If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, here’s a short list of words and phrases to know before you go: agua, por favor, gracias, si, and cocodrilo. The last one is probably unfamiliar to you, but believe me, it’s important. Practice recognizing it when a native Spanish speaker is yelling it to you as a warning.
After our third day of complete lethargy, Dan and I decided to leave the resort and go on an outing to explore the nearby towns of Ixtapa and Zihatanejo (Zihua). It was stinking hot and muggy, and by the time we got to the beach in Zihua, I was running down the sand, talking off my shoes, and rolling up my pant legs in one motion. The water felt refreshing and cool on my sun scorched body, and I didn’t care that I was one of the only people in the water. I only cared that I saw ocean, and it could cool me down.
Shortly after I began wading around in the water, a short Mexican man ran up to a child in the water near me and pulled him out, yelling at him and pointing at the beach.
He then turned to me and began speaking Spanish faster than I’ve ever heard any one speak it before. I stared at him blankly and said, “Americana…No sé.” (loose translation: I’m a stupid American and I have no clue what you’re telling me”). He slowed down his language and spoke very emphatically.
More blank stares.
He decided that hand gestures were the best way to communicate with me. He pointed at the water, then he spread his hands very wide, then he pointed to the water again.
In the back of my head, I started to hear a vaguely familiar tune. “Dah Dum….Dah Dum…”
There’s no way a Shark would come in this shallow.
The man was becoming impatient. He kept pointing out to the water, more hand jestures, sweeping motions this time.
Maybe he was talking about the undertow. I’d read in my guidebook that it was especially nasty in these parts. Maybe he’s just warning me that I could get sucked out to sea. That must be it. Cocodrilo must mean undertow.
“Si, gracias! I’ll be careful.”
He looked at me skeptically but left me alone.
A few moments later, a large shape surfaced out of the water about 20 feet away from me. It was about 6 feet long and very dark colored.
I don’t think I’ve run that fast in a long time. I stood on the beach next to the Mexican man, who was now chuckling.
“Pescados grandes?” (Big fish?) I said. My Spanish vocabulary is limited to things I can order off a restaurant menu.
He grimaced a little and didn’t say anything. The creature kept swimming closer to shore but was headed further away down the beach. A crowd was now gathered to watch it.
As it got closer, I realized the meaning of cocodrilo: “crocodile.”
After our first croc sighting, there were many more. These crocs lived near our hotel in a swamp that led directly onto our beach. We kept a close watch for them ever since my close encounter in Zihua.
For those golfers among you, Ixtapa has some great golfing, as long as you don’t mind a few croc hazards here and there.