Crazy weekend at playa Paraiso, Guerrero, Mexico

DAY 0: Just a normal weekend on the beach

Morning: We — I, my 5-year old daughter and a group of forty young people — arrived at the beach of Paraiso, in the mexican state of Guerrero after a ten hour bus ride from Mexico City, on Saturday, September 14th. It took us an unusual long time due to the rain that hasn’t stopped all night.

Midday: Bad weather continues, rain and showers all day long on the beach. However, children know how to entertain themselves in all circumstances.

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Night: After an alert for a torment the whole group hastily evacuates the beach. For safety reasons it is forbidden to drive all the way to Mexico City. We move to the nearest village — Hacienda de Cabañas — to spend the night. We found shelter in a house of a local; about 30 persons sleep in a 3-room flat. At least we are safe…

DAY 1: Manuel arrives

Morning: Everybody thinks it is just another tropical rain. Wait few hours in the village, then go. The first morning views out of the window however assure us for exactly the opposite: water about a half-meter high flows on streets of the small village of Hacienda de Cabañas. The village is without electricity.

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Midday: No change in the situation. Rain continues and we just wait. Nobody knows what Hurricane Manuel is. To prepare lunch we go shopping to the local stores. We put on swimming suits and perform something that I can’t really describe, but is something between walking and swimming (!). We had enough meat and rice to cook to satisfy everybody’s hunger. Rain has not paused. The whole place is slowly sinking. Cars and houses are seriously into trouble and house owner start building up (!) the doors of their houses with bricks and cement. Obviously, the know what to expect.

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Night: With two cartons of corona beers we enjoy the torch- and candle-lit, still rainy night. Card games and stupid jokes make the atmosphere quite amusing. After all it’s just one more night of discomfort. Tomorrow we ‘ll go home (…).

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DAY 2: Trouble starts

Morning: Rain has kept falling overnight and the level of the water is risen to approximately 70cm just outside the house. Optimism distances itself. It feels like we are trapped in the bottom of a tea-cup and somebody is constantly pouring water in. The house left without running water and we had thus to collect and use rainwater in the toilet and bath. Telephone communications are hindered and at most times impossible.

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Midday: Rain stops! Miracle? Will the water go away? Are we going soon home? We go for the daily shopping, swim-walking in the water and come back to cook for the group. No meat, just rice and tuna cans. No second plate.

The rain only stopped for an hour or so. It goes on and on and the level of the water rises to its top-record of approx. 1m high.

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Night: Again flooded, we keep on doing what we best know how to do: wait! We entertain ourselves by playing games; no beers this time. The night is shorter and jokes are much less. We go to bed early, while some romance appears among companions.

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DAY 3: Sun returns

Morning: I had difficulties in sleep. I am, probably, getting worried about us being trapped here. As I was asleep in a windowless bedroom (laying on the floor of course) further out from the balcony I had no direct view outside. At some point at the dawn (I guess) I heard a very familiar and, have to admit, unexpected and extremely soothing sound: that of cicadas singing on the trees! Cicadas (crickets) never sing in the rain but always after it. Was it true? Was the rain over? It seemed so: cicadas never fail!

Midday: In the meantime the group has shrunk. Various group members have left us in expectancy of a faster way out. However, their attempts failed and the found shelter elsewhere. The sun is shining and travel companions are gradually regaining their optimism and crack a smile. It is getting hot and the water is draining out of the sunk city. Everything is now buried under mud. Communal lunch offered in the town square relieves us and makes us appreciate the locals even more. Temperature rises and atmosphere renders almost intolerable. Moreover, there is no water to shower. Funny enough, the neighbours open up a sealed well and with an electric pump a whole fresh-water geyser turns the neighbourhood into a playground; people, locals and us travellers are laughing and showering in open air and enjoying the water as if we were little children. Remark: exactly the same thing — water — that caused such a disaster and despair now appears as our salvation. Farce of the nature?

