Trip Report of First Timer

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Posted by elena from ( on Monday, March 11, 2002 at 10:17:21 :

Trip Report from a First Timer

I traveled to Zihua-Tronconnes-Ixtapa with my 12 year old , the week of 2/22 – 3/1. Although this may seem like a whirlwind tour to those who are already well relaxed by the time they get into the taxi at the airport, for me it was indicative of the primary lesson of the trip: it is hard to slow down.

We stayed four days on La Ropa, in Casa Jardines, rented by the proprietor of Casa Tucanes; two days up the beach from Tronconnes, at Casa Manzanillo, and one night at the Krystal in Ixtapa. In each place the ocean was magnificent, the accommodations fully agreeable and the environment a light year or two from Oregon from whence we came. Although I fully enjoyed the trip, there was a lot of learning involved.

First, I need to say a word about the weather, a subject not mentioned enough on this message board. It is hot down there! I love the heat and have spent my childhood in the humid East coast, but I had forgotten how heat can sap your will and force you to crawl under cover (in this case, a palapa) for hours at a time. For a go-go Americano, it was hard to reconcile my list of things I wanted to do with what I felt like doing once I was there. Luckily, my son had no such problems. He insisted on reading all afternoon in the shade and I grudgingly followed suit. Of course, the heat comes from the sun and no amount of warning will prevent all sunburn, but believe it, sunscreen, hats, T-shirts – use it all and beat your children until they comply! Believe me, there is nothing more damning to a parent then watching the blisters of sunburn rise on your sweet child’s unblemished skin. Luckily, our house had a patch of aloe for just this emergency.

Another lesson I learned was about language: it pays to know some Spanish. Even if you only know please and thank you, it will take some of the sting out of the arrogant American persona we can’t help but project. My preparation was limited to “Learn Spanish in Your Car!” tapes that I listened to dutifully for about a month before the trip. By the time I got to Zihua I could at least roll the r in Gracias and ask the all important question, “Cuanto Cuesta?” Trying the language instantly provoked friendliness, and in taxis it was more or less necessary. Though my favorite taxi price discussion was conducted by writing numbers in the dust of the bumper!

A third lesson that I did not learn well was bargaining. It is not something most Americans grow up doing and I did not get the hang of it. After one trip to the mercado I stayed away from the knickknack traders, except for succumbing to the little girls who woo you during dinner with their platos. I couldn’t seem to ask the price of anything without walking away with the item. I may have reduced the price somewhat but I couldn’t seem to avoid buying whatever it was. Ah well.

Finally, there is the issue of drinking the water. Everyone tells you to drink only filtered water, but it’s not that easy to break habits of a lifetime. Every night I caught myself rinsing my toothbrush in tap water. Each time I took a shower I had to stop myself from opening my mouth and catching a few drops. And for some reason I deluded myself into thinking the water at the hotel in Ixtapa would be safer and took ice in my Fanta once. From whatever slip up, both me and my son ended up with the turista revenge, though it didn’t really strike until we got home. So, an abundance of caution still applies.

Despite all my worries, the trip still proved fun and even relaxing. Although I sweated about where to stay before I came, from what I could see of all the places I obsessively studied on the web, the maxim of you get what you pay for still applies in Mexico. The debates over La Ropa vs. town and Ixtapa vs. Zihua are really no contest at all if you know what you want and who you are. La Ropa is the place to be in Zihua, if your main focus is going to be the beach. The beach is longer, prettier, and there are comfortable amenities all along it. The other parts of town are better if you tend to focus on shopping, wandering the streets and eating. It is easy to get between the two by taxi, if you find yourself wishing for the other side of life. The question between Ixtapa and Zihua would not be asked after seeing both. If your idea of a perfect vacation is room service, and a lounge chair at the pool, with the ocean horizon beyond, Ixtapa is your kind of place. The ambiance is Americanized, but the beach is magnificent. Zihua is the more Mexican flavored place, but perhaps neither has much to do with the reality that most Mexicans know. The trip to Tronconnes gave enough of a sampling of poverty by the side of the road to realize both towns are ideals that few people in the area live. Notice the shacks climbing up the side of the hill as you come in from the airport for the same reality.

Tronconnes itself is not really a town by US standards, just a crossroads of a few small stores and a bumpy road along which the mansions of Norte Americanos are displayed. The contrast of these fancy houses next to the pristine ocean is beautiful, but in comparing it to the shack at the crossroads with the pigs and chickens running around, it seems pretty obscene.

Because our guesthouse, although spacious and comfortable, had no other guests, when we wanted company we went to the Eden Hotel nearby. It was an oasis of good food and helpfulness. The Manzanillo bay was a dream for surfers, but I was also cheered by the variety of shells and birds to be seen. We also ate at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay, which consists of little faux beach shacks, arrayed around a perfect pool. However, the food tended toward American fast food.

I know I have just stated the obvious for the regulars to Zihua but sometimes that is helpful to the uninitiated. The best part of the trip, besides the beauty of the place, was the welcoming nature of the people. I had many conversations with the many Mexicanos that are employed by our dollars and found them all friendly, interesting, and forgiving of my ignorance. And yes, I do plan on going back!

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