Chacahua in Oaxaca

Back to Bertha’s.

After the long, expensive toll-road drive (probably about $100 USD in tolls) from Cuernavaca to Acapulco we spent one night in Playa Ventura. It was relatively expensive to park at an ocean front restaurant palapa and sleep in the van. But, since we arrived after dark, there weren’t a lot of options available to us. The next day was to be Chacahua.

We woke up early and headed for the little boat launch village that Joe, Steve and I had used in March. I found it by memory with little trouble. Once in the village, however, it got a bit more confusing. There was some sort of festival going on, complete with a stage and a few small carnival rides. This whole set-up was smack dab in the middle of the area where we had parked Joe’s car and secured our boat last time. We were directed to park a little ways down the small, dirt road. I asked the guys offering us boats to Chacahua if Cristo (our boat driver last time) was around. They all said he had moved out to Chacahua. I don’t know if this was true, but it was madness in the village and dusk was approaching quickly. We arranged for a boat and began dragging everything we thought we might need for the next 6 days out of the van. This included 3 surf boards, our tent, pillows, a blanket, towels, snorkeling gear, first aid kit, video camera, Luna, swim trunks, food for Luna, and a shirt or two. We locked up the van, pulled the curtains closed and left it parked were they had indicated. The ‘secure’ parking spot the gave us was in somebody’s front yard and at the water’s edge. So close to the edge in fact, that when a boat would drive by, their wake would sent ripples that would lap up against the left front tire. I hoped it was currently high tide.  As we climbed into the boat to head to Chacahua I looked at the van for what I was almost positive would be the last time.

Our driver, Alfredo was a nice kid and really hauled ass through the mangrove tunnels. As usual, the boat ride just to get there is one of the best parts about visiting Chacahua. Beautiful. We pulled up to the dock at Chacahua and while I was unloading Luna and the surfboards, Emily was paying Alfredo. As we headed toward Bertha’s, Emily informed me that she had pre-paid Alfredo for our return trip as well. It seemed like a bad idea to me at the time, but then again, we got ripped off trying to get a boat back to Joe’s car last time. I just hoped we would see Alfredo again.

(check out some iphone boat ride to Chacahua footage:

and….. )

After the long walk carrying all our stuff through the sand, we finally arrived at Bertha’s palapa. It was dusk and there was no one around. No Bertha. The lady from the palapa next door said that Bertha would be back soon. We threw our stuff in a pile and waited. When Bertha finally arrived, we were really hungry. Just being back at that plastic table in the sand had gotten my stomach primed and ready for some comida de Bertha.

Bertha recognized me and laughed while addressing me as ‘Christo’. It was good to be back. We worked out the same deal as last time: camp for free under the palapa, have use of the ‘facilities’, and the only condition being that we buy all our meals from Bertha. Samira and Hermina were both still there and very much the way I remembered them from 7 months prior. Hermina is still crazy and tough as hell and Samira, being the older sister, still dominates her. Samira is very smart and still very serious. She loved my iphone and figured it out pretty quick. She’s better at it than Emily. She really enjoyed watching the video for the Rolling Stone’s “street fighting man” from the Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack. I wish I could’ve shown her the whole movie; it would have blown her little mind.

The meals weren’t as varied and extravagant as last time, but still delicious. Bertha served up lots of camarones (shrimp) this time around. In fact, most of our meals were shrimp in one form or another: el Diablo, empanizado, sopa de camarones, etc. There was quite a bit of debate between Emily and myself as to how to eat the shrimp. They were always served whole and with their shell. Since I always eat the tail anyway, am too lazy to de-shell each and every shrimp, and figured that adding a head with some bulging eyeballs wasn’t too much to stomach, I would end up eating the whole thing. However, the shell on the head of the shrimp is pretty sharp in places, as are some of the antennae and legs. So, in the end, we would tear of the head shell by the antennae, which still left plenty of head meat deliciousness attached.

It’s crazy how spoiled we are in the ‘states with modern conveniences. A lot of things I would have thought could not be done without prove to be superfluous when you witness minimalist Chacahua existence. Bertha’s kitchen has no real running water. There is just a large basin filled with water to wash dishes. The floor is sand and in general is filthy by our standards. But, the food is delicious and I’ve never gotten sick eating anything to come out of there.

Two guys from Mexico City (District Federal), Luis and Saul (pronounced ‘saw-oool’), arrived on our 2nd day. They set up camp next to us under Bertha’s palapa. They had huge board bags and lots of gear for spear-fishing. Luis had stayed in Chacahua for a few months before and new just about everyone on the island. These guys were super friendly, chained smoke joints, and slept a lot. When they did finally get a boat to take them out to the rocks off-shore, they speared nine fish. We all had fresh ceviche that night.

