Intrepid Den: The Circus Comes to Mazunte!

Here’s dairy entry number 3 from Intrepid Den’s travels in South America.

San Augustinillo

After three days in my paradise room, I had to move out for two nights as it was booked to someone else. The unfeasibly good looking Fabian (who is married to the really sweet girl in reception who wasn’t that impressed when I commented on his good looks), told me I could leave some things with him so that I didn’t have to lug everything with me – good idea. But even so, when I left, it still weighed a ton. He’d booked another room for me and told me to just climb the steps. Steps. I was reminded of arriving in Vaschist high in the Himalayas and having to climb “steps” which turned out to be huge great boulders and, had Sherpa Tensing been there, even he would have baulked. These steps weren’t quite as bad, but when I arrived at the Posada Recinto del Viento, looking wild eyed and exhausted, no one told me I looked cute. They just sat me down, gave me cold lemonade and once I’d recovered, the lovely Aline showed me around.


If only I could attach photos to this because my room looks remarkably like the photo of my shed. This house is hand built, it’s made from brick and bamboo and has a palm leaf roof and no windows. It is wide open to the elements – the breeze zephyrs through, the ocean crashes below and its so at one with the surrounding nature, it might as well have grown there. It is beautiful! The couple – Aline and Miguel have been building it for 17 years and they also belong to nature. The house is full of colour and has a little shower room hewn from rock and a little kitchen that I can use – the lunacy of bringing my own stove top coffee pot doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous now! And still in awe of everything, a woman appeared with a hawser of grey hair plaited to her waist, gloving brown skin, an aura of tranquility AND she speaks English! She’s Canadian (aren’t they all) but this one is different. She’s French speaking, travelled all over the world taking photos and now she’s here, having driven down the thousands of miles for some karmic sun.

We instantly liked one another. She had that easy feel about her and reminded me of the German Baroness, Carla, I’d become friends with in India – they even wore the same moccasins! She said she was going to walk into Mazunte and did I want to go – of course I did! I hadn’t had a good conversation in days and so we set off in the blazing heat (sun-creamed up of course – me not her – she’s the colour of good coffee) for the next town along. Ten years ago, Mazunte, my nephew Barry told me, was a small town with a couple of cabanas on the beach. Not now it’s not. It’s like a proper little town and it’s full of young people who’ve opted for a different life style. Who knows how the word spreads? But they’re here from all over Mexico and Europe. One girl who sells the equivalent of cheese straws on the beach, comes from Benecasim which is like the Glastonbury of Spain i.e. it has a music festival rather than a Tor, and she said that she didn’t want to raise her kids wanting all the rubbish things that comes with living in the West – computer games etc etc etc. And her look was one of sheer calm and reverence for the life she now found herself living and they all seem to be like that. My new friend Adree says that if everyone who felt disenfranchised united and said we are not going to vote for any party, then things would have to change. These people have voted with their feet and just simply walked away. They are lithe, lean, taut and tanned. They have bright white eyes and they have bright white smiles. They are uncontaminated by the consumer disease of the West. They don’t really drink or smoke cigarettes – they just seem to have a real empathy with the Earth and nature and they exude happiness, tranquility and confidence. Wonderful!

So we wandered to the little beach, which isn’t as good as “our” beach in San Agustinillo – the waves are smaller and it’s cramped. As if by magic, she just happened to have a little something with her which we smoked and the whole day took on a totally new direction. We talked about everything, shifting on tangents as diverse as snowflakes. I just couldn’t believe my luck – only yesterday, I was wondering how much time I could spend on my own listening to other people and here I was with an exceptional, fascinating person who was as interested in talking as I was. She comes from a place

called Nelson in British Columbia which sounds like possibly the best place to live in Canada – I presume my Canadian friends have heard of it?

So there we were, sitting in the shade working up a thirst when she suggested we get a Mojito from the best rum stall in town. Was I hearing right? Was my new friend seriously suggesting we go and get a drink in the middle of the afternoon – I was there like a shot (of rum) and by god was it good. It must have been getting on for a litre, cold as Christmas and as strong as Samson – eureka!

