After a monster journey of more than 24 hours, during which I took a shuttle bus from Xela to San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico and a proper bus from there to Puerto Escondido, I arrived in the beach-bum town of Zipolite, Oaxaca around midday. The sky had been overcast since arriving in Oaxaca and it rained on the way from Puerto Escondido to Zipolite. I had been wondering how the driver of the small bus could actually see the road through the downpour. But in these parts of the world when travelling by public transport, you just have to surrender to the circumstances and/ or pray you arrive in one piece. It had stopped raining when I arrived in Zipolite, but that was only the proverbial silence before the storm.
Mexico Travel and Zipolite: Past and Present
I had visited Zipolite 19 years ago, almost to the month. I travelled with a friend I’ve known from secondary school. We arrived at Houston International Airport in the US from London Gatwick airport on the day that France won the world cup football. I remember it was terribly hot in Houston. We took a bus to the border and travelled for four weeks or so. It was our first time in Latin America and neither of us spoke a word of Spanish. It was a formative trip for me. I still love the colours corn yellow, terracotta and deep blue, which are very popular in the country and I really liked the people and felt rather frustrated I couldn’t communicate with them at the time. After that summer I did several Spanish language courses for about two years.
Of course Zipolite had changed, but the same beach-bum vibe was still there. The posada my friend and I stayed at 19 years ago and the American owner, Daniel, were still there, to my surprise. I was treated to some herbs upon arrival and after doing a tiny bit of work I got intoxicated and did nothing, as one does in Zipolite. The town is slightly off the beaten track about an hour from Puerto Escondido, yet it tends to draw considerable crowds during Holy week and in December and the first half of January. Zipolite was our first experience of tropical beach 19 years ago. The sea was blue and warm and not grey and fresh like the North Sea. The ocean at this part of the Oaxacan coast is wild and tends to have strong under currents, which doesn’t make it very suitable for swimming. When there is good swell surfers and body boarders can be found in the water. Zipolite is also known for having one of the few nude beaches in Mexico, but just like 19 years ago, only a few people bare all, so travelling to Zipolite just for the nude beach would be a bit of a disappointment.
Zipolite: Beach of the Dead
According to some stories Zipolite means beach of the dead due to the sea’s strong and dangerous under current. Besides the under current, Zipolite can also be considered the Beach of Dead due to its invitation to do absolutely nothing. The town is not a party place, yet there is considerable alcohol and drug use and herb consumption is ubiquitous. As much I was attracted to Zipolite again for the sun, sea and herbs, I was also keen to do some work. The latter however, totally didn’t happen for both superficial as well as deep-seated reasons. The day I arrived it was drizzling now and again. The days after, Zipolite and the wider region experienced a proper storm and it was pouring down for days on end. I had no idea so much water could come from the heavens and with considerable winds and thunder, the whole ordeal was terribly dramatic. I changed rooms three times because water was pouring in and electricity was cut several times. When the storm had finally eased off, phone lines were cut, the roads out of town were blocked and the waves and beach were covered in tree trunks, branches, coconut skins and other natural debris. There was considerably damage to some properties and roads, but luckily no casualties. People were drawing comparisons to the hurricane of 1997. It was most peculiar when the sun finally came out, as if the rain, winds and thunder were all just a dream. It might be low season and the place a beach bum location, the community quickly got into action clearing the roads and cleaning the beach, which I found most admirable.
The Action after the Storm
I felt rather annoyed with myself that I didn’t do an awful lot more than nothing in Zipolite. But then, that is Zipolite and perhaps the necessary stage to move to another level, like the period after the storm. Next up is a yoga retreat providing plenty of tools to keep me mentally, spiritually and intellectually entertained.