A MAN ON A MISSION

In terms of beaches, visitors to Mexico genuinely are spoilt for choice. World-class stretches of sand are to be found gracing both The Pacific Coast and The Gulf of Mexico, with old favourites in the ridiculously commercialised forms of Acapulco and Cancun still managing to draw in huge crowds with ease.However, some of the country’s lesser-known beaches are now proving to be just as attractive to foreign tourists and travellers, with small yet infinitely charming places such as Melaque and Barra de Navidad – both of which languish just a short distance apart from one another on The Pacific Coast – pulling in punters like no tomorrow.
On the back of a night spent in Mexico’s sprawling second city, Guadalajara, I hopped on a bus bound for Manzanillo, a six-hour ride in a rough south-westerly direction from the traffic-choked madness of Guad.
As always, it felt good to be on the move, not least because the scenery was stunning, Mexico once again dishing out surprise after surprise in terms of the types of landscape that bless the country. For starters, it’s far more fertile, not to mention mountainous, than I ever dared imagine it could be.I could have saved myself a lot of hassle if I’d had the foresight to ask where my bus was scheduled to judder to a no-nonsense halt; its final destination was Barra de Navidad, just a few kilometres shy of Melaque where I intended to stay.
As it was, I got off at Manzanillo, where I picked up a beat-up ‘chicken bus’ to transfer me the rest of the way up the coast.
Given that it was a local bus, it unsurprisingly kept stopping and starting like no man’s business, with so-called ‘bus-stops’ haunting the coast road at annoyingly regular intervals. Thus, progress north was slower than a paralysed snail, but so long as we were moving forward, I refused to complain.I simply glued my eyes to the window, watching our wonderful world go by as hundreds of road-side vendors, selling everything from hot and spicy tacos to ice-cold lollies, did all they could to off-load as much of whatever they had for sale to anybody who might have been within shouting distance.
Indeed, many of the vendors went so far as to temporarily jump on our already-cramped bus at many stops, bustling along the gangway at high-speed whilst relaying details of what they had to offer, tagging dirt-cheap prices to their fevered product descriptions.
I eventually arrived into the stupendously sleepy town of Melaque just after four in the afternoon. As much as I wanted to indulge in ‘the beach-life’ for a few days, the main reason I’d dragged myself across to Melaque was to meet a fellow Yorkshireman.However, because I was unsure about what time I was going to arrive, I’d not let him know my plans.
As luck had it, he was kicking back in a cafe little more than fifty yards from the bus station.’Hey Steve!’ he called as I passed him by. Basking in a world of my own, I’d not clocked him hard at work on his laptop in the cafe entrance.
I’d not as yet met any other folk from Yorkshire during my time in Mexico; it was good to hear a familiar accent. It was even better that such an accent was dispensed by none other than former Hull resident Karl Bushby, the ex-paratrooper who is currently in the throes of walking home to England, having already walked from the tip of South America all the way up to Alaska… and then some.Even if Karl had called it a day there, and hung up his boots in Fairbanks or Nome, he could still have been assured of his status as ‘explorer extraordinaire.’ But Karl never does things by halves. As a result, he then conspired to make history by crossing The Bering Strait, prior to rumbling into Russia and unfortunately falling foul of the country’s legendary bureaucracy.
So why is Karl Bushby down in Mexico when he should be trekking further across Russia you might wonder?Well, he was in Melaque when I met him for a bundle of good reasons, one of which boiled down to the fact that he needs to wait for precisely the right ‘time window’ in the Russian winter, when conditions underfoot are at their most favourable in terms of them facilitating efficient forward motion.While he did initially encounter severe problems in obtaining the relevant authorisation which enabled him to penetrate Russia’s boundaries, he is currently being ‘awarded’ three-month visas at a time.
Hence, once those three months are up, he has to leave the country in order to be able to renew his visa, an infuriating task which doesn’t come cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
Karl and I wasted no time in discussing his many and varied adventures to date, with focus soon falling on the time he spent hacking his way through the notoriously dangerous Darien Gap, an experience which sounded to be exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.
After a couple of hours of chatting, Karl helped me find a hotel for my three day stay in town, with the Hidalgo serving my needs perfectly. In light of the fact that it was at the tail-end of the high season, the kind proprietors seemed more than pleased to have my custom.
As soon as I was adequately settled in, we hooked up with some of the friends he’s made while he’s been in Melaque. Because of the town’s size, the vast majority of people who we passed as we made our way to his friend’s apartment acknowledged Karl. Then, once acquainted with his friends, we all swept into what was widely regarded to be the only place to hang out after dark in Melaque: Surfo’s Bar.Even for a Tuesday night, it was fairly busy, the good times proceeding to roll long before our first shot of tequila threatened to knock us for six. I am rarely one for drinking spirits, so it was with a sore head that I fell into bed come one in the morning. Naturally, it was with an even sorer head that I awoke eight hours later. But that’s another story entirely. Moreover, it’s one that’s likely to never be told.

(Steve Rudd)

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