The pool was rather full of leaves this morning, but we still had a nice soak, and a bit of a swim. It had in fact rained for a few moments last night, and had become quite windy, which was the reason for the leaves in the pool! As other days, workers were sweeping the vast complex with small twiggy brooms.
We came back for a breakfast of bacon and mushrooms, sitting outside. It was still quite cool, as the sun hadn’t reached us.
We left at 10.20, stopping at the nearby Pemex for petrol and headed towards Ciudad Guzman.
We could soon see volcano Nevado de Colima, the higher of 2 volcanoes. At first it was shrouded in cloud, but later we could see it clearly, with patches of snow near the summit. I attempted one or two photos, and of volcano Fuego de Colima, which we saw later.
We drove into Ciudad Guzman - Liz and John had stayed here for a few days in ‘94’, and mentioned several churches. The first we saw, Anthony of Padua, was really beautiful inside. Every bit of the walls was painted in cream and gold. It was ornate, but not garish. We drove on to the centre, where we were able to park right by the plaza. Here there were more churches. One was huge and ornate, it seemed like a cathedral. Another had a huge dome, and yet another was painted in simple white, but with effigies set into the walls. One more church, Merced, wasn’t open. We stopped to enjoy an ice cream, mine tangerine, Adrian’s rum flavour, sitting in the sun by the square. As we drove out of the town, we passed another huge church. This one was very plain inside, but in the dome above the altar, a large portrait of Jesus had been recently painted, with the 4 apostles outlined beside him, waiting to be painted.
We left Ciudad Guzman, stopping soon beside the road for lunch. We had wanted to take the faster toll road, but it didn’t join up with the road that we were on, so we wound up and down and round and round through lovely scenery to Colima, the capital of Colima state, and the oldest colonial town in the west of Mexico. However, none of the buildings are very old, because earthquakes have often devastated the town.
We found it tiring driving through yet another town in the intense heat, but we were able to park right near to the centre. We walked around yet another attractive tree filled plaza, surrounded by the cathedral (closed) and the governor’s palace (open, and very pleasant) and other nice buildings.
We left Colima at 4.30, and had much confusion as to which road we were on. At 5 o’clock we came to a large and clean Pemex station, which seemed a suitable place for the night, as we knew that there were no campsites nearby - in fact for the next several hundred miles! The scenery around us was lovely, as we relaxed with a cup of tea, surrounded by palm trees and clear blue sky.
Tuesday 9th March 77 miles
It was already hot when we got up. The automatic watering came on, to water the palm trees. The grackles took the opportunity of having a free bird bath, and some beautiful orioles visited briefly.
When a man came with his strimmer to cut the grass, we knew that it was time to leave! It was now 9.45. We stopped just past the Pemex to buy a watermelon from one of the dozens of roadside stalls selling just melons.
We soon found ourselves at Tecoman, and decided to take the road through the middle rather than round the outside, hoping to see a supermarket and an internet café, but found neither! Soon afterwards though, we did get some propane.
We were now taking the Mex 200 south, a road which runs near the coast, through much wilderness country. It felt a bit like going through the Transkei in South Africa, as everything warned about how dangerous it was. It didn’t appear to be a problem to us. We came to several sections of roadworks, so finding somewhere to stop for coffee was difficult, as the road ran straight, through flat country, with a gravel shoulder at the side, but nowhere else to pull off. In the end, we stopped just near some roadworks, on a slightly wider area of gravel and beside a banana plantation.
We soon crossed from the state of Colima into Michoacan, on a wide bridge over the Coahuayana river. Men were working on the road joins on the bridge, so we had to drive over many deep ruts, which were worse than the dreaded topes!
We drove on to the coast, turning off first to San Juan de Alima, where we pulled on to the beach and had a paddle in the rough sea.
Soon afterwards, we had lunch sitting in the Bam high above las Brisas. The view reminded us of Wilderness in South Africa. By now it was really hot (33°C). Not long afterwards, we came to a very small town, but we passed an internet place. We wanted to send a few emails I had written last night. By the time we got organised, and went in there, we had just logged in, when the whole town lost supply! That was that!
We stopped by another lovely beach, but the waves were just too rough for a swim, but just after this we turned off down a gravel track to Faro de Bucerias. This was an idyllically beautiful round bay of fine sand, where the water looked turquoise. Palapas fringed the beach.
The birds make use of a roofless palapa by the lovely beach at Faro de Bucerias
We had been told that you could stop here - we pulled in behind a palapa. It was 60 pesos for the night. The waves rolled roughly onto the steep bank of sand, but we walked right around to the end of the bay, where it was very sheltered, and had the most delicious swim in the delightfully warm water. We were in no hurry to get out, and even went in for a second swim before walking back around the bay - we had no towels, and didn’t need them.
After eating a slice of the watermelon, the thought of the turquoise and white fishing boats pulled up on to the beach were too much, and we walked back round the bay with our cameras, but dressed for another swim, which we couldn’t resist! We came back and had a beer sitting on the beach. Annoyingly, clouds had come to cover the sun.
Adrian bought another large container of water to fill our five 4-litre bottles, as our consumption of drinking water has risen with the hot weather!
I quickly cooked enchiladas for supper, as it was still very warm, so we didn’t want to cook for long.
Wednesday 10th March 16 miles
It was partly cloudy when we woke up, but was warm and windy. By the time we had had breakfast, the skies had cleared. We walked back around the bay, and had another delightful swim. As we walked back to the Bam, the frigates and terns were fighting for breakfast.
We ourselves had coffee, sitting under a palapa. It was nearly 11 o’clock when we left this beautiful spot.
