Rainy day in Tapachula, Mexico That’s the river I ended up fording on the way to my “bus”. The family on the motorbike did not have the benefit of cover…
Written on October 30, 2013
When they say rainy season, they mean: bulky clouds stacked
higher than mountains, moving towards you at a frightening pace; torrential
downpours that make rivers of sidewalks and streets; a dark and ominous sky
illuminated by ever present lightning; thunder so loud it would have you think the
core of the earth has cracked open and the sky is splintering around you; wind
that comes and conquers like a herd of agitated horses.
I’m sitting at the only dry table in the open air restaurant
at Hotel Bahia del Sol, while the rain falls sideways around me, the wind
bullies bottles of ketchup and plastic chairs left in the open and bolts of
lightening thick as tree trunks strike the horizon. I can barely see our boat
through the curtain of rain, but I can see our mast head light bobbing in the
When the storm hit I called Jeff on the VHF radio at the bar
– I was barely able to hear him over the rain pounding on the metal roof.
“So I guess you won’t be coming home for dinner tonight?” He
inquired. Even if there was a five course meal and bottle of wine waiting for
me I wouldn’t dinghy across the estuary in that storm…actually, come to think
of it, I might…but that’s besides the point. I had waited too late and the
storm moved so quickly and all I had planned for dinner was left over Pupusas,
so I wasn’t in any rush. Apparently, despite how bad it looked from land, he
was sitting tight in a *mostly* dry cabin, waiting it out the best anyone can,
with a margarita and a book in hand.
We’re leaving Bahia del Sol at the end of rainy season, but
I’m not convinced we’ll know when that is exactly. Some people insist that
November 1 marks the beginning of dry season, but anyone who has spent any time
in the elements knows that weather has a complex itinerary of its own and could
care less what we put on our calendars or our forecast sites. Others have told
me that rainy season ends not with a whimper, but with a bang, the ultimate
cleanse, and this big storm might just be the grand finale. Still yet I’ve
heard that one day you just wake up and realize, “hey, it hasn’t rained in
a couple of days” and that’s when you know rainy season is over.
We’ve been watching the precip maps and the pressure maps
and the wind maps and we’re hoping to find a good weather window next week for
a 80+ mile trip to the Gulf of Fonseca. That’s
an easy overnighter…if you motor the whole way. We’ll probably try to sail,
and it will probably take us three days (you think I’m kidding).
The power just went out at the restaurant, so I’m sitting in
almost complete darkness now, refilling my cup of free coffee to try to keep
warm (yup, I’m cold). I tried commiserating with the bartenders here, but even
when we’re yelling at each other from two feet away we can’t hear, let alone
understand, what the other is saying (and I don’t want them to get the impression that I’m just the type of woman who would continue yelling at them for no reason). So we just smile and laugh and I refill my
coffee and talk to my computer.
Funny how we have these expectations of a place. I don’t
know what I thought rainy season meant, what it would feel like, but it’s
really intense and it’s quite stunning, actually. Almost every night Mother
Nature is putting on the show of her life. She slips on her tap dancing shoes
and her sequined dress and she’s shaking and shimmying and moving around the
stage, beads of sweat forming and falling from her temples, singing at the top of her lungs with such intense enthusiasm that you
can’t help but be awed, entertained and inspired, and maybe just a little bit
I find it interesting that crazy weather creates an immediate sense of community
wherever you go. When you’re trapped under an awning for 30 minutes with a
small group of people, waiting for the sky to stop dropping buckets of rain on your heads, you gasp in union at the lightning or comment on the duration and
amount of rain or laugh at how drenched you got in such a short period of time
or marvel at the antics of those still pushing, with such determination,
through the rain to reach some unknown destination. You collectively wish you’d
remembered to pack that umbrella or garbage bag in your purse.
In Tapachula I was too engrossed by my computer to notice
the healthy downpour that materialized outside the coffee shop. I told Jeff I
would be home in time for dinner, a familiar story, and it looked like the rain
was far from over. Laden with groceries and my computer bag I approached the
main drag, ducking beneath every available overhang. The streets were gushing
with water and the steps in front of Fabrica de Francesa were overflowing with
people. All waiting. Within moments, my transportation (a combi) had arrived and
without thinking I leapt into the river that moments earlier had nearly
incapacitated a taxi. The crowd gasped as my feet, then calves, disappeared
into the water.
Everyone on the combi was smiling, and laughing, and soaked
to their core. An instant community born from shared experience. Friends, if
only for the duration of the trip. Each person, hair and clothes dripping with rain
water, apologized to their neighbors, similarly wet, as they slid between them
on the crowded bench. “Public” transportation in Chiapas is not intended for those with a
refined image to uphold. If it’s hot, you’ll be sweaty, if it’s windy, you’ll
be windblown, if it’s rainy you’ll be wet – no exceptions – and there’s
something kind of beautiful about that.
On this particular day we all pointed and remarked at the
water raging through the streets, seeking the path of least resistance, the
lowest depressions where it could settle, if only temporarily, before it
exploded again in search of the next hollow. I’ve never seen anything like it.
People avoid Central America during the rainy
season, but it is something incredible to behold. An experience unto itself.