guy a tip and thrash around in the center consol for some change and there is
none to be found. Then just as we are about to pass him I see a 10 peso
coin pick it up with my right hand pass it to my left, let off the gas
pedal, lean out the window and give a ŇHEY!Ó He is just sitting down
on the curb and wiping the sweat from his brow with his hat. As he looks
up I notice semi begin to close the gap between us and time goes into
slow motion. Realizing we wont make eye contact before the throw, I
lob the coin left-handed. He sets the hat on his lap and looks up seeing
my throw. The coin flips end over end directly to him. He sees it and
in the same motion which he moved his hat into his lap he reacts, tilting
the hat toward the coin and sucking in his gut to make room for where
it will land. As the semi cuts between us the coin goes right into his
hat and his face lights up, we make eye contact and as he disappears
his fist blasts out in front of the grill of the truck with a thumbs
up. It couldnŐt have been choreographed any better and for that split
second we were connected as the coin flipped from my hand into his hat,
amongst dance of chaos in the of traffic in Mexico.
Saturday, December 29
Erin arrived on time, and after a night in a terribly overpriced cheap hotel we headed south fleeing Acapulco for a more remote location on the coast. Unfortunately we are not able to leave without first making a donation to the Acapulco transit police who pulled us over for making a U turn too close to a corner, or something. Traffic into Acapulco where they pulled us over was like a school of fish with a group of sharks feeding on them. It seemed as every fourth car was a police car or motorcycle and every 100 meters they had someone pulled over. We got the standard routine they take your license and you get it back tomorrow when you pay the fine at the police station. Or you give them twenty bucks now and they settle it tight here. Well not wanting to spend any more time in Acapulco we paid them off. Zack talked them down to $10 and got his license back and we hurried away as fast as we could.
For the last two days we have been on vacation. We drove south a couple of hours to find uncrowded golden sand beaches and also stumbled across a little hotel right on the beach a 10 minute walk from the some granite bouldering. The hotel is owned and operated by a Mexican Woman named Zoyla and her German husband Helmut. The hotel itself and the grounds are the handy work of Helmut who takes immaculate care of everything. It is by far the cleanest nicest place we have stayed, and itŐs cheap. ThereŐs a pool and we are the only ones there. The pacific coast of mainland Mexico is hot and tropical and there are lots of bugs. I am the ultimate bug magnet, which can make being in the tropics quite unpleasant. At night I am either fully clothed or pinned down in the tent. I have had the Denge fever once and donŐt want to go for round two. Like the industrious German he is, Helmut has taken special care to build threshholds under the doors and good tight screens on the windows to keep the bugs out. Normally I have the tent up even in the hotel rooms to keep the bugs off but here its not a problem, its like a vacation from the bugs. The boulders on the beach are sharp but there are several good lines but itŐs just too darn hot to climb. I did a couple of problems but I think I will save it for South America and stick to surfing in the tropics.
We have moved on to Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca where the waves are well known for being big, fast and powerful and the domain of an expert surfer but once again we just missed the last swell, the waves are small and itŐs Puerto is the domain of about a billion body boarders. Being at Pascuales when it was small and now at Puerto has been ideal for me because it has given me the chance to catch a lot of waves and I feel I have improved tremendously. I feel more confident and am finding edge of my ability envelope. Even when Puerto is small itŐs powerful and it thumps, and Looking for it thumped me onto the chiropractic table. Or the closest thing to it we could find in Puerto. Asking around town we were directed to the office of Dr Juan, a Gringo who went to school for healing arts in Santa Fe and now practices polarity therapy in Puerto. He gave me a deep tissue treatment that made me squirm nearly off the table getting a crack and a pop from almost every joint on my body that must have been very entertaining for Erin to watch as she giggled all the while. I left feeling better but was still sore for a couple of days. The hotel in Puerto we have found is somewhat of a gem its small clean and cheep and off the beaten path. The only draw back is that it seems to attract musicians that keep the strangest hours and make a lot of noise. On our last visit the room next to ours was occupied by a Norte–o Trio that tuned their instruments at 5 am every morning. This time we are surrounded by a group of Italian Techno DJŐs that finish there gigs at around four in the morning and then return to the hotel to unload and carry on conversations as if they are hard of hearing. It gets us up early to surf and we generally try to return the favor coming back around nine and sitting on the porch verbally re hashing the surf session and exchanging comments what we should do the rest of the day. On Saturday Erin left us and it made me sad and slightly home sick. It was hard to say goodbye again but I was glad she came. It was a good vacation from the hard work of travel.
