Saturday, March 08, 2008


I rode the bike uptown to the Honda outlet for a 3000 K service. Rodrigo King is the man, speaks perfect English. He calls me to collect the bike around 5 pm. He has a couple of newspapers and a TV channel keen to do a story. Is that OK?
It is certainly OK. I have become accustomed to speaking in Spanish on camera. The questions don't change much. I wear my Alpinestars boots and top shirt and Honda give me a free service. Nice people...


The Texas and Ohio votes were a disappointment to Obama supporters. I watched on CNN. Hillary Clinton made a winner's speech. Obama needed to counter-punch. What we got was niceness. Niceness is a loser.
Mexicans here in Queretaro with whom I speak want an Obama victory and expect his defeat. Defeat for Obama confirms their view of the US. This view is governed by their dislike of President Bush. Arrogant and ignorant are the first charges. Racist and prejudiced come next.
I point to two Black Secretaries of State, one a woman, and mention the huge amounts the US spends on Aid. Latin Americans counter with Iraq.
Panamanians believe that the US military killed 5000 Panamanians in arresting Noriega.
God knows how many Iraqis have been killed in arresting Saddam Husein and his clique.
The toll in Afghanistan is mounting.
Many are killed in aerial bombardment. Women and children are amongst those killed - killed from on high. These are the fatalities Latin Americans see on TV.
Collateral damage is the military description.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton wish to end the Occupation of Iraq; as do Cliff Irving's good friends who were visiting Zihuataneje. Cliff's friends have printed camouflage T-shirts with the admirable slogan: bring 'em home.
I will try to post an address...


At home, we have a Border terrier, Hamish. My wife, Bernadette, is in New York for a week. Hamish is looking after our youngest son. This photograph is for Hamish - and a comment on those who voted for Hilary Clinton in last night's Primary.


A Municipal art gallery down the walking street from the Jardin de Armas is a magnificent modern space within ancient walls. I find an exhibition of communication in art on the left-hand of two mezzanines.
A young professor discusses communication with his students. He stands in front of eight small, unframed, oil paintings. The paintings hang in a horizontal line on a large white wall and are equidistant one from the other. The paintings could be arranged as a narrative: sea monster, sinking ship, telephone, satellite dish...
The painter has arranged them haphazardly - perhaps because that is the manner in which we are offered information on the web.
Haphazard offends one of the two male students.
The female students don't speak.
The professor is accustomed to their silence.
The female students are accustomed to communicating by cellular.
I apologize for intruding and offer my banal suggestion.
They seem bemused.
Silence is natural.
They have been silent throughout their education.
Sad that they haven't learned to speak.


I sit on a bench in the Jardin del Armas this morning and listen with joy to a throaty Mexican Blues vocalist (female) accompanied by two guitars (male). A family shares the bench: two small children, mum and dad. Dad is a tall thin schoolteacher wanting to be a writer. Mum is a plump mum. Kids are well behaved. The teacher and I talk US politics. He is pro Obama. All his friends are pro Obama. Obama would be proof that the US can change.
Every Latin American with whom I have talked during the US Primaries has been a supporter of Obama.
CNN reports that the US Latino vote is pro Hilary Clinton.


People in Queretaro dress for fun. Early evening and I sit a while in the Jardin Zanea and people watch. A pack of cowboy Goths pass, both sexes dress identically: black stetson, tight black sleeveless T-shirt, black stovepipe jeans, black boots.
Yesterday evening I spotted a real male Goth, streaked hair, white makeup, everything. He was crossing the road outside the Theater of the Republic. He swished as he walked, either deliberately overt Gay or acting Gay. He was with his sister and his parents. His parents appeared unperturbed.
Late, around 10 pm, I count eleven elderly men carrying guitars and either sharing a bench in the garden or chatting to each other on the sidewalk.
That is my view of Queretaro: a city of music, good people, not uptight; streets and parks are clean, architecture is the right size.


