Woke up: Tenacatita, Mexico
Went to sleep: Tenacatita, Mexico
My Bus Ride to Melaque
My journey began when Quan pulled up alongside Penelope at 9:00 am. I had requested an early departure and as usual, Quan is very punctual.
Peter and I watched as he motored toward us fifteen minutes prior to his scheduled arrival. Once underway, he stalled the motor and allowed the 27’ fiberglass ponga to drift on the water while he swabbed the deck to get the boat ready. Peter commented, “Does it look like he dressed up for the occasion?” I said, “Yes, I noticed that, too.”
We had arranged for Quan to take me from the north shore of Bahia Tenacatita to La Manzanilla this morning and return me to Penelope late this afternoon. I needed to take the bus from La Manzanilla to Melaque to get pesos.
La Manzanilla doesn’t have an ATM and we have only 1500 pesos ($100) on board. We will continue northward toward Puerto Vallarta in a couple of days and there probably won’t be an ATM along the way. We should be able to purchase groceries from the small tiendas but we’ll need pesos in small denominations to do that. So, I’m off on an adventure.
Quan speaks a little English and we tried a couple of times to comment on the weather or the boat as we motored across the bay but our communication was limited by my inability to speak Spanish. We sped across to La Manzanilla, about 3 miles away, mostly in silence.
The bay was still a murky chocolate brown, full of leaves and twigs from Monday’s rain event. The waves were very big and very scary once we got near shore. I had to trust Quan to maneuver through the surf and land the ponga safely on the beach without flipping us upside down.
About 1,000 yards from shore he stood up and started to undo his belt buckle to take his pants off. I thought, “Oh, NO!” I laughed at my foolish fearfulness when I realized he had his swim trunks on underneath and knew he would be getting into the water.
He turned the boat backward and gently eased us over the incoming waves, backing up to the beach and gently placing the boat on the sand where I could step off without even getting my tennis shoes wet. Quan is a professional!
Quan said, “I’ll meet you in front of the Guacamole Grill at 4:00 pm. Adios! See you then.” We waved good-bye and I went in search of the “bus stop”.
“Donde es la autobus to Melaque?” I asked. I’ve learned to ask the same question of three or four different people until I feel I have a consensus. If I don’t, I risk getting bad advice either because I am not understood or because they don’t want to admit they don’t know the answer. Once I found four people who consistently told me the bus picks up in front of the church I felt comfortable waiting for it there.
Promptly at 10:30 the bus arrived. It cost 15 pesos ($1.00) to ride to the next town. The bus was old and dilapidated, with a transmission that sounded like it was going to fall to the pavement on the next hill, but the locals didn’t seem concerned so I settled back to enjoy the ride.
A block from the Autobus Termino de Centro in Melaque I found the Banamex. There was a long line and I asked someone if this was the only ATM in Melaque. “Si.” I weeded past the crippled and homeless people begging for change with Fresca cans and found the end of the line. The other Gringos were discussing the probability of getting money from one of the two machines. “Yesterday that one worked.” “This one worked earlier today.” My apprehension began to rise.
My tendency, though, is to expect things to work out for me and as a result of that expectation, they usually do. I hardly ever entertain the idea things won’t work out the way I expect them to and I am genuinely surprised when they don’t.
As expected, I inserted my debit card into the machine, responded carefully to each prompt, and successfully received $6,000 pesos ($428) and a receipt for my transaction. “Yes!”
From there I found my way to the centro mercado and purchased Costco size cheese, crackers, cookies, oats, almonds, raisins, powdered milk and a long lighter to light the grill. Following my successful shopping, I found a hair salon.
There is no doubt my hair is the ugliest hair anyone on earth has ever been born with. I comfort myself with, “You should be grateful you have hair,” remembering it all fell out in the first grade and grew back in the second. Not much comfort, though, as the stylist attempts to comb through this torn, broken, fragile mess on my head.
“Just a trim, please.” After three years, I am still working to get all of my hair the same length. If you remember, it was only about an inch long three years ago.
The stylist chopped off about an inch of the length and trimmed the ends elsewhere. I paid her 40 pesos, put my hat back on and walked away. She and the other patrons with their long, thick, black Mexican hair shook their heads and looked to the floor in shameful despair at my plight.
I stopped in the OXXO and loaded 100 pesos onto Peter’s Mexican cell phone.
I found an outdoor palapa and settled back to enjoy tres tacos de pascada and a local newspaper. I see the exchange rate has dropped to an all-time low of 15.46 pesos per American dollar. Good for me; hard on the Mexicans. I leave a tip equivalent to the cost of my tacos.
I felt exceedingly satisfied as I climbed aboard the bus to return to La Manzanilla. Soon after I was seated, an older gentleman struggled to lift a suitcase nearly the size of a small refrigerator on board. The other riders watched as he grunted and groaned and finally got the parcel on board. He stood up tall to catch his breath and looked around at the other patrons watching his struggle. His face broke into a broad, joyous grin at his own dilemma and his accomplishment. I wondered to myself how the Mexican people can be so resilient and cheerful in the face of their hardship and poverty.
Back in La Manzanilla, I picked up chicken, pork chops, minced garlic, fruit and vegetables at the local store.
Quan was waiting for me in front of the Guacamole Grill. The tide was low. He placed a piece of drift wood under the boat to act as a roller as five other men stepped forward to help push the boat down the sand to the water. I pushed, too. Without incident we headed across the bay. I offered Quan a cold Fresca which he happily received.
On the way across, Quan informed me he had been inundated with calls for his services from the other boats at anchor in the bay. As a result of Peter’s enthusiastic endorsement of Quan’s skill and professionalism, several other cruisers had hired him to take them either to shore, up the river or across the bay. Back at Penelope Peter greeted us, “Hola!”