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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Surviving the nite in Michoacán’s La Playa Azul

I sit on the warm beach and wonder how I’ve allowed myself to miss the sun setting over the ocean recently. Too busy, too many tall buildings in Manzanillo, but here I have a spectacular view.

When the sun set has said her final a do, I return to Daniel’s restaurant in the dark. The workers are folding table cloths and leaning the backs of white plastic chairs against the square white plastic tables.

Daniel asks if I want the light shining brightly over the tables on for the whole night. I say lord (to my self) and no (outloud), unless he normally does that.

I drive into the spot, close to the tall trees that border the restaurant. I break a branch off one of the trees and hear a dreadful ‘ping’ on top of my truck. I’m worried I’ve broken glass on a solar panel but everything seems to be working normally.

I leave my door open for the beginning of the night, as it is terribly hot inside the camper, and I feel it’s okay to do that here.

And I sleep in the top bunk so I have a view of the ocean through my small windows, and the black sky through my sunroof windows. The moon is a thin crescent and the stars are radiant pricks of sparkles.

Welcome to La Playa Azul

I  take the 7 kilometer paved road off the main highway through fields of mega-papaya and coconut, to get to Playa Azul. Entering the little town, the road dead ends into a small circle with only one paved option to the left. This road parallels the ocean and is wall to palapa to wall to palapa to wall restaurants and plastic coke and beer arm chairs.

 It is solid businesses, one after the other, on both sides. Mostly restaurants on the ocean side, a few homes interspersed on the other side. I head to the end, hoping there will be a stretch of open beach, but the road ends and then the beach stretches… apparently road-less.

As I drive back, a man flags me down and asks me what I am looking for. When he hears my halting Spanish, he calls the owner over.

I repeat in Spanish I’m looking for a place to park for the night and he kindly tells me I can park in the dirt area next to his restaurant for the night.

Daniel, born here, is also from San Jose. He is fluent in english and Spanish. He generously tells me I can use the bathroom, water, whatever I need.

Daniel, buff and tattoos visible wherever there’s a hint of skin, frankly tells me he left San Jose because he didn’t want to end up in prison for the rest of his life. At 21 years young, he was a three striker.

He’s only 30 and I’m really glad he has escaped the u.s. I see the tattoos on his neck behind his ears, on his knuckles and between his fingers, that I think are a gang or prison tattoos but I don’t ask – I’m glad he tells me.

He bought this restaurant and is doing really well, he says. I buy coconut from him $15 pesos, and quesadillas, rice and beans $50 pesos w/tip – I’m REALLY hungry. And then I buy chocolate flan $20 pesos from a young girl walking by. I’ve blown my budget for today.

Now I’m stuffed. I walk for what seems like miles on the flat, hard beach, looking for another quieter, non-business spot without a building structure and fence lining it, to park for a few days.

Daniel’s is only temporary and on a narrow space between two restaurants where my door has to face the restaurant. And I don’t want to interfere with his restaurant biz.

Pockets of people here and there are playing in the shallow, warm, calm ocean. A kid who looks 12 drives a pickup truck slowly along the edge of the ocean while two grown men are perched on the back of the truck peering out into the waves.

First I think this kid must be learning to drive but then I hear a shout and the kid slams on the brakes, the two men jump off and run into the ocean swinging nets. The next thing I know, they are hauling in fish.

What a way to catch a fish! I think they saw the pelican standing there, watching the ocean too. After they leave, the pelican calmly walks into the ocean and catches herself a fish too.

From the road

This land is magic! I only have a camera phone so I cannot begin to capture it's stark and stunning beauty.

You can see the road is well paved - all the roads I have driven on are well paved, recently paved, with very, very small stretches in the process of being paved. But you can also see the tiny, tiny non-existent 'shoulder'. At least this stretch there appears to be no huge drop at the edge of the pavement!

Michoacán and the most dangerous thing on the road

Not knowing how long my journey ahead with take, I decide to forfeit the 10 liters – about 2 ½ gallons – of veggie oil this morning so I can head out of the beautiful city of Manzanillo. I’m off to the next state, Michoacán, and the ocean.

