The next morning, with a tsunami alert in place, we rented motorbikes and headed into the highlands in search of waterfalls. What we thought would be an easy half hour drive to reach Cascadas de Magicas turned into the moped equivalent of the Dakar Rally, doubled up on tinnie bikes hurtling off road through the mountains.
It was worth it. We were able to clamber up through the layered waterfall, using rickety ropes installed to prevent people from being washed away. The highest section that we could reach offered privacy from the packs of tequila affected tourists who crowded the lower areas. We sat beneath the cascading water, sipping beers we’d carried tediously across the rock pools and reflected on just how excellent our decision to visit Mexico was. How lucky we were to not have been hit by a tsunami and just how fortunate we felt to have survived through an earthquake. A hundred kilometres south, in the area surround Salina Cruz, buildings had collapsed, roads had closed and more than 60 people were dead.
When we made it back to the low-lying city of Huatulco that afternoon, we shuffled rapidly into a bar to celebrate our tsunami avoidance efforts with too much tequila and corn chips with guacamole. Quickly the tensions built up by the earthquake surfaced, Mitzi and I barking at each other over the table at my decision to not tell them about the impending tsunami the night previous. Eventually Mitzi was in tears and Nick whisked her away, leaving Fab and myself on a reckless rampage around the small city until the sun was creeping over the horizon and we were wasted and tired in a taxi heading back to Barra.
The next morning the others were gone, Fab and I left in sweat pools in our room, my hangover sufficient punishment for my erratic behaviour and reminding me that I needed to pull myself together. Fab and I were on the rocks. Traveling with other people proved a severe adjustment for me and keeping promises made in months before when I was entangled in the dome of infatuation that covered our caravan, was proving very difficult. I needed out. I need to move weightlessly throughout the world. I craved a seamless removal from my attachments so I continue to slip unnoticed in and out of the space occupied by foreign lands.
We followed the others north by bus and water taxi, ending up on a remote beach, swimming in the glowing phosphorescent water of a lake that cut the village of Chacahua off from the rest of the world. Mitzi didn’t say a word and neither did I. Both of us too stubborn to make up, leaving blank space between us on the last days of our trip together. Soon they were gone again, this time en route back to Australia, Fab and I heading north toward Puerto Vallarta.
We got the afternoon bus and ended up having to stay the night in the bustling city of Acapulco. Puerto Vallarta was a 14 hour bus ride along the coast and we missed our connection from the city. It was raining, hard, dribbles of water sliding under the door of our cheap hotel room and showing no sign of stopping in the impending hours. By morning it was still raining, fat drops gushing into the gutters and filling up the crowded streets. We then heard it was a hurricane heading our way, Max forecast to make landfall over Acapulco at dusk. We boarded a bus while it was still raining and before the storm could cross the coast, splaying ourselves over the seats of our coach for hours upon hours until we were delivered to the side of a highway somewhere outside if Puerto Vallarta in the blaring afternoon sunlight. Finally, we had made it.
We spent that weekend arguing in our rented room in the quaint beachside town of Sayulita. The streets were busy with tanned middle-aged women with fake breasts and fat kids on Segways nervously skippering golf carts. The beach was tinged with brown and packed with umbrellas and men holding coconuts. To the south mansions stacked into the dense greenery of a headland and to the south the marks of humans rapidly dissipated into an empty black sand beach. It was relentlessly hot. We argued in the afternoons and while we sat at the dinner table over cocktails. We confessed our sins and I came to realise that this really was the end.
We travelled inland back to Mexico City and flew out to Los Angeles. Ten minutes after we departed a 7.5 magnitude earthquake pounded the city, trapping kids in schools, crushing homes, closing the airport and killing hundreds.
We landed in LA and Fab flew out that night. Tears welled in the corners of my eyes as we said our goodbyes in a carpark in Beverley Hills. He tried to make me promise things I could never deliver in those last seconds before his Uber got tired of waiting and I cried because I knew that we were done. I cried because I didn’t know when I would see him again. Because everything I had imagined for myself seemed like a different life. In some way, the status quo felt like it had been restored. I was once again, utterly free.
Four days later I was on a flight to Canada, in search of the great unknown.