Mazatlan – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Isla de las Pierdas beach; from the little island offshore these palapas are far away and tiny.

Playa Norte near my hotel; I arrived Sunday morning to a triathalon.

Plaza in the historic centre

An unrestored building outside the historic center

And the more common restored version

Like the day before, I swam to the island about 1km off the beach at Isla de las Pierdas. But yesterday, because I swam to the left side or because the tide was lower I discovered a little beach that had been carved out of the underbelly of the island. The sand extends below the rocky overhangs and into small caves where the waves have exposed the pink and red coral heart of the island. Every third of fourth wave completely covers the sand and digs out a little more of the island. The sand is freshly created by nature; the top level small broken shells, below that coarse multicolored grains that one can stare into and see an infinite diversity (no two handfuls are alike!).

Getting to the dry part of the island is tricky as I must climb up the sharp coral of the overhang in my bare feet. The reward is not much: a vulture sits in a large cactus (no doubt waiting for me to fall and crack my head open on the rocks), dry prickly brush all very exposed to the hot midday sun and, at the very top, a small white flag on a stick indicating I'm not the only one to have made it here. I return to the cool tranquility of the beach and let the waves wash around me so that my swimsuit collects an assortment of shell fragments that I'll be shaking out of my swimsuit for hours as I sit in a hammock under a palapa later.

Isla de las Pierdas itself is a short boat ride from Mazatlan. The beach is a collection of palm thatched palapa restaurants on a several kilometer section of beach. The other side of the island faces Mazatlan and specifically the cruise ship terminal but the beach side looks out only on my Islita, the rocky point protecting the beach to the right, and the open Pacific.

The peace of this beach unfortunately is somewhat disturbed by the astonishing number of vendors. There are few tourists yet in late October, most of those that are here are Mexican families. But the vendors are out in full forceóthere is perhaps a 2:1 ratio of vendors to tourists. Hats, t-shirts, sunglasses, tacky souvenirs, donuts, pareos, pictures with an iguana, hammocks and even a four piece uniformed band offering music: there they are now tramping down the beach with an accordion, guitar, drums and cello. The vendors thankfully are not aggressive.  The tourists off the cruise ships are another thing altogether. They arrive on the beach literally by the tractor-load (a trailer-cum-open-air-bus pulled by a tractor or sometimes a horse). Unfortunately, a large group of Americans will invariably sit down next to you and proceed to loudly get drunk. Now the multitude of vendors makes senseóhere are the suckers they were waiting for. But when the cruisers leave, the peace is again restored and I can swing in my hammock with a gentle breeze.

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