Rather than deal with Carlos’s champagne taste for taxi service again, Dave and Lee decided to take their beer budget on a walk to the bus station. It was a beautiful, tranquil morning. They enjoyed the shady road framed with bright green foliage and the occasional bought of wildlife. The walk grew long and hot, but they didn’t mind. They passed the time with mindless chatter and picture-taking, and then Rafa and Elisa rolled up in a luxurious, air-conditioned SUV. They were immediately offered a ride into town (not just the bus station!) by the aspiring hotel mogul and his lawyer mistress from Mexico City.
Rafa was a big talker, all ego and machismo. Elisa was kind and interesting. The ride turned into a foursome’s breakfast at a beautiful little restaurant beside a car wash. Dave relentlessly picked Rafa and Elisa’s brains about property ownership by foreigners in Troncones. Lee sat in delirious enjoyment of the gourmet meal before her. After breakfast, they were dropped off near the marina at Zihuantanejo (Mishap #5), wished luck in their rental, and instructed on the location of Rafa’s hotel. Stop by for a beer!
The pair wandered the streets of Zihua, asking hotel patrons, tour guides, and anyone else who would listen as to where they might find a rental car service. All roads pointed to the bus to Ixtapa. Zihua was without.
They walked the pretty streets of town on a mission for the bus, stopping only long enough to grab ice cream and water. They needed to get that car if they were going to surf by sunset.
They took a bus at diez pesos a piece to Ixtapa, and again, were dropped off on a random street in town and wished luck (Mishap #6). Only this time, they weren’t invited back for a beer. They wandered those streets for some time, asked the women at the OXXO and others at a vacation rental shop as to where they might find a rental car. All roads pointed to the airport. Reluctantly, the couple hopped into their last overpriced cab of the trip.
At the airport, Dave quickly grabbed a rental car from a schmoozy Hertz dealer, and the pair hauled ass out of there. After a pause for shrimp quesadillas, less than stellar ceviche, and cold beers at a picturesque beachside restaurant, the stress of the day dissipated. They grabbed their boards from Roberto’s and decided to squeeze in a good solid surf session before nightfall.
In the water at La Saladita, they met their friends from the plane. Together, they surfed those incomparable waves until the sun set low in the sky. Not quite ready to leave, they decided to enjoy one of Lourdes deliciously fresh rum daiquiris only to be derailed by a skinny, leathery white woman who went by the name “Manuela.” Manu, to friends.
She had chastised Dave the previous evening for riding short boards on a long boarder’s wave. She had let him know that Lee, whom she hadn’t yet met, would leave him for another surfer. For lack of a better word, Manu was a trip. On this evening, Manu decided to nudge the couple back to their hotel before the night grew dark. She rambled without breath for minutes at a time about the dangers of Highway 200, the disrespect of the American traveler, her own self-importance. At separate points, she offered Lee weed and for Dave, cocaine. They politely declined. After the long day that the couple had, neither Dave nor Lee was not prepared to engage in an exhaustive discussion on any of those topics, so back to Troncones they went.
The couple was ready for a good meal – a meal that screamed treat yo’self. They chose the steakhouse that had served them breakfast at dawn the previous day.
While waiting for their steaks to cook, Lee enjoyed blue Mai Tai after blue Mai Tai, while Dave filmed the lightning in the distant night sky with chilly, dry wind providing a small reprieve from the incessant heat of the day. They feasted on ribeye, steak and shrimp fajitas, and delicious side dishes until they couldn’t eat any more.
They returned to Roberto’s Bistro happy, full, and ready for a good night’s rest. Previous showers having been a way to cool down from the heat of Troncones, that night, they learned that their hotel lacked water with any temperature above cold. They huddled under the light blanket of the bed and tried desperately to sleep through the howling wind and pounding rain that plagued their evening.
The rain continued well into the arrival of natural light. It continued during their breakfast in a small, dry patch of restaurant space at Roberto’s. It rained and poured while they played Sudoku and chess holed up in their room. It continued to rain through their cabin feverish afternoon until neither could stand to look at their bed’s mosquito net any longer.
They decided to see if anyone was surfing La Saladita in the storm. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw. The waves ran murky, thick brown. What was a sandy, inviting beach the day prior had grown into a tangled mess of twigs, tree parts, and garbage. There was trash everywhere – bottles, cans, glass, paper goods. They sat down to margaritas and just watched the shit-stained tide until Dave couldn’t handle it anymore.
Life Tip #27: We only have one Earth. Don’t litter.
He walked into Lourdes, grabbed an oversized black trash bag and began his mission. Within five minutes, he approached the wire recycle bin and emptied a full bag’s contents before making his way back out. Feeling the pull, Lee joined. Together, they cleared the beach of garbage.