I have a routine. I walk in the morning for an hour. Queretaro is great for walking. People are courteous and sidewalks are seldom crowded. My new laptop weighs little more than a book. It fits the hand well and is comfortable to carry. I find a coffeehouse in the cloister facing the Jardin de Armas and work three hours. I return to the hotel, connect through WiFi, post the new entries and leave the laptop on charge. I walk a further hour, visiting museums, galleries, sneaking into patios, doing my death trip in a church or two. I have found an oyster bar facing across Calle Corregidora to the gardens. I order the US$6 set menu: prawn cocktail, a red snapper off the grill and a flan. I write notes while eating, collect the laptop and finish off the battery a second time over coffee back in the cloister. Returning to my room, I post and watch the US Presidential Primaries on CNN. Why CNN? CNN is the only channel available on the hotel's satellite package. How is CNN reportage of the Primaries? A crafty assassination job on Barak Obama...


Queretaro has history. The Mexican Constitution was drafted here in the theater that witnessed Emperor Maximillian's trial. Today I visited the theater (a good building) and five churches, not grand but immensely beautiful.
What do I do in churches? I admire the architecture. I long for fewer and better statues. And I practice dying. Death is a Biggy. I am seventy-five. Death approaches. I need practice. Otherwise I will make a mess of it.
I sit in a pew beneath the dome. I rest my hand open on my thighs. I pray. My prayer is simple. I give thanks for the gift of life. I accept that I have abused the gift and that I have abused my fellows. I determine to do better with those talents that I have in the last few years of my life and to be more generous both materially and in spirit. I then consider my death. I think of death as joyous. Death is the opening of prison walls. The self is freed and can reintegrate with the Oneness. I used to be very careful to avoid the G word. Somewhere on this long journey, in some church up on the Alto Plano, I accepted that God was my Oneness by another name;
that I was being particularly childish in avoiding the word.
God is OK.
And I came to think of life as a rose. Death is the opening. The petals open and out and up goes the essence.
Hanging on to the ego produces a shriveled bud.
So there you have it: a personal view, probably pompous. Have no fear, this is a one off. I won't go there again.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Morelia is a harsh city built to impress and subjugate. Queretaro is joyous. Only the paving is gray. Walls are deep rose, ocher and faded buttercup.
Lovely parks on the periphery are safe. Pedestrian streets connect four squares in the center. Cloisters of clipped trees surround the squares. Miracle of miracles, water jets from every fountain.
Late in the evening I share a wrought-iron bench in the Plaza de Independencia with two elderly men and listen to a guitarist and vocalist perform at a sidewalk restaurant. The vocalist is brilliant. I listen to two sets before guilt forces me to sit at a table and sip a cold Corrona. Guilt? Why is guilt so predominant an emotion? Catholic heritage is too easy an answer.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I distrust road signs. They abandon travelers at a critical intersection - or skulk behind trees that were fiercely pruned at the time of the sign's siting - or point ahead at a circle that has six exits. Hesitate and you suffer abuse by a hundred klaxons.
Queretaro is a joy.
Signs to the Centro Historico lead directly to the main square and the Hotel Plaza. I have ridden a half day and am exhausted. I shower, colapse on the bed and search for CNN. Mrs. Obama is my favorite non-candidate for the Presidency.


Lakes fill much of a valley. White houses spot a conical hill. The hill is an island. A dike carries the expressway. The Honda cruises at 90 kph on a perfect surface. Two grey heron play at sentry amongst patches of tall reed. Two lines of white pelican intersect to form a rightangle. Are they squatting on a fish trap - or on a breeding pen for talapia?
I have been lost, since leaving Colombia, in a limbo peopled mostly by foreigners. I am miserable amongst foreigners: they are reminders of Bernadette and my sons. The sense of loss becomes almost unbearable. Today is joyous. I have rediscovered within myself that land through which I intended to travel and wished to travel: Hispanic America.
I stop beside a red 4x4 at a traffic light and ask directions for the road to Queretaro. I am lead through town to the expressway. I exchange cards with my guide: Eduardo Arredondo Gonzalez, Asesor Juridico. My thanks, Eduardo, for your kindness.
The sun is fierce on hills of harsh rock and dry dirt. In valleys gleam emerald oasis of rice paddy patterned with narrow canals. Those first Spaniards came from a similar land...Extremadura. As did the Moors...
Water is the treasure that toil with hoe and mattock husbanded.
Men are redundant now. Machines accomplish a centuries work in a few days.
In doing so, they bury memories of how it was.
How it was is the fascination – who those first Spaniards were and what they found.


