Mon. Feb. 20: Early in the morning, Manzanillo buzzes with traffic and people off to work or school. Rosaleen, John and I bump sleepily along in the bus, headed for Centro at 7 a.m. Our mission is to climb the mountain above the city, where a cross towers over the rooftops, facing our condo unit and gleaming at night.
When we get into Centro, we walk past the Colonial Hotel and turn right at the Pharmacia Gualadajara. Two short blocks away, we head up the narrow stairs, some of the steps high, some slanted and small. We are threading our way through homes built into the sides of the mountain. John has packed for us: water, Gatoraid, and towels for the sweat. Luckily it’s a slightly cooler day, the sun hidden a bit by early clouds, a lovely breeze tickling the hills.
The houses are like colored blocks piled on top of one another, roofs and balconies touching, curving around rock and trees. A water system trickles down the pipes at our feet. Each home is not at all fancy. We can see into some of them, simple furniture and tiny rooms, babies and mothers, older women, a few men. Fiercely barking dogs are perfect protection. Red, green, white, orange clay brick tiles, wooden, brick and plaster. But the view they have from their porches is overwhelming. The sea, the harbour, the hills, the rest of the city laid at their feet. The fool upon the hill…the eyes in his head see the world spinning round...
I am breathless and feel as though my heart might explode when we finish the stairs. John tells me this is the worst part, a line I’ve heard before. We emerge onto a cobble stone roadway and admire the view for a while. This becomes my mantra for resting when I can’t go any further: now, that’s a beautiful view.
I stare at the narrow rocky path that we must climb and wonder how I’ll do it. Mostly crawling, it turns out. I make my way up by testing with one foot, grabbing rocks with one hand, leaning forward to propel my body upward. Very often I pant: now, that’s a beautiful view. Slowly, literally hand over fist, we make it up the hillside.
Huge cacti, enormous evergreens, palms and bushes cover the mountain in green, while colorful flowers fill up the senses with red and white and yellow. Geckoes skirt our clumsy footsteps and clack at us in disapproval. An older man flies by with weights in his hands, passing us on his way up, passing us in the same direction as he goes back down again. John says the man does calisthenics at the cross before heading back, too. I am a little slower than he is, obviously. I may not do the calisthenics either.
When we finally emerge at the top, I experience one of those sensations that sends goose bumps up and down my arms. The view is spectacular. We get a 350º panorama of the Manzanillo harbour and the Pacific Ocean beyond. We can even see our house from here! (The one in Las Brisas, that is.)
I am blown away by the perspective that we get from here, just as everyone who’s been up here before me suggested. You can see the mountain ranges and waterways that surround our large inlet. You can follow the ships and watch as they dock in the port. You can see the line of the beach all around Manzanillo Bay. You can see the harbour as it expands and develops. You can watch the currents flow through the ocean beyond. I’m so glad Rosaleen and John brought their cameras.
I have a moment where I am so very grateful that I have been able to experience this. Two years ago, I was far too out of shape to even contemplate the climb. One year ago, I was too tired, a result of breast cancer surgery and radiation. Here I am, a year beyond that, viewing this gorgeous scenery. I am so very fortunate.
We make our way down very slowly, ensuring good footing, careful not to slip on the loose gravel. John goes in front, clearing some of the pathway, giving me a shoulder when I need one to lean on to get down a steeper slope. Rosaleen traverses the ground far more steadily and confidently.
When we get home, we bring churros for everyone (sweet pastry fried in oil). Vince has made us a fabulous breakfast. Maire declares it the best meal she’s had yet.