Lovely resorts line Ixtapa Beach.
Baby sea turtle treks to the ocean.
Baby sea turtle's new home.
Head on a telescoping arm.
Kitten at the Playa Linda market.
Yacht so big it has a garage.
Munchies on their way to the megayacht.
Here you go!
Little girl enjoys our kayak.
Ixtapa Island workers commute home.
Madera Beach in Zihautanejo.
Parasailors fill La Ropa Beach.
A parrot says "hello" on La Ropa beach.
Vendors hike to Playa Las Gatas.
Mariachi musicians walk towards Las Gatas Beach.
Shelled peanuts are a big seller on
Playa Las Gatas.
Pepe's music store in
Mark finds the perfect guitar case.
Pepe sings while Estéban looks on.
Bi-Zihuanas bike shop.
Alejandro, owner of Bi-Zihuanas.
Signed US Nationals
We share some Groovy fun with special new friends.
Carmen, the jewelry store owner,
chats with us every morning.
Beautifully decorated plates from a fine artist.
Lorenzo checks me out.
Socorro whistles and sings.
Dr. Soberanis takes great care of my teeth.
Adding some touches to Groovy's signature on Noemi's wall.
German M/V Albatros stops for a day before heading across the south Pacific to the
Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Early January, 2012 - The Ixtapa/
Zihuatanejo area is the ideal place to
relax, with lots to do, including
relax we did, for several weeks. It is a
place where people seem to be just a little
bit warmer and a little bit friendlier than in
other parts of world, a place where
everyone has the time to get to know
each other and let friendships grow.
From gringos escaping the cold north
winds for breezy beach houses to locals
living normal workaday lives, we have met
some very special people on shore here.
Ixtapa is the more sophisticated and glitzy big sister to small-town Zihuatanejo. High rises line
the beautifully groomed beach, and each resort has inviting pools and views. What a treat it was
to spend the night at a friend's condo, waking up to sunrise on shore.
While walking Ixtapa beach that morning we came
across a young couple staring intently at the sand. We looked down and there was a
baby sea turtle making its way across the beach to the sea. Soon a small crowd
gathered and we all rooted this little guy on as he took his first steps into the big world.
He knew exactly where he was going, and he was hell bent on getting there, trekking
down the beach with awkward paddle-steps. In no time he was at the frothing water's
At first the only waves that reached him were the
gentle wave-ends away from the crashing surf. The
water swept lazily across the sand, and as each
wave washed over him he would get jostled a little and dragged down the beach a few steps.
But when the wave receded he would right himself and continue his march down the beach.
Finally he got into the surf zone and in an instant a huge wave crashed on the shore and he
was sucked into its swirling depths. We all searched for him when the wave pulled back, but
that was it. He was gone.
One of the coolest things in Ixtapa is the miles long bike path
and extensive jungle sanctuary. We walked a little ways back
into the jungle where crocodiles rest with mouths wide open and
long legged birds stand like statues in the estuary waiting to
strike passing fish. I love the snaky necks on these guys. It's as
if their heads are on a long retractable arm. Imagine
being able to move your head so freely up and down
and round about without moving your body or feet.
A family of little kittens caught our eyes too as
they played around the beachside
For vacationers water play is the name of the game in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.
Back out at Ixtapa Island we found ourselves surrounded by 75' to 100'
charter power yachts every afternoon. These luxury yachts are so big that
they even have garages in the back. The crew simply slide open the door
and roll out the jet-skis for a little fast-paced fun.
The restaurants on shore take good care of these visiting day-charters
without anyone on the charter boat having to go ashore. We watched
platter after platter of food being shuttled out to them. What a way to go:
pull in, drop the hook, and call room service for some munchies.
We live a little more simply than that and pedaled ourselves to
shore in the kayak for a toes-in-the-sand brewski some
afternoons. One day we returned to find a little girl sitting on the
edge of our kayak with the biggest grin on her face. Her dad
moved to get her off when he saw us coming, but she looked so
happy sitting there we encouraged her to stay. She sat there for
a full hour, smiling away, while we wandered around the beach one more time.
At the end of the day the workers return home from this island. Vacationers
visit the island in covered water taxis where they can escape the sun and
listen to Mexican music blaring on the water taxis' large speakers. There are
so many water taxis that the boats are never overcrowded. The workers' ride
is another story, however. The boats were so loaded down with passengers
we wondered if they would make it all the way back to the mainland without
Back on the mainland ourselves, we strolled all the
beaches around Zihua bay and soaked up the sun.
Mexicans enjoy the holidays to the fullest, continuing
to celebrate right through Epiphany on January 6th
when there is a final burst of fiestas to mark the
arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem. This is the
day when Mexican children receive their holiday gifts,
not Christmas day. I had been surprised when I
asked around on Christmas day to find out that the
kids weren't getting any gifts that morning. I
wondered if they just skipped the gift-giving and
commercialism of the holidays all together. But a
Mexican friend set me straight when he explained that
January 5th is the biggest shopping day in Mexico and
that the spirit of giving gifts to children coincides with the
gifts brought to Jesus by the Magi. That made a lot of
sense to me, as I remember when I was little trying to
figure out how that jolly old elf in the bright red suit fit
into all the other Christmastime traditions. He certainly
never seemed to show up in the nativity scenes around town…
Las Gatas Beach is separated from the other beaches
by a quarter mile trek across rocks and boulders.
Most tourists take the easier route and visit by water
taxi, but the vendors all save their pesos and do the
free hike over the rocks. I was amazed to watch an
older woman deftly managing a basket of wares on her
head as she negotiated the tricky trail.
