Published: January 30th 2006January 24th 2006
Colourful pinatas stall
These pinatas can come in any form. They are made out of paper mache, are hollow and filed with sweets. The children beat them with sticks until they break and release the treats.
As well as the traditional ones, some are Bart Simpson, footballs, Snoopy etc
Or it’s a long way to go to avoid turkey!
Our transition to Mexico began the first night; we camped at Nogales, USA side and immediately sensed a difference
There was a Mexican Christmas fiesta in progress, hey Macerena was playing loudly, Kids were kicking up the autumn leaves in 70 F sunshine. Santa was handing out gifts, a very loud disco (Mexican norm we soon realised) commenced; we began to feel almost festive.
The most reoccurring piece of advice we kept reading for Mexico was, do not travel in the dark, so with this in mind, we started early so we could cross the border in good time
Once we had packed the satellite navigation “Susan” away, it was time to return to maps & books.
My plan is to keep the sea on the right and we can’t go wrong.
So, clutching written instructions, we head to the border, to experience our first documentation challenge.
We made an excellent start as we found ourselves heading north into the USA, a
U- Turn quickly rectified that and we headed back into the sun.
Before we knew it we had almost crossed the border into
This is how to speedily cook a large turkey. 45 minutes and 2 beers, its done.
Mexico. A rapid stop and another u- turn back to the US to search for immigration, we had to hand in our I 94. Visa cards. Without submitting these we would not be registered as having left the US and therefore would be considered in violation of our visa
Not as easy as you would think. We could not park the rig so, as Graeme loitered in the road I had to chase the immigration people, who were busy chasing incoming Mexicans around the car park, Eventually I found someone who appeared a little interested in taking our cards, I last saw them being put in her pocket………
Hope they let us back in……..
Our entry into Mexico went smoothly. The paper work to temporarily import our “Casa Rodante” (rolling house) into Mexico was completed within an hour or so and then, off we went again. Within a few miles we were greeted by the sight of a dead horse lying on the road. Spot the difference; now we understand why most Americans won’t come here, there was no hard shoulder for it to lie on!
Our first long journey was relatively uneventful; the roads were good and
traffic quite light. We quickly learned to anticipate the Topes, (sleeping policeman) they are not always well signposted and can occur just about anywhere, but an excellent clue is when you spot a crowd of people, apparently in the middle of nowhere selling their goods. Everyone has to slow down or risk destroying their vehicle; it is a great opportunity for the locals to sell you juice, shrimps, fruit, father Christmases or whatever.
We reached our first nights stop well before dark (mission accomplished). The site was opposite the ocean, we spotted a bar with a beautiful view, so set up house, went for a quick drink, made the mistake of having more than one Mexican strength Margarita, ……… swift end to first day.
Although we didn’t really mind where we spent Christmas we thought it might be nice to settle somewhere for the festive season and decided to head for Mazatlan. Little did we know we would meet such nice people and that one day would swiftly lead to another and another…….
On arrival we were greeted by Randy & Martha who invited us to join them and their friends for Christmas dinner, down by
Xmas day sunset
I know, another one, but there is always a sunset.
The Rigs in the park were decorated, some quite elaborately with lights and trees so, not to be left out, we put our Santa hats and bows on the rig and settled in.
On the 25th, thanks to our personal postman Sue, we had cards and some presents to open, which was really nice. We thought of you all at home and went off for a walk on the beach
Christmas lunch was a deep fried turkey with all the trimmings, I took a little bit of England and supplied Yorkshire pudding and stuffing.
Now we had driven a long way to avoid having turkey but is this the way to do it! I can strongly recommend it. How many of us have spent hours, steaming up the kitchen waiting for the thing to cook? This way took 45 minutes and it was done perfectly. I can foresee problems though if you were trying to do it on a rainy day in England.
Now, each day we planned to leave and head off to pastures new but we quickly slipped into an exhausting daily regime. Breakfast outside, walk or cycle, lunch, afternoon couple of hours
Holding up the bar!
