Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
But before I let myself go Tarzan, our first mission as always is to find somewhere to sleep. Travelling with Raul has opened my eyes to a new level of frugality. He has been travelling for some time now and has learnt the importance of saving money when you can. He settles only for the cheapest option available sometimes searching for hours to save a couple of bucks. Whether it be for food, accommodation or a bus ticket - every penny counts. I know it’s something I can learn from, but sometimes it drives me crazy. Luckily on this occasion our choices are pretty limited. We find two Israeli lads to interrogate. Quivering under Raul's stern one eyed gaze, they point us in the direction of a place called Mono Blanco where we find room for my tent and a hammock available for Raul. It’s simple and cheap with a young crowd. Perfecto.
Mono Blanco, what an interesting place. Smack bang in the middle of the jungle with airy wooden cabins, hammocks strung under thatched leaf roofs, smooth cobbled stone paths and streams chuckling throughout - it's hippy heaven. A place for bare feet and bongo drums where fire pois and face piercings are the norm - so much so in fact, that over the next few days it begins to feel a bit like a freaky fashion contest. Almost as if some of the people are trying to out-hippy one another and if you’re not dressed in multi colours, sporting a crazy haircut and/or a face full of metal then to them you are considered an outsider.
There are some people, mostly Mexicans, who love this place so much they have decided to stay and I can’t say I blame them. They survive by performing at night – fire dancing and playing music – or by selling their handicrafts, spreading them out on tie dyed sheets outside the restaurants. It’s the kind of life I admire, but unfortunately the stigma of tourists being nothing more than a source of income stretches even to here. In a place like this, free from the confines of modern society, one might expect a more open minded and welcoming environment but I get the impression I have been immediately put into a box, categorised and dismissed as just another guide book gringo. Ironically it seems that while coming here to live free from society's prejudices, they have created their own.
An idle chat about jade with a young artesanista after he notices the greenstone hanging around my neck soon turns into a full on sales pitch. When he realizes I’m not going to buy anything from him the energy changes and he packs up his wares grumpily, muttering something under his breath which I don’t understand. Déjà vu. I am beginning to tire of this kind of encounter. I know there is more than just money which can be exchanged between me and him, but how do I get past this barrier? It kind of takes the shine off being in such a beautiful place.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
“What do you think? Beautiful, no?”
“Um yea, nice uh, rocks… well I’m kind of hungry I think I will go get some lunch.” As soon as I said these words, I regretted them.
“Ok, what would you like to eat? I know a great restaurant, blah, blah, blah…” I was not in the mood for this guy, but he hadn’t really given me a reason to tell him to get lost. It was incredibly hot, I was dehydrated, tired and hungry - maybe I was being unfair to him. He was unemployed, lonely and bored; it could be he was just trying to be helpful. Alright, I’ll give him another chance. We ended up back at the hostel, sitting at a plastic table out the front, dogs sniffing at our feet, eating chicken and rice and drinking another beer. So this is the “great restaurant” he was talking about? He finished his beer, ordered another, then asked if I could please pay for his lunch and drinks. Ok, that’s it. What had this guy actually done for me so far? Taken me to this “fantastic” hostel, “top secret” beach and now this “great” restaurant, all of which I could have quite easily found by myself. I could see he just saw me as a cash machine, now how do I get rid of him? That’s when Raul showed up. Overhearing my accent he asked me,
I would occasionally take a stroll down to the more popular end of the beach, where the water had less of an undercurrent, for a swim. The good thing about Zipolite is there are no big resorts, night clubs or high end tourism. It is a pretty liberal place with a laid back hippy atmosphere, a place where reggae music and ganja smoke float on the ocean breeze, palm trees sway and stress melts away. It was a good life, but I soon became restless. Other travellers’ stories of the jungle in Chiapas made me hungry for something more adventurous. I wanted to see monkeys and parrots, I wanted to swing from the vines like Tarzan. I also wanted to get away from the oppressive heat. I felt my batteries had been sufficiently recharged, and I was ready for the next chapter. I now had a travelling partner in Raul, we were headed in the same direction so decided to go together. Little did we know we would be travelling together for the next six weeks, all the way down through the length of Belize and to the paradisiacal Bay Islands off Honduras’ Caribbean coast
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
As to be expected the locals are claiming most of the set waves, leaving the rest of us to fight over the scraps. It’s competitive here, people come from all over the world to surf this wave, and the atmosphere is a little hostile. But I am happy just to be back in the oceans cool embrace, rising and falling with her steady breathe and gazing out to the horizon, patiently waiting my turn. It’s hard enough to get out here anyway; although they don’t look so big from the shore, these waves are known in the surfing world as being heavy, powerful and unforgiving. Even the little ones are strong enough to hold you under for a few seconds.
There was just one other occupant in the room, their sleeping outline barely visible through the sagging mosquito net. A pair of board shorts hung on the bunk bed, a towel on the floor and two surf boards leant against the wall.
I was then taken to the “kitchen” - a wobbly water-logged bench with a crooked sink, a dribbling garden hose for a tap, and a rusty gas burner - and the "bathroom" - a closet with a door that didn't shut properly and a drain which just didn't, hence the puddle spreading out the door.
“How much?” I enquired dubiously.
“7,000 pesos.” At just over $5 NZ it was cheap and nasty, but I didn’t plan on spending much time in the hostel. I was here to get reacquainted with my old friend the Pacific Ocean.
“I’ll take it.”
As I watch the sun disappear behind the hills the waves lap gently at my feet, inviting me for one last ride. But I’m tired and hungry, and headed to Zipolite in the morning - a smaller beach further along the coast. According to my guide book it is a laid back hippy hang out. Sounds like a good place to swing in a hammock for a couple of days and take a little time to bathe in the energy which flows from the Pacific Ocean before going Indiana Jones and heading deep into the jungle of Chiapas the doorway to Central America and home to Palenque, an ancient city left all but abandoned by the mysterious Mayans. What lies in store for me down there I can only imagine, but I guess there’s just one way to find out.
Thursday, 11 March 2010
From the mountains, fiords and glaciers of Patagonia, my next trail building contract took me to the barren desert of Northern Mexico. In this totally unfamiliar environment I realised how much I took for granted back in New Zealand, and it dawned on me that maybe Fred Dagg was right when he sang "we don't know how lucky we are, mate."
We follow the road straight to the gaping mouth of the canyon then plough into the soft and slidey gravel of the valley floor. Soon boulders like giant, pale dice block our path. We leave the Kubota ticking in the shade and, taking our packs of water and snacks, continue on foot. We clamber over and around these massive, smooth, cool grey rocks, tyring to steer clear of the thorn bushes which snarl and scratch from the cracks. After about an hour we reach the base of the gorge, the sun high and harsh in a burnt blue sky, and we gulp back more water.
When I return home, I will definitely appreciate our green and tranquil little country that much more. But for now I think I will wander a bit further, open my eyes a little wider and see what more I can learn from this crazy, cruel but wonderful world. After all, I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface.