Interlude in Puerto Vallarta

Five hundred feet below me the rocks of the Sierra Madre mountains appeared unforgiving, the guide called out, ‘It’s okay the horse knows where it’s going.’ I decided to leave my fate in the hands of a Mexican pony and sat back in the saddle. Eventually we came to a clearing by a stream and there was a picnic.  Many hours later, with buttocks safely back in the bar, I finally realised why cowboys walk the way they do .

 

Later that evening we found a seat in the bar and I made yet another discovery; cowboys stand at the bar in saloons. This bar had a TV I’m not a fan of TV’s in bars, it was stage right so we sat stage left.  I say sat;  I tried perching on my hip, but this made me look like male model with hemorrhoids; at least here I could see the band and the TV was obscured. These guys were not the best band in the world but they were better than me, in fact just about anyone is better than me 😉 My girlfriend and I were chatting away while the band murdered ‘Lyin Eyes’ and I realised the tempo was slowing, it was as if their batteries were running down. Simultaneously the entire band were leaning forward and right, staring at the TV. Mothers were covering their children’s eyes, angry fathers were gesticulating at the bar whilst the staff searched frantically for the remote. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and craning my neck to get a glimpse I saw the cause of all the commotion. Someone had switched the channel to a Porn site. 😉

 

 

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Too Young to Die (4 of 4)

We were surrounded by the crowd. Children always curious about fear, asked if we had been scared. I answered that we had been scared and the old man said that it was good for a man to be scared…… sometimes.

‘To know fear is to know God,’ he said.

His leathery face so close, his bright blue eyes penetrating, searching. I felt the fear I had felt earlier. Slowly he nodded and walked away.

A younger man spoke. ‘This man is the patron of the bar and he wishes to buy your fish,’ he said motioning to a short fellow with a round smiling face. ‘You are tired so we will carry your fish to the bar. When you are rested come to the bar and he will pay you, he will give you a good price.’ We agreed and the whole crowd of us headed up the hill towards the van, there was much talk and many questions.

‘Where did we find the fish?’

How deep did we go?’

The crowd left us and we brewed some tea.

‘Well?’ he looked at me inquisitively.

‘I wouldn’t like to do that every day.’ I answered with as much bravado as I could muster.

‘You’ll get used to it,’ he said

That was his way. Get used to it or do something else. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get used to it. I decided to tell him about my experience. I was unsure if I had taken the challenge of the sea and won or if I had been defeated and humbled. I thought I had faced fear and conquered it. Or had I? What did that mean? He sat for a while then spoke.

‘You won,’ he said.

‘You mean I beat the sea?’

‘No, The sea is an inanimate object, it doesn’t think or feel. You defeated your inner-self. The part of us that wants to quit and go running home to mummy. Life is an experience; today was just another notch on your life pole.’ He grinned.

We headed to the bar. We took two stools at the bar and ordered beer. A woman appeared from the kitchen carrying a huge plate containing some of our catch.

‘My wife,’ explained the patron. ‘Please choose one each.’ After a while she returned with the cooked fish accompanied by potatoes boiled with garlic in a way that only the  Spanish do well. The patron smiled. As we finished our meal the men of the village drifted in. There was much talk of bravado, rough seas and of course the fishing. Very much later and after many beers we decided to take our leave and asked for our bill. The patron refused, his wife refused, the whole bar refused. On the way out I saw the old man again and he beckoned me.

‘Today you have learnt not to fear the sea. You must never fear the sea,’ he said. ‘Nor must you underestimate her. But, you must respect her. You are young and today maybe you underestimated her, maybe you showed her disrespect and maybe you didn’t, that is not for me to say. Whatever you did today she forgave you. Be careful young one. She does not forgive often and rarely does she forgive twice.’  With a grin he turned and left.

I hope you enjoyed this, it was the scariest day of my life, but I guess I was too young to die, that day, 😉

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Too Young to Die (3 of 4)

On the harbour wall a crane stood isolated, defiant as the dark foaming mass crashed over it. There was a headland to the north that made up that side of the bay and I could see the ocean rising and falling against the cliffs possibly by thirty or forty feet.