We drove on south, passing more lovely beaches, and half an hour later we were at Maruata, a place so beautiful that it surpassed all others.
This was absolute bliss - a headland of pretty little coves, each with the waves rushing through the rocks. We found ourselves a spot, and went off to explore. By a cluster of fishing boats, men were cutting up a huge ray looking fish. Adrian bought some for supper. We wandered around with camera and video, making no apologies for the amount taken!
Magical Maruata with some of its little boats
There was also a little pond, with a huge variety of birds occupying it. There were palms, and huge cacti, and there were palapas everywhere. With the blue sky, it all looked wonderful.
What a delightful place to pull in and stop!
Having wandered around we came back for lunch, but were delayed by a young Mexican chap, who came along and just wanted to chat. We had put out the sunshade, as it was very hot.
The afternoon just disappeared, as we explored this wonderful area, and spent much time sitting at the edge of the sea, getting covered each time the waves rolled in through the caves, and splashed us from all angles. Adrian was good at playing ‘dare’ with the waves around the rocks. A young Italian chap called Francesco came to join us in the water. He was with a group of 4 others, touring Mexico for a month. We figured that he was the odd one out. He really loved the beauty of it all, and liked taking photos. He had a look of Gareth. They had been to Mazatlan, and had taken the ferry across to La Paz on the Baja, but had come back here, as they obviously loved it.
We felt that we had had a lot of sun on us, but we did stop to ‘swim’ from one of the coves before coming back to the Bam. We had a cup of tea to refresh us, after having a shower to wash off some of the sand which had stuck to us during our time in the violent waves.
Yes, that’s the Bam in the middle distance
Then it was a beer, as Adrian lit the barbie to cook the fish, with potatoes and corn on the cob. The fish was actually very stringy - it reminded me of spaghetti marrow. We had been joined by two dogs - father and offspring, so they were in luck. Having enjoyed the wonderful view, we walked out in the dark, under the stars, to absorb this beautiful place.
Birds we saw ; great egret, cattle egret, little egret, white form of reddish egret, jacana, white ibis, black vulture, stilts, cormorants, pelicans, frigate birds, gulls, grackles, - many more that we weren’t sure of. Also there were cows, donkeys, an iguana, large crabs, frogs (heard croaking), goats (heard bleating), dogs!
Another place to treasure and remember.
Thursday 11th March 60 miles
We enjoyed the cool of the early morning just after the sun had come up. We walked around this idyllic spot, seeing the birds of yesterday plus some others - yellow crowned night heron, little blue heron, and what we decided was a neotropic cormorant as well as the pretty little jacanas and the comical pelicans. Breakfast of watermelon followed by toast was eaten outside, watching the birdlife. We felt that we had to leave, or we might stay for ever!
At 9.30 we made our way back through the river and along the sandy, bumpy track towards the road. We came to the neat village square, with its one stretch of paved/cobbled road, as all the villages have. We crossed the former airstrip then joined the Mex 200 and continued south.
Sometimes we had glimpses of beautiful little beaches and coves as we wound on, often high above the sea. There was very little habitation, just a few small villages, but we passed quite a lot of animals - donkeys, a man with a goat, a calf suckling from its Brahman mother, a man on horseback. We stopped for coffee overlooking a long sandy beach, then drove on to Barra de Nexpa. The road started off cobbled, but this ended abruptly, and we continued on a sandy track until we stopped near the sea. We started to walk across the ridge of sand, when a chap who was busy cleaning an oven top called to us in English, and asked if we were looking for somewhere to stay. His name was Chico, and he was a very enterprising chap. He had a restaurant and several palapas and simple beachside homes available. It was 20 pesos (£1) each to stay here, so the next thing was to find a suitable spot. A lagoon lay at one side of the area, with the surfing beach at the other. On wandering around, we spoke to Chico’s brother Brian. Chico later told us that his brother (presumably Brian) had married an English girl who had come here, and they now had 2 children.
Chico spoke excellent English, and when we asked him where he had learnt it, he said that he had learnt it here from the surfers.
We decided on a spot overlooking the beach, where the breeze would keep it a bit cooler (and this is me writing this!) A man got talking to us as we tried to get settled in - he was from Las Vegas, but had lived in Acupulco for 20 years. He had recently been back to Las Vegas to visit his children and grandchildren. His sole companion seemed to be his dog (which looked just like the one from last night). The man, sun bronzed, and in his 60s was smoking. He pointed to it and said ‘Do you smoke marijuana?’ we said no, and he just carried on talking. He said that he swam in the lagoon/ river each day, so after lunch, sitting under a palapa, we made our way along the beach to the river.
Nexpa - it really was as beautiful as this
Here we had the most delightful swim in the non salty water. It almost matched last night for beauty, with palm trees and green hills behind, and hundreds of birds on the water.
Hundreds of birds take off from the lagoon
Many more were flying continually over the sea. We walked a bit in that direction after returning from the lagoon, but turned back when the beach became stony. We sat under the palapa for a cup of tea. Another lovely spot!
Nexpa was another top spot - the Bam is hiding behind the palapas
We walked along to the lagoon again before coming back for sundowners under the palapa. It was quite windy, but for the first time for a couple of weeks we were able to see the sun set over the sea. It descended as a huge red misty ball, but there was a brief green flash!
We walked up to Chico’s restaurant, and were disappointed to find that it was very quiet. However, we ordered a meal of prawns (A) and fish (me) and a beer each. It turned out that there was only one beer left! The girl said ‘momentito’ (her favourite word) - it seems that someone then dashed off to the store to get more!
