Throwback Thursday; Mexico Family Beach Day

I started writing Letters from Kate as a weekly newsletter to family and friends in 2008 when we bought the boat. They went out as emails and when I got organized appeared on a page of the website. In 2014 I changed format and started using a more modern blog platform to share our “Letters”, thus removing the newsletter page from the website. I thought I would share some of our past adventures with you in a Throwback Thursday series. I hope you enjoy! H

It is a warm Sunday morning in Acapulco. Downtown, across the bay from the anchorage, a beautiful beach lined with high rises and fancy hotels is tempting me. It looks like paradise from here, a strip of gleaming white sand and perfect blue ocean under a clear sky. But I know, close up, it is dotted with scantily clad, bright pink tourists being hounded and harassed by an endless parade of ladies selling sarongs, shell jewellery and hammocks, most of which still proudly bear a Made in China sticker.

I know this because we stopped there yesterday for a quick look and before we even found a spot to sit the hawkers found us. Most of them were polite enough but there was one persistent lady, hanging around, wearing us down until I purchased something. I thought buying a small trinket would get me off the hook but no sooner had the transaction finished did the other ladies descend, like vultures to a carcass, hoping to pick the rest of the dineros from my pockets. I turn back into the cockpit where Steve has his nose in a book.

“‘You can bank on the beaches being Speedo-to-Speedo, with rental chairs, umbrellas, vendors, sun-soakers, jet-skies and parasailers dominating the view. But that’s Acapulco.’” He reads aloud from the Lonely Planet.

“That’s not Acapulco, that’s tourist Acapulco, there has to be somewhere else to go. I am not spending my Sunday in Zona Dorado, the Golden Zone.” I make finger quotes in the air “Been there, done that and I have the crappy little knick-knack to prove it.”

“Southwest of here there are the local beaches that are ‘…well worth a visit for their old-time feel. During Sunday afternoons they’re a spectacle of family fun, the shallow water chaotic with splashing children…and paddling vendors selling trinkets’. Now, that”, he snaps the book closed with a smile, “sounds like our kinda place.”

I can’t help wonder if the beach will be the same, colourful and local and laid back, the guidebook is ten years out of date. But always up for an adventure we decided to head out anyway. I pack a small bag with my camera, a sarong and a notebook, put my bathing suit on under my clothes and we head out to the highway to flag down a local bus heading out of the city.

The bus is an old school bus, like the yellow ones we road as children. Tarted up with custom paint jobs, flashing lights, various garlands and stuffed animals dangling from the ceiling and cover the dash boards. The rows of seats are still in the original positions, providing lots of room for the short legs of kids but forcing us to sit with our knees jammed against the rock hard and sticky vinyl. The driver rounds corners at break neck speeds sending the riders swaying to and fro in unison. The grab bars and hand holds are a patchwork of paint, worn smooth by the touch of a decade of passengers. The music blasts so loud that it is impossible to hold a conversation without shouting. But, no one seems to mind and we have gotten used to it.

The bus stops frequently, where ever someone stands in the shade on the side of the road and signals with an almost imperceptible wave. It fills up quickly; mothers corralling preschoolers while carrying babies on their hips, men wearing jeans and cowboy boots and giant belt buckles maneuvering already inflated beach toys down the aisles and grandmothers for whom young men always give up their seats.

We have no map and don’t know where exactly we are going so when the bus all but empties at the end of dirt road we get off too. All traces of doubt about being in the right place are erased when I step out of the bus. The air is filled with music and excitement and carries on it the laughter of children and the aroma of fresh tortillas and hot oil. We can hear the pound of surf in the background and see the glimmer of blue through the trees but there is so much going on around us that I am in no rush to leave the street.

“It looks like it’s gonna be a hot one, better get ourselves a cool refreshing beverage or two.” Steve says with a smile. “Let’s check out the tienda over there.”

We cross the street and head towards a nearby corner store. Out front are two large tubs overflowing with ice, speckled with coloured bottle caps that are arranged in careful rows. After a quick inspection I tell my order to the attendant, “Siese Mondelo, por favour,” and watch as he quickly digs out a half a dozen bottles, stands them up in plastic bag, adds a few scoops of ice and a handful of fresh cut limes. We have matching grins as he hands me my instant esky of beer and motions that I should pay the cashier.

