Sunday, May 2nd
Departed Puerto Vallarta early to avoid traffic, stopping briefly at Mismaloya Beach, where "Night of the Iguana" was filmed many years ago. The road curved endlessly, making a speedy trip impossible. On our map, we are making only two or three inches per day, a most disappointing prospect for the future. In Germany, 100 km takes less than an hour, count on it. Here, it takes two hours, if you are lucky.
Manzanillo has traded smog for electricity. The city power-plant spews out smoke which the prevailing winds drop on the city. We made a wrong turn and ended up in the parking lot of a Mexican Naval Base. Backtracking, we stopped at the first place that offered accommodations. Juan, a Cuban, purchased the "Posada" one year ago and carefully explained the rules required of those staying in his hotel. Cokes and beer were in the ice-filled cooler in the kitchen. Drop the cap in the mug with your room number for a tally at check-out. One yellow chip was for half an hour on the Internet, a blue chip for an hour. The Internet on the Honor System...
Monday. May 3rd
Patience ran out before the road got us to where we wanted to go, so we stopped at Playa Azul, a name suggesting blue skies, warm water, gulls gliding carelessly as the sun set. Paradise, it was not. On to Las Cardenas. The travel guide had nothing good to say about it, so, out of politeness, it said nothing. Having been there, we can't think of anything good to say either, other than "got that over with."
Tuesday, May 4th
The road straightens out a bit on the way from Las Cardenas to Ixtapa. Fonatur, a Mexican government entity, put this place together with a cookie-cutter. If you like Mission Viejo, where even the graffiti is typed, you will love Ixtapa. Fortunately, Zihuatenejo is only 15 km away. We took the back road and stumbled, our most likely method of finding a place, on Villa Vera. Multiple fountains flowed down to a swimming pool overlooking the harbor. Gracious waiters offered tasting notes on the various tequilas we could have in our Margaritas. The floral design which appeared to be embroidered in the bedspread was, in fact, flower petals carefully arranged.
Cinco de Mayo: Zihuatenejo to Acapulco
A cruise ship arrived in the Zihuatenejo harbor at sunrise. Brilliantly lit, I saw it drift past our window and stop only by accident. It was totally silent until the anchor chain rattled out of the chain locker as the anchor dropped into the bay.
I got dressed and went out to take a few pictures while Elsa slept. While I was gone, she woke up and decided this would be another good day to get an early start. By the time I returned, she had packed, and was "roaring" to go. We left without eating breakfast...
The skipped breakfast was gnawing on Elsa, so we stopped at "Yolitas", the first palapa we saw along the coast. Mom and Pop were still washing the salt spray from the five plastic tables and chairs. A wood fire was burning and hot water was available for instant coffee. I ordered scrambled eggs. Moments later, Elsa noticed a young boy leaving the palapa, walking down the road with some cash in hand. As he disappeared around a bend in the road, she bet me that he was going out for the eggs. I wasn't about to bet against this one... we're almost Mexicans ourselves, now. Pop came by several times to check on us, asking how we wanted the eggs cooked, carefully writing it all down, but no eggs were delivered to our table. In twenty minutes, the boy returned with a plastic bag in hand... full of eggs. Breakfast followed moments later. Pelicans glided along the wave-tops, a hundred feet below our table, in the gray morning haze, the sky and water blending just off-shore.
Plagued by the unending "topes", Elsa decided to count them as we travelled the 250 km to Acapulco. In four hours of driving, we stopped 77 times for speed bumps. Some were gentle, some were brutal; you must assume the worst and slow to a crawl for each of them. Having a local driver in front of you helps a lot even though all are marked. Some jump out from behind a curve or hide in the shadow of a tree. They divide and multiply according to some immutable genetic law that allows reproduction, but not death. There will never be fewer topes than there are today. Even the toll roads have them!
If the guy in front of you slows for one, so do you. There was a minor collision in a small town, where the first car stopped for a tope and the second didn't. Each car was shortened by a few inches, but nobody was injured.
Thursday, May 6th
Swarms of blue and white VW bugs, disguised as taxis, surrounded us as we entered Acapulco, a major stopping point, having traversed ten Mexican states and 5000 speed bumps. We drove the length of "hotel row", guidebook in hand, looking for something on the beach, but not expensive. Even Google would have a tough time with this search. We stopped near a sign offering hotel information and Jesus Flores offered some suggestions. As a commission, he got 100 pesos; we got two nights in the Calinda Beach hotel, overlooking the water, with the third night free at half the price quoted if you walk in alone.
The best waiter we have had so far, Luis, served us at Forza Italia, an Italian restaurant across the street from the hotel. By his attitude and attention, we could tell right away that he wasn't Mexican. He had arrived in Acapulco by bus from his former home in Uruguay, hoping to become a rock musician. The owner, from Regio Calabria, invited us to his table for cappuccino after dinner.
Friday, May 7th
Went for a morning walk on the beach. The sand was coarse and so hot you had to run from the shore to the hotel, dodging into shadows of palapas along the way. A dog show was underway at the hotel where we stopped for lunch. The poor handlers must have been sweating up a storm in their coats and ties. We were, in our shorts and T-shirts. Took a city tour of Acapulco, featuring the cliff-side homes to the east in the "new" Acapulco and the Flamingo Hotel (of Johnny Weismuller fame) and the cliff divers in the "old" Acapulco.
Best Internet access so far... at the Internet Cafe across the street from the hotel. All the time you want is free if you buy a soft drink for 6 pesos.
Saturday, May 8th
Departed south along the coast hoping to find a suitable place to stay by the time we ran out of patience with speed-bumps and stinky trucks. Puerto Escondido showed up just in time. The Arcoiris Hotel, just outside of town, faced the water, where 15 to 20 foot waves were breaking with such force that the bed shook. I'm not making up these numbers... a surfer hobbling around the hotel with a broken ankle from a surfing accident the day before provided them. Nobody was in the water - red danger flags were flying. A sushi restaurant on the beach provided the perfect place to watch the sun go down, except for the occasional rogue wave which washed up on the beach high enough to soak your ankles. The town faced a much smoother bay, suitable for fishing boats and swimmers.