Only in Mexico…
“The past is another country: they do things differently there.” I’ve loved this quote – the opening sentence of L.P. Hartley’s novel ‘The Go Between’ – ever since I first read it. At the risk of being somewhat simplistic, I love Mexico for much the same reason – they do things differently here. Every day we spend in Guayabitos, a small resort town an hour or so north of Puerto Vallarta on the left coast of Mexico, brings a moment when Scottish Wife or I will say: “Did that really just happen?”
Take this morning, for instance. There we are, having breakfast in Abel’s, a palapa just down the street from our hotel, watching the world go by as we wait for our huevos rancheros to arrive. Mum on a bike, one kid sitting on the crossbar and a smaller one perched in a panier on the back. Motorbike behind, two young lads between dad and the handlebars, not a helmet between them. And behind the motorbike is a garbage truck, two guys stood on the rear bumper with a third swinging precariously from the open passenger side door at the front. Anyone watching from Health and Safety Canada would have had an apoplectic fit right then and there!
Then there was our visit to La Peñita a couple of days ago. It’s a good forty minute walk from our hotel along the beach, over the Bridge of Doom and through the back streets until you get to Hinde and Jaime’s restaurant/bar. It’s well worth the trek, however – a massive shrimp omelette for fifty pesos ($4) and beer at 15 pesos a bottle means you need have no concerns over starvation or dehydration. The last ten metres were a bit of a challenge though: guys were digging up the street and your options were to walk right through the hole they were making – timing it just right in order to avoid the backhoe – or tiptoe along a sort of narrow plateau which led to the side door entrance.
The beach in Guayabitos is always a hive of activity. The vendors spend long hours trudging up and down the sand, most of them knowing by now that we’re not going to buy another hammock, or a braided bracelet or an inflatable dinosaur or a rubber chicken even though each item is either guaranteed to be “very cheap, almost free” or, disarmingly, “more junk you don’ really need”. We laugh and say “no, gracias” for the umpteenth time and get on with our game of boules. Some of the vendors join in the game for a few minutes, but our favourite is the old guy selling donuts who shouts “malo, malo” at us every time he sees us playing. We know we’re bad at boules, but it’s still kind of shocking to be scorned by a beach vendor. Some of the Mexican tourists bring all sorts of paraphernalia with them to the beach while others amuse themselves in a more old fashioned style. The parents of the nipper below were perfectly happy for me to take a picture of their son fast asleep on the sand, surrounded by cans of Pacifico, one of the most popular beers in these parts: Heavy night, amigo?
Right next door to our hotel – in fact less than ten metres from our room – is a field in which are kept half a dozen horses used for riding trips for tourists. In the same field are a couple of dogs which will be quiet during the daylight hours and then bark incessantly throughout the night. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it means we can’t hear the rooster which has absolutely no concept of restricting itself to welcoming each new day; it just starts crowing whenever it darn well pleases – usually as I’m getting settled into my afternoon siesta. There are also a couple of large iguanas that sun themselves on the branches just above our balcony. (SW and I have come to like iguanas on the basis that they are some of God’s quieter creatures).
Of course, getting to the beach this week is not quite as easy as it was then. Guayabitos had heavy floods back in July, so the town decided to put in a new drainage system from the Avenida Sol Nuevo, the main street, down all the access roads to the beach. And they start work on it now, just as the tourist season is getting into full swing. No problem, though; even though there’s tape everywhere saying ‘prohibido el paso’, the workers just smile and wave you through. Just make sure you time it right, though – that digger’s not waiting for anybody!
Not quite how we’re used to roadworks being done back home in B.C. (although, as my buddy Stu pointed out, town planners everywhere clearly have a few things in common, whatever country they’re from). But, as I said at the start, they do things different in Mexico – and that’s part of why we love it here.
P.S. I have to add this bit: Mickey, Stu, Julie and I went out to a taqueria (taco place) this evening. Great food, lively atmosphere, probably 75% Mexican customers, 25% gringos. A busker came in and sang a couple of songs, finishing with the Spanish version of Sinatra’s classic ‘I did it my way’. We chucked in a couple of bucks for a tip, all in coins, and the table behind us threw in a 20 peso bill. ‘Demasiado’ said the singer (‘Too much’) and gave them 5 pesos change. Only in Mexico…