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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Las Sirenas Gorditas... See High School Spanish Class DID Pay Off... (originally posted 09-13-11)

About 4 or 5 years ago, a friend of mine and I headed out on what was supposed to be my one-year anniversary cruise but turned into my celebration-of-my-soon-to-be-annulled-ass cruise. I spent a week cruising up and down the coast of Mexico. One day found me ATVing from a tequila farm and production plant through the back woods of Puerto Vallarta just after the Day of the Dead celebrations, which meant there were these raucously decorated cemeteries with handmade headstones and fine, brushed dirt. Almost none of the windows had glass in them so that the thin curtains would flutter as we passed by.

Another day, I was riding through Acapulco on a hefty horse to match my hefty ass through a plantation filled with colorful parrots and macaws (it looked like) and then out through the streets and onto the beach where a young boy raced up beside us on his own mare with her colt darting beside her. They danced around at the young boy's commands, darting down the beach, through the water, back to our little entourage, and then bowing and finally sitting like a small pup, lifting his shoe to be shaken like a gentleman.

The streets were filled with buses and cars, but mostly bicycles. Even the mansions we passed had no glass in the windows, which is a strange thing to notice, I know. We passed the first church that had been built, which our guide instructed us was the habit as settlers moved about. They would firstly establish a church and then build the city or village up around it.

I saw my first honest-to-God bullfighting ring as we loped along the construction-filled roads in a bus that would take us through the mountains, hopping the median when traffic didn't move quickly enough. The ring was set aside, we were told, for the amateurs, the damaged but white-washed walls held together more by its cracks than by its mortar. Weeds grew up beside it and I tried to imagine how it would sound the next day, filled with anxious crowds waiting to relax and dispel their work week with Dos Equis and handmade cigars.

One of my most favorite days was also my most physically damaging day (my most emotionally damaging day was to come 3 days later). We stopped in the bay just outside of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, being ferried back and forth in tender that was enclosed and sent my companion into hysterics and me into a sweaty funk. Once on land, we boarded another boat - a sail boat - all decked out with our own Gene Hackman-lookalike captain and his scurvy crew.

We sailed for an hour around the bay, eventually landing on another side of the island. Once we anchored, the crew helped the passengers into the water with their underwater cameras. Me, I was stuck onboard, trying to convince my well-padded partner in crime that she would not drown, though she had convinced herself the opposite in spite of her wearing a ski belt, a full life vest, and blow-up kiddy swimmer’s wrist floaties. It wasn't until a well-meaning passenger already in the water tried out her recently-learned mantras on my companion that she tried to get in the water. And not because the woman had convinced her but rather because she figured the woman was an idiot and therefore a weak swimmer and even furtherfore that the sharks would get the woman before they got my companion.


While snorkeling along on my own, snapping pictures of glorious spiny boxed puffer fish that I has adored since I had been with my first husband and working in a pet shop where I befriended the sole (ha, ha) spiny boxed puffer fish there (he was sent to fishy heaven when it was discovered one morning that the gorgeous angelfish that lived in his tank had turned herself on her side and speared herself on his spines, them both having been obviously frightened by something. The owner had his own love affair with the angelfish and was heartbroken at her death and dumped the puffer unceremoniously into another tank, causing his demise since the puffer had not been allowed time to acclimate.).

I scooted around the enclave, shooing the little native boy on his boogie board away from our group when he came up offering up close peeks at a few skulking nurse sharks. My companion would have jumped out of the water, hijacked the boat, and been halfway to Ensenada had she heard this, not knowing that nurse sharks rarely if ever attacked and were small enough you could pull them off you like an overgrown leech.

As I relaxed and ducked my head particularly underwater, I heard my companion scream. I kicked off hard so that I could get to her quickly. In doing so, I ripped huge hunks out of my left thigh, having hit a large shelf of coral. Trying to wrest myself from the pain and still get to her, I managed to gouge my other thigh on another looming hunk of coral. I dragged us both back to the boat, still unclear what had spooked her, but rising out of the water to see that I had become bait, what with all the pink water around me. 

Our captain tried not to look worried while covering my legs in iodine. I brushed off their concern, thinking they were worried about getting sued. I later learned that the poison from the coral could make you sick (it did) and my legs could carry permanent scars (they did). My companion doused her shake-inducing fears with shots of tequila and proceeded to flirt shamelessly – an unsuccessfully – with all the crew, one by one.

The rest of the ride, I took my damaged thighs and my own bottle of tequila to the netted middle of the sailboat as we raced around the bay, chasing seagulls, and allowing the crew to fish, catching a gorgeous marlin in the process. The water sprinkled water on my tanned back as I sunned, unterrified, with only a few threads between me and an ocean teeming with blood-hungry predators. I didn’t care; I was in love with this gorgeous place.  

After we docked, my companion and I strolled around the small village center, sneaking down deserted alleys, and perusing the makeshift fish market. We stumbled on what appeared to be a vintage store, full of used items. I found a beautiful rendition of a Botero painting on papyrus for the true love of my life, and gawked at the fantastic swirl of color around us.

As my companion and I jumbled through the crowds, we spotted a little restaurant called La Sirena Gorda - The Fat Mermaid. It seemed perfect for the two of us – half land-bound and half-ocean-loving. We decided right them to rename ourselves, albeit temporarily. For the rest of the trip, as we ferreted our ways through bars, alleys, shops, and restaurants, we jokingly referred to ourselves as Las Sirenas Gorditas – The Little Fat Mermaids - causing even the pedicab driver to giggle as he pedaled us around Cabo San Lucas.

I had not written about this trip because it had ended poorly on one hand and wonderfully on another hand, but today I stumbled on a picture Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, and away my mind went.

For anyone interested, here is a picture of the area where we walked. Under a white a blue sign, you will see a little red sign. To the left of this sign, you will see a brownish circle. In that circle is the original La Sirena Gorda, the one we named ourselves after.

1 comment:

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