“This doesn’t look familiar,” I said to Heathyr from the backseat. She sat up front navigating on her phone as Dave drove down a dirt road, past goats and chickens and mango trees. Heathyr’s phone promised to lead us to La Saladita, a surf town that I’d visited two years ago. Only, I didn’t remember the road.
When we reached the end of it an hour later, we were on the wrong side of the river. I asked a Mexican man for directions, and soon we were splashing across the river in the rental car. We made it in one piece to Saladita (the place I remembered): a left point break with soft, gentle waves unlikely to damage my not-quite-surf-ready knee.
The porch of our cabina overlooked the point break. Though the mosquito nets covering our beds didn’t stop the pesky insects from biting us with sadistic determination, the crashing sound of the waves cancelled out the challenges of rustic living. As did the steady stream of people who stopped by our porch. Why are friendships so much easier to form when you’re traveling?
My friend Layla found us the next morning. We initially met on a previous trip three years ago, and have kept in touch ever since. Layla is a full blooded Mexican and a talented artist. She’s also my Spanish teacher, relationship counselor, writing consultant, and one of my dearest friends. I’d come to Saladita not just to surf, but to visit her.
The first morning, the waves were head high, glassy, and peeling with machine-like consistency. Armed with a knee brace and one of Layla’s longboards, I began the process of learning how to surf again. But there’s been a lot more to this trip than surfing. Like the day we skipped a sunset session and piled our new friends Eric and Heidi into the rental car, to take a back road to Troncones. We could have easily taken the highway, but—
“Queremos la adventura,” I said to the Mexican man whom we asked for directions. His belly jiggled and the gaps in his teeth showed as he laughed. He led us to the back road as his family waved at us from the bed of the truck. Heathyr rallied the rental car through the river and several mud pits; past cows and pigs and horses; through tunnels made of palm trees and bougainvillea, until we arrived in the small fishing village of Majahua. Under a seaside palapa, we ate fresh lobster tails cooked in garlic and butter, camarones with heads and legs still attached, fresh ceviche and ice-cold coconuts.
It’s what I love best about surf trips: the call of adventure and a reason to follow it, the revelation of putting down the phone and making real connections, the sweet surprises just across the river or around the bend.