Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bilbo and Agnes's Marvelous Vacation - Part 2: Acapulco, Mexico

Still with me after yesterday's adventures in San Francisco?

On the morning of the 10th, we received a call at about 9:00 from the cruise line telling us that the arrival of the Star Princess in San Francisco had been delayed by "heavy seas and fog," and that the bus which would pick us up and take us to the ship would thus arrive a bit later than planned...perhaps around 1:00 or 1:30, rather than noon. As directed, we checked out of our room at the hotel and waited patiently in the lobby with our bags and a group of other cruise passengers. At noon, a cruise line representative arrived and provided us each with a $25 lunch certificate for the swanky Top of the Mark restaurant in the hotel, probably on the theory that we would be less upset about the delay if we were fed. They were right.

The bus finally arrived shortly before 2:00 and - a tribute to the marvelous organization of the cruise operator - we were on board the ship by 3:00. The originally scheduled sailing time of 4:00 eventually ended up being about 7:30, but we didn't care...we were on the way!

We spent the first three days at sea as the ship sailed from San Francisco to its first stop at Acapulco, where we arrived at about 11:30 on Friday the 14th. The weather was beautiful, with brilliant sun, temperatures in the low 90's, and about 87% humidity, and we were ready to go. After smearing ourselves liberally with SPF 9000 sunscreen we headed for the dock to meet the bus tour we'd scheduled.

The first stop on the tour was the Hotel Mirador and a visit to the famous Acapulco cliff divers. This was an amazing show...I'd heard of the divers before, but seeing them actually do their thing was truly incredible. They dive from a 136 foot cliff into a pool of water that is nominally only about six feet deep...they accomplish this safely by carefully watching the inrushing surf and timing their dives so that the maximum inflow of water will be reached as they hit the water. And then, having made this impossible dive (which, by the way, requires them to launch themselves at least 12 feet out from the cliff face to avoid the rocks at the bottom), they actually climb back up the cliff! In this picture, you can see one fellow on his perch ready to dive, and another in the process of climbing up the cliff below.

This picture shows the perch from which the men (they're all men, except for one 15-year-old girl in training, whom we didn't see) dive, and the ledge above which has a small shrine at which they pray briefly before each leap...

And in this picture, you can see one of them just beginning his dive...

After the show, the divers all raced quickly up to the hotel Mirador, from which we were watching, to position themselves for tips and pictures. We'd learned that the divers all belong to a union which collects money from the hotel to pay them and to maintain an insurance fund (since they can't get traditional insurance, imagine that!). We passed out some tips and gawked at the men's feet...which look like hooves after years of climbing up and down that cliff!

After the traditional half-hour for shopping at a silver and jewelry store that just happened to be there (who'da thunk it?), we fought our way back to the bus through a teeming swarm of hyper-aggressive street vendors and continued on with the city tour. A few general observations:

* The old part of Acapulco is pretty seedy. Streets and sidewalks are poorly maintained, and you have to watch your step constantly because curbs aren't of uniform height. This was a general comment applicable to each of the four towns we visited (about which you will hear in due course): the Mexican Riviera is breathtakingly beautiful from a distance, but the closer you get, and the farther you get from the major tourist areas, the more run-down and decrepit it looks. Here are some sample pictures:

* Traffic is insane, but - unlike Washington - nobody is honking and cursing...no sign of the road rage we're used to at home.

* Our guide said that the population of Mexico is 90% Catholic, and the other 10% are priests. Hmmm...

* Most men in Mexico look either like Antonio Banderas or Quasimodo, and the women are either heart-stoppingly beautiful or very plain. There didn't seem to be much of a middle ground.

* By law, there are no private beaches in Acapulco...all the beaches are open to everyone.

* Final observation: we felt very safe, largely because I'd never seen so many heavily armed security guards, police, and military personnel in such a small place. Since the economy is about 100% dependent on tourism, the government doesn't take any chances on anything untoward happening to the visitors.

We finally ended up back at the ship around 6:00, and the ship set sail for its next stop, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, at about 10:40 PM. This is what Acapulco looked like at night from our cabin:

If you're not tired of the travelogue yet, we'll continue tomorrow with the visit to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta. If you are tired of it, come back in a few days, when I'll be done and back to the usual blathering commentary.

Have a good day. More of our adventures tomorrow.



Amanda said...

Every trip has its hiccups but its all part of the fun isn't it?

I hope one day I'll be able to visit San Francisco again. I only had one afternoon there and it definitely wasn't enough.

I had never thought of visiting Mexico before but it really sounds like an interesting place from your summary and photos.

Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Your pictures are fantastic

John said...

I'm looking forward to seeing pics and hearing about Zihuatanejo. It's the city from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

BTW, thanks for taking the time to write. I received your letter yesterday.

bandit said...

I haven't heard of the cliff divers in years. I can remember John McKay featuring them on Wide World Of Sports.Looooonnngg time ago!!

Mike said...

"three days at sea"

You didn't tell us what you and Agnes did for three days at sea. Do you have video or pictures?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A great commentary of all the events, Bilbo.

fiona said...

I suppose jumping off cliffs for a living keeps ya fit!
I'm loving reading about and viewing your adventures, keep them coming!