For a special anniversary we’re swapping business suits for bathing suits at the seaside paradise of Melaque. Inside Manzanillo’s airport we’re surprisingly greeted by a peculiar crustacean invasion, as dozens of little crabs with either a wonky GPS or trying to stowaway as illegal immigrants, scuttle sideways across the tiled floors between the sea of human legs. Avoiding the crab, we grab a cab, and head into town.
It’s currently the off season in Melaque and a tad early for the Metamucil migration flocking here for the winter months, and the owners of ‘La Paloma’ hotel inform us that as their only guests, we’ve been upgraded to a self-contained penthouse with two sea view decks, a palapa, exercise bike, hammock, BBQ, and a splendid swimming pool adjoining the beach and tumbling surf. We are elated with our sweet suite!
Most restaurants in town are closed, but fortunately Restaurante Maya is open, offering good food, gentle jazz music, and a unique dining deck built out over the fine sand. As waves turn the sand into a frenzy of froth just meters away, we perform our magic act of making several margaritas and Pina Coladas completely disappear! A montage of Mexican life unfolds before us as we sink our teeth into a vicious delicious dinner of tasty almond covered shark.
Saturday night after dinner we head to the Jardin, the town’s central square, where teenage boy Romeos congregate in hopes of meeting short-skirted girls who’ve come to strut their butt, with what appears to be overly protective chaperoning grandmothers lurking not far behind the behinds.
Walking the beach to the next town of Barra de Navidad, we stop in for a seafood lunch at Velaros, joined by a pod of pelicans; a comical looking bunch of feathers with oversized feet and eyes too close together. Standing on the dock of the bay (sorry Otis), the birds’ preposterously bountiful bills are pressed to breasts, giving them the appearance of giant feathered bobby-pins.
Checking out Grand Bay Hotel for our upcoming anniversary dinner, we find the massive place totally lacking in ambiance. Later, lamenting our plight to a boat owner named Victor on the docks in Barra, we hatch a brilliant alternative plan for the special upcoming celebration.
Today, we hitch a two hour ride into the town of Colima in the Sierra Madre foothills, with a fellow Canuck named Ray who is taking his truck in for repair. After agreeing to reconvene later for a lift back, we wander about and encounter a couple of humorous incidents of culture clash.
Our first stop is at a department store to check for an ATM. I ask if anybody speaks English, and they call over a girl who can speak a ‘leetle beet’. I ask her if they have an ATM machine, to which she replies ‘Si Senor, please comb’. She winds us through the store past the ladies underwear and into the sporting goods section, where she proudly points to a large exercise machine and says; ‘Ear eese dee ATM mahine’.
With four raised eyebrows, we inform her that we’re in need of money not muscles, and I pull out my bank card to show her. She gasps at her gaffe and begins profusely apologizing. Unsurprisingly, when cultures collide mirth frequently follows, and as Christine and I start chuckling, she too joins in the merriment. We follow her back to the front door, where she points down the street to a Cambio money exchange and says, ‘Than chew Meester; for dee rest of my live, I wheel no forhet chew an dee ATM mahine.’
Fat walleted with pesos and having avoided pumping iron we continue to saunter, and surprise, surprise, Christine finds some sandals she wants to buy. The price is 220 pesos, but used to haggling in Asia, I decide to negotiate. My Spanish bargain-jargon creates a less than sparkling repartee, so I devise a new strategy by resorting to charade-like gestures to try and convey my point to the gorgeous Bambi-eyed salesgirl.
Using my finger, I draw out on the shop wall a two, followed by two zeros; indicating 200 pesos. However, without missing a beat the sun-honeyed skin beauty, batting flirt-worthy eyelashes accentuating every blink, grabs ahold of my index finger, and holding onto it with both hands slowly ‘redraws’ over my 2 0 0 with 2 2 0! I open my mouth but no words materialize. I’m left uncharacteristically speechless!
Her radiating a smile is so bright that gazing at it too long may increase my risk of melanoma, and I realize I’m done like dinner! I burst out laughing and pay her the full price. Clearly, I came out second best, but it was undeniably one of my more pleasurable retail experiences; plus we have made a new friend in Colima.
