Monday, October 12, 2009

Dancing Dora

On my first full day in Veracruz I had breakfast next to the hotel (a very bland American breakfast came with the room). I wanted to go to the beach that day. The city is a port, so the good beaches were a 10 minute cab ride going south. I had one beach in mind and asked the guy at the restaurant about getting there. You could take a cab, but you could also take a local bus. I opted for the bus. I asked around and figured out which bus to take. It was a great feeling being on the local bus, carefree and listening to the loud radio. I was starting to feel part of the city.

The bus left me a few blocks from the beach. There was a large aquarium, and to the right there was a small beach area. The beach didn’t look that big. As I descended the very uneven ground to get to the beach, I saw a number of small boats and restaurants. I was immediately approached by a lady who was offering me a seat at her restaurant. Telling her I just had breakfast, I asked about the boats and how this beach compares to the ones further south. She said most of these beaches were the same and that the boat ride was worth it. I decided to go for it and pay for the boat ride, telling her I might eat something once I get back.

The boat would do a tour of Isla del Sacrificio, the local island. I didn't really ask much about the tour, I figured whatever I saw would be interesting. I took my shoes off and got on the boat, along with three girls visiting from Monterrey. Three other people would join us before parting. A couple of guys were guiding the boat. It was great to feel the cool air as the boat parted, leaving the city behind us. We finally stopped close to the island and the younger guide shares some of the history of the island (there was a very good reason why it was named Sacrifice Island).

Next we made a stop in the middle of the ocean. We were told the water was shallow and we could walk around. It was hard to believe this could be true, but we could see the ground a few feet below us when they stopped. I was wearing my regular street shorts (didn't know I would end up in the ocean). We get off the boat and start exploring the area. I was very excited as we see a school of beautiful yellow fish approach us. The guide would also bring us random starfish that we could touch.

We ended up staying in the area more than 20 minutes. By the end I had taken my shirt off and everything out of my pockets. I just laid there in the water, completely relaxing as I watched the fish swim around me. I also laughed as I watched the younger guide flirting with the three girls.

After a good twenty minutes in this one spot, we returned to the mainland. Once back at the beach, I was approached by the same lady at the restaurant. It was now around noon and I sat in the shade, facing the ocean. She proceeds to tell me everything on the menu and I order a large shrimp cocktail and a couple of Coronas. As much as those Corona commercials bug me, I felt like I was part of one.

As I was eating my meal, I was approached by some lady who offered to read my palm. She said it would be 20 pesos. Now this is something I've never done before and I figure why not. She sits to my right, takes my hand, and starts reciting a number of things about what she's about to tell me. Most of what she told me is now a blur. She was close on some of the things she said, but she was off on many others. My hand was in an uncomfortable position - my arm was twisted to my right and my hand was suspended mid-air. After a few minutes my hand started to shake because of the uncomfortable position, making the session very awkward. I was glad when she was done and I could get back to my meal.

I finished my meal while engaged in a conversation with the restaurant lady. It turns out she had a fear of boats and rarely had been on one. As much as I changed the conversation, we always seemed to come back to that. It was a good conversation though. I spent another hour or so walking along the beach, hoping my shorts would dry soon and wishing time would slow down so I could stay there longer.

I took a bus back to the hotel, showered and relaxed for a bit. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening walking around, taking pictures, visiting the Mercado again, etc. The humidity and the heat were always present. When I decided to visit a museum, my back was itching and I noticed it was because of some insect bites. Great, it must have been where I had just had a meal. The museum was empty, so I spent most of the time standing in front of a huge fan, hoping my tourist wounds would stop itching.

During the evening, I went to the Malecon, a very touristy area. There you could buy all sorts of souvenirs, including the expected silly t-shirts. There were some buses that offered a historical tour of the city. There were a few buses parked, waiting for people to load. I get on the one that should be leaving soon and go to the second story and wait. The buses have cheesy dance songs playing full blast. Not only that, but they had people in costumes dancing to the music, inviting the people on to the buses. I had Dora the Explorer on my bus, later joined by a very upbeat Goofy. Kids seemed to be hypnotized by Dora, as they waved incessantly from the sidewalk. Once the tour started, Dora and Goofy got off and we listened to pre-recorded bits of history as the bus drove through the streets. The weather was very cool now and we could see a thunderstorm in the distance. This was my last night in Veracruz and I was as happy as Dora and Goofy appeared to be, showing their dance moves on that bus.

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