Mexico and Manholes

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It’s been 6 years since we visited Mexico and it’s time to head south again. Using our Alaska Airlines $50 ‘twin ticket” we choose Zihuatenajo–a beautiful mini-version of Puerta Vallarta or Acapulco. The Mexican government decided to build a resort nearby at Ixtapa–which we have no interest in. We prefer staying south of town in the beach bungalows. Our first week is spent right in the middle of the photograph above.

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Here we are at Bungalow Sotelo, run by Silvia Sotelo and built by her father. She is a great hostess, greets us by name, and gives us a tour of town with tips on how and where to shop. We’re right on the sand at Madera Beach which is a 5 minute walk to the downtown markets.

“Zihua” still has a four-to-five block square of old town small shops that cater to the Mexicans and tourists alike. Zihua also inlcudes a great fish market on the beach, a nice anthopological museum, and dozens of unique restaurants and bakeries and even a huge Costo-like supermarket full of Spanish, Mexican and Chilean wines. We meet an anthropologist at the museum who spends all day taking us around the town–she did her thesis on tourism here–what a resource this was for us!

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First thing we do is properly stock our bungalow’s refrigerator–Cerveza, limon, fruga Pina, leche de coco, hielo (ice), Tequila, Gin–all the good stuff. And Silvia brings us a blender and a larger coffee maker–we’re settling in!

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In case you get the wrong ideas, we do eat very well here–times have changed in Mexico and all the food we ate was excellent and very fresh–unlike Alaska. Here is breakfast. Note: the crema de leche de vaca is not what you think–we ended up with several tubs of it as we kept trying different brands–it’s sour cream and floats in big lumps in your coffee. So we stuck with milk–next time, if it’s OK with Homeland Securty and NAFTA, I’m going to bring some half-and-half down with me.

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It’s a short walk, at 7am with purple skies, to the fish market to buy our daily fish. There are lots of Pelicans here–Mexican seagulls of sorts; it’s a hoot to watch them dive in the surf. Marlin is 80 pesos/kilo which calculates to under $3.50/lb. Sailfish is half that! Every night we eat the local catch with a good bottle of Chilean, Mexican or Spanish wine….and a Cohiba cigar. This is the good life!

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Here is the fish market. Note what kind of outboard the Mexican fishermen use–they fish up to 25 miles offshore. Did I tell you my story about my Mercury outboard engine? Mercury, lemon, mercury, lemon, mercury, lemon….

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This is a look at Madiera Beach–there are four major beaches at Zihua–Ixtapa is the northern large resort beach. Next is Playa Principal in front of the town. South along the 5 minute cement ‘paseo’ is Madera Beach–our beach and last, up over a rock point you will find the best beach–Playa de la Ropa. I’ve stayed there in the early eighties but this trip found it pretty crowded and built-out. We prefer the Madera beach now as it’s close to town is less crowded.

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Did your mama ever tell you to watch out for open manholes? Mine didn’t and damned if I didn’t fall right into this one after dark. This thing is two feet deep with evil smelly stuff in it. I took a complete nose-dive and got all scratched up! Of course, I reported this to two local ‘policia’ who carry uzi’s or AK-47s but all week it remains uncovered…. The policia are keeping the drug cartels from taking over, our anthropologist explains to us. I’m not sure which is worse, drug cartels or this evil open manhole.

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After my fall we stumble into a little church to pray for my health and we find this plastic Jesus–that wears a pie pan on his chest and has a horn sticking out of his head–no kidding! And it flashes with lights inside so you’ll donate money to save yourself that special place in heaven. After seeing this flashing Jesus, my spirits begin to pick up but I don’t give it any money.

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Another great discovery about the beaches in Mexico is that they’re polluted and littered. This is not something unique to Mexico as Alaska has about 10 tons of garbage per mile–mostly plastic stuff like this. We spend about an hour cleaning up Manzanillo Beach where we went snorkelling one day–about four boxes full of plastic but I fear it will end up back in the ocean.

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Another beach south of Zihua is Playa Blanca–which reminds me of Chu Lai Vietnam where I spent my 18th year. This beach has the same pollution but also a great little restaruant which is all by itself–“Vista Morros.” Here a Mexican gentleman is mixing us margueritas–this was a favorite of the anthropologist.

By the way, when I left Chu Lai a year later–the beach was littered with cigarette butts left by us. And that’s not all what we left behind. in 1990, I spent a month on Namorik Atoll in Micronesia and that beach (near the geographical center of the Pacific) also had about one piece of plastic per square yard. It’s time to clean up this planet….

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After a week at Madera Beach, we move south about 30 miles to Barre de Potosi and stay with a wonderful couple, Annabella and Francois at Casa Frida. Annabella is an actress and Francois, her French husband, is off guiding a Mayan tour bus so we meet him only briefly. Their B&B is saturated with the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; even the meals are her favorites. Everyone we meet here becomes instant friends. If you like Mexico–treat yourself to a stay here.

Annabella rescued a dog that was trapped for 5 days between two cement walls–it now lives at the Casa and is named Frida and is very perculiar. She jumps up and yips and runs all around the courtyard at odd times and her hind legs have a tremor. But she is very friendly and we like her. Our room is a second floor thatched roof affair and is clean as a whistle.

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One of the best features of Casa Frida is the food–here Jorge and Maria cook fish on a traditional country kitchen during a luncheon. Every morning we start the day with fresh fruit, fresh squeezed juice, local coffee and coissants. If you order ahead, Annabella will cook you anything you like for dinner. Our second night, we have a wonderful Pesca Veracruzana (traditional Mexican/Spanish fish). It comes complete with historical context, relationship to Frida Kahlo, and good Chilean wine. Our last night dinner is a wonderful beef flanksteak-like dinner with roasted peppers/onion dressing. Wow!

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One of the highlights of our trip was a kayak trip into the lagoon guided by Orlando whom I kept calling Ricardo for some reason. Orlando finds an emaciated turtle which was languishing in the lagoon. Because of the salinity and temperature, this turtle was in trouble. Orlando plops it on his kayak and we take it back to the ocean where after a good shell scrubbing (like the hull of our skiff here in Alaska), we release it.

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This week goes fast and we hate to leave. We’ll miss all the people we met, the beaches, food, music and especially Casa Frida, Bungalo Sotelo and Frida the dog. I won’t miss the open manholes, though.

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