We woke up, hungover as usual, on the third or fourth day in surfing in Troncones Mexico, but not the crippling hangover that keeps you in bed all day just the light grip on the brain that lets you know you got into it a little.
But you know you had made the right decision not to get the mezcal.
This wasn’t the mezcal that now can be found in hip cocktails and tasting rooms up north.
This was mezcal that came in a recycled Coke bottle with an index card taped to it that simply said ‘Mezcal $1.50’. It wasn’t that kind of hangover because we had ambitions for the day beyond making the headache stop or our vision come back.
I guess we had learned a thing or two over the years.
The trip had been everything we were looking for up to this point, a refreshing mix of fishing and surfing and drinking tequila and eating ceviche from the back of fisherman’s beater pick up trucks on the side of the road and saying things like ‘hang a leche at the intersection’.
The afternoons were generally relegated to tequila and enjoying the zoned-out exhaustion you get from your morning investment in energy expenditure.
This morning didn’t feel any different, and why should it, the routine was dialed to perfection. And things don’t change in Mexico if you don’t really want them to.
I wandered lazily into the open-air breakfast area, a palapa-covered patio with few tables and a simple kitchen where amazing food was produced since the ingredients were fresh.
The night before, the women who ran the place with complete authority cooked up the fish we caught that day.
We had caught so many that we couldn’t take them all and knew that the fisherman would be able to sell them off to a hotel somewhere, although they didn’t seem to care much either way.
Where is Everyone?
It took me a few moments to notice that something was different this morning, that the routine was off, the energy, different.
The slow but purposeful energy of the staff getting to work was absent – no quiet sweeping of the patio, no low sizzle of ham and eggs on the skillet, no aroma of onion or cumin as the arroz was prepared.
I noticed these things right after I noticed that no coffee had been made.
I hadn’t even thought to look at the time, so maybe I was just early, waking with the dawn despite the tequila since we were barely making it to nightfall each evening, sleeping and waking with the sun instead. Maybe I was just too early for breakfast.
This actually happens to surfers a lot when they travel, being up for dawn patrol sessions, walking around empty resorts, returning to a patio full of people just waking up for their day when we’ve already been out in the water for hours.
So it wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary, although I could tell by the light of the morning that I wasn’t really that early. After all, the sun was up a little, it wasn’t completely dark out.
Weird, I thought as I slowly awoke further, the fuzzy edges pushing further to the recesses of my mind.
So I started making coffee, encroaching on the women’s world where no one would go during the day – their kitchen, their space.
I figured people would slowly begin to show up like zombies and having the coffee going is always a small little token of community, a gift to all of those others who will soon come behind you.
As my head began to clear and I sat with my coffee watching the surf pound the rocks out in front of our casita I reflected on my sleep, on passing out, on how late was it and the empty tequila bottle on our patio and the sunset and drinking with a couple of other surfers, brothers from Carlsbad who were younger than us and took their tequila drinking less seriously, who were staying at the place.
I also began to recall waking up in the night with a strange startle – a dream or a shake or was it just looking for agua for my cottonmouth.
Why was the place so quiet today, so empty?
Why did I need to put the coffee on when it clearly wasn’t that early?
What was that waking in the night that is beginning to seem more important, more consequential, and less like all the other times in all the other nights that you awake for a dream or a drink or to go take a piss.
Staring at the surf as the sun continued to rise, a feeling was growing in me that something had happened, but I couldn’t quite cut through the fog to put my finger on it. More coffee would help, so I made my way back to the kitchen.
Terremoto Means Earthquake in Spanish
Local workers were beginning to arrive, ladies in the kitchen could not abandon their posts any longer, spurred on less by duty or pay than by the idea of some gringo invading their space.
‘Buenos dias, que tal?’ We greeted each other. ‘Desayuno?’
‘Si, gracias. Es tarde, no?’ I asked.
‘Lo siento. Terremoto… tsunami…’ She laughed and rattled off some sentences that were beyond my Spanish ability to keep up.
There was an earthquake last night. That was the shake, the strange awakening in the night that couldn’t be placed in the haze of sleep and tequila.
The workers had all headed for the hills for fear of tsunami while us gringos slept just feet above the high tide line and made our own coffee and pondered what was different today.
But nothing was different – smells and sounds began to creep into the day.
The soft sound of sweeping the patio, the aromas of breakfast being prepared, the light chatter of the ladies working in the kitchen.
Because nothing changes in Mexico, as long as the tsunami doesn’t come.