Today is a port day. We arrived in Huatalco at 8 am, and were off the ship shortly after that, and set off for what we naively thought was Huatulco, Mexico. The map in the guide book provided by the ship was not great, and it looked as though the town was tiny. On returning home, and doing some research, I realized that the actual town layout is complicated. There are three or four areas to the place, and the area is set up as a resort town – the original inhabitants were moved some 20 K inland to another place – Huatalco Santa Maria. The areas around the pier have been dedicated to tourism and resorts. Set back from the harbour by a little way is the area of Crucecita, and slightly further inland is La Crucecita, which, from the write up in the ship’s brochure sounded like a “made village” to show tourists how Mexicans are supposed to live. Had we gone a short way inland, we probably would have found Crucecita and gotten a lot more enjoyment out of our rambles. As it was, we ended up wandering along the streets closest to the water, into Santa Cruz Huatalco, which is mostly hotels, homes for wealthy Mexican and then in the afternoon, along the very, very edge of Crucecita, which was almost exclusively condo and resorts.
The conventional wisdom is that Mexico is friendly and welcoming. That wasn’t the impression I took away from Huatulco at all – although to be fair, we didn’t see a whole lot of people other than tourists and people from the ship. But those we did see looked either unfriendly or puzzled by a pair of odd looking North Americans wandering around their streets or were busy trying to get us to buy their wares or sit in their bar or restaurant. When we passed working groups, they fell silent and just stared at us until we had gone by. We got one taste of home, though – there was a Bank of Montreal on the main street of this area! Closed but still kind of homey feeling.
It was hot and humid. The ship’s newsletter said it was going to get up to 33 C, 88 F, but with the humidity, it felt a lot hotter than that. And we didn’t acclimate to it very well at all while we were on land.
Around the pier there was the market, and there were beaches and lots of swimming areas – I almost decided to swim, and still am not sure why I didn’t. It may have been the aggressiveness of the vendors. Al and I aren’t used to the way shopkeepers solicit custom, and we’ve never been comfortable with a hard sell or aggressive sales techniques, and that seems to be the norm. Restaurants and bars were set right on the beach, with the owners pushing for us to come and sit in their places. For me, it was questionable as to whether the beach was private or public and I didn’t want to risk swimming without permission if it was private, and I didn’t feel like eating or drinking.
One thing we noticed was the number of abandoned construction sites as well as the amount of ongoing construction. The area we were in was clearly for the tourists – both North American and from other parts of Mexico, and several of the condos targeted Canadians in particular. But new construction would be going on right next door to a partially completed and obviously abandoned site. It gave a really odd feel and look to the area.
Police presence was not as massive as in Cabo San Lucas, but was still overt and there – naval vessels patrolling near the ship and army and police on the pier. But the actual security checks when you return to the ship are cursory – I had both the ship key card and my photo id out, and as it happened, they are the same size. When I went through the “security” check point, the key card was in front of the driver’s license, and there was no attempt to examine either of them – the guard barely glanced at them before waving me through. Now, yes, I am very obviously a North American tourist, and not somebody from Mexico or points south trying to stow away. But it wouldn’t have been hard to get drugs or other contraband at least onto the pier (getting them onboard was another matter – the ship’s security was tighter and your belongings were scanned every time you came onboard). Kind of makes me shake my head about security, but what do I know? Maybe he was just so experienced he could tell? Dunno.
We went back to the ship for lunch and went out again after we’d eaten, but the temperature had climbed even more, and we didn’t get far before I felt done in, so headed back to the ship and spent the day being cooler and drier.
In fact, I probably could have walked further, but was feeling very uncomfortable and uneasy being in a town I didn’t know, didn’t understand and couldn’t figure out at all. Lesson for the next time we travel – research the places first!
Tomorrow is Puerto Chiapis and the Mangrove boat ride. That I’m looking forward to.