Adam writes on 2013-12-26:
So here we are outside of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca (roughly pronounced Oh-a-ha-ca) in another love motel. This one is almost charming and seems quite small. Larger and more expensive ones in the area have a lot more flash with sort of an art deco theme, fancy walls, and illusive names. Ours is simply Motel Quinta Naeda (no affiliation with “La Quinta”) and a fairly reasonable price given that we were hard pressed to find secure parking in Salina Cruz proper. As a bonus the curtains and wall paint are very cutesy with flower patterns and almost remind me of the mystique of a Mexican country cantina.
Very strange in a way given that the various signs on the wall elude to “no spitting” and “please be careful not to make any odours that would offend other guests”. To top this all off, I remember passing by this area before during my 2010 trip but decided not to opt for the “love motel” scene due to general lack of internet. Since my main need for internet during that trip is here with me now, we are more likely to settle for places without.
My previous trip through Mexico started much more centrally through the Sierra Madre mountains and I only hit the coast fairly late into the country. Having retraced some of my steps over the last couple of days, I am actually quite intrigued that I remember so little of the scenario. It is actually a little bit of a “eureka” moment when I do see sites that are directly familiar. For example, my first one was a couple of days ago when we passed by a fairly nondescript little motorcycle store where I had changed my oil in 2010. I had no recollection as to where this oil change took place and all of the sudden, I would proclaim in our helmet communicators “Hey! I know this place!” Instinctively, I then knew that we were to take the right hand turn at the fork in the road. Not so instinctively, I then tried to land us a room (or even tent site) at a little place run by a guy who repaired surf boards, but for the life of me, couldn’t find it even though I swore up and down that we were in the correct town.
The next similar moment was when we landed in Puerto Escondido. You take a curved road off of the main highway down towards the beach and there is a sculpture of hands built on a rock formation near the water. Over the last couple of weeks, I had inquired with a few new friends as to whether they had seen these hands on the coast. No one had. I was completely off as to where I thought they were, and they ended up being a two minute walk from the cabanas we stayed in for three nights at Puerto Escondido.
Things seem to unfold in strange ways as I recall previously stopping to photograph the hands thinking that the beach would have been a lot nicer if it were sunny out and had the water not been churned up with sand — different time of year, mind you — but that it would be a nice place to stop. This time around it was Jenn and I sitting around eating fish tacos and guacamole watching other motorcycle travellers looking confusingly up and down the moderately hectic beach strip for a place to stay or eat at. At first, having arrived at Puerto Escondido, I was very surprised at the size of it given that our new found German friends, who were not to be found, suggested that they would stay at Puerto Escondido for Xmas, and that it was relatively “unfound”. Although a little pricey, I suspect that it is cheaper than places like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, and by “unfound”, while there were some American, Canadian, and German tourists, it seems to be largely a surf beach used by Mexicans.
Probably my main annoyance with it all, is that the prices shot up two to three times for things like cabanas, or hostel rooms on December 24th and 25th. At our place, Cabanas Edda, we got our cabana for a reasonable price on December 23rd and took it as we were dead tired, and reluctantly paid double for the next two nights as it didn’t seem like we were going to find anything much better with the same amenities. We heard later that there was a hostel with lots of tent spaces and even closer to the beach and shops for much cheaper, but I am a little weary of the security of personal items at hostels due to the high turn over of backpackers and other budget travellers – hey – wait, we are budget travellers…
We spent our time in Puerto Escondido swimming in the waves, walking the beach strip – both the more tourist side, and the “local” side, and eating out, as well as self-catering at the outdoor kitchen facilities at Cabana Eddas. Things like fresh eggs, tortillas, Oaxaca cheese (sort of a cross between cheese curds from Quebec and mozzarella), refried beans, milk, and yogurts can be had at local aborretes (corner stores) and prove to be an effective money saver, and also a good way to avoid eating out all the time.
