My week at Casa de las Piedras in Zihuatanejo


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Posted by JookyG from 167.88.200.30 (pxy.sea.wamu.net) on miércoles, julio 23, 2003 at 14:42:34 :

This is a rather long posting, but my vacation and my stay at Casa de las Piedras warrants it. After such an exquisite adventure, a couple of bland paragraphs would not be justice. And this is only a small part of the story...

It's been a month since I returned from my visit to paradise. Now that I'm back at my desk and trudging through my normal routine, the sensation of bliss and adventure is starting to fade, but my memories of Zihuatanejo will be with me for a lifetime. I only hope I don't have to wait that long to return, whether it be for another week or an extended stay.

Never having been to Mexico, I didn't know what to expect but still managed to arrive with a head full of expectations. No matter. The best vacations never seem to follow the scr1pt. I knew I'd find oppressive heat and humidity, gorgeous beaches, and amazing food. What I didn't expect was how quickly I fell into the rhythm, how I bonded with the people I met, and the tight-knit and welcoming community I discovered in Zihuatanejo.

It also seems some of the best vacations happen by accident. I did not choose Zihuatanejo. In fact I'd never heard of it before dear friends of mine decided to have their wedding reception in La Barra de Potosi. The fiesta at Casa Del Encanto was so wonderful; I'll have to write a whole separate posting about it (thank you, Laura and Noyo!).

Knowing nothing about Zihuatanejo, my traveling companions and I searched for our lodging on the Internet, based solely on price and photos. When we saw the photos of Casa de las Piedras and Casa Bambu (www.casadelaspiedras.com), we knew immediately that's where we wanted to stay. If Robinson Crusoe opened a bed and breakfast, this is what it would look like. So we booked early, and then spent a couple of months wondering if we'd made the right decision, since most lodgings in the area seem to require a non-refundable cash deposit.

Casa de las Piedras is on the hill at the very end of Playa La Ropa. It's a little tricky to find, especially if you're used to clear-cut driving directions from sources like Mapquest. We did receive a map and directions upon making the reservation, but the streets on the map seemed a lot more abstract in reality. Finally, with help from our taxi driver, we found it along a dirt road, up a driveway, at the top of a long flight of stairs (take the road next to Hotel Rossy to avoid the stairs), and soon were relaxing in hammocks, with the first of many cold cervezas in hand--the best treatment for the summer heat.

At first exposure, the heat and humidity in June were oppressive, especially to a trio of fair-skinned Norte Americanos. As much as we longed for it living in Seattle, there was no way to prepare for the blast that hit us as we walked off the plane and across the sweltering tarmac. It was like stepping into a sauna, and amazing how humidity can make relatively decent temperatures feel much hotter.

Humans have an amazing capacity for adaptation, however, and we quickly adjusted, with the help of beaches, cool showers and cold beer. That was the whole point, right? To experience another part of the world, the customs *and* the climate. We weren't there to hole up in some bland air-conditioned box overlooking a swimming pool--we could have stayed in the U.S. and done that. We were here to soak it up, and soak in it we did. Between the sweat, beaches, rain and frequent cool showers, I don't think I was completely dry the entire week.

Needless to say, Casa de las Piedras is not air conditioned. In fact, it scarcely had walls or doors, let alone windows to trap the cool air. But it still felt like paradise. The house was large and complete, with a large living room, a kitchen and dining room, two bedrooms with double beds, extra beds in the living and dining areas, a beautiful bathroom with shower, and several lock-up closets with heavy steel doors and deadbolts to protect valuables. The house was fully furnished, equipped and nicely decorated. And 100% leak proof when the storms hit--the palapa roof didn't lose a drop that I could see. In fact, the whole house stayed dry even in the heaviest June downpour.

I call this style of living "primitive luxury." We had all the amenities we needed for a perfect vacation, yet there was no TV, cable, video player, computer, microwave, or any of the other electronic crutches I've come to depend on back home. That's part of what made it so luxurious--no beeping, buzzing, ringing devices to torment me. Instead of the din of traffic, sirens and airliners that inundate city life, we were lulled to sleep by the sound of insects and crashing waves, the occasional call of night birds, and sometimes the patter of rain. It was heavenly, and in spite of the heat, I generally slept like a baby. I guess luxury is what you make of it.