The meal wasn’t that brilliant, but came with all the trimmings, and enough tortillas for tomorrow’s lunch. It was made interesting though by the presence of Bill, a chap of about our age, who was wanting a room for the night. He had stayed here a couple of weeks ago, and was now returning from the south. He was waiting for Chico, who was elusive at this time. (Bill had also been told ‘momentito’!) We got chatting to him - he was glad of the company, as he was travelling alone. He usually ‘camped’ in his pick up, but tonight fancied a room with a shower etc. Chico finally arrived, and Bill got his room.
We left, and walked over to ‘say goodnight to the sea’. The sky was filled with a myriad of stars, but as we watched the waves coming in, we saw more ‘stars’ there. Something we have never seen before - it was like fireflies in the water and on the sand. We stood there for some time, transfixed by these beautiful ‘jewels’.
We walked back towards the Bam, and heard a voice nearby - it turned out that Bill’s ‘room’ was the house right by us! He invited us in for a beer and to have a look, and we spent the next hour or so chatting to him on his balcony.
He was from Vancouver, and had 3 sons, all in their twenties. He never mentioned a former wife - he would appear to have been ‘single’ for a long time, and also to have brought up his sons. One son had a little girl, who lived with her mother in a flat in Bill’s house, but the relationship had split up. Bill also has a young grandson, who he has no contact with. He was very easy to chat to, and was obviously glad to be able to talk to people of his own age. It was 10.15 when I got out of the hammock, and we made our way back to the Bam.
Friday 12th March 40 miles
We ate breakfast of melon followed by boiled egg, sitting under the palapa, in the early morning cool. We had decided to give Bill our Baja camping book, as he was hoping to travel home that way. He was very grateful, and we exchanged pleasant camping places north and south with him. By now it was 9.45. We left and drove the long sandy, then cobbled road back to Mex 200, and continued south.
A few miles on, we stopped just before Caleta de Campos at one of the many beautiful beaches we were to see today. This one was long, wide and sandy, and totally unspoilt. We paddled for a while, then returned to the Bam. We wondered how long these unspoilt beaches will stay that way. Chico was telling Adrian that 2 hotels are planned for Nexpa beach.
We got some petrol from the Pemex opposite. There used to be a 200 mile ‘gap’ between fuel stations, but this one, and another the other side of the town, have recently been built. They were very attractive and nicely finished, with lots of beautiful Bougainvilleas.
We drove into the little town of Caleta - we had heard that there was an internet place here. We drove up and down the one street, then turned off by the village square, which doubled here as playground and sports field for the Secondary school children. The second young person I asked, pointed out the internet place. It was along a bumpy, unsurfaced track beside the square, through a partly built house, down an uneven alleyway, and in a ‘shack’! But it worked - slowly! We were able to read the few messages that we knew we had, and send a few that we had been waiting to send.
Now it was on past more lovely beaches. We stopped at le Solidad, and walked between two large palapa restaurants, where hammocks hung everywhere. In one, a tiny boy was fast asleep. After another paddle, we continued to Chuquiapan, where we had lunch in the Bam before another paddle. We should have had our cozzies on, as the water had a thigh deep pool just before the waves broke.
One last stop was La Penas Beach, which was very pretty, with waves rushing through the rocks. We soon came to Playa Azul - a name we knew well because it is the only RV place mentioned in the books for about 200 miles. In fact it isn’t really an RV park, just the car park behind the hotel. My heart sank when I saw the empty swimming pool to one side of us, but I needn’t have worried, because to the other side was the most beautiful pool, surrounded by tropical trees. We made our way there as soon as possible. Only when we got out did Adrian find that he still had his wallet in his pocket!
The way to the beach at Playa Azul
We walked through to the beach, buying some delicious coconut bread from a vendor. There is a huge sandy beach here, but the sea is supposedly dangerous because of the undertow. We wandered on through the town, finding nothing in the tiny shops to buy, except a few limes!
We came back and had another swim in the pool.
We went down to the beach for ‘sundowners’ - although we are right by the beach, we have to walk out of the hotel and down the road to get to it. It was quite windy, but the sun was setting beautifully. We drank our beer and munched at tacos. Adrian said that he saw the green flash, but I didn’t. People were playing on the beach, silhouetted against the sun - I wish that I had brought my camera! Also when the sea washed up under the restaurant tables, complete with their cloths!
We came back to cook the fish from the fisherman - this time I had marinated it in tomato, herbs and spices and it was delicious! We sat outside in the warm evening air to eat it. The wine - Penasol - was awful!
We walked out to the beach at bedtime. It was very quiet, just lots of stars, and lots of ‘jewels’ in the sea.
Saturday 13th March 98 miles
It was lovely to wake in the cool to hear nothing but exotic birdsong and some ‘Sunday’ type singing from nearby. I put up the blind behind the sink, and was aware of a strange wriggling thing on the work surface. We were quite puzzled, until we found that it was the tail of a gecko, which must have been resting on the blind! We then had to catch it and let it out!
We ate breakfast outside in our shady spot - the last of the watermelon, followed by toasted bun, which we had bought yesterday thinking that it was a bread roll. Sultanas and cranberries made it more palatable!
The beach restaurant tables at Playa Azul
We walked out to the beach, and I took one or two photos of the many palapa restaurants with their tables set out right by the water’s edge. We looked up the coast to the hull of a wrecked ship. After a paddle, we came back to the hotel pool, but peace was shattered when a noisy and energetic group of young Mexicans joined the pool! We resorted to the pool on the other side, which was open today. We didn’t leave until 11.00.
