Overdue Mango & Massage Trip Report (Muy Wordy!)

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Escrito por Swimming Sister desde (69-30-8-42.pxd.easystreet.com) el día domingo, 03 de julio, 2005 a las 16:36:34 horas :

I think I now meet the criteria for a Zihua fanatic, as this has been my fifth trip in 4 years. All except 1 trip have involved travel with my family, 3 of them with my older sister and we have proved to be most compatible travellers (although like all siblings even when travelling we still have our ‘issues’). My sister has asked to remain nameless in this report, so hereinafter she will be referred to as ‘Sis’. She is not a board member, and when I pass along board postings to her or talk about the board she says ‘you people need to get a life’. I say, we do–we live for Zihua!

Smooth sailing on Alaska Air all the way down. Arrived on time, definitely noticed a ‘hazy’ air quality upon arrival. At customs Sis sailed through with a green light while I got the dreaded red one. Decided to turn on the charm & immediately starting joking with the Inspector in Spanish. The suitcase was hardly unzipped when I was waived through. We had too much luggage to take the combi, & being too lazy to pursue a cheaper option, we dutifully bought our taxi ‘ticket’ at the airport window & arrived @ Bungalows Ley within 30 minutes of arrival. After a quick inspection of the room, we headed to the beach for a swim & a cold one at MJ Ritchie’s. Martin was there to give us a warm welcome, but also a little sheepishly told us they were closing in about 15 minutes because they were now on their ‘off-season’ hours. No problem finishing that beer quickly as requested! After that made a quick trip up the stairs to the miscelania to pick up a bag of ice & other supplies. There on the shelf beckoning me was a bottle of Cien Anos! I knew this was a ‘sign’, as I’d passed up buying a bottle of expensive Don Padrone for a cheap duty-free price @ the LA Airport. Anyway, got the makings for margaritas, headed back to our bungalow & adjourned to the terraza to watch the sunset. First surprise of travelling off-season: the sun sets in an entirely different spot. Note to self: well, duh, it’s 6 months later in the season! For dinner I was bent on going to La Gula as I’d heard so much about it from this board & it was also only a 5-minute walk away. Well, we got there around 8 pm & were the only diners! The service & food were excellent, however, & I commend them for staying open in the off-season. Got back to our room & it was an oven. Turned on the air conditioner, and boy was it a clunker left over from the old days–more noise than cool air, but nothing that a pair of ear plugs couldn’t block out.

Next morning headed down to Madera , greeted the beach ‘sweepers’, swam the length of the beach & then decided to go out for breakfast since we hadn’t purchased any food supplies. Sis suggested walking to La Ropa, & I was game as I wanted to check that my ‘surrogate’ dog Tikki was still alive & well at Rossy’s. Immediately noticed the difference in atmosphere on La Ropa–very few people, and better yet, no ‘power walkers’ making me feel guilty about my leisurely manner of strolling the beach. Walked as far as Rossy’s, found Tikki alive & looking better than ever (she now has a collar) and had our first breakfast with that wonderfully salty Mexican bacon. Spent the afternoon lounging under Ley’s palapas & enjoying the pickup soccer games. As this was a Sunday the place was packed with locals & nationals enjoying the weekend. After the early evening margarita ritual on the terraza we decided to head to town as Sis had never witnessed the Sunday night basketball court ‘experience’. It was going full strength by the time we arrived about 8, and I have to say Sis was enchanted by the experience. Added to the ‘ambiente’ was some kind of important futbol match on tv between teams from Jalisco & DF America. At the end of the match whoever won had tons of ‘hinchas’ in Zihua, as the whole town exploded into car-honking, banner-waiving & yelling that left the impression Mexico had just won the World Cup! Anyway, we continued strolling down the Paseo de Pescador to the pier & watched the sun set over the hills just Northwest of Zihua. This sunset would never be on anybody’s wallpaper but was as spectacular as any I’ve seen setting over the bay.

Monday morning after the swim/coffee ritual it was time to hit the peso machine & buy food supplies. Took Cindy from PDX’s advice & had breakfast @ Tamales Any–right across from an ATM! Had my first chillaquiles ever-yummy! Fortified with food & pesos, we headed to Café Zihuatanejo to buy 2 kilos of coffee, then to the Pink Bakery for a gazillon pastries for a paltry sum & then over to the mercado Bought enough avocados & mangos to feed an army, & headed back to MJ Ritchie’s for swim & suds (the beer kind). Finally caught up w/ Nancy, Rafael’s daughter-in-law & most excellent jewelry artisan, & proceeded to spend way more pesos than planned buying beautiful silver baubles. (Note to Stew or Lady M: if either of you have a CD of Frank Sinatra which has Nancy w/ the Laughing Eyes, could you please give a copy to Nancy? She thinks the only famous Nancy is la Senora Reagan!) For dinner decided to head back to La Ropa, as after 2 nights eating in ‘interior’ spots sweltering under ceiling fans we both wanted to dine w/ our feet in the sand & the ocean breezes cooling the rest of our body parts. Headed to Elvira’s but it was on off-season schedule & closed that night so walked 5 feet to Paty’s & got a table closest to the water. Not sure if this was an ‘off-season’ difference or not, but the breezes were MUCH better at La Ropa & I think I’d stay there next time.