We treated ourselves to 2-for-1 “happy hour” (which generally spreads across five or six hours, or all day in Puerto Escondido) cocktails a couple of nights at a place with nice decor on the beach that served their drinks in actual glassware instead of plastic cups (like some places), and garnished them well (bonus points for presentation). Our Xmas dinner was enjoyed at a place called “Fish Tacos and Beer” where we had, as you guessed it, fish tacos and beer, as well as a large bowl of fresh guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips. It was an interesting choice of Xmas dinner, but very satisfying. As a note, we rarely drink beer (nor soda/pop, nor water) when eating out as, family sized bottles of beer (which are plus or minus a litre) from a store can be had for fractionally more than a single small bottle of beer at slightly higher than budget priced restaurants – it is roughly an 3:1 or 4:1 ration in savings. One just has to be careful to get a receipt for the bottle deposits which are not insignificant.
Those who know me back home (and those in Texas) know that I am a pretty big beer drinker. I generally dislike “domestic” beers and favour beers such as American Pale Ales and American “West Coast” style India Pale Ales with big hop aromas and flavours (hints of citrus, papaya, pine). I had sort of been prepping myself for the day when I crossed the border from the US to Mexico bidding farewell to beer paradise – I say this because while Canada, and more specifically Ontario, has a good craft beer scene, the US has tonnes of great beer (and lots of domestic they-all-taste-the-same beers) which was a real treat for me during our three weeks in Texas (shout out to the buy singles off the shelf at grocery stores and the great selection at Marquez Racing Brew Co.!). Mexico is a different story. Actually, I would say all of Latin America probably is a different story. Here and there seem to be attempts at craft beer, but nothing very prominent. That said, I seem to be able to tolerate watery Mexican beer better than its watery American “light beer” cousins.
There seems to be something non-offensive about many Mexican beers, and with a bit of lime in the glass – even some Mezcal (Tequila is above our budget), it can be quite refreshing. I am not sure that higher alcohol IPAs would be a good scene at present because we spend a good deal of effort trying to stay hydrated as of late. That said, I am now noticing that some brands have a distinct bisulphate aftertaste and I am tending to avoid those.
We generally carry several litres of water in our hydration packs and try to make sure we drink throughout the day. Southern Mexico has been warm, but not warm like my previous trip in early summer – that was just stinking hot! – but consider that we are wearing fairly heavy, although ventilated gear, and sit directly above hot engines. Today our bike’s thermometers – not the engine temperature but the ambient air temperature, plus heat from the engine and sun peaked at 40 degrees Celsius and barely dropped to 35 during the day. We don’t necessary feel all of that heat, but certainly when are stopped or moving slowly we feel it, and definitely our legs get hot (probably much higher than 40 degrees next to the engines).
To get back on track here, the last couple of days were spent doing previously mentioned things, as well as getting new photos uploaded. Our double priced cabanas were supposed to come with internet, but they were having issues with their modem or something to that effect. After some time, they seem to have “borrowed” their neighbours internet and we able to get back on line and call family during the holidays which was one promise that I made to Jenn – internet on Xmas FOR SURE. This was accomplished – not without hiccups – but we even managed to speak with family on an Alaskan oil rig via Skype repeated through a phone in Ontario – a kind of three way call “hack”.
Xmas was spent relaxing on the beach, but also dealing with cleaning air filters, other minor bike tasks, and trying to get our helmets – specifically the visors – cleaned up a bit as Mexico can be very dusty.
Our stop in Puerto Escondido was not without mishap. Ever since I had my leaky-carberator-sending-gas-into-engine-oil incident in La Paz, BCS, we have been making it a distinct point to turn off our fuel petcocks (valves) at the tank. Most bikes with carburetors have a vacuum operated petcock meaning suction from the running engine’s carburetor opens the valve at the fuel tank. Many people opt to replace this style of petcock with old fashioned gravity fed ones as they are dead reliable. Our aftermarket gas tanks came with the old, gravity operated type. It is good practice to turn these off when not in use as if your carburetor has a minor leak in its circuit, too much fuel can overflow the “float bowl” (a little reservoir) and flood the engine, or worse. Having replaced and suspected as faulty o-ring in my carburetor, I have cautiously been watching Jenn’s bike for similar issues. Our bikes in age are a year apart, are almost identical in design, and we have been using the same gas, and riding in the same conditions, so a related degradation of a rubber o-ring in the other bike would not be unexpected.