After a long days drive the effect of a couple of marguritas, mexican strength
on the beach, sundowners, supper and PM drinks. To complete one task a day became a real achievement. You didn’t even have to go shopping as the vegetable man and shrimp man came to the campsite. What more can you want?
Now, these nice people we mentioned, nearly all of them were Canadian. We spent a good few pleasant days & nights hearing of all the eastern parts of Canada we should go & visit, as it is so beautiful. The interesting thing though, is that all the Canadians are here, in the sun………. what does that tell you? That it’s not so good in the winter I think.
We would love to return to Canada and so from these discussions a new plan was hatched, the idea that we could ship the rig home from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We also learned that the slogan “Drink Canada dry” is probably the nation’s motto…..
(Just joking, if you’re reading this chaps)
Anyway, suddenly we found it was nearly New Year and we were invited to join in a “moose milk and chowder" party
Unable to resist the experience of a Canadian new year in Mexico we booked
Graeme xmas morning
Note our new house pet, courtesy of Trish
in for a few more days……. again. We could see our leisurely journey to meet Trish & Neal getting faster & faster. Well we have done 750 of the 3,750 miles.
Moose Milk we discovered is a healthy invigorating drink consisting of milk, ice cream and Barcardi….! Graeme needed to taste a few before he decided if he liked it or not. Once decided, he had a few more. He then spent all afternoon on the beach, talking….. and crashed at 9.00pm and slept for 12 hours. A satisfactory sort of New Year’s Day.
10 days later ……….. We really, really had to leave, so we swapped addresses & email with our new found friends (Thanks chaps for a great time and watch out, we may visit you in Canada) and headed off into the highlands to visit Guadalajara.
The drive to Guadalajara was absolutely beautiful. The pacific coast has 8 different types of vegetation zones. As we left the coast and drove up through the mountains, we watched the landscape change from savannah and mangroves to thorn forest and then tropical forest. At one point we drove past fields and fields of the blue agave plant,
G raeme in office
We could get wireless connection from this palapa, and here we discovered Skype and were able to phone home. However almost no connection since.
maguey from which tequila is distilled.
All this beauty & peace was shattered as we hit the smog bound frantic suburbs of Guadalajare.
Due to heavy traffic we broke the rule and arrived in the dark. It was probably one of the worst places to do this, the turning was off a main slipway into an unmade lane, we had to pull wide to turn, therefore giving the locals an opportunity to squeeze past on the inside as well as out. Luckily a friendly police car blocked the way for us.
As it was pitch black, we could not see to find a site so a friendly local knocked up a resident from their rig to show us where to park.
City RV sites are not usually so good, so how delighted were we to find our destination was a hidden oasis, half mile up a lane, with beautiful lush tropical gardens ,but with no night time lighting, so in the morning we were very pleased to note we were perfectly placed.
We are always picking up information from fellow travellers. One couple we met (in the hot springs pool) said we must go to a
Moose milk party
Graeme in deep and serious discussion with Martha after several Moose milk drinks.
place called Maruata.
We looked for it on the map and it was on our route so we decided that we would try and stop there.
This area of coast is known as the Costa Grande, it is one of the most beautiful coastlines we have seen. It is mountainous, sparsely populated and has miles of deserted tropical coastline fringed with thousands of coconut palms and lush vegetation, with colourful bird and wildlife. . It reminded us very much of India or Thailand
My only complaint is there are no stopping places along the narrow windy roads to stop and admire the views. So Graeme, with eyes glued to the road, had to endure a descriptive narrative of the scenery.
Without our clear instructions we would have passed Maruata by and missed one of the best experiences of the trip so far.
Whilst deciding how best to find out if we would fit down the small track we saw a smaller RV go the same way. So I walked along to find out what they knew. Aaron, who spoke fair Spanish, was asking some policemen, who were lounging under a thatched palapa (their police station) the way and
The perfect way to do the shopping. There was also a shrimp man, who would even peel them for you.!
was told to turn around and go down the airstrip! So we followed.
