Time Travel 1977 Oaxaca, Mexico: Frito Bandito, Sex on the Beach…

OAXACA   1/15-18

Oaxaca is the picture of lively colorful Mexico, Trique Indian women weaving in the square and men selling beautiful rugs from a nearby village famous for it, Teotitlan del Valle.  I go visit the ruins at nearby Monte Alban and the surrounding crafts villages, each with its specialty.  Tales of a beach finally lure me and my partner (no, not Leonardo DiCaprio) away, so we catch a twelve-hour bus ride over a dirt road to the coast to Puerto Escondido, not much more than a fishing village with a fledgling tourist industry, consisting of mostly backpackers.


If the city of Oaxaca defines one aspect of my idealized vision of Mexico, Puerto Escondido defines the other, palm trees blowing in the breeze and cold beer flowing freely in beach-side refreshment stands.  Backpacking means camping, in 1977, so Eric and I derisively sneer at the ‘campers’ rounded up in a parking lot, and head down the beach, looking for a suitable place to pitch tents.

We finally find one, and are joined by two other groups of two each before the sun sets.  We build a fire and smoke and drink and do whatever else you do around campfires, without women, until we finally give up the ghost and call it a night.  The fun is just beginning, however.  We are soon awakened by sounds coming from one of the other campers’ tents.  We look out to see what it is and there’s the Frito Bandido there in the flesh—with a gun!  He’s looking for money of course… and cameras… or anything worth anything.

IMG_0480At one point after robbing tent number one and moving on to number two, the guys from number one start sneaking up on the bandido stealthily, one step at the time.  Then he turns around and fires the gun!  The Frito Bandido fires a shot into the sand!  By the time he gets to us, he’s starting to lose his will, understandable considering he’s surrounded by six young guys and has just announced his presence with a shot!  We beg poverty, though I think Eric maybe lost fifteen bucks.

So next day we all break camp and traipse back into town, older but wiser… and humbler.  There are advantages to being in town, of course, like the five peso licuados made with orange juice as the base liquid.  Everything is cheap, and the food is good, long before the age of fancy tourist places, just funky little comedores up and down the street.  My Southern California friend and I are waiting patiently for a fish dinner in one of these, when I catch a Gringo girl’s eye across the room.

“Did he go out to catch your fish?” she asks jokingly.

“Why, did you hear my stomach growl?” I try to be cute.  She’s still smiling.  “Care to join us?”

Her name’s Abby (not her real name) and she’s from Washington state, the southeast corner to be exact, the tri-city area.  I feel a strong connection with the Pacific Northwest, though I’ve only been there once, on my Grand Tour, and anxious to develop further connections.  We hit it off.

“Want to smoke?”  She does.  My friend sizes up the situation and begs off, so it’s just Abby and me, and I have some killer weed, the kind that makes you hold on to the arms of your chair.  So we do—hold on for dear life, smoking hash and talking trash, all the sand in the world right at our feet while we build castles of daydreams and bricks of sweet nothing.  House-size waves crash on the beach and remind us that we are no longer either alone nor lonely nor interested in being anywhere else right here right now.

IMG_0478So we make love on the beach, an event which has since been immortalized as the name of a drink, I believe, with waves lapping up around our toes and the face of God gently smiling, in order to bless our more perfect union.  I can still remember the look on her face.  She’s traveling with a friend, so I have to be sensitive to that, but we agree to meet up again in Panajachel, Guatemala, since our schedules should theoretically coincide again right about then.  I hope so.  Eric and I split up also, he going elsewhere and I anxious to move on to Guatemala.  I have to go back to Oaxaca first, though, because a coastal road doesn’t yet exist.  That twelve-hour ride’s a killer, so I catch a cheap flight over the ridge.

OAXACA   1/25-27

Unfortunately Oaxaca is involved in a violent period of strikes and demonstrations at the time, so travel to Guatemala by bus is impossible, since they are burning them.  I have a strict policy of not traveling in burning buses.  If I could make it to Tehuantepec, though, I could catch a train to Tapachula, get a visa, then cross the border.  Vans are stepping in to fill the gap left by the bus shut-down, so I get passage in one of those to Tehuantepec…

to be continued…