Money was always an issue since we were on very limited funds. We had managed to keep a little back for travel but needed to stay as frugally as we could. Being new to traveling, our lack of experience meant the money was disappearing more rapidly than we had hoped. We had heard there was a nice beach with cheap accommodations south of Oaxaca called Zipolite. So, off we went to discover this ‘Paradise’.
After a long, dusty bus ride, which is what most bus rides were in Mexico, we arrived in the late afternoon. We found a place that offered hammocks, under a grass roof, on the beach. The other travelers were welcoming, said it was a decent place, and it was cheap. After claiming our hammocks, and securing our packs, we wandered down the beach and found a secluded little alcove of a beach surrounded by the massive rock shoreline.
An Entrepreneurial Artist
The little beach was not occupied because as the waves rushed in, it completely flooded as deep as am I tall and rushed back out to the Ocean. This only happened at certain times of day with the tides so sometimes it was a really pleasant place to be. Here, at the little beach, we met a young Mexican artist that was painting postcard-sized scenes of the area and selling them to the tourists. They were really lovely so we bought a few for a dollar each.
It started to get dark and we began to walk back toward our hammock encampment. The full moon shone brightly ahead of us as we walked up the beach. Donna said, “Wait a minute! This looks to be an “East to West” beach with the moon rising and setting in the same line as the shore! I want to stay here long enough to see the full moon do this again!” And so, our time to stay on Zipolite was set! We continued to walk towards the small groups of people surrounding campfires on the beach.
I grabbed my guitar and we joined them for what was to become many nights of music and laughter. One young man seemed to know only one song on these evenings of music. He thus became known by the title of that one song that he would belt out with great emotion several times a night. “Feelings! Whoa whoa whoa, Feelings! Whoa whoa whoa, Feelings…. Of you in my heart!” I wish I could convey the heavy accent, it was special.
Nudity and Death
Zipolite was known as the only nude beach in Mexico, not that you had to be naked to be there. I have no idea if it was a government-sanctioned nude beach. There were certainly a lot of naked people enjoying the sun and surf without a care in the world while some older Mexican men gawked at the young ladies. While it didn’t bother anyone, we would occasionally get Asian tour groups. They would whip out the cameras for the few minutes of their whirlwind tour stop for a photograph or two.
Watch the Locals
Bodysurfing was a fun thing to do, but it was important to pay attention and surf only when the locals did. Zipolite, as we understand it, translates from the local dialect too, “the Beach of Death”. The reason is, that with this East/West beach the occasional riptide will drag some unsuspecting swimmer instantly out to sea. Beyond any possibility of safe return. We’ve also seen surfers that try to defy warnings of the locals’ knowledge of the Ocean. As a result, they get smacked into the jagged rocks that dot the shoreline. It’s not a pretty sight and always ends badly.
More oft than not, they were Germans whose last known conversations on land were something like, “I’m strong like the Ocean and I know what I’m doing.” I learned to watch the locals before trying my hand at bodysurfing. Donna was having none of it! I swam out just far enough to catch the wave break and I would swim as hard as I could to be at the right time for the short ride to the beach. I forgot to mention, the wave doesn’t curl into the beach on an East/West beach. It comes in all at once and slams, crashing down in one solid motion.
Keep Your Mouth Shut
This is when you learn to keep your mouth shut or eat a lot of sand, but it still fills your nose, ears, and surprisingly, other orifices. After a ‘SANDwich or two’, you learn how to avoid this moment! Watch the locals, they know. One time Donna was just standing ankle-deep in the water when a small wave hit her ankles, knocking her down, and began to drag her out and away. It was strong! I had to rush out to grab her before she was gone! She said it was a very scary moment.
What a Drag
Once we went swimming with some young boys at the next beach over. All was going fine until Donna wasn’t secure and felt as though it may be slowly dragging her out to sea. At the same time, a boy who was further out started panicking. I was torn but quickly swam to Donna and helped her back to the shore. We told the boy to swim parallel to the shore, which he did and soon managed to swim back in. We didn’t swim very far out after that.
