I have mixed emotions about Puerto Escondido. On one hand, it is paradise. You can’t deny the fact. White sand beaches line turbulent, warm seas, hidden cliff-ringed coves, and palms dripping with coconuts. Take a step away from the beach and bars selling ice-cold beers, monstrous cocktails, and fish fresh from the sea wait for your custom. The town is full of beautiful tanned immigrants from the western world, all living lives they only dreamed of as they thumbed through Instagram. They nip around on cheap scooters in nothing but a pair of shorts and indulge in smoothie bowls made from the bounty of fruit that hangs over the pavements. They work off yesterday’s coke binge with some beach yoga and a round of volleyball before they shower off and get right back in the feed bag. The sunsets take the words from the beach as everyone falls into silent reverence every evening. Life here is slow, indulgent. Full of sound, smell, and flavor. I can’t deny, it is paradise.
On the other, it is devoid of life. The culture of Mexico is being slowly wrung out by tourism. The one’s that remain subsist on shameless extortion and I don’t blame them one bit. Their once-quiet community has been pillaged for its secrets. Peurto Escondido, or Hidden Port, is no more. It is out and in the hungry gaze of western money. What was once a small fishing village is now the playground of the young and rich. The locals couldn’t even dream of living in a house within a few kilometers of the ocean anymore as their land is bought from beneath them and converted into retreats, condos, and hotels. The Mexicans live on the outskirts charging the tourists 10x what they did 4 years ago. Even trying to find a menu on google is futile if it is anything older than 6 months old as the price will have tripled in that time. That is the price they’re charging for the loss of their land, and that is still too low.
This is not a post about having a bad time, it’s bliss. I have a room about fifteen minutes from the sea. It is in between the two hubs of the small town. My room has a ceiling fan, a double bed, small desk, and my own toilet. The double patio doors open onto the first-floor balcony that looks out over the pool we share. Bananas grow in the garden and we have a mango tree overhanging near the kitchen. There are a few rooms here, mostly unoccupied, but the ones below and beside me have always had someone in.
Days here are slow. They have to be in the heat. I’ll usually wake up around half seven or eight because of the sunlight and temperature. It’s not an effort, the weather makes it a dream. I head to the kitchen to get a coffee and usually a bowl of fresh fruit from the market over the road. I pop it by my laptop and check the articles I have to write for the day. Depending on the workload, I’m usually done around midday, so I head fifteen minutes down the road to the gym.
It’s not air-conditioned. People take turns standing in front of the rotating fan in the middle of the room. I spent five minutes trying to fix one of the cable machines today, the receptionist sat there and stared as I wrestled with the frayed cables and got steadily more covered in grease. I didn’t fix it. The gym is basic and has a balcony without any railing that looks over the ocean. It does the trick and I think I sweated out every ml of water weight in my body in one day.
After the gym, I get into some swimmers and head to the beach to cool off. A quick dip in the sea wakes me back up. The movement of such a turbulent sea is like being in a fight. The coast I am on is called Zicatla which is renowned as a surf beach. Double overhead waves aren’t unusual and you have to be incredibly careful where you decide to take a dip. It only took one case of getting pulled out into the depths and hammered by ten-ton waves to learn to respect the sea. I quickly learned the best way to survive the suck is to swim parallel to the shore and wait to get pushed back in. It wasn’t great that the first time this happened had been after a particularly exhausting arm and shoulder day.
After a swim, I’ll take some time in the sun. The sun is so hot it’ll dry me off in a few minutes, it gives me the time to read some of my book and try not to fall asleep. Once I’m suitably warmed, I’ll head into whichever end of town I’m closest to and grab a bite. It might be a coconut battered shrimp taco, maybe one of Oaxaca’s special Tlyudas, whatever it is, it’s usually accompanied by fresh fruit juice or a frosty cocktail. Depending on the plan for the evening, I’ll either head home for a shower or just head straight to whatever event is most interesting. A few beers, a few chats, and a boogie later I’ll be making my dusty way back home, ready to sleep and start all again the next day.
That’s the routine, and it might be one of the most enviable on the planet, but it doesn’t make the voice in my head from nagging for change. I find out now, I am not a man of tranquility. Buddhist nirvana sounds like a personal hell. But this post is not complaining, it’s paradise here.
I’ve met five people from Bristol so far. Half a million people in Bristol, 43,000 here. 5,400 miles apart and I meet five Bristolians. I didn’t have a thing to say to most of them, they were trust fund babies doing some South American travel before they work as NGOs in another paradise across the globe. I’ve met a million rich Bristolians, I had nothing to say to them in Bristol, and have nothing to say to them here either. At least trust fund babies from other countries can enlighten me about where they’re from… a little.
I’ve had a good few conversations here. People are happy and relaxed and open to chats. It’s rare I’ve been out and not had someone to talk to. For some reason the people I meet only exist in the moment though. The transience and excitement of the place make people brush past each other like the sand in the beach wash. Every night is a new face, often enlightening chat, but a sense of the temporary. Once you turn away they’re gone forever and never known again. People swap socials in a superficial promise of continued friendship but these rarely, if ever, result in anything other than another annoying, unknown face on your feed.
I have a friend from Mexico City living below my room. We met in the city and he happened to be coming to the coast just a few weeks after me. He has the charisma and confidence that I lack, so I ride his coattails and enjoy the social wake. His company has given my time here much more substance already. I find him very easy to spend time with; rare for me. It’s nice to have someone’s ear to chew off.
