I stepped out of our car and the heat dripped off me. I squinted my eyes against the sun. We had arrived in Puerto Escondido. Everything seemed to shimmer.
I’m not a beach person. I prefer cold beaches to hot ones. I’m not even a water person. Even so, we drove through and then descended the hills of Oaxaca state from the regional capital to the coast to introduce ourselves to another part of Mexico. Discomfort is worth the knowledge and experience.
Puerto Escondido was the most touristy place we’d visited, and I can see why. We walked down the stairs to Playa Carrizalillo as the sun was setting. The bay, the clear blue water, the sand; I had to admit this was a fine beach. Back atop the cliffs, eating dinner, we were treated to a strange bit of magic as the sun’s last rays pierced through the dark in stripes.
Luminescence everywhere, in the sky and the water. Nearby Laguna de Manialtepec shimmers with plankton at night but we visited under the sharp sun. The narrow strip of skin I failed to coat in sunscreen was found and burned. But we cut through the water and I was glad, spotting pelicans, ospreys, herons, kingfishers, ducks, and more amid the tangled roots of the mangroves. Trees perched atop their elongated roots. We stopped on a strip of beach, uncovered only in dry season to separate the lake from the sea, and sipped on coconut.
That afternoon, we went back to Playa Carrizalillo and swam. The waves pushed and pulled me, the water deep even close to shore. The water was warm and the atmosphere too. We emerged from the ocean, wrinkled by the sea, in time to sit and watch one less sunset. And then, it was time for one more dinner, highlighted by salsa de cacahuate. Streetlamps buzzed and cut through the dark and we moved our way through it. It was still hot for me, but I still smiled.
At breakfast I overheard a Mexican woman explaining to a little girl why she chose to live in Puerto Escondido. “It’s the only place I can walk around barefoot!” Would that we all could shed a layer of protection and find our way through the darkness to some streak of light, even though sometimes it can burn.