Gladly we go to our beach house every 2 weeks or so. The black sand used to bother me. It gets hot so fast and it’s rough to the touch. The tide here on the side of the Pacific Ocean is very strong and, depending on what part of the beach you go to, it can be too strong to enjoy. This is especially true if you are traveling with small children, as we do.
When I was a small child I remember coming to this beach a few times to a place called Likín. It was one of the nicer places in the area. It had a clean restaurant and hotel. My parents were, for more reasons than one, very afraid of the tide in this ocean. My older sisters and brother had nearly drowned trying to swim out past the breakers. So, my memories were of scorching heat and hot, black, volcanic sand. Not many happy thoughts to cherish of the beach.
Things have changed a lot since then. When we come out as a family now, we find extremely enjoyable beaches further down the coast. The sand is still black and hot but it doesn’t bother me at all! The breeze is deliciously filled with the typical salty aroma and the sun is perfectly warm and bronzing.
The area past the town of Monterico has beautiful beaches and less and less houses and developments. The houses that we do encounter are usually larger and further apart from each other. The beaches we find have a wonderful combination of shallow water where the children can safely play and the rough tide that so characterizes this Guatemalan coast.
Enjoyable as the beach can be, it is not all there is to see!
Do you ever wonder where natural loofahs come from? You guessed it!
Honestly, being a bit of a city girl, I had no idea where they came from. When my husband and I started driving further down the coastal road, I realized that one of the main agricultural products from the region were these natural loofahs or pashte (p˘osht˘e) they are called in Spanish.
Pashte actually grows as a vine which requires a sort of palisade (as you see in this picture) so that when the actual fruit grows, it can hang through it.
After it has been harvested, the pashte needs to be laid out to dry. Usually the vines are completely cut down and the pashte is hung out on wires to dry.
In this hot area of the country, there is no problem with the sun drying the loofahs enough. After the drying process they are piled onto trucks and taken to the city for cutting, packaging and sale.
I bought one of the un-cut loofahs on one of my trips down to the coast. It cost me around $3.00 and it measured about a meter long! I had it in my bathroom for a long time and it never went bad or grew mold. How much does one pay for these in a store?
Another one of my fascinations when we drive down this coast is the Jamaican Rose plant or Rosa de Jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Although its consumption is very popular as tea or as a cold drink, I had no idea how it grew or what it looked like in nature.
You didn’t either? Well, here you go!
It grows wild as a red bush, in this case, right on the side of the road. I couldn’t resist and had to try chewing it raw. I loved it’s bitter and fruity taste! The refined sugar mixed into it when drinking it as tea or a cold drink, somehow dulls the taste. My kids weren’t so sure. See for yourself.
In any case, I loved it.
The Jamaican Rose is said to have healing properties. It has been known to have a diuretic effect, a slightly laxative effect and even has been known to act as a chemopreventive ( agent that reverses, suppresses or prevents carcinogenic progression to invasive cancer). Well! No wonder the doctors advised my daughter to drink lots of it during her chemo treatments! Of course now, she can’t get near it. Hence the face in the previous picture!
In conclusion, the trips to the Guatemalan Pacific Coast have really changed for me. Despite the mosquito hour and the black sand (which now I consider so exotic), I look forward to every trip and I am never disappointed. Just last December we watched baby sting rays surfing the small waves in groups, and we also participated in freeing baby turtles into the ocean…but that is another story.