For the first few weeks, mum came to visit. She was fresh off a firing from a therapy company that she didn’t see eye to eye with due to moral reasons. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t call people with mental health issues ‘mental retards’. Peurto Escondido quickly took some of the stress off her shoulders. It’s quite hard to be wound up when you’re sipping a pina colada on the beach.
I hadn’t had time to scope the area out before she got here. I didn’t know the good food spots, nice bars, cute coves, or even where anything was. It was nice figuring it out together, I at least have a little lingo and local understanding. We spent a lot of our time doing the bigger activities around the place. We hired motorbikes, took huge walks, visited hot springs, and ate great food.
I had read about a waterfall outside of the city. It was relatively unknown and about 30/40 km out. I knew it was possible to make our way there by taxi, but mopeds were much more fun. We both rented little twist-and-gos and set off into the mountains of Escondido.
The road was twisty, to say the least. It snaked its way around the mountains, curving into the sheer face of mountainous forest, and then spinning back out to the unbelievable vistas of valley and ravine. Huge rolling corners took us through tiny villages, and over rivers and bridges. The views were spectacular and the road was in great condition until we got to Reforma, the town that lends its name to the waterfall. From this point on it was dirt road. We passed donkeys, crusty old machete-wielding men, and more views that looked like something out of Jurassic Park.
The rest of the road was dust. Pits of it half a foot deep hid rolling rocks. Corners had the bike sliding around. Mum, riding behind me, must have eaten about half a ton of my dust. It was an adventure. We took it slow and enjoyed the views.
We parked the bikes up and trekked through vines and undergrowth to the sound of crashing water. The waterfall was beautiful and completely deserted. It was a heavenly cleanse to wash the dust of the road off after such a long ride.
Mum had arrived with flu, as will often happen when you finish a job. It didn’t slow her down, but I did forget how weak it makes you. This is why I decided we should grab a little bus to a local village and visit their natural hot springs. The bus was a fair journey and the bus driver hit on mum the whole way, we sat in the front with him. Once he dropped us at the bottom of the road, we hopped in a passing taxi with some school kids and split the menial fare to the center. From there we started our trek along the shallow, beautifully clear water. There was an option to take a horse trek there but we decided against it. How hard could the walk be?
Not bad actually. We had to cross the river a few times which was a welcome break from the heat of the day. We had both dressed properly and had enough water to last. The valley was stunning, eagles flew overhead and little lizards skittered through the fallen leaves. One of the crossings glittered with gold in the waters. We took some time fishing the little flakes out of the slowly moving stream. The flakes were minuscule but undoubtedly gold.
After the walk, all we wanted was cold springs. Who the fuck thought that a hot spring in 30+ degree heat was a good idea. The water smelled like eggy fart. Honestly though, it was a very relaxing experience. It isn’t every day you get to walk through the wild west to a hidden collection of bathing pools.
The walk was about an hour on each side. It was a hot day and mum never eats enough. By the time we got back to the village, she was understandably flagging. So was I and I didn’t have flu. When we were in the town center, despite still being full of words, mum was failing. We got picked up on the road by a family making their way back to Escondido and got a lift almost the whole way. All we had to do was pay ten pesos, jump in one of the local flatbeds, and get dropped at our door. We both slept like the dead that night.
We took a trip down to a far-flung beach on one of the last days. It is a sanctuary for turtles. The turtles sneak onto the beach at night and lay all their eggs in the sand. Because of the huge influx of people to Puerto Escondido, there are a lot more dangers for the new hatchlings. Light pollution confuses them as to the direction of the sea and they wander the wrong way, new predators that naturally follow humans eat them up, and obviously, global warming affects the sex of the eggs. The charity keeps them safe, hatches them, and then for a small fee we get to release them from a half coconut to make their way on the 100-meter stretch to the ocean.
We all lined up and let the tiny little guys go. Some raced down the beach, others took their time. Mine had obviously only been out of the shell a few hours because he was slow. This wasn’t a problem until the sea birds arrived. They’re monsters here. Within seconds, the cheering crowds turned into screaming masses as the overhead hunters picked off the tasty soft shell morsels from the waves. Three men stood in the sea throwing sand to ward them off, but it was mostly to no avail. It was impossible to tell whose turtles got picked off, but the pale, horrified faces around me let me know everyone suspected the worst. It was glorious. Nature doe not give a fuck about your Instagram story.
Mum’s visit was amazing. Having someone so important arrive from home made me feel grounded again. It is easy to start to lose touch with reality when every day is a new life, a new experience, and a new challenge. Things around you start to seem unreal and it becomes easy to forget what life has become. Living like this feels a little like drifting through a dream. It made me realize how lucky I am to be out here. Not because I hate the UK, but because I have managed to get away. I have satiated my restlessness and broken away from the life I had before. Of course, I miss people from back home, it’s the one thing I do miss. Being able to show someone from home the way I live made me reappreciate what I have. And, of course, mum is one of my best friends. There is nobody easier to relax with than good family.
Writing for myself here in Puerto Escondido has been hard. I had fantasies of starting a book or at least the framework of one whilst I have all the time in the world. I do my work during the day and find little inspiration to produce anything creative. I think the sound and speed of a city are where my mind is most relaxed. It’s paradise here, who has ever produced anything worth a damn in paradise?
King shit 👑 fun and loafing in puerto escondido