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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NEXT PORT--ACAPULCO

Acapulco has a mystical quality born of movies and movie stars. I picture luxurious homes nestled in the mountains surrounding a gloriously magnificent bay where Hollywood’s yachts and Mexican fishing boats mingle. Acapulco was the escape of Johnny Weissmuller, John Wayne, and many other stars. I picture exciting nightlife filled with the beat of Mariachi music, colorful clothing, and exotic food and drink. I envision the famed Acapulco cliff divers, flying in graceful arches out over the craggy and dangerous cliffs to cut the water cleanly and beautifully. I hear the amazed gasps of onlookers. That is the Acapulco we see as the next stop on our Panama Canal Cruise. Acapulco puts my senses into magnificent overload.

As Hualtulco was championed as the Acapulco of 20 years ago, I love the exciting air of the Acapulco of today. Nothing here disappoints, and though Acapulco is often derided as too touristy, I say again that I am a tourist and I want to see, particularly on a first visit, how a destination earns its reputation.

We book a motor coach tour where Carmen, our terrific and knowledgeable guide, gives us insight into her beloved city. For two years Carmen spent two hours daily studying English because, she says, that is the way to break into Acapulco’s economy. She speaks beautifully. She boasts that there is no welfare in Mexico.

We begin with a drive through the city, looking at the city’s squares, dominate images in any Mexican city. The square is where people congregate, dance, meet on Sundays after church, and enjoy themselves. We drive along the beachfront where fresh fish is sold daily by Acapulco’s fishermen, and we travel Costera Miguel Aleman to Puerto Marques Bay. The views are stunning. The water is the deepest blue with ribbons of breaking surf. The cliffs rising through the waves glint in the sunlight, and form patterns of bronze or lush green above the blue. Breathtaking! We stop at La Quebrada to watch the famed Acapulco cliff divers.

These young men, who are unionized as cliff divers, traditionally learn their skills from their families and begin as young children. The height of the highest dive is 130 ft., and because of the risks, a diver can make that dive no more than once weekly. This is a show to behold.

The divers walk down the stairway to a patio overhang. Leaving their sandals behind, they dive into the water and swim across the inlet to the cliffs. Barefoot, they climb up the steep cliffs until each reaches his rocky perch.

I gasp as some find their centers and fling themselves from the cliffs, their beautiful bodies arching, their arms spread wide and high, their toes as pointed as great danseurs. Their bronze bodies contrast with the rocks and the water, and we viewers are awed by the beauty and the daring.

Then other men leave their stone parapets, reaching out and then

somersaulting to jackknife toward the water, stretching to their final, clean, entry to the water where we view small, white, momentary, bubbly circles.

The lone man who makes the 130 ft. dive stretches his muscles, prays and crosses himself at a stone altar before his attempt. He literally flings himself from the precipice, gliding through the air away from the cliffs until he allows his body to cut through the air into the water. You will see from my photos the heights from which he dives.


As if we haven’t seen enough, our tour then takes us to The Mayan Palace Hotel for lunch and for some time to enjoy the facilities. This magnificent Mayan themed 5-star hotel captures the beauty and freedom of the ocean and reflects, dramatically, the history of a people. From the beach the views of the mountains are stunning. The hotel captures the Mayan architecture. It is lush and open with vibrant flowers of all kinds and hues. Walking past several pools, we come to the most extraordinary mile-long pool which winds its way along the beach. It is landscaped, edged with lounges and nicely spaced ladders to enter and exit. Glorious. Rob and I spend the rest of our time there and swim much of its length. What a fantastic way to enjoy our day.

We even learn that the Mayan Palace is a timeshare as well, and we can come back through RCI. That’s a thought worth considering although this winter we are off to Cancun—on the Caribbean side--for a few weeks.


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