Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Day 2: Exploring.

Friday Dec. 9

We awoke to the sound of gunfire. No, not really. But what did happen was this: as we headed to breakfast at Restaurant Zi, a military jeep filled with half a dozen camouflage-clad soldiers bearing Uzis sped past us, zooming down the road inside the Club Intrawest complex. My thoughts ran wild. Were we under attack? Were drug lords clandestinely operating out of this luxurious seaside resort? No. It turns out that El Comandante had a hankering for Chef Navarro’s breakfast burritos at Restaurant Zi. And wherever the commander goes, so goes his security detail. Although Club Intrawest is a gated resort and is very, very secure, the staff jokingly commented to us that they always felt safe whenever the commander came to dine at the club. I desperately wanted to whip out my phone to snap a photo of this show of military might, but I was afraid that my phone would be confiscated (best case scenario) or I’d be shot (worst case scenario). What a memorable shot that would have been (the photo, I mean).

*Note to soldiers: your cammo really didn’t live up to its name in camouflaging you on the grounds of a luxury resort. You were impossible to miss. Now, if you had worn brightly colored, flowered shirts, you might have blended in…either with the landscaping or the tourists.

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast in very secure surroundings, Steve & I decided to explore the resort and the town. Club Intrawest is located near several other exclusive resorts &  hotels on Playa La Ropa, high on a hill just south of the center of town. The lushly landscaped property is exquisite and painstakingly maintained.

Clusters of stucco buildings, also referred to as towers, are nestled into the hillside, cascading down to the beach. Each tower is painted a bright tropical color: papaya, tangerine, avocado, and lemon, evoking the image of a giant exotic fruit basket.

View of Club Intrawest from the bay.

Our studio suite was a “lookout” unit, located at the top of one of the towers, with a guaranteed view of the bay. Our balcony had a private outdoor shower, dipping pool/cool water jacuzzi, a small dining table with 2 chairs, and a comfy chaise lounge wide enough for two. It felt like the height of decadence.

Chaise & dipping pool on our balcony.

The other side of the balcony: outdoor shower is beyond the table.

One enters the Club Intrawest property from an entrance at the top of the hill. An interior road snakes around the complex from top to bottom, and resort guests can be ferried around on golf carts by the eager-to-please staff. But those wishing to work off a few vacation calories can do some vertical walking and take the stairs. Be forewarned, there are lots and lots of steps! A trip down to the beach and back to the room can be quite a workout if your room is located near the top of the hill, as ours was. One can work up quite a sweat here. Actually, in this hot and humid climate, that can be accomplished simply by standing still. Having recently visited Sedona, Arizona (which I will blog about later), I was struck by how very different the same temperature can feel in different climates. On an intellectual level, I always knew humidity was a factor in terms of “real feel,” but the extremes of these two locales helped me to understand on a visceral level how dramatic the difference can be.  We had daytime temperatures averaging in the high 80’s in both Arizona & Mexico. In the 25-35% humidity (aka “dry heat”) of Arizona, we rarely broke a sweat, even while hiking. Yet at the same temperature in the 80-90% humidity of Zihuatanejo, I had to reconcile myself to feeling as if I were spending the week in a steam bath. Steve’s comment, “It’s raining inside my clothes,” described the conditions perfectly. Once I accepted it, feeling sweaty & sticky no longer bothered me. It was just part of the experience.

We headed into town, a short 15-minute walk from the resort. Heading down the hill, this beautiful vista caught my eye.

Zihua (as the locals call it) is a fishing village and still retains its authenticity and small town charm. Besides fishing, tourism provides a major source of income in this village, so shops and street vendors abound, selling everything from fine jewelry and beautiful local crafts to cheap, generic tchochkes. As is typical of Mexico and other tropical locales (such as the marketplace at Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica…if you’ve been there, you’ll know what I mean), locals selling us their wares and services accosted us every step of the way. I found myself uttering, “No, gracias,” every few seconds. Steve described our walk along the beachfront and through the marketplace as “running the gauntlet.” This unfortunate situation is a reflection of the poverty of many of the citizens, especially now when tourism is down due to both the worldwide economic downturn of the past few years and an increase in violence in Mexico attributed to the growth of drug cartels there. You can be sure that before this trip I scoured the US State Department website, paying close attention to the government’s warnings of areas in Mexico to avoid. Tourism is definitely being impacted.

After wandering around town for awhile, we decided to pick up some snacks and drinks before returning to the resort since our room was equipped with a kitchenette. We took a taxi over to La Comercial Mexicana, a Walmart type of superstore selling everything from tires, clothing, furniture and household goods to liquor and groceries.  A word about taxis here. We were told that taxi drivers do not need to be tipped since they charge tourists about twice what they charge the locals. Even at double the price, it’s still a cheap ride, especially with the exchange rate being about 13.5 pesos to the dollar. We were also warned that taxi drivers are notorious for not having change (or at least claiming not to have change), so be prepared with a good assortment of denominations when going out and about. If the taxi driver charges you 30 pesos and you only have two twenties, then your ride will invariably wind up costing you 40 pesos. There is also room for negotiation. One time we were taking a taxi and the driver told us the charge was 40 pesos. Steve replied,”35.” The taxi driver agreed to the price, but when we arrived at our destination, Steve did not have the exact change, so we ended up paying 40 pesos after all. Nice going, Steve! If nothing else, it was good negotiating practice, I suppose.

Once back at the resort, we jumped into our bathing suits and spent the afternoon at the pool, walking on the beach, and just relaxing. The swim-up bar at the pool offers a different exotic drink every day during its two-fer happy hour (which lasts from 11 AM – 5 PM…some hour!). Today’s Blue Lagoon was a refreshing blend of coconut, rum and um…some blue liqueur I don’t know the name of…perhaps Curacao?  The details don’t matter, it was delightful!

Here I am, sitting at the swim-up bar.

After a pleasant afternoon at the pool, we returned to our room to relax on the balcony, enjoying a glass of chilled chardonnay while watching the sunset from our private perch. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Sunset view from our balcony.

We then headed down to Restaurant Zi for the weekly Friday night Mexican buffet, a delicious sampler of local dishes expertly prepared by Chef Navarro. Yum! On tap for tomorrow, a cycling, kayaking, snorkeling excursion in Ixtapa. Can’t wait!

~ by unspecificfocus on December 28, 2011.

One Response to “Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Day 2: Exploring.”

  1. Andrea, this is lovely. I think you should reconsider your description of yourself, need a more positive spin. Just saying….:)

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