The old Mexican sat in the dimly lit bar sucking down Pacificos with his equally elderly Gringo buddy. They spoke of many things, mostly of bygone adventures and beautiful women. Occasionally politics reared its ugly fangs, but both men held too much respect for the other to delve too deeply into the artificial machinations which allow rulers all over the world to separate the common man from that which is materially valuable in the name of jingoism. They agreed that basically all politicians were essentially corrupt.
This particular night the conversation turned to out of the way beaches. The Gringo was particularly curious about Playa De Oro, a golden sand beach that stretches west northwest along the Manzanillo area coast line south of the airport, where legend has it that gold from a long ago sunken ship occasionally washes ashore.
The old Mexican smiled as he told the following tale…
“ Not too very long ago, maybe a couple of years, a bunch of people drove down to the beach in the late morning. There were three vehicles containing several people. They set up tents, and unloaded coolers filled with Cerveza, chicken and other deliciously spiced local foods. Banda music from boom boxes filled the air while their children ran up and down the beach screeching and laughing, a fiesta. As the sun set they packed up their belongings and started back along the seven kilometers to the main highway… about halfway they came upon a log blocking the road, in an area surrounded by dense jungle foliage making it impossible drive around, there was no escape.
Suddenly, seven or eight bandidos emerged from the jungle (their numberand ferocity changes depending on the Cerveza consumed by the tale teller) brandishing guns and machetes.
They robbed everyone in the caravan, took everything of value including the remaining Cerveza, the coolers, and the boom boxes… they then moved the log and allowed everyone to leave unharmed.“
The conversation turned to other things and later, many Pacificos and very much later the two men, having solved most of the world’s problems shuffled off into the night.
A few days later the old Gringo was returning from the airport after dropping off some friends who were heading north for the summer, the story told by his Mexican buddy still rattling around in his consciousness.
He rounded the bend just before the hills that precede the village of Naranjo and noticed the small green sign which said “ Playa De Oro “ an arrow pointed to the right… he pulled off the road and thought about it for a moment, then turned down the gravel road that winds off into the jungle. As he drove into the dense overgrowth along the mostly broken shale road with sharp rocks protruding from the surface his first thoughts were about his tires, long overdue for replacement and threadbare. He checked his cell phone, no signal, “ of course” he thought .. His mind filled with all sorts of scenarios… of breaking down or rounding a bend on the sometimes single lane partially washed road to find a log blocking his path, of being robbed and stranded. The old Mexicans story played on his mind, yet he pressed on, winding thru ever thickening jungle.
His hands began to sweat, as he laughed silently dismissing his trepidation.. “ c’mon nobody ever gets robbed on the way in.. it just doesn’t make sense”. He turned on his stereo and cranked up the volume as Jimmy Buffett in his best Gulf Coastal twang sang “ Old Mexico….”.
The old Gringo was clearly whistling past the graveyard…
Have you ever noticed that when you travel someplace for the first time, it always seems to take forever to get there? This was especially true for the Old Gringo that sunny afternoon as he drove ever deeper into the lush jungle..
Finally the jungle receded slightly and he could see the ocean over the next rise, and after a couple more turns the road flattened out and the beach appeared. He was relieved as he drove past an old broken down house on the right, complete with Banda music and barking dogs. “Still,” he thought, “what if the people sitting there were sizing him up for a blockade on his return trip?” Off to the left, several buzzards were lazily circling a large craggy one hundred foot tall rock sparsely dotted with cactus. Directly beyond lay one of the most spectacular beaches on Mexico’s central coast. Golden sand stretched some two hundred yards or so to the surf. Magnificent rolling surf filling the air with salt spray against the backdrop of the deep blue of the open Pacific. Several smaller rocks marked a portion of the surf line to the left, and in the distance Turtle Rock was clearly visible,off to the right lay an open beach that appeared to stretch for several miles.
The raw pristine beauty of the scene wafted over him as he noticed a dust cloud building a kilometer or so down the beach to the right, as the cloud drew nearer shapes of several ATV’s emerged. His already piqued imagination immediately envisioned the scurrilous fuel scavengers of the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome careening toward him. Turning towards his vehicle he heard a door slam, looked up and piling out of an old dilapidated Chevy SUV were a half dozen Mexican men. “Trapped” he thought, “Nothing to do but walk normally to my truck and try to get the h… out of here”..
“Hey Senor, you wanna’ Cerveza”, shouted one of the suddenly less ominous looking would be banditos. Just then the hoard of marauding ATV riders roared past flying not the Jolly Roger, but a flag that said “Hectours” After several beers the Old Gringo, feeling a bit silly, said his goodbyes to new found friends, an over 50 group of ranchers on vacation from their holdings on the side of the Colima Volcano, and sheepishly drove back along the jungle road that would take him to the highway, and home. The road to the beach is rough, but certainly passable and while it is a desolate spot the seven kilometer trip is well worth the magnificent beach and probably one of the bluest ocean scenes in all the Pacific … but, do yourself a favor and leave your trepidation behind…