'hola mi amiga' i said to my friend mia from uni as i stepped onto the porch of their cabana, 'como estas?'. as that is about the extent of my spanish, we then turned to english to chat. i met her fiance justin and we all sat down to catchup. it's been 5 years since we've seen each other. it felt like yesterday.
i'd spent the past day and a half travelling from isla mujeres.
boat - taxi - flight - local collectivo - hostel - bus - bus.
finally, the pacific coast of mexico. we were meeting in a place called barra de nexpa- state of guerrero. this was mexican cartel country, but also home to chilled travellers looking for some swell and a quiet place off the tourist track. everything here was 'tranquilo' as the locals say. nothing was done fast, and everything was chill. sweet.
we stayed here for 3 nights. we were only going to stay 2, but then were too late one day for the bus (it just comes along the highway, although buses here stop for any and everyone who puts their hand out, so depending what time you catch them there can be a pretty big difference in how long it takes you to get anywhere. it's better therefore to get out early and miss the crowds). we were staying in a cabana on the beach, 3 beds, toilet, shower etc for 300 pesos a night (roughly $10US each). pretty great deal and since mia and justin were surfing a lot and the swell was still picking up (there had been a hurricane off the coast the preceding few days which had put the weather out) things seemed to fall into place well.
it was interesting staying in a state of mexico run by the cartel. you read a lot of stuff on blogs and DFAT (department foreign affairs and trade) about avoiding states like guerrero and i understand why this advice is in place. i felt though that when we were there, there were examples of times when the cartel was prevalent, although not invasive. basic things like avoiding long bus travel or driving at night is good advice. when we crossed the border between states, we saw subtly the cartel. we had left barra de nexpa at 8am. before we left the state, a guy came on the bus (kitted out with gun etc) and checked the bus. this happens often with the army, however this guy clearly wasn't a part of any army. he looking through the bus and then, satisfied, got off. we continued on. after crossing the border, the same thing happened, although this time it was the army who got on the bus and checked things. one army for one state, a government army for the next. whilst in barra de nexpa, we heard a story of a couple of travellers who had had some things taken from their room (an iPad and iPhone). the day after their things had gone missing, their things reappeared in their room, along with a note of apology. i hate to think what had happened to whoever had taken those things, however it appeared the cartel had gotten them back. it was apparent they liked having tourists in this area for the revenue they brought. i guess it makes sense. if they didn't want you there, you definitely wouldn't be there.