I wrote in the previous BLOG that Morelia is grand. The baby Honda slept in 17th century splendour. Early this morning I walked a while in search of breakfast and discovered a late 16th century car park.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Forgive me, Morelia. I walk your streets and sidewalks of gray pave. I try to admire your great buildings, gray granite, perfect in proportion. I am reminded of Scotland's oil capital, Aberdeen, cold in its Victorian grandeur, built to impress and dominate. I feel no love. This is Spain of the Inquisition.
I park the Honda in the patio of the Hotel Colonial. I find a restaurant on the main street. Downstairs is dimly lit (romantic?). I need light to write. A waiter leads me to an upstairs dinning room where I sit in solitary command of windows that open to the twin towers of the cathedral. Yes, they are marvelous, impressive, beautifully lit.
I take joy in another Morelia high in Spain's sierra Maeztrazgo. I visited on my return from Tierra del Fuego in 2006 as the guest of the city. We were celebrating the bicentenary of my Spanish great-grandfather, Marshal Ramon Cabrera, Marques del Ter and further enobled as Conde de Morelia for blasting a massive hole in walls that are now a national monument. Twenty or more of my Spanish cousins attended the celebration. I was required to make a speech. The Spanish are polite. People clapped.


The temperature drops. I pull onto the hard shoulder and struggle into my leather bomber jacket. The expressway is a toll road. Vending machines at toll gates offer the only refreshments. I loathe vending machines; they swallow coins and don't deliver. Better leave the highway.
I ride into a small town. Streets are cobbled. The small central square is exquisite in its simplicity. Buildings are low; walls are washed in white and ocher and dusky pink and shaded by pantiled roofs supported on wooden pillars.
I inquire for a restaurant and am directed to a house where one long table occupies the front room. Lunch is bean soup and a slice of beef sweated with onions and chili. Three policeman join me. Family men in middle-age, they speak quietly and slowly. Perhaps they are corrupt - this is the Hollywood image. How would I know? I am merely passing through, grateful for company and grateful to be inhabiting a different reality to Zihuataneje.


I am free of 5000 words and free of Zihuataneje. The road is free of traffic - two hours of hills and villages and speed bumps to reach the expressway inland to Morelia. The express way is pure joy for a biker – good surface and no Topes. It climbs into pine clad hills. I recall the scent of pine tar high on the first pass at the outset of this journey – 2006 and the road from to Oaxca. I feared then that the journey would be too hard, that my heart would give out. The scent was a reminder of childhood at my grandmother's estate in the hills of the Scottish borders – a childhood that was a false beginning in offering a false sense of belonging. My Uncle Mark inherited the estate. He sold it.
This journey has replaced those old recollections. Pine tar is a reminder now of much of Central America – of riding in Guatemala one glorious morning down from Ash and Marcio's finca in Coban to Rio Hondo - of riding a full day on a dirt road through the forests of central Honduras, of horsemen picking their way between the pines and my thinking of Antony, my brother, it was his 75th birthday, and of the ride we never took, a ride that is impossible now, up through the tribal areas of Pakistan to Gilghit, Taliban territory.
Such memories are the gifts of this journey, gifts to be treasured in old age.



Spring Break is here - I spotted a pair of kids in their early sixties jogging (slowly).
Cliff has friends staying. They are rabid ex meat eaters, rabid ex smokers. He is a rabid ex worker on Wall Street and rabidly political – a Democrat (Cliff doesn't do politics). They are fun people. Their conversation has care content.
Meanwhile Patty's is host to a yoga group; Patty is converting the flat roof into a permanent yoga floor; a workman is bashing concrete with a sledge hammer directly above the bar. I have written six thousand words and am out of here in the morning.