‘She-Who-Shops’ buys a few girlie things, while I procure a large bag of sea salt, before hooking up with Ray for our ride back. On the way he stops outside the village of Comala to show us the ‘Magic Zone’; a startling illusion where the road appears to go uphill, but in fact goes down. I accuse him of having too much tequila; but, in a Ripley’s moment, he puts the truck in neutral and sure enough the truck continues to go ‘up’.
Ray then stops at a cafe where all the food you can eat is free when you order drinks! Sure enough, after ordering two brewskis for us and a margarita for the senorita, eight plates of edibles are paraded to the table and a Maharachi band saunters by to serenade us with a song. Ah yes, the great eight plate pit stop!
Blasting along the highway on the way back, a car two in front of us clips a motorcycle causing it to crash. Ray doesn’t see the crash, and I shout at him to stop so we don’t pile into the car in front of us. Metal and bodies are somersaulting, and a helmet bounces past about 100’ feet from the crash; fortunately for the rider, his cranium is not in it! As a crowd gathers to sort out fault, Ray decides there is enough help and that we should vamoose rather than get involved with the federalies.
At the beach today, I dive into the sea just as a monster wave takes its wrath out on the shore. It snaps my body backwards, flinging me up on the beach like a rag doll and leaving sand imbedded in every possible orifice along with a full on body exfoliation! An hour later as I’m hobbling about our suite, the owner comes by with a warning to avoid the water, as a hurricane less than 40 miles off shore is causing havoc. I wince a smile, thinking to myself that her timing has room for improvement!
Today is July 14th and it’s our 20th wedding anniversary. Enjoying breakfast outside on our balcony, we are treated to something unique. With a daffodil-dyed sun shining down, the empty sky suddenly clouds up with the migration of hundreds of Monarch butterflies all fluttering past in the same direction.
The stunning winged exodus lasts for over an hour, and we’re thinking how divine this breakfast is, with the colorful multitude of butterflies introducing themselves to us on this special day! As the day stretches on, we marinate in the sun atop air mattresses in the pool; slothfully floating about on our backs like a pair of otters, with a good read in one paw and an icy beverage in the other.
With the sun beginning to slip, we taxi to Barra to meet Captain Victor who we met previously, and climb aboard his panga boat for a tour around the lagoon before mooring his boat on Colima Island. The island’s seaside restaurants are all closed for the off-season, but several days ago we made arrangements with Victor, who lives on the island, to have one of open up for us; and us alone.
Victor has ensured the place has taken care of our seafood request of Dorado and jumbo prawns, soft music, and a candlelit table in the sand just a few feet from shore. With the sea gently lapping up beside us, we delight in four or five transfusions of joyful spirits brought from home for the occasion. A marvelous degree of mellow complements our amazing anniversary dinner in this brilliant salty setting.
I then present a present to Christine in the form of an engraved medal I’ve had made up for being married to me for 20 years. She is blown away, and I may have just earned lifetime brownie points. Slow dancing in the sand under a sky chockablock with stars, all is well with the world. In the early hours of morning Captain Vic boats us back to Barra, ending a magical day and momentous anniversary. Es Muy Perfecto!
On our last night we’re at Restaurante Maya sitting on ‘our’ special seating area out over the sand, when a caballero gallops past atop a white stallion kicking up a rooster tail of sand. Overhead, formidable frigate birds ride the thermals and pelicans patrol the waves like jet fighters in formation, sporadically tucking in their wings for a kamikaze style splat into the sea to scoop up a meal in their vast, fleshy-pouched beaks.
Coincidentally, as dinner arrives, so too does a ‘paw-sh’ little ankle-sniffer unglamorously named ‘Itchy’, although if a dog’s life is measured in wags, this fellow seems to be doing just fine. After kindly helping us to finish dinner, he sits patiently, gazing up at us with soft brown eyes, likely contemplating what’s for dessert.
Key lime pie arriving at the table perks up our pals hairy ears, as we appreciate the setting sun pinkening the sky over the majestic hills. As the evening light recedes and darkness descends, our ‘Mexcellent’ meal is over, and so too is our all too brief time here in Margaritaville. Aah the magic of Melaque.
Mark Colegrave 2004