Jenn writes on 2013-12-24:
Merry Christmas Eve from Puerto Escondido, MX!
Although it is not what we are used to for celebrating the holidays (no snow, family, or massive amounts of Christmas goodies), Christmas on the beach seems to be a pretty good place to spend the holiday. I can’t say that I am missing my Canada Goose parka as I sway in my hammock in my bathing suit. The temperature today is supposed to reach 32 degrees (Celsius) so I think we might wander down to the beach for a swim and have some cervezas.
We are staying at Edda’s Cabanas, which is at the top of the hill overlooking the beach at Zicatela. The strip along the beach is lined with hotels, restaurants, and beach bars, and is being enjoyed by gringos and locals alike. While the city is larger than what we expected, we have found a nice place to enjoy the holidays.
Our cabana has a private bathroom, and we sleep under a bug net since there are no screens on the windows and the ceiling does not meet the walls – for ventilation purposes. We also have a hammock on the porch (aforementioned) which I am enjoying immensely, and think I might have to pick one up to ship home.
We spent three nights in La Manzanilla – a wonderful little spot on the beach where we made some new friends. We met Trudy and her daughter Heather who were down on vacation for a few weeks – who also knew Linda and Gord who we met on the Baja. We also met Sylvana and her family who moved down to Mexico from Quebec and now live in a trailer on the beach. We also swam in the water of a largely secluded beach, and lazed on the sandy land.
From La Manzanilla we headed to a small spot called Maruata.
Maruata is a small coastal spot known for its eco-tourism and sea turtle population. We were pointed in its direction by Sylvana’s father who had travelled extensively along the coast of Mexico and gave it enthusiastic thumbs-up. It was a long ride, and just as we thought we were getting close we encountered a political road block that stretched off into the distance. We jumped the line and headed to the front of the blockade to see if we could get through.
From what we could understand (our spanish lessons didn’t cover political blockade language – ordering a salad, yes; political blockade, no). There seemed to be a few different stories going around which ranged from the people being upset about the cartel, to protesting big corporations buying up indigenous land, to the military strong holding the community. Whatever it was, it signified a good thing since it showed the community taking their power back, so we didn’t mind waiting around for a while.
The turn-off for Maruata happened to be right smack-dab in the middle of the blockade, so we were happy to be off the bikes within a short time of clearing the road block. Once we cleared through town (a sort of roll-the-sidewalks-up-at-sundown town), and across a number of dirt roads, we ended up at at restaurant with rooms and spots for camping. At first it seemed a little sketchy, but it turned out to be a secluded paradise, uncrowded, rivaling in beauty to places such as Thailand. The beach was beautiful golden sand surrounded by high cliffs, rock formations, and crashing waves on the shore.
It was also the site of my first flat tire, which we noticed once the bikes were parked in deep sand. It’s not so easy to change a tire in the sand. But we needed to take care of business before hitting the beach, so a bit of bike maintenance and repair was in order, since we also noticed that the clips on our chain links had also gone missing. This was a surprise having used chain clip links in the past successfully. In the USA, we actually went on the hunt for some spares but were reassured that 1-2 spares would be over-kill. We have used our clips from our spare links and carefully affixed them with RTV silicone and safety wire.
When we finally hit the beach, we met up with some German travellers who we had met the night before (Mark and Ani – forgive my spelling – and another group Matthias and Helen and their blond friend whose name I don’t think I ever got), and a group of Mexican truckers who were stuck in the blockade and had wandered down to the beach for a swim. We had a great little beach party playing in the waves, and drinking beer, all whilst overcoming language barriers. The swimming was amazing, the sun was hot, and the company was good – one of the best days so far.
That night we went out in search of the elusive sea turtles but didn’t see anything but tracks and nests.
It seemed that the consensus was that the Germans were all heading to Puerto Escondido for Christmas, so we thought we would head there too, which meant that we had to leave the next day in order to get there on time, and with enough time to find some place to stay, as I think we were both starting to wonder if things would be booked for the holidays (as it turns out, there is lots of room but the prices are doubled just about everywhere).
