Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Insta-surfers, rainy season & kidney stones

Insta-surfers. I keep coming across so many people that just become "surfers" or jump into the lifestyle from left field and it never meshes well with me. I think there is this allure to the idea of the lifestyle of surfer that makes people just strangely jump in it. Somehow I cross paths with them and it's uncomfortable for all parties involved, something like the real surfer meets the posing surfer. I don't mean that to sound egotistical or conceited. I'll try to explain.
I headed north up the coast on a couple of travel days. Long driving days in Mexico were a thing I was dreading after so many military checkpoints. Plus I was in Chicahau loving the surf & my next stop was somewhere in the vicinity of Acapulco. But my travel experience seems to be kicking in and I made some good decisions and was pretty happy with how all the situations unfolded from being lost, to searching for a decent place to stay outside of Acapulco. It all went well, I was exploring to some beaches and found a nice beach right outside of the hideous large resort city of Acapulco. It's got all the glitz & glamour, all inclusive style places but with a really seedy dirty feeling nearby and I really wanted nothing to do with it. But, distance and timing was it was a good next stop to cross over onto some surf spots I wanted to hit well above it. First one was Troncones, right outside of Zihautenejo. Troncones is a really nice gringo style surf town. A lot of second homes owned by americans, it's a bit of a nicer area with a few surf options. The strange thing is that nobody is around. So I drive up and down the main dirt road and there is nobody, but it's filled with nice looking houses & hotels but they're empty, though still blocking my view and access to the beach. Not hotels like Acapulco resorts, just ones that look like a solid 2 week vacation spot for someone from the states. Which also means, out of my budget. But with nobody around I cruised around scoping things out until I found the wave & then found the cheapest place in town run by 2 "surfers" and is the only hostel like thing. It was a nice place, the best showers I had had in forever...really, hot water and a giant full pressure waterfall. I hadn't felt this clean in a while. So anyways as I check in and try to unwind from a long day on the road, I am chatting with the couple about the surf. They are telling me everything about all these waves, how to get in the water, they give surf classes, rent boards and all kinds of talk about times in the water and what this left point break has been doing on various occasions with various people surfing. All good, I'm psyched to get some tips for where to enter since it's a rocky reef break and stoked to hear about the other waves nearby as I'm going to head to one next. It's about sunset when I got there after a full 10 hours of traveling. There is nobody surfing and the guy from the hostel offers to go surf with me, show me the way down & out. The waves are small but after a hot sweaty day in Mexico, a refreshing sunset surf sounds great. Well as he wears his shoes to the beach and I go barefoot, the differences are starting to show early. Then comes the paddle out, we get in at the sandy side far from the wave & have to paddle. All good, mellow paddle out and I'm hanging back in no hurry but he's moving slow. Then I realize the sun is setting and I actually want to get out there in time to catch waves so I'm gone up ahead on my own. Get out there and try to asses the rock situation because this is a left point that breaks near and over rocks and you can't just catch the wave anywhere. At this point, I'm really comfortable in the water. I've been all over this continent surfing rights, lefts, beach breaks, reef breaks, rocky points, etc. I love the feeling of being connected to the ocean and being able to read it, that only comes with time in the ocean as it ever changing with tides, winds, rocks, swells, etc. SO I'm out there alone, find my groove and start having fun. Catching little waves close to over these rocks, the only steep section that was surfable on a short board as the rest was better for a long board. I get wave after wave and feel bad as I'm passing around the guy. He can't duck dive which is pretty crucial to surfing. And because the waves were really only catchable at the part where I was sitting, he never caught any because it was too close to the rocks. SO I sort of felt bad but didn't know what else to do but catch waves were I was and be nice as I paddled by. I don't care what skill level anyone is at and the point of this isn't to talk about how great I am surfing. What it turns out is that after the surf and we go back to their place, I start talking to the couple. THey're a young couple running this surf hostel, offering surf lessons and tours and such. A bit of conversing and it turns out they've only been there 4 months as they were fire dancers in Seattle and took this opportunity to come down & do this life down here and run this surf hostel. Except one thing, they don't really surf? It seems strange for me because I'm not trying to live a lifestyle or be a surfer, I just really love the connection with the ocean, the challenge, the humbling mother ocean provides and the feeling of being connected to it all. I'm living on the beach, in a truck keeping track of tides, moon phases, winds, swell angles and then when I pop into a more normal vacationers town & run into the insta-surfers it's an insta-clash. Like I've mentioned in previous blogs, I'm doing all I can not to talk about me or my trip and the insta-surfer is always keen to talk and talk so they do all the talking and then eventually after peeling bit by bit out they realized I'm actually living the life and they're just talking it. It would be just as if I jumped into some other super random thing out of nowhere like call home to mom & dad & said "hey, I'm moving to canada opening a hunting lodge & becoming a hunter." I don't have a gun, much-less enough to necessitate a gun rack. haha ok well enough about that, you would be surprised how many of these I've run into. And they never speak spanish either....
