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.
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.
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.
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 (…).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more photos CLICK HERE.