Trip Report (part 2)

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Posted by Mark in Alaska from ( on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 at 22:16:42 :

In Reply to: Trip Report (part 1) posted by Mark in Alaska from ( on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 at 22:14:36 :

4. I think Zihua’s best-undiscovered secret is the morning fish market on the town beach. Most nights the fleet of small commercial fishing pangas heads to sea to fish the local waters. Around dawn the boats return and the fishermen and their wives set up a market on the beach opposite Elvira’s Restaurant. As a fisherman myself, I loved visiting the morning market. I enjoyed watching the Mexicans being Mexicans, in a venue that usually included few, if any, other gringos. The sky starts to lighten and the setting seems almost magical. Some fishermen curl up on the beach or a bench to grab a snooze; some get a warm meal at a temporary food stand. Most haul their fishing gear to the wooden lockers on the beach while their wives sell the catch. The area pelicans become quite animated and tame each morning, too. At the water’s edge, they crowd the fishermen in hopes of an easy snack. It’s quite possible almost to touch one of the gawky birds, they are so tame.

The fishmongers had no trouble selling a small quantity to a gringo. One morning I bought a fine red snapper for 20 pesos per kilo. Later, I saw the same species of fish in the Mercado for 60 pesos per kilo. Still later, I saw a similar species in the huge, American-style Commercial Mexicana for 89 pesos per kilo. I took my snapper back to the bungalows, cleaned it and cooked it in olive oil with garlic. Seasoned with lime juice and salt, it was the centerpiece of a delightful lunch.

Another benefit of rising early to see the market is that you will have a good chance of running into Rob’s lovely wife, Lupita, in your travels. I did so twice. Lupita takes morning walks about then and one day I had the pleasure of her company on my return to Madera. She is a classy lady.

5 Sunday nights at Zihua’s Zocalo, AKA the basketball courts, can be another Mexican experience. I was there for two consecutive Sundays, and enjoyed the festive atmosphere as the town puts on what amounts to local talent contests. It seems every school class is developing some song and dance routine, and many adults, both young and old, want to perform, too. Music seems to be the common denominator. Although some “talent” presenters obviously lack talent, the show is worth a visit just to see the Mexican audience and the street fair that accompanies the show.

6. We brought our masks, fins and snorkels down from Alaska with us, and put them to good use. The best snorkeling I found was in a small area at Playa las Gatas, right off the deep end of the reef near the dock. Just keep following the inside of the reef and you’ll come on the spot. The best snorkeling (and diving) is often where there is a vertical wall, and in the las Gatas locat1on the bottom drops quickly from wave-breaking rocks to about 20 feet. You can feel the water temperature drop there, too, which indicates the spot is a mixing zone that brings water in from the ocean. Mixing zones are generally richer in nutrients, and the abundance of fish there proves the point. Snorkeling at Isla Ixtapa I found “just OK.” The day we were there the water was a bit turbid, making visibility poor.

7. Lastly, if you are doing some self-catering, the new, huge, American-style Commercial Mexicana market in Zihua is a real godsend. It reminded me of a Wal-Mart grafted onto a supermarket. In the CM you’ll be able to find recognizable products that are unavailable in most of the small stores in town. I especially liked the bakery, which produced foods of fine quality. The main caveat is the prices, which are rather high for Mexico but are still reasonable for Americans. I was somewhat surprised that tequila was so expensive both in the CM and in the smaller stores. But then I remembered the Mexican government had raised liquor taxes, bringing the price of tequila almost to where it is here in Alaska. I tried several tastes of the local mezcal moonshine, but was disappointed and never bought the bottle I planned on. I suspect that is because I was introduced to moonshine mezcal in Oaxaca state, where the product tasted very different: the Guerrero State product is much sweeter than the raw, smoky Oaxaca stuff I’d come to want.

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