Mariachi musicians carry their large instruments, and
from our perch on Groovy just a few hundred yards
from the trail we watched groups of musicians traipsing
to and from Las Gatas beach all day, their large
instruments strapped to their backs.
One of the most popular items sold by these vendors
is shelled peanuts. Generally about 20 pesos ($1.50)
a bag, the "cacahuate" ("peanut") vendors do a brisk
business on the beach.
One day while wandering around the back streets
of Zihuatanejo we came across a music shop. Mark always
likes to check out the guitar selection in music stores, and
suddenly he turned to me with the hugest grin ever. "Look at
this!" he said, holding up a Beatles decorated guitar bag. He
didn't have a guitar bag for his guitar on the boat, and this
one was absolutely perfect for this 45-year-long Beatles fan.
The shop owner, Pepe, was happily strumming away behind
the counter. He had an older friend and a young friend back
there with him, and they spontaneously jumped into a series
of lovely Mexican ballads on their guitars. How I wish my
Spanish were good enough to understand the song lyrics as
they were sung. Each song had a beautiful bittersweet tone
of love lost. Weak Spanish was no problem, however, when
the young boy Estéban grabbed Pepe's guitar and launched
into a 12-song set of Beatles hits. His spoken English was as
shaky as my Spanish, but he knew every word to every Beatles
song perfectly. We sang what we could with him and hummed
the verses we didn't know by heart. Just 22 years old, Estéban
sang with an affection for the songs that would make any grey-
haired Beatles lover from the sixties proud.
Another day we bumped into a bike
shop. Never one to pass up an
opportunity to talk bikes with fellow
enthusiasts, Mark walked in and found
an instant friend in owner Alejandro. It
turned out that Alejandro has had the
great fortune to ride the Alps and the
Pyrenees in France and is going to Italy
to ride this summer (but frustratingly
can't get a visa to ride the beautiful roads
of the western US). What fun to discover that his ultimate cycling idol was the
same as Mark's: the great Italian climber nicknamed "Il Pirato" ("The Pirate"),
The name of Alejandro's
shop is a wonderful play on
words. The Spanish word for "bike" is "bici,"
pronounced "bee see." The town's nickname is
"Zihua," pronounced "see wha." And the common
local dinosaur-looking critter is an "iguana,"
pronounced "iwhana." Combining all those words
together he came up with "Bi-Zihuanas" or "bee see
Offering mountain biking tours in the hinterlands
around Zihua, Alejandro is so friendly and outgoing
that his shop is always abuzz with customers and
activity. Another longtime gringo friend of his was
visiting at the time, and he had brought down a fantastic cycling jersey
signed by US National Master's men's cyclocross champ Dan Norton
to be displayed on the wall. This is one cool bike shop.
But besides all the wonderful talk of favorite Tour de France moments,
towering French mountain climbs and shared lust for various cutting
edge racing bikes and components, the best part of this shop is
Alejandro and his family. We enjoyed several visits with them, and
especially got a kick out of bringing the kids out to spend some time on
Zihuatanejo is a small community and everyone knows each
other. Every day on our way into town we would pass all the
vendors and chit-chat with many of them. Tourism is drastically
down these days, but these guys always have
smiles on their faces.
The two parrots Socorro and Lorenzo who live
at the restaurant Lilly's seem to smile a lot too.
Rarely confined to their cages, we discovered
they both talk very well, mostly in Spanish.
Socorro has lived with her owner for twenty
years, and she entertained us with her very dramatic singing
voice. She would warble and whistle and sing with intense
vibrato from up near the ceiling every time we came by.
Somewhere along the line I discovered a large filling had fallen
out of a molar in the back of my mouth, and I was really glad to
have met so many locals to get a good recommendation for a
dentist. Dr. Oliverio Soberanis came with several excellent
recommendations, and I was floored when he put a tiny
camera in my mouth to show me before and after photos of
my tooth. Here in Mexico the dentists perform the cleanings
rather than the hygienists, and both Mark and I hit the chair for
a thorough cleaning.
After the dentist replaced my
filing with one that is truly invisible, I asked him how he managed
to give it such a smooth and slippery finish. He explained that he
polished it, something, we learned later from a retired dentist
friend, that is too time consuming for many American dentists to
bother with. He also fixed some careless work I'd had done in
the States years ago, leaving me with a bright and happy smile.
The cleaning was 600 pesos ($46), the large filling replacement
was 1300 pesos ($100), and a medium sized filling was 800
pesos ($61), all a bargain considering he spent three hours
working on Mark and me and he took us right when we walked in
the door, no appointment necessary. This was our third
experience with Mexican dentistry (A Mexican Crown is an
article I wrote for Escapees Magazine about a crown Mark got in
San Luis south of Yuma), and we have been happy customers
Retracing our steps from last year, we stopped in at Noemi's
restaurant and added a few touches to our cruiser signature on
her wall. The wall is becoming quite crowded with boat names,
logos and signatures, and hopefully when we return someday it
will be filled with even more.
On our last day in town a cruise ship pulled in. Zihuatanejo
used to get dozens of cruise ships, but this one was one of only
five visiting in 2012. Like all cruise ships that drop in on Zihua,
this one had an unusual itinerary. Having left Hamburg,
Germany a week before Christmas, it was on its way to Aukland
New Zealand, a 50 day journey. Wow, and we thought we had
sailed a long ways!!
On January 14th we finally stowed everything away and
waved our last goodbyes to wonderful Bahía Zihuatanejo,
and turned Groovy's bow south towards Acapulco.
Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps and explore our visit