Art communication and an end to Mexico
Tuesday, December 2
Yesterday, Zack met a local painter named Rene who introduced us to a local poet named Lazarro. We have spent the last couple of days in their presence. ReneŐs paintings show humor, struggle, fear and tradition all mixed together with contemporary style that allows me to see his passion for life through his painting. Lazarro has passion I can feel through his intense tone but poetic talent I cannot fully appreciate because I donŐt speak the language well. ItŐs a bit frustrating to meet these people who are such deep thinkers and so passionate about there thoughts and ideas and get virtually the same from them in a conversation as I would from a gas station attendant. But I do get more then basic language. That is the beauty of art; they are able to communicate through their artistic expression. Although I wasnŐt able to fully connect with them I was able to find some language in the conversations and find inspiration through their artistic passion.
With only three days left on our Mexican insurance policy we made one last stop at a beach in northern Italy that I just cant seem to remember the name of. A perfect right-hand point break with more solid granite boulders lining the beach. The beach is owned by the town and there is no development. YouŐre allowed to camp and there is a palapa where you can buy snacks and a quesadilla. The only other occupant is a Floridian named Joel who loaned us his long board and joined us for our final Mexican surf session. The waves were small and perfect for long boarding and it was a fitting way to end the Mexico portion of our trip. On to Guatemala.
Today is Friday, and the surf is smaller even yet. We catch a couple of waves in the morning, and bid goodbye to our new friends from MartinŐs Man Camp. In the water I meet an electrician named Derrick from Ventura who is looking for a ride through Michoacan, the next state of Mexico we are heading to, so once again the cruiser is carrying three, heading south in the heat. Its really hot today, and although IŐm not one to usually complain about warm temperatures, sweating in a hot car continuously for 5 hours is a bit much, and I feel constantly like I just got out of a hot shower and put my t shirt on too soon. The road is smooth, but really curvy with dramatic altitude changes, which makes headway slow going. For those who are familiar with the 20-minute drive to Stinson Beach from Mill Valley, times that by 15, and thatŐs what the dayŐs drive is like. Its beautiful though, the dense vegetation that makes up the forest creeps right up to the edge of the road, and as we drive, we look down sometimes 1000 feet to the ocean. Other times we are at eye level with beaches that seem almost inaccessible due to the thick foliage. As with all the regions that Scott I have previously explored, I try and recollect the time we drove this same camino four years ago. We make it to Playa Rio Nexpa by dusk, and find nice camp spot for 2 bucks a night. The last time we came here in 1999, the surf was phenomenal for 4 days straight, starting out at double overhead plus, winding its way down to head high and perfect. That is not the case Saturday morning though as we wake up to funky wind and no surf. My knee is achy and swollen, so I am over it anyways, ready to get a move on south to Acapulco. We bid farewell to Derrick and he thanks us by giving me a lure for my fishing pole, and we head out.
