Tom woke up determined to go see the Cliff Divers: it’s our last chance, as we’re leaving Acapulco tomorrow.
He drags me off the boat earlier than usual: by 9:30 we’re already in the Marina office, paying our dues for dinghy babysitting. There we meet Isabelle and Magnus -crew of the sailboat Nanna who arrived last night- and their friend Karl, visiting from Sweden.
We all pretty much have the same goal in mind –seeing some more of Acapulco-, so we all take a bus to the town center together. Another one of those colorful buses, this one playing ear-splitting rap music… We can’t wait to get off this giant music box.
The Plaza is nice and welcoming, with lots of Banyan Trees providing shelter from the blazing sun. I’m told some of them are 185 years old, very impressive. The San Felipe Cathedral sits majestically at the corner of the Plaza.
This information and much more is provided by local gentlemen employed by the City to provide assistance to visiting tourists.
These really nice guys, all English speaking, are milling around the Plaza and when they spot a tourist (we are VERY recognizable!) they zoom in, introduce themselves and supply all sorts of useful information.
We end up with Senor Julio and Senor Issi (the latter emphatically insisting on being called Easy).
Our group splits for about a half hour to go run errands: Tom and I are looking for a bank to exchange Pesos for US Dollars, the rest of the group going to a travel agency.
Easy becomes our shadow: “You need US Dollars? I have a friend who can help!” he says, and walks us to a nearby pet store. Tom and I look at each other, puzzled and a little suspicious. Is this even legal? Tom very politely insists we need a bank, so Mr. Easy – shaking his head – walks with us to the closest bank. As it turns out, this bank doesn’t do currency exchange, so off we go in search of another one. Luckily, there’s a larger bank just less than a mile away. Yes, they do exchange currency, but also need a passport from us in order to do so… And we didn’t think to bring one!
So, back to the pet store we go… Senor Luis, the owner, has about 500 USD he’s more than happy to exchange at the current rate. He doesn’t look shady at all, but we complete the transaction feeling somewhat uneasy. Did we just help launder money?
We later learn that most shops in town do business in both currencies and it’s not uncommon for tourists to exchange their money in any store. Ok, I feel a little better…
We reunite with the rest of the group, planning to go see La Quebrada Cliffs where the divers take their plunge multiple times a day.
This time Senor Julio guides our small group through center town and up a steep hill. It’s quite a long walk, and by the time we reach the top of the hill we’re all sweating and heaving. Ok, well, maybe not all of us, maybe just me…
We have about 40 minutes before the next dive show at 1 pm. Senor Julio insists we stop at the new jeweler’s store atop the hill where, he says, they’ll offer us refreshment just to walk in and visit their store.
Ok, tourist trap. We fall into it, happily so. Sure enough, the first words spoken to us were:” Hello, welcome, would you like a beer, a Coke, some wine?” How odd! But we all gratefully accept their offer.
It’s a very pleasant experience, browsing gorgeous jewelry while sipping a cold Diet Coke in an air-conditioned shop!
We spend quite some time in there and I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I exit the store with a Mexican Fire Opal ring on my finger… I’m not a jewelry kind of gal, but I have a weakness for this particular stone that changes color and sparkles in the sunlight. Besides, Tom insisted so much (really, Tom, twist my arm!)…
We make our way to the viewing spot, in a few minutes the Cliff Divers will do their thing. It is a fully blown touristic operation, no question about that.
The “La Quebrada Cliff Divers” are a group of professional high divers.They perform daily shows for the public, which involve diving 125 ft (35 metres) from the cliffs of La Quebrada into the sea below. Apparently, there’s much more to it than just throwing yourself in the water… These guys have to know what they’re doing!
The depth of water in the “Gulch” can vary from 6 to 16 feet depending on the waves, with an average depth of 12 feet. During the night, they often hold torches while diving. The ritual starts with them climbing the cliffs (!) from water level up to their diving place.
Once up there they stand or kneel in front of two statuettes of the Virgin of Guadalupe, offering a silent prayer for protection. After crossing themselves, they assume their positions and start concentrating on the wave action in the waters below.
It’s a very steep plunge into a very narrow channel with churning water. Needless to say, timing is crucial. They carefully study the water at length, taking all the time they need before diving.
There are different styles: some dive head first, others twist and turn in the air before reaching the water.
Three divers go solo, one at a time; then, as the Gran Finale, we get two synchronized divers performing some acrobatics before disappearing into the waves.
Spectacular! Everyone present holds their breath until the divers’ heads pop out of the water; then it’s a long, loud round of applause and cheering.
These guys hold Rock Star status: their picture is for sale and they sign autographs, there’s also a fee to take your picture with them. Hey, I would milk it for all it’s worth, too, if I had to jump down that cliff!!!
We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are now ready to make our way back to center town for a late lunch. Senor Julio magically reappears to guide us. It feels a little like having your own bodyguard! I’m not sure I like, but Tom is squeezing every last drop of information from him. To his credit, he directs us to a restaurant where we finally sit down to enjoy a tasty, inexpensive and satisfying meal.
Maybe it’s the long walk, maybe it’s the after-meal, food-induced coma, but we’re all ready to go take a siesta.
Tom and I jump on yet another crazy bus and return to the Marina and finally to our floating refuge, the ever-welcoming Camelot.
The whole day has gone by in a blink and we’re exhausted, but glad we did it all. Tomorrow we’ll leave Acapulco, satisfied that we’ve seen all we came here to see.