I have to backtrack to Técoman and then continue south on México 200 instead of north to Colima, where I came from a few days ago.

I pass the brick kiln again, madly smoking, and then head into the most beautiful land – mountains again, yet mountains that run along the shore line.

The views are just stunning. And the little sleepy towns reach out to me. I wonder as I pass what it is like to be raised among such beauty, without tons of people, and little diversions from your natural surroundings and every day life.

The road is wonderful – free, narrow, but solid flat surfaces, hardly any potholes at all or rough places. The faded yellow line marks the middle with the white lines on either side. Some places there is even a little more than 3” before the 3+ foot drop.

The most dangerous thing on the road is me driving while I’m trying to get a good look around. Good thing I don’t have a passenger or she might have jumped by now!

There are several military posts between towns, on the outskirts of towns, and two military blockades – one on the other side of the street, and several miles later, one on my side of the street.

Two cars are pulled over in front of me. The soldiers see me and they seem to not be able to keep from breaking out in smiles. I can’t figure it out. I get waved through all the time now. I wonder if there’s a bulletin out – don’t worry about the old womon in the hippie truck with the large pink peace symbol – let her through.

It is still terrifying to see these boys barricaded behind tall stacks of sandbags – just tall enough to cover everything but their heads and ugly machine guns that are protruding over the stacks.

They’re like in deer hides, in pairs, along either side of the road, what, thinking they’re blending in with the greenery? I feel like I’ve been sucked into one of the old pinball machine games where you roll along and figures pop up.

I wonder if they’re scared, hiding behind those walls of sand and plastic. Do they really believe they are protected by that shit? Or is it for us, those of us passing by, to make us feel afraid, and thinking we need to be dependent on these boys with their toys.

The next most dangerous thing on the road, besides the topes as you know, are the trucks, buses and other cars that want to get somewhere 3 minutes before you do. How much time do they think they save racing around 10mph curves at 40?

As I drive through an especially curvy – and ufb beautiful – stretch, scattered orange triangles begin to area singularly on the side of the road, interspersed with the occasional orange vest hung from trees, as if they’re running out of triangles. I slow down and around a corner is a huge tractor trailer truck on it’s side.

The cab and the body, totally on it’s side. Men are waving me by with handkerchiefs as others work around the truck. I wonder if the driver is okay and how the hell it happened.

Truckers tend to know the road pretty well. It’s a given he was going excessive speeds but did he get distracted? Did the bus that flew past me 15 minutes earlier make him dodge and flip? Was he driving drunk or tired?

Few vehicles are on this road, but enough to have sporadic company. When I see the beaches in Michoacán, I wonder why any tourist would want to ever go to Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta or any of those tourist places.

These beaches are clean, small, brilliantly beautiful – the ocean is calm, warm, shallow. And there are few people crowding anywhere.

I pass an adorable little town and playa when I first enter Michoacán and spend the next 50 miles kicking myself for not stopping there. Even though I will land at a beautiful beach, Playa Azul, I’m still thinking about that beach almost 200 kilometers away.

I also pass a little RV park where views of the ocean are breathtaking. I do not stop there, as RV parks are not my thing but I put it in here in case you are looking for such you will know it is available here on México 200 in Michoacán.

The roads are near perfect until about 40 kilometers still north of Playa Azul, when suddenly the asphalt just ends and a dirt road begins. The first stretch of dirt only lasts about ½ mile and I’m thinking, that’s not bad when the road ends again.

This continues for about a 10 mile stretch where the road is either old pavement, total dirt, or partial brand new pavement. Fortunately for me, it is Saturday so there is no traffic stoppage by men and big equipment working. As it is, it takes about an hour to get through the rough spots.

As my time dwindles, I’m really wishing I would have stopped at that first little beach I saw, but now I’m really committed to getting to Playa Azul. There are many other lovely beaches but the roads down are steep and narrow and timely to explore.

If I was able to see a perfect beach from the road, I would brave the steep and narrow but I did take one of those roads and ended up at the bottom of a VERY crowded beach – crowded not only with fishing boats but those damned dung buggy things and shrimps of boys behind the wheels.