Next day was departure day so after a morning swim & breakfast it was time to pack up & head for Troncones. We were picked up in an ‘unmarked taxi’, as the taxi driver we had befriended in Troncones years before & had arranged to pick us up this trip was rather leery of collecting us in his official taxi due to the ‘wars’ between the Zihua & out-of-area drivers. Oh well, the ‘unmarked’ vehicle was new & had air conditioning, we weren’t complaining! Arrived at Casa Escondida in Troncones about 1 & were warmly greeted by the caretakers Ines & Dios. I’m going to spend a bit of this report describing our accommodation, as it’s a place I don’t see mentioned on the board very much. I have to admit in the high season it’s a place that exceeds my budget, but the prices drop dramatically in the off-season and ended up being the perfect compromise between my sis (she insisted on a pool) and me (I wanted something w/in walking distance to ‘town’ and the masseuse). Anyway, the place is beautiful–a ‘compound’ with a 2 bedroom house, 2 separate casitas w/ outdoor kitchens, and 2 apartments w/ shared kitchen above the bodega. We had one of the casitas. In addition to the large terraza/kitchen, the bedroom & separate bathroom were huge. Lots or ornate tilework everywhere. Lush gardens & brick pathways separate the units, with the paths leading to the pool & the beach beyond. Shortly after arrival, the manager, Ernesto, arrived. He is also the manager of Casas Gregorios, and I can’t say enough good things about this guy. He went above & beyond the call of duty in making our vacation a most enjoyable one (except alas, no performances from his musical group Los Tres Locos, as they are now ‘kaput’). A couple of nights we had the whole ‘compound’ to ourselves. Towards the weekend more guests arrived, and they proved to be an interesting, diverse group, including a well-known guitar maker from Paracho who brought down Ernesto’s custom-made dobro, and a north american couple taking a break from a lengthy & red tape-ridden adoption process of a baby from Morelia (any board members out there know WHY the U.S. can’t/won’t sign the International Adoption Treaty???)

Didn’t take long to fall into a ‘routine’ in Troncones–morning walk/swim on the beach, breakfast followed by read/nap in hammock by pool, then after a few hours a 5-minute stroll down beach to have myself ‘pummeled’ by the masseuse with the mostest, la Senora Fide. Everybody has their idea of luxury–mine was an hour massage every day in a simple ‘tent’ made of sheets & wooden poles with the sound of the Pacific Ocean pounding away in the background. After the massage it was time for a cerveza & snack either at Restaurante Las Rosas next door or back ‘home’ next to the pool. After that more siesta time & a late afternoon swim. In the early evening mango margaritas by the pool watching the beach activity & deciding where to eat. Given the size of Troncones, the choices weren’t numerous! We seemed to make Burro Burracho our ‘hangout’ as the food was pretty good and both the waitstaff and clientele were very entertaining. One night we were running low on pesos, which meant dinner at Inn at Manzanillo Bay (only 1 of 2 restaurants that take credit cards). The food was good, although a bit on the pricey side. Gotta say their ‘house’ tequila was worth the price! One night we attended one of the smallest but I think liveliest board parties ever–a grand total of 4 participants at La Casa de Los Suenos Tropicales. And 2 of the participants weren’t even board ‘groupies’, but I think they enjoyed our stories anyway. I have to take this opportunity to put in a ‘plug’ for Ernie’s place at Manzanillo Bay. It’s a very spacious 2-bedroom home with many of the modern amenities us ‘nortes’ appreciate (double sinks in the bathroom!), and an absolutely spectacular setting at the north end of Manzanillo Bay from which the sunset can be enjoyed no matter what time of year. Anyway, we had some great margaritas, some good snacks (spicy mole w/ fresh mango, yummeroony!) & a lively few hours of rehashing our most favorite & annoying ‘boardies’ and catching up on Canadian politics (of which we yanks are WOEFULLY ignorant). Ernie extended his hospitality & gave us a ride home in his ‘canuck truck’ (meaning I had to ride sideways in the cab since Sis claimed rights to the passenger seat). Boy, the ride back on that dark & incredibly dusty road was something out of a scene from Mad Max!

Alas, all good things must come to an end & soon it was time for the taxi back to the airport. I’d like to end my report with a couple pluses and minuses of off-season travel.

First, the advantages: NO CRUISE SHIPS IN THE BAY! The accommodation prices were much lower (my Thompson family frugality forces me to disclose this!). It was nice to be a ‘minority’, i.e., the majority of tourists were the nationals, not the gringos. The travelling was easier–a 4:30 am alarm clock when it is already light & sunny sure beats that winter cold, dark & dreary alarm! And last but not least–the mangos were in season! Disadvantages: Are there any in paradise? Well, a few trivial ones. The locat1on of the sunset isn’t ‘convenient’ (hey, I said trivial, right??). A few cafes & restaurants weren’t open.

I conclude this report with a sense of mixed emotions. With the air miles from this last trip, I now am eligible for a free ticket to Argentina, a country I’ve dreamed of visiting for years. So do I make that dream a reality & give up my Mexican paradise for a year–maybe two? Hmm, it’s a tough one. But slightly plagarizing–and paraphrasing–Bogie: “I’ll always have Zihua”!

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