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Night: Things seem that can work out. Driven by the recent anniversary of the Mexican independence we go up to the terrace to light up and release to the air a couple of tiny hot-air balloons. Flying over to the sky everybody in the neighbouring houses spontaneously applauds and screams enthusiastically for the hope-bearing balloons.

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DAY 4: Should I stay or should I go?

Morning: The hurricane is over. For sure. The place is covered with tons of mud, dirt and dead animals while houses and cars are damaged and locals extremely surprised – though not desperate — from the unforeseen calamity.

Midday: One more open-air gratis lunch was gratefully organized from the municipality. But this time gourmet: prawns, crabs, sea-turtle eggs and even shots of mezcal! On my way to lunch I leave my adidas shoes on the square of the town where they are rapidly stolen. Adding to my broken (from mud) flip-flops I am now left completely shoe-less! With a pair of (really bad and worn out) crocs that I just found on the side of the street I am able to walk all the 3km way to the beach and back.

Night: As the night falls the sky remains clear and this motivates everybody to seriously think of leaving the town. It is not hard to meet a decision, especially after our ‘scout’, heroic Coleman, explored and came back from the nearest village, San Jeronimo de Juarez, to let us know that we could safely stay there. It will be closer to the exit (main highways) and furthermore there is electricity, he says, and telecommunications. The only problem is that to reach the village one has to walk the 8km road that has been completely damaged from the rain and hence no vehicles can pass through. No problem: we can do it. Everything must be ready for the tomorrow-morning Exodus. My cut foot still hearts from a piece of glass (or metal – I will never know) that slashed my skin while walking inside the dirty water, two days ago. Luckily, on the local store of ‘la güera‘ I found and bought a cheap pair of huaraches, whose sole is made of recycled truck-tyre (!).

Back in the house the atmosphere is getting better and better. Electricity is restored and, finally after 4 days of total silence (!) we were able to listen again to the familiar man-made sounds of mp3 players, TVs, car motors etc. I feel excited. That excited that …I decide to shave myself. The night is too hot and I am not at bed until late.

DAY 5: Exodus

Morning: We knew that the day would be long. We got up at around 5:30 am, got ready, had a rudimentary breakfast and headed to the town square. We have to walk about 8km of dirt road, sunk and covered into mud. We start hiking, with backpacks and Helena on my shoulders, as it is still dark. During the dawn the scenery is stunning, walking among tall palm trees, in a jungle that looks like a Rambo-film setting (part II was, as a matter of fact, shot 200km further out).

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The best part is maybe the crossing through a deep hole in the street (something like a crater 5m in diameter). The men of the group have to form a human chain to help the ladies (and backpacks) pass through securely. At some point, I have to submerge my right foot inside the water (a 1m deep hole), to help Helena pass. Soon after I see the remaining of a dead pig in the same waters… Disgust. I instantly wash my foot with drinking water.

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Lucky enough, just after the adventurous crossing a pickup truck gives us an entertaining ride for a couple of kilometres, until the village of Arenales. From there it is just another 20 minutes hike. At around 9am we reach the village of San Jeronimo. We are very kindly accepted (and fed!) at a primary school that has been turned into a refuge for the immediate victims of the hurricane.

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Midday: Until noon we are asleep and resting. The news (actually, rumours) we receive are not positive at all: the roads to both airport cities of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo were severely damaged. Furthermore, one more tropical rain is about – they say – to break out. Result: 3-5 more days in the town! Disaster.

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Not really. A dad of one of our companions, a pretty brave and cool guy, has decided to fly over from Mexico City to Zihuatanejo airport and drive from there 150km south until San Jeronimo, just to pick his daughter up. Cool eh? The time he enters our refuge everybody in the group spontaneously bursts into clapping. He is like an unexpected angel, a messiah bringing good news: the roads are open and there is a way out! Long story short, a half hour later he gives me and Helena a ride to the airport (about 2.5 hours drive).

