At the crack of dawn we bolted from Las Estacas before the no-see-ums awakened and attacked. Making a rapid advance towards the coast we paused briefly in Cuernavaca for fuel and decided to keep on our way; there were too many Gringos running around. Feeling the same resentment about the over-abundance of tourist we skimmed through Acapulco and steered ourselves north on a little poorly maintained palm tree lined road to Zihuatanejo, a sleepy little fishing village that so far escaped the rigors of modernity. We passed by a scattering of aging wooden shanties and stopped at a small row of unfinished stucco and thatched roof single room dwellings. The white walls stood with no windows or doors and stood eerily like a ghost beach town that had been abandoned and left to weather the erosion of time. We chose a hut that would be suitable for our headquarters and established a beach head. I noticed a couple of cute cabana squatters a few huts down from us. They gleefully waved back to me as I waved with enthusiasm and high hopes of a friendly encounter. As the sun was preparing to set we prepared ourselves with a fat joint and walked a few steps to the beach plopped down and waited for the evening miracle. We invited the two girls to join us in the holy ritual; they readily accepted our offer. Few words were exchanged, we mostly watched in awe at the sun danced below the horizon. The girls thanked us for sharing the sunset with them and to our disappointment returned to their bungalow. We retired shortly afterwards.
We began the day with a morning puff of pot to aid in scripting our plan of action for the day. We decided to make use of the canoe latched to the roof of the enterprise and paddle out to the center of the bay. The plan was well within the parameters of our creed, “We shall go where no sane man had gone before”, and anyway at the time it seemed like a perfectly logical course to take. The Captain and I lifted the canoe off the enterprise and carried it a few yards to the water’s edge. (A foot note is needed here: now keep in mind that this canoe was designed for paddling on still lake waters, an important distinction.) So, we packed the canoe with snorkeling gear, a few snacks and water. Ready to cast off, ah wait a minute! The final ingredient – in our blind obsession to push logic aside, we ate a palm full of mushrooms. Arg! We went blissfully off to be mushrooming mariners on a sea faring adventure.
We paddled to the middle of the bay and stopped for a breather. The mushrooms were now blotting the barriers between realities. Perfect time for a little snorkeling! I took the first plunge. Oh my God! I was only in about twenty feet or maybe twenty fathoms; I couldn’t tell at that point but the water was clear to the bottom and teeming with exotic creatures which were turning into Disneylandish like cartoon characters. Oh man, this was just too much fun. After a few minutes or hours, couldn’t tell at this point, I floated into a scene that made me question if I was still on the planet Earth. A monstrous snake like creature was slithering down into a sea bed hole. It was way too big to be an eel or sea snake and had the girth of a giant anaconda. I dove down to get a better look at this phenomenon. The closer I got the bigger and longer it became. It finally disappeared down the hole. I got a creepy feeling that this sea monster was about to burst out looking for something to dine on and I was the right size for a tasty morsel. I shot up to the surface like a rocket and scrambled aboard the canoe. After hearing about my slightly terrifying encounter the Captain jumped overboard to see for himself. He remained underwater for the longest time and just as I was sending up mental flares he breached and spouted like a crazy whale. Whew! He hadn’t been taken down by the creature. He almost capsized the canoe trying to ungracefully heave his hulk aboard. Amazed and also slightly shaken by some of the things he had seen the Captain still couldn’t confirm my sighting of the Jules Vern sea monster. I swear it looked too real to be my imagination tempered by mushrooms. The Captain, with an inordinate yen for adventure and with a dangerous lack of fear for the likely consequences of acting on ill-conceived ideas, suggested we paddle out of the bay and hug the coast for a little ways. I immediately had serious reservations about this idea but agreed anyway. As we paddled towards the mouth of the bay the water’s demeanor began to change from calm to a churn. A tour boat passed us on its’ way out of the bay. I curiously noted that the passengers were all piled on the starboard side and waiving franticly at us. We returned the friendly gesture and continued to paddle on. Leaving the relatively calm of the bay the ocean quickly turned from a churn to a crisp chop; we were now in open-ocean. Before we realized it the waves grew in size and were lapping over our port side making us take on water. I started to feverishly bail with the only thing available, a red plastic beer cup. To make matters worse the wind was pushing us into the rocky cliffs that seemed to be beckoning us to our doom. We could see the waves crashing on the rocks; I could sense disaster waiting for us. At that moment as I was still madly