The ferry across to Topolobombo, mainland Mexico was an interesting experience! It was mainly full of truckers, who we decided must love it when they get a delivery route to or from Baja. The ferry basically had two areas to hang out in during the 6 plus hour ride, a movie theater with tight uncomfortable seats or a bar/lounge with extremely loud Rancho music. Naturally we chose the bar where we watched the truckers pound beers and sing karaoke. They all seemed to know each other and were having a great time. We made friends with a few of them, who informed us as they were stumbling off the boat that night that they were all planning to drive through the night to Mexico City or Monterrey or wherever. Well, that is an easy decision for us then… first hotel we see! Just another reason not to drive at night in Mexico! Drunk truckers!
Once in mainland and having traveled here before, we knew where we wanted to be. What we didn’t remember was how long it took to drive there. We primarily spent the next three days in a car headed south along the western coast until we reached the state of Michoacan.
We stopped off one night to camp a little south of Puerto Vallarta out of necessity, but ended up finding a pretty amazing spot. The camp was right next to an inlet and at sunset that night and then again at sunrise the next morning the cove filled up with birds dive-bombing for fish. There were hundreds of birds and each one seemed to come up with a fish each time. It was amazing I had never seen anything like it.
Michoacan is one of Mexico’s most beautiful states in my opinion. Highway 200 that we took south winds along the Pacific hugged by the state’s rugged coastline on one side and it’s green mountains on the other.
We spent a couple days at an old favorite of ours, Rio Nexpa. Nexpa, primarily a little surfing community, is a magical spot where a fresh water river runs in to the ocean creating crazy undertows but also a big strong left breaking wave. The beach is black volcanic sand and right in the middle of it is a huge pile of river rocks that were washed out to sea. With each wave that crashes on shore you can hear the loud tumbling of rocks. On our first night there we even saw a solar eclipse.
As much as we love the area and the beauty of Nexpa, the waves with their weird currents and the force behind them were too scarily strong for us. So we decided to move on after two nights there to a friendlier wave that was recommended to us by our new friends, Ewan & Kaitlin, from Australia, who are currently doing the same trip as us but on dirt bikes!
We moved down the coast to place called “The Ranch” which is essentially an empty beach with free camping. We enjoyed a day of seclusion on the beach and at having the waves all to ourselves the afternoon we arrived. However, that evening, after the wind died down, we realized why we had the place all to ourselves… the bugs were horrible! We were being eaten alive! We retreated to the camper early that evening where we hung out for the rest of the night, accept for when nature called and we had to take a brief departure from our safe haven only to notice the ground moving around us. Turns out, besides the bugs, there were thousands of hermit crabs crawling all over the beach!
We took the place for what it was worth the next day and had a great long morning of surfing followed by some adequate hammock time in the cool, bug free breeze of the afternoon, but before the sun could set we put the wheels in motion towards another spot we heard of about an hour down the road, Salidita.
Salidita lays claim to having one of the world’s longest left breaking waves. We found it to be small and slow, believe it or not, but still fun for us. We spent a couple nights in Salidita with the local ex-pat semi-retirees that seem to congregate there. On our second night we got our first rainstorm of the trip but unfortunately it only seemed to strengthen the oppressive heat that had settled in that night.
The mountain air called us the next morning and so we put away our surfboards and headed inland. On our drive that evening we saw a sign for a ruin. We went to explore, hoping we could find a place to stay near there. When we finally got to the end of the steep winding road the gate was locked to the ruin so we turned around, but because we didn’t want to get caught driving at night we decided to ask the people at this little house with lots of land if we could camp there. When we pulled in to the driveway, the whole family (grandma, grandpa, son & spouse, daughter, friends and kids) came out to greet us with smiling faces. They were very excited that we wanted to camp there and showed us through their gate to a little swimming hole they had made on the river in their backyard and then they invited us up for dinner.
Dinner started off with a catfish and iguana soup and then on to steak tacos, almost all of which was grown and made right there at their place. It was the best meal of the trip to date!
It turned out that one of the Grandparents NINE children was working and living in Hilton Head, South Carolina. When I told them I was from SC they got him on the phone and had Jed talk to him. He was ecstatic that we were seeing his family’s home and informed us that we were welcome to take every vacation there.
It was really a treat getting to spend time with this lovely family. It’s events like that where you really get to know and interact with people in their own environment that is truly one of the top reasons Jed and I love to travel.