Joe's father is an economist. His parents were Basque. He owns a furniture factory in Pueblo and exports to Europe. His girlfriend, Laura, owns a prettily decorated restaurant in Zihuataneje, JAROCHO. Joe and I drop by for dinner. I order steak. The steak arrives. A red hot grill has marked the outside. The interior is red. This is the first steak that I have eaten in a restaurant anywhere in Latin America that is cooked to my taste. And the prices are lower than those at the Mediterranean.
Joe has a Master's from Manchester Business School. He has been marketing his father furniture in England. Now he is set on playing the money market. He has been experimenting for a month and has made a substantial paper profit. He will begin operating with real money on March 1. He is a shrewed young man and may do well.
From JAROCHO, he drives me to a party at a friend's home. Thankfully the house is only a block from my posado. We sit in green plastic chairs beside a pool. I chat with a North American and his partner. Both she and he have blue eyes and gray, longer than shoulder-length hair – no beads. She touches him often - a sign of love – or ownership - or insecurity. They have ridden a Harley down from Montana where he works as a forester. He dreams of making the ride south to Tierra del Fuego. I advise him to use a different, lighter bike.
The party has shifted to monosyllabic by the time I leave.


Cliff goes to bed early. We have taken Patty's daughter to dinner at the Mediterranean, an overpriced restaurant owned by an Algerian. Cliff goes home. The daughter and I head for a bar along with a Brit Mexican, Joe. Joe and Patty's daughter are late twenties. They have been friends for ever. I drink beer at the bar, slowly. The owner is a stocky young woman with a sour expression. Company is a couple of visiting jazz musicians. Their hatred of Latin American pop mirrors my own. Conversation becomes lurid around three in the morning. I am content to be an oldie and an onlooker. Joe drops me back at my posado around 4:30. We ate dinner at 6:30. I have drunk eight beers in ten hours. I am sober. And I have had a reminder of why I don't frequent bars or pubs.


I have a love/hate relationship with Zihuatanejo. Love because I feel young (I am the youngest guy on the beach); Cliff has freed me; I am working well at Patty's Beach Bar.
Hate because Zihuatanejo is an old people's holiday home for self-obsessed health-obsessed North Americans.
Ambulances are disguised, sirens forbidden.
Spanish is the few words visitors mis-speak to waiters who speak English.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Does my relief seem manic?
If so, avoid the following piece. There is no travel in it. It is personal thought.
Looking back, I think that spelling held me back more even than Cliff's five thousand words. I was ashamed of submitting work. Better bin it than suffer contempt. Why I didn't use a dictionary?
I am wedded to dictionaries. I am a compulsive buyer of dictionaries. Visit our home. You will find dictionaries in every room: French, Spanish, English of every size.
People consult a dictionary for meaning or to check whether a word ends ent or ant or has a double L or P. I don't get that close.
Hunting for a word can take an hour. I don't know where to look.
Spellcheck has helped – and Roget's Thesaurus on hard disk...Though Spellcheck often fails to devine what word I intended writing. I try various versions without success. Finally I enter into the Thesaurus a synonym in which I have more confidence. So eventually I find my word.
Yes, it is time consuming.
And three of my four sons are dyslexic.
Mark is eldest of the three. We were students at the same Catholic private school. We were both stigmatized for our spelling. I left without graduating while the school forced Mark to study art. He went to night school, converted to science, gained his degree in Marine Biology and became a top speciologist. Now he teaches science at a Manchester grammer school. His perseverance and achievements are extraordinary.
Joshua and Jed are younger. They have suffered equally and been equally stigmatized. They are searching for their directions - not easy when incompetent teachers have hit their confidence.
Teachers should know that dyslexia is not concerned with intelligence. It concerns a skill that most people master easily.
And enough words. I have written 1500 today.


One thousand words. 6 pm. I am free - totally free for the first time in a life of writing. I am free of guilt for not having written more. I am free of the certainty that I am an inferior in my trade. I am freed of my amatuer status.
Unbeknown to Cliff, he posessed the key with which I have freed myself.
Eugenio offered me a similar key. I didn't recognise it. We had climbed his tower and were leaning against the parapet with the river spread below us. I mentioned that I had written a piece on Patagonia for a Lonely Planet anthology.
I said, “I seem to be becoming a travel writer.”
“You are a travel writer,” Eugenio said.


