By Chris Foster. 7/30/19
A Start Back In Huatulco
Embajador spent mid June through late July at anchor in Huatulco by which time we began to worry about hurricane risk. Our good friend Roger Wist volunteered to fly down with me to make the 200 mile transit across Golfo Tehuantepec, notorious for its fierce winds and seas, to Chiapas on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, and then the next 500 miles south to Costa Rica.
Alex met us at a small protected beach just south of town Where he could land the tender on the day we flew in. As he pulled up it began to rain. 5 minutes later as we approached Embajador the wind began to blow. Hard. Lightning exploded from the sky in thunderous bursts, each one closer than the last. The anchor soon gave way as the wind pushed us toward a nearby reef with waves breaking fiercely over the top.
As we went to the bow to raise the anchor the lightning blasts began to crackle with a sickening finish, landing nearby in 5 to 10 second intervals. We hugged the deck feeling like each new strike would be the one to hit us, but none did.
An hour later we arrived at our favorite cove north of town just as the storm subsided and dropped anchor for the night.
Tepec Crossing And Arrival In Marina Chiapas
After a day and one-half of lavishing one last time in the picturesque setting and snorkeling again on the adjacent reef, we departed for the southward transit. The Tepec winds did not disappoint blowing mightily from shore. Alex kept us within 3 miles of the beach the whole way, thus not leaving enough sea room or fetch for waves to gain much size. Still it was a pretty rough slog.
When we arrived, boat caked in salt, 24 hours later in Chiapas the friendly marina manager welcomed us and promised to send over some “amigos” to help us get Embajador back into yacht-like shape.
Within an hour the port captain showed up accompanied by 3 Marinas fully festooned with M16 rifles, side arms and a German Shepard. I escorted 2 of the Marinas and the dog as it sniffed every corner of the boat without incident as Alex went through the usual presentment and stamping of paperwork on the back deck. All 4 of the officials and even the dog were as nice as could be, even posing for pictures.
Later that day, after lunch at the marina restaurant, Roger and I ventured out on the Go-Cycles to the surrounding countryside, which consisted of flat lush farmlands and a mountainous backdrop. We soon came upon a pretty rural area named Playa Linda adjacent to a very wide beach. Interestingly, every house and small restaurant/cantina that we passed, no matter how elegant or modest, had a pool, almost as if there might be some sort of ordinance requiring it.
A Lesson In Culture and History
The next morning we hired a driver to bring us into town. Antonio, who also acted as a guide for the cruise lines when they visited, gave us some great insight into the local culture and lay of the land.
Chiapas, A Storied Past. The Mexican state of Chiapas (click for some interesting state history and recent revolutionary activity) sits on the border with Guatemala. Readers might recall that there was an uprising in Chiapas in 1991.
Puerto Chiapas, although not the stuff of tourist brochures, is a major Mexican port of entry with a navy base, tuna fleet, cruise-ship terminal and loading docks. It contributes significantly to the area’s relative wealth and growth.
The city nearest the port is the fairly modern, if faded, city of Tapachula with about 400,000 residents and growing.
Today Tapachula is a typical border town with a crowded historic city center, narrow streets and faded storefronts. Outside of the downtown area are newer neighborhoods and malls sporting department stores, chain stores and restaurants, just like you would find in the US like Starbucks, Radio Shack, etc., including of course, the requisite Sams Club and Walmart that you will find in almost any Mexican town of size.
We visited a CAT dealership for parts, had lunch in a narrow but clean Mexican restaurant, walked around for a bit and then proceeded to a neatly stocked Walmart for more provisions.
Agriculture. The surrounding countryside is agricultural consisting of mango and banana groves, corn fields, etc. Coffee plantations populate the rain forests fronting the mountains behind town. Antonio told us that visitors can take tours with tastings afterwards much like one might experience at vineyards in Napa.
There are two active volcanos in the mountains each standing over 11,000 feet tall, one north of the border with Guatemala and the other south.
Border Problems. We were fascinated to learn that Chiapas has its own border problems and even prejudices just like in the US on It’s border with Mexico. Apparently there are thousands of migrant workers who come up from Guatemala and countries south, many of whom enter the country illegally and seek asylum. He told us that much greater efforts have been expended in the last two months to stem the tide of illegal border crossings. A considerable number of migrants come from far away countries like Somalia, Hati and the Middle East, often on the way to the US, a phenomenon that until then I had suspected was a fabrication of the Trump administration.
Violence. Antonio indicated that there is a lot of resentment surrounding the migrants, especially those from El Salvador, Columbia and most especially Honduras.
The military has a very strong presence locally. We met several American “advisors” that we learned are there to assist with the military war on drugs and border problems.
Apparently there are numerous gangs, the most dangerous of which he indicated are the “Maras” who sport face tattoos, reportedly added each time that they “make a kill”. This is a Central American gang that has connections in the US and is struggling to open their own pathway for drugs through Mexico.
We were warned not to leave the marina in the late afternoon or at night, as there is considerable danger of being mugged or worse. The next morning we were stunned when the marina manager, clearly shaken and in a state of shock, told us that his best friend had been murdered, execution style the night before. Not the best of send offs…
An End To Years of Exploration and A New Beginning
Notwithstanding the troubling news that we learned about just before departure, the journey out of the marina marking the beginning of new adventures to come in Central America and beyond, it was bittersweet. We love Mexico, it’s friendly people and incredible Pacific coastline. We have been traveling the country for years, first pulling our trailer boats and then on Coastal Estate. If I had to choose at this point, I would say that I would rather spend the rest of my life there than anywhere else that I’ve been thus far.
We hope that you will follow us as we explore new places, meet new peoples and continue the Embajador Adventure.
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Next – Costa Rica…