January of 2017
With a declaration that he was afraid to travel Mexico alone (an honest statement I appreciated), Chuck had asked if he and his 2016 Street Glide could accompany my winter migration into the milder climates of deep Mexico. I’d agreed. Only one week and 600 miles into that country, we’d been invited to the home of an American who’d lived 12 years with his Mexican family. The time had been so intriguing we’d stayed almost three weeks but, with less vacation time than I, obviously no longer afraid, and wishing to see more of Mexico, Chuck had left me in Sierra Azul to continue his journey south. It had been decided we’d meet again in a town located not far from Guatemala. That place had been chosen for a reason…
* * *
Years ago I’d entered Mexico through Tijuana, traveled the full 1,000 miles of Baja, ridden a huge cargo ship to the mainland, and begun a southbound pacific-coastline journey that was destined to become four months of altered reality in that strange country. There were many adventures, including an American girl I’d met after a night’s sleep on the beach in a little town just north of Puerto Vallarta. With very little money, she’d been riding buses through Mexico then crashing at roadside in her sleeping bag (see “Riding Amy” in this website http://www.scootertrampscotty.com/2012/10/22/riding-amy ). She’d then traveled five days aboard my bike until eventually getting off at a bus station in Acapulco. Solo again, I’d continued south. It had been a beautiful coastal two-lane upon which I’d traveled then. To the right was the pacific ocean while at left tall mountains covered in thick jungle foliage rose to a significant altitude. In time an unusual town had come to pass and, much taken with this place, I’d left the little highway to explore this town and was soon caught in the unusual vibe and beauty of Puerto Escondido. Another tiny road soon brought me directly along the ocean. To my right, almost on the sandy shoreline itself, were a few quaint buildings while the left was lined with a wall of the same. There were espresso shops, restaurants, bars, surf shops, bicycle rentals, youth hostels, etc. all set into a background of almost perfect tropical beach beauty. Stopping to drink coffee and hang out a while, I soon learned that, unlike the super tourist town of Cancun, Puerto Escondido is sought for its uncommon waves and surfers from all over the world come to this place. There were also many retired Americans, Germans, and especially Canadians living here, not to mention the many show-birds who simply migrate for the mild winter season. More exploration revealed that, just back from the semi-touristy coastal area this town was almost all Mexican—which allowed the culture to be experienced while also enjoying cheap deals on meals or anything else one cared to purchase.
Hopelessly caught up in this place, I had decided to stay a while.
Just outside of town I’d then located a suitable camp-spot up on a hillside before returning to spent evening enjoying the sights. I later returned to make camp but, just after arrival, a little truckload of cops showed up to say I couldn’t camp here. When I asked why one said, “Somebody might give you trouble.” I’d thought, Yea. You! Then asked where I could stay and the cops had then given directions to the beach. Trying to follow their late night directions given in Spanish, I accidentally landed at the front door of the Shalom Youth Hostel. Rent was stupidly cheap so I’d stayed a week. That place had been an adventure unto itself.
* * *
Chuck had already been in Puerto Escondido for near two weeks and, as I’d noted from phone conversations, he really loved that place. For $17 a night he’d rented at a hotel filled mostly with wintering Canadians. The room had an extra bed and it was decided I’d stay there.
Upon my arrival, we met at a cafe and I then followed Chuck’s bike through town and into the hotel gates. Although nothing like luxurious, the yard had chairs, tables and tropical trees set before the L-shaped four story hotel that granted shade all day. Each room’s door opened to a long balcony set at every level and I could see a handful of Canadians sitting at tables or gazing over the rail up there. All waved and I guessed already they knew Chuck by now. Our bottom-floor room offered two beds and a bathroom with shower that granted only occasionally hot water. Typical Mexico.
Over the following days I settled in. The hotel’s covered rooftop held more tables and chairs and I sometimes hung with the Canadians there. Mostly these guys just ate and drank a lot. Located almost at the end of our driveway set a little gym and for $5 a week I joined. In the mornings we’d walk one block to a beautiful little breakfast place that catered mostly to us wealthier immigrants, and enjoy a fine breakfast for $3.50. Although the hotel offered communal kitchens, it made no sense to cook. All the Canadians loved Chuck’s guitar music and he’d been invited to play at numerous local night clubs. Some even paid him. A passionate musician, Chuck was delighted. After breakfast he could be seen practicing sets in the yard as his biggest fan, a little girl of about six years, stood fascinated with him. Paying almost no attention to me, she’d always try to talk with him. Chuck’s inability with the Spanish language never deterred her. It was awful cute.