The rest of Michoacan is beautiful, and I find myself wishing we had more time to spend here and explore the coast. Lately I have been reflecting on our global position in the Americas, which is somewhere about halfway in between Alaska and Argentina. We have so much ground to cover still, and sometimes a bit overwhelming to think about, so I try to put it out of my mind and focus on where we are going today. Marcus from MartinŐs Man Camp told me something that we have all heard, but tend to have a hard time trusting ourselves to do, which is to think in the present. So presently we are driving down the coast on another hot day in Mexico, and I am thinking that I would love to drink a coke and eat something dulce. I imagine Scott is thinking about the fact that tonight he will get to see his girlfriend Erin who will be traveling with us for the next week. Back to the present though, which suddenly has changed from the beautiful countryside of Michoacan to the fast paced city of Acapulco. Its sunset, and everyone is out and about, enjoying the most bearable time of the day in Mexico as the streets are packed with cars, bikes, pedestrians and street vendors. We drive around, trying to make our way to the airport, where we need to be to pick up Erin in 4 hours. Not in a hurry, our pace is aimless, more interested in checking out the variety of folk in this gigantic beach town. I picture Acapulco as THEE tourist destination of the late 70Ős early 80Ős, filled with nightlife and what everyone pictures as Mexico, the tourist destination. Some sort of cross between the Love Boat and Miami Vice.
Suddenly, and very presently, we find we are lost, and seem to be heading towards Mexico City, and not the airport. Directions are asked, and seems to be we are heading correctly towards the airport. Feeling lost again, we stop and ask, and get a completely new set of streets to use to get to where we need to be. As we sit in traffic headed towards the Capital of Mexico wondering where in the lords name are we going, Scott spots a fire thrower at the intersection. I scramble for the camera, but our luck doesnŐt line up as the light turns green and we are too far off to get a good shot. As the fire thrower sits down to count his earnings from the last red light, we pass through the intersection, and I suggest we throw him a tip for his dangerous work. Scott reaches for 10 Pesos from the center console of the vehicle and with a whistle tosses him the big coin across two lanes of traffic as we pass through the intersection at 10 miles an hour. As if Scott and the fire thrower have some sort of strange connection, he looks up just in time to see the coin flying at him, and with a swift flick of the wrist, he snags the coin out of mid air. Celebration is apparent on both sides, as both Scott and I cannot believe the throw and catch combo that just happened, and the fire thrower is equally as amazed as he grins in surprise and amazement, and gives us a big smile through his painted face, and a Ňthumbs upÓ which we barely catch as we continue down the road.
Finally, we see a sign that says aeropuerto and we make a right hand turn onto a huge four-lane highway that is ominously empty. I start to wonder about our decision to take this route, and my ill feelings increase when I see the all to familiar sign, QUOTA. Quota I believe is a word that is universally understood to mean a certain amount of something, which in this case is money. Mexico builds beautiful roads for anyone to use if they are willing to pay a small fee. In this case the fee costs us 80 pesos, or about $8.00 US for 4 miles of road. Ouch!! It didnŐt help that not an hour previous I had calculated roughly what it costs us to drive one mile in the Gasaholic Landcruiser, which is about, well lets see:
Full tank is about 20 gallons of gas, which costs $500.00 Pesos, or $50 dollars US. This full tank will get us about 200 miles or so.
200 miles divided by $50.00 dollars, that is 4 miles to every dollar, which means 25 cents to the mile. Man! ThatŐs expensive when you figure we have already driven some 8,000 miles and are only about half way. IŐm not going to do the math on that oneÉ
We pick up Erin from the airport, and she is blown away by the heat. This is her first time in Mexico, and coming from November in Santa Fe, where itŐs probably about 30 degrees out, its pretty understandable. She is stoked to be here though, and is really looking forward to doing some traveling and checking out a bit of Mexico. Sunday morning we are up and ready to head out pretty early, but are indecisive on whether we want to head into Acapulco to check out the city some before we head south. Scott decides in our moment of indecisiveness that yes we should, so we make a left and head north, back into the city. About 3 miles into the venture, something clicks and we unanimously decide that this doesnŐt feel right, and we should be headed south, away from the madness. I make a stupid left turn across a solid yellow line, right into an oncoming cop. Sure enough, heŐs onto me, and pulls me over. I get out of the car and heŐs right there with his rulebook ready to show me that I made an illegal left turn. I agree with him completely that I am at fault, as he looks at my driverŐs license. ŇAH ZacariasÉ.Ó He tells me, ŇNo se puede dar una vuelta aqui amigo!Ó (You canŐt make a left turn here my friend!) I ask him then what is the protocol in this situation, and he tells me, ŇFijate Guero que tienes que pagar una multa!Ó (Look gringo, you have to pay a fine!)