We drove south towards Lazaro Cardenas, driving over more topes than ever, and passing a funeral procession. The people were all walking along the road, so the traffic built up considerably behind them.
We had a problem at Lazaro Cardenas in finding the right road. Although we needed shopping, we decided not to drive right into this apparently large and industrial town, but road signs and our inadequate map made things very difficult! We guessed our way, and had to go over a toll bridge (which made it even more difficult to follow as we thought it was a Toll Road), crossing now into Guerrero State. We continued through dry country, hoping that we were on the right road, as we had lost sight of the sea, and looking for somewhere to stop for lunch. As there was nowhere to pull off the road, we turned off to Troncomes, and ate lunch of toasted sandwiches sitting in the Bam, before walking on to the beach and having a paddle. I photographed one of the many brilliant bougainvilleas that are everywhere.
We now drove on to Ixtapa. This is a Fonatur (Mexican Tourist Development) resort, so we knew would not be to our liking. We thought that we might find a supermarket here. We did find just one - it was small, hot, and not geared towards the gringos. Nothing was priced or bar coded, and they didn’t take visa. We bought enough to keep us going, then drove on through the area to a beach where we had heard that there was free camping. It wasn’t very obvious, and we imagined that it has fallen to the developers.
We drove back through the resort, then took a pretty back road to the neighbouring resort of Zihuatanejo. This was far more Mexican in appearance. We drove through to Playa de Ropa, where there were some RV places to stay. The roads were tiny, and the RV spots were just in back yards. We came to a low archway over the road, and were negotiating it when a man in a car coming the other way beckoned us, and gave us instructions to the RV place (presumably his). The road ended in a few yards. We located the place that he meant, but it was small and crowded, and cost 150 pesos. Opposite was another gateway, saying RV park. We went in, across a wild grassy area to a restaurant, El Manglar, where they said that we could stay for 70 pesos. There were no facilities, but we didn’t need any today, so we decided to stop here.
The nice thing was that we could walk through to the beach, and we were on a protected bay, so the sea was very calm. It wasn’t long before we were swimming in the sea! The surprise was that there was a small swampy river which came out to the beach here, and at the beach end of it were 2 huge crocodiles! I had to go back for my camera!
A friendly croc at Playa de Ropa
We went back down to the beach with our beer just as the sun was going behind the headland. It looked very beautiful. The water lapped at our feet.
Another lovely sunset!
We came back and got ready for a meal in the restaurant. This was really enjoyable. We both drank beer, and ate fish(A) and prawn(R), which came with rice and plain vegetables. Our waiter spoke English, and appeared to be drunk, but maybe was just hot! He was very with it, and entertaining. Beside us was a group of 5 North Americans. One couple had a delightful, well behaved little boy of two. We assume that he was adopted - he appeared to be SE Asian.
We sat right by the crocodile lagoon, where it reached the beach. The tide came up high, washing into the lagoon. After our meal, we walked briefly on to the beach, looking across to the lights of Zihuatanejo, it was really pretty, and made us think of the Italian lakes. We came back at 9.30.
Sunday 14th March 151 miles
We enjoyed the short time of cool before the sun became hot. We ate breakfast of banana followed by toasted bun, sitting inside out of the sun, which by now was hot.
The gate was finally opened at 8.30. We had been told that it would be opened at 7.00, as another ‘camper’, a man on his own, had come in late, and wanted to leave early.
We walked down to the beach and had a lovely swim. A huge cruise ship had come in across the bay.
We left at 9.30 and drove back on the road to Zihuatanejo. It seemed very like the French Riviera. We headed south on Mex 200, but found ourselves at the airport by mistake! We soon righted ourselves, and after stopping to get some petrol, continued south. We came to the town of Petatlan, where there is apparently a church which has become a place of pilgrimage. We turned into the town with difficulty, and had a difficult time driving through the narrow streets, and saw no sign of the church, so no pilgrimage for us! We started listening to some more of our recording which lightened a day of travelling along roads which were mostly just away from the coast.
Bill had told us of a place that he had stayed at, called las Brisas. We located it alright, and turned off on to the sandy track at midday. There were signs everywhere to las Brisas Restaurant. Just by the beach, we found an empty palapa and 2 wooden seats under the shade of an old satellite dish, but no sign of the restaurant! The sea here was too rough to swim in, so we decided to continue, but first we had our lunch, knowing how difficult it is to find places to stop. We had had many glimpses of lovely beaches in this area, but after that, it was just the inland route, passing through village after village, and tope after tope after tope! We were tope-ed out! Just before Acapulco, we were stopped at a military control point. The young lads tried to talk to us, eventually we let them into the van. One looked around in astonishment, particularly at the photos, then waved us on. We think that they just wanted to see inside!
We turned off to Pie de la Cuesta, where there were a couple of trailer parks. One had no-one in at all. The other, called Acaplulco Trailer Park, had just a few campers in it. It seems that all the ‘snowbirds’ have left by now. This site is nicely shaded (it is VERY hot), and faces the turbulent sea on one side, and a quiet lagoon on the other. It also has a tiny swimming pool. That’s where we headed first, and spent a long time lazing in the warm water, and chatting (or mostly listening) to a lady from Arizona, who is staying here with her husband Cliff. She told us of the terrible terrorist attack in Madrid. She also had much information on places south of here.
We had heard that sunsets were really good here, so we headed onto the beach with our beers and chairs. It is certainly a lovely long sandy beach - it made us think of Broome in Australia. We watched the sun go down, but no green flash.
The sun goes down at Pie de la Cuesta
To our left, we could see the lights come on all over the western area of Acapulco. We came back and lit the barbie. We only had corn on the cob, bacon and baked potatoes tonight, which we ate outside. It was very warm. The wine was nice!