“These guys know how to do it!” says Steve, “I’m gonna check the other tienda, I don’t see my flavour here, meet you by the beach in a couple minutes,” he gives me a quick peck on the cheek and wanders off.

Inside, when I join the line of male customers carrying identical packages, several stern faces turn in my direction. I am dressed modestly but stand a head taller than most of the natives and still pale with a tan so I am use to attracting the odd look or two. Then I realize I am the only woman in the dark little store. I nervously I lift my bag of beer into sight and smile. Instantly I am met with bright eyes and nods of agreement; it is a good day for a cold beer on the beach.

At the shore the blue umbrellas and white lawn chairs are laid out in rows; three deep and packed so tightly their plastic arms rub together. It is well before noon but few of the chairs are empty. With our arms full we quickly find ducking and weaving through the sea of umbrellas impossible so we take off our shoes and carefully wade through the children splashing and laughing at the water’s edge. Holding our bags aloft so they don’t get wet we make our way down the length of the beach before spotting two empty chairs and an umbrella. Our presence garners more than a few stares as we are the only gringos on the beach.

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We unpack and get settled in; draping the chairs with sarongs so we don’t stick to them and pushing the legs into the sand until they no longer wobble. The beach is a constant blur of movement- new arrivals settling into chairs, families in the water together, kids running through the crowd, food vendors maneuvering their way through the rows of umbrellas, men paddling boats precariously heaped with souvenirs. But there is an ease about things. Soon the looks of surprise about us being there are replaced with smiles and nods of recognition. Everyone is here for the same thing; a nice relaxing afternoon at the beach.

There is an endless parade of food to participate in; a stout old lady with a tray of hot fried tostadas balanced on her head, a man with a frosty glass case full of sweets and a young girl who sells delicately carved cucumber, mango and watermelon slices stuck on sticks sprinkled in chili and drizzled with lime. In the air is the tinkle of bells as the ice cream man pushes his wheel borrow-shaped cart through the sand. A skinny, frail old man with a button down shirt and well-worn straw hat has a tray around his neck and a folding stand in his hand. He meticulously sets up shop in front of each umbrella selling small cups of hardboiled quail eggs with chili sauce and bowls of salty little fried fish garnished with peanuts. We try one of everything, washing it all down with cold beer, filling our afternoon and our stomachs.

When I think I can eat no more a waft of fresh cooked doughnuts tickles my nose, and a crowd of children mob the man carrying the colourful tray. I cannot resist the idea of eating a hot doughnut sprinkled with sugar while in my bathing suit; I wander over to join the fray. One decadent bite and I am transported to White’s Lake beach as a child, the gritty sugar matching the sensation of sand between my toes.

The jostle of kids, now finished their doughnuts and pushing to all fit under an umbrella, brings me back to Mexico. They disappear into the shade to untangle their kite string. The kite is made from sticks and garbage bags and a length of twine wrapped around an empty pop bottle. All I can see is a flurry of hands and feet as they collectively work to straighten out the mess of knots, then they run down the beach between the rows of chairs as they launch their little kite into the breeze. Their giggles and cheer linger after they run away. I smile at the simpler days of childhood, pop the last bite of doughnut in my mouth, lick the last bits of sugar and grease from my fingers and resume my seat next to Steve, leaning over to give him a kiss.

“Umm,” he says, “doughnut tastes good,”

“Perfect,” I reply, “What a great idea. I love days like this.”

“Me too,” he says as he pries the caps off of two more beer, and hands one to me. “To a new tradition, to many more Mexican Family Beach Days!”

Love,

H&S

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Throwback Thursday; In the Beginning

I started writing Letters from Kate as a weekly newsletter to family and friends in 2008 when we bought the boat. They went out as emails and when I got organized appeared on a page of the website. In 2014 I changed format and started using a more modern blog platform to share our “Letters”, thus removing the newsletter page from the website. I thought I would share some of our past adventures with you in a Throwback Thursday series. I hope you enjoy! H

I dash up the stairs, across the cockpit of our little boat and lean out over the side just in time. My recently eaten peanut butter sandwich comes up in a violent convulsion of abdominal muscles, each new heave making a prefect splash in the calm water before floating into our wake in oddly recognizable chunks. A wave of relief washes over me, as if I have dispatched some of the worry that has been clinging to me since we left the dock in San Diego at 3am this morning.

