It’s never a good sign when a hiking journey begins with a shout for “Help!” We were just five minutes into a stroll through the mangroves in a nature preserve near Barra de Navidad (Oaxaca) on Mexico’s Pacific Coast when I saw my hiking companion stuck ankle- deep in quicksand. Surrounded by waters teeming with crocodiles and with us outfitted in beach dresses and strappy sandals, it was evident we were woefully unprepared for a walk in a Mexican swamp.
In my companion Debbie’s defence, I had invited her to join me for a simple beachside lunch at La Ballena Restaurant, located at the mouth of the Colotepec River, while I conducted research for a magazine story. But Hurricane Carlotta had destroyed the previously well-groomed trail through the mangroves, ripping up trail markers and rerouting the lagoon. Now, the trail was a jumbled mess of vegetation and we needed to rely on Survivorman skills to get us to our cocktails.
“”Maybe if we hang onto a tree branch for balance?” I suggested as I looked at the log bridge and the murky water below. No easy task when you’re carrying a purse.
“Do you see any crocodiles?” she asked, teetering across.
According to facts I’d gathered while researching the Puerto Escondido Travel Essentials app, the lagoon has a resident population of 350 crocodiles. They feed on garza blanca and other birds. Not, presumably, people who fall into the water. But Oaxaca’s tropical deciduous forest is filled with deadly snakes such as the coral snake (coralillo), poisonous vipers and yellow-bellied sea snakes.
“You’d better hurry,” I said. “There might be snakes.”
That was enough to propel us onward towards civilization.
“Maybe we can take this boat to the restaurant? she suggested. But with nobody in sight we struck out across the sand solo in search of food and drink.
After a very hot trek across hot sand, we arrived at La Ballena restaurant, a humble palapa in the middle of a vast expanse of sun, sand and sea. We grabbed a table and cracked open a pair of chilled beers.
“Best day ever,” said Debbie.
“Totally,” I agreed.
According to the Handbook of Wilderness Survival, certain items — such as proper gear, planning and mental attitude–are critical to surviving under adversity.
We might have struck out on the map and gear but we’d done one thing right. We’d enjoyed every minute.
If You Go
Barra de Navidad is located 20 minutes from Puerto Escondido, just past La Punta. You can take any collectivo marked Barra de Navidad to the village and then walk to 30 minutes to the mouth of the Colotepec River. For full details ( including photos) on how to visit La Ballena restaurant, the new Barra Azul restaurant or the lagoon, download my mobile app Puerto Escondido Travel Essentials, available for $2.99 in the Apple store and on Google Play. If you don’t have an iPhone, email me at email@example.com and I’ll email you a screen shot with step-by-step travel instructions from Puerto Escondido.