Later we walked out to the beach. As the beach gate was now locked, this meant going out through the front gate (where we met Cliff and his wife and their friend Bill, returning from their meal out), and along the road a bit, then on to the deserted beach. We came back at 10.15.
Monday 15th March Frustration and fun in Acapulco! 13 miles
It was a very warm night, and I hadn’t slept well. We enjoyed the few lovely minutes of cool, before eating breakfast of poached egg on toast outside in this very shady site.
We walked across to the lagoon side, which looked really beautiful and misty - a bit like the Italian lakes. The water was pretty dirty looking, but we still had a pleasant swim in the calm water, then came back to the mini pool for a cleaner swim.
The lagoon at Pie de la Cuesta
We left at 10.30 and headed into Acapulco. We had been told of a new Carrefour hypermarket, and we needed some shopping, but I had really wanted to stay out of the town today. We found our way to the store after just one big detour, but the problem now was that there was nowhere for us to park, as the car park was inside, and too low for the Bam. Traffic was heavy, and mad! There were VW Beetles everywhere! The taxis were white VWs with blue trims. They looked really pretty, but were driven crazily! After finding ourselves in a bus parking area up a steep road behind the store, we did manage to park in a road opposite. We went in for a big shop, including 2 new picnic seats which we needed.
We had asked in the store about digital printing, and the girl wrote down the name of a photo shop in the centre of Acapulco. Despite my former idea, we now made our way in that direction, through the chaotic traffic. We turned left in to the road we wanted, following a taxi, when a policeman called us over. He said that we couldn’t turn left there. After much discussion(?), and him taking Adrian’s driving licence, he asked for 1200 pesos -£60. We hadn’t got that, and offered him all we had - 400 pesos - £20. This he took, very discreetly and handed the licence back. The whole thing was a con, as we knew. At least it was the first time that it had happened to us!
We realised that we weren’t going to be able to park in this area, and as there was an RV Park close by, we made our way there, with the help of the new map we had bought, but still with much difficulty.
This site also had a lot of shade - it was surprising to find a site so near to the centre of Acapulco, it has been here a long time. By now it was 1.45, so I finished putting away the shopping, and we had lunch.
Then we walked back through the busy streets, reminding us of Bangkok, to the photo place. There were in fact about half a dozen different photo shops. We tried them all - only one did digital printing from a disk - it was expensive, and we needed to know that it would be right. We hung around a long time, wondering if they were still serving us, or having a private discussion! After ages, they led us down some steps to where a chap was sitting in front of a computer. He loaded our disk and told us that we had 169 pictures (which we knew)! Finally I saw a photo on the table, in gloss - I asked if they did matt finish (which was what we had been asking all the time) and they said no. So that was that - almost. The shop we had been given the name of was nearby, but all shut up. I asked a chap nearby, and he said it would open at 4.00 (it was now 3.30). We wandered around some more, bought a bottle of water and got some money, and at some time after 4.00, the shop opened, but - they didn’t do digital printing!
After all this frustration, it was time to head back to the beach, stopping for an ice cream by the entrance to the RV Park. The beautiful sandy beach was just opposite, so we had a delicious swim in the calm water, surrounded by the bay, making us think of Auckland or Vancouver. We came back to Suave RV Park, and our own private, if simple, shower room.
It was so hot still, that we didn’t want to eat much, and ‘prawn sandwiches’, made with a fresh French loaf, and with a pleasant bottle of wine, were just the thing, as we sat in our secluded spot!
We walked out afterwards, but felt so thirsty that we called in to one of the huge hypermarkets to buy a bottle of water. We’re glad that we did, because afterwards we walked down on to the beach and got chatting to a young couple with their little year old daughter called Claudia. The husband, who had a difficult name which we didn’t catch, worked at the museum in the fort in Acapulco. In the evenings he studied English at the University. They only lived nearby, but said that they hadn’t brought Claudia to the beach before, they were too busy. She so reminded us of Emma at that age. They had come down to buy fish from the fishermen, who had been hauling in a huge net - 2 lines of people, like a side by side tug of war. The catch tonight wasn’t very big, but was good to watch. We chatted to several of the fishermen, it was great to think of this happening on an Acapulcan beach, I was just cross not to have my camera. We now realised that it was 11 o’clock, so we headed back, reaching the Bam at about 11.20.
Tuesday 16th March 25 miles
Awoke at 8.00, in the brief cool, to hear exotic birdsong, otherwise it was quiet in this central Acapulco site. We ate breakfast outside, enjoying cereal again, now that we had some milk, followed by papaya.
Adrian investigated the gas leak which we have been concerned about.
We walked out and across the busy road to the beach, where we were the only people to be having a swim in the pleasant calm sea. We saw the fishing boat and the fishermen from last night in the distance.
The beach at Acapulco in the morning mist
We crossed back, and found the narrow entrance between ‘diabetes, gout and sexual impotence’, with a sign up 3 floors to ‘gynaecology’, back into our campsite.
At 10.15 we left, taking what we thought looked a straightforward route around the coast, back to Pie de la Cueste, where we had stayed 2 days ago. It didn’t work like that!
We very soon passed the fort, Fuerte de San Diego which we wanted to visit. We pulled in beside the road, but Adrian wasn’t happy about parking here. We decided to drive ’round the block’ - a big mistake! John had warned of doing that in Central America - it doesn’t work! We ended up going right through Acapulco again - past all the photo shops, and coping with the hellish driving (someone has just told us it’s the worst in Mexico).
