Buena Onda means good vibes in Spanish and Mazunte definitely has buena onda. This pintsized Mexican fishing village is located down on the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca and owes quite a lot of its existence to sea turtles. Originally this involved turning them into food but when this was banned in 1990, the village turned to conservation and tourism, making live turtles the stars of the show.
We hadn’t originally planned to go there at all but upon hearing about all the turtles we couldn’t resist. We arrived late in the evening and by lunchtime the next day, had seen lots of these super chilled out creatures. A local fishing boat took us out into the ocean and we cruised around, trying to spot their bobbing silvery heads on the surface. They were huge and I was so thrilled to see them up close. On the way back a pod of dolphins came to play in the boat waves and Nick even saw a sea snake.
“Well”, we thought, “That’s it. Mazunte has totally delivered. Better start cycling again tomorrow I guess.”
Little did we know that we wouldn’t be leaving for another 2 weeks…
That evening we went for dinner and confessed that we would both like to stay for a bit. We had been planning on stopping somewhere to have some Spanish classes and happily Mazunte has a Spanish school called the Iguana Institute. The next day we signed up for classes and were soon being taught by the very lovely Janet. She listened patiently to our broken, extremely slow conversation and helped us improve. About a week in, we were both seriously chuffed to be able to translate for some fellow tourists in a local shop. Major progress. We might even be able to understand if that kid now if he asked us to play football.
Left: View from spanish school classroom
Right: With Janet, our teacher
Whilst in Mazunte we stayed at the friendly Hostal la Isla and were made to feel extremely welcome by the Argentinian owners, Martin and Emilia and their friend Igor. Igor had a chess set and Nick, being a bit of a chess geek, was in raptures. They played several games and eventually more guys joined the group until a daily chess club had formed at one of the local bars.
“Why have you stopped for so long in Mazunte?”, asked my brother as we chatted on Skype. “Has Nick met a girl?”
“Haha. No.” I laughed. “He has met a man. Or some men. Who share his passion…for chess.”
So here we were, enjoying all the buena onda, the chess and the Spanish, when along came, the Mar del fondo. This ocean swell caused huge waves this month which disrupted lots of villages along the pacific coast. On the day that it hit we were wandering back from Spanish class when we met Igor on the street.
“Guys”, he said, “Something terrible has happened. Big waves have come and wrecked the hostel.”
‘Tcha, yeah right dude” I said. What a joker!.
Sadly it turned out to be true. We came back to find poor Martin and Amelia looking seriously gutted as they sat surrounded by driftwood and the wrecked walls of their dream hostel. They had very kindly managed to rescue most of our stuff and apart from a salty bath the bikes were ok. Nick had lost a shoe as well as rather more importantly, his cycling shorts. Amazingly we managed to track down another pair after we left Mazunte. They came as part of a set though, which, when combined with the beard and sun glasses, makes Nick look like the stoner member of Yemen’s cycling team.
We spent a few days helping to clean up the hostel, moving stuff and shifting the sand which had been brought in by the waves. Several large crabs had inhabited the rooms and Nick tried to capture one and take it back to the sea. He ran from room to room as the creature scuttled behind walls.
“Here it is Jess.” He called. “I’ve got it. I’m holding it at the back of its shell so it can’t bite m….Owwwww…..never mind.”
It did seem for a while like we might never leave. Mazunte seems to have a magic that means it’s very easy to get stuck here. Eric, the owner of our favourite bar, came here on a motorcycle trip from San Francisco to Ushuaia, Argentina but never made it further south. 10 years later the motorcycle has gone but he is still there. Eric holds a weekly poker tournament and Nick would like me to mention at this point that he came second in the tournament. Like in many of his chess games.
As much as we were tempted to emulate Eric, we did eventually make it back onto the bikes and, rather regretfully, pedal out of paradise. Thanks Mazunte – we had a blast and the Dengue has completely gone.
Also gracias Janet – Ahora nosotros hablamos espanol tres bien.