Upon returning to Roberto’s Bistro, they noticed a group of people gathered in a half-moon on the shore. Lee ran over to investigate just in time to watch the spectacle that draws so many people to Roberto’s. The turtles’ teenaged caretakers emptied three buckets filled with tiny baby turtles five yards from the water. Lee gazed on in fascination as their little legs carried them toward the vast expanse of ocean that held their futures. Some moved quickly and with purpose, and others lie motionless for long enough to make Lee worry about the states of their lives.
Dave joined Lee on the shore to take in the experience and offer words of encouragement to the laggers behind. Eventually, all babies made it to their destination, and Lee and Dave settled in for a nice night in.
Their happy return to their room was short lived, for Dave found himself with a Mexican parasite (Mishap Lucky #7).
Life Tip #28: Some destinations make a good night’s sleep more challenging than others. Sometimes splurging for a night of true comfort on an extended vacation is worth it.
Lee read with the mosquitoes on their front porch, while the plague robbed Dave of everything in his stomach and then some. Their room lacked air conditioning, warm water, WiFi, and a full-sized bathroom door. Needless to say, it was a long, rough night. What little sleep they got was disrupted by Dave’s parasite and Lee’s unwelcome anticipation that it would soon attack her too.
The morning arrived with Dave’s stomach in knots and Lee’s in the clear. Vladimir, a bartender-turned-friend at Roberto’s decided to whip up a tea-based concoction to cure Dave’s ailment. He brought it to their room along with French toast and chilaquiles. Dave attempted to eat the French toast in bed, while Lee guiltily indulged in the delicious plate before her.
After a couple of hours, Dave felt well enough to explore (or at least, faked it very well). Since surfing through the pain was off the table, they decided to take a drive. Their curiosity took them north. First, they drove through Troncones until they reached Manzanillo, pausing only to take in the beautiful, still stormy surf and to take note of Rafa’s soon-to-be hotel.
Life Tip #29: Even if you feel like total garbage on a trip, try to rally. You’ll remember what you did and saw more than you’ll remember how you felt.
They got on the highway and attempted to find El Rancho, an off the beaten path surf spot. While not planning to surf, Dave felt compelled to find it. For next time! They drove along the puddle and mud ridden dirt road toward where they thought El Rancho was. Lee white knuckled the handle above her head, praying all the way that their tiny rental car wouldn’t get stuck in what was quickly becoming the middle of nowhere. At some point, they took a wrong turn, the road ending at an imposing locked gate. Lee convinced Dave that their search should end there. They were lucky enough to not get stuck coming down. It would be a miracle if their car made it all the way back without incident. After some creative maneuvering through the slippery, deep mud, they were in the clear and back on the road.
They headed further north, making it nearly to the Michoacán border before deciding to pause by the coast. They were alarmed at the state of the water. There was pink bubbling foam washing up on the shore. Post-trip Internet research revealed that it was runoff from a nearby factory. Dave, ever the trooper, decided that he was ready for some R&R, but because it was their last day, they might as well spend the evening enjoying the beaches of Ixtapa.
They drove south, grabbed a couple of burgers, and laid in the warm sand of a quiet, empty beach. They drove back to Troncones with the setting sun, where Dave finally got to sleep, but the night wasn’t over.
Lee, craving a grande margarita on the patio, crept out of the room and walked toward the Bistro in her pajamas. She was stopped in her tracks by the shouts of her name from the group of guys she and Dave had met at the airport and then surfed with in days prior.
She joined their table, and together, they bantered animatedly over margaritas and guacamole. Dave, feeling mildly better, eventually made it to the table of new vacation friends, where they stayed for the remainder of the evening. At one point, a full-grown mother turtle made it to shore, where she gave birth to dozens of eggs before their eyes. It was a incredible sight.
On the final morning of their trip to Troncones, Dave and Lee enjoyed breakfast on the patio. They embraced the inevitability of the day, taking their time to reflect on the wonderful uniqueness of their stay and the undeniable beauty of their surroundings. They said goodbye to their friends at Roberto’s Bistro, and headed back to La Saladita for one final surf session.
The sun was shining beautifully, and the surf was clean. They paddled out into the warm embrace of the ocean and surfed. The small group of other surfers slowly dissipated until Dave and Lee were the only ones left. They basked in the tranquil quiet of the sea until finally, they made the long, final paddle back to shore. They enjoyed final piña coladas and lounged in hammocks at Lourdes until at last, it was time to head back to the airport.
The flight back was bittersweet. The trip, in spite of all the odd events that they hadn’t planned, was magic. The people, the surf, the food, and the (mis)adventures would permanently be embedded in their fond memory banks. They weren’t ready for it to be over, even going so far as wishing for a flight cancellation during their layover in Mexico City so that they might extend the trip, but alas, they found themselves back in Tijuana.
A five minute drive through the SENTRI lane brought them back to US soil, where they would remain for the foreseeable future.
Next stop: Channel Islands (with a fully functioning, non-water-damaged camera)… Not the best picture quality in this post, but worth sharing what photos we did manage to take nonetheless.