Coming down from the mountains of Central Mexico en route to the coast, the temperature climbed as we descended, doubling, in fact, from 17°C to 34°C at the end of the road. Highway 37 south was a surprisingly scenic drive, once we made it past what seemed like the entire Mexican military. We’d crossed states shortly into our drive, from Michoacan to Guerrero. Michoacan, unfortunately, is the latest state to be labeled the country’s most violent, but that designation is fluid in this besieged country. Hence, the visible law enforcement. We slowly, carefully rolled past dozens of Federales toting heavy-duty firearms on the other side of the state border. Some wore balaclavas; it’s not safe to be a cop brave enough to take on the cartels. They regarded us closely, and we them, but they did not ask us to stop — we didn’t fit the drug-thug profile. Still, it was all quite unnerving.
Once we were well into the state, we passed only a handful of police and military pick-up trucks with forces in the back, patrolling the highway. The criminal element keeps a low profile, thankfully, as we have not seen any violence at all. In fact, the only atrocities we witnessed were the hold-ups at the six toll booths where we handed over a total of 200 pesos (nearly $20) for the privilege of using the highway. But it was a very nice highway, and if it helps pay for the patrols, I suppose it’s a fair price. Over the three-and-a-half hour drive, we cruised through green hills rising above winding rivers, glistening lakes and marsh land, a topography reminiscent of home, actually. Except for the humidity. This you could cut and mold into a weapon. It’s a force all its own.
Merging onto coastal Highway 200, the tolls stopped and the topes started. Anyone who’s driven in Mexico is familiar with these evil little road humps. They pop out of nowhere and usually for no reason. Sometimes there’s a warning sign, oftentimes not. If you don’t slow down, however, you’re likely to lose your transmission.
When we spotted the sign for Troncones, we spontaneously took it. We have fond memories of discovering this remote beach town over a decade ago. Back then, the road was dirt and pot-holed, which made for slow-going. We had to steer around pigs and roosters and the inevitable stray dog running wild. Mexican families lived in shacks and their kids played in the dirt. Today, the road is paved and fast, hotels dot the shoreline and most Mexican families have prospered enough to live in nice homes. The only pigs in evidence today are the gas-guzzling SUV’s with California plates. But at least it’s not Acapulco. Yet.
We had intended to head straight for the Tropic of Cancer, dig our feet into the sand and knock back a couple of cold ones. But, alas, the venerable beach bar was closed, up for sale. We hope someone with a soft spot for its history buys it and resists the urge to turn it into a five-star resort. We went next door, to the competition, Burro Burracho. No tables in the sand, but at least we had a beachfront seat.
We’ve been away from the ocean for nearly a year, and to see it in all its endless glory was a sight for sore eyes. For the first several minutes we just sat and stared. It felt like coming home.
After a few cervezas and quesadillas, we pushed on to Barra de Potosi, less than a half hour away. Turning off the highway, we ambled down a bumpy road lined with ramshackle shops and homes. That blended into a smoothly paved, country road that wound through farmland and pastures. At the turn-off to Barra, we spotted a group of police just lounging amongst the trees. Yikes. The cartel’s reach extends here?
We eased past them and carried on down a dirt road until we reached house-sit #2, a beach house. Sweet. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by Gary, a sheltie and a terrier. The sheltie was grinning madly; the terrier was sporting an Oscar Meyer wiener. Well, that’s what it looked like at first glance. Over drinks on their ocean-front deck, Gary and Zoe explained that the wiener is actually a bandaged appendage. The terrier, whom we’ll call the Colonel, is battling some severe skin problems and needs one limb to be completely covered, otherwise he’ll chew it off. And it’s up to us to do the deed each morning. Add that rare and unusual skill to the resume. The sheltie, whom we’ll call the Countess, takes it all in stride. As will we. After all, it’s a small price to pay to live in paradise.