April 12th, 2006 by: cheyenne

Fishing Pangas on the beach at Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

As Joshua mentioned in the previous post, we arrived braced for turistic mayhem and prepared to pretty much hate the place. We entered the bay just after sunrise and could see in the morning smog a fringe of high-rise hotels lining the entire coast of the bay. We came up around to the northwest nook of the bay and proceeded to circle the anchorage for at least 45 minutes in a vain attempt to find a spot where 1) we weren’t in danger of being run down by enthusiastic banana-boaters or overzealous yachties; 2) where there wasn’t a 200-foot derelict rubbing up against a haphazard concrete mooring disc with ear-splitting abandon whenever a wake disturbed its rustful slumber; 3) where there wasn’t freakish bottom anomalies (65-65-40-35-65-34-23-35-65…wtf. I shudder to imagine what might litter the Acapulco harbor bottom); or 4) where we were vaguely out of earshot of the party barges (they will give that karaoke mike to anyone). Heady criteria indeed. We managed a spot in a somewhat alarming depth of 65 feet, a satisfying distance off of the derelict, and a neat paddle amongst the shining plastic megayachts to the elaborate Club de Yah-tays, where rumor had it that the dinghy landing fee wasn’t being enforced.

We immediately docked illegally at the Club de Yates dinghy dock and made a beeline for the flush toilets (oh heaven) and then tracked down every boating supply store in town. We were on the lookout for toilet tank chemical, a porta-potty repair kit, or a whole new toilet in general; have I mentioned that we have been having head issues lately? A complicated myriad of problems include a five-day max holding tank capacity (that 750ml issue is a killer), difficulty of finding tank chemical worth half a damn, a broken flush pump, general Cheyennian irritation at the whole situation, and let us not forget the most unfortunate phenomenon of pressure build-up. (“We’re going to have to rebuild the whole head. I said, well, do what you gotta do.”) Adding to the problem is the hair-tearing irritation that the very head we want to buy was in Puerto Vallarta at the fantastic Zaragoza (a good Mexican marine supply) at an excellent price and WE DIDN’T BUY IT WHEN WE HAD THE CHANCE. Woe. Woe and Frustration. Add a dash of Irritation and at least three cups of Foul Language. Long story short, there is no head to be had in Acapulco for less than $450 but there is toilet chemical that is strong (says ‘poison’ all over the bottle in more than one language and gives an alarming description of what must be done in case of ingestion), comes in a gallon jug, and ought to take care of at least one of our problems until we either get a proper marine head or go insane. Maybe in August. Head, not insanity. So we hope.

Business taken care of, we shifted into explorer/obtain-delicious-snack mode and laid a course for the zocalo. The road between the Club de Yates and downtown is a busy street with 12 inches of sidewalk where you are constantly honked and shouted at by taxis and busses (because nobody in their right mind walks from Caleta—suburb where the marinas are—and Acapulco proper). This would have been more annoying if the busses were not so elaborately decorated on the outside (inside too) with airbrushed masterpieces of Ren and Stimpy, or Dracula and his Seven Sexy Nymphos, or Extreme Sports Bettys (imagine Lara Croft, blond, ollying up a handrail), or Death Rocker Metal Screamer, or Stuart Little (Stuart Little??!!). Weirdness, to be sure. Not to mention that most busses have the first (top) half of the front windshield obscured by a ruffly curtain, the bottom quarter obscured by prismatic stickers with slogans like “DIOS ES MI COPILOTO” and the muddy in between taken up with dingle-balls (from the bottom of the curtain), dangling virgin statuary, woven palm frond Semana Santa crosses, firecrackers, etc.

Along the malecon, there are vendors hawking all sorts of weird beach outfits and sticky coconuty treats as well as a gang of old dudes who approach you with fishing/diving/esnorkling/beach excursions and who sport the Dress Whites as if they are the Captain Himself of some fine yacht moored just over yonder and they are inviting you personally, perhaps as a favor to the king to spice up the boring tropical days.

