27 March-20 July 2013. Mexico might have beautiful tropical flowers, but it also has scorpions. At least the coastal part of Mexico does; I’m not sure about higher altitudes or further East. We went to San Miguel de Allende and no one mentioned them there. Anyway certainly there are scorpions a plenty in La Manzanilla. One person told us that there’s two types of people in Mexico – those who’ve been stung by a scorpion, and those who are waiting to be stung by a scorpion. I hope I wait forever. Apparently there are about 250,000 reported attacks every year, but only 50 deaths – babies and the frail. One friend told us of being stung when she grabbed a damp cloth from the counter top. Oh, so they’re looking for moisture. After that we never left a damp wiping cloth bundled up, but always laid it out flat so no scorpion would be tempted to hide in it. Then, no, someone else found one on a dress hanging in her wardrobe, and someone else said never pick anything up without shaking it out first, and don’t leave piles of clothes on the floor. Oh, so they’re looking for dry places to hide in. And so it goes. While we were there a friend left her wet swimsuit in the sink, went and fed her dogs, came back and grabbed her swimsuit and was instantly stung three times! The pain from one sting is excruciating, from three it must have been close to unbearable. Ice is the first response. The good news we learned is that you don’t die immediately, you have time. I think it was quite a few hours later, maybe even the next day that she went to get the anti-venom. I never put my shoes on without stomping all over them first to squish anything that might have crawled in there. We never saw a scorpion but it didn’t stop us from thinking about them. Our friends who own the casita where we stayed said that a scorpion had never been seen in the casita. That record still stands.
We walked along the beach frequently and saw dead things, and boats, and kids playing, and fishermen, colourful buildings, frigate birds high in the sky, pelicans in the water, and the bare sparse moving beauty of sand and sea and sky.
And two photos from Don
Quite often we’d walk all the way along to Pedro’s serving “the best fish tacos in the universe” at tables under umbrellas right on the beach and eat good food and watch the waves roll in as the sun set.
But mostly we ate at home preparing simple meals from food we’d bought at the small abarrotes, or grocery stores, in the village. And watch the birds and sunset from the patio.
Twice we caught the rickety local bus to Melaque about half an hour away to go to the bank and get haircuts and buy a few things we couldn’t get in La Manzanilla. There are no banks or ATM’s in La Manzanilla. There are two ATM’s in Melaque, both at the same bank and equally erratic. Sometimes we’d be getting a bit desperate wondering if we would get any money at all as we tried first Don’s bankcard, then mine, over and over with no luck, and then suddenly there would be some random piece of electronic firing and the machine would work. It was always a bit nerve-wracking but we never did actually run out of cash.
Don spent several hours every day learning Spanish from an online course. I’d listen as the words were spoken, absorbing a bit of it as I worked on photos. Between us now we have a kind of minimal tourist Spanglish and manage to get by. It always surprises me how much I can understand, though mostly it’s like word salad and I manage to pick out one or two familiar words and in that way get the gist of what’s being said. We walked into town most days, either to go to yoga, or because we needed groceries, or to get some exercise. Some of the things we saw along the way:
A moth with a four-inch wingspan.
Suddenly one day this appeared at the front gate.
And one day this appeared on our living room wall.
We arrived in late March, officially spring, but it’s really towards the end of the tropical dry season. The brilliant yellow primavera were in bloom, the only indication of spring. You can see them in the background of the photo above of the black and yellow bird. Everywhere else was brown and sere, and some trees were losing their leaves – in spring, I know, weird, but things are all topsy-turvy in the tropics. The botanist we met in Laos told us that some varieties of trees there lose their leaves three times a year. All through April, May and June it continued hot and dry. Then in July the humidity soared. Daily about 35 to 40 centigrade/95 to 105 Fahrenheit, and humidity percentage in the high nineties. I called them the dripping days. Those days when it’s so hot and wet your sunglasses slide down your nose and sweat dribbles into your eyes. I felt like my whole body was leaking. You feel damp all the time, and we constantly gave praise and thanks for fans, bowing down to the god of constant electricity (who doesn’t seem so dedicated in India). Don started to get hot sweats and we both started getting mild headaches until we realized we needed to replenish electrolytes and started drinking PowerAde by the gallon. Then the storms came – a couple of tropical storms off the coast, one of which became a hurricane, and in La Manzanilla we got wild winds, thunder cracks to wake the dead, long-lasting lightening displays over the sea to rival the best light show, and torrential rains. Rain so hard you couldn’t see through it, rain so hard it made bubbles all over the surface of the pool as it bounced off, rain so hard you were drenched to the bone in seconds. The roads crumbled and were gutted with canyons. The little side street up to our place became impassable by car so deep was the trench, and other roads were in much the same condition. Some were fixed (until the next storm came), I suspect paid for by the people who live there. Others will remain impassable by car until the end of the rainy season.
This is what happens to the roads after a couple of tropical storms
And the beach was changed from a wide boulevard of soft yellow sand to great irregular piles of pebbles and rocks, wild waves and high tides. So high that having dinner at Pedro’s on our last evening there, sitting at the table farthest from the water, the waves were almost lapping our feet. It was a really good dinner though.
After nearly four months in La Manzanilla we felt rested and ready to start moving again. It was beautiful there, and exactly what we needed. We had time to remember ourselves again, time to discover new things about our inner journey, time to relax and play, time to dwell in presence. Time to just be. We missed the very first rains of the season that came during the last week of June. We’d taken a little trip on one of Mexico’s luxury buses to San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. That story in the next post.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.