DAY 3 – FRIDAY 2/14 – Valentines Day – Part 1

I wake up at 6:15 a.m. This is the second day in a row I've awakened at an unusually early hour for me, all on the heels of not getting much sleep on "travel day". Even more unusual, I decide to get up. I could easily have gone back to sleep but I figure if I'm ever going to take in the early morning fish market, which I hear is something to see, this is the day. It's still dark out but I manage to make some coffee. On the balcony I can hear the distant whine of pangas. A few are coming in, from night fishing I guess. And before long I see some going out, again presumably, with sportfishing clients.

After a quick shower, I walk to the fish market. The place is quite a scene—people buying, people selling, people toting, people chatting—still, I get the sense that it's ebbed and is beginning to slowly wind down. I can't believe the number of fish I see for sale and all the different types. Piles and piles of them. I barely know a fish from a frijole but I "Einstein It" and decide the piles of red ones are red snapper. It doesn't seem to me that Zihua is very busy or crowded right now and I wonder who will eat them all.

There are a few scattered clouds this morning, and the sunrise coming up over the hills is really stunning.

Sunrise on Playa Principal

After a light breakfast back at the Bungalow, I debate whether or not to try to get more sleep. As usual, my inner-sloth wins out and I lay down. But after trying for about 20 minutes I can't quite fall asleep. Or I don't want to. So I decide to take advantage of the cooler morning hours to head out to La Barra de Potosi, a small fishing village situated on a lovely, secluded beach about 14 miles south of Zihua. I had brought down some school supplies for the Children's Library Project that's being undertaken in the village and this will give me an opportunity to deliver them. It will also give me a chance to take a trial-run on La Flecha y Pasajera transportation option to see if it's suitable for my traveling companions who arrive tomorrow and who I'll be guiding to La Barra later in the week.

(While it's possible to take a taxi to La Barra, it has always been my experience that when in Mexico, take the local transportation. Almost without exception, the ride includes some kind of adventure, or at the very least, a vivid memory.)

…I planned to do a whole lot of nothing, and I failed….

I am grateful for some morning cloud cover as I'm schlepping a rather heavy bag through Zihua to the bus stand. I am also grateful for the map I brought which shows me where I can catch the bus and indicates the shortest route to it. I'd prepared myself to be a sweating mass of morning misery, but the map and clouds get me to the bus stop area in relatively decent shape.

The "bus stop", of course, is entirely unmarked. I've just arrived and I'm looking for some kind of signage. Nothing. Almost immediately a bus comes trolling by. The bus driver looks me directly in the eye, with bag over my shoulder. In hindsight this was an obvious non-verbal inquiry on his part. I halfway expected to see "Petatlan" soaped in the window, but it wasn't. And the bus—though nothing more than what amounts to a really old schoolbus in the U.S.-- looked a bit more impressive to me than I was expecting. Out of timidity, I let it pass.

Then I remember where I am….. Mexico.

Just a few minutes later, another bus comes lurching toward me, door open. I signal to the driver, he slows down. I bark, "Los Achotes?". The driver's assistant says, "Si" and I'm on my way. It is at Los Achotes where you get off the bus and transfer to the Pasajera to get to La Barra so I ask the driver's assistant to aviseme when we are there as I'm guessing there won't be much signage if any and I won't be able to see it from my seat even if there is.

Once we get out of Zihua and onto the highway, musica Mexicana starts blaring from the speakers accompanied by a heavenly wind from the open windows. As many have described before me, the bus is filled with a delightful variety of people. All different ages, sizes and styles of dress represented. I'm also the only gringo on the bus. For whatever reason, probably ego-related, this pleases me.

The road along the highway to Los Achotes is like a million others in Mexico, which is to say, at least for me, a sensory overload delightful in countless ways. Still, I am usually more interested in people than scenery, so I find myself passing the time wondering who the people on the bus are, where they are headed, and what their lives are like.

After about 20 minutes, the driver's assistant signals to me that we're approaching Los Achotes, either because I gave him a few extra pesos when he collected the fare or out of kindness. I suspect it isn't the pesos. On getting off the bus, he even points me in the direction of the passajera/cattle truck, though I hadn't mentioned or asked for it. How did he know? Was it the bag? The pasty-white flesh in need of an afternoon on one of the world's lovelier beaches? Anyway, for those of you wondering, it would have been impossible to miss the pasajera, as it was about 20 steps away and very visible. I notice that it's not entirely full yet so I slip into the tienda next door and buy a cerveza. (Okay, it's only 11 in the morning, but I had been up for hours and who are you to judge? Besides, I was anticipating a long wait and a hot, dusty ride. Rationalization done.) Neither of my expectations materialize and I'm dropped off in La Barra in about 15 minutes. Everything happens so BANG-BANG down here. What's the rush?

Passengers on the Pasajera

The ride on the pasajera--which is basically a big old pickup truck with wooden benches in the back shaded in some makeshift fashion with whatever material is handy—provides one good story: I end up sitting next to a little kid. A local. I'll guess he's about 6. Anyway, he's bored out of his mind and I'm not. I've got my whiz-bang, brand new, don't-know-how-to-use, never-before-tried Nikon digital camera with me and I'm looking for photo ops.

And he looks very bored.

So as we bump and sway through the coconut groves, I decide I'll be a good gringo and provide the kid in a coma with a little techno-diversion. I whip out my camera and show it to him. It's pretty slick. I flip open the lens and scan around for him to see through the display. The friggin' thing looks like a motion picture to me. The kid? Mild interest at most. Probably just a courtesy on his part. Actually, I'm exaggerating even that. The kid's face shows nothing. He's a stone.

The good news is that as I pathetically try to impress/entertain him with my camera, I inadvertently take a really good shot of fellow passengers. Total happy accident. (Like I said, I don't know how to use it.) Regardless, after my proud demo, the boy still offers me nothing but his best Buster Keaton.

I feel small.

Either this kid has already seen a lot better equipment or somebody needs to teach him poker. He'd do well.

To Be Continued…