On being ... what you're looking for

By Ingrid Sapona

My idea of a good vacation is one that combines relaxation with a soupçon of adventure and a dash of comedy. I’m pleased to say that my recent holiday had all of the above.

A friend and I were at a beach city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. What makes the area particularly picturesque is that the city is surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains. The beaches in town are lovely, and there are a few other beaches and towns a bit further down the coast that you can get to by bus or car. But, the highway runs south along the coast for only about 25 kilometers. After that, the road heads into the mountains.

My friend wanted to go to a beach further south that he and some other friends discovered last year, but the only way to get there is to take the highway up into the mountains to a town we’ve been to before, and then head back down to the coast via a local road. The beach sounded lovely, so we rented a car and one morning and headed out.

You can’t really get lost getting to the mountain-top town – you just follow the highway. Our plan was to stop in the town for a coffee and to stretch our legs, and then continue on to the beach.

When we got to the town, we turned off the highway. The road my friend said we needed to take branched off one corner of the city’s main square. Having been to the town before, we knew the square has a huge church and when we saw the spire in the distance, we turned onto a one-way street that led to the church.

But, as we neared the square, the road was blocked off to traffic. We turned onto a nearby one-way street that took us away from the square. We tried to get to the square via another street, but all the streets near the square were blocked off to traffic because it was market day. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t get to the square. We were completely stymied.

We weren’t opposed to asking for directions, but the reality was that our Spanish is very limited. At first we asked for the city centre, but people pointing to the church spire wasn’t too helpful. We could tell where the square was, but not how to get to it. My friend was very frustrated because he was convinced that if we could just get to a spot across the square, he’d know which direction to head. 

After a few more turns that brought us pretty much back to where we started, my friend stopped someone else and asked in Spanish: “the beach?” Given that we were high in the mountains, I thought the guy would think we were nuts. I was more than a little relieved when he didn’t seem to think it was an odd question and, after asking us something we didn’t understand, he pointed in a direction we hadn’t been before.

With no better idea of which way to go, we headed in the direction the guy pointed. Though things didn’t look familiar to my friend, we continued on. Eventually we saw another car and we stopped the driver and asked the same thing: “the beach?” Though he too asked us something we didn’t understand, from his pointing it seemed we were on the right road.

We continued along the lonely road, asking the few people we saw. At some point it became clear that there was more than one beach in the area, but we didn’t know the name of the beach we were looking for.

Though my friend thought the beach was an hour or so from the town, we continued along for a good few hours. Finally, we spotted a patch of what looked like ocean in the far distance, though it was hard to believe the road we were on would bring us to it. But, encouraged by the mere sight of the ocean, we kept going. Shortly after that, however, the road became pretty much impassible, so we had little choice but to turn around.

By late afternoon, we made it back to the mountain-top town we started from. By then I figured the market was finished and I was game to drive back to the square and start over, since I was sure my friend could find his way from the square. But, we were tired and after a brief discussion, we decided to just get gas and head home. I was bummed that we never did find the beach and I think my friend was embarrassed that we got lost.

That morning I had e-mailed my family telling them our plans for driving to another beach. All the way home I was thinking about how I was going to explain that we spent nearly 8 hours on the road trying to find a beach we thought we knew the way to, but that we never did find. By the time we got home, however, the comical aspect of the whole thing hit me. After all, who drives into the mountains in search of a beach when they have a beach right outside their door! 

In the end, I decided the best – and truest – explanation for the day is that what we really went looking for when we rented the car was an adventure, and that we certainly found!

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


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