Night: Content, exhausted, stinky but safe we arrive at the airport. They informed us that the government of Distrito Federal (Mexico City) has arranged gratis, rescue flights to Mexico City the very same night. Salvation! The only detail was that …we had no passports! Let’s negotiate that: “come on, señor, our passports are floating somewhere in the pacific ocean. Please, just let us fly…”. We made it through the control with some scanned photocopies only. Pretty good. Very good. Too good to be true. At 3am on Friday September 20th we are taking off from Zihuatanejo airport and an hour later we are landing on Mexico City airport. Just five minutes before the take off the rest of our group has arrived at the airport and made it to the flight. Everybody is back and is safe.

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DAY 6: Back home

That’s the story. Now at home, safe, with electricity, internet and all that, bed and food and time to collect memories. I don’t know if it is better, but… it’s home. Let’s see what the day after brings.

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For more photos CLICK HERE.

Feria de Cali (?)

I just got back from my five-day return trip from the pacific coast – beautiful coast – of Ecuador and arrived to Cali. Oh home sweet home… The trip was not without complications and problems – most of them i the Colombian side, you know I kinda hate this country – but all good at the end. I passed through amazing little villages in the region of Putumayo, a land so pretty as a miniatoure of the neighbouring Amazonas. Formerly controlled by guerillas, paramilitaries and drag traffickers it is now safe and looking for visitors and tourists to explore and communicate its beauties. Lonely Planet for this region will only say «don’t go there it’s bad it’s danerous!» and all of a sudden no backpackers go there…. I felt I was exploring these remote region for the first time in history… Fotos from this will follow.

I will now concentrate on the Feria de Cali a carnival-like festival that takes place anually here in Cali, Colombia. Itis the proud of the locals and supposedly one can see the best dancers evers, best fiesta, bes salsa, best ladies…. blah blah blah. I don’t beleive it. I think it is another well made myth. Like most things in Colombia….

I will report soon.

Now what?

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I dont know if you read me but… what Aloe Blacc sings (down there) is what I need🙂 How else should it be, when I have just arrived in Ecuador with no more than two bucks, few colombian pesos and a bunch of totally useless bank cards?

Anyways, this country is so beautiful and so cheap… so stupid I haven`t arrived earlier.

Wish me good luck…

El Dorado

The ideals, perfect idealized forms that would project the fantasy to the reality have always been favoured by the humans. Art, in its primitive form is about perfection, mathematics about how to make it tangible and countable. Both express – through exaggeration – the reality not in the form that is but in that that it could be.

There is, thus, a fine line between reality and fantasy, right? Well, history knows both examples and counterexamples, i.e., Don-Quixote-like imagination versus Leonardo Da Vinci`s vision, and historic efficiency is maybe the only one that can judge. The same illusion occurs at the level of modern societies; Castoriades has noted how social institutions in capitalism are structured on a fantastical basis rather than a realistic one.

Simply speaking, people tend to believe easily their fantasies rather than the reality. Fantasy here does not means the expectation, nor the collective social version of the expectations. Fantasy pertains to the fullfilment of the expectation and – most importantly – the way this is achieved. On dreaming and struggling of humans, reality can pretty often responde negatively but fantasy no; and that`s why the latter is favoured!
Several times in history the society as a collective thinker has fantasized and almost brought into existence in front of our dizzy eyes fantastic creatures and places that little have to do with reality but can perfectly satisfy our lusts. For instance, gods and daemons were born to protect us humans from the blustery caveat of the untamed nature and the stock exchange market made it possible for the uper class wannabes to freely praise their gods (i.e., money).
In the mid 16th century spanish conquistadors, dutch pirates and english buccaneers, all brought to the thirsty for profit and expansion new born bourgoise class of Europe a new dream, a new fantasy: El Dorado, the lost city of gold. The hunt for gold and wealth in the new world rapidly expanded all over Europe and the american colonies experienced new settlements (and pirate attacks) of the flocks of feverish careerists.

