The Oaxacan coastline has miles of unspoiled and deserted beaches to just sit on the sand and stare out to sea, watching the ocean swell as it slowly builds into a great wall of translucent aqua blue, proudly standing as high as the distant horizon before smashing down and rushing to shore in a white froth of anger. As such, we hung about longer than normal to enjoy the serenity the area would bring; also to allow Tracy to recover from a chilled kidney brought about from an over enthusiastic air conditioning fan…. and a bout of Montezuma’s revenge.
With Puerto Escondido behind us we moved down the coast about an hours drive to where jungle meets the ocean, first to San Agustinillo for 10 days then to Mazunte for about the same.
We travelled by taxi having negotiated a good price before hand. An hour or so later we arrived at the former fishing village of San Augustinillo, population 229, a smattering of tourists plus one Scottish Cairn Terrier.
Our accommodation was basic, no mains water supply and no hot water, but the mosquito net gave us peace of mind from blood thirsty cretins.
Though noisy, due to the neighbours dogs, chickens and small children, the first night passed off without incident. However, the second day saw us run out of water, a night visit from a scorpion and flooding and falling debris due to the severe thunderstorms meant abandoning our apartment for alternative accommodation.
The two days of thunder and lightening during the dry season caught most people in San Agustinillo by surprise. Houses here aren’t designed or built to be water tight. Many windows have no pane, only mesh to keep mosquitoes at bay. So when there’s a storm with heavy rain, there’s a fair chance water from outside will make its way inside.
Our accommodation and flooding aside, watching the night sky glimmering in a scintillating display of lights like nature’s very own flash photography as opposing weather systems smashed together in a thundering percussion of noise was a joy to see and hear; the following deluge of rain turning the streets from a desolate dusty thirst to a violent torrential flow of water leaving mud and debris in its wake.
After visiting a few rentals, we secured a cabaña, small cabin with thatched roof, on the beach front. Although pretty basic, also no hot water or mains water supply, it kept us dry after another day of thunderstorms.
Living on the beach seems pretty cool and almost Robinson Crusoe-esk; stepping out of your front door onto golden sands for a morning stroll with the dog is the stuff of dreams. It can also be really noisy and the sound of huge waves crashing on the sand a few feet away, wild birds singing in the palm trees and geckos crying out can also make for sleepless nights, though much more pleasant to listen to than roosters, dogs and music – and the booming thunder made it all sound like a gentle whisper.
The village was well kept, quiet and sleepy. A couple of convenience stores, a gift shop and about half a dozen or so restaurants, ranging from traditional Mexican, fish, vegetarian, Italian and Argentinian – Our favourite being the pizzeria and the taco bar.
For Hamish, there was no need to be on the leash as traffic was minimal. Street dogs were plentiful and just wandered in and out of shops and restaurants and went without fear of being chased or discriminated against. As such, Hamish did the same and became known as the dog that travelled from Scotland.
Jungle and beach accommodation
Mazunte was almost four times the size with nearly 800 residents. The town, formerly the centre of turtle exploitation, was once almost wholly reliant on the industry of turtle meat and eggs, slaughtering over 30,000 a year. Banned by the Mexican Government in 1990 the town suffered financially as the income of most families we’re reliant on the trade. Since then it remodeled itself on ecotourism and the Government opened the National Turtle Centre to promote their recovery.
In 1993, Anita Roddick, founder of the body shop, agreed to distribute cosmetics made with local ingredients and by 1996 the creation of Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte was born.
The town also suffered from two hurricanes in 1997 which destroyed almost every structure, resulting in a complete rebuilding programme, continuing its eco theme.
Compared to its neighbour, San Agustinillo, it was a little gritty, residents included an eclectic mix of the weird and wonderful, the good, the bad and the ugly. Old age hippies mixed with new, whilst some travellers from north of the border came in search of cheap and easy drugs with little chance of arrest [our first trip to town saw us being offered marijuana].
Outside bathroom and pool
Some convenience stores and cabañas were dirt cheap whilst others charged over inflated and rip-off prices, embracing the capitalist model that Latin American countries profess to hate. Despite this most people were friendly and welcoming and we found a couple of good restaurants that didn’t over charge and stuck with these throughout our stay.
Our cabaña here was situated in the jungle a few hundred yards from the beach, mosquitoes were a killer but it was quiet(er) and off the rabble of the town centre. Again, no hot water despite prices being at a premium, but it was clean and well kept with great views from above the canopy looking onto the beach below. Hamish was also kept occupied with the wildlife that lived around us and sometimes with us, including:- skunks, lizards, iguanas, squirrels, an array of creepy crawlies… and these guys. The West Mexican Chachalaca, quite frankly the noisiest morning bird I’ve ever heard!
With two beaches in the town, we were closest to the quiet black sand beach “Mermejita” and walked it every day with Hamish. The busiest time being at sunset when people would come and watch the bright orange sun go down beyond the horizon, bringing daylight to another part of the world as it left ours.
And with that it was time to move on, to escape the Easter holidays and a further hike in prices, possibly inland to Huatulco then a return to Mexico City before moving south and deeper into Central America…. but to where?