Bahia del Sol, our temporary home, is calm and peaceful but not much on markets and grocery shopping opportunities. We came back to a boat still pretty well filled with dry goods but without any fresh produce. We asked around for where to find some fruits and veg and the consensus seemed to be the market in the small town of La Herradura, a few miles up the estuary by dinghy.
I’m not sure how I did it, but I managed to convince Jack to get up early Saturday morning so we could make the trek before the brutal sun got too high in the sky.
It was a lovely ride up the calm waters and we kept to the left as advised to avoid the shallows. Even so, as we rounded the last bend and a Joseph Conrad vision came into view the outboard bumped gently on the silted bottom.
It was low tide and the egrets were standing knee deep not too far from us. Jack lifted the engine to shallow mode and we putted toward two young men gesturing from the concrete wharf. They took our painter and eased the dinghy close enough that I could climb over the bow onto the mucky bottom step, then passed our shopping bag to me before offering Jack a hand.
We left the dinghy with them and climbed the steps to the dusty road, then crawled into a tuc-tuc, a three-wheeled taxi, and careened through the streets narrowly avoiding collisions with people and other vehicles and once nearly tipping over when we hit a pothole.
I was digging in my pocket for change to pay the fare when a $1 coin leaped out of my hand and into the street. The driver veered to a stop so I could jump out and retrieve it because you don’t say goodbye to a buck that easily here. I was having trouble finding the coin in the dirt until two men sitting in a nearby doorway guided me to where it had landed, and I waved my thanks and ran back to the tuc-tuc.
The driver stopped in front of a little supermarket but we told him we wanted the mercado and he drove a little further to a stone archway clogged with bicycles, shoppers and vendors. We paid our 25 cent fare and eased our way into the throng.
I instantly broke into a grin. Plunk me down in a market anywhere in the world and I’m happy. This market has nearly everything, from produce and meat and fish to shoes and underwear and school supplies and pharmacy items. The narrow alley was punctuated here and there with street food vendors cooking on portable flat tops or griddles, and the closeness, noise and colors were a sensory assault.
I turned to look at Jack and he was clearly a bit overwhelmed by the intensity. Ha! I thought. He should see the market in Palermo, Sicily. It’s this on eleven, with hawkers singing out at every turn. Here in La Herradura, the vendors were mostly low key until I showed interest and then they stepped right up and helped me select what I wanted.
We filled our bags with onions and bananas and broccoli and papayas, cilantro and strawberries and potatoes and peppers. I could easily have bought more but I have a tendency to overbuy local produce and this stuff is not treated with whatever the US spritzes all over the food to make it last longer. I’m learning to buy only what we can eat in the next few days to avoid having to jettison rotting veg.
We were the only foreigners I noticed in the whole of the village and yet I never felt out of place. In fact I’ve felt more alien in parts of Appalachia or the bayous of Louisiana where locals will stop cold and stare at any stranger who happens by until you’re out of sight. Here our every smile and greeting is answered with the same and we only wish we could transplant some better Spanish into our brains so we’d have an easier time communicating but the local dialect wreaks havoc with our meager vocabulary and we end up resorting to sign language more often than not.
After we left the market we made a quick reconnaissance trip through the grocery store and added a few things to our bags, then crawled into a tuc-tuc to bounce our way back to the town wharf. Our dinghy watchers saw us coming and while one took our bags the other weaseled the dink close enough for us the climb in, this time from a higher step since the tide was coming in. We gave them a couple of bucks and eased into the estuary for the ride home.
We were back aboard EV by 9:30. Coffee time.