Once you hit the zocalo, a shady treed place with a built-in shoeshine stall ever 30 feet (we’re in flip-flop territory so the majority of the stalls were occupied only by ornery looking old ladies), you have but half a block to go to escape where any and all tourists seem to ever go. Surprising, but honestly, we did not see any western tourists outside the confines of the Club de Yates–only a few walking the malecon near downtown and a couple in near the zocalo–and then none anywhere within downtown. This is not to say we didn’t see any tourists, oh no: there were droves, mostly from Mexico City (Semana Santa is just around the corner), but they kept primarily to the malecon and beaches. Downtown is a snaggle of shoe stores, cheap clothing stores of vast selection and questionable quality, wedding announcement printing shops (yes, they deserve their own category; how such a dingy greasy black hole manages to produce cards of such whiteness and laciness is a miracle rivaling the resurrection), weird shit stores (plastic buckets, screwdriver sets, thong underwear, cake decorations), and paletas/helados/aquas shops (we promptly outfitted ourselves with a plastic bagful of pina colada agua). The streets were filled with shocking potholes, varying qualities and vintages of paving, obscure traffic signage, and berjillions of pedestrians, taxis, and painted busses, who clearly have a deeper understanding of the way Things Are Run. We ran into Cameron and Jenny from Velella en route (we have been bumping into each other as we work down the coast; they use kayaks as dinghies and have been pronounced “cool”) and spent the day wandering with them through town. Like us, they are used to spending a day in a new town traipsing aimlessly about with no particular destination and certainly no map or direction. We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking about in the sweltering heat, ducking into bookshops or anything that might be air conditioned, then headed back to the Club de Yates to scope out the shower situation.

I had to actually ask the doorman of Club de Yates where the showers were (they were well hidden) and we were ushered to a tastefully lit stairwell leading off in either direction (dames, and horse-riders). The stair was stone and cool and let up to a sparkling bathroom with toilets to one side, showers to another, and a massage parlor and towel rack splendid with fluffy navy-blue towels in between. I already felt acutely that I didn’t belong here (not having paid for the dinghy dock and all) and so I stuck with my REI space-age chamois towel; however, this did not stop me from taking advantage of the liquid soap dispenser located within the shower stall and working my bathing suit into a frothy ball, not to mention my Tevas and shorts, which I proposed to wear the following day. Water pressure was firm and fast and I was enjoying myself immensely until a crowd of several hundred children entered for their daily washing. Ayyy. Two or three at a time entered the unoccupied stalls and commenced to absorb all the tepid temperatures. I believe they were yacht club pool urchins and they possessed the strange power to control the shower temperature with voice alone; within moments my shower bliss was shattered, I was enduring icy hot sputtering blasts and my once-every-six-months-deep-conditioning moment was getting all fucked up. Their controller was a sole harried women who periodically barked commands like, “Let Jose use the water temperature controls,” “Lupita! Stop squirting soap on your sisters,” or “Only one towel per person!” Like a summer squall, they were gone within minutes and I was left alone with one hand testily on the temperature control, my heart pounding, and St. Ives facial scrub all over the place.

Clean as two whistles, we kayaked back and forth to the boat a few times, then headed into shore to check out the night cliff divers, who chuck their very bodies from a height of 75-100 feet or so nightly in hopes of earning a living. Impressive stuff.

The next day we found out that somebody had been taking advantage of the dinghy dock and not paying and the Club de Yates did not approve; a guard had been positioned on the quay to escort any newcomers to the office where they were expected to cough up ~38 dollars for use of dock and “services.” Good god. So everyone who had been mooching off the supposed generosity of Club de Yates went down the way to Marina Acapulco, a quasi-derelict boat dock with strangely shabby/schmancy yacht clubhouse (pool on roof, palm cabanas and swim-up bar; no running water in the bathrooms, docks broken into many pieces and roped together using various bits of multi-colored and sized ropes). They were very friendly and helped us tie up to one of the floating dock pieces and did not charge anything.

We spent the rest of our time in Acapulco on restocking missions: grocery store, market, Home Depot (whoa), etc. The bus ride to Home Depot was very fascinating; there is a dizzying array of commercial activity afoot in Acapulco. We left the harbor in the late afternoon and anchored for the night at the south edge of the bay, a mini-cove that is rapidly being developed into one big massive multi-level hotelmania. Ayy. The next morning we started out for the overnighter to Galeta, the next possible anchorage to the south.

Booby riding a sea turtle

We saw a lot of turtles, many of them with avian passengers.

Food Report

Mexican style bbq chicken, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

We didn’t eat out too terribly much while in Acapulco—we ate at a couple Comida Corrida places and had mole chicken, fried fish, that sort of thing. The road between the cliff divers around the outer edge cutting back towards the bay between Caleta and downtown Acapulco had a lot of popular restaurants and guys at tables working cutting open shellfish (like, shellfish out of pretty seashells, as well as oysters, clams, conch-like things). We did eat at a couple of roasted chicken places that were very good; the photo above is of a great place called La Fogata that is right up the side street by the Comercial Mexicana supermarket. A massive plate of barbecued chicken is 22 pesos. They have Negro Modelo.

Downtown, a group of ladies on the street had plastic buckets of a light-brown thick liquid drink (I forgot the name!) that was made of rice flour, chocolate, cinnamon, and sugar. They would dip a dipperful and pour it from a height in order to keep things well-churned (no settling) and charged 5 pesos for a cupful. One lady’s five-gallon bucket had the faded words “industrial soil plasticizer” or some such on it. Hmm.

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell