After retrieving my underwater camera from my friend’s car in Tulum, I was on the move again, and I was scared. As I made my way to Cancun airport, towards the unknown state of Oaxaca, I wondered if I was doing the right thing in leaving my security once more. “You shouldn’t go to Oaxaca”, my new Mexican friends told me, “there’s just been an earthquake and it’s not as safe as it is here”. But I knew I’d feel like a failure if I had gone solo travelling and had settled in the first place I’d visited. And it felt right in my soul to move on, and who knows what was waiting round the corner. Or who…
“The sooner you step away from your comfort zone, you’ll realise it wasn’t all that comfortable.” Eddie Harris Junior
As my plane touched down at Huatulco airport on the Oaxacan coast, I looked around trying to figure out what my new home had in store for me. The airport building was a tiny straw-roofed hut (known as a palapa), with only one conveyor belt for luggage. As I waited for my giant backpack I scanned the room to see what kind of people I might meet in this part of Mexico. Would it be here I would meet my soul mate? Well I did spy a cute guy, but he’d disappeared whilst I was collecting my bag, so if it was going to happen in Oaxaca, I needed to keep moving. And so I sat for a moment to check the map in my Lonely Planet guide, and then paid 1050 pesos for a taxi to a tiny coastal town called Zipolite.
The sky was grey as we made our way through the windy and mountainous roads. I passed children walking along the road with bare feet, and occasionally I’d see restaurants made from propped up logs and slate roofs. We followed the yellow lines of the road behind a truck full of men sitting crammed into the back. I’d decided to stay in a hostel called “A Nice Place on the Beach”, and I laughed as my taxi driver kept stopping to ask people if they knew “a nice place on the beach?”.
If I thought life was relaxed in Holbox and Tulum, I hadn’t quite understood the definition of the word until I arrived at my seaside hostel. We are not in Kansas anymore, I thought, as I was greeted by the most friendly, relaxed American lady I’ve ever met. “Would you like my passport?” I asked. “No that’s ok”, she smiled. “Should I pay now?” I asked, “No that’s ok”, she smiled back as she showed me to my room. There were about 8 rooms (4 downstairs and 4 upstairs) literally right on the beach. I paid 100 pesos (£5) for a simple downstairs room with two double beds, a light, and a fan. The shower and the bathroom were shared. I spent the rest of my day sat on the beach watching the surfers, hiding from the rain and drinking cheladas, my new favourite Mexican drink.
Whilst the rain was relentless, the atmosphere was like none I had experienced. Everybody was so chatty and friendly, but whether that was because I was in backpacker territory or because of my iridescent raincoat I’m not so sure. But my coat was a magnet for making friends. The first friends I made were a German couple. The girl was a photographer and stopped me in the street to take a photo of me in my coat so we ended up having drinks at the hostel. That evening, I went for dinner with three Americans after my coat had started up a conversation . We ate at a place next door to the hostel called Posada Mexicano, and it was honestly some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. The staff were so friendly and so relaxed to a level I’ve never experienced before. I mean, at one point our waiter was debating going for dinner with his girlfriend mid-shift!
The problem with a beach shack in the rain is that EVERYTHING gets damp and after a couple of days I was starting to get fed up. No amount of amazing atmosphere could distract me from my love of feeling the sun on my skin. I sat at my spot on the beach and wrote some of these chapters until about 4pm when even my laptop started to get wet and I realised that I needed a proper shower and respite from the rain. So I decided to head a few beach towns down to Mazunte, and checked into one of the nicest hotels I could find, an Italian run place up in the hills called Cabo Pan de Miel. The tiny and remote hotel had an incredible infinity pool overlooking the sea, and loads of quirky features such as free Mescal by the bar, an outdoor living room with straw hats to use if you want to go to the beach, plus a basket full of sunscreen, and the friendliest staff.
My bedroom had a terrace with a hammock that looked out onto the sea, an amazing shower, and just like in Zipolite, there were two beds in it. It was nice but all these extra beds were starting to make me feel incredibly alone. Plus I was trying to remain optimistic about the rain. It meant that I could catch up on my writing and drink beer. But the rain also meant powercuts, so many mosquitoes, and in a poor area like I was in, it meant that the roads would get so muddy cars can’t drive through them. I went out exploring several times and had to take off my flip flops and walk bare feet through the mud, which went up to my knees. Still, it made me grateful for my fancy room with the shower.
The town itself was very cute with lots of vegan spots and yoga shops, and I found a place called Sahuaro where I ate the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted! It came with onion, tomatoes, coriander, chilli, lime, and the freshest avocado, all roughly chopped. I really enjoyed my solitary time here, but it would be ignorant to describe this area as paradise. The people seemed happy, but it was undoubtedly poor and my heart broke for the emancipated dogs who came to me as I ate. One dog in particular completely shattered me and I found myself trying to google a vets and wondering what Charlotte would think if I returned to England with another animal. As I fed her my food I noticed she was bleeding having just given birth, I could see her ribs, plus she had a major eye infection and a flea the size of pea in her ear. The one rescue shelter I managed to get through to told me her case was incredibly common and informed me she wouldn’t be allowed in England as she was part pitbull, which is an illegal breed. I cried on my final evening when I went to find her and discovered that she’d died. But on a lighter note, the sun had come out and I decided to move on further West along the coast to a surfer town called Puerto Escondido, and it was here I’d find what I was looking for. Or so I thought.