Published: January 22nd 2008December 23rd 2006
A mariachi band walks along the promenade in Zihua (followed closely behind by my Mom).
Buenos Dias! We started off the day by going into Zihua to do some shopping - for both Christmas and provisioning purposes. In my Christmas shopping endeavors, I came across three basic types of shops: those that are established and cater primarily to tourists, those that are shacks on the beach and cater to tourists, and those in the traditional market frequented by locals. The first - the more established, upscale, official shops - are interspersed throughout the myriad restaurants that host the same crowd. I started my shopping here, only to notice that everything was ridiculously overpriced. Straw purses that should have cost $5 at the most cost nearly $50. A shirt that should have cost perhaps $10 was also almost $50. I soon gave up looking for a deal here and made my way to the beach where I could peruse the "artisan market."
Type #2 - the lean-tos on the beach - seemed a little more traditional to me; lots of shells, jewelry, and other curios covered makeshift shelves in little wooden, tin-roofed shacks. It was difficult to tell where one ended and the next started. Cats of all shapes, sizes, and colors slunk throughout the shadows
The lady with whom I struck up a conservation and bought several clay bowls for my Mom for Christmas.
or slept in the shade, obviously attracted by the adjacent fish market. Yeah, this was a little better. When approached by one of the shop attendants, a boy about 14 or 15, I told him I was Christmas shopping. "Para el arbole
?" he asked. I must have sounded like I wanted Christmas tree ornaments - then I realized that this would make a pretty good gift. It took a little searching, but he eventually came back with a basket full of little straw Christmas trees, candy canes, baskets, and wreaths. Because they were clearly hidden away, and were unique to this niño
's stand, I've convinced myself they're ornaments meant for locals and I found something truly authentic. I decided to buy 12 for 30 pesos ($3). Nice find - I gave them to my Mom as an early present and they're already up on our Christmas tree, which is a palm of some sort in a planter on the patio. We gave it lights, too.
I continued looking around the little artisan market, and struck up a conversation with a very nice woman selling beautiful painted clay bowls. She spoke a little English - in fact, probably more than
A view inside the Zihuatanejo market, a clustered, confusing, and intriguing place to explore.
I spoke Spanish - but we kept the conversation mainly in Spanish. She understood the necessity of speaking slowly - when English-speaking tourists speak too fast for her, she can't understand a word. When it comes to Spanish, the same is certainly true for me. Thus, she spoke very deliberately and I was able to have an excellent conversation in Spanish. I told her about school and where I'm from, and she told me how she has friends in Seattle who clean yachts and what the depictions were on each bowl. I ended up buying 3 bowls for 100 pesos, and she threw in a nice little shell keychain, on which she wrote "Zihuatanejo, Mexico." She was a sweet lady, and I told her I plan on coming back to visit next time we're in Zihua.
The third and final kind of shop can be found in el mercado grande
. This is the big market in Zihua from which most locals buy their goods. We spent a couple hours wandering around in here, observing all the people and all the different types of shops - there were meat shops with goat and pig heads; seafood shops with lobster, parrot
My parents bartering for fresh produce in the Zihua market.
fish, and mahi mahi; produce shops with everything from limes to chilis; and lots of little shops on the outskirts that had everything from sombreros to extension cords. It reminded me of La Boqueria
in Barcelona. We bought several bags of fresh produce, including some prickly pear cactus to experiment with for salad. I love pretending we're local.
For lunch, amidst the hours of shopping in the heat (even the shopkeepers were saying "hace calor! muchissima calor
!"), we settled down at a beachfront restaurant for beers, fish tacos, and fried bananas à la mode. While eating, an old man complete with guitar and sombrero came along and asked us if we'd like a song - we declined, as we have several times in other places. One of these days I'll request something, because it seriously is straight out of the movies. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I'll request "Feliz Navidad."
On the way home, we stopped at a few places along the road to do some roadside birding. Saw a few nice birds on a hyacinth-choked pond, like jacanas, ibises, and plenty of egrets. Kingbirds and Piratic Flycatchers abounded. A little further down was a palm hacienda,
A collection of lobsters in the seafood section of the market.
where I got out of the car and birded the area while my parents drove down the road a ways to see where it lead. I did my typical "psshing" near some trees along the road to pique the interest of whatever might be in the vicinity. I soon had a nice little flock of birds popping up out of the bushes, the majority of which appeared to be migrants that I've seen numerous times north of the border. My parents returned, but I wasn't quite ready to stop birding so I continued back up the road a bit where I saw more flitting birds.
