Instead of a rooster crow or a head flap, we were awakened our first morning in Barra de Potosi by a big wet sloppy kiss. Sounds sexier than it was, since it came courtesy of the Contessa. Rick opened one eye to see her smiling at him. And she has such a dazzling smile, he couldn’t help but invite the sheltie into bed with us. But it was a tad crowded, considering we already had the Colonel sprawled over half the bed. So there we were, this odd ménage a quatre, lazing in bed on a Sunday morning, gazing out at the rolling ocean, 30 steps away. Or, as Gary likes to call it, our 10,000-mile front yard. He reasons that if you were to walk out into the waves and keep going, you’d hit the Philippines, nearly 10,000 miles away. Chances are you’d drown first, but it’s certainly a nice way to think of your front yard.
And what a front yard it is. The 9-km long beach is called Playa Blanca. It’s not exactly white, more golden, but the sand squeaks when you walk on it. Apparently the grains are kind of square, which causes them to emit a little cheep under pressure from your feet. We can sit here all day long on the porch and see maybe three people walk by. There’s a smattering of houses along this otherwise deserted coast, until you get to the end, at the little hodge-podge of the village of Barra de Potosi, population 500. The town was nearly wiped out during the big quake of ’85, and the Red Cross helped rebuild it. In gratitude, the townsfolk named the three streets after the charity’s top officials.
Our neighbour to the left of us is a former National Geographic photographer; our neighbour to the right is a horror film director, who’s busily building himself a beach mansion (house of horrors?). The laws forbid structures higher than the coconuts on the palm trees, so he’s out of luck if he wants to build a tower of terror.
Barra (which means sand bar) is an almost idyllic little slice of heaven. I say almost, because the cartel’s reach extends even here. We heard of a guy who was shot dead and a note pinned to his head stating it was a revenge killing. Nobody knows why, exactly; these thugs don’t need a reason. And that was just along the dirt road leading to this house. On another occasion, a local man was driving some friends along the street into Zihuatanejo, and saw a car stopped in the middle of the road, with people lying face down on the ground. This doesn’t look good, he thought. So he threw the gear into reverse and high-tailed it out of there, in a hail of bullets. Now we have our own local police force that patrols the streets, and things have been pretty quiet ever since.
We start our days by ritually binding the Colonel, so he doesn’t chew his appendage off. The small terrier is battling a round of psychological problems that’s manifested itself in a skin rash and the uncontrollable urge to bite himself until he bleeds, unless he’s bandaged. Thankfully, he’s really easy-going otherwise, and he doesn’t fuss. He sits still, because he knows breakfast comes next: raw hamburger topped with cold vegetable soup. Yum. The Contessa, meanwhile, watches the routine patiently with that winning smile, knowing that once her brother is suitably suited up, she can have her breakfast too. That’s if she’s not still digesting reptiles. Gary and Zoe have warned us she has a taste for lizards, which she hunts down in the vast yard and swallows whole. Trouble is, she tends to hork ’em back up, leaving a gooey, reptilian mess on the floor. Not terribly lady-like…
Then it’s off to the beach. The Contessa is so excited to go, she doesn’t wait for us to open the gate; she just sails over it like a gazelle, and she’s off and running down the empty shoreline. The Colonel, a little slower on his feet, trots alongside us, sniffing at this and that, watching the Contessa splash in the waves, too timid to join her.
When we get back, we wash off the dogs’ sandy feet and duck under the outdoor shower ourselves, taking care to sweep up the bat droppings first. There are a couple of bats that like to sleep their inverted sleep in the shower area, oddly. We don’t ever see them, just the results of them, so they’re not a bother.
One day we leave the dogs behind for a couple of hours and walk a few miles down to the myriad shrimp shacks at Barra. Called enramadas, they’re all exactly the same: palm-frond covered outdoor restaurants, all offering the same food. So we pull up a chair in the sand and order some shrimp tacos, fresh from the sea at our feet, and watch the action along the beach. We’re the only gringos here, but most people don’t look twice at us. They’re all Mexican families enjoying their vacation, swimming in the surf, playing soccer in the sand, paddling around the lagoon or just swinging in hammocks.
Another day we check out the Refugio de Potosi down the road (elrefugiodepotosi.org). Laurel Patrick, a former nurse practitioner from Oregon, started this sanctuary for injured and endangered birds and reptiles just last year, and has high hopes to expand it. The tour takes 45 minutes to peer into cages holding iguanas, macaws, parrots and tarantulas, as well as a butterfly pavilion (the mosquitoes, unfortunately, are uncaged). Mexico is home to 10 per cent of the world’s butterfly species, and 70 of those species live right in this region. We top off the tour (we’re the only ones here) by climbing 50 feet up the observation tower for a panoramic view across jungle and ocean. Our English-speaking guide turns out to be a student from the University of Victoria, who has family in Salmon Arm. It’s a small world after all.
We’re only here for a few days and there’s not much else to do, which suits us just fine. We could go snorkeling or horse-back riding or for a tour of the lagoon and its sea birds. We don’t do any of that. We’re content to spend most days reclining on the porch with the Colonel, the Contessa and the 10,000-mile front yard.