Today, Wednesday, May 24th, marks one month that I've been living in Puerto Escondido, and it has been exactly what I wanted. I've come to love quite a few things about this place. I've met great people, and made friends with locals and fellow travelers alike. I have even become a 'regular' at a nearby taco establishment (yes, Diego knows my order before I ask for it). I've enjoyed my time here so much, in fact, that I'm extending my stay for at least a couple more weeks. I would still like to visit some other parts of Mexico, as well as other countries, but I'm not ready to leave Puerto quite yet.
In being here a few weeks, I'm finding that traveling slowly allows for a much richer experience. I realize that "free time" is a rare commodity for many of us, especially in the context of travel, but for those whose circumstances allow, I highly encourage you to go somewhere and stay a few weeks or longer. If you're going for the experience and adventure of it, you'll find that living is easy and there are even opportunities for work, if you need it. (Many hostels even offer free accommodation in exchange for working a few hours a day)
There have been more than a couple times in my life where seemingly countless weeks or months go by, and leave me with few notable memories or experiences. When this happens, the days blur, and clouds of discontent settle over me, historically leading to an existential crisis and, in recent cases, a one-way ticket to Mexico...
People seem to crave familiarity, so some kind of routine is inevitable and expected, regardless of where you live. I suspect then, that the goal isn't to always be moving, but rather to remove yourself from the routine for enough time to reassess your life and what you want from it, with a clear mind, and new perspective. I think traveling does that, and while it doesn't have to be in a different country, I've found a break from the norm to be such an important thing.
It feels strange to write this entry, since I just posted the "2 week update" blog a few days ago. However, my goal is to get caught up on the timeline, so that I can start posting shorter entries, but with more frequency, and you can be more in sync with the happenings during this trip. So, without further ado...
I've moved again!
After staying with the second host family for a week, the lack of WiFi prompted me to pack my bags again. I moved into the La Barca house (mentioned in the previous post), and it has proven to be a great place to set up camp. I had been spending most of my free time here anyway, so the ability to go straight to my room when I'm ready to sleep, instead of being chased by rabid dogs on the dark drive home each night, has been a pleasant change.
La Barca is equipped with a pool, which I think is a must-have in the summer, when you don't have A/C, and my new room boasts a private bathroom, mini fridge, desk, and full size bed (A bit more spacious than the twin bunk I was using previously). Since I'm nearing the end of my pre-bought accommodation/lesson package, I may have to move again next week, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
The Neighborhood Piano Man
While walking to and from class, or nearby restaurants, I pass a small house that often has piano music coming from behind its walls. This has always delighted me, and made me wish I could go inside, and play the piano as well. (while I've found a guitar to play here, I have not seen a piano yet.)
One day this past week, while walking to get some snacks from the convenient store, I saw a man leaving the house. I picked up my pace, and approached him.
"Tu eres el musico?" I asked. [are you the musician?]
"Huh?" he responded, with a confused expression.
"Tu tocas el piano, si?", "Yo toco la guitarra" [you play the piano, yes?] [I play the guitar]
He responded in Spanish, with a friendly look on his face, but it was too fast for me to understand. I explained that my Spanish wasn't great, and he asked if I spoke English. "Yes, I do" I said, and we continued the conversation. It turns out that he has a list of songs by Elton John and Billy Joel that he covers, and he's been hoping to find a guitar player to accompany him.
I told him to look no further, and we agreed that next time I walked by the house and heard him playing, I would stop in, and if we were both available, I'd go grab my guitar for a jam session.
The man, named Ángel looked to be in his late 50s, early 60s and was from Spain.
A couple days later, I walked past the house and heard music. I called his name from the gate, and he walked out and waved.
"Shall I get my guitar?" I asked.
"Yes, I'll be here!" he replied.
I came back, and we proceeded to run through three Elton John songs, that he had already written out the chords and lyrics for. The first was Crocodile Rock, then Sad Songs (Say So Much), and lastly Can You Feel The Love Tonight. It was a good time, and we were both quite pleased to have someone to jam with.