We visited at the start of rainy season, in a relatively wet June, and yet the rain rarely dampened our plans. The mornings and most afternoons were sunny, with the rain falling mostly at night, just in time to cool everything down before bed. When the rain is one of the few breaks you get from the heat, you really start to look forward to it. When you're wet already from sweat, it really doesn't matter how wet you get in the rain. When you're sunburned and radiating heat from a boat trip to Playa Manzanillo, cool rain on your back in the evening is a divine sensation. Hey, it's just water. Live with it. And don't let the prospect of rain deter you from visiting. If rainy season is any indication, Zihuatanejo is exquisite any time of year.

If there's any reason to not visit during the summer, it's the bugs. The bugs were my ONLY complaint during my entire week in Zihuatanejo, and it's apparently a mostly summertime phenomenon. But it wasn't the bugs we could see that were the problem. It was those damned sand fleas or jejenes or whatever the heck was chewing up my legs. Granted, we didn't take precautions, like avoiding the beach when the sand was cool and damp or carefully showering off afterwards. Ironically, I don't think I saw a single mosquito the whole time. I've read of some potential solutions to the no-see-um problem, most notably pennyroyal oil (http://www.peoplesguide.com/1pages/chapts/health/bugs/pennyroyal-no-see-ums.html), and if I'm ever going to stay again for more than a few days in the summertime, this is definitely something to try.

The rest of the bugs were actually quite fun and interesting. Evenings became episodes of our own little nature show, when the sun went down and the lights came on. We entertained ourselves on a couple of evenings by "hunting" the various creatures with our cameras. Fortunately, mine has a very good macro lens that afforded some great shots.

Our visit happened to coincide with what Grace, the proprietress of Casa de las Piedras, called "beetle week," a short period in early summer when the beetles are quite prolific. We saw quite a few, buzzing around the lights, inside the paper lantern lampshades and getting eaten by geckos. There was a golden, almost pearlescent scarab, and even a big, black rhino beetle. I'd never seen one of those outside of textbooks and nature programs. It was really amazing.

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of these bugs are harmless, and more afraid of you than you are of them. It's a common refrain when dealing with creepy creatures, and it definitely came in handy when we discovered the tailless whip scorpion. It's really a spider, but its body looks somewhat like a scorpion, and according to Grace, they eat scorpions. It was by far the weirdest and creepiest-looking spider I've ever seen, with a large, flat body and a leg span a little larger than my hand. That's right, larger than my hand. Linda, one of my companions, practically jumped out of her sandals when she discovered it. We named it Fred, and by the end of our visit, she'd warmed up and was having conversations with our giant lumbering friend, his cousin Little Ricky, and his big brother Bubba.

The geckos were especially fun to watch. They were on the ceiling and walls, wriggling along the beams of the palapa roof, and sitting silhouetted inside the lampshades, feasting on all the flying insects that gravitated to the lights. When they were inside the shades, you could get right up close on the other side without them seeing you, and watch the outlines of their bodies as they breathed, snatched bugs, and licked their chops.

In spite of all our back-to-nature enthusiasm, and the knowledge that the bugs were harmless, it's a darned good thing our beds had mosquito nets. Not that mosquitoes were a problem, but the nets kept everything else out. I could sleep naked on top of the covers without fear of anything crawling across me. Not fearing the insects is one thing, but the idea of finding something tickling up my leg in the darkness, especially Fred or one of his buddies, would have certainly kept me up at night without the protection of the nets.

Once I adapted to the heat and humidity, I enjoyed some of the most refreshing sleep I ever experienced. And that, I believe, is the best indicator of the quality of my stay at Casa de las Piedras. It's hard to not feel refreshed when you awaken in the middle of a vibrant jungle, with gorgeous beaches at your feet and a wide array of recreational opportunities beckoning. Indeed, our stay in Zihuatanejo was such a treat that we never did make it into Ixtapa.

Like most people who visit, I will certainly be back, and I would stay again at Casa de las Piedras. It is truly a gem. While this type of vacation isn't for everyone, it was definitely for me, and I highly recommend it for anyone with a sense of adventure and an adaptive spirit.

Visit the Casa de las Piedras web site at http://www.casadelaspiedras.com/.




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