We could see the circus beginning to set up so got ourselves prime positions at the front of the stage. This is a Circe de Loleil type circus rather than one with animals, and the performers, like the dreadlocked, tattooed people of the town, came from all over Europe and Mexico. There were clowns although without a word of Spanish to my credit, the words which accompanied their performance was lost but the trapeze and the juggling wasn’t (damn – I should have brought my clubs…). The school brass band kicked off first and it was so traditional. A bloody big tuba umpa umpaing, trumpets, trombones and saxophones and they were so proud and happy to be playing there for all the strangers (in both senses of the word) and then the mayor did a little speech. I almost wanted him to be in full military regalia replete with epaulets but maybe those days are gone.

And then the sun set and the lights went up, the insects came out and with no super duper chemical deet to rub on, I was eaten alive and in the end we had to walk back (in the pitch black) with only a low crescent moon, once again, hung like a hammock and a million stars to light our way. When we finally reached “home” we bought a couple of beers, had more smoke, gassed for an hour or so and then we retired – her to her ground floor room and me up the twisting wooden stairs, again in the dark, wondering how I’d ever find my way and not break my neck. I finally found the light switch (not on the wall where you might expect it…) found my way in through my mosquito net, lay down on my bed and contemplated the stars through the opening in the wall (no glass), listened to the cicadas croaking to one side and the slam of the pacific to the other and realised that what I’d thought was paradise (a beautiful room in a beautiful land) wasn’t – this was – having someone to communicate with on every level in perfect surroundings. The other thought I had was that as we wondered the streets, lots of people were smiling at us in a sort of admiring and reverential way and it suddenly occurred to me that what we are, to them, are a couple of attractive women who have also been sleeping on beaches and embracing this life, long before they were born and here we are, in the same place at the same time, leading an alternative life too. All that, and it was still only 9.30 and as I listened to the waves, it sounded like a piano player running his/her fingers over the keys to disappear into the distance and then begin all over again. The ocean is such a scintillating sound to fall asleep to!

Monday in Pochutla is market day. Normally it’s a dusty little town that you only go to if you need a bank but today, farmers from all over, crowd into town, set up their stalls and offer their goodness from beetroots the size of your head, spring onions the size of light bulbs, pineapples as bounteous and ornate as a Mayan palace, radishes the size of a heart, those big yellow chickens as in Oaxaca city and a coffee stall which grinds brown and black beans to a powder of fine aromatic intoxication. I bought some of each. The people are small and compact although mixed in, are a small number of taller ones and even blondes. Apparently, in Mexico city, the population is so diverse in its ethnicity, that blondes are not uncommon now. So we loaded up bags and then I loaded up my belly with yet more rotisserie chicken and then disaster! Adree miss stepped and twisted her foot. As if by luck, a fellow Quebecois had come with us and he now took over, fetching the car etc., and I know it’s not very considerate, but all I could think was “Oh no, don’t tell me we won’t get to the booze shop!” Are all Canadians calm in a crisis? We got to the shop, and I loaded up there too …

Immobile, there’s not been a lot of movement here in paradise for the last few days. Personally, being bone idle, that doesn’t bother me a bit. So instead of going for long walks and to the circus every night as we’d planned, what we do instead, is head down the steps to the beach, she sits with her foot in the surf whilst I dash off and crash through the waves and in between, we talk. She told me that Mexicans don’t really swim in the sea – they prefer pools or lagoons. I couldn’t imagine why, with a huge great ocean, this would be true. And then I looked – the waves are so big, as a child you could never withstand it – you’d be mown down like skittles and simply dragged out to sea. She also told me that when she was living in a little village in Africa, the town hall – basically a mud hut with a palm leaf roof, was deliberately made low so that no one could stand up straight and dominate the meeting – could you imagine, say, the House of Commons if they all had to sit and crouch and discuss rather than swaggering and thumping lecturns?