I wish that I had a picture or video clip of this scene, but alas I do not. Perhaps during the next jam session!
Barra de la Cruz
Last weekend some of us took a day trip to Barra de la Cruz, to check out a new surf spot. The beach is about a three hour drive east of Puerto Escondido, and it felt a bit longer sitting in the back of a pickup truck. I was in good company though, and the views from the truck bed are always more enjoyable than being crammed in the cab.
Barra de la Cruz has a long right-wave that starts at a point break, consisting of large boulders at the base of a cliff. The beach, like so many in this state, looks like paradise, and the huge rocks at the point barely look real. The waves were perfect and clean, but paddling out to the break line was difficult. The length from the beach to the break was about three times as long as the other beaches that we typically surf, so it took me more than one tiring attempt before I broke through the white water, and into the lineup.
Once I got out there, it was a blast, and I took quite a few long rides. After two or three hours in the water, we retreated to the shore for food and water. I later learned that this spot used to be world renowned, but construction (to accommodate an influx of visitors and surfers) resulted in a great reduction of the wave's size and consistency. It's still a well sought-after break, but the world class reputation seems to have fallen away. Fortunately, it's still perfect for the non-professionals out there, such as myself.
La Punta in a thunderstorm
Playa Punta is a beach we go to often, but last Thursday morning, it was a much different experience. As we loaded up our boards, around 7am in the morning, it started to rain lightly. Puerto is just beginning its rainy season, and usually the rain lasts for a twenty minutes or so, before the clouds are broken by sunshine, and the tropical heat envelopes the town, so we weren't concerned. In fact, the cool water and breeze was a welcomed change.
On the way to the beach though, the rain picked up, as did the wind. “Well, this will be interesting” I thought.
As we warmed up, and stretched on the beach, thunder rumbled in the distance, and ominous clouds swirled off the coast. We all learn from a young age that lighting and water activities don’t mesh, and had anyone arrived alone, they would have certainly turned around, and called off the day.
But as it is with the packs of dogs, that roam the streets at night, there is strength in numbers, and our group was not willing to yield to the sky. “Let’s go, paddle out!” an instruct yelled, and we waded into the water. The expressions on our faces probably resembled outnumbered soldiers, walking out on a battlefield.
The rain felt like needles on my face, and I squinted as I paddled towards the break point. In the lineup, thunder roared, and lightning fell in the distance. I stayed low on my board, knowing that, as the tallest in the group, I was sure to be the first to go, if lightning struck.
It was hard to see the sets through the rain, and our focus was drifting from the waves, and towards the weather. I was counting seconds between flashes of light, and rumbles in the sky. I remember learning that each second, between a lightning strike and the sound of thunder, represented the number of miles away, that the lightning had struck. I have no idea if that is true, but it helped justify our decision to stay on the water.
I took a few waves, but I no longer felt like I was on a beach in Mexico. Instead I was on a movie set, waiting to see a fishing boat (likely captained by Tom Hanks) capsize in the storm, before slowly slipping into the deep.
Suddenly, there was a large crackle, and the sky lit up. The light lingered on the faces of many students, replacing tan complexions with a ghostly shade of panic. “Whoaaaa!” rose a chorus of students and instructors alike. “Last wave!” someone yelled, and we all anxiously waited for one more ride to deliver us to shore, secretly wondering if those would be the famous last words.
As we loaded up the truck, and headed back to base, we glanced at one another. Subtle smiles validated the shared feeling that, although an arguably stupid decision had been made to surf today, it was well worth it.
Photos of this day were planned to be captured, but called off when the camera man feared that the rain would destroy his equipment. However, here are some other highlights from the past couple weeks:
Learning how to turn at Playa Carrizalillo
Howdy Planet was created in April, 2017. The name tips its hat to my Texas roots, and is a play off "lonely planet", since I too have a deep desire to explore this beautiful rock that we call home. This site is a place where I can document and share my upcoming travel experiences. It is for the enjoyment and inspiration of others, and for myself, as such memories will undoubtedly fade over the months and years ahead.