Left off having got the visa extension. It was 1030 when I skipped out of the Immigration office in Cuidad de Cuauhtemoc. How the little place where the Immigration office was located is called a City, as in City of Cuauhtemoc I have no idea. It appeared more like a one horse sleepy town? Possibly further down the road on the way to the border of Guatamala there were more city like buildings. Who knows who cares, ‘take me to the beach’ I was saying internally! I now was planning to get down to the Pacific coast of Mexico. It was a fair distance so I will spare you too many details of many more van rides.
I caught my 2nd combi/van for the day to Compala where I had a break & a good meal. A 3rd combi took me on to Motozintla, an hour & a half away.
Motozintla to Huixtla was only about 48 ks but took a more than 2 hours as it’s a very steep & curvy mountainous road. On the map I have put up earlier the road is just a dotted line.
We stopped for a break about 20 mins & all in all it was a wonderful ride, scenic & good fun. I shared the front seat of the packed van with a chatty young builder. The route was spectacular, lots of pine trees & very changeable weather, from low cloud & drizzle to hot & sweaty humidity by the time the van arrived in Huixtla.
Finding a 5th combi of this long day, in Huixtla, needed a nice walk of a few streets to find. Then it was a squeeze to get in the van as it was filled, mostly with workers leaving Huixtla to go home. The route travelled East to West along the coast to Escuintla (interesting how all the names end in tla??)
On this shortish trip we went through a control point, possibly because we were very close again to the Guatemalan border. Officers wearing white uniforms of Federal forces sort of looked at us & waved us on. Beside where we’d pulled up a couple of local police were sat watching but just chatting. The Mexican president has begun to put Federal police & military above the local police which appears to me to be leaving local officers ‘redundant. I have since asked a man from marine services about this, his comment was that local police can be ‘compromised’. So Federal forces are becoming more prolific. By ‘compromised’ I assume he means receiving backhanders from cartels? Who knows? I don’t really want to know too much might get my little finger cut off but I’m observant of what I see around me.
A lady by the name of Ruby, written on her sales leaflet, heard me coughing, dregs of the cold I caught in Palenque. She offered me some eucalyptus spray medicine she was selling to help me. She passed the bottle to me & I spayed a bit on my hand & inhaled it as she was saying. She passed the bottle back to others suggested everyone try it. I think that was to reassure me, the only foreigner, that she wasn’t offering poison for sale. A few passengers tried it but none of us wanted to buy any but she didn’t mind. However this older lady, Ruby, turned out to be very helpful when we got to Escuintla as she knew where she was going…I didn’t.
This driver didn’t follow directions where a road was closed, he just drove around the orange beacons & zipped back onto the supposedly closed road??? Of course there was no other traffic, nor was there any roadworks I saw. Beside the road many differing shades of green vegetation with some paddocks flooded. A lady was standing beside the road waiting & climbed in, there was a bit more room now as some workers had got out. Maybe she had somehow contacted the driver to pick her up I have no idea but once in the van she pulled out of a carrier bag a huge puffy coat that one would wear in the Alps!! I was a bit flabbergasted by this strange move by the very well dressed lady. Very soon though the van stopped at a bus office & the lady in the hot coat got off. Ah ha someone explained to me she was catching the bus to Mexico City (CDMX). I have had experience on some of the Latino buses they can be very icy if the air con is turned very high so that was why she had that coat on.
The driver of this 5th combi trip in my day, did a u turn & dropped us remaining passengers off at the terminal, well stop really, on the highway in Escuintla. I just wanted to go to a beach, any bloody beach I was tired & felt I deserved a little relax on the beach. I’d briefly looked at the guide e-book, but distances & time limits how far one can go in a day. Looking at the map of Chiapas the chap in Comitan had given me it looked like there was at least access to the coast near here. I had no idea what to expect or, really, where I was going….yes just my sort of trip. I like to be a little lost. “Go to Puerto Arista”, my friend in Australia who was following my trip daily, had said. Yea right it’s a lot further along this coast.