A Room of Our Own
While the hammock scene was okay we heard that the hostel at the end was a place of nicer accommodations while still being reasonably priced. It was indeed a nice place, but it was full. People weren’t that anxious to leave and the waiting list grew longer each day. We decided to move to one of the bamboo structures at the hostel next door to it where we could have our own room. Granted it was still hammock sleeping but after a rash of thefts near the open hammock areas, we decided to enjoy at least the perception of security.
In Sickness and In Health
The two-story ‘bungalows’ were completely made of bamboo with walls, floors, doors, window shutters, and a bamboo ladder. We could only get a room on the second floor. While it was not so convenient, later I was extremely thankful for that. The bathrooms were shared, but up and over a hill with steep steps. The shower water was brackish, and this is where we caught our first bout of Amoebic Dysentery.
Any orifice will do, eyes, nose, ears, etc. We got sick. When I say sick, I mean sick! Out both ends without warning.
We grew weaker and could barely make it up the stairs to the bathrooms. We began using buckets, and while Donna was hammock-ridden, I was semi-functional and could still get necessities like water and empty the buckets. There are gaps between the bamboo floor and after a sloppy night of illness, the people under us quickly moved out.
Healings! Whoa whoa whoa, Healings.
Before we had fallen ill, we had made friends with a young German man. He was under the tutelage of his guru, a Rainbow Shaman, a healer. After he learned of our plight the Rainbow healer gave us some grapefruit extract and a bag full of marijuana seeds. He directed us to add the extract to a tiny bit of water and eat the seeds as we could.
The amoebas did not like that! They fought back but it eventually weakened them enough for us to walk the mile off the beach to catch a bus to a nearby city and a doctor. We returned to Zipolite with medicines to recover.
The next days were hazy as we recovered until finally, we saw the full moon on the beach again which was our sign to leave. We had met a lot of nice people and made some friends. “Feelings”, the German aspiring healer, Mandy/Kim, whom we had met in Oaxaca and introduced herself at different times with different names, and Simon Pooly who told us we should follow him to Guatemala and learn about “import, export, resell and marketing”.
Leaving the Beach of Death
Realizing we were on the tail end of any finances we had, we decided to take up our new friend, Simon’s, offer. He assured us that it was a winning combination that had worked well for him for many years and told us to meet up with him in Panajachel. As we left Zipolite, we went to the closest nearby town, Porta Angel, to check it out. It was nice but it wasn’t Zipolite and so we moved on taking a bus to the border.
It was a pleasant enough ride and not as dusty as some of our previous transports. There was a family sitting behind us with a couple of cute kids. The little girl was playing games with us like peek-a-boo, fingers over and around the seat, etc. This went on for a while until we all got tired of the games and settled in for the long ride. The countryside was as you would imagine, some trees, but mostly brown scrubby shrubs and dusty land with the occasional shack or small cluster of shacks.
We rolled on down the road and along with the movement of the bus we both finally nodded off. The bus made a couple of stops along the way and at one of them before the border, the family got off and we waved goodbye to the little girl. Finally, we arrive at the border and have a much-welcomed opportunity to use the toilet before crossing.
There was a lady collecting money for the use of the toilets and as I reached into my pocket to give Donna some toilet money, I realized the money wasn’t in that pocket, nor in any of my other pockets! I think the little girl pickpocketed me! Donna was in need of this toilet pretty badly, but the woman refused and said that she must pay! “But, we’ve been pickpocketed and don’t have any money until we get to an ATM!” She didn’t care. As things got heated up, Donna said, “Fuck it!” and started around to the back of the toilet building with the lady calling after her, “No, no, no!” Donna called back, “Yes, yes, yes!” And she did, did, did.
We found an ATM and withdrew some money to cross the border and as our tradition had been, burnt our last spliff as we crossed the bridge from one country to the next arriving clean and dry into the next country.
2 thoughts on “(10) Zipolite, “the Beach of Death””
So many awesome stories! Keep them coming. Makes my morning brighter. 🙂
I have one of those little paintings!!