Friday, February 12, 2010

Caleta de campos

In the morning, we headed south out of Uruapan toward the Tsararacua Falls, a dozen or so kilometres south of town. We went down hundreds of stone steps into the mouth of a beautiful gorge. The cliffs towered above us, water licking the surface of the mossy rocks. The falls themselves were spectacular, 25 metres high, the water gushing through a cleft in the rocks, the spray creating a constant rainbow on the valley floor. While we stood there admiring the spectacle a man came hurtling toward us overhead on a zip line. Henri's first reaction was, "Can I try?" Sure. He bolted across the little arch bridging the sides of the valley and dashed up the steps clutching his fifty pesos. We watched from the water's edge as the man attached his harness and strapped on his helmet. Henri acted out a string of gestures as the man explained (lean back, knees up, elbows in). A minute or two later Henri came flying toward us with a huge grin on his face.

Back up the steps, I sat and watched the kids play on a hebertism course (which for non-Kanawanians is a wood & rope obstacle course) while Wil fiddled with the engine looking for the source of various noises which were troubling him. It seems the muffler was the culprit and as we headed back toward Uruapan to jump on the toll road toward the beach we found a mofle shop. We pulled in and were approached by a man/boy, sixteen at the outside, peachfuzz on his lip, no more than five feet tall and his gangly sidekick. We told him about the muffler problem. He appeared pretty confident that he could fix it inside of twenty minutes. New muffler, installed, for 500 pesos. Deal. He jumped down into the pit and got started while the kids worked on homework and I typed. An hour and half later he was done, we crossed the street for a pollo asado (butterflied barbecued chicken) with all the fixings — rice, frijoles, pickled carrots & cauliflower, salads, salsas, tortillas made before our eyes and a big pitcher of agua de jacaima (hibiscus flowers and sugar in water).

The drive was painless. Because they cost money, toll roads are essentially devoid of traffic and in fantastic shape. Highway 37 drops off the edge of the high plain, through the ridiculously picturesque Western Sierra Madres, and crosses a series of massive rivers on its way to the coast. We only saw two villages from the road and a huge hydroelectric dam. The land seemed practically uninhabited but as soon as that thought crossed my mind a threesome of boys appeared alongside the road, sitting on the curb playing with sticks. A minute later another cluster of kids appeared, hanging out under an overpass. One boy stood slightly apart from the others, a long green iguana hung in the hand he held overhead for us to see. To sell? Under the next overpass was another group of kids, one of whom also held an iguana aloft. Is iguana edible?

To our relief, the temperature climbed as we approached the coast. The first glimpse of the Pacific was met with cheers. We hung a right and got on the 200, the coastal road that runs all the way from Guatemala to Puerto Vallarta. After Wil's weather check in Uruapan it looked like heading north first was the best way to maximize our days of sunshine. We went to Caleta de Campos, a little town about 50 km north of Playa Azul. We turned down off the 200 and followed a road that ended at the beach and asked around about where we might camp for the night. The owner of one enramada pointed us toward a field, "Donde hay los gallos (where the roosters are) a block away from the beach. We had a look and chatted with the owner, 200 pesos a night. As we walked back to the beach we noticed just HOW many gallos there were. Visions of manic cockadoodledooing at all hours put the kibosh on that place. Then we tried the other side of the beach road, a couple of palapas fronting a spick and span restaurant manned by a very busy-looking group of women. Sure! was the answer. 100 pesos a night. We pulled up beside the palapa and set up. We spent the rest of the afternoon sipping wine, watching the kids make friends in the very mellow waves. There is no sunset in Caleta de Campos, a horseshoe bay that has its back turned to the Pacific. The long narrow beach hemmed in by high cliffs is peppered with massive red boulders, the opening of the bay points almost due east.

After dark, we sat around outside the kitchen with the semi-permanent guest here, José, a retired musician/upholsterer from Albuquerque, who was parked in a hammock sipping Modelos in front of the SuperBowl. Watching television outdoors actually makes it somewhat interesting. Explaining the game to the kids made me realize just how much of my childhood was spent watching sports and learning the minutiae of the game. And how strange to find I have a favourite team when I haven't seen an NFL game in twenty-five years. Go Saints. We asked Gloria, our hostess, if we could have some supper. During the last quarter, a couple of fried red snappers and the strangest ceviche with green peas was set down on the table.

The kids discovered the highs and lows of Video Bingo with the kids who live here. Alice made twenty-five pesos on her first go. We had a late night stroll down to the surf and introduced the girls to the beauty of the Milky Way.

We spent the morning hunting down a welder to fix Junior's mistakes. Gloria's oldest agreed to show us where to find the welder "temprano". Early is a relative term. For Wil, it's six, for me it's 8, for Carlos it's 10. We finally got there and waited around for him to finish his breakfast. A few minutes later it was sorted. The other noises will have to wait for a bigger town, one with a diesel mechanic and VW parts, perhaps Zihuatanejo.

The girls made a new friend and went down to the beach with Aline and her two teenage cousins. Can we go swimming? Sure. I took it easy. Wil got a yummy lunch of shrimp salad together and we waited for the girls. And waited. And waited. We went to look for them and they were nowhere in sight. The beach is a couple of kilometres long but most of it is visible from where we are. I was sure they'd wandered off the beach to check out a puppy or something but an edge of mild panic set in as we walked up and down. I walked back up the road to ask around at the hotel where Aline was staying. 45 minutes later I crossed a woman on the beach. So, did you find them?, she asked. No, I said, do you know the little girl? She's mine. Do you know where she is? I'll just call her cousins to find out (a teenager is not a teenager in Mexico if he/she doesn't have a cell phone). The girls pick up and yes, they're at the absolute other end of the beach behind a big rock. Wil starts breathing again. We eat lunch and head along the beach to find them. After firmly explaining that going for a swim should never entail an unannounced 2 kilometre walk, we all walked into the waves together for a beautiful swim. Caleta de campos has the most family-friendly surf we've seen on this coast. No riptides, no massive waves, an oh-so-gentle slope that leaves a little film of sea on the beach for the longest time (undoubtedly amazing skimboarding)

Henri's initial joy at having a household full of boys was soon dampened by the realization that all they wanted to do was play the two old arcade games. Literally spending every single minute until having to get dressed for school at 1:30 in the afternoon in front of The King of Fighters. It made him all the happier to find a new pal in Carlos, the hotel manager's son. They spent the afternoon playing lucha libre in the waves and made a date for the following morning.

In the afternoon, I swam out past the crashing waves and lay on my back with my ears below the surface, the faint clicks and pops of the underwater world washing away all the sounds from above. Bobbing effortlessly in the warm swells, a pale blue sky lined with threads of wispy clouds overhead. My own perfect bliss.

It's been fun watching the fishermen gear up their boats and head out. Every beach seems to have its own notions of the best way to bring a boat up on shore. Mazunte was by far the most dramatic, riding in on a massive wave at full throttle and getting air before descending on the beach above the tideline. The common thread seems to be the hurried scramble (often failed) to get the motor up before making contact with the beach.

My fantasies of garroting roosters were getting the best of me, time to move on.

1 comment:

maplery said...

It's great to hear you are having such a good time. We have enjoyed reading your blog for the whole trip.