Instead of being in the village we found ourselves on a derelict airstrip, (we hoped, you never can tell here) by a marine camp, next to the turtle sanctuary. It was a perfect spot, safe, secluded and interesting, what more could you want. We asked if it was OK to stay on the airstrip, the Marines said “si”
This beach used to be infamous for the slaughter of nesting turtles, now it is a turtle sanctuary organised by the local community who have pledged to “protect and preserve local wildlife and habitat into the 21st century and beyond” The men, as far as possible, watch where the eggs are laid, then remove them and rebury them under netting so they can monitor the hatching of the eggs.
We had the most wonderful few days. The first night, we watched the baby turtles hatch, helped collect and count them, than helped release them into the sea.
At one point a huge wave crashed around our feet and washed all the little turtles, which had so nearly made it to the ocean, back up the beach. As
We left the coast and drove into the mountians to Guadalajara. The road crossed many rivers, It was beautiful scenery
the wave receded they were swirling around our feet. It is a criminal offence to kill any turtle so we were extremely careful where we trod.
Walking on the beach early next morning, I saw tracks leading to several large holes in the sand. These were adult turtle tracks; they come to the beach each evening to lay their eggs
That night, walking down the beach we heard digging in the sand and sure enough there were several huge turtles digging nests. We sat and watched, it was almost a full moon, the light reflected on their shells, the waves were crashing on the shore sending tremors through the ground. It was an amazing experience and sight.
The following night we were outside with Aaron & Amy, our fellow campers, discussing how wonderful it had been to watch the turtles when we heard a, by now, familiar digging noise, we turned around and there was a turtle digging a nest right in front of the rig. We watched for ages, she was not happy with her first choice so dug another hole, then another, and a fourth. She was still undecided when we gave up and went
The end of a long day. Graeme appears to have really bonded with Grommit by now.
In the morning she was still there, now back in the original hole. She had covered her eggs and we were able to watch her crawl down the beach, back into the ocean. This was no easy feat, as she had climbed up two, 3 - 4 foot high sand banks and about 100 yards inland. We willed her on all the way
After digging for 8 hours she must have been exhausted. Don’t think these turtles have it easy!!
It was so tempting to stay longer but each place offers something new; it was time to move on.
The road from Maruata was beautiful; we passed through tiny rural villages, and a few small towns. Each village was selling a particular item on its roadside. There were hammocks, gourds, melons, and one had jars and jars of brightly coloured sweets. Luckily Graeme was unable to stop….
It was in one of these small towns we stopped to buy tomatoes from a roadside stall. As we got out we noticed that a side panel was out of line. We investigated and found the screws had snapped off. I looked around and noted we had
This RV park was at the end of a 3/4 mile stoney road. Slight problem when we were leaving. Because of the angle of the drive, we could'nt get out into the road, the electric wire was to low and the turn to tight.
parked in front of a garage. So with phrase book in hand, (which incidentally does not have the sentence,” these ****** cheap and totally inadequate screws have sheered off, can you drill them out and replace them please?”) we communicated the problem.
Several drill bits; lad sent shopping for 2 screws, a quick siesta, an ice cream and 1 ½ hours later, the job was done, all for the grand sum of 190 peso. What service.
We were a little anxious though when the guy, who was still lying under the rig whilst waiting for a drill bit, decided to smoke a cigarette. The fact there was a 40 gallon propane tank just by his head obviously didn’t worry him. Not so hot on the health & safety issues here I think!
We continue along the coast stopping at different and contrasting places along the way. A favourite was Puerto Escondido, originally frequented by surfers and now a real little holiday town. The coast line here is dotted with little bays and beaches and is surrounded by thick hardwood forest, it is an Ecologists dream.
However the Mexican government decided that they needed to help the
This great individual bus was for sale, it had'nt moved for a couple of years though. The inside was all done with mahogany wood.
local economy and people so decided to build an international holiday resort along this coastline. They put all the ingredients into a computer and came up with a place named Bahias de Huatulco. Up until 1982 there were not even any roads to this area. This was a long term plan which aimed by 2020 for the place to be a tourist and ecological paradise.
