Images: The Pacific Coast Mexico, Maruata and Pichilinguillo.
Paradise Route- Our trip along the Michocan Pacific Coast 2006
From Patzcuaro, we wound our way downwards past volcanoes, fields of maize, bananas, papayas, avocados and mango trees. After an hour’s driving we’d taken off our woolly jumpers and were sweltering. And then wilderness, tiny shack villages with names like Infernillo (Little Hell) and “ watch out for crossing armadillos”, signs. Finally the Pacific Ocean. We arrived at Playa Azul, not as quaint as it sounds after the 1985 earthquake had left many buildings twisted and bent, and poverty then left them empty and slowly crumbling. At a juice bar in the centre of Playa Azul we chatted to the owner who recounted his experience of the earthquake twenty-one years earlier. He was standing at his juice bar at the time. The epicenter was in Lazaro Cardenas just 10 miles down the road.
Work happens at altitude in Mexico. The beach is for relaxation.
Before leaving Playa Azul we went to the giant turtle sanctuary, a government run project. A man dug a big hole in the sand with his hands and out came about 80 baby turtles and a mass of cracked eggshells. He put the turtles into a big plastic bowl and an hour later they had woken up and were let loose into the sea.
We made our way to Caleta de Campos. Where we stayed in an air-conditioned, recently built hotel with beige interior and pool for £40 a night. Caleta de Campos itself was rough and ready. For some reason rubbish was just thrown out on to the street. We thought we saw a rubbish truck but realized three days later that it had broken down and had been used as a dustbin. However the beach was fine with a number of little restaurants selling seafood.
At this point we said goodbye to hot water, petrol stations, cash point machines, working telephones but not an Internet connection.
We moved five miles further along the coast to Nexpa. Where we stayed in lovely cabañas for 15 miles a night. This is a surfing beach and is populated by American and Canadian surfers. We were hindered by a lack of cash and fuel and returned briefly to Caleta de Campus to connect with the outside world.
We finally made our way further along the Pacific coast to a little bay called Pichilinguillo, The village was only accessible by donkey along a dirt track until 1980 when a coastal road was built. They have only had electricity for a few years. Until then everything came by boat along the Pacific coast. This is the Mexican equilivant to Cornwall in 1700 and 1800’s. Except here the contraband drugs from Columbia and the army and the navy frequent the beaches with guns, they stand on rocks peer out to see and then drive away. The sand is white and the sea is turquoise. We have seen pelicans, iguanas and numerous crabs that hang out on the cliffs, scuttling like spiders when they see us. The first evening we were watching strange spurts of water on the horizon and suddenly the black silhouette of a whale leapt and dived into the ocean. We felt blessed and despite the lack of amenities we decided to stay longer.
The fisherman land mostly red snappers. They are gutted on the boat often while they are still alive and are on our table half an hour later. One fisherman had a big catch and kindly gave us a huge fish. The restaurant cooked it for us. It was delicious like tuna. There are no freezing facilities so the fish are just sold to the three local restaurants. One of the fishermen took us out on his boat to look at the numerous sea caves along the coast. Outside of our sheltered bay, in a small boat the ocean become a dark swelling past.
Rural isolation, however does equate to nylon, flowery bed sheets, no flushing toilet, a concrete unfinished ramshackle hotel, electricity power cuts and an endless diet of seafood and walkers crisp. Despite this the hotel owner as been very generous with endless cups of tea and tried to convince us to go into business with him doing up his hotel.
Before we left Pichilinguillo the grandson of the hotel owner took us along a dry riverbed where a hot spring flowed into a cold river. A beautiful walk into the mountains behind the ocean. Lots of lizards, Brahmin cows and the smell of orange blossom. The hot water from the spring was too hot until it mixed with the cool stream. Although I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, we were close to the footpath and a gentle stream of people passed herding the cattle and chatting.
A rollercoaster drive north to Maruata along the coast, on the map the route appeared as a straight line but in fact zigzagged its way in and out of steep coastal valleys. Past trees with yellow, white and green flowers with no leaves.
Going into the sea at one of Maruata’s three beaches was a little like taking a spin in the washing machine. This is a favourite haunt of the giant turtle. We didn’t see any turtles but plenty of chickens, cockerels, chicks, donkeys, cows and horses as the whole beach doubles up as a farmyard.
Today is Monday and we are in Colima which sits beneath two active volcanoes and hence a switch of neurosis from tsunami to earthquake and volcanic eruptions.