Zee What? (Zihuatanejo, Mexico)
Mare and I sit on the beach in this laid-back fishing village with only one regret…we must leave tomorrow for an 18-hour bus ride to Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port). Our recent week-end in Puerto Penasco, (Rocky Point) wets our appetite to re-visit deeper Mexico, you know, down where you hear hardly any English.
“Zihua” relaxes our being. We sit on the beach under a palapa, near fishermen selling their catch and repairing nets. Boats bob in the bay. Our $30 per night cement room offers a clean sheet on a firm mattress. Who needs hot water or a mirror? As soon as the late night music from town ends, the roosters start to crow as if trying to mimic the lyrics of the evening.
Etanilado Valduonos Olea, manager of “Hotel R3 Marias Noria,” spends much of the morning arranging our bus tickets. He ends up driving us to the bus station to purchase tickets to Alcapulco, the first leg of tomorrow’s journey. He won’t accept any money for his efforts. “I just like to help, that’s all.” He explains that hotels are trying to survive a 50% occupancy rate in this small village, next to the larger resort destination of Ixtapa.
Mare and I meander from the beach to town, where we munch on some street tacos and stumble upon a community of white, winter visitors. Many of them sit on street corners sharing quarts of Corona. Mare asks a man, who looks like my reflection (Bald with a goatee), where to find an ATM.
“Ah, Americans,” he responds. “You’re the first ones I’ve seen in a while. Most of them quit coming and us Canadians took over.”
Zihuatanejo derives its name from the Nahuatl Indian word “Zihuatlan,” which means “Place of women.” Spaniards later added the suffix “ejo” which means small. Perhaps if they saw the place today, they might rename it, “Gringos Gordos.”
This last evening in town, we treat ourselves to “Lety’s,” the restaurant next to our hotel. Lety is our hotel manager’s sister. (Across the street, his mother serves daily breakfast to a loyal following of fishermen) Lety shows us an article from the Wall Street Journal travel section that praises her place. “This makes me feel important,” she proudly says. Mare and I don’t feel that fresh shrimp need the help of coconut and sour cream, but Lety’s signature dish of Coconut Shrimp tastes spectacular.
On a bus in the morning we wind along the coast until reaching Alcapulco 4-hours later. While waiting 5-hours for the bus to Puerto Escondido, our eyes burn from exhaust fumes held captive by the humidity, and we dine on grilled chicken from a roadside stand. After an 8-hour bus ride, during which we munch on unrecognizable morsels at the various stops, we arrive at the Hidden Port. It’s one o’clock in the morning…time to get busy living. Ron Mitchell