cliff working out

Cliff works out in the mornings. We breakfast together at Patty's Beach Restaurant. Patty has WiFI. I am content. Run out of battery, I recharge while seated at the bar. I work from 10 am until 6 pm. I write one thousand words a day. One thousand is amateur stuff. I recall Cliff telling me that he did five thousand a day. Cliff was my writing Guru. He read my first manuscript, edited it. A boutique imprint at Heineman published it without alteration.
A review in the Telegraph described the core of the book as fine generous and sad.
Earnings? 80 Stirling.
No, not enough to live on, particularly for a married man with an infant son.
Added proof of my amateur status.
Added proof?
That I left High School early, never went to University, can't spell.
But most of all, those five thousand words.
Five thousand has hung over my head for forty-five years - five thousand intertwined with Catholic guilt.
I have striven and striven and striven, yet here I am at Patty's Beach Bar, and producing the same paltry wordage.
Seventy-five and an amateur.
I confess my amateur status to Cliff over a fish dinner in town.
Cliff says that one thousand is good. He would be more than satisfied at one thousand a day.
Hey, wait a minute. This is the man who set that (by me) unreachable goal.
“Five thousand,” I protest. “That's what you said.”
“When?” counters Cliff.
“Ibiza, in your studio.”
“Never,” says Cliff. “I've never written five thousand. Or maybe perhaps once, one exceptional day.”
I remonstrate. Cliff repeats his denial.
I must reorientate.
Back at the posado I lie on my back and watch the ceiling fan spin. I replay the scene...And replay the scene.
Cliff's Ibiza studio is the set. Cliff has two girls from New York staying in his apartment in payment for typing a fair copy of his latest manuscript.
Dark, good-looking New York Jewish girls. They do everything together.
I am struggling with a second novel. I walk over to visit Cliff when he isn't there.
This isn't the first time.
A couple of times Cliff has found me waiting.
He sets the five thousand words as punishment: a subconscious action, of course...And one that Cliff has forgotten...A punishment I accepted (again, subconsciously) as rightful punishment for being enamored of two dark, good-looking Jewish girls.


Cops direct me to the bungalow beach complex where Cliff stays each winter. A narrow patch of dirt separates two lines of squat hovels that were poorly painted with ocre wash a few years back. Palms and the standard tropical plants grow insecurely in the dirt. No sun penetrates. This is mosquito-heaven.
Cliff has an apartment on the upper floor of a two-level building right on the beach. Cliff is taller than me, he is older than me and he is harder of hearing – though readers should be aware that I am prejudiced. Cliff and I are competitive in the health stakes. He opens the door on a studio that is a mini version of the studio he rented back in Ibiza in the early sixties. Concrete couches with thin foam cushions, a kitchenette in which a portly gentleman couldn't turn. Cliff's Ibiza studio was light. This is dark. Cliff's Ibiza studio was damp. This is very damp. Cliff's Ibiza studio was cheap. Zihuatanejo beach front is expensive – not by Palm Beach standards but this is Mexico.
I am bewildered. “Cliff, this is my idea of hell.”


I ride into Zihuatanejo in mid-afternoon. I pass a possado right on the main road. I take the next turn to the right and find another. The street is quite and convenient both to the beach and to downtown. An eccentric son of the owner suggests $20 a night. I suggest $10. We settle for US$13. The room is large and furnished with a double and a single bed. The single is excellent for strewing clothes. The fan works and is silent. The shower has a shower rose; the lavatory has a seat. These are luxuries of down-market travel.
I take the room for four days and pay in advance.


Clifford Irving has had his difficulties (haven't we all?) - witness the Richard Greer movie of Cliff's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes. That is the picture most people will have of Cliff. They should read his novels. Cliff is a fine writer and a varied writer: read TOM MIX AND PANCHO VILLAS, his legal thrillers, or his investigation of a murder, DADDY'S GIRL.
Cliff is good at making money from his work. I am an incompetent. Cliff has a home in Aspen, Colorado. He spends a couple of months a year down in Zihuatanenjo escaping the cold. He rents a studio apartment right on the beach. The beach is beyond my budget.
He has Emailed me that room prices off the beach run upward from US$25.