So the next day we bade goodbye to the fresh fish and invariably, paradise and headed back out on the road. We didn’t have any place in mind and rode until the sun started to fade away. We took a chance on a road sign that pointed to Tronconces that also seemed to have advertisements for hotels and an RV park. We headed off down a twisty paved road that ended at a surf town that also happened to be a yoga mecca lined with hotels of the meditational-spa-zen variety, beach bars and restaurants, and surf shops. Oh how I would have loved to have had a bigger budget, as many of the places were gated with lush tropical gardens with thatched roofs and ocean views but alas our funds are more of the rail-car variety and we set off in search of the RV park.
The RV park had one RV in it which belonged to the owners and a few casitas, but they let us put up our tent underneath some tall palms for about $7. It wasn’t beach front (across the street) but it was quiet and lovely and since we were the only people there we didn’t have to share the bathroom. Well, except with Edgar the tarantula who came out at night to hunt insects, which was very much appreciated. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that I am in the tropics until I see a spider the size of my hand. Needless to say, I had Adam stand guard and watch him while I showered, just in case Edgar got any ideas and wanted to join me.
It was back on the road bright and early the next morning, taking extra care to shake out my boots before I put them on the next morning just in case Edgar or his friends had decided to wander over and make a new home there. After a few hours of riding, I noticed the bike started to feel funny, wobbly, and hard to control. After checking it out, we noticed that my rear tire had gone flat again. We pulled over on a twisty mountain road (they all seem to be twisty mountain roads along the coast… a motorcyclist’s dream), pulled out the pump and inflated the tire in anticipation of turning around to head back to Petatlan (the last town that we passed through) to find a shop to help repair the tube.
After stopping twice to re-inflate the tire, we arrived at a small shop that happened to be open on Sunday. We seem to be quite the spectacle when we arrive anywhere and what started out as two guys working in the shop ended up as two guys working in the shop and four guys standing around watching with a steady stream of observers coming in and out to see the show. The mechanics fixed our tubes (the one that was in the tire and an already patched spare), charged us 50 pesos (less than $5), told me that I had “cahones” for riding a motorcycle through Latin American, and we were back on our way within the hour.
The days ride took us through Acapulco. A few words about Acapulco and then we will move on. It’s a dirty, dusty, confusing sh*t-hole through which I never wish to return. The drivers are very aggressive, especially the taxi drivers who would sooner run you down rather than give you any sort of consideration despite the fact that you have out of town plates and are obviously out of your element. The entire city is built on the side of a mountain and is very difficult to get around, especially with a heavy bike. The beach strip seemed to be nice, Americanized, with everything you could want for a fly and fry vacation, but with the amazing places that I have seen, Acapulco has had its day in the sun. Never have I been happier to leave a city in all my life.
We instead stopped an hour outside of Acapulco in a small town called San Marcos. It was my first taste of a hotel room in the tropics (imagining grimy with cockroaches and lizards to keep you company), but I was pleasantly surprised. The hotel was well-kept and the owner let us ride the bikes up into the courtyard where the desk clerk could watch them. For $236 pesos (about $21) we got a room with a bed, private bathroom, and a ceiling fan. There were no screens on the windows, only sheets on the bed, and no hot water (everything done in the name of keeping cool!). Since the temperature has been hovering around 30 degrees Celsius, I have been pretty stinky and sticky after a full day of riding – this area is pretty humid and a cool shower is just what the doctor orders after being sprayed with road dust and sweating all day. It was one of the best showers that I have had in my life, and after living on a beach for the past week is was nice to finally get the sand out of my hair and out of the crack of my butt. Adam opted instead for the swimming pool (yay! a swimming pool!). Afterwards it was out for dinner at a taco stand that served Al Pastor style and to buy some Mexican gingerbread cookies from a local baker who had her goods out in baskets on the street. They were star-shaped, dusted in sparkly sugar, and heavy on the molasses which made them extra chewy, extra good, and disappear quickly.
After another long ride, we arrived here, at Puerto Escondido. As I mentioned before, the city is quite a bit larger and more pricey than we expected but still quite nice. I have doubts that we will be able to find our German friends for Christmas but stranger things have happened. I am hoping that the internet will be a bit better tonight as a Skype call home will be nice since my family will be gathered at Paul and Julie’s (my aunt and uncle) for our traditional get-together tonight. It is difficult to be away from home on Christmas. Instead of a Christmas tree we have swaying palms; instead of turkey dinner we have fish tacos and cervezas; instead of winter birds we have butterflies; instead of poinsettias we have tropical flowers in bloom. Wishing everyone a safe, and warm Christmas from the beach! Wish you were here!