Even though we were invited to stay, Jed and I needed to move along the next morning… but only after a great home cooked breakfast of course. Once on the road we didn’t make it very far. Only a hour in, in the capitol of Guererro, while trying to navigate our way through the tight, fast paced city littered with steep one way streets our clutch decided to stop working. Terrible thoughts of a ruined clutch or even worse a mandatory transmission rebuild ran through our heads. This was not the sort of city we wanted to hang out in while a major truck repair was done. So we limped through terrible traffic, grinding gears until we reached a hotel with internet. After ten minutes of visiting a few of our favorite Toyota blogs Jed crawled under the truck and discovered the culprit was simply a corroded hose that needed to be replaced. Thank God! Unfortunately at the time it was right in the middle of siesta and none of the garages were open. So we had to wait a couple hours, but once 4 rolled around we were in and out and back on the road in 30 minutes and only 30 dollars poorer.
The next day we made our way through the beautiful rolling mountains of Western Oaxaca to Santiago Apoalla, a place in which our travel guide had made mention of possible rock climbing. We arrived at dusk and decided to camp above the small town only getting a brief glimpse of the stunning cliffs below before nightfall. The next morning we were blown away by the beauty of this place. We spent the day exploring. We played in the 80m waterfall, hiked up along the cliffs around town, crawled through a cave and walked upriver through the tight limestone canyons, which is where we found the developed climbing. It was a great day and I was absolutely in love with this place. We decided we could spend a couple more days here climbing and playing the water. There was a gorgeous green field at the opening of the canyon and we were directed to go ask the little tourist office in town about camping there as they owned it.
This was a bad idea! We should have stayed away from this place. They at first said 100 pesos for camping which we readily agreed to, but then the guys just kept throwing more charges at us and in the end it ended up that they wanted 60 pesos each for each day we crossed in to the canyon, including the day we had just spent in there. So including the one night of camping this would have been 340 pesos. That was just ridiculous and we felt like we were being taken to the cleaners. We decided since we really wanted to climb that we would for-go the camping, sleep for free where we were the last night and then return the next morning and pay the 120 pesos to them for the day. We weren’t happy about even that, but it was at least somewhat reasonable.
Only I think we had pissed off these guys not giving them money and that evening they hiked all the way up the mountain at nightfall to tell us that we couldn’t camp there, trying to leave us no choice but to go back to the campground and pay. Instead Jed and I decided that as amazing as this place was it wasn’t worth paying $20 a day just to simply be there. This is a lot of money when you are budget traveling, so we left. It’s a shame that the “eco-tourism” group is trying to have a monopoly over the tourism in that little town.
Our next stop was planned to be in Oaxaca City for some showering, interneting and laundering of the clothes. However once again Jed and I proved to be unworthy city dwellers and were ran out of town quickly by the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the place. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because just east of the city were some wonderful little places to explore. We saw the world’s largest living organism (a massive tree), walked through 3000 year old ruins and ended our day soaking in cool mineral springs on a cliff overlooking a valley back dropped by lush mountain ranges. Not a bad day!
We finally did get a hotel the following night and got our laundry done, only not much else was done as we found a channel running Sylvester Stallone flicks in English on the TV. Now… normally six hours of Rocky and Rambo wouldn’t be so intriguing to us, but after a month of only hearing and trying to speak Spanish this was amazing!
We are currently hanging out outside of the coolest little city, San Cristobal de las Casas , we have been to yet, one that even Jed and I can handle. This will be our last stop before heading to the Guatemala border. We are taking care of some last minute things before heading into poorer countries where they will be less available. I, for instance, went to see the doctor as I have had this sharp pain in my left side come and go over the last month. I found out I have Brucelosis, a disease from eating unpasteurized cow’s milk. I am on antibiotics now that should clear it up in a month but the kicker is that I have to cut out all dairy products for at least 6 months!! Seriously, no cheese or plain greek yoghurt that I am undeniably addicted to and seek out in every big city we go through!!!
We were nervous about me having to go to the doctors in Mexico, but it actually ended up being a rather stress free, quick and inexpensive experience. There was a nurse at the hospital who took me under her wing and translated for me during my initial consultation with the doctor and during my blood test and then again in only an hour in half when I returned for my results analysis with the doctor. The doctor was very knowledgeable, professional and answered all my questions I had about the disease and my medications. The best part was the whole thing including doctor visit, blood test and prescriptions cost me less than $85. The nurse and doctor even gave me their number and told me to call them at any time if I have any more questions. If I had found out the same information at a hospital in the USA could you imagine how much it would have cost me??? I couldn’t even walk through a doctor’s door for $85. Come on USA, let’s get it together here!!!
Immediate future plans have us crossing the border in to Guatemala at La Mesilla and then heading down to Lake Atitlan for some well called for Spanish lessons. Maybe our next post will be written in Spanish…