Socially seen, what was that? A ridiculous, mizerable and also dangerous activity. It is not that gold was not there. Colombia is indeed one of the lands richest in gold even to date. The conquistadors new it from the very first days. The point is that such a feverish social movement reflects the occult desire of a small but powerfull class of the then society. The arrogant desire for more wealth, conquest and gold.

The image of El Dorado is now gone. Still, the fantasies on the social or personal remain.

[…continued]

My colombian dream

Ok, first of all I have to provide a good reason why I have stopped blogging for that long and hence all (…three to four) proud readers were left neglected and beaten up.

I still owe some descriptions – left-overs – from my trips: 1. how I did it to Colombia from Panama (riding on a tiny 5-meter long fisherman´s boat for three days through the amazing San Blas islands), 2. why I did it to Colombia (still looking for the reason), 3. the Venezuelan loop, 4. the caribbean coast and irritating music festivals full of afro-american vibes, 5. the salsa times.

I don`t think I can compensate and catch up for everything happened the past two months. One is for sure, not much has happened – not as many as owed to, not many as one (myself) was expecting to. You see, I haven’t been writing because I have not been feeling proud of it anymore. I simply haven’t found what I am looking for –  not even got close –  and, quite bluntly, disappointment gave its place to excitement of the good old days. And don’t be surprised, don’t be imbecile: everybody is looking for something even in the most innocent stress-relieving weekend-long vacation. I mean, if the goal was to seek and find quality and beauty, I have completely failed in both. I haven’t travelled all these million milles, I haven’t spent all this money and effort, I haven’t dropped on the way half of the elements of my personality just for no reason. I am not here just to enjoy one more beautiful exotic beach, some supposedly breathtaking mountains, admire a couple of colonial towns – things that either way one can do everywhere in latin america. I do not want anymore to obediently consume the tasteless tourist product they offer to me (and lonely planet only will tell you how to do it).

I just wanted to live, take part, sense, feel, play and enjoy, win and lose. But NO. Reality said no.

Shiny gold: False expectations, wrong way, fantasized world. All made out of elements of reality. Everything is here: warm people, beautiful ladies and happy girls, dance and music, illegal substances and lust. What did it go wrong? Probably the composition in my head. I failed to reflect the reality and chose, instead, the convenient path of fantasizing.

Colombia sucks. And I suck even more, stuck in a non-inspiring land for a couple of months, among superficially polite people, boring ambient, asexual girls, mediocrity. Stuck and refusing to move (…where to, after all?).

IT IS NOT ABOUT BACKPACKING anymore.

It is about taking risks (and loosing), about knowing where (not) to go. About knowing that el dorado is a fuckin´ myth.

Panama Canal (and some of Panama´s caribbean coast)

The Panama Canal is undoubtedly an engineering wonder: for about a century it has been connecting the two economically most important oceans of the world (and at the same time dividing the Americas into two…). Its importance can be reflected in the increasing number of ships (about 15000 a year or 40 a day) that queue every day to traverse it, with an average waiting time of few days or weeks and a ridiculously high fee of some dozens or even hundreds of  thousands of dollars (!). It was, of course, the Americans that first foresaw the importance and profitability of such a deed, to join the two oceans. After the very first negotiations with the Nicaraguan authorities failed (as the first idea was to connect the seas through the land of Sandinistas), the route close to Panama City looked ideal. Indeed, by using the existing network of lakes and rivers it would be only a small part of land that had to be removed and taken away in order to complete the junction of the oceans. However, there was a subtle detail, essential for the successful accomplishment of the junction: the canal had to be uneven. Due to the very special geological formation of the rivers (through which the canal runs) one single waterway on the same level is not possible. That is the reason why you see today the «Locks» in the Panama canal, i.e., the huge gates that keep the level of the waters uneven. This realization on its own, ingeniously made by French and Americans engineers, was the key to the success. As a matter of fact, all previous attempts to drill the Panamanian land from one side to other, mainly by Suez Canal engineers, that were blindly looking to copy their existing methods in Egypt, completely failed leading the investors of the project to bankruptcy and despair and thousands of workers to death or heavily suffering from Malaria!