 

I had a Grouper and a Red Mullet, it was enough. I had been in the water for about three hours and the current was slowly carrying me out to sea. I put my head down and began to fin for shore. Five minutes later I was aghast to see open water ahead, the current was turning me, so I zig zagged, a slow process but I was heading in the right direction. Two hours of hard finning and legs like jelly I was contemplating my extraction when something grabbed me from behind and my heart stopped, I turned, it was him. Relief turned to concern when I saw his face – ghastly white, – he shouted – every other word drowned by the noise of the sea that he’d explain later. I was to give him my weight belt, speargun and fish – he would go in first. They say every seventh wave is a big one, I saw him count and he was gone. The wave lifted him onto the harbour wall and receded again leaving a twenty five foot drop to the rocks below. The next wave crashed in, but he was already safe. I waited, he waved I swam. Closing on the harbour wall a mass of water welled up behind me. Glancing up I saw him waving me back, I had been too slow or the wave hadn’t been big enough. Turning I began to fin back out to sea, but ‘she’ was already retreating, water disappearing beneath me. I felt what I had dreaded, my fins brushing the rocks I had to keep up with the receding ocean. I don’t know if I heard the roar of the water or saw the wave first; it was too quick, but I dived into the wave and tried to swim up and out of it while ‘she’ forced me down. I was swallowing repeatedly as my lungs searched in vain for oxygen and then suddenly I was free once more. I looked up at the shore and I swear he was laughing, but he later denied it. Almost drained of energy we began again, timing it to perfection and ‘she’ dropped me unceremoniously onto the harbour wall.

 

We began to sort ourselves out. I judged my Grouper to weigh around seventeen pounds but he had more with four Red Mullet, three Bream and a smaller Grouper. A crowd had gathered, small children with that curious look on their faces. The men were examining the fish and there was a good atmosphere. I saw the old man from earlier. The old man slapped me on the back. ‘Loco,’ he said and grinned.

Sorry this has dragged on from 2 episodes to 4 😉 But I discovered there was more of the telling than I first remembered, stick with me please I promise next week is the finale. Love you for reading 🙂

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Too Young to Die (2 of 3)

The Spanish called us ‘Pesca Submarina’ – underwater fishermen. The name carried respect and we were proud of the kudos. We were treated well and so considered ourselves honoured and tried to live honourably when in their company. But after ten minutes in a raging sea, fear dispelled pride. I recalled his final words as we entered from the harbour wall. ‘Stay with me!’ The fuckity, fuck I felt earlier was nothing compared to what I felt now. I finned a metre out of the water and realised he was no where to be seen so I began to fish. Over weighted by the lead we sank quickly, solitary dark shapes gliding down through the gloom. On the sea bed you lay still, waiting for the curiosity of the fish to take over and hoping your lungs would last out the time. That was on a calm day with a hundred foot visibility. I attempted to dive into the gloom but mother ocean decided it would be fun to tip me upside down and return me to the surface, coughing up seawater and retrieving my snorkel and started again.

The visibility was nil and I estimated around 60-70ft to the ocean bed, but at least it was quiet. Upon my return to the surface the land appeared to be much further away, but I was intent on fishing. Several dives later I was rewarded with a Red Mullet, but on the same dive I discovered a pile of rocks. The mighty Grouper love to snuggle up in piles of rocks and there was a gap big enough to squeeze into. On my next dive, spear gun first I entered. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom I saw him. Grouper, he was big and black and deep as a Grouper can be. I thought about how long I had been under, on a good easy dive I had a two minute bottom time at sixty five feet, but this wasn’t a good easy dive and I guessed I had less than a minute left. I speared my dinner and began to edge out. Then I felt something pushing me back in. A huge force rammed against me from behind and I was pinioned against the roof of the hole. I pushed back to no avail, I started to feel light headed and knew that if I didn’t get some air soon I would black out. Then the force ceased, it ceased as quickly as it had begun and suddenly I was free of it. I pushed and scrambled out of the hole and finned to the surface with my lungs aching.

