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Oaxaca Coast: Zicatela to Zipolite

We came to Puerto Escondido on a bit of a mission. Before we left home a friend of ours in Petaluma, Michael "Bug" Deacon, asked us if we would deliver a book he had written to a friend of his down here. The friend, Dan Clemons, owns a little hotel on Zicatela Beach in Puerto Escondido called Hotel Casa Dan, and he's been down here for 25 years. It is a cute, cheap & chill place. We decided to check in for a few days. It was long and roundabout delivery, but the book made it to Puerto Escondido and into Dan's hands. Dan is in the book, and shared some great stories from it. We didn't know it then, but our friend Bug was delivering his book to Dan's son in Vancouver at the same time. Syncronisticness!

Delivery of Bug's book to Dan at Hotel Casa Dan. FedEx may have been faster....

Getting some help from the locals on our bike ride

We are happy to be back at the beach. We (or maybe just me) were getting a bit done with the interior of Mexico. Oaxaca City is a big city. It isn't just the driving, but the random towns we drive through are feeling less appealing. The touristy parts of the big cities have people endlessly trying to sell us something, and venturing just outside of the "tourist zone", we wander a bit aimlessly now. The interior is grinding me down a little. We’ve also had a string of errands to do too, and everything is just a little more difficult here. We got the truck serviced but had to drive across town two seperate days which took over an hour. We need a bolt for the truck but the name is totally lost in translation in Auto Zone. And getting money out of a town’s only ATM took us 45 minutes with 20 people in line. So having the chill vibe of a beach town is a welcome change. Adam and Karen met up with with us here at Hotel Casa Dan, and they expressed the same feeling. So we all did very little while down here but chill, and it was a good (and crazy cheap) place to recharge.

See you down the road, Karen & Adam. Great traveling with you!

It’s hot down here. I mean HOT. We wanted warm after being in the mountains, but…whoa. We spent our first day riding our bikes around the area… and learned the hard way that physical exertion should not take place during the day. The beaches are pretty deserted during the day, and when the sun starts to go down people start to come out again. We finally see people eating in the restaurants and playing soccer on the beach, everything comes alive after dark.

Zicatela has no swimming. A dangerous rip tide spans most of this coast; all the beaches have red flag warnings. Zicatela Beach is also called the “Mexican Pipeline” after this famous surf break, which is reportedly similar in power and shape to the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. There is a swell coming in at the end of the week that will draw some top surfers, so we get to see the pipeline in full force. It’s a serious wall of water we watch all week. From the more tourtisty Zicatela, we move up the coast to a beautiful, quiet beach, where we stay in thatched roof bungalows and see not a soul on the beach. We do very little but try to stay cool.

Coastline in front of our bungalow. Hot

It finally cools off in the evening

This horse was built by someone from driftwood. It has a beautiful silhouette at sunset.

One morning over breakfast, one of the workers shows us a big salad size bowl full of baby turtles and another full of eggs. We walk down to the beach with a few other guests and help release them into the ocean. They are so small, and they push so hard with their tiny flippers through the sand. Every couple of minutes they stop to rest, breathing heavy – making a run for the water. Most won’t make it; only 5% of baby turtles survive.

This area is really interesting with regard to turtles. Just down the coast from here is the town of Mazunte. In the 1970's, Mazunte was the center of sea turtle hunting in Mexico, with its own turtle meat slaughterhouse. Concern over the declining number of sea turtles eventually led to an absolute ban by the government on turtle meat and eggs in Mexico, which deprived most families in Mazunte of their main source of income. To replace it, ecotourism based on the conservation of turtles and natural cosmetics developed after Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, visited Mazunte in 1993. Impressed with efforts here, she worked with the Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte, a community enterprise, to distribute cosmetics made locally and feed them into the tourism industry. The Body Shop was also instrumental in changing a community in the northern highlands of Hildago, Mexico, that I visited when I was on the board of IDEX. They are the rare global company that walks the talk. Since the ban and the change in economy, household income in Mazunte has improved by an average of 17%. Before many residences had no running water, electricity, schools or health centers, which exist now. These are the kind of sustainable business development projects I worked on at Planeterra, and it is so important to incorporate conservation in these projects because the communities and the environment are interdependent. John and I are starting to think about projects like these to get involved with down the road. Literally and figuratively.

The turtle release was about the most excitement we had those few days. We watched the waves crash, we read a lot, and we didn’t do much else. Every day the swell got a little bigger and some sets would crash so high the horizon would disappear behind a wall of water. The waves got louder too, and began to sound like a jet engine revving up which occasionally woke us up at night.

Here are the turtles and the waves in motion:

Oaxaca Coast: The Movie

We stayed at one more beach on the coast called Zipolite Beach. Total hippie euro vibe and we liked it. We camped at Cabana Havana, which is basically a parking lot behind a row of stilted bungalows full of young beach bums drinking 40 ouncers of beer and hanging out. Janice and Gregor, whom we met back in Teotihuacan, are here as well. Here too, we try not to move too much during the day. So we watch the waves break. And play with a homeless puppy.

Camping at Zipolite

See how little he is? He totally fits.

This beach is 2 km long and it has one long wave that forms along the entire length of the beach. It is really mesmerizing. Or we are loopy from the heat, not sure which. Since the only air conditioning we have is in the truck cab, it makes fine sense to start driving again.

Next up...Chiapas.

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