The cop is really friendly, but still he insists that we have to go to the station downtown, and that unfortunately its closed right now, and we will have to wait until Monday to pay the fine, unlessÉ. Unless you want to settle this right now for $200 Pesos. Ň$200 Pesos!!Ó I exclaim. ŇToo muchÓ I tell him. I explain that all we have is $100 pesos, and that we were headed to the bank that very moment to get out some money. He thinks it over for a second, and says that he would be more than happy to accompany us to the bank. I tell him that wouldnŐt be such a good idea, and say that maybe we might have some change in the car. He asks under his breath how much, and I tell him 20 more pesos. He notices my guitar and asks me to sing him a song, which I kindly do, in my best voice. ŇEn una jaula de oro, pendiente de un Balcon, se hallaba una calandria cantando su dolorÉÓHis partner motions for me to bring over the $120 pesos and I hand it to him low profile. The transaction is made and I get a pat on the back and thanks for the song, and we are on our way. I laugh at the whole ordeal, but still feel a bit worked over, and picture them eating some breakfast with our $120 Pesos. Oh well, money comes and goes as they sayÉ
Scott, Erin and I spend the next three days in Playa Ventura, south of Acapulco which we sort of find by accident. The surf report says that the area is not really worth checking for waves, due to the abundant rocky headlands and lack of open beaches. To me, rocky headlands means wedgy waves breaking into coves, and to Scott, it means rockclimbing. As we come out onto dirt road from the main thoroughfare, we make a left and head south along a beautiful stretch of coast. Its rocky alright, and no surf to be seen. As we pass the lighthouse Scott notices that at the far end of the beach is a huge boulder field right on the ocean. ŇROCK!Ó he exclaims. And rock it is, huge granite boulders make up a beautiful headland point that sticks out into the ocean. We end up spending the next two days here, messing around in the rocks, and lounging around the wonderful place we find to sleep at. We stay with an interesting couple of folks who have a beautiful hotel right on the coast. Their names are Helmut and Zoyla, and have built a beachfront haven for themselves and the lucky guests that find them. Helmut is a German character, who I converse with in Spanish. His English is gone he says, and would prefer to speak in Espanol, so we do. His wife, Zoyla is a Mexican woman from Vera Cruz who strangely enough speaks German fluently. ItŐs rather interesting to be speaking with Helmut in Spanish, and have him say something to his wife Zoyla in German, hear her respond back in German, and then make a comment to me in Spanish. ItŐs very confusing. Their place is magnificent though, and being the friendly people that they are, and perhaps the friendly people we are, we all become good friends despite the interesting language barriers.
I am itching to get in the water and do some surfing, as well as find someone to film and interview, so Tuesday we bid farewell to Helmut and Zoyla, and head south to the famous Puerto Escondido. ItŐs an all day drive through some of the worst Topes we have seen thus far on the trip. Erin has unfortunately decided to occupy the back of the truck, which is a full on slam fest every couple of miles or so. Its amazing, one minute you are flying at 50 mph down the road, and wham! Right there without warning is a foot high curb in the middle of the road. BRAKES! We make it to Puerto by dark, despite the Topes, and find ourselves at the same hotel we were at four years ago with our friends the Germans and Dominique. Not much has changed here, except the current guests who have taken over the hotel. As I negotiate price with the manager, I am trying to discern the language coming from the group eating dinner to my right in the communal eating area. ItŐs a dramatic language, a lot of ohhhs and ahhhs, which at first I think is Portuguese. I come later to realize that itŐs Italian, and remember my good friend Elan telling me after his year in Italy how dramatic the language is, as well as the culture.
