The Secret Place

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If you’re reading this post that must mean that I have found a good internet connection, and that it’s very likely Austin and I have ended our six week sojourn in our beautiful secret place on the Oaxacan coast.

But wherever that internet-ed place may be, I am not there now. Now, I am writing to you from heaven.

Here in our secret place we wake as early or as late as we like. We do yoga or go for a swim, and make breakfast in the open air kitchen shared by the occupants of our ten-room hotel. The common area is on the third floor and overlooks the most scenic point in town.

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To our west lays a small rocky beach filled with coral and tropical fish. We like to snorkel here and on calm days swim all the way to the next town over. Beyond the cove we can see a part of the beach and this town, as well as a long towering ridge that extends as far south as any piece of land in the state (so we are told). It is behind this ridge that we watch the sun set each evening, and above it that we have spotted many shooting stars.

To the east there are two more coves. The first is the swimming beach, marked always with a yellow flag that I suppose means we should swim with caution. Sometimes the beach is calm and gentle, others it churns dangerously and leaves black welts on my behind. All the time the water is crystal clear. Only when you are caught in a wave’s frothy wrath can you not see your toes.

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The last beach curves much more gently, leaving it open to the Pacific and her passions. This is the red flag beach – for the adrenaline-lovers only. On a rough day the waves crash so violently that they sound like a thunderstorm from our room a whole beach away. Whether you have a board or use only your body, you must be an acrobat to surf these waves. I like to sit on the shore while Austin demonstrates his gymnastic prowess. Each time a wave comes it crashes differently, and I like to try and guess just where it will curl. Oftentimes, from my safe place on the sand, I think I’d like to take my chances – but at the time of writing, I’ve yet to enter these turbulent waters beyond my ankles.

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Straight to the south of us the Pacific stretches out endlessly, though interrupted often by dramatic rocks, flocks of birds, and schools of giant whales.

There are a few good tiendas in town which Austin and I visit almost daily to stock up on provisions. More often than not the entire contents of our food purchases comes out to equal or even less then the six-pack of beer we almost always end up slapping on the counter. That beer usually costs us around M$70, somewhere to the tune of US$6. Who knew beach bumming could be so cheap?

Most days we interrupt the clerk at the tienda in the middle of her soap operas, and she never seems very happy to see us. But she watches a lot of soap operas, and we drink a lot of beer, so it’s impossible to get the timing right.

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For a one-street town, there are many characters here, and our perch on the point is perfect for people watching. At our hotel is a hairy Idaho man who calls himself Oso – Spanish for bear. He’s the kind of American guy who adds ‘o’ to the end of any English word and believes he is speaking fluent Spanish. Anyway, we have yet to decide if Oso is a name he has given himself or if he is simply the product of hippie parents. Either way he’s been at the hotel since December and shares a room with a pretty Mexican lady who speaks no English while, as you might guess by my observation above, he speaks no Spanish. Austin and I have had many laughs imagining how those two hooked up.

Then there is the man on the beach every day that prefers a pair of sagging, dirty underwear to swim trunks. Often you’ll find him sauntering about with an overweight, middle-aged woman in a string bikini. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the super-fit couple who head out to snorkel and spear-fish most days – she in a thong, muscles bulging. There is a group of hippies that sometimes meet on the point in the mornings, and dunk each other into the ocean in what, from our place above them, looks an awful lot like some sort of baptism ritual. There’s a pack of dogs that patrol the beach and streets that Austin and I have affectionately named the ‘neighborhood watch.’ And then there’s the heavily tattooed fellow with a great big smile that gives tours from his boat every morning and can often be found with a different lady every afternoon.

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Next door to us is the fisherman’s cooperative, a shade-structure made of wood and palms where the guys sleep in hammocks, smoke marijuana, and occasionally organize fishing nets and transport their catches to a truck. They park their heavy fiberglass boats on the sand in front of the hotel. In order to get them up the bank they motor towards the beach at high speeds so that they skid along the sand and to their desired place. I’ve yet to see this venture run seriously afoul, but when you are swimming nearby it’s always a little scary. When it’s time to take their boats back out to sea they lay out logs and with a dozen or so helpers push the crafts painstakingly towards the water. The boats are so heavy they’ll accept help from just about anyone. I’ve seen squat old European ladies and toddlers alike working alongside those fisherman to get those boats back to the water.

And then there are the locals who come out every Sunday. A group of teenagers often plays soccer below our hotel, while parents teach their kids how to dive into the waves – many of them fully clothed. It is a stark contrast to the scantily clad ex-pats, hippies, and tourists.

But really, there aren’t that many tourists here. On any given day there may be a dozen or so people on the swimming beach, less on the other two. Only on Sundays does the beach feel remotely crowded, and it’s nothing compared to Cancun, Isla Mujeres, or Bavaro – the beach we stayed on in the Dominican Republic. On either side of this town are two larger, more developed destinations, very popular with backpackers, hippies, and budget-travelers. Although the road between the two more popular towns runs right through our secret place, not many people seem to get off, and fewer, for some illogical region, wind up staying.

And that’s exactly how we like it.

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7 thoughts on “The Secret Place

  1. Pingback: An Ode to Kitty

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