We are told that they forgot one thing, it’s to hot!, the tourist season is to short and it is very difficult to get to. So there is this beautiful place and almost no one there. It looks like a film set.
The driving days were quite long through this area as there is literally no where to stop. They also threw Graeme some interesting challenges. Loads of topes, not all easily seen, a few holes, rough narrow surfaces on mountainous roads, cattle, singular and large herds, goats and pigs. In one instance Graeme saw the most enormous spider; he says the size of a dog!!
We also experienced our first military check. We have driven through many check points and just wave at the solders as we pass by, but this
Tlaquepaque is a beautifully restored colonial town famous for its crafts.
We had a great meal here for about £8 for 2
time they signalled for us to stop. The solders came on and looked around the rig. Upon seeing the guitar and amplifier and electric hair shaver our fate was sealed, they accused us of harbouring weapons of mass distortion and depilation.
Actually they just had a good nose around and waved us off.
The journey is very busy and we both have different jobs to do. Graeme only has to drive! and wave to the oncoming bus drivers. I on the other hand have to watch the scenery and describe, read the travel books, read the maps!!! ( doing OK as generally only one road) call out “tope” or “large hole” which can be a problem as often gazing out the window at passing view, get drinks ( NOT easy, on windy, mountainous roads), wave to children and people in village and be photographer. Its all go.
The Mexicans are building a lot of toll roads, which makes life easier but also presents new challenges. Most main roads in Mexico do not have hard shoulders but they are putting them in on the Toll roads. However I don’t think they have told the locals what they are
Several times we were going to throw these shoes out, but they were rejuvinated for about 10 peso.
for. We were driving a new, really quite busy road and it was almost dark we saw, several joggers, trucks stopped and drivers popped over to village for their supper, cyclist, without lights, heading into oncoming traffic, and the usual array of local animals. It is certainly never boring.
That night we had our first “Pemex” experience. Mexico only has one petrol company “Pemex” which is government owned. They allow you to stay overnight in them. It is really safe because as you can only pay cash for fuel they always have an armed guard.
. It’s meant to be free or a small tip to the attendant but when the armed guard knocked on the door and suggested we might like to offer 50 peso to him we thought it a good idea. A small price to pay for security we thought. However when, in the night, for some reason our alarm went off, he wasn’t to be seen…… We didn’t ask for a refund!
One of the things we like about this lifestyle is the variety. The view and location is always different and often a contrast. In the last few weeks we have experienced some
This is the morning I saw the turtle tracks all along the beach.
nights of disturbed sleep, the varying reasons range from chirping birds, crashing waves which shook the rig, crowing cockerels who don’t appear to know the time, market stalls being erected and tonight, diesel engines running all night.
We thought it was time for some history so headed off to Palenque.
Palenque was a great Mayan city built in the jungle in the state of Chiapas. At its peak, between 600 - 800 AD it was a great ceremonial city. At one time it had population of many thousands, but then was abandoned and no one is sure why. It is thought it may be because the city was to big to sustain itself or the royal blood line became too weak. (Lots of intra family marriage going on.)
Whatever the reasons the Mayan people just returned to the jungle to live and are still a big part of this areas population today.
The ruins are fabulous, you can climb all over them, and so from the top you get a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding area. Originally the buildings were all painted pink and blue, it must have looked spectacular. We spent a happy few hours perched in
Me resting, after spending a tiring day turtle watching.
the top of the temples just watching the people, colourful birds and jungle scenery.
Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings, it is much appreciated.
It was a bit difficult to decide how to make it a special day as everyone is so good,
but we went to the turtle museum and had beers on the beach. A bit warmer then at home I think.
So far we have found Mexico great fun and a delight. We are nearly at the Yucatan. It is a week to Trish & Neal’s arrival, and only 480 easy miles to go. We should have plenty of time, but then, who knows what will catch our attention as we go?
PS It has taken days to try and send this blog, so finer details have gone out the window, but hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have getting here.
There are more photos below