Monday, November 2, 2015

Waves and Bungalows

After leaving San Jose del Pacifico, I knew I wanted to get someplace on the beach, and just relax for two days. Maybe set up a hammock, listen to the waves, and catch up on a few blog posts.

Instead... well, my life gets crazy sometimes.

I made my way down to the coast via Puerto Angel, and then started heading west along the coastal road. I had a few places I wanted to check out on the way, and then find a place to settle in.

But somehow I'd completely forgotten that a part of the reason I didn't stay in San Jose longer was my lack of cash. So after arriving at a hostel down on the beach, I remembered my predicament and asked where an ATM was... the answer was "not close." Puerto Escondido and hour down the road, or quite a ways back the way I came.

Well, Puerto Escondido was on my list of places to check out anyway, so I made my way west towards the city, and after an hour ride along a road that felt a lot like southern Florida (humid heat, marshy wetlands for terrain, and long stretches of boring straight road), I made it into town and finally replenished my funds.

I then rode down through the beach area in town, not really intending to stay (because I'd heard it was a bit more touristy), but not quite sure what my plan was. So I pulled over and started looking a few things up.

And I sat there. And sat there. I honestly couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I had liked Mazunte when I rode through it (despite the new-agey feel, with yoga classes advertised everywhere and more hippies with dreads wandering around), but didn't want to ride the hour back to maybe not find a place I liked. I mostly wanted to just stay where I was, but I was afraid that I'd miss out on some of the good things I'd heard about in the smaller towns to the east.

I couldn't decide. So I sat, and kept looking for different hotels and hostels, frozen with indecision.

Finally, the guys in the little bungalow hotel across the street noticed me sitting on the bike and walked out. I was parked there because it was one of the places I'd been thinking about staying, so I asked them a price, and they offered me a discount for a two-night stay... and I finally just decided to go with it.

After settling in, I went for a walk down the beach, and stumbled across a place offering tours, so I asked about them. About halfway through the tour spiel... I realized I didn't want to do any tours. I didn't want a time that I had to be somewhere. I just wanted to sit and do nothing and have no plans. So I told her I'd think about it and headed back to the hotel, though I caught a few good sunset shots on the way.

Palm trees and surfboards and lounge chairs.

Sculpture towards the end of the beach.
I got back, popped open the balcony doors to my room, and started working on catching up on blog posts. Not long after, I heard music wafting up the stairs, so I wandered down to see what was going on. It turns out that the owner and his friends tend to hang out in the courtyard, play guitar, and drink mezcal most nights, so I brought the laptop down and joined them.

The courtyard had a bit of a jungle feel.

I even got to play the guitar a bit too, which felt really good after a few weeks of not being able to play. As I sat and worked on a blog post and listened, little plastic cups of mezcal kept showing up next to me, no matter how many I seemed to finish off.

At some point in the night, two Italian guys came down as well and started hanging out with us - one even pulled out a few songs on guitar (including "More than Words" by Extreme). We sat and talked and drank - the Mexican guitar player often calling for "mas gasolina" to keep the guitar motor running.

The next day I woke a little late to another spectacular view out the window.

Looking to the right was a view of the courtyard and pool, also not bad.
After lounging on the balcony a bit, I wandered out to get a coffee. I ended up finding a restaurant with quite the selection of breakfast dishes, so I splurged and got a big breakfast - I rarely eat much of anything for breakfast, so this was quite a treat.

Cinnamon French toast, bacon, fresh fruit, fresh squeezed orange-papaya juice, and coffee: $6
I then spent the next 5 hours or so just hanging out at the hotel by the pool, and working on another blog post. The internet was slow, so I'd set it to upload a few pictures, and then go swim a bit. Come back and write a few paragraphs, and then go swim a bit. Come back and read some articles, and go swim a bit. That was my entire morning, and it was glorious.

Not bad. Not bad at all.
Eventually, the Italians came out and joined my by the pool. We talked quite a bit (all in Spanish, the only language we shared), and ended up deciding to go for a walk down the beach around 4pm or so to find a late lunch together.

