Saturday, April 28, 2007

Panama Cruise, Day 10: Huatulco, Mexico

Wow- it's hard to imagine that ten days have already passed by. I find myself wishing this were a 30 day cruse instead of 18. That pesky job always gets in the way of my social life! The view along the Central American coast and waters was very pleasant, but oh so humid and hazy at times. Our ship was spared from the normally windy and rough waters of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. We glided through calm seas into Santa Cruz Bay this morning to views of the rugged coast of Huatulco (pronounced "wa-tool-co"), located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Huatulco was originally inhabited by a variety of ethnic groups: Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Chontales and Mexicans as far back as 1000 A.D. In 1519, Huatulco became an important port for Spanish merchant vessels, but the population was decimated by Smallpox and left virtually no inhabitants. In the 1980’s the Mexican government recognized the opportunity to develop the area as a resort destination, and began an effort to build an infrastructure of roads, bays, piers and lush vegetation. The result is a relatively new and well planned resort community. While still very much in its early stages of development, Huatulco boasts crystal clear waters, coral reefs, rainforests, coffee plantations and uncrowded beaches. To their credit, large areas have been designated as an ecological reserve and will remain undeveloped.

In the afternoon, we went on a river rafting trip, which was great fun. The “Party Bus” met us at the marina, where I boarded with some trepidation. The engine of the bus grunted and groaned, slowly making its way up steep inclines and around hairpin turns. My mind immediately fabricated tomorrow’s headline news: “Tour Bus drives off cliff in tiny Mexico resort town”. I tried not to look at the driver, a short Mexican man who looked confused and tired. The steering wheel seemed far too large for the driver, as he wrestled with the wheel and shifted gears in response to the painful grumblings of the engine.

As we arrived at the river launch spot, we passed by a Mexican Army “barrack”. The soldiers were armed with machine guns, but most were lying around sleeping. We were told that if anyone needed a restroom there was a woman who would “rent” it for $1.00 for two people’s use. Once in the river we saw a group of naked Mexican soldiers taking a bath in the river, and further down, we were met by young children who swam to the raft. The river was recently dredged, with large piles of rock and sand along the banks. We saw a number of birds along the river, but I wasn’t able to take many photos out of fear of getting my camera wet. After a brief water-fight with another raft team full of idiots, we paddled our way down the river for three miles. The river rapids were quite easy, perhaps no more than a level 2. Although it was sunny and hot, a gentle breeze kept us cool as we enjoyed the afternoon Mexican sun.

In the afternoon I went through the shops in the marina, where I found a few postcards to add to my massive collection since I was a kid. I also bought a nice ring for myself and decided to celebrate my new acquisition with a beer on the beach. As I sat in the sand watching the surf roll in, I closed my eyes and listed to some music. A man and his two small children were playing an instrument that looked like a xylophone, with a sign that read: “here tips”. I obliged, thinking that the change from my beer would probably buy the three of them dinner for the night. After a leisurely stroll on the beach, I returned to the ship and wrote this posting. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow we arrive in Acapulco.

-Rick Rockhill
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