As we drove further down the coast from Zihuatenejo to Acapulco, we were graced with more beautiful beach views.
The girls built their own fort in the back of the van using pillows and their newly purchased sarongs.
We entered a neighboring beach town, which is just North of Acapulco, and hyped as being a great place to get a bite to eat and watch the sunset. It was packed full of restaurants, but none of them appealed to us. Perhaps that’s because all of the restaurants advertise seafood, and we are not fans. We were, however, somewhat fans of the wild bus paintings found on their public transportation. You never knew what you were going to see…some cool, and others a bit freaky…
When we pulled in Acapulco, I was taken aback by its size. I don’t know what I expected—but I didn’t expect a sprawling city with large winding highways and homes scattered on the mountain side outside of town.
We quickly spotted the town’s taxi system, all run via white and blue Volkswagen beetles.
Jared drove us over to the ocean cliffs which are notorious for the famous cliff divers that jump off their sides. We’ve watched tv programs about these jumpers, and it was neat to see the cliffs in person. The cliff divers come out at night, however, and we were early and not willing to hang around until sunset to watch the show (they collect donations for their death-defying performance).
Driving back the other direction revealed beautiful views of other smaller cliffs and the hotels and homes that line them.
Driving back into town, I asked Jared to pull over in a parking space at the harbor so I could take a photo. It turned out to be an expensive photo, when suddenly a police officer and his partner pulled up beside us and one of them came over to talk. He explained in Spanish that Jared should have stopped back in the intersection, when instead he drove through (the officer claimed that the car beside us did indeed stop). Jared is not an oblivious driver, and didn’t remember seeing anything that indicated he should have stopped. The officer said he would have to give us a ticket, and take our license. We would have to go to the police station to pay the fine and retrieve our license.
What?! There was no way we were letting go of Jared’s license, so we firmly said “no”. We wouldn’t even give him the license to look at, afraid that he would keep it. We were kind and kept it light, but getting a ticket was not an option—especially for a seemingly made-up violation. I asked him if we could take care of the ticket right then, instead, and he replied that that is illegal, and both he and Jared could be put in jail (for giving and accepting bribery).
Urgh. An honest Mexican cop?
Still—we refused to give him our license and get the ticket. Receiving a ticket would be no problem (they don’t have computer systems that keep records of violations—so we could just drive out the next day without worrying about it)—but having him take our license? That seemed fishy, and at best just a huge pain in the rear to insure that we could find the department, pay the fee, and get our license back.
Finally, after another 5 minutes or so, suddenly the officer changed his mind and began asking me how much we would pay to take care of it right now.
What?! Now I was really confused. Did he just go from giving us the guilt treatment about bribing him, to asking for a bribe? Suddenly, I feared he was trying to catch us in a bribe and actually put us in jail! Help! I confronted him about this, to which he responded he was not tricking us.
We offered $200 pesos, to which he kindly responded it was too little…couldn’t we give “un poco mas”? So we handed him a very generous $400 pesos total and said “no mas”, which he gratefully accepted. He then made himself sound like the good guy by assuring us we would now not have any problems, and he would take care of everything.
Ugh. This photo cost me $400 pesos.
We drove away uneasily and admittedly ticked off at what had just happened. Thankfully, we quickly found our next destination, a local park that came with high recommendations from our Lonely Planet guide book. The park is on a sprawling property right across the street from the malecon and main beach area of Acapulco. Here you can see a view of all of the resorts on the beaches of Acapulco…
The park was full of families, and hopping with life and activity. We were, of course, the only gringos in sight—so you can imagine the looks we received with our 2 redheads and 1 blonde. The grounds have brick sidewalks that circle the park, and every once in a while you’d see some people pass by on some pedal-powered carts.
In the center of the park is a free mini-zoo, with animals close enough to touch, in many cases.
One monkey seemed to enjoy offering his tail for visitors to touch!
In one large area there were hundreds of women enjoying a free workout led by an instructor on a stage. I’m guessing this is a regular event that locals get to enjoy quick often!
We also found a huge new playplace under construction, as well as free wifi and even a skating rink! As we were preparing to leave the park just after sunset, we found the entry way crowded with people enjoying a nighttime water/light show in the park’s entry! Loud music played, and was coordinated with lights and water spraying out of the ground—all over the kids who were joyfully enjoying the break from the heat! It was a hoot to watch!
What a park! If only all city parks in Mexico were this nice! Or heck—even if all city parks in the US were this well-done, well-used and enjoyed!
Next, we drove through the main hotel strip in search of an affordable hotel. The prospects loomed grim, until one of the many hotel brokers standing on the side of the street managed to flag us down. I admitted that we were interested in a hotel, but only one under $800 pesos. He told us he knew of one, and instead of just giving us directions he jumped in the van with us to lead us down the street. Upon arriving the hotel, he helped us check into the hotel at nearly 40% off their posted rates, leaving us with a bill of $800 pesos. Sweet! I admitted to him that I didn’t know what my responsibility to him was (do I tip him?), and he told me not to worry about it—that he would be paid a commission from the hotel. I was surprised that he turned down a potential tip, and was grateful that he helped us find a good place with free and secure parking (a rarity in Acapulco).
There was one trick to the price tag, however—the hotel had a water pump issue that they were currently working on—so the water was off—but they hoped to have it up and going in the next couple of hours. We looked at the nice pool they had, and decided that we weren’t up for any further hotel hunt in this big city—we would survive.
We checked into our room and were pleased with their large amount of space, as well as our ability to pick up the internet available only in their lobby (available to us only because of our wifi antennae…a post is coming on that soon). However, their beds left much to desire. Do you see all of those horizontal raised lines in this mattress? Those are wires…
No fear…we grabbed our camping pads from the van, and set up camp, instead.
The water pump took about 3 hours to get going, and so we enjoyed the pool in the meantime, and they delivered buckets of water to our door so we could “flush” the toilet manually.
I was flabbergasted when I looked at the back of the room key card and discovered this:
Yikes. I was not impressed with their advertising plug for spring break high-schoolers (the card actually says “Spring Break ’06 on top). Yuck.
In the morning I snapped a photo of the hotel, and took some photos from the hotel beachfront that we didn’t have time to enjoy.
We ran down the street to McDonalds for a quite bite on our way out of town, and I had to take a photo of their menu photos displaying McMolletes (molletes are open-faced sandwiches with a layer of refried beans and topped with cheese and pico de gallo).
It just goes to show that McDonalds is able to adapt to menus in other countries.
And so are we.
It may not always be ideal: the perfect beds, running water, easy traffic, etc. But it is almost always worth it!
But not in the case of Acapulco. Why the sour taste? Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story!