Sunday, January 22, 2012

15°51′43″N 97°04′18″W

Puerto Escondido, on Barrade Colotopec.
Sept. 27 to Oct. 5, Mexico City to Puerto Escondido: A warm ocean, seashell beaches, crashing tidal waves, and ice cold coca-cola in a glass bottle: this was Puerto Escondido. After spending nearly 10 days in the smog of Mexico City, we arrived in tiny Puerto and took a deep breath of fresh air. Hot, humid, and sticky fresh air. Stepping off the air-conditioned ADO bus we had sat on for the past 18 hours was like being forced to suddenly stand in a sauna, except there was no exit door to escape the heat. Puerto was hot. I've never been so hot in my entire life.

Our catch: a dorado (green) and two tuna.
We jumped into a taxi cab and paid $2 for a ride to our first hostel of the trip, Tower Bridge Hostel, at the end of a dirt road and across from a Mexican woman's laundry business. The hostel had a pool, and that's all that mattered. Because we were there during the low season (high season doesn't start usually until mid-November) Ben and I were given an awesome private room with a king size bed and own living area for just $20 a night. Immediately we rushed off to one of the many beaches in Puerto, Playa Carazalillo, for a swim.
Girls can fish, too!
The beach sits in a tiny bay and is scattered with local food vendors and women trying to sell you hemp and seashell necklaces. The water wasn't refreshing; it was hot, and the waves continually knocked the feet out from under numerous people, sending them slamming down into the sand. We quickly developed a routine: wake up, eat, go to the beach, come to the hostel and swim, go back to the beach, eat, sleep. It was delightful. On our second day there, we awoke at 7 a.m. and hopped into a tiny pickup truck with Omar, a local fishermen who runs a sports fishing business. We got into his boat at Playa Principal, scattered with anchored fishing boats in the bay, and headed out onto the ocean. It was incredible. Within 15 minutes of letting out the fishing line, we caught two average-sized tuna (bonita fish) and a green, scarred dorado (also called Mahi Mahi, or dolphin fish). I decided that lake fishing in B.C. was not for me; it is much easier to catch a fish in the big, bad ocean. Meanwhile, we had been in search of dolphins, sea turtles, and whatever else we happened upon.

Swimming with sea turtles.
Omar's assistant fisherman, Juan, leapt into the ocean at one point to chase after a sea turtle - we had seen plenty at this point, many of which were mating - and grabbed onto this turtle before it had the chance to dive under the water. We got to swim out in the middle of the ocean and touch it. It was the one thing I had wanted to do during out trip, and we had managed to achieve it only two weeks in. 

Afterwards, we saw what I first thought was a shark. A gray, sleek fin sticking out from the water right near our boat. Omar inched towards it and he suddenly yelled with excitement, "A moonfish!" Apparently this fish, actually called the Ocean Sunfish or Mola Mola, is incredibly rare to see.  Having fished for more than 20 years in Puerto, Omar has only seen one "moonfish" before in his life. He and Juan ran all over the boat snapping pictures of this fish, which grows as big as a dinner table and as flat as a pancake. Seeing this giant blue fish swim next to our boat was a rude awakening to the complexities of the ocean, which houses more creatures than we are even capable of grasping.
Ocean Sunfish, the size of a dinner table.
Thankfully, Ben had his new GoPro camera, and we were able to get some underwater photos and video (above) of the fish. We made our way back to Puerto a couple hours later and paid $50 pesos to have our fish cooked up. We sat on the beach and ate it for breakfast.

Playa Carazalillo, my favourite Mexico puppy,
and a swordfish pulled up onto the beach.
The next few days in Puerto involved surfing, drinking coca-colas on the beach and eating my favourite, al pastor with fresh pineapple and cilantro. We went to the beach every day, and Ben bought himself a surfboard while we were down on the main street at Playa Zicatela one night. I was hesitant to surf; I'm a confident swimmer and I love the water, but put a surf board beneath my feet and I become unsteady and nervous. Still, I tried one day while at La Punta, after hiding under my Swedish friend Milje's sarong in search of shade. It was a thrill to actually catch a wave and ride it into shore. A local offered me his extra surfboard and gave me a push into the wave. He didn't want money, but I assume he noticed I was the only one sitting on the beach watching in envy at my friends and Ben floating in the waves, and threw me a pity party. It was a lovely party, though.

Walking a path between beaches along the rock. We had
to be careful of incoming waves. The heat was unbearable.
Two days later, after a night of throwing up due to an untimely bout of heat stroke, Ben awoke me from my slumber. He had gone to the beach to surf a few hours earlier while I stayed in bed. "I stepped on a sea urchin and I need to go to the hospital," he said. Reluctantly, but for the love of my boyfriend, I pulled myself awake and escorted my boyfriend, whose foot was bleeding and punctured with sea urchin needles, to the local medical clinic.

Find a palm tree, grab a coconut!
For the next three hours I watched as a doctor and his assistant used needles to extract fragmented urchin spines from Ben's foot. It was easily 40 degrees Celsius in town, and I ran between the clinic and a nearby internet cafe in an attempt to organize how we would claim the doctor's bill on our travel insurance. I have never been so sweaty, so hot in my entire life. But I do believe Ben had never been in such incredible pain in his entire life either. There was no freezing, but Dr. Mario Cruz did the best he could digging in his foot. Some urchin spines were left in as they were difficult to extract - Dr. Cruz said Ben's body would eventually push them out.

Ben's injured urchin foot, sitting in the medical clinic with
Dr. Cruz. Incredibly painful.
We spent a few more days in Puerto, reading books on the beach and eating an incredible amount of fresh guacamole, and getting to understand the local lingo, the local troubles, and the Mexican struggle. I spoke with a man on Playa Carazalillo at one point about the difficulties of trying to get a Mexican passport, nevermind a visa to travel. The limits that are cast down upon the people in their own country is incredibly difficult to understand coming from a country who's people are so free. 
Our favourite Swedes, Milje and Casper. 
There was also another guy who, having grown up in Puerto, said he had never been to Mexico City, or nearby San Cristobal. He lives with his grandmother, works as a surf instructor, and has a shark tattoo on his arm. This is his life. But he's happy. I fell deeper and deeper in love with Mexico while in Puerto Escondido. The people were warming up, I was growing more comfortable, and we were beginning to understand that there is a community of travellers all around the world, including in Puerto.

You should probably just go and feel it for yourself. Go catch a fish, swim with a turtle. Just go.

Things I learned in Puerto:
1. People are incredibly helpful, especially Swedes. Casper and Milje sat with Ben and pulled urchin spines from his foot on the beach.
2. Having travel insurance is easily the most important thing to have while traveling. 
3. As much as I love the heat, when I began wishing for snow in Mexico just to cool down a bit, I realized I was not climatized for that crap.
4. Three weeks into our trip, I realized we were about to have a lot of fun.



  1. Keep writing Jess, enjoy to read about your travels...Amazing experience for life, amazing what it teaches us....Keep writing...Auntie Di

  2. Did you see any Squid?


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