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Escape to Einstein’s in Paradise!

I’m leaving tomorrow Barry I can’t take it any more. Do you want to come to Paradise with me?’ Victor was on his last legs, he’d been working in a hostel in Oaxaca City for 8 months without a break. ‘I need a tan man, look at me I’m supposed to be from Argentina’. He was right, I was looking more tanned than him, but I had been working outside in the exotic location of the bus station.

I’d been in Oaxaca City for 2 weeks earning my keep working for a hostel. If the hostel wasn’t full it was my job to hang around the bus station and drag the innocent new comer’s in. ‘Hi have you got anywhere to sleep tonight?’ Most people looked at me in shock, ‘what’s an English guy doing working in a hostel in Oaxaca?’ I used to ask myself the same question but it was all good fun. I cut a deal with the local taxi men and helped them fill their seats every afternoon with the new arrivals as long as I could speak to them first. There were also two cheeky kids selling whatever they could from their portable shops. I taught them a secret handshake which involved a hip jiggle at the end and they taught me how to pester and annoy people until you got what you wanted. Fair swap! About 10-15 new people would turn up every day so it was relatively easy to keep the hostel pumping and Pablo the owner happy ‘you work good, you can stay here for free but keep them coming or you pay!’ He was a hardnosed boss, very tetchy at times, especially when I beat him at chess. We were playing late one night, no one else was about and he got out his pipe and loaded it with some hashish. He looked at me, I looked at the sign saying absolutely no drugs, then he shrugged his shoulders ‘it’s my place, my rules, you want?’ ‘No thanks Pablo, I wouldn’t want to upset the owner I’ve heard he doesn’t approve’.

An advantage of working for the hostel is that I got to meet everyone which meant some great nights out in the capital of Oaxaca province. The place to be was Temptation I stumbled across it on my 2nd night on my own. It was relatively quiet when I arrived (I was still on English time) but after a couple of hours, a few metzcals (not as potent as tequila but with the same effect, watch out for the dodgy worm at the bottom) the place was heaving with locals and foreigners. The local people were great and on many occasions I was approached by a group of students or workers wanting to practise their English with me, I never once had a problem in Oaxaca. Everyone working at the bus station were friendly too, the hours waiting for the next bus used to fly by watching the cabbies banter with each other and argue about who was next in the queue, the portable shop owners used to haggle and pester anyone that moved to buy their cigarette or sweets.

There were three of us working for Pablo, Victor the workaholic from Argentina and Mr Mexico himself, Sergio. I don’t know how he managed it but he was with a different woman every night. Victor used to work days hence his lack of tan and Sergio the nights. Victor had had enough, ‘do you want to come to paradise with me?’ ‘A man has never propositioned me like that before darling’. It was a tempting offer but I was happy here besides if Victor left I could do his shift and earn some money. Victor was off and I was the new receptionist at the hostel, hang on that doesn’t sound right. I gave it a go anyway. I arranged to do some night shifts for Sergio so he could pursue his main purpose in life at Temptation and I could give me liver a break and practise my Spanish some more.

After one night I was wishing I had taken Victor up on his illustrious offer, how did he stay 8 months? The night was horrible, I was woken up at all hours to let people in, the fridge sounded like it had eaten something nasty and was moaning all night with stomach pains, and I’m sure I saw a rat run past my foot when I was trying to work out how to unplug the fridge. I looked again at the note he left me ‘COME DOWN TO PARADISE, ONLY 6 HOURS TO- MAZUNTE’. I’d not heard anything of Mazunte but was eager to see exactly why it was paradise. After 2 more nights I’d had enough and was on the next bus to Oaxaca leaving Sergio to run his love hostel by himself.

I was off to Paradise, looking at the map I couldn’t understand why it would take 6 hours, but I soon realised why. I’d heard of the crazy bus drivers in the mountains in Mexico and now I was witnessing it, the driver seemed to have a death wish or an obsession with looking over the edge of mountains. I was grateful when we stopped for a toilet break whilst we past through a local village in the mountains. What did the locals did if they run out of bread or milk? it was a long trip down. ‘Where you heading mate?’ ‘Paradise apparently’ ‘oh yeah, where’s that then?’ Ed was heading to Mazunte too and was equally uninformed as I was. We arrived in Pochutla, the town to catch connecting buses, and were greeted by very eager taxi drivers to take us to Mazunte, and equally as eager to take every peso we had. Needless to say we flagged down a local truck with Mazunte, Zipolite written on the front. Let’s do it the local’s way.

We were on the final trip along with 15 smiling Mexicans. I’m not sure what the law says about carrying 17 people in a tiny truck at 80 kph but in England you’d be busted. We were hanging off the back, holding on for dear life as the truck bumped over potholes every couple of minutes followed by cheers from the passengers. It was as if the driver was collecting points to see if the could shake of a foreigner. The truck stopped several times to let people off ‘but where do they live?’ I questioned Ed, ‘your guess is as good as mine mate’. He was right were did they go, we’d stop at a dirt road and they would wander off into the forest.

We survived the attempt of Ricardo Rodriguez to leave us dead on his formula one race track and arrived intact in Mazunte. We were dropped off in what looked like the main street, two shops, an internet café and a few hostels it was certainly very chilled compared to Oaxaca. We followed a sign pointing down a sandy road ‘Einstein’s Hostel, Sea View’, ‘so this is where he’s been hiding’ chuckled Ed. After a short walk we arrived at a fork in the road and had first glimpse of the sea. It was looking very appetising after a sweaty bus ride with Ricardo but we headed for the hostel first.

All of a sudden we heard a sound of a horn blowing, and turned to see Senor Einstein, ‘Jesus, he isn’t dead after all’ ‘Quality, let’s see if he has any apples’. ‘Welcome, Welcome, where are you from?’ He was a chirpy chappy, dressed in shorts and a huge necklace made from shells and sharks teeth, he welcomed us with open arms and showed us to the sea view. There were about 10 beds upstairs with mossy nets and a great view of the beach. It was a very small beach, with only 4 bars and a handful of people, perfect, it really was paradise. I went to check my mails and bumped into Victor in the internet café. ‘Ah Barry, you have come, great, what are you thinking?’ ‘Yeah its paradise man just like you said; we are staying with the crazy Einstein fella’.

Einstein’s place turned out to be a bit of a dive and his ‘delicious’ breakfast of cold eggs and tortillas didn’t go down to well in the mornings so I found a cabana up on the hill with Victor and slept in a hammock for $3 a night. I spent my days on the beach with the locals learning to play the bongos and practising my Spanish and the nights in the bars drinking cheap beer an excellent fresh fish. At times I thought of poor Sergio and Pablo running the hostel in Oaxaca and was sure I’d made the right decision. If you go to Mexico it’s definitely worth the trek down.

By Barry O'Leary

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