When I had my issue, the bike stank of gas, and we found gas in both the air box and in the engine oil. In Puerto Escondido, I noticed that we hadn’t turned off Jenn’s petcocks so we did so in the morning. Keep in mind, that this should largely be a pre-emptive measure and good practice. We had no reason to suspect that Jenn’s bike would have an issue. Also note, that I had just cleaned out the air filter and didn’t notice any anomalies, or any presence of gas in the air box, as I had found during my issue. We had packed up and started up the bikes. Jenn’s was a hard start. Instinctively, something didn’t feel right. I attempted to sniff for a gassy smell in the oil by way of the oil filler hole, and felt that I smelled a mild amount but it took a little while before I went from “being on the fence” to actually knowing for sure. We carefully used a small palm frond as a dipstick, and couldn’t get a strong “reading”.
We started off with the intent of find the first place we could with oil, and to an oil change “just to be sure”. Having gone down the highway and found nothing after a few kilometers, some feeling went off that to continue was a BAD idea. Still not having a super strong indication that there was a real problem – but just a suspicion – we turning around and went towards Puerto Escondido and very quickly found a small Yamaha authorized repair shop. I bought a couple litres of oil and borrowed an oil pan and proceeded to dump the oil. It literally “pissed” out gassy oil just the same way my bike had a few weeks ago. I cleaned out the re-usable oil filter and checked carefully for metallic material on it as well as the magnetic drain plug. I think that we caught this in time as there didn’t seem to be major debris but you can bet that I was “crossing my fingers” during that process. I proceeded to pull off the part of the carburetor where I believed that the issue lay – float needle seemed fine, the o-rings seemed a little loose but not dead loose like mine did – I replaced them both none-the-less.
I can only say that this was a really frustrating situation. Closing the petcocks is a good habit and done “just in case” (of a leak). The only reason that I addressed this “what would probably have been a catastrophic issue, or at least destructive ” was that the bike started hard. It seemed a like it could have been flooded. Something “just wasn’t right”. I have to say that while I probably have a little bit of “paranoid” side to me tempering the opposing urge that “everything is OK”, our time in Kempner, Texas (Marquez!) honed down some skills. We are Canadians. We are used to bikes that don’t start at first go (in colder climates) – but we aren’t in that climate here in Mexico. Had I not listened to my gut instinct, even though the direct evidence wasn’t there (i.e. the issue with my bike was dead obvious – likely Jenn’s bike was pointed slightly down hill so that the gas went directly into the engine, instead of out into the air box) we might have been stranded on the side of the road with a dead bike. As stated, hopefully I caught this in time. Time will tell.
Moving along here, Jenn wanted me to make specific note to what seems to be her first exposure to direct chauvinism. When looking for a place in Salina Cruz, we had passed up a bunch of places based on price or lack of vehicular security. We found one place (Gausti Hotel) which looked like it may had one day been a grand hotel near the central square, but now a little aged. With a fairly large court yard inside of it, we were considering taking a room here while debating if we could get the bikes in past a now modified and slightly narrow front doorway. As well as how we would get the bikes across the congested street market side walk. I had asked to see a room. Hmmm. Not great. Not the best up keep but the price was OK and we were here. I suggested that Jenn have a look as she is a little picky about the cleanliness of accommodations. The guy would have none of it. He didn’t move from his place on his couch and uttered something to the effect of “No! I already showed it to your man” in a patronizing and indifferent tone. Screw you Gausti Hotel. We are off to find something better and here we are.