Acapulco is surrounded by steep hills. The hills imprison polution. From the highway, the bay of Acapulco is visible way below. The sea is blue. The city is enveloped in a pale blue haze of petroleum fumes. The city's streets are designed to capture. Once in, escape is problematical. Sighns bewilder: straight on for Zihuatanejo offers a choice of three. Hesitate and klaxons screech. I panic and make the wrong choice. I am riding down hill. No, I am riding down-precipice. A cab driver directs me. I am on the harbor front. Yachts gleam and bob. The road heads up hill. It is one of those roads that narrows in accord with your doubts. I pull alongside a new modedl Toyota 4X4 at a traffic light. The driver lowers his window. I should have turned right off the harbor.
There is no sign.
No, there is no sign.
I find the turn. Finally I am free.
Two hours of Acapulco is an amplitude.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


6.30 pm and I have ridden 500 Ks. Daylight is on the wane. I am in a small town and spot a hotel. The hotel is the far side of a busy highway. I don't see 24 HOURS painted on the bottom of the sign. 24 HOURS is a whore house. I ride into the courtyard. An elderly man greets me: US$20 for a room with TV and AC. The woman seated in the small lobby is a hint. She balloons out of short shorts fastened with a gold glitter belt, low cut blouse and high heels. Your choice: fat, obese or voluptuous. Asking whether there is another hotel in town would be impolite. The room is OK. I need food and drink.
The elderly couple running the neighborhood store ask where I am staying and get the giggles. I buy two beers and a packet of biscuits for myself and a carton of peach juice for the lady. She is from Acapulco. She is here to meet an all-night client, a regular arrangement. He arrives at 9. She has time for a short time client. Short time is US$50. All night is US$100.
She asks why I travel alone, whether I am married, how many children we have, whether Bernadette minds my being away.
A short time client drops by and she apologizes for having to leave me alone.
She strikes me as a nice woman, a little motherly.
I take my beers upstairs, shower and switch on the TV.
Mexican TV offers soap operas, football or preachers. I watch football – though I don't much enjoy football.
Zihuatanejo is only a half day run. I would contemplate a late lie in were I in a different hotel. Ah, well...


Cliff Irving is the last of my Ibiza writer friends. He winters in Zihuatanejo. Zihuatanejo is 800 Ks up the coastal highway. The first 60 Ks twists through dry hills. Corners are sharp and badly cambered. Last night's beer is extra weight. The country flattens. Villages follow villages. Each village protects itself with Topes. Topes are speed bumps – sleeping policeman.
Some topes are painted in yellow stripes. Most are signposted. Not all...And each village has a dozen or more. Inevitably a rider misses one. Brakes screech, back tire slithers, saddle slams the crotch...And your pants are forced up. Pants are the worst. Stand up on the footrests and wriggle. Pants stay in place. Stop, dismount and yank them down is the only way.


view inland

The Korean will telephone his girlfriend at 8 am. The telephone is at the store beyond the new pizza parlor that was closed last night. The mayor drives me down to the store. The Korean calls and gives his girlfriend his email address. I pack and load my bike and ride off into the sunset. OK, into the mid morning sun. I don't bid the Canadian couple goodbye. They are in bed.


inland across beach lagoon

A youngish Canadian couple have the next cabin. They played poker in Las Vegas. He won the price of their year-old four-by-four people-carrier. The truck is packed with camping gear, surf boards and dive equipment. He teaches deep water diving. He has instructed in the Caribbean, Asia and Australia as well as Canada and the US. The new pizzeria is closed. We walk to the general store for dinner. The moon is a weird red and a weird shape. The storekeeper has built an open-sided restaurant on the roof. We join two New Zealanders. The man is a software engineer and a sports fanatic. He describes living in England: seven-a-side football, rock climbing, gym.
His partner is less sporting.
She has spent the day tumbling off a surf board. We have a gay friend back home, Nigel, who is enamoured of an expert surfer. Nigel has been trying to stand for the past five years. He began trying as an overweight fifty. The fat has vanished. His knees are skinned.
The New Zealand lady has been vomiting – probably too much sun and insuficient liquids.
They ask if we have been watching the lunar eclipse. Ah!
We eat wraps stuffed with avocado and onion and cheese and a chili tomato sauce. We are five and we drink a good few beers. I pick up the bill: US$11...


road to the beach

I write of the village as a community. Members take turns in serving the village, collecting garbage, what ever. And they make their own laws. Selling land outside the community is forbidden. Villagers constructed the road to the beach. It is a good dirt road. The distance is two kilometers. Visitors pay US$2 for access to the beach. The beach is protected. A sanitary block and two palapas are the only buildings. The palapas belong to the community. One is a bar and restaurant. Villagers take turns serving. Today they are trimming thatch. A turtle protection squad patrols the beach. The beach ends at a rock point. Waves build off the point. Each wave forms a perfect barrel. The waves are small this evening. A few locals are surfing and a couple of novice tourists fall repeatedly in the white water close to the beach. I watch a while, then ride back to the cabins.