When the sun gets too hot, we head for the shade, smoke a little something pure and strong and then we head for one of the bars along the beach just out of the sun’s rays and we’ll either have a coconut water which is literally, the top sliced off of a coconut with a little straw pushed through which, when we’ve finished, they chop in half and give back to us to eat, or we have a cold beer or we have a mojito. It is so nice not to have to mak
e too many decisions and simply what to drink, being the main one of the day.

So, then in the shade, we swap stories of our lives – she was Miss Automobile of Canada which is like being Miss Earls Court Car Show – she’d be the good looking model draped over the bonnet of the most expensive car. She’s also had exhibitions of her photographs and art work all over Canada – I’ve seen them and they are spectacular. She read my tarot cards for me and it all makes sense – she’s like one of those earth mothers who has seen the light.

After two nights up at the “Special House of the Wind”, I was back down the steps to the Paloma once more. It is just as beautiful as I remembered and it was like going home. I like being sociable but like everyone else, I presume, we all need our own space and at the other place, it is the home of a family and it FEELS like the home of a family. I was welcomed back by everyone, which was sweet and then a really weird thing happened. We (me and the Canadians of before) all started to talk, about books and god knows what, and I had a really great time! Funny how first impressions can be (and often are) entirely wrong. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, we are told, but if we didn’t, why do publishers spend so much money getting the cover right? God knows what they thought of me at first – god knows what anyone makes of me at first, but we all changed our minds that night and when I finally left, we hugged! Also, when I finally left, I had been wondering what my bill would be??? I was supposed to leave an online review for them but thought I’d wait to see if I’d been charged for breaking the window (and a glass). Nothing! I was so happy that hadn’t blamed the damage on me even though it was entirely my fault… I used their wi fi one last time, had more hugs (!) and headed up the steps one last time. My room now is at the front of the house. It’s still totally open to the elements but only has the breeze from the ocean rather than the dust from the hills.


So what’s San Agustinillo like? Seventeen years ago, it was just a fishing village with a road running behind the beach and a small crop of houses climbing up the hill behind. That is essentially what it still is but with more houses/guest houses rambling further up the hill, and cafes and restaurants along the beach with the odd cabanas, some luxurious, some not, dotted all over the place. Mostly, it’s either fish or chicken, Italian, French or Mexican with even a vegetarian place. Basically, it’s a wholesome town, with wholesome people (apart from me…) and lights are quite literally, out by 10pm. The villagers seem to all have a market garden with ducks, chickens and all sorts of fruits and vegetables growing and there’s one little school that the lovely Aline began when her daughter needed one. People say they hope it won’t get too big and thus ruined but there is one crucial issue – fresh water. There isn’t enough. So like all those ancient abandoned cities strewn across the earth for lack of water, this is one town that can’t get any bigger. It’s only when I think about the limitations of the simple need for drinking water, that I realise that Canada, with all of it’s fresh water, will be the last inhabitable place on earth and they’ll be mounting the stockades in the not too distant future. When I told Adree this, she laughed. But I’m not joking…

Anyway, after spending yesterday morning back in the dusty old town of Pochutla, getting her foot x-rayed in a hospital with toilets as filthy as the restaurants (in Mexico, NEVER presume anyone has washed their hands…), we know it’s not broken so there is a chance that we may drive together back to Oaxaca in her car; me to catch my plane to Mexico City, and her to sight see. As if by magic, we both suggested it at the same time. If it happens, it might be like a Thelma and Louise type of adventure except without the dead bodies and the cliff hanger of an ending…

Other than that, it’s the little girl’s birthday here at the house in the wind and her entire family seems to have arrived, so rather than being like a hotel/guest house, it is more like a crowded airport lounge in a 3rd world country, with people everywhere, one bathroom for all 12 of us, scorpions and boa constrictors in the garden and bugs the size of bats. Which just goes to prove, you can’t have everything!

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