And dramatic these Italians are, yelling and screaming at each other with constant mix of emotion ranging from exhilaration to apparent fits of anger, and its difficult to figure out which is which when you donŐt understand the language. They are also creatures of the night, including the 5 year old kid who is with them, who takes kindly to screaming up a storm after 10:00pm, which just doesnŐt work with my sleeping schedule. Puerto Escondido is notoriously crowded as a surf spot, so my instinct has me up well before the sun to try and get some uncrowded waves. Our first morning, I am up around 6, and in the water as the sun comes up with just a few people. As our time here grows, my sleeping capacity lessens, and by the last night I am asleep at midnight and up by 4:15, waiting for enough light to go surfing. I feel like my father the insomniac as I find myself continuously checking out the window to see if its light enough to head to the beach. Another group of Italians donŐt help my sleeping schedule much either as they tend to come home each morning around 4:00 and pull their huge truck right up next to the room to unload what we later come to figure out is music equipment. So even though I donŐt really sleep much here in Puerto, at least not at night, I do get to surf, and although the waves are only head high, they are still quite hollow and fun, and not to crowded if you get out before 6:00 am.
What proves to be more interesting is how I come to meet an incredible artist by the name of Rene Villalobos, who paints here in Puerto Escondido. One night, separated from Erin and Scott, cruising through the pueblo of Puerto above the beach, actually looking for a place to get a hair cut, I come across a beautiful art studio where a young man is painting and his little sister is doing homework. I begin to look at the paintings, and am completely drawn to one image of a sad looking bull who seems to have just lost, or I should say is about to lose a bull fight. (Do they ever win?) I look at the painting, and examine the name of the artist, which I read to be no more than Rene. I ask the young man at the studio about the painter Rene, and he offers to make a phone call to see if he can be found. Luck is had, and Rene and I agree to meet at the gallery the tomorrow morning at 11:00 am. The following day I meet Rene Villalobos and his good friend Luis at the studio who both are really interested in what we are doing, and have countless questions as well as many really good ideas for things we could do to make a network of artists from Alaska to Argentina. I spend the day with Rene, talking about art and imagery and how it is such an important form of expression, and also therapeutic means of healing. Through conversation, I come to find out that Rene lived in Canada for two years, strangely enough with the family of a girl named Meara with whom I shared a house with for three years in Santa Cruz. Small world!
Scott and I spend two days with Rene and his friend Hugo Lazzaro Aguilar, a poet originally from Mexico City. Rene welcomes us into his home like a brother and puts us up as well as hooks Scott up with the local chiropractor who gives Scott an interesting massage fueled by Mescal. I am thoroughly inspired by the artists that I meet at the Galleria Diana. It makes me think so much of studying in school, and how art can create such strong friendships that normally wouldnŐt exist.
Note: The studio named Galleria Diana, is looking for artists from other places, countries, regions, etc. to come and spend time painting in the studio. If you are interested email me and I can put you in contact with Rene and the others at the Galleria. (Unfortunately there is no press for PrintmakingÉ)
Our time in Mexico is very close to over, and we spend our last days in the south of Oaxaca doing some surfing and hanging out on the beach. The waves are small, but fun and there is actually some good rock to climb, which is entertaining if you can bear the heat. I spend most of my time in the water, or asleep in the back of the truck, unwinding after spending the last couple of days with artists, who tend to be rather intense, like our friend Lazzaro, who was quite the person to invoke challenging thoughts and intensity throughout the day, no matter what the situation, all in good flavor though.
We blow through Chiapas, which is unfortunate, as it holds some of the most beauty in Mexico, especially in the mountains, as well as some deep cultural strong holds. Our time restraint is sometimes ominous, as we would like to be back home in the US by the first of April. I continuously find myself reflecting on the fact that this trip really should take two years, but then I get homesick trying to imagine that much time away from family and friends. Travel really makes you appreciate home as well. Home is home as they sayÉ Tomorrow we head to Guatemala.