We made it back to the fort (built originally to keep the English out in the 1500’s.) This time we pulled into the little side street that we had missed, and parked, only to find that you could park in the fort itself!
The fort is now a museum (which is where our friend from last night works), but we decided not to visit, but just to take in the views down to Acapulco. It was misty, so we couldn’t see that much.
We now drove off, intending to drive around the Peninsula de las Playas, and reach Quebrada, where the cliff divers perform, in time for their lunchtime performance. What seemed easy on the map, wasn’t like that in reality, particularly with virtually no signposts, and with roads dug up all over the place. We found ourselves at Caletilla, which is where there was one of 2 tiny coves I had wanted to see. We pulled in, and Adrian stayed by the Bam, while I tried to make my way to the beach, as I was really hot, and wanted a ‘dip’. I nearly gave up, but eventually did find it - it was so shrouded in building work, that it was quite hidden. It was basically a pretty little cove, once full of character. Locals were on the beach, selling their wares, and in the water, but were just crowded out by building. I had a quick swim, then found the exit to the beach. I was pleased to find that Adrian had driven the Bam down here, so I didn’t have to walk back up the hill.
We now made our way uneventfully to la Quebrada, arriving at 12.15. We had to pay 10 pesos to park, and had time to have our lunch in the relatively cool air-conditioned Bam before heading out to stand in the intense heat to watch the divers. Our entrance fee included a can of drink each. The 5 divers were pretty impressive - they each had to scale the tall cliff, before they leapt off it, separately, and into the sea far below.
The divers at la Quebrada We bought 2 puppets from this soleful little girl
This has been a tourist stint since 1934. Of course there were people trying to sell all sorts of things. We did want to buy a hammock as a present, and did buy one, but the ‘no change’ problem caused us to almost give it back! The heat had got to us, and we were dripping. The man must have been very keen, as at the eleventh hour he came back with some change. I then bought 2 simple puppets from a little girl who had been suffering the heat with me while we waited for Adrian to try to get change.
Now we just wanted to head back to Pie de la Cuesta, wanting to view the other site there, a former KOA site, which people had said was nice. Our first problem, having cleverly negotiated the right road, was that the road was closed - no diversion, nothing! So once again we had to head through the heat and the horrendous traffic of Acapulco!
Well, we did get there - it was further out than the other site we had stayed at here, and it didn’t appeal at all. Admittedly it did have a beautiful swimming pool, and that did attract us, but that was all! The site looked arid and unloved. The front row (behind a fence), was unshaded and parched (and expensive). We had wanted to do the washing, but there were no machines here, you had to hand in the washing and collect it. Also there was internet, which we wanted, but this wasn’t enough to entice us. We decided to return to the site of 2 nights ago (Acapulco Trailer Park), and sort the washing problem by taking it to a lady at the ‘Laundry mat’ a mile or so back along the road.
This we did, so by the time we reached Acapulco Trailer Park we headed straight for the tiny pool. Then Adrian got busy with the gas repairs. He was assisted with this by another Bill, originally from San Diego, but now living in Mexico. Bill was a representative for Woodall’s campground directory, so he knew all about the sites here and could speak perfect Spanish. He was travelling in a camping car. He took Adrian off to a local ‘builders merchants’ where the young girl was able to fix (put a new flare on) the gas pipe. This was an unexpected bonus, as Adrian hadn’t imagined that it could be mended here, and was going to ‘bodge’ it until we got back to USA. Bill was very easy to chat to, and joined us for a beer or two. The sunset ‘didn’t happen’ tonight, so we continued chatting, and didn’t come in until 9.30, by which time it was too late to eat, so we just had a banana. It was still very warm.
Wednesday 17th March Happy Birthday Renee! 20 miles
We breakfasted outside in our pleasant surroundings, then Adrian got on with completing the gas pipe repairs. I wrote an email ready to send and walked over to photograph the peaceful lagoon. I didn’t swim in it, as apart from it looking very mucky, I saw a huge crab at the water’s edge. Also large spindly spiders hung from the trees and scrambled over my legs.
The small campside pool was far preferable. It was occupied this morning by an older chap who was lying on an airbed in the pool, fag in one hand and beer in the other, with an empty beer can either side of the pool. Another lone chap was resting on a sunbed, also smoking. They were playing nostalgic Jim Reeves music, and both seemed like ageing sixties crooners! The one in the pool had the tiddliest, silliest looking little dog, which apparently hated the water. It looked like a toy dog that kids have, which jump if you press the button. It was fussing around us at the edge of the pool, and Adrian threatened it by saying he would throw it in. The dog instantly jumped away several feet and stayed there, glaring at us!
We had coffee, said goodbye to Bill, and left at 11.30.
We drove along to the end of the road, and collected our clean and folded washing before proceeding into Acapulco. We were pleased to find an internet place as we drove through, and were able to send our email. After a long time, we also managed to renew our phone card, so that we can now phone home again.
We found our way through Acapulco fairly easily, and drove along the road beside the beach. It was now 1.30, so we pulled in beside the road and had lunch in the Bam. We couldn’t work out whether we should be parking there or not, but couldn’t resist a quick swim in the inviting sea, especially as tonight’s site is not on the beach.
We now continued past the hotel stretch and on around the bay, where the resort growth is spreading. We stopped once or twice with nice views down to Acapulco, and onwards to the attractive bays to the east.
South of Acapulco
We arrived at Diamonte RV Park at about 3 o’clock. This site appears to be run and occupied by French Canadians, who we have never found to be very friendly. However, it was pleasantly shaded, with a nice pool, which we headed for fairly soon.