As my head broke the surface I blew hard clearing the seawater out and letting the air flood in. Fear had taken me, the pounding of my heart in conflict with the foaming mass of ocean left me weak. I needed to get out but there was nowhere to go. What was it that had just tried to drown me? I looked towards the mainland and I saw the back of it. A huge wave, the biggest I had ever seen crashed into the harbour. I had to take control I heard his voice in my head. ‘Panic and you die. Control your fear or it will kill you,’ he had said.

I’m 200 words over my post limit, so you’ll have to come back next week to see if I survived. 😉

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I Was Too Young to Die (Part 1 of 2)

The roads had a capacity for treachery and the mountains appeared complicit. Several times we had been here, gambling on the mercy of mother nature, but this was the storm season and she always forbade us entrance to the seaAs he guided the van around the final hairpin and the bay came into view I saw the weight of the ocean heave itself against the land and shuddered.

This was our third visit and it wasn’t a pleasant drive from Mogan to San Nicolas, I could see he was pissed off. A death throw of some huge storm far out in the Atlantic determined that our style of fishing was nigh impossible. I was hoping we weren’t going Spearfishing today. I put a cassette in the little Bush player we had with us, hoping to lighten the mood. ‘Take it to the Limit,’ began to play. ‘Fuckity, fuck, fuck,’ I thought, not a good choice. As Randy Meisner of the Eagles begged to be put on the highroad so he could take it to the limit one more time the Master’s expression changed from disappointment to determination. Where was Doris Day when you needed her ‘Que Sera, Sera.’ We walked down to the harbour where my cigarette was soon extinguished along with my hope of grandchildren, ‘I’m going in,’ he called through the wind. ‘You don’t have to.’ I was a kid and drowning seemed a better option than being left alone in a storm on Gran Canaria, so we headed back to the van, put our wet suits on and blew back to the harbour wall. We passed an old man sat in the lee of a rock smoking a pipe. How did he do that? I felt like Dorothy and he had a pipe lit. He called us over, ‘Estúpido, hoy no es posible, morirás,’ he said. The Master grinned at him. ‘Not today old man,’ he said turning to me, ‘He says were going to die,’

I smiled and nodded and I have no idea why. I wanted to say that in actual fact I was going back to the van to have a nice cup of tea and you’re going to die, but I followed him to the harbour edge. He explained our mode of entry. We wait for a big wave and as it recedes we jump in and I was to stay with him the whole time we were in the sea. He counted the waves, the seventh wave is usually a big one. A nod and a push later I was in the water finning like a mad man it was then that I realised that he hadn’t explained how we were going to get out. 

 


							
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It Wasn’t Love

She began to cry, silently, suppressing a basic human emotion and words flashed through my adolescent mind. “There, there – it’ll be okay – are you alright?” Words from my childhood and all of them cowardly used by people who want normality. A desperate space existed for us, a space between home and Javea – Spain – 1976. So, I said nothing, instead I held her hand and surprisingly she smiled. She had been seen shoplifting and the local police chief had stuck a deal. Sleep with him and she was free to go – tonight. We had sneaked away, the Master was looking for me – time for my run – her friend was looking for her – time to pay a debt. We drank some Sangria and I made a plan. She liked it, but she was scared – I knew it was the best way – the only way. I had to leave her for an hour, I promised to return and she believed in me. Santiago was a fisherman, a friend a fellow drinker and a scoundrel. He fished the French waters – illegally 😜. He was no lover of the Guardia, so cheating the Chief of Police and to have a beautiful young girl as company was not an unattractive offer, but unlike the Chief of Police, Santiago wouldn’t be a threat to her honour.

I returned to her, we drank more Sangria and I explained how she could easily get from Normandy to London and home. We walked and talked late into the night and found ourselves by the Marina, we needed somewhere to rest and where better than a yacht. I picked one with a cover and we squeezed inside. You don’t need sleep when you’re eighteen, we snuggled down on one of the beds and with her head resting on my shoulder I reassured her that she would be safe with my fisherman friend. Santiago was due to cast off in four hours and as a gentleman I’ll leave you to decide how we spent it 😉 I said goodbye to Grace that morning, forty two years ago and I’ve never seen her again. When I returned to the van the Master was not pleased. “Missed your run last night, out all night again and up to no good I reckon,” he said.