Well after my night with the fire dancer/insta surfer couple I was off to go find this spot called the ranch. I was told some directions from a lady who had been there but they were sort of confusing. One thing I remembered was once I was on my dirt road exit passing thru a small town, keep staying to the left as forks and splits happen in the road. It took me a bit of circling confusing to find the exit but I finally spotted my dirt way. I'm always wishing I could share these travel days with everyone so you could see how it is really. I decided to shoot some video with my little point and shoot to see if I could capture some of the essence. I am continuing the abuse my truck as I bounce up and down thru the small town of los robles. I keep staying left per instructions and it seems all is well. Now, before I go further, I forgot to mention that this has been one of the rainiest rainy seasons on record for Mexico. It's been pouring, causing flooding and landslides all over. So as I stay on the left the dirt roads start to have intimidating looking puddles that I have to make the right decisions on whether I should be passing. They are a few of them and they're deep but passable. There have been a few forks in the road with 2 or 3 road options and I just keep staying left. Well the very last one looked crazy and I should have known from the start this couldn't be the right road. But it's muddy on all 3 roads, they all look pretty crappy and small, and I was told stay left. So though my instincts said, this doesn't look right I went forward a bit to see more. As I get down this path the trees come in tight smashing thru my rolled down winds breaking leaves and branches all in the front seats. Now quickly the road is coming to a bend, I can't really turn around so I figured I'm doing alright I'll go forward to the bend and see if maybe I'm actually arriving to the beach. I've essentially been off the main road and into the dirt ones for maybe 30 mins. As I hit the bend and go around it the mud tracks are really not level and I'm quickly hanging down on the driver side meaning the passenger side was about 30 degrees higher up than the driver. I stopped video'ing at just before this as it was getting too challenging to shoot video and drive, needed my full attention. These tracks were scary, I wasn't sure if maybe I could tilt plus the ruts on each side were deep and I didn't want to slide over into them. So I was in it now and had to go forward and I finally made it out of the scary unleveled tracks and immediately drop on the other side and I'm not moving forward. Maybe I was pushing or leaning to that side because I had almost been tilting to my side the entire previous bit so I ended up a little over on that side after the tracks leveled and I was down quick. I try to reverse, no luck. Don't really see much mud spitting and being there alone I can't see what the wheels are doing, spinning or not. I check it out and it looks pretty bottomed out on that side. Now it wasn't long before this, maybe a month early, I was in a collectivo truck that got stuck similarly to this and the guys got out with their machettes and hacked down some tree branches, put them under the tires and we pushed ourselves out. I'm really far from anyone and now a little while back realized this could not be the right road down meaning nobody else is going to pass through here, only an idiot would take this road! So I get out, grab my machette and go searching for tree branches. It's mid day or so, really hot and unfortunately my car just happened to be in a spot not being blocked by all the trees around. It's muddy everywhere, I'm out in sandals which immediately become stuck and useless so I'm barefoot. There are immediately more thorny things that I want to deal with, I either walk the grassy like middle part of the road and step on prickly things or walk in the muddy mirky watered tire tracks. It's really muddy, deep up to my knee in some parts. I'm hacking away at branches and sure enough I grab one that is already knocked down and a bunch of fire ants are on me. I'm smacking and jumping away, continuing to fight this battle. Back over to the truck I've got branches and I'm first trying to dig my truck out. Key word "trying". The mud there was up to my knee and watery so I'm trying to make trenches leading the water elsewhere and dig mud out by it seems all my trenches ever do is bring more water to me. The truck being in the sun made it so my black exterior would burn you if you touched it. So as I'm trying to dig in the mud, sweating as it's 95 degrees, I can't even lean on the truck to assist. After a bit of time and positioning of these branches, I drop one down next to the tire on a bush and immediately I'm getting tagged by a swarm of bees. I was knee deep in mud and had been trying to tip toe my way around to the 'best' spots and now I'm just getting stung all over my legs and so I run, over to the car and jump in all muddy. So much of not trying to get all this mud on the inside, I had 4 welts on my legs from these bees. There home was right next to my tire that I was digging in. At this point I figure I'll fire up the car and give it another shot, no dice. Now I've been at this for maybe 1 or 2 hours and with the bees over there waiting to attack me and me not having anyone to push or help, I start to concede that though I'm trying my best I don't think there is any way. So I