Seeking Boca del Cielo

Seeking Boca del Cielo

I’m sitting inside a cabana on the top of a hill that on the other side overlooks the wild bay of Mazunte, Oaxaca. The waves churn here endlessly, inviting surfers and onlookers to become mesmerized by its beauty. I cannot see the ocean from our room, but I know it’s there, just as surely as every second of this week and its smoldering heat has changed me.

This third week of our vacation had been unplanned. We knew we would head to the Bahias of Huatulco (do yourself a favor and look them up) for what we considered our alone time. We planned to rent a car and explore this very rugged coastline. The other two weeks had been filled with family — it was time for us. We booked two economy tickets, took the always adventurous trek into Mexico City and flew into the shimmering azul of Mexico’s southern Pacific coast.

If you’ve seen the movie by director Alfonso Cuarón called “Y Tu Mamá También,” you will know the area I speak of. The elusive Boca del Cielo they drive toward in the movie are the very beaches we wanted to explore. We had been watching YouTube videos for weeks and rewatching the movie and felt ready for the adventure.

Our car bumped over treacherous dirt roads, and the smiles on our face widened as we drove deeper and deeper into remote countryside. Tiny hamlets were peppered here and there throughout the 45-minute drive — a drive most of y’all would shudder at in horror. I can’t describe the feeling of driving this deep into Mexico’s core, the wild abandon that takes over your soul a necessary element to who I am and who we are as a couple.

And at the end, the road popped us out suddenly into the most pristine bay I had ever seen. Bahia de San Augustin, Oaxaca: sleepy, startling blue, smoldering San Augustin. For two days we stayed in a cabana without air-conditioning, ate large platters of fish that Francisco our server at the tiny restaurant there recommended, and sat under a palapa drinking cold Coronas and mezcalitos. We sweated, we gazed at the ocean and its huge rock formations, and we slept fitfully under a fan as the ocean pounded right outside our window. The mornings held strong coffee in small white cups and spicy plates of exquisite chilaquiles.

We left San Augustin on a Thursday, forlornly watching it disappear in the distance — its fiery heat and beauty ingrained on my body like a tattoo.

Our destination for that day was a famous coffee grower high in the southern Sierra Madre mountains. It was a shocking turn, going from beachside to mountainside, but the Pacific coast is held hostage to these mountains, and you cannot reach their beauty unless you drive through the treacherous switchbacks or fly over them. There is no other way through.

We climbed higher and higher, stopping several times after we took a wrong turn to drink coffee and gather ourselves. The air turned crisp, and I felt alive. We climbed so high we met the tree line, and as we turned off on a tiny road leading to the village where the coffee grower was, we met fog and rain and crumbling roads. We made the decision to turn around and head back down the mountain instead of risk getting stuck somewhere we couldn’t get out of. We stayed in Pochutla, at the base of the mountains, and slept the sleep of the dead.

From there we headed through the small fishing village of Puerto Ángel and on through San Augustinillo and Zipolite — where we stayed for a night. The ambiance of Zipolite was unmatched, and its vibrant food and drink scene will remain with me. The small, winding streets were spellbinding, spilling over with artisans, small bakeries and coffee houses. I had the most delicately prepared plate of fish tacos under a small, sturdy palapa, and their taste still lingers on my tongue. Mazunte was the end of the road for us, the farthest we planned to drive, and I ate a big plate of chile rellenos here that tasted like home.

Each of these towns boast tremendous coastline, something many of us miss in a vacation planned for Mexico. There is no thinking outside of the resort for most because of media coverage and a pervasive negativity (I’ll write an essay about that later).

If my goal is anything, it’s to paint Mexico in her true colors for the world to see. Tomorrow we fly back to Mexico City for one more week with his family. I’ll watch as this gorgeous jewel of a coastline disappears under the clouds. I will be back.