Of Pangas and Sailing Ships

February 9, 2019

Friday we took a little panga over to Playa Las Gatas – a field trip we take at least a couple of times while we are in Zihuatanejo.  Some folks get to LasGatas by climbing over the rocks that separate it from Playa la Ropa, yet most people just pay 40 pesos ($2) for a round trip ticket at the municipal pier.  Not only is it more convenient, its an inexpensive way to get out on the water, too. “Legend has it that a Tarascan king (from an indigenous, pre-Hispanic community) built the breakwater on Playa las Gatas to create a sheltered area for his daughter’s exclusive use. Named for the gatas (cat-whiskered nurse sharks) that once lingered here, this beach is bordered by a long row of hewn rocks that create a breakwater. Snorkelers scope out the rocky coves, and surfers spring to life with the arrival of small but fun summer swells.”  (Fodor’s Travel)

The actual beach is a skinny strip of land with wall to wall eateries and beachwear, plus swimming and snorkeling gear vendors.  The waiters run out to try and woo you into their place yet you really can’t go wrong with any of the concessionaires as they are pretty much all the same, each serving VERY EXCELLENT and VERY FRESH seafood!  However, everyone has their favorite.  Our palapa of choice is in the middle, “Gloria’s”, and we have become friends with Miguel who always has a table and lounge chairs in the shade ready for us as well as a couple of chairs for sun on the shoulders and feet in the surf.  We are Facebook friends with him, too and so we make sure he is working when we venture there, he sees us coming down the beach and our embraces with he and compatriot, José, are sincere and lengthy!!  Bill brings them homemade chocolate chip cookies from home, Seattle based Fran salted chocolate covered caramels and we have exchanged other gifts, too.  We also often watch Miguel play soccer and have met his wife and niños.  So as usual, we had a delightful time visiting and soaking up sol (sun), drinking cervezas (beers) and munching on grilled camarones (shrimp).
Overlooking the beach is El Faro (the lighthouse); with a fabulous view from atop.  When I first started coming to Zihuatanejo in the late 90’s mi amigas and I would hike there and I always looked forward to our trek.  For some years now the path has become hard to find and though we have heard to ask any of the waiters to point it out, we have also heard that it is not safe.

Another sad commentary is the point at the end of the Las Gatas Beach which used to house a Nature Study Center established by beloved Owen Lee and more recently the Las Gatas Beach Club, now basically defunct.  We still stroll down there and as recent as six years ago it looked like a pretty cool place and one could imagine what once was, but now its just a dilapidated relic. Owen is a celebrity around here though had a stroke a few years ago and is not seen much.  Owen met famed diver, Jacques Cousteau in Paris when he was studying there and became an underwater cameraman for him on the famous Calypso.  He lectured around the United States promoting Cousteau’s Adventure Programs and in 1968 after retiring from the Cousteau team, moved to Zihua and established the Nature Study Center on Las Gatas revolving around Jacques’ ideals of reintegrating humankind into the global ecosystem.  I read his book, “Prisoner in Paradise” and found it quite fascinating.

Well, we made the most out of our Friday and after returning from Las Gatas, we stopped by the Mega for some Tres Leches cake  (it has 3 kinds of milk and is very moist), whipped up some “Billy D’s Rice” at our condo and met up with Temo again at the condo of Bob and Dallas, Los Mangos.  Temo secured and prepared some amazing fresh langosta (lobster) for the five of us all, mucho tequila was consumed and a good time was had!

Saturday was another fun day and a first for us.  We have been in town during Sailfest for several years but have not really participated.  This time we signed up to be on a sailboat for the regatta and with 18 other sailors aboard the 53’ double masted schooner, Fantasia, made our way around Zihuatanejo harbor a few times with the other 21 boats, sailed out of of the harbor, over to Ixtapa and back again – from 9:00-2:00.  It was a very hazy day which kept the sun at bay, however, there was not much wind and it was quite humid, even on the water.  We met some lovely people and our donation as mates was a contribution to their cause – Por Los Niños charity, who work in partnership with local government agencies, Rotary Clubs, international charities, and the local communities to provide educational opportunities to Zihuatanejo’s least advantaged children. This very successful collaboration has built 117 classrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and playgounds, in 14 new schools and expansions to 21 existing helping 2500 young scholars, awarded nearly one thousand academic scholarships; and provides more than 30,000 school meals a year to children who would otherwise go hungry.

I don’t know how he had the energy (maybe it was his siesta), yet Billfish made enchiladas verdes again and they were of course delicious!  Tomorrow we move to Cinco Sentidos (five senses) up the hill and daughter Lindsey flies from San Francisco to join us!!

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