Adventures in Matanchen
31 March 2015
February 18-19, 2015
"Look at this!" Jay said as we entered Bahia Matanchen. "We could just as well be in The Marquesas or Hawaii!"
Directly in front of us were the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, rising high into the sky with soft white clouds hovering on top. At the bottom, sat a smattering of homes along a beach set against a backdrop of lush green foliage. As the cove continued around, we could see palapas (restaurants we are told by the cruising guide) decorated in bright colors of green and orange covering the north and west beaches. They, too, were immersed in a forest of green, with the dominant trees being palm, both coconut and banana palms from which they make their famous (and delicious) pan de platano.
We had buddy-boated with our friends Kathy and Jim from s/v Solar Flair and on our first full day we each boarded our dinghies and went in to explore.
The beach landing was easy and with the help of a young Mexican woman waving us in to her palapa, we knew just where to go to keep our dinghy safe.
Gloria helped us bring in our dinghies and agreed to watch them. She wouldn't accept any money. She offered us fresh water to wash our feet. As we were leaving we saw a man (her husband?) building a love-seat out of bamboo. On further inspection we saw several pieces of hand-made furniture, including what looked like a Captain's chair.
We headed up the dirt road in search of the La Tavara Jungle Tour that we had heard so much about.
"Hola! Amigos! My friends! Where are you going?" A Mexican man says as he jumps up from his chair alongside the road. We get the feeling he was waiting for us. Or rather, any gringos that will bite.
"We're looking for the crocodile tour." One of us says.
"The one on the barcos." Someone else adds.
"Oh, no. Too much money. Me! I can take you today! Right now! To see the cocodrillos. I take you. You pay ten pesos. They open the door. You see cocodrillos and jaguars and el venados (deer)."
"Como se llama?" I ask.
"My name? My name is David. (pronounced davID) David Gonzalez." And he proceeds to take out four identification cards and gives us each one.
"Oregon?" Jay says. "Are you from Oregon?"
"Mine says he's from Mexico." I said. We start comparing and they are all different.
He says something to explain but now we are just laughing and not paying any attention. We give him back his ID cards.
"So, you can take us on the barco?" I ask.
"No. You don't want to go on that. Too much money. You come with me. Right now. I take you. It's beautiful. You will like. Come on."
"How much?" Jim asks.
"For me? Two hundred pesos."
"Todo?" I want to know.
We all look at each other. Okay. Why not? We can always catch the boat tour tomorrow.
And this is how it goes in Mexico. You start with a semi-plan and then something new comes up and then, well, you just kind of go with it.
David wants to know if we want a taxi.
"How far is it?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe one and a half, maybe two kilometers."
We decide to walk.
"Okay, come with me, amigos."
We follow David up the dirt road and all the while he is stopping cars and speaking in Spanish.
None of us are fluent in Spanish but we guess he is trying to get us a ride and we are right.
Finally, one truck stops and David makes a deal and tells us to hop in the back of his pick-up truck, along with crates of oranges. We are silly about the idea of riding in the back of a pick-up.
"I haven't done this since I was a little girl on our farm." Kathy says.
All of a sudden we notice two motorcycle cops behind us.
"How did they get here?" Kathy asks. "We didn't even hear them."
The police motion for us to sit all the way down in the truck instead of the ledge we are perched on. We follow their instructions and they smile and give us a thumbs up.
The driver takes off and we learn it is a good thing we have a ride. It is four kilometers, some on paved road and some on a bumpy, dirt road with forest all around us. We would have never survived the walk in the heat.
When we arrive, David says we should give the driver 100 pesos.
"Will he wait for us?" Jim asks.
"No. His job is to sell oranges. He only did this as a favor to me. He is my amigo."
"But how will we get back?" Jim wants to know.
"That is my problem." David replies as he leads us to the "door" where we will pay ten pesos to have them "open the door." He has brought us to what looks like a small zoo. I n actuality, it is a cocodrilario or crocodile refuge. And it costs 30 pesos, not ten.
So what we were told would cost us 240 pesos is now up to 420 pesos. We wonder what other surprise costs David has in store for us.
Oh well, we all quietly agree, the adventure was worth the price.
The first crocodile we see is in a small pen and he is lying on the edge of a pond, perfectly still, with his mouth wide open. His mouth has many sharp teeth and the inside looks like dried out leather. He is a large one and his eyes are closed. We stand outside his cage for several minutes, talking, staring and waiting for some movement.
"He's dead!" I cry out loud.
"No!" David says.
"Yes! He's dead! Look! He's not moving." I reiterate with certainty.
David yells out something in Spanish to one of the workers. I interpret him to say, "She thinks he's dead!" They laugh.
The worker comes over and uses a stick to touch his tail gently. It moves. One eye opens and the crocodile is staring at me. But this is all we will get from this one. He's hot and tired and he's not moving.
If I understand David right, when a crocodile hatches her eggs (and there can be up to twenty), they bury them under the sand for about a week until they hatch. When they get a little bit older (three months maybe?) they release them into the wild. In this way they are helping to conserve the crocodiles which are endangered and protected in Mexico.
There were many mamas, eggs buried in the sand, and we saw some babies too. They had a jaguar - who looked depressed and hot. Some Javelinas, a few deer and several species of birds. (The San Blas area, with its unique eco-system, has over 300 species of birds, second only to Panama.)
David fulfilled his promise and got us a ride back. And this time, he paid the driver out of his 200 pesos we gave him. Good move, David.
When we got back to Matanchen, we searched out the boat jungle tour and made arrangements for the following day. We picked up one pan de plantano and a beer for the walk and headed back to our dinghies on the beach where at Glorias, we had a delicious meal of shrimp and peppers while overlooking the bay.
(More photos in gallery)