by Habeeb Salloum
A few kilometers past Acapulco Airport, the beach at Barra Vieja looked deserted when our group of seven stepped out of the van as it halted at the mouth of Tres Palos Lagoon. Wading through a few feet of water we climbed aboard a tourist boat moored on the sands and began our sail up the Lagoon. As we started to move, I looked back. Steering the boat was girl that looked like a 15-year-old. “Would she be able to save us if we had a mishap, and I’m unable to swim?” I thought to myself as we moved through the murky waters.
The Lagoon was edged on both sides by dense greenery dominated by majestic palms. Storks, herons and other exotic birds were resting on the branches of mangroves and shrubs. Pelicans were swimming in the calm waters around our boat. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the ecological ambiance: a rustic scene waiting for an artist’s brush.
As we admired the lush vegetation and the diversity of birds, especially the storks resting on the branches, the voice of our guide rang out. “These birds you see are storks. You know? I mean birds that bring babies!” Everyone snickered as they watched the white birds – the basis of children’s fanciful little tale. Flamingos sunned themselves on the edge of the Lagoon while we leisurely made our way past fishermen, trying their luck. Leaving the Lagoon we entered the shade of mangrove trees, through a swampy rivulet flowing into the Lagoon. I thought that at any moment we would scrape the bottom of our boat, but the girl operator skillfully navigated the rivulet, never once hitting the mangrove roots.
In the shallow part of the Lagoon the operator shut off the motor and jumped into the murky waters and began to gently push the boat further into the rivulet while cool breezes soothed our faces and bodies. After about ten minutes she stopped and scooped a large lump of black mud from the bottom of the Lagoon and rolled it into a ball. Smiling she called out, “Who wants a mud mask? It’s a much better beauty treatment than you will get in any spa!”
A brave young woman from our group jumped into the few feet of water saying: “I’ll try it!” Her face was soon mud-covered and then she was back in the boat drying her mud mask in the sun. Like bees to honey, the other women-and even one of the men-put on mud masks. A short time later, having washed off their dried masks most of the women remarked their skin felt tighter and softer. The youngest woman in our group stood up in the boat and smiled at us saying: “Don’t I look like a model? After this mud-mask, I am sure I can compete with any woman in a beauty contest.” “Even without the mud-mask treatment she’s beautiful!” I mumbled to myself. So, were they telling the truth or just romanticizing about being revived in a natural setting? I could not tell! Actors, beauty queens and models have visited the Lagoon to try the natural nutrient-filled mud that seems to tighten the skin.
“I wish I had a plastic bag to take some of this mud back to Canada,” remarked one women as she waited for her mask to dry. Smiling, I handed her a plastic bag that I had brought with me to carry my bathing suit. Gratefully, she filled it with the black mud. How she would get it through Canadian customs, I had no idea.
Retracing our steps, we sailed back through the Lagoon and three hours after beginning our journey we were sitting in an open-air restaurant on the beach in Barra Vieja. Here where the rushing salt water of the ocean and the fresh water of the still waters of the Lagoon meet, we rested comfortably under the restaurant’s thatched-roof while lounging on hammocks and chairs drawn up to tables. It was a secluded spot, and we seemed to be the only people on the beach – a million miles away from the crowds and traffic of Acapulco. Shortly afterwards we were served Empanadas, Sopas and, best of all, Pescado a la Talla, Acapulco’s special dish – a spicy roasted fish, freshly caught from the Tres Palos Lagoon.
It was a fitting way to cap to our journey through the Tres Palos Lagoon. In the words of one of my accompanying colleagues, “It was a relaxed and fulfilling day spent amid the best of what nature has to offer. I hope that the Lagoon will not be caught in the boom of the 21st century. But I fear the real estate vultures are waiting.”
IF YOU GO: General Information:
- The Lagoon tour costs about US$10.00 per person for about 90 minutes – depending on your bargaining skills, or one can join one of the tours offered by tour companies.
- Getting around town is easy by taxi, bus – (bus fare is about 40 cents) – horse-drawn carriage or rented autos. Small cars, fully insured with unlimited mileage, rent for about $65. per day. It is easy to drive in Acapulco – drivers seem to obey the law.
- Acapulco, called by some the ‘playground of the world’ offers breathtaking scenery, pristine beaches, deluxe accommodation, all types of sport activities, including four manicured 18-hole golf courses and one 9-hole course.
- The city also offers a world of culinary delights. Besides the peoples’ restaurants near the Zacalo offering fine dinners for around $10., there are some 160 classy eating places like the Zibu serving the best in Mexican and international dishes.
- When in Acapulco, for those historically minded, a visit to the nearby Tehuacalco Archaeological Zone is worthwhile..
- When you leave Mexico there is a ‘Departure Tax’ of about $18.00.
Where to Stay:
Acapulco has hotels to satisfy all tastes. In the old city, there are abodes that offer rooms at less than ($10.) per night. At the upper level, the city has some of the top luxury hotels like Las Brisas, a hotel for the affluent; the Fairmont Acapulco Princess Hotel, towering upward like a grand Aztec pyramid. For those who love history, Los Flamingos Hotel, made famous by Hollywood movie stars in the 1st half of the 20th century, is the place to stay. Situated high on a cliff, it is cooled by sea breezes and offers a view of spectacular sunsets. Note: All prices quoted are in US dollars – about 13 pesos to a US dollar. For Further Information, Contact: In Canada contact the Mexican Tourism Board – 2 Bloor St. West, Suite 1502, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3E2. Tel: toll free 1-800-44-MEXICO. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.visitmexico.com; in the U.S.A. 375 Park Avenue, Floor 19, Suite 1905, New York, NY 10152, USA. Tel: (212) 308 2110. Fax: (212) 308 9060. E-mail: email@example.com Also, see www.acapulco.com for information and reservations: Tel: from the USA/ Canada: 1 888 514 2137; from Mexico: Tel: 01 800 674 9434