grab my water, lock up and start hiking out barefoot and all. All of the giant puddles I went through I know have to cross which is kind of creepy thinking about possible snakes or scorpions arounds. It was a long hot walk, probably an hour and a half until I saw my first house. First house I walk up and there is a lady and she says her husbands working and they have no car. The next house I ask the guy for some help and he tells me to wait and he'll go get some help. Just like that he's gone towards town and I'm realizing this is going to be another one of those situations where some nice latin people help me out of my jam. He comes back with a guy in truck, actually similar to my truck, and we're off to go scope it out. I'm bouncing around the back of the truck enjoying the breeze and when we get to the last fork and I tell them to stay left they immediately stop and look at me like "you went down THAT road?" Yep, so he decides to back down a ways and then realizes he's not going to even try to make it there. We walk down, I'm hoping they can come up with some typical creative resilient latin magic that they do in so many situations but this one isn't happening. We try pushing but it's not moving. The chasis is on the ground. He tells me "necisita una machina"...a tractor. We're back towards town and they're calling the 2 guys they know that have tractors. First one isn't available and then the next has to call back. By the time we get back to his house a guy is rolling down the road in his tractor to pick us up and head out to my car. Just like that, nobody is asking for money , I have no fun, no AAA, just have to stay positive and use my spanish and hope that I will get help. It never fails that I do. All 3 of us climb ontot his guys tractor and we head back out to my truck. I'm standing barefoot on some gear or something off the back, it's actually a long ride back on the tractor as it's not moving much faster than I was walking. My feet are getting sore balancing on the back of this thing and trying not to get slapped by leaves and branches. We get out there, they hook up a chain and just like that I am out of hole I was in and just have to turn around and drive that scary part again which I really wasn't looking forward to doing but I had no choice. I make it out, hand the guys a little bit of money for the help and everyone is on their way. I'm not on the right road down to the beach, get down there and it's empty. There are 2 restaurant palapa type places that are closed down & I pull up at one, set up my tent under the palm thatched roof and I'm back in business. Now if you remember I had just left the nice place with the fire dancers and I was feeling so good about the nice hot shower I had there. That was from the morning, now 8 hours later I'm covered in mud and sweat. So much for that feeling, all I can do is go in the ocean with a bar of soap... So I captured some of this on video and put together a little vid to show you guys a day of searching for the beach down here in rainy season. I'm going to try to put up on this page on the right side. As always the end destination turned out to be a good one, I was camped out on my own left point break for 3 days. I spent time surfing, reading, writing, trying to play guitar, drawing, cooking, cleaning, & some yoga. At this point in my trip I find myself thinking about the entire trip, something I hadn't done much of as I have always been trying to stay 'present'. But wow, I can't believe all the places that I've been through and how many days like this one I've had. It's pretty overwhelming trying to digest it all.
Well a few days of camping I was getting low on food and ready to find a real shower so I'm off to the next beach which was a place I really excited about going to and surfing called Rio Nexpa. Rio Nexpa has a fun left point break, a good bit of power and because of the rain the river has busted through for the first time in some 6 years. As all the towns in Mexico, it's eerily empty. I park, walk around town asking about camping and rooms. I had all plans on camping but I was really wanting a camping situation with a shower and everything, which they had but when I got offered this cabaƱa with it's own kitched for 12 dollars a night I couldn't resist. It had a fridge which I never had, I immediately thought of cheese and cold milk for cereal and left overs. Plus a sink to wash dishes, this is the high life for me. So I set up there for a week & end up getting some really pumping a frame rights and lefts on the other side of the river mouth that busted through and had moved some sand to form these pretty amazing sand bars. It was high performance, powerful and hollow surf. So I'm out there with a guy I met a month ago in southern mexico, we're catching these bombs and all is good for a couple of days. But with surf like this, big waves and big powerful barrels comes hard spills and I end up getting smashed on my board and my chin is split open. I immediately feel for it and see blood all over my hand. I paddle back out to my aussie mate and ask him how it looks & he's like "ah, you're going to need stitches for sure mate." My board took some damage too. Off to the nearest town, I find another funny small clinic. The guy ties up my chin with some fishing line that I can still get in the water if I want. And just like that I'm taking a day off and enjoying some time in the hammock with my book.