So I followed my instincts & Ruby. It was late though & getting dark, Ruby asked where I was going & I said to the beach. She said better to get a hotel now & go to the beach tomorrow. OK, that sounded like a damn good idea. She led me around a corner to a taxi stand, it was a shared taxi stand, ‘combi’. Again we waited until it filled, I sat in the back & Ruby in the front. 2 passengers joined me in the back & Ruby had a fellow traveller in the front seat, 6 in the taxi including the driver! Off we set for Acapetahua, I hardly registered the name of the town, it was about 20 mins away, nice green scenery. It was too late to go to the beach now everyone in the taxi assured me. I was very tired. 15 pesos later & the friendly taxi driver lifted my bag out of the boot. I was in front of an hotel.
The hotel was clean & comfortable 400 pesos the night, good wifi no window just air-conditioning. Didn’t matter I was knackered! After I made myself a couple of cups of tea & had a long shower I slept like a baby.
Next morning I went for a walk around town & bought some tiny bananas. I like the smaller varieties of banana of which there are many types. I bought about 12-15 for 10 pesos (50c).
Along one side of the main square/parque there was a row of kitchens offering breakfast. I ordered Mexican style eggs which is eggs scrambled with cooked tomato & capsicum (bell pepper), beside which are blend beans a couple of toasted tortillas & a warmed dish of hot tortillas. Eggs, 40 pesos, pineapple smoothie 20 pesos!
In the centre of the restaurants area a lady was blending fruit up into smoothies I ordered a pineapple one. When business eased & her daughter came to help the lovely drink making lady came & sat with me for a chat. People like to chat in Mexico, she explained exactly how to get to the beach, Barra Zacapulco. She even wrote in the back of my notebook/diary directions to get there. Turned out to be a bit tricky it was to get to this beach I was glad I asked her.
Now transport was in a ‘ute’ as we call it in Australia. A flat bed truck rigged up to take passengers. Of course it didn’t leave until it was full, very full. It didn’t take me all the way to the beach either! View was rather poor, from where I sat, behind the driver.
Due to tremendous rains the road had been washed away outside of the tiny town, Las Garzas. A swollen river had devoured it. To get across it a rough footpath had been made across the rapidly flowing river. Luckily it wasn’t a wide river &my bag’s wheels managed to negotiate wooden planks of the makeshift bridge.
On the other side a very small moto taxi was waiting & it took me to wait at the village where banana boats leave for the lagoon & beach. 10 pesos.
I was surprised to see buildings surrounded by water.
It didn’t take me long to realise it was a high tide.
I had to cross a small ‘bridge’ to get to a restaurant that had a toilet & sold bottled water.
Again there was a long wait. A sign above some of the boats showed prices for both shared & private transport to a place i didn’t write down the name of & Barra Zacapulco (not to be confused with Acapulco). I could see the mangroves in front of me. I know from so many years living in Cairns, Far North Queensland that mangroves grow only in salt water so the sea must be nearby?? I had no idea there was a huge beautiful lagoon to cross. There was nothing in the guide book about this place, just a picture on the map of Chiapas of a huge sand bar which is where Barra de Zacapulco is located!
As I waited people turned up in ones & twos they waited too. Of course we were waiting until the boat had sufficient passengers that the captain would leave. It was a pleasant place to wait & learn the fine Latino art of patience! Small birds flitted through the mangroves.
A boat load of marines came speeding down the mangroves in front of me & moored up on one of the few places between piles & platforms. 11 men dressed in camouflage got out to also wait. They were waiting for road transport out of Las Garzas. I wondered where they had been patrolling, they had bedding so must have been out bivouacking somewhere? We weren’t far from the Guatemalan border. I wondered how they coped with mosquitoes. Most of the people arriving to wait for the same boat had shopping with them, a bucket of veggies, a ‘flat’ of eggs(30), bags of groceries. Others had bedding rolled up.
When the boat was full & engine fired up we set off at quite a speed down a channel through the mangroves. I noted on the return journey a couple of days, later the skipper slowed when he came towards & passed a small wooden canoe propelled only with a single paddle & holding an older lady. A younger man was paddling her sedately down the channel.
Speeding through mangroves filled with high rooted trees the skipper obviously knew the route & it had been cleared of obstacles, fallen trees had been sawn through. Soon we popped out to a small lagoon. There was a settlement on one bank, a few huts & children running around. We sped on to a larger lagoon, some times a wire crossed over our heads, electricity supply.
