Tuesday, January 06, 2015

bending oaxaca

As you can see, my word is as good as my bond.

I promised you that we were on our way to Oaxaca, and here we are.  Well, not really.  And despite the photograph, we are not in Huatulco, either.  But, as you might imagine, there is a story embedded here somewhere.

All three of us were reluctant to leave Puerto Escondido.  The place was fun on a stick.  By Monday, the town's offerings were all there, but most of the Mexican tourists had headed home to get the children back in classes, leaving the town with the eerie feeling of a functioning amusement park where the crowds mysteriously disappear.  Rod Serling would have smiled.

On Sunday, Dan was up early to walk the beach.  He discovered the local fishermen bring their catch onto the downtown beach to sell to restaurants and individuals.  From his photographs, I knew where I waned to be yesterday morning.

Even though the crowd was smaller on Monday, there was no doubt where business was being conducted.  Fishermen were pulling gills from nets and sorting by type and size of fish.  And buyers were pushing as if they were commodity traders to get their hands on the perfect fish that would put a smile on customers’ faces.

Dan was correct.  The whole process was fascinating.  A friend of mine once told me he enjoyed watching people who are experts in their craft -- even if he did not understand the subtlety of what he was watching.

That is exactly how I felt.  These men knew how to catch fish and which fish would be preferred by their customer base.  I am certain I missed little details in the transactions between craftsmen and customers.  However, I just enjoyed watching the panoply unfold.

But our affair with Puerto Escondido had to come to an end.  By 11 AM we were on Highway 200 again heading east.

We had discussed the possibility of stopping at Puerto Angel --if only to stand witness to its heritage as a surf center.  But we had been dissuaded from spending the time to drive the road descending to the beach.

What we did do is stop on Highway 200 at the Puerto Angel junction to participate in a bit of geographic trivia.  At the point we stopped, we were actually south of the entire country of Belize, and essentially sitting on the same latitude as the northern coast of Honduras.  And the temperature felt like it.

Instead of driving to Puerto Angel, we decided to drive on to Huatulco.  Huatulco is one of several resort towns developed by FONATUR – Mexico’s tourism office.  Think Cancun or Ixtapa, but on a far more human scale.

There are nine bays in the area.  FONATUR wisely let the scenery be the centerpiece of each bay.  The resorts blend into the scenery without looking like a breeding ground for concrete.

While I caught up on my reading, Dan and Patty enjoyed the sand and water in the first bay (
Bahía Santa Cruz) -- the same bay that hosts a cruise ship pier that undermines the otherwise-successful attempt to preserve the beauty of the bays.

I was not prepared to like the place.  Huatulco bears the burden of FONATUR’s irrational exuberance in its other Mexican venues.  But I did like it.  Because the beach access is open, all sorts of families cavorted on the beach.

There was a very obvious class division, though, when it came to who was sitting where.  We had staked out a table with an umbrella at a restaurant on the beach.  When the menu arrived, I could see why the comfortable middle class Mexican families were sitting at the restaurant while their less fortunate fellow citizens were sitting on the beach.

You may not be able to read the prices on the menu I am holding.  But my seafood spaghetti (a rather small portion) cost me $240 (Mx) or about $17 (US).  Some of the other prices were a bit more staggering.

We left $730 (Mx) (about $50 in greenbacks) behind for the three of us.  But we had had an extremely good day at the beach.  And where else could you buy views like this for less?  The blue of the Pacific was worth it.

We considered spending the night at Huatulco -- until something very unusual happened.  In the middle of our meal, the wind gusts picked up.  “Gusts” do not do it justice.  The wind was strong enough to blow over chairs and drinks, and to turn my plate of spaghetti into an alien landing craft.

We retreated to the restaurant -- and then to the truck -- to avoid the sand blasting.  By then, we knew we could not get to Oaxaca before nightfall.  That left only Salina Cruz.

Off we went.  Once again with no reservations and no specific area of town in mind.  And, as each time before, we found pleasant rooms near the square, and had a filling meal of street food.  From what we have seen, Salina Cruz may be a very utilitarian port, but it does not justify a long stay.

As for where we will head tomorrow, we have no idea.  Chiapas sounds like a good target.  If you stop by tomorrow, you will know almost as soon as the three of us where we managed to land for the next day of this bit of Marco Poloing through Mexico.

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