Off from here I'm looking to head up the coast to my next stop, Pascuales, where I can get some dings in a couple of boards repaired. On my 5 hour drive I get hit with some intense kidney pains. It's bad, like to the point where I'm immediately nauseas from the pain. I'm not near any kind of facility that can help me but I'm realizing this is serious pain, not one I can just ignore. It's too intense. I spend the day traveling anyway, arrive to Pascuales and set up my tent under this roof of the guy who does board repairs there. I'm exhausted, always a side effect from fighting through the pain. I get my cot set up, lay on my hammock next to the tent and I'm asleep before the sun is down. Next morning I get up and it's come back. At first not quite so intense but enough to keep me from surfing some fun looking waves and thinking about the fact that I need to go find an Urologist. So I leave my tent, drive to the nearest town with internet and start searching where I can find Urologists in Mexico. There aren't just specialists all over, only the big cities where the big money is have facilities that I need. So the closes big city is Guadalajara, I track down a hospital and call them asking about Urologists. They recommend a guy, I call his office asking if they have lithotripsy or some high tech solution because I'm dying in pain and know that I can't pass this stone on my own. Talking spanish on the phone still isn't easy and I'm writing down the name of the place, some other things nearby to reference and just like that I have an appointment at 530 that same evening in a city 4 hours away that I know nothing about. I'm back to the beach, pack up my campsite, grab my boards and I'm on the road. I have no phone, no gps, no map and no guidebook for this place. I guess the having no road map thing is my own fault, they're out there but I've just been using word of mouth and asking people for directions. So I'm driving as fast as I can as the road leading to the city has a toll road option and it's a nice road compared to what I've been dealing with. I fly for hours on the highway and I'm entering a city that seems pretty big and spread out. I stop and start asking, it's confusing but somehow or another after a few different stops I find someone that knows a fairly easy route to get where I'm going. I make it over to the hospital for my 530pm appointment. The office is really high tech, all macs and the doctor seems really legit. He ultrasounds me right there and confirms what I've knowns, I've got a giant stone that I can't pass without some sort of procedure to help. I'm telling him my story as he's asking, that I'm traveling alone and what I went thru to get to this point. He sends me to get xrays and go do blood/urine tests. I'm feeling pretty good about my spanish. My ability to understand seems pretty good, as always much better than my ability to talk. But since I've been through some of this before in Peru, I'm pretty familiar with the medical terms relating to anything you might go through with your kidney. All the tests are done and I'm being scheduled to have a tube with camera & laser up my urinary tract to laser burn my kidney stone one on Monday, Oct 11th. Yesterday. Now that this is all out of the way, I still need to figure out where I'm sleeping. It's dark now, Friday night. I have no information and the area where the hospital was is the most fancy american looking area I have see in forever - outback steakhouse, mall, pf chang's, starbucks and super fancy expensive hotels. Not in my budget, I'm about to spend a fortune on this procedure so I need to stick to a budget traveler style place. I just ask someone how far the centro is, which turns out to be far...maybe 30 mins on city roads. Somehow or another I'm there, circling around the busy small cobblestone streets until I spot a hostel. Have to leave the car on the street with a guy watching it as it's not a parking area really. They have space but no parking so now I have a bed and just need to sort out my parking. Back in the car, circling around until I find a fenced in parking area and negotiate a deal to leave the truck there for a few days. It's not 10 at night and I haven't eaten either so I'm off to walk the streets, grab some street tacos thankfully not to far away and back to the hostel and I'm crashed out as all the hostel backpacker people are just getting started to party the night away. Kill me. I guess when I started the day I had no clue how I was going to work this out and as I was driving to Guadalajara it was hard not to think there was no way I would make it in time, or find the place, or figure out where to sleep and I consciously told myself that it was all going to work out. I was just going to face each thing as it came and would make it happen. With no phone, no gps, and me alone I was able to just get it all done and end up sleeping the night away with plans of surgery in a few days. It definitely does good to just focus on what is in your control and not worry about what might happen, just face it as it comes and it will work out one way or another.
Yesterday was the day, as much as I wanted to stay upbeat about the outcome I couldn't help but get anxious about the idea of a tube going up this part of my body and the inevitable pain I was going to endure. I was given an epidural to numb my body and watched via the computer screen as the camera and laser did its work on my stone. An hour and a half later I'm being wheeled out of there and because I was alone, put into a room for the night. I won't describe all the horrible parts of it and they are still happening right now as I've been typing but it's definitely not something I would ever wish on anyone else. I'm not out of the weeds yet, I've still got a catheter inside and I'm trying to pass all the small bits of stone that were broken up into more passable size. It's painful and maybe it's time like these that I wish I had my loved ones near. I think that's why I decided to write this tonight, since I can't have you all here then all I can do is talk to you through this blog medium. It's certainly no fun to be here, especially in a backpacker environment where everyone is socializing and then I'm the weird guy in the corner with a catheter in his urethra and peeing blood. I guess this is just another one of those moments where I've had to endure and persevere. All good for more spanish learning and testing my patience. Hopefully this will be the end of this kidney stone plague that has plagued me more or less the entire trip.
I guess tomorrow I need to get back to these stitches and have them pulled out or take them out myself...that turned into a very minor problem real quick :)
buenas noches, off to sleep now!