trying to bail with the plastic cup I noticed that the clear blue water under us suddenly turned black. Holy shit, something huge and black was just a few feet under our canoe! I yelled at the Captain to look at the massive monster below us, his eyes got big as ostrich eggs. By this time we had past the fail safe point, there was no turning back; we were in big trouble. A larger wave hit us broadside; we somehow managed to ride it to the top without capsizing but took on more water. From the top of the wave we could see a small beach etched out of the cliff face that offered us a possible place to land our sinking craft. The Captain and I paddled like our lives depended on it, which was indeed the case. We were able to surf on the waves which had now grown to about six to eight feet in height. We tried in vain to catch a wave that probably would have carried us all the way in; it broke under us and we slid back down into the trough. Totally exhausted we again paddled like mad men to catch the next wave. I looked back to check on our position and let out a shriek. This wave, bigger than the rest, was cresting and fixing to break over us. “Jump overboard” I yelled. We both dove into the wave as it curled and broke plunging us into an aquatic hell. My first sensation was being violently tumbled in a murky mixture of sea, sand and foam all the while trying to establish what was up or down. The wave then slammed the canoe onto my back and sank it to the bottom with me trapped under its’ weight. Now remember, we were still in a mushroom mode making this experience truly exceptional. After dragging the canoe and me along the bottom the wave finally spat us out onto the beach. Fortunately for me the bottom was just sand and not rocks or I would have been sliced and diced to death. Unable to move the Captain and I laid on the beach for the longest time just staring at each other. We were still alive!! It must have looked like a scene out of a cheesy “B” survival movie set. I finally attempted to get up but a sharp pain from my shoulder sent me back down. Shit! I could barely move my arm. To add insult to injury just a few feet from my prone body stood the red plastic cup half full of sea water. Perfect! We eventually got to our feet and collected the paddles and snorkeling gear that washed up. After dumping the water out of the canoe we gasped in horror, the craft was cracked in two. That probably happened when it was slammed on me. No wonder I was lame. The only way out of this small beach was narrow steps carved into the side of the cliff’s wall. There was no way we could carry the canoe by ourselves especially since I had one arm dangling like a dead limb. We left the canoe behind, climbed out and followed a trail to a small village. We employed two young and hardy men to help us haul the canoe out. They carried the canoe like it was made of balsa wood and ran up the steep trail as if it was an escalator. All we could do was limp behind. Examining the crack in the hull the two men said they could probably fix it. We gave them the canoe as payment for their help. They were happy and we were happy to rid ourselves of the burden. We then walked to the main road that wrapped around the bay and stuck our thumbs out hoping to flag down a ride. An elderly couple in a dilapitated pickup stopped and motioned to get it. We climbed into the back and heaved a big sigh of relief that this adventure was coming to an end. Had I the luxury of foresight I would have seen the warning signs that this episode was a precursor of the future with this mad man; a future which would be fraught with perilous adventures. Nevertheless, to this day I have no regrets and thankful for linking my life with the crazy Captain. I did things with him that I could never have dreamed of.
The driver dropped us off at our beach headquarters as the sun was sinking into the sea. Our cute neighbors had a small fire going and waved us over. We joined them for a sunset smoke. They asked us what kind of day we had. When we got to our canoeing into open-ocean they screamed, “Was that you guys in the canoe?” We proudly acknowledged our folly. “Oh my God” they exclaimed, “Did you see us waving at you”? They were on the tour boat that passed us leaving the bay. They went on to say the skipper of the tour boat shouted in astonishment over the ship’s PA system for everybody on board to look at the two “payasos locos” (crazy clowns) heading out to sea in a canoe. They said everyone was astounded at the sheer audacity (code word for stupidity) of such an undertaking. Some passengers even made bets on our survival. That realization made a tad less proud of our misguided antics. Before I knew it the tall dark haired beauty took my hand, pulled me up and started dirty dancing with me! I didn’t question her motives and dirty danced with her through the night. We slept together next to the fire until morning. I must say, she had a healing touch that made me forget about my bruised body and pain. As the sun peeked over the palm trees we parted with a quick puff and a kiss. I had to get back to Choulua and catch up on the classes I was playing hooky on. It was also time to sleep in my own bed, nurse my wounds and anticipate the next field trip with the Mad Captain.