And so each day began the same: rise at dawn and re-pack the truck. With 4 passengers instead of 2, the luggage rack came in very handy as the space inside the truck was scarce. As I’d written in previous posts, driving at night isn’t the safest endeavour in Central America. So, we would rise at dawn and get out to driving in sunny conditions. As Jeff has some experience yachting, he could tie the most elaborate knots; in the case above, he took the daily responsibility of securing our luggage to the roof rack.
Since I had seen the movie Shawshank Redemption (my favorite movie by the way), I had always wondered about this beach town. Andy Duphrene (played by actor Tim Robbins) tells fellow inmate Red (played by Morgan Freeman) that when he escapes, he will “go to Zihuatanejo, buy a hotel and an old boat, fix it up and take his guests sailing.” There was no way I was going to drive past this town and not visit: I made a similar pilgrimage to Fort Hancock, Texas in November 1996; this was the town that Andy Duphrene crossed in Shawshank before he headed to Mexico. If you’ll remember, he sends a post card to Red without any writing, only a Fort Hancock postmark. I was sure to mail a post card so that I could add Fort Hancock to my post card collection.
If you recall, at the end of Shawshank Redemption, Red finally makes it to Zihuatanejo and finds Andy on the beach sanding his old boat. In reality, the white sand beach of that scene in the movie was filmed in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I guess the director didn’t find the real Zihuatanejo “sexy” enough for the movie.
Our travel from Las Brisas to Zihuatanejo was about 230km down coastal Hwy 200. This stretch of the Pacific Ocean coast line runs diagonally northwest to southeast. Las Brisas is just 40km southwest of inland Colima and Zihuatanejo is just 90km northwest of the famous beach resort of Acapulco. We would pass through another beach resort, Ixtapa that lies just a few miles to the northwest of Zihuatanejo.
Just before the state border crossing of Colima and Michoacan, I shot the photo above. The area had wide open farmland of corn and sugar cane. The road occasionally came within view of the ocean but for a better part of the trip the beaches and Pacific were obscured by the thick jungle that ran alongside the road.
Unfortunately, much of Mexico considers conservation of the land as a secondary priority to advancement and development. In many parts of the country we saw trash, ad hoc dumps off the side of the road, pollution in streams and lakes and factories that belched thick smoke into the sky.
When we finally neared the cove where Zihuatanejo rests, we came over some small hills and were presented with a beautiful horseshoe bay with lovely beaches and restaurants. The town was full of backpack hotels, hostels and all sorts of budget travel accommodations. It seemed that this town really caters to the tourist – of any budget. We found a modest hotel, stashed our bags and made our way straight to the beach.
I pulled a satellite photo of the town and harbor so that you can see its layout.
The photos below are shot from the southern edge of the white beach that appears in the satellite photo at the right side of the bay. From the views of the bay (below) shot from the beach looking towards the mouth of the harbor, the first shot is looking towards the middle of the bay and the second shot is looking up the beach northwest towards the right of the bay.
In no time, some nearby mariachis came over and began to serenade the girls. For a modest tip, they played any song that we requested. A young woman from the nearby restaurant took our drink orders and in no time we had beers and margaritas. The beach was placid and tranquil; some families and their children played nearby and swimmers enjoyed the warm water.
As I was relaxing and enjoying the view, some Naval shore patrol soldiers, all armed with M-16 rifles made their patrol down the beach. I thought, “Well, that’s something you don’t see in America, armed soldiers in a public place.” And then I caught myself mid-sentence as I recalled seeing National Guard soldiers at the DFW airport just a month earlier. Yes, we are in the post 9/11 world; everything is different now.
So I settled back into my beach chair, sipped my cold beer and watched the waves break outside of the harbor, enjoyed the warm breeze and occasionally took a dip into the ocean. We enjoyed a never-ending menu of wonderful Mexican food and just soaked up the warm sun. It is times like these when you wish you never had to go back home to face work, traffic and bills. It would be nice to have a year off to bask in the sun, to swim and snorkel and just enjoy the tranquility of doing nothing.
We stayed as long as we could; the air was warm and despite the setting sun, there was no impetus to leave this beautiful place. I captured some photos as the sun faded behind the hills that form the southeast corner of the horseshoe that is Zihuatanejo.
When we finally broke from the beach we all agreed to have a night out on the town. This would be our last night together; tomorrow we would drive the girls to Mexico City for their flight back to Germany. We all got “cleaned up” and then headed out to one of the recommended restaurants. The food was wonderful and – with many restaurants in this part of Mexico – we enjoyed live music from a 5 member mariachi band. We laughed and ate and drank and as the girls prepared themselves for the next chapter in their lives (post University life), Jeff and I thought of our travels as we would push further south into Central America.
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