waves break from the point

The villagers are nervous of Central Government. They accepted a paved road to the entrance of the village but not into the village. The surfing contest paid for a Health Center. Now a production company wishes to shoot a reality film on the beach (what ever that is).
How much should the village demand? The mayor has no idea.
I suggest US$20,000 and work down...Though the Korean is in California. His counsel is better than mine. The Korean began as a banker. Harvard Business School defeated him. His fellow students were confused by morality. They hedged their bets. “Well,” they said, “Well, yeah, you know, I mean, well, yeah, it would depend on the circumstances.” Circumstances is Student-body code for profits. The Korean did a runner on the American dream.
Now my friend, Ming, has done a runner. He fled Hewlett-Packard in Oregon the second week of January. He bought a 200 cc trail bike in the Philippines and is riding island to island back to visit his mother in Indonesia. Island to island is slow.


The sideroad is midway up a steep hill. In 2006 only the first fifty or so meters were concrete. Now the road is paved down to the village. I stop at a house opposite the school – where I stopped on my first visit. The same man greets me. No, he has not returned to the North. Have I come to meet with the Korean? The Korean is in California. The Korean is getting a visa for his wife. His wife is here in the village.
The design of the village is open-unplanned - imagine a scattering of dwellings. Trees shade the few dusty streets. Two internet outlets are a surprise. A few buildings are new. A few have gained an upper floor. Construction is concrete block.
I turn in at the rental cabins. They are small thatched cabins with a shower block at the rear. The owner is now the mayor. A slow and thoughtful speaker, he is slender and bearded. He was first to head North from the village. He was a legal and had his own business in Taos. Many followed.
Since my first visit, he has built an open-sided thatch palapa. Though food is served, it is more a lounging area. A color TV has satellite connection - mostly for sport. Four young blond tourists are watching football.
The owner is painting a sign. We sit in the new palapa. I drink a beer. Our talk is leisurely. He tells me of the 2006 surfing competition. The competition was successful. Many surfers came. There was no competition in 2007. The sponsors paid US$20,000 to bring champion surfers to the beach, not to compete, but to spread the word as to the dependability and quality of the waves.
Why, I wonder. Do they wish to build a hotel?
A hotel would be impossible. The community would never agreee.
Last year people tried to invade the south end of the beach. The beach is ours. We chased them with machetes.
The mayor smiles. Will you be staying long?
I had hoped to meet with the Korean.
He is California.
He has married?
He has a girlfriend.
Yes, a girl of the village.
Perhaps she has his email address.
I will ask.
Thank you.


Salinas de Cruz is twenty Ks up the coast from Tehuantepec. An oil refinery brought investment. New construction lines broad streets of what was recently a village. Tehuantepec has charm because it is forgotten. A little of the old ways remain. People are open. They forge friendships. I am privileged – as I have been throughout this journey. I want to stay a further week, watch Adela unearth her roots as she interacts with Fernando and his wife. And I would enjoy talking with Boris in the evenings. I could test my thoughts regarding the Conquest. Instead I ride towards a small community that was at risk when I traveled south in May of 2006 (see archives 05/21).
The road climbs and plummets through hills of scrub woodland with glimpses of sea and beach. In May of 2006, I left Tehuantepec at sunrise. The rains had come. The air was fresh and clean. Hills glowed emerald green. White and yellow blossoms splashed the canopy as did cascades of blue and crimson climbers. Vultures and hawks sailed the sky on dawn patrol. Today I leave nearer midday. Heat is oppressive. Trees are stripped of leaves and brittle. Hills are pale smoky gray.
Rivers have shrunk to a few muddy puddles. A lone white heron stands frozen in green shade. I spot a second in the next river, then a third. White herons or greater egrets? Narrow heads and long spindly legs make for cartoon cavalry officers. Do herons philosophize?
I pull in at a small restaurant. Venison stew is dish of the day. Is this the last deer? Should I refuse? What difference would refusal make?
I am a lone old man on a bike. At most, an ecentric. Influence? None.