The Turtles That Bind

Good friendships that are still new, are funny in a way. You know you want to hang out with this person, you like them, but you don’t really know them yet either. You haven’t had the necessary bonding experiences just yet.

The new good friendships do have an ease about them, but not yet the familiarity. 

That’s how Ryan and I were. He was an acquaintance of mine, because he was acquainted with my boyfriend, and we all had a friend who was a roller derby girl. So we knew each other from derby and that’s pretty much it. But we always liked each other, we had that ease. 

So I was not totally surprised when he messaged one day and asked if he could visit me in Mexico. 

“Well, of course!”

As stated, the ease was no problem. It was the familiarity. I did live in a 2-bedroom apartment, I did technically have room for him, but this was no place for folks at our stage of friendship. We needed more space, at least for some of the time.

I knew of a place called Yelapa, a sweet little beach village about 45 minutes south of Vallarta, and we decided to spend half of his visit there. Beach dining, huge palapas, dog friendly, strong drinks… don’t mind if we do!

It’s a beautiful water taxi ride to Yelapa, and as we rounded the corner into the bay, Ryan had a flashback to childhood vacations with his family there. What a funny twist.

He phoned his mom to tell her where he was, and then the only thing she wanted to know was if the Pie Lady was still there. People who know Yelapa will laugh. Yes, she is. She’s still famous 30 years later, technically there isn’t just one of her, and her pies are outstanding.

Ruby loves Yelapa. <3

One day we were hanging out on the beach… probably looking for the pie lady… when we started to notice activity not too far away from us. After a little while I went over and asked what the deal was, and she told me a clutch of turtle eggs was hatching. 

Did we want to help them out of the ground?
Did we!?!

I would later come to realize what a rare experience I was given that day. Sea turtles are protected here; when a mama comes on shore to lay her eggs, you’d better back off. It is a federal offense to engage with her in any way, and the same goes for when hatchlings are emerging. The police oversee these things, the laying of the eggs and the hatching of them. If you’re in Vallarta and this is happening, and they aren’t already there, find yourself a cop and just get out of the way.

If you’re in Vallarta.

But in Yelapa, there isn’t a police force. There’s no one to call. The right person to handle it was already there, and she was inviting us to help. 

So, we birthed some turtles. Gently raking the sand with our fingers, we’d scoop baby after baby out of the ground. They just kept on coming. It was incredible. I’ll never forget it. It took about an hour to get them all out, and we saved them in a big pan full of water and sand to be released at dusk. They are so sweet and tiny, and they do flap both flippers, but sometimes not at the same time, so it looks like they are waving at you. 

Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings in Yelapa, Mexico

We set them free around sunset, to lessen the chances of them immediately becoming prey. Their fragile little turtle bodies clumsily flip-flapping their way into the sea, then finally the easy glide as the already familiar feel of the water sweeps them in. If there is anything sweeter than a hundred itty bitty turtle heads bobbing toward a sunset on the horizon, I don’t need to know about it. 

Only a couple of sea turtles per thousand ever reach adulthood, and sometimes I catch myself hoping knowing that a few of our special babies beat the odds. Just like we beat the odds, on the amazing day we got to meet them for ourselves.

*****

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