“As always,” I grinned.

Footnote: A deviation from my usual post and it’s up to you guys to judge 😉 Santiago wasn’t his real name as he did more….. lets say ‘delivering’ than fishing. I have no photo of Grace or Santiago, but the images I selected are very close (from memory) Is it true? Well I’ll leave that up to you to decide 😉 xx

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It Weren’t Half Hot, Mum, and Home

Did you ever see an Elephant coming out of Kandy with a bell around its neck? Well I did, don’t you know, yeah a bit of a play on Mark Bolan, I know.

Our last visit during our stay in Sri Lanka was to Kandy, love that name, but a little ironic, don’t you think, a Temple of the Tooth in a place called Kandy, anyways, the story is that while the Buddha was on his funeral pyre someone nicked a tooth and smuggled to Sri Lanka in 313 AD.  I’m not keen on following a guide with a brolly in the air telling me ‘stuff’ but a tour was the law, ‘Guv.’ The link to Jeevitha’s blog above, is great if you want to know more, I was going to link to Wheatypete but the Sri Lanka link is down, soz Pete 😉 So, back to the plot- the temple is beautiful and I got to wear a skirt (no bare flesh allowed) I quite liked the skirt thing, but I don’t live in Bradford anymore and  it’s different for girls. So, eventually the guide made noises that said our time was up. Now I like a bit of an adventure so on the way out we left the crowd and deviated from the main route when there was a ‘psst,’ a little man who looked remarkably like the little shit in the Mummy films who gets everyone into trouble said, ‘Would you like to see something special?’ Now I hadn’t come all the way to Sri Lanka to see a penis, but I was curious. He explained that far from showing my girlfriend his willy he could take us to the living quarters of the Head Monk.

It was quite a walk and the look on my girlfriends face – similar to the one when the big soldier pulled out his knife, emulated my own cautious feeling, but eventually we came to a small room with a rather large Buddha in it. ‘This is where the head monk lives,’ said our new friend. Now would you believe it but at that very moment………yes, the head Monk arrives. My little friend, willy safely tucked away, informed us that this guy was, like, 100 or something and had walked all over the world in his sandals and would we like blessing? Now if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll have worked out that I am basically a neanderthal heathen, but, hey a blessing is a blessing. So there we were being chanted over and touched (it’s okay – on the forehead) When this was over the monk held out his hand – Mummy Boy explained that he received no wages and lived from contributions. That’s when the penny dropped (yeah, I know I’m cute but not so clever) so I gave head monk and scary guy some cash and he escorted us to the street. That’s when I saw the Elephant coming out of Kandy with a bell around its neck. 😉 xxxxxx

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It Weren’t Half Hot Mum (3)

The heat was intense, a tiny squall of miserly warm air brushed my temple inviting anticipation of relief, but I knew it was a trick, apart from that I was preoccupied with peeling my bare leg from the plastic upholstery of Elvis’ taxi without losing the skin. We had traveled through stunning countryside and now Elvis grinned, ‘Flat tyre, maybe, I think. And how do you say…… soldiers holding road?’ My only experience of roadblocks was from movies and they didn’t end well. This was a few days after the bomb had gone off in Colombo and so I guess they were looking for Tamil guerrillas. Elvis dutifully spoke to the soldiers and they directed us to a stopping place.

We poured ourselves from the car and a rather large soldier headed our way. He looked like he ate babies for breakfast, gazing at my girlfriend he asked. “Hot?” It was 32 degrees and our relationship was  four years in, so I knew the answer to this question from two different angles. As my already loose bowel gurgled and I recalled some very nasty roadblock movies, I really hoped he meant the former. He pulled out a Crocodile Dundee knife and she stopped smiling, my bowel gave a little twitch and he produced a Mango, sliced off a chunk and handed it to my girlfriend, relief is an understatement. “It’s good, enjoy your stay,” he smiled and sauntered off. Elvis appeared, “Tyre fixed, we go,” Having my skin removed by his near molten plastic seating seemed not such a bad option and we left.