The surf was a couple feet overhead, but the break itself had changed since March. Apparently Chacahua was hit with a few storms that dumped a lot of rain in the area in September. The result of which was the formation of a huge sandbar right in the middle of the break. You could almost walk straight out from Berta’s all the way to the line-up a 100 yards or so off shore. This sort of broke the wave in half. The first take-off zone was more to the left of the breakwater than before, and the second take-off zone (Hilton’s spot) was just to the right of the newly formed sandbar. The second wave didn’t end up as close to shore as before, and consequently there weren’t those dramatic, speedy, closeout, beach break sections with huge backwash explosions at the end of the ride. Also, very rarely did a wave allow you to connect from 1st break through the now massive speed section into the second wave.

We talked to Sebastian’s mom and apparently he is doing really well. Sebastian (‘mighty-mite’ as we dubbed him in March) is twelve years old and now sponsored for his surfing. Gary Linden is now shaping boards for him as well. It was just a matter of time. That kid is talented and fearless.

Another consequence of the recent heavy rains was the unusual amount of mosquitoes. Chacahua normally doesn’t seem to have a huge bug problem on the beach. You get about an hour and a half of biting sand-flies around sundown and that’s usually it. This trip, we were mosquito fodder. Everyone commented on how bad they were comparatively. The trick was to start a coconut husk smoldering and place it under your chair. You basically bathe yourself in smoke until bedtime. Once inside the tent you were fine. The mosquitoes were at least polite enough to only go after your legs and elbows. The didn’t do a lot of ear-buzzing flybys, for which I was grateful.

Luna loved Chacahua. She was given free-reign and took full advantage. She would swim until way pass the point of exhaustion. She slept great everynight. All the local island dogs took turns as potential suitors. Every evening a new dog would come sniffing around the palapa. Luna would parade around a bit and then settle under our table when she tired of their company. It was hilarious; she really was queen of the island during our stay.

Earlier I listed the things we brought with us to Chacahua for our stay…here is a list of the things we forgot: Emily’s bikini top, Emily’s sunglasses, papers, tweezers (for removing fleas from Luna), surfboardleashes (what can I say, I don’t like using them), and Luna’s flea medicine. The leashes and bikin top were a pain because they effectively kept Emily out of the surf for a good portion of our stay. But, the real problem was Luna’s flea medicine. It turns out that Luna was to have been given her scheduled 3rd dose of oral medication while we were still in Cuernavaca. This we forgot and consequently, on day 3 of Chacahua, Luna was all of a sudden covered in fleas and ticks. I mean covered. I’ve never seen anything like it. They were on her ears, in her ears, between her toes, all over her back, and filling every crease of her under-side. We tried to keep her in the water as much as possible and this seemed to help temporarily, but she got eaten up. At night in the tent with Luna, the fleas would make the short trip over to us for a small snack before returning in the morning to their canine host. It took Emily hours to off pick all the fleas and ticks once we got back to the van.

We went on a tour of the mangroves the day before leaving. Our guide, Andreus was awesome. We took a motorboat to his house where we all three got into a small flat-bottom canoe. The mangrove tunnels were eerily quiet and surprisingly free of insects. I had expected to get eaten alive by mosquitoes or worse, but we didn’t get a single bit. Andreus has quite a life for himself. He loves Chacahua and the mangroves, and he genuinely seemed to love sharing his little paradise with others. We stopped in the middle of a maze of mangrove tunnels and had a smoke with Andreus before heading back to his launch. From there we went to a crocodillo estuary and got to see some native crocodiles up close and personal. Most of the crocodiles in the preserve were youths and fairly small, but there were a couple of 30-35 year olds that were real monsters. If we had gone to see the crocodillos before we went exploring the mangrove tunnels, I’m not sure I would have had such a relaxing time.

The morning we left, the island was in a frenzy as to whether our driver would come back or not to get us. Somehow or another everyone had gotten wind of our impending departure and pre-paid return trip. Andreus, along with Emily’s new admirer Chuy, showed up at 9am to wait with us until Alfredo showed up. If he failed to show, they said, we could get a ride back to our van with one of them. We had boat owners from all over the island offering us rides, but we remained confident in Alfredo’s return. As it turned out, Alfredo showed up about 30 minutes early and had to wait around for us to settle our bill with Bertha who was not to be found until just before our scheduled departure time. It was a crazy morning, but we made our boat and rushed to get Luna back to the van and her medicine.

When we got back, the van was covered in bird poo and looked to have a water line halfway up the front tire, but at least it was still there and in one piece. Just before we were pulling out, some lady came up and said we owed her $100 pesos for parking in her yard. This was the first we had heard of this and didn’t even know if we had $100 pesos to give her. We scrounged together $90 pesos, gave it to her and got the hell outta dodge before anyone else decided we owed them money.

We made it to Puerto Escondido and an internet coffee shop fairly quickly. There was a surf contest going on at Zacatela and after the relative tranquility of Chacahua it seemed like hell on earth. We were tired, sunburnt, flea ridden and dehydrated. We got on the road and hoped to find a spot to hole-up and lick our wounds. We found an RV park nearby in Puerto Angel and hit the road.


~ by pleasuredevice on 01/24/2011.

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