Living a short walk from the beach was an 11 year old's dream. The town of Zihuatanejo was 3 miles from Playa de la Ropa by dirt road. In 1966 I walked that distance to school in "Z" each morning and back each afternoon. For amusement I would mimic the calls of the exuberantly happy wild songbirds who serenaded my journey. When I would get home from school, as I descended the path from dirt road to rent house, I'd give a loud Tarzan yodel at the "obreros" who seemed to always be constructing the Las Brisas hotel. The Brisas was straight across the ravine from our rent bungalow. The workers would always Tarzan yell back cheerfully.
Once I was in the door, school clothes would land haphazardly on the floor unless Grandma Tessa was witness. If she was they would be haphazardly folded on the bed. A quick snack while I wriggled into my swim trunks and grabbed my mask and I would descend the concrete steps to the beach. The diving mask was my only piece of equipment for skin diving by choice. Our end of the long Playa de la Ropa beach was host to a long narrow rock outcropping that was an endless source of adventure and discovery for me. I was a strong swimmer and my grandparents allowed me the freedom to make the rock formation my playground. No snorkel or flippers for me, they just got in the way. I would swim to the familiar rocks and climb and dive, climb and dive. Parrot fish and an endless array of other colorful aquatic natives were my playmates. Once I spotted an octopus about the size of my forearm under a rock. I grabbed him (or her). It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Until, that is, the squishy mollusc lovingly wrapped his tentacles around my wrist while still firmly wedged into the rocks. I managed to rip my arm free in time but wore my suction cup marks like war wounds. Can't buy a better story than that in grade school.
One of my most vivid memories from that year was of a magical nighttime swim with Grandma Tessa. There was an algae in the water on our beach that turned the breakers into "neon lights". Bioluminescent algae it is called. This was amazing enough but swimming in it at night was other worldly. Sweep your arm just beneath the surface and it would leave behind a trail of "sparks". Every motion set off the bioluminescent sparks.