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Friday, January 2, 2009

Cruise: Mexico

Our last port of call was in Huatulco, Mexico. It is a lovely little town, with NINE bays all containing beaches. While it is a tourist town, there are not a lot there yet. It was the most beautiful beach port we visited.

** Coming into the Huatulco dock. **

In reading a cruising forum site, I found out that north of Huatulco was a sea turtle sanctuary. So we decided to cancel the excursion we had booked thru Princess, negotiate a taxi and go it alone. It was an excellent decision! After speaking with a couple different tour touts, one of them led us to his friend who had a taxi. We set our price and headed north. Our excellent driver was Alfredo.
** Alfredo **

The sea turtle sanctuary was about one hour north near the town of Puerto Angel (a very off the beaten path beach town). It’s an area I wouldn’t mind coming back to in the future for some quiet beach time. There were very few people using the beaches.

Anyway, when we got to the sanctuary we found out it had all sorts of turtles beside the sea turtles. But for us, we only had eyes for the elegant sea turtles. The area is a hatching ground and was very famous for its turtle meat factories and other turtle parts souvenirs. But it is now protected by Mexico and they have established both a hatching program (eggs are collected after the turtles come ashore to lay) and a breeding program (mature turtles are kept and the offspring are released). Because of the conservation program we were able to see turtles of all ages – from ping pong ball sized hatchlings, to dinner plate sized juveniles, to 5 foot long adults.

At this time the sanctuary is quite “basic”, but we were able to talk with the director and he told us of the plans for improving and expanding the program. I would love to come back in the future and see how it is coming along. I was a bit surprised there was no gift shop, as that is such a good way to raise funds. But as we pulled out of the gates, a man approached the taxi with different types of necklaces in his hands. And of those, there were little wooden sea turtle carvings.
** Hatchling **

** Juvenile (isn't he cute the way he rests his flippers?) **

** Adult Olive Sea Turtle **

** In the aquarium **

The patterns on the shells of the turtles were beautiful. I can understand why “turtle shell” combs, jewelry and such were so popular. However, it looks much better on the turtle than it does on people!

We drove back along the other side of the loop we’d started in our turn to Puerto Angel, seeing more beautiful countryside. Again, there were fruit stands along the road with all that delicious looking ripe fruit. We asked Alfredo about the green coconuts (as compared to the brown ones we normally see in our grocery stores). He explained the green ones are not as ripe and therefore have a lot “coconut water” still inside them. (Coconut “milk” is made by crushing the white flesh of the ripe coconut – it is NOT what you hear inside when you shake a coconut!). I commented that I had never had a fresh coconut. Before too much longer Alfredo had pulled over to a small stand that had coconuts he deemed “good enough”. He made our coconut order and a little girl took off to find the person who would be chopping open the selected coconut (which cost $1 US). I was so surprised when she came back with a boy of about 11! This is who was going to be swinging that machete?!?! Well, he did... with a practiced ease that spoke of years of popping open coconuts. Still, I cringed as I watched him hold the coconut with his hand as he whacked away the outer husk. It only took him about 5 swings before he was handing me a coconut complete with a straw for sipping. There was about a quart of fluid inside... slightly sweet and very refreshing. It was SO good! I could easily have one of those a day. After the liquid was gone, the boy cracked open the coconut & scraped out the unripe flesh. was like a jelly.
** Swinging the machete! **

** Enjoying my drink **

** Scraping out the flesh **

Before we were let off at the pier, Alfredo asked if he could take up to one more place. Checking our watches, we said “sure”. He took us to the hill top that overlooked the beautiful bay our ship was docked in. After enjoying the view for a while, we headed back down to the dock.

In the short amount of time left, I managed to walk a bit on the beach AND check out a couple shops with success. I was hoping to find two traditional forms of crafts famous from the Oaxaca region. First is the black clay pottery, which is made thru a rather tedious process. And the other item was the alebrije -- brightly painted wooden carvings of fantasy creatures or fantasy-looking animals.
** Souvenirs of Mexico **
The turtle necklaces, black clay pottery, a clay sculpture, the alebrije (as a sea turtle) and a bag of local Mexican coffee.

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