Adrian lit the barbie, and while the potatoes were cooking, we went back for another swim. We heard an English voice talking loudly and ignored it. We came back to finish cooking supper (chicken), and had just finished eating it, when things changed. We had thought that tonight there would be no-one talking to us, as most here were French Canadian, when the aforementioned English chap came by. He asked us where we were from. ‘I come from Reading’ he said. We talked some more, and discovered that he went to Stoneham School!! His name was Bill (no.4), and he now lives on Vancouver Island.
He and his wife(?) Shirley were chatting to 2 friends Sue and Glenn, from Winnipeg, by the pool. Of course we went to join them, and spent a happy and interesting evening. Bill was 2 years behind Adrian at school, and left early to join the Navy. He hadn’t enjoyed school at all, but did enjoy reminiscing with Adrian. We didn’t return to the Bam until 11.30.
Thursday 18th March 281 miles
We were awake early to hear the exotic birdsong of kiskidees and orioles. We ate our breakfast outside before heading to the pool for a swim, made less pleasant because someone was strimming the grass, and the lady park owner was looking disapprovingly as she conversed with the workers cleaning the pool. We spent a few minutes saying goodbye to Bill and Shirley. I took a photo of the 2 Stoneham boys!
What school did you go to?
We intended to drive to Puerto Escondido today. We knew that it was a long drive, and had been told of the difficulties - hundreds of dreadful topes. Somebody told us there were 200 topes along this road, and we don’t disbelieve them. Most of them were of the ‘killer’ type, anything faster than 1 mph and we would need new suspension. We had heard horror stories of people wrecking things in their vans when they came across a tope unexpectedly.
Nevertheless, we thought that we had ample time, as we set off at 9.50. Our first mistake was to arrive at the airport (again), so we rectified this and headed off on the road which led along between the coast and the lagoon. We often wondered if we were on the right road, as it didn’t look very ‘main road-ish’. We drove through two villages, both lost in time, with pigs running down the street, and with bad topes. After 20 miles we came to a rough looking bit of road, and I mentioned that they must be repairing the bridge. Well - there was no bridge! It must have been destroyed some time ago, and they were ‘working on it’! We asked two men where the diversion was and were told that we had to RETURN all the way, there was no way through!
We had a moment or two of incredulity - there had been no indication at all that this might happen, we had always been on the right road, it just didn’t go through!
Adrian now had to turn around with great difficulty on the dirt track, just as a road truck came along impatiently.
Silently we drove back the 20 miles. At one point we tried a road going north, but when we got to a badly tope-d village boggled down with traffic, particularly taxis, and all but had a scrape with one, we turned around. We drove back past the airport (where dozens of police were gathering). We pulled in to the side of the road to see (from our inadequate map) which road to take, when a van in front started reversing towards us! We set off again, avoiding a scattering of bricks across the road, and at the last moment saw that the sign for the toll road going north to Mexico City also said Puerto Escondido. Good, we thought, that will save a bit of time. We drove along it for a couple of miles to our turn off, and were surprised to see a toll booth - we had to pay 36 pesos (£1.80) for our few minutes drive!
At least now we were on the right road towards Puerto Escondido - it was 11.15! We stopped soon for a reviving tea/coffee and started listening to the CDs of the 50s which we had bought the other day. Most of it was pretty terrible, but gave us some laughs!
We came to a Control Post and were stopped. The young soldiers indicated that they wanted to look inside the Bam . That’s just what they did want, to have a look! They peeped in the door, then said ‘OK’ and waved us on!
At San Marcos we stopped for petrol and not long afterwards we stopped for lunch near a small fast flowing irrigation channel. Then it was on with the ‘big tope’! We drove through varying countryside, often very dry, but sometimes with large trees, and crossing a few large rivers. We passed through towns and villages, large and small, but all with dozens of topes! One town had market stalls lining both sides of the street, with hardly room for 2 vehicles to pass. It seemed amazing that we didn’t knock over a stall, or run into a person.
We saw much livestock on the road, mostly alive! One time a donkey caused us to brake violently. Later we drove behind a bus for quite a distance, and this was very helpful in seeing where the topes were! If it wasn’t topes, it was holes in the road or road works! We passed a large group of cyclists, who luckily had just about finished their race, and there were just the few stragglers on the road.
As we neared Puerto Escondido, we passed a large lagoon, where the sun shone down in magical colours. Annoyingly, I found out later that one of our books listed a campsite there. We got to Puerto Escondido just before 7 o’clock. We knew that there was a problem with campsites here, and that several had closed for various reasons. We scouted around a bit. We hadn’t fully taken in the information that people had given us, but we found ourselves right by the beach in what appeared to be a municipal parking area, but which went under the name of Neptuno RV Park. There was no-one else here, and it had no facilities - we had to pay 120 pesos, but we did have somewhere to stop, just before it got dark.
We wandered out into this pleasant little touristy town, and soon went for a nice meal at one of the many Italian restaurants here. Apparently a lot of Italians came here after a film called ‘Puerto Escondido’ was made here (presumably Italian). The film is shown in the restaurant every night (like ‘The Quiet Man’ in Ireland). We were the only people in the restaurant at the time, but we enjoyed pasta, fish and salad, followed by a tiny crème caramel, and washed down by a couple of beers, as we looked directly out to the pretty, sandy beach. We wandered around the pedestrian street for a short while - it was still very warm. We had a cold shower in the Bam to cool us before bed!
Friday 19th March 49 miles
We were pleased that it was not too hot in the night. We ate breakfast inside, as it was not too exciting to sit outside here, amongst the ‘carts and horses’!
Afterwards we walked along the shore. A walkway had been built right along by the sea. It was already hot, but a pleasant walk. We walked back through the town, and when we reached the Bam, we went for a delicious swim in the sea. It was rather crowded with fishing boats, and shelved deeply, but cooled us beautifully!
Fisherman loading their catch
We then used a nearby internet café (where I had a cup of coffee), to read my Mothers day message from Emma, which came with photos, and send one back to her. I bought a few postcards, and we left at 11.30, driving back to Angelita Cove, which we had almost walked to earlier.
We negotiated the hundreds of Mexicans who seemed to be here on a day trip, and once more cooled off in the sea. It was a pretty little cove, but VERY busy with people - we had to be sure that this was Friday, and not the weekend. As we left, a chap insisted that we had to pay to park. He asked for 10 pesos. When we finally gave him 5 pesos, he seemed quite happy!
We drove back through Puerto Escondido to Zicatele beach, a surfing beach on the other side. Here I quickly cooked enchiladas for lunch, which we ate inside, as we felt that it was cooler.
We left here at 2 o’clock and drove south towards Puerto Angel. We were near, but not close to, the beach. We turned off to Mazunte, where there is a turtle conservation project, with a ‘museum’. We had a tour of the museum, which was an interesting experience! Our guide was Freddy, a young university student who spoke English quite well, but with a Mexican accent. The other people on our tour were a young couple from Berlin, who spoke good English, and a problematic young Austrian girl who was always trying to draw attention to herself (apart from her very short shorts!) It was interesting to learn that 7 of the 8 types of sea turtles are found in Mexico. They were all here in the aquarium (apart from the largest, which nests here, but lives in Alaska - they had a model of that one). I loved seeing the tiny turtles, which looked like little birds flying, as they swam around the large tanks.
We left here and drove along to Zipolite, which has become very popular with backpackers. There was an RV Park here called Fernandos, which is where we were heading for. It was a dried up area with several palm trees, and there was only one other camper here.
We crossed the road to the beach, where we saw that the sea was too rough for us. We walked on to another pretty little beach called Playa Amor, which was equally rough. We sat on rocks and were splashed by the waves.
The beach at Zipolite
We came back to the campsite and had showers in the one shower, which consisted of a pipe of water behind a rustic fence, gushing out cool water! We went back to the beach with a beer, but there was no good sunset tonight. We had several dogs to annoy us!
Back in the campsite, we cooked pork outside, but ate inside. Again there were dogs waiting for leftovers, but there weren’t any!
Saturday 20th March 7 miles
We awoke to a cacophony of the dawn chorus, dominated by cocks and hens! We ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, which Adrian had cooked outside. We sat in this arid campsite to eat our breakfast, with a soulful dog and the bickering chickens waiting for any scraps.
Adrian chatted to the other couple here - Canadians from Ontario, who had been down to Guatemala and Honduras.
We walked along the road into Zipolite and sorted out a place on the beach to stay for tonight. We walked back along the beach, and had a splash in the sea. Back at Fernandos we had showers in the rustic outdoor ‘cubicle’ and after coffee, sitting inside with the air conditioning on, we left for Puerto Angel just after 11 o’clock.
Puerto Angel was so small that we had driven through it before we realised. I was cross to find that there was no post box outside the post office, which we knew was closed today, so I couldn’t post the cards that I had written. We drove out the other side for a short way, but found that you had to walk a long way to the beaches here, so we returned to the town. We tried to get to Playa del Panteon but the road was small, and a chap was keen to get us to park to go to his restaurant. We managed to turn around and park just up the road. From here we could walk to the beach, which was really pretty, but the water was extremely dirty. We still had a swim, then walked along a beachside walkway to the main beach. Dozens of ‘day trippers’ were arriving.
Playa del Panteon
We walked right along to the end of the beach, past all the fishing boats, and had a delightful swim in much cleaner water, where the only other people were a father and his 3 children. We walked back to the Bam and then drove back to the small supermarket, where we bought one or two things, including some excellent local cheese - the best we have tasted in Mexico. It was too hot to think of eating (the temperature was its ‘usual’ 33ºC), so we drove back to Zipolite and found the cabanas where we intended to stay tonight. Getting into the parking area was difficult, but when we had managed it, we found that there was a pleasant cool breeze by the beach. We sat here to have our lunch.
Wonderful spot for our last night by the sea
We knew that Zipolite was a place where some nudists hang out. Still, we were surprised at an elderly gent who walked onto the scorching beach in front of us, stripped off his trunks and exercised in full view! It quite put me off my meal!
During the afternoon, we tried out the water, but it was too rough for me to enjoy. We spoke to a young English chap from Liverpool, who is staying in the cabana next to us with his Danish girlfriend. He was in his gap year between school and University. He planned to study Japanese at Edinburgh.
We walked along the beach to the end. Here there was a pretty little cove, with offshore rocks, one with a large hole through it. This is where most of the nudists hang out! We returned along the beach - by now the tide had gone out a bit, and the waves weren’t so violent. We had a glorious time in the water - wonderful for our last day at the sea. We came back for ‘sundowners’, sitting on seats on the beach, then enjoyed a meal of pork, pasta, and cauli in tomato sauce. We were glad that we had moved to the beach for our last night.
We sat out by the sea until 10 o’clock, enjoying the stars, and the few ‘jewels’ in the sea. We came in, but could hear the noise of a nearby disco.
Sunday 21st March Mothers Day 166 miles
The disco boomed in our ears until 3.00 am! We could also hear the noise of other music, but that didn’t vibrate though us like the distorted bass notes of the disco. Also people were talking close by, so