6. Puerto Escondido

The late afternoon sun angled toward the Pacific, painting our first view of Puerto Escondido a rosy gold that blushed across the buildings, fanning up the hillside from a strip of sand. Puffs of cumulus clouds congregated above the ocean, and reached toward the lighthouse that presides over a point rising sharply behind the old fishing village and marks the north corner of the mouth of the bay. The cobbled waterfront thoroughfare, shaded by tall coconut palms on the beach side was closed to all but foot traffic. We parked and walked.

Trees, bushes, and vines, blooming in a Crayola rainbow of colors, cascaded down the slope from every wall, gate and rooftop on the opposite side of the street. Stone steps twisted up between the tourist and surf shops, restaurants, bars and tiendas that brimmed with ripe mangoes, succulent papayas, trays of astringent smelling limes and oranges, and sweet, bee-attracting pineapples. I craned around corners and doors, snapping pictures, and hoping to discover the mystery of each enticing passage as it disappeared around the high, glass-topped stone walls.

Parsley strained against her leash, sniffing the smells with gusto. For an old girl she maintained her curiosity, and in Mexico, everything smelled interesting to a dog.

Sam stopped in front of a bar and sniffed the air. “Aren’t surfers a bunch of stoners?” he asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Keep your DEA badge in your pocket.”

“What are you getting at? It’s a Marin County sheriff’s badge.” Sam’s look would have frozen hell. “Let’s get going. Quit taking pictures. I’m tired and hungry.”

I focused my lens on Sam’s familiar frown. Click. Click.

“Put that damn camera away.”

A trio of pedestrians turned toward us, inquisitive.

“Quit nagging me. You’re such a stick-in-the-mud,” I said and raised my eyebrows at the tourists, as if to say it was out of my hands.

“You’re selfish and irresponsible. I’m going to find somewhere to sleep tonight.” He spun on his heel and stalked off in the direction of the parked camper. A sensation of giddy lightness came over me, and I grinned at the passers-by.

“Are you coming?” He demanded from several feet away.

A slight gust of wind rattled the palms. “I thought you were leaving,” I said, slowing my pace.

“Don’t sound so happy.”

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