Warning this post contains an event which may make some people uncomfortable. Also a slightly gory photo (towards the end), read on at your own risk. Needless to say Acapulco was eventful, hence the title of this post!
Travelling to Acapulco we passed another Army checkpoint where we were stopped. This time Tom was required to leave the bus and assist as the bags, ours included, in the compartment under the bus were all unpacked and checked. The inside of the bus was also checked making this the most intense stop we had experienced on a bus so far.
Acapulco we soon found out was busy and a lot bigger than expected. We didn’t have any accommodation booked but had a location to check out near Playa Caleta. Those places were all a failure and as we headed back to the bus (sore and sweaty with our packs still on our backs) we found a helpful taxi driver who offered (for a fee of course) to drive us around some hotels closer to the zocalo. We decided on a cheap local hotel. A budget hotel but clean and in an OK place across the road from the bay near the Zocalo in Old Acapulco.
Exhausted from the search for accommodation we ate at the restaurant right outside the hotel, a little overpriced for our buritos but at that moment we didn’t care.
The next day we ventured to the zocalo, mercado and our usual wandering which occurs upon arrival in new towns or cities. Acapulco is a super busy city with crazy, unrelenting, traffic, a fair amount of litter and quite often the smell of sewerage in the air. First impressions: not great after the tranquillity of Zihuatanejo .
The mercado was interesting and we unsuccessfully went on the hunt to find Tom a new pair of sunglasses as he had broken his that morning. We found what I can only describe as the ‘alternative religion’ section of this mercado complete with life-size grim reaper statues, wreaths of garlic cloves, copious amounts of candles and herbs. We also saw caged pigeons, doves and chickens which we quickly jumped to a conclusion of, “Sacrifice!”. Or maybe we just have over-active imaginations.
After the mercado we found some tortas for lunch and a giant jug of horchata. Continuing our walk we headed in the direction of a museum by the port which had a huge cruise ship berthed for the day. Ahh a cruise, that would be fun I bet. A great excuse to sit on deck and drink all day.
The Acapulco History Museum was a really interesting afternoon spent learning all about the trade route between Acapulco and Manila in the Philippines. It’s situated in an old fortress, El Fuerte de San Diego, which was designed to protect the harbour. We learnt some things which tie back into this trade such as; the use of spices like cinnamon or cloves in Mexican cuisine, Chinese style pottery and textiles. The pottery was really intriguing because as it came over from the Philippines Mexican artists would copy the style but replaced the oriental pagodas depicted with their own Roman catholic churches on the vases and other vessels.
As we were heading back and nearing our hotel we saw a crowd of people clustered near the waterfront on the Malecon. Walking closer we discovered they were all looking at a scene from the dark underbelly of Acapulco. A man sat motionless on a white plastic beach chair. My first reaction was to ask Tom, “Do you think he’s dead?”. Tom answering with an affirmative we continued on our way, unfortunately past the body. There were no police in sight, but in a city where there are police on each corner they couldn’t be far away. This also lead us to believe that we had stumbled upon this scene not long after the events ,whatever they were, had taken place. Reading in a local newspaper the next day confirmed our suspicions that we had indeed stumbled upon a homicide mere minutes after the fact.
So not a nice end to our first day in Acapulco. Hopefully the next day would improve.
Our next day we decided to take a bus down towards the touristy end of the city inhabited by all the large hotels right on the beach. Getting off the bus at a mall halfway down the bay we stumbled upon a protest happening on the main street. Great a protest! They can be dangerous in Acapulco (as well as other cities around the world) and there had been one only days beforehand which had got out of control resulting in the death of one of the protesters. Travellers tip #1 is to keep out of that sort of situation so we decided to escape into the nearby mall. This was easier said than done as all the entrances on the main street had been closed by security. We finally managed to find an entrance on a side street. Not on a shopping holiday we didn’t find anything to entertain ourselves inside the mall and as soon as the doors opened we continued on our way down the street.
Sick of the fumes from the traffic we walked the remainder of the way down the beach with the sand between our toes. The south end of town was a completely different vibe, with nicer hotels, bars, restaurants and about a million OXXO’s (convenience stores) for your every need. We highly, highly recommend if you absolutely must visit Acapulco stay somewhere nice down this end of town, you will have a totally different experience than we did.