It was here that I heard an ominous buzzing . . . so faint at first that only my subconscious picked up on it. I then realized it was rapidly growing in volume - surprisingly so. Then, out of the foliage, poured dozens and hundreds of zooming little black things. "Fuck. Bees." I said to myself. Not like "fuck bees!" Dane Cook-style, but "oh, fuck, I'm being attacked by what might actually be Africanized killer bees."
Now, bees do this thing where they swarm in search of a new place to reestablish the
The Zihua market is a good place to buy fresh seafood.
colony and construct a hive. When they do this, they care about little else besides finding that place to nest. I remember when my Dad and I stumbled upon this phenomenon in Seattle - we were driving along when we plowed through a cloud of bees ("splat, splat, splat splat splat" on the windshield). We stopped, turned around, and basically walked right in the cloud of bees - they didn't care. They were too preoccupied with settling a new colony under the plexiglass protecting a sign outside of a church.
Killer bees haven't arrived in Seattle yet, though. I'm in Mexico.
I started sprinting, making a beeline (ha . . .) for the car, which was fortunately making its dusty way towards me from down the road. If you're familiar with the TV show "Friends," think "Phoebe Run." I was being chased, there's no doubt about it. I don't know if that's because I swatted innocent bees as I ran towards the car, and they got angry, or if it was simply because I was too near a nest of Africanized killer bees (which actually would have been like 10-20 meters - their definition of "close" is way
Here fishy, fishy . . .
Some sort of mackerel at the fish market in Zihua.
different than mine) and they got seriously pissed off. Apparently it takes very little to get an entire colony of killer bees to chase after you, and I think this may have been what happened.
Anyway, I ran to the car, flung open the door, and leaped inside, screaming "Drive! Drive! Drive!"
My Dad . . . oh, my Dad. "Ty, they're probably just swarming," he said nonchalantly, referring to the aforementioned phenomenon. Yes, swarming around my freaking head.
"Just drive, damn it!" I yelled back. This, and the dozen plus bees that had found their way inside the car, apparently got the message across. He took off up the road. When we could no longer hear bees slamming abdomen-first into the exterior of the car, we rolled down the windows and flailed around until most of the bees had been sucked out. Our Spanish-English dictionary took care of the remaining few.
My heart was pounding . . . I was shaking. Halfway through my Phoebe Run I remembered how scary killer bees are - their life history traits make them just that: killer. They respond to the most minute of stimuli, swarming and stinging that
A couple local fishermen heading out a dusk in front of our bungalow in Barra.
stimuli until it stops its stimulating. I can't be positive of the fact that they were indeed killer bees, and not just a swarm of the regular variety of honey bees, but in this part of the world I would think the former and wouldn't dare wait around to find out. I managed to get away with only two stings (one on the lower back, and one that made it look like I had a third nipple), but I think I recognized the problem fairly early on - it sounded like hundreds more were on their way, and it potentially could have been much worse. Quite exciting, to say the least. I think we'll go back tomorrow and park next to where it happened to see if they'll attack the car again. Then we'll know for sure.
About halfway through the drive back home, I noticed I had sat directly on the strawberries we bought at the market. Oops. Sorry, strawberries . . . sorry, pants.
Finally home, we had a snack (leftover fish in cheese quesadillas with a beer), then went for a dip in the pool (screw waiting half an hour). The pool was
Turkey and Black Vulture footprints are evident next to this dead moray eel.
the perfect temperature - such a relaxing way to cool off. The three of us had it to ourselves, and we enjoyed it immensely. Swimming in the placid pool in the shade of palm trees with the waves pounding the shore less than 50 meters away . . . 'tis paradise.
After a quick rinse and a little more relaxation, I ventured down to the beach to take some pictures with the light of the setting sun. Every sunset is stunning here, I think. I'm going to return to the beach every sunset to take pictures - the sun sets among fiery clouds between a peninsula to the south and group of rocky outcroppings to the north, with waves crashing in the foreground and pelicans sailing past.
A large moray eel had washed up on the beach, and pair of vultures were pecking at it. They were very skittish, so I had trouble getting close enough to take any quality pictures, but I took a couple. Then Mom and Dad (fishing pole in hand) came down, and we fished in the orange glow of dusk.
Dinner was great - our neighbors brought us some shrimp, and we
My Mom joined me for a bit of fishing at sunset.
made prickly pear cactus salad. An excellent dinner!
The same neighbors (they're building a house nearby and stay here often) organized a fishing trip for us tomorrow with a friend of theirs, so Dad and I spent an hour after dinner organizing tackle. We're looking forward to the adventure!
There are more photos below