We thought we were heading back to the hotel, but Elvis had other plans. Dropping us by some garden entrance, he said he needed to get his tyre fixed and drove off. By this time the bowel was in turmoil and in search of a toilet we entered the Royal Botanic Gardens and found one. I use the word toilet loosely. I’m not sure if it was the smell, the excreta on the walls or even the hole in the ground filled with…….something. But a certain lady put on her princess head, decided her bladder was probably larger than she had originally thought and opted to wait until we got back to the hotel, I had no choice. The gardens were beautiful and eventually Elvis returned. It had been an interesting day, we had one more trip left which would be to Kandy, but that’s next week 🙂

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It Weren’t Half Hot Mum (2)

Elvis turned on the radio, maybe he was searching for himself, aren’t we all in some way? Faded memory tells me I discovered myself when I was around 12 years old during an episode of Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols aka  Lieutenant Uhura was probably too much for most adolescent males of that era 😉

 

But I digress this is Sri Lanka some thirty years later and Elvis is our taxi driver intent on ensuring we see everything. Elvis suggested he take us to the Spice Garden, I suggested maybe he could think again. The Princess (different princess, this is a few years ago) thought it might be good, well I suppose one of us had to be amiable, but she hadn’t pooed her pants two hours earlier. A nice man showed us around, he offered me some leaves –  I was about to eat them – the Princess squealed and he grabbed my hand, ‘I think he wants you to smell them,’ she said. Sorry, but if you shove something in my face I’m going to eat it, so we wandered, smelling things then he presented something that looked like a cross between Angel Delight and mud – again sadly not edible – this apparently was going to be spread on the Princess’ face and after a few, ‘no,no,no really it’s fine.’ she got plastered, lets just say it didn’t smell like Angel Delight and I wasn’t about to taste it. A few minutes later with a fresh faced partner Elvis took us off again. After a short drive – surprise! – he discovered (yeah right) two children with a Porcupine at the side of the road.

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‘Aha, you want to have picture of Porcupine?’ I looked into his rear view mirror, ‘Not really,’ but after a dig in the ribs. ‘Yes we’d love to.’ Out we got, knowing the kids would want a tip I grabbed some change. Smile, click, tip and done. Then I noticed the women in the river doing the weekly wash and walked over to investigate when a bunch of children approached me. They lovingly held out there arms and I thought I would divide the rest of the change equally. It took them about 2 seconds to prise my hand open and grab the money. They then started clamoring, have you ever been clamored by a bunch of kids? I legged it back to Elvis and we hit the road once more. Next time a checkpoint, a soldier with a knife and a Mango then there’s that toilet ;-(

 

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It Weren’t Half Hot, Mum

A breeze soothes my face as I drift into another sun drenched dream, I can hear the chatter, chatter of some locals above the waves that caress the shore and then she prods me in the rib. ‘Let’s go out tomorrow.’ This is Sri Lanka, there are no island tours where you all sing Gin Gan Goolie and drink copious amounts of alcohol whilst a hairstylist from Scunthorpe tells you how she once saved three wild cats from a dustbin and then nearly miscarried because she caught Toxoplasmosis from their faeces.

In Sri Lanka you book a taxi. That evening we invited ‘Elvis’ the taxi driver into the hotel (and you thought he worked in the chip shop) to discuss our trip the next day. Elvis informed me that we would need to depart the hotel at 05:00 in order to see the baby elephants being fed. Now no one would call me an animal lover, nor indeed and animal hater. I guess I’m an abstainer, I’m like that with a lot of things. Take Homosexuality for instance, I don’t have a problem with it, if that’s who you are, fine, best of luck to you. I just don’t need to participate. So I explain to Elvis that we are on holiday and 4:30 only exists once a day. He tells me what a beautiful sight it is and I tell him that I’m sure David Attenborough  has it covered, we agree on 06:00, reluctantly. The morning doesn’t start well when believing I need to pass a little wind and pooh my pants. Fifteen minutes later we are in Elvis’s taxi and heading out to the Elephant orphanage. If you’ve never ridden an Elephant its fairly easy once you get on it and surprisingly they purr? I managed not to pooh on the elephant, but I did get mugged by the children, but that’s another story 🙂

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