I stay hanging out over the cool stainless steel railing watching my reflection in the glassy sea. I look pale, despite being bathed in the warm afternoon light that is reaching across the sky behind me. My eyes look shadowed with worry.

“Are you alright, Honey?” Steve asks from behind the wheel. I give him a thumbs up as I wretch one final time.

Perching on the big primary winch staring into the distance I try to find the faint line of the horizon where the sky stops and the sea begins, wanting to focus on something other than the sharp tang of acid that is coating my mouth. I’ve been seasick before, I know all about that kind of queasiness but this smacks of something different. There is a nervous aftertaste and a hint of insecurity.

Steve shifts uncomfortably, trying to relieve the pressure on his right leg. He won’t say so but I know his leg must be throbbing and his foot swollen. After getting around for weeks without crutches and more recently without his plastic walking boot he decided he was fit for sea. I’m not so sure. He couldn’t stand the thought of delaying our departure any longer; we were already 5 months behind schedule. I knew there would be no arguing with him, he could be as rigid as the 30cm of titanium holding his tibia together. All I could do was hope I was ready to take up the slack.

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Throwback Thursday; Quiero Que Me Quieras

I started writing Letters from Kate as a weekly newsletter to family and friends in 2008 when we bought the boat. They went out as emails and when I got organized appeared on a page of the website. In 2014 I changed format and started using a more modern blog platform to share our “Letters”, thus removing the newsletter page from the website. I thought I would share some of our past adventures with you in a Throwback Thursday series. I hope you enjoy! H

It becomes a sort of ritual for us while we are in Mexico, spending the late afternoons at the zocalo, the old town square. We are drawn to these places, the everyday spots where life happens. Even in the busy-ness of Acapulco we sit in the zolaco almost every afternoon with our beers hidden in flimsy plastic bags, each absorbed in our own daydreams and thoughts.

We watch a woman making giant soap bubbles with her special plastic wand and a tub of water and dish soap. Her rainbowed orbs of imagination float effortlessly across the square, tempting children who doddle over with their parents following close behind. We watch men in suits and patent loafers getting shoe-shines. They sit perched in stone chairs built into the walls of fountains and flower beds, reading the paper with their shirt sleeves turned up and their collars unbuttoned. We watch a troop of street performers cajole and tease passers-by until there is enough of a crowd to start the act.

Between our evening sundowners and watching the word go by I dig out our guidebook. It is almost ten years out of date but still full of useful tips, and we don’t mind the adventure that it sometimes causes. I leaf through its worn pages to the section about the city and find the listing for restaurants around the zolcalo.

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Throwback Thursday; How to Survive the Swine Flu and other Pork Related Advice

I started writing Letters from Kate as a weekly newsletter to family and friends in 2008 when we bought the boat. They went out as emails and when I got organized appeared on a page of the website. Last year I changed format and started using a more modern blog platform to share our “Letters”, thus removing the newsletter page from the website. I thought I would start sharing some of our past adventures with you in a Throwback Thursday series. I hope you enjoy! H

How to Survive the Swine Flu and other Pork Related Advice

It’s not that we didn’t notice the people on the bus wearing masks, it’s just that it didn’t seem that strange to us. We’d both lived in places where wearing a dust mask in the city is the only defense against the legions of two stroke motorbikes that belch out exhaust so thick it leaves a film on the buildings and a sooty puddle in you Kleenex at night. We weren’t on the Baja anymore, that remote paradise of clean air and friendly faces, that world within a world where locals go to vacation. We were on the mainland now, in the big city of Puerto Vallarta (or PV as it is affectionately known). No one stopped to notice us, no one cared about just another couple of tourist. If you’re crazy enough to wear a dust mask and even gloves on public transport than it is no surprise that you cast a suspicious glare in your neighbours direction.

We’d been blissfully out of touch for only ten days, but ten days in today’s world can feel like a life time for some people. For us it was the norm, no internet or HF radio on board. We carry a satellite phone for emergency use and the occasional call home to give a position update or check on family, but no daily connection with the world outside our physical experience. So when we couldn’t find a WIFI signal to steal the very moment we arrived in Puerto Vallarta it was no big deal. The world hadn’t crumbled into chaos while we were out enjoying ourselves, it would survive another 24hours without us logging on. Besides, we had engine problems and in our world that always takes top priority.
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