It’s mid winter, frozen tongues of ice hang from your gutter, the sky is dark grey and the ominous moan of a painfully cold wind curls around your house. What do you do? You ignore the dire US Homeland Security warnings, turn your back on the negative images splashed across your computer and TV screen, stuff some clothes and sun block into your travel bag and head to…Mexico.
But what about all the violence? The uncontrolled drug warfare?
Having just got back from there, I can honestly say that the charm of our southern neighbor was intoxicating and my wife and I felt utterly safe. Yes, you will notice an increased police presence but contrary to what you might think, it made us feel safer and they were certainly respectful of the comfort level of foreigners.
Let’s understand one thing.
The reports of unprecedented narco-violence are distressing to say the least. I would not be doing justice to an outsider’s fears if I didn’t mention that. But consider this; as is often the case in sensationalized international media coverage, the worst problems are usually very isolated issues, both geographically and psychologically. Most of Mexico’s drug cartel warfare outbreaks are close to the US border. International borders -by sheer virtue of being an official division between cultures -create spontaneous and often ugly cities that harbor all manner of transactions and interactions between both nationalities. Sadly, sometimes those negotiations breed unpleasant results. Bear in mind though, virtually every international border in the world is a hotbed of illegal activity. Mexico is no exception. Nonetheless, and not to downplay the violence, Mexican border towns such as Ciudad Juarez have some serious problems to overcome and we can only all hope that the Mexican government will take command and find a way to genuinely end the gang warfare that has claimed so many innocent lives.
Mexico is a big country.
Its culture and geography twists and morphs from the northern deserts of states like Chihuahua to the paradox of pine-clad mountains and jungle-strangled lowlands of its most southern state, Chiapas. Not to be outdone by other -perhaps more popular- tourist destinations, it may be surprising to know that Mexico is in the top 10 most visited countries in the world, contains the most UNESCO Heritage sites in all of the Americas and has one of the largest, fastest growing economies on the planet.
It has 500 yr old colonial towns, world class museums, colorful, indigenous populations that remain virtually unaltered from the Spanish Conquistadors, fantastic ancient pyramids, a cuisine that has my mouth watering just writing about it, butterfly covered forests, endless rivers, stunning canyons, and literally thousands of miles of beaches.
What more do you want?
My wife and I only had 2 weeks to play with so our golden rule of travel raised its hand immediately.
Quality over quantity.
We decided that we needed to ease into Mexico.
Our memories of rugged chicken buses and endless journeys on prehistoric trains didn’t sound that appetizing either. As another rule, we like to go places we’ve never been before so we set our sights on the states of Michoacán and Guerrero, central Mexico, with the intention of arriving on the coast and traveling overland to the throbbing heart of Mexico City to depart back to the States.
Zihuatanejo is a small city on Guerrero’s Pacific coast that happens to have an international airport and thus a convenient entry point. What was once a sleepy, fishing village, “Zihua” –as it is known by locals- has become very developed. I did some research and discovered a long, tranquil stretch of beach called Barra de Potosi that lies about twenty minutes south of the Zihua frenetic buzz. My online surfing suggested the Barra was a pleasant alternative but not perhaps ideal. I have to admit, we wanted the impossible…a beautiful, rustic palace, gourmet food, a sunset beach that stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, a beach where our only companions would be turtles, whales, dolphins and the odd seagull…
…And we found it.
If you read my next post maybe I’ll let you in on the secret…