The beach there is very... resort-like. Lots of restaurants with lounge chairs they put out on the sand, servers in nice attire greeting you as you walk by whether beach-side or street-side. Lots of nice places, probably mostly overpriced. We ended up wandering down to the very end of the beach, where there was a little beat-up shack marked only by piece of driftwood painted with the words "Split Coconut." Looks like our place, we decided.

As we walked up, I heard an interesting sound... English. And not just English, but Southern accent English. So I asked the guy behind the counter where he was from - Atlanta - and the guy at the bar said he was from Barrington, outside Chicago. The guy behind the bar disappeared after a bit, but the Chicago guy kept chatting with me throughout the meal. He had apparently been taking voice lessons from Tommy Chong, because he sounded just like him - all the way down to his goodbye to the Atlanta guy of "Nos vemos, maaannn." He was also super into Canadian football, so they had it on the little TV in the corner of the shack, when the power wasn't flickering.

After some delicious burgers (best ones I've had since getting down here - trust an Atlanta guy to grill 'em right), we headed back down the beach to the hotel for a bit. I was feeling pretty tired, so when the Italians said they were heading out for the night, I declined. They seemed a bit disappointed, but I really wasn't feeling the party vibe, despite the fact that it was Friday night.

A little later, I looked at the time.. and realized that it was still only 8pm. Screw it, I thought. I've been lazy for a few days, I can at least go out and see if I can find the Italians for dinner, and I can always head back if I get tired. So I headed down the main street, hoping to catch sight of them in one of the restaurants.

And not far down the road, I did - in the Italian restaurant, talking with the chef who (it turns out) was from the same town as them. Though - not unexpectedly - they were all talking in Italian. Great, as soon as I learn enough Spanish to be able to be social, I get stuck with a bunch of people speaking Italian. Soon the chef's wife stopped by, and a few other friends, and it was six Italians and me.

The whole dinner crew.
Once again, mezcal kept showing up in front of me, as well as beers - and whenever I tried to pay someone, it got waved off. The restaurant closed and we drifted outside the bar and drank more there (still couldn't find anyone who would accept my money), and eventually we made our way across the street to what appeared to be the happening party club.

This time, I was able to buy a drink, so I picked up a round for everyone in the group - after asking, around, we settled on Tequila Sunrises. As I'm about to order, Giacomo (the chef) says "Not shitty Tequila - Don Julio." Well I'm locked in now - I haven't paid for a drink all night, I suppose I can get a good round for people. Six tequila sunrises come back with some good tequila in them... 300 pesos. Less than $20. In the US, I would have expected that round to cost something close to $80.

We wandered our way through the dance floor to the beach and grabbed a couch to hang out on. As I was sitting there, I noticed a girl walk by with a facepaint kit - so I asked if she was doing faces for Dia de los Muertos. Sure enough, she was, so she did Nicola and me.

She was from Argentina, her friend with her was from Uruguay.

Finished faces.
Not long after, I heard some English coming from nearby, so I introduced myself. Turns out there was an Australian bachelor party for a guy who was getting married in Venezuela the next week (his fiancee is Venezuelan). We partied together, I bought some drinks for the bachelor and talked with all of them about travels and learning Spanish, and at one point was even the center of attention of the bachelor party as I told stories about Burning Man.

When the bar closed we found the other open one down the street. When that one closed at 5am, we finally parted ways and I wandered back to my hotel room.

By 9am I was awake, despite not wanting to be. I threw back some water and a little food, and started packing up. The Italians were up not long after, so I said some goodbyes, and then got on the road after a sufficient quantity of coffee.

As I rode, I thought back to the indecision I'd felt before going into the hotel. I was worried that I wouldn't like it. That I'd feel stuck there. That I'd have to move after one day when I wanted to stay two. That there wouldn't be enough going on. That there would be too much going on.

And in the end, it ended up being one of the best stops I've made. Made new friends, enjoyed playing and listening to music, got to go out and dance, got my fair share of talking in English and learning more Spanish, got good food and great drinks, and got the relaxing time I'd been looking for.

Not every night will be that good (not every night CAN be that good, I need to sleep sometime), but it's another reminder that more often than not, it's not the circumstances that matter, but what you do with them. It still wouldn't have been a bad couple of days had I not changed my mind about being tired and going out with the Italians, but I would have missed out on a lot of fun and one hell of a story.

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