Day three in Acapulco and we decided to head to the beach. But first we walked over the hill to see the famous cliff divers at La Quebrada. Paying a small fee ($40 peso I think) to access the viewing platform we waited in suspense for the show to start. A group of young men walked past in Speedo style togs/bathers/swim wear and climbed over the edge. We were positioned opposite where they would jump. First they swum around in the water checking the conditions, receiving payments from those spectating from boats and removed any floating debris from the water before clambering up the cliff. Each diver took his time in his own ritual before the dive. Some would prey in front of the shrine to Guadalupe and others stretch or just stand for a few minutes in meditative stillness. The diving was very impressive from approximately 30 metres high. As they were diving into the ocean in a small space between two cliffs, they had to time it perfectly to hit the water at the height of an incoming swell to avoid injury. The final diver climbed higher than the previous men and completed his dive with a somersault to much applause. Overall it’s a cool spectacle to see and a beautiful bit of coastline.
That afternoon, going by online recommendations we headed by bus to Playa Caleta on the northern end of Acapulco’s bay. The beach was absolutely crowded so we quickly decided to take a water taxi over to the nearby Isla Roqueta; hoping that because it was only accessible by water that it would be less crowded. Wrong. It was more crowded if that is possible. Checking Google Maps we couldn’t see any other beaches on the island. But there was a track heading off behind the main beach, so we took off thinking we might find somewhere to swim anyway. The bush walk was lovely and shaded from the sun. Quiet as well which was something the rest of Acapulco is most definitely not being a concrete jungle.
Hearing voices we found an isolated tiny rocky beach with about five other people in the water. Deciding it was a better place to swim than the crowded beach we stripped off and paddled out into the water. The cove was full of large rocks with small but strong waves, so getting out past the rocks was a little tricky. We probably should have gauged the conditions better and decided against this area for swimming but once we had passed the rocks successfully we felt that it was fine. Tom headed off to find fish (as he does) while I was content to tread water in a deep area just past the rocks. Well that was until I kicked something with my foot resulting in a stab of pain. Yelping and then doing a crazy paddle where I tried to lift my foot above the water I saw blood welling up from my toe. Oh no! I decided to head back to the beach to evaluate. This was easier said than done as the swell of the waves and the rocks underneath made this tricky, especially while trying to baby my foot. Finally making it to the shore I looked at my toe and saw a lovely slice of skin about a centimetre long hanging off the top of my second toe. Tom joined me on the beach and we quickly decided that we should head back to the main beach for some first aid. The only way back was to walk and by the time we reached the beach (about a kilometre away) my gold jandal was painted red.
Getting the attention of one of the restaurant staff and pointing at my foot resulted in him saying “…….Medico……” in Spanish and heading off down the beach. He returned and asked us to follow him to a group off staff on the beach where I was given a seat. A really nice guy washed off my foot, sanitised the area and bandaged me up, all while speaking in Spanish so we had to just go with it trusting that I would be taken care of. Just afterwards I started seeing stars (yes really) and I remember telling Tom my vision was going weird. Next thing I know I’m being fanned by my medic and Tom is holding my head up. First fainting experience ever, another point for Acapulco!
Making it back to the hotel took time, we had to get the boat and a bus and I was woozy and sore. After a rest and showers we walked/hobbled down to a pharmacy to stock up on supplies to keep my toe clean and bandaged. Next to a majority of the pharmacies in Mexico there are medical clinics which are super cheap. So we decided to pay one a visit and waited maybe 20 minutes before being seen by a doctor, just in case. She cleaned and wrapped up my toe properly, giving me more of a sense of security that I would be OK and wouldn’t need my toe amputated.
Rest assured that it is now a month later and my toe is fine, still healing and requiring a bandaging each morning but no infection or pain. Hooray!
So the next morning after picking up some supplies for a breakfast on the go, we headed towards the bus station to depart Acapulco. This was potentially the only place we haven’t extended our stay thus far which says a lot about the place.
As I mentioned earlier if you decide to visit Acapulco we recommend staying in the (slightly more expensive) area to the southern end of the bay. The beach seems nice and the restaurants, bars and shops are tailored towards tourists more than the northern “more local” area. Overall this was probably our least favourite destination in Mexico so far. It was eventful but that’s about it. At the least we have some interesting stories to tell to family, friends and new acquaintances we meet during our travels.