Vincente knows how to get stuff done. He’s our Acapulco water taxi, airport shuttle, question-answer man, and general fixer. He’ll get you a mooring, fuel, water. He’ll find the unfindable. He’s got connections.
We start the day by sitting under a tamarind tree at the boat landing, next to Yate Fiesta Bonanza. We need to get our exit papers (or “zarpe”), but no one on board Bertie has a captain’s license, required for the paperwork. Captain’s licenses aren’t necessary for private boats in the U.S., but somehow this was lost in translation when we visited the harbormaster’s office yesterday, and the process stalled. Never fear. Vincente’s arranged for a customs official to meet us here today, even though it’s Saturday. She walks up in her high-heeled flipflops, official brown Mexico government uniform with short skirt, glitter nail extensions, lipstick, gold watch, and sunglasses. All business. She has three rubber stamps in a manila envelope, goes through our papers, stamps our passports, takes our visas, and we’re all set. We’ve officially exited Mexico, bound for the Galapagos Islands. Vincente made it happen.
We’ll leave early Monday morning, but Heidi and I still have some provisioning to do. We are on a quest for fourteen dozen local, fresh, unwashed eggs. We’re stocking up for the passage, and eggs are a good standby protein source. As long as they’re unwashed, and you turn them every day or two, they’ll last a long time even without refrigeration. Vincente has told us he can connect us with the eggs. So, after the paperwork is done, Heidi and I get into Vincente’s little burnt-orange two-door Chevy, headed to his family’s ranchito.
Vincente’s little go-devil.
I’d imagined that we’d drive up into the mountains, but instead we head northwest out of the city, driving along the coast. Vincente’s little son, Luis, is with us. He’s about four years old, and, unlike Vincente, he’s shy. Heidi rides in the front seat, Luis and I in the back. I snap photos of distant beaches as we weave through traffic. We don’t really know where we’re going, and sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect between Vincente’s English and our Spanish. We trust he’ll take us someplace interesting.
Luces en el Mar and Laguna de Coyuca — just northwest of Acapulco.
We drive through a small low-key resort village, on an isthmus between the beach and a big laguna. Vincente seems to know everyone. This is his ‘hood. We pull into a dusty lane, and he turns off the car. Piling out, we discover that we’re at his house. We meet his wife, Maria, and one of his daughters. Vincente sends his daughter to talk to the neighbor who has the eggs. The yard is shaded by coconut palms and mango trees. Butterflies float by. Vincente uses a machete to chop open a coconut, shows me to a hammock, gives me a piece of sugary cake. Four dogs gather round, looking for a handout. “This one is Pandera, this one is Pinky…” Vincente tells me their names. “You can have Pinky, take with you.” I feed the cake frosting to the dogs. We wait, tranquilo. On the ride here, I told Vincente I like birds. He taught me to say, “Soy pararera.” (I’m a birder.) And, “Necessito guia de observacion de aves.” (I need a bird field guide book.) Now, waiting for the eggs, he takes us for a stroll down to the end of his street, which leads to the laguna. Birds fill the air, wade the edges, float and dive the surface: swallows, ibises, egrets, ducks. I don’t have my binoculars, but quickly change lenses on my camera and snap a few photos, before we head back to the yard.
Vincente gets us a coconut from a tree in his yard.
Yo soy tranquilo…
Vincente at home. The little dog to the left is Pinky, the one he wanted me to take home.
Vincente, Luis, and Pinky take us on a walk down to the laguna.
Laguna de Coyuca… birding hotspot.
His daughter has returned, to tell us that the neighbor with the eggs isn’t home. That’s ok, Vincente knows someone else who has chickens. The five of us (Vincente, Luis, Heidi and I, plus Maria now) pile back into the little car and drive to the next block over. He asks the neighbor if he has any eggs. No luck. We try two more places in the neighborhood, and buy a dozen and a half eggs from a lady who runs a street-side candy stand. Back to the main road, we pull off at a place with chickens and a “cuidado con perro” sign behind a chain link fence. No eggs. Vincente is not daunted. We drive on. He knows of another couple of places.
Cattle on the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana.
A small herd of cattle wanders down the road. It’s the dry season, the countryside parched and brittle. Controlled burns along the roadside have cleared out the weeds, leaving blackened patches and melted trash. We stop at a place with a sign that says, “se venden huevos de rancho, 3 pesos.” There are chickens in the yard — rangy, running, wild-looking birds, and little chicks, too. But no eggs. The egg lady is in her hammock, “lunes,” she says. Maybe there will be eggs on Monday.
We sell farm eggs (just maybe not today.)
Another stop, this one with a gate that Heidi has to get out to open and then close, because she’s riding shotgun. We go down the sunbaked drive, finally feeling truly out in the country. We stay in the car on this one. Vincente explains what we’re looking for, and one of the rancheros brings out a plastic bag with about 18 eggs in it. Success! Heidi and I raise our eyebrows at each other, “This is fantastic, seeing the country, but how long will it take us to get fourteen dozen eggs, at this rate?”
One more place before we give up. Another shady spot, this time a sort of gateway into a yard. Dogs wander among junked cars and tires, brightly colored clean laundry hangs on the line, green fruit trees shade the bare dirt. It looks like paradise, only cluttered. A pile of trash smolders next to the makeshift patio. We join several men and a woman, who are sitting in plastic chairs. Vincente cuts up a watermelon and gives us big slices. Heidi says we are looking for eggs, but asks if the farmer sells pork, too. We sit in the shade, spit out the watermelon seeds, and throw the rinds into the dirt yard. The farmer yells, “Niña! Niña!” A couple of dogs and piglets appear, but who (and what) is Niña? I have my camera out, and am drawn to the yard; the farmer sees this, and waves me in. He leads me back, beyond the bright orange laundry, and introduces me to Niña, a big mama pig. She was too happy wallowing in some mud to come when called. After Vincente’s machete work on the coconut and the watermelon, I’m a bit afraid that the farmer will kill Niña or one of her piglets right there in front of me. But no. He obviously loves this pig, nudges her up out of the mud so I can say hello.
Heidi enjoys some watermelon.
Luis in the yard.
One of Niña’s friendly piglets.
Come say hello, Niña!
The day’s haul.
We return to the front of the yard. Heidi and Vincente have scored another dozen eggs. We chat a while longer, and when they ask where I’m from, I say, “Alaska.” One of the men brightens. “I have been there! I climb Mt. McKinley!” For some reason this seems absurd to me, considering the fact that we are in Mexico, in land that’s flat as a pancake, a quarter of a mile from the beach, and sweltering hot. I think maybe he’s pulling my leg. But soon I am in deep conversation with this man. Turns out he worked for National Geographic as a mountaineer and porter, on many expeditions in the Andes, the Alps, and the Alaska Range. He reels off names of mountains, and shakes my hand before we get in the car and pull away. The other guys crack some joke with Vincente about how well we are getting along, but I can pretend to ignore it because I don’t know enough Spanish. I wave goodbye to the mountain man.
Five hours and 35 miles later, we are back in town. We have about four dozen eggs, only ten dozen short of our goal. But we are richer in different ways. Even though we’d asked Vincente for eggs, he knew what we really needed: shore leave, R&R in a hammock, fresh fruit, wild birds, and hangout time with kids, dogs, a few barnyard animals, and new friends.