One afternoon, as Chuck and I sat in the Mexican section of town eating ice cream at a little shop, the young Mexican girl seated at an adjacent table began speaking to us in clean English. An interesting development. Christine seemed a weirdly happy person with quick whit and good humor. She sells hippie jewelry on the beach-street and makes a good living. At the moment she was going to get her little motor scooter from the shop and Chuck offered to give her a ride. Christine accepted.
The scooter shop was close and after she’d paid the mechanic Christine invited us to attend Samba dance class with her. Sounded weird so we accepted. By evening we were standing on a three story rooftop overlooking the star-lit sea as Chuck and I stood in a type of line dance and tried to keep up with the others. A comical sight really. But all I really learned was the Spanish words for ‘forward’ and ‘back’, because the instructor kept repeating these dance steps over and over.
For the duration of my stay in this small town I’d often run into Christine and was always glad for her company. She was a great go-between for us and those who only spoke Spanish.
Over the weeks, the multitude of adventures I enjoyed in this place were many and interesting things happened every day. My Spanish is weak but, although not really a tourist town, there were still plenty of English speaking folks for Chuck and I to hang with.
Chuck’s time was running out so he packed the bike, said goodbye, and headed for the states, leaving me with the room paid till week’s end…but I wasn’t about to keep paying. Although I looked, the nearby land was not well suited for the camps I normally make, so I returned to Shalom. This youth hostel is located in another slightly touristy section of town and it was there I paid the $3.50 a night to set a tent in the back. This place had not changed. Its front room is a communal hang-out/bar/hammock-lounge with front wall open to the street.
They served beer, and doobees were sometimes rolled at the counter by evening. From there a hallway led through a maze of back rooms; communal kitchen, sitting areas, and walls adorned with colorful hand painted murals. Out back, a path leads past the shower house and into a large section of land with trees, a few buildings, and nice swimming pool. After bringing my bike in through the back gate I parked it beside a duel sport belonging to a young German guy then set my tent against a block building.
That done, I set out to meet the residents, which was hard since the vibe was pretty good. Almost all were young folks from around the world (most with very little money) and I was the oldest guy.
There was Amanda, a Canadian entrepreneur who enjoys traveling the world. Unlike me, Amanda likes to stay in a place for a year to, “get the complete experience,” as she said. Traveling with her dog and cat, this eccentric has stayed in many countries. Her ideas and interests are almost always humanitarian. Then there was the guy from Norway who speaks English and whom I probably spent the most time bullshiting with. The German kid who rides that duel sport parked beside mine was on a world tour. He’d ride a country then store the bike somewhere and fly home to make more money before returning for the bike to travel some more.
Of course there were others. One card game in the lobby was attended by nine people who represented eight countries. This was a strangely interesting place.
As always, there was plenty of writing work to be done and I tended to spend mornings at home on the computer. The dead winter temperatures soared to ridiculously humid degrees and many breaks were taken to sit in that wonderful pool. The rule-sign beside it included, NO SEX IN POOL. By afternoon and evening I’d hang with the residents, visit the gym, then mess around town. There was even a movie theater.
The Shalom Hostel is not at all a profit oriented enterprise and most residents simply worked their rent off. An interesting arrangement. Coming from a world where the most common ambition is generally to acquire more material wealth, this idea of simple pleasures and community seemed a refreshing objective.
Living on the roof just above my tent, Ben was an American who spoke three languages including fluent Spanish. He loved the ocean and went spear fishing on most days. Once or twice a week Ben would throw a big fish-fry up there and almost everyone attended. It was a comfortable rooftop with bed, makeshift couches, Coleman kitchen, table, cabinet, hammock, and tarp strung above for shade and rain. After the feast everyone would drum, strum guitar, sing, dance, drink, and smoke into the night. I always looked forward to these little gatherings.
Daily life in Shalom continued, but things were about to change. In exchange for her securing a plane ticket to visit/vacation in Puerto Escondido with me, I’d agreed to meet Toni O’Dell at the airport. Although Toni had worked as a roadie for many years and is no stranger to a lifestyle closer to my own, she’s blessed with uncommon intelligence and other successes in recent years had brought her to the finer accommodations of life. To this end a room was booked at Chuck’s Canadian hotel. Toni loves fine dining, sushi, massage studios, espresso, walks on the beach, etc. For the dramatically inexpensive price of such things in this place, I was about to be caught up in the lazy whirlwind of her exotic desires…