drinking coffee, hanging out at the beach, eating dinner at one of the many restaurants, then relaxing the night away in our hammock while we gave each other foot massages. Zipolite has a calm, laid-back energy, which suited us fine. Unlike a lot of other tourist towns in Mexico, there isn’t a big nightlife scene. In the evenings, the one main street is filled with happy, wandering beer-drinking gringos – surprisingly, the majority of which were older couples – and by day, these same people were soaking up the sun in their birthday suits. Apparently, the nude thing started a few decades ago when a European couple got thrown in jail for baring it all. They took the case to the world court, which ruled that their arrest violated their basic human right to expose their holy junk and since then, the town has resisted jailing pantless tourists on the beach. I raise a beer and lower my shorts to these brave naked pioneers – thank you.
Near the end of our week there, we went on a day trip to some of the nearby beaches of Puerto Angel, San Agustinillo and Mazunte. We liked Mazunte because it had a quiet cove where you could actually swim and float on your back without fear of being swamped by a wave. As great as Zipolite and the other beaches are for surfing or bodyboarding, they’re not the easiest to swim in. It was a fun outing, but deep down, we preferred to bare it all and returned to Zipolite.
(ROZ: Speaking of San Agustinillo, if you want to watch an adorable animated film that the children of the village put together – with the help and guidance from their Canadian teacher – click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3gfeoHfpXQ)
Unfortunately, Roz got sick during our last day at Zipolite, so we spent the day in the campground and not at the beach. What she first thought was a cold later turned into Montezuma’s Revenge, but once she expelled her bug, she began to feel much better. Meanwhile, I repacked Yuki and did some blog writing. But for some reason, the mosquitos couldn’t stay away from me, even with my thick fur-shields. While they left Roz to recover in her hammock, they swarmed me for my beer-enriched blood. I finally had to retreat under a mosquito net just to get in some uninterrupted writing time.
It had been an amazing month of sun worshipping and displaying my block and tackle, but it was time to move on. The mountains and Oaxaca City were calling to us and we were starting to get excited about heading into Guatemala. So we bid farewell to the many nice gringos we had met in Los Mangos and said goodbye to Zipolite. Driving out of town, I realized I should probably put my pants on. Dang it, clothes are such a drag.
End of PART 10