From one side of the lake to the other people were dropped off & once a lady got on with a watermelon & got off on the opposite bank at a small village. Now the skipper began to bang the sides of the boat. This was to let everyone know the boat was coming so any passengers were waiting at jetties. Boom boom boom he whacked the boat with a big truncheon like baton. I guess we stopped about 5 or 6 times & finally right at the end of the lagoon on the seaward side I was put ashore on a small jetty.
A concrete path led up to a fresh water pool & palapas (frond covered umbrella type shades with seating underneath). This was a restaurant & also check in point for their cabanas.
The beach was black volcanic sand & the sea was hidden behind this raised ‘bar of sand. The waves were huge & crashed in to shore very close it looked like very deep water. I rented a small cabana for 600 pesos per night. It had 2 beds & a bathroom, very basic but good enough. Internet was extra & a small slip of paper had a code that was valid for 24 hours.
I hung my hammock outside the cabana & walked back to the restaurant for a beer & fried fish.
I stayed 2 nights it was very peaceful & natural. Very few people although more arrived the next day, it was Saturday.
The window at the back of my cabana looked out to the lake. I could watch the rain falling on the lagoon. I ate the small bananas I bought in Acapetahua & cheese & biscuits I’d bought in Ocosingo between meals I bought.
If you were to visit here it would be worth bringing food & drink it can be expensive to buy every meal. Barra Zacapulco doesn’t have a lot to do so you may prefer to look at, visit, other beaches along this coast. I didn’t get to Puerto Arista. The nature & birdlife as well as the peace & tranquillity I loved but it wouldn’t be the place for everyone. I love out of the way places others prefer to be more in a crowd.
I was more interested in the lagoon than the beach with the waves making it impossible to swim. I did venture into the sea on the edge while waiting for some prawns to be cooked. The swirling wash of the waves rolled me around in the course sand. Not exactly a nice time in the sea.
As I sat eating the lagoon caught prawns & drinking a tamarind drink, the cook’s husband came & sat for a chat. One of the good things about travelling alone is people will talk to you. This man is a fisherman he was very protective in his talk of the of the lagoon. He told me currently it was about 60% salt. When the rains come it becomes diluted & it was rainy season now. He caught all his fish diving for them, in the lagoon, it’s not too deep, 6-8m. He catches Pargo & Robalo fish. This fisherman had been diving for fish 40 years, he was fit! He had sons & daughters, none wanted to learn his trade. Such a common plight. He’d paid to have his children educated & now they were Dr’s, teachers, lawyers etc.
There were some young boys who fished, I saw boys in a canoe & onshore chasing bait with a cast net one day & another time a pair of boys were line fishing close to the mangroves near where I lodged. The cabana was set back on the beach & out of the back window I could see the lagoon, it was a 2 min walk to get there. Had a great time with the new (2nd hand) camera!
I didn’t see any signs of fishing out on the big ocean, possibly further out of course. Here it was the lagoon that was the main source of industry. The area is protected & the fishermen close areas off from fishing for 6 month sat a time to protect species. There was very little rubbish & none I saw in the lagoon.
Walking along the beach I came to a turtle hatchery. I’m not that keen on this idea of collecting turtle eggs & placing them in a kind of ‘nursery’ I feel nature can do it’s job with out human helpers. Many say “Locals will steal all the eggs” Yes quite possibly but local coastal people have been eating turtles eggs forever. One imagines (in a perfect world) that some eggs will be left to produce eggs in the future?? I don’t know any of the answers, just my thoughts on the subject. I was offered to go one night & look for turtles, collect the eggs. I declined. I saw many turtles hatching & one laying eggs in Las Tunas, Ecuador.
This area doesn’t use daylight savings time so I wasn’t sure how long a wait there would be to take the launcha back to Las Garzas. It was short & soon I was sitting on the pictured seat waiting for a combi or ute. A combi came & at the mercado in Acapetahua another combi took me to the highway at Escuintla. From there I got a BUS. a real bus with loud films & cold air-conditioning. I stayed a night in Tonalá in a dive kind of hotel but it had a warm feel & a few permanent residents. TBC…