The funniest – see, ridiculous – thing in it is how the Americans managed to construct and seize control of the canal for about 80 years after its construction:

First, they decide Panama is the place to construct the canal. Panama belongs at this time (before 1904) to Colombia; but Colombia cannot be persuaded to join the effort for the canal – of course the way the Americans want to. The solution is simple: separate Panama from Colombia, make it a sovereign state and right after sign a Metropolis-Protectorate-type agreement for the exploitation of the canal. Literally, so did it happen! It suffices to mention that the ambassador of Panama to the US and principal mediator for the agreement between the US and Panama was the Frenchman Phillipe Bunau Varilla, an engineer and businessman that very little had to do with Panama. Can you see the satanic masterplan? You cannot agree with a government of one state (Colombia), you cite a rebellion in that state, you financially support the rebels until they establish a new state (Panama), you appoint a foreigner (!) as an ambassador to represent this new state abroad (in the US) and you sign a legal treaty with this foreigner (and good colleague) with the terms you fancy. Genius, eh? This is the history – in a nutshell – of the construction of the Canal and it sorts of explain the fact why the Canal was under american administration until 1999.

Colón is a port city on the atlantic entrance of the Canal. Busy, dirty, with a touch of Spanish colonial architecture, impressive Caribbean faces on the streets, but by far the dodgiest city I have ever visited. It offers excellent opportunities to shot pictures, but not more than that…

Portobelo, a little bit further down south also on the Caribbean sea, is a cute little town somewhat ghost-like: it has flourished the first years of the colonial epoch but after a series of pirate attacks it was abandoned. Today it enjoys quietness and a mild tourism, while a few remaining colonial buildings and port constructions remind to the visitors that this place must have been important ages ago… If you are lucky (?) and get there in the beginning of October, at this one time a year that the locals celebrate their saints (I didn’t exactly understand, I think god and jesus and stuff…) you will see an enormous stage in the central park of the village with bands playing and singing/preaching gospel music and worshipping god for literally a couple of days or more in a raw. Sleep and wake up with the same sounds of brain-washed christians that autistically keep on playing their music even when the audience is arithmetically less that the band players…

Long introduction, tiring text but necessary. One picture makes a thousand words… but history is to be said not shown. That said, click on the picture and adore the supremeness.

No more clichés

I love Octavio Paz for his straight and deeply analyzing point of view on things and phenomena. So to say,  something like a scientist! For that he deserves one (at least) post from me and maybe the attention from you. Besides, he is the godfather of this blog…

 

 

No More Clichés

Beautiful face
That like a daisy opens its petals to the sun
So do you
Open your face to me as I turn the page.

Enchanting smile
Any man would be under your spell, 
Oh, beauty of a magazine.

How many poems have been written to you? 
How many Dantes have written to you, Beatrice? 
To your obsessive illusion
To you manufacture fantasy.

But today I won’t make one more Cliché
And write this poem to you.
No, no more clichés.

This poem is dedicated to those women
Whose beauty is in their charm, 
In their intelligence, 
In their character, 
Not on their fabricated looks.

This poem is to you women, 
That like a Shahrazade wake up
Everyday with a new story to tell, 
A story that sings for change
That hopes for battles: 
Battles for the love of the united flesh
Battles for passions aroused by a new day
Battle for the neglected rights
Or just battles to survive one more night.

Yes, to you women in a world of pain
To you, bright star in this ever-spending universe
To you, fighter of a thousand-and-one fights
To you, friend of my heart.

From now on, my head won’t look down to a magazine
Rather, it will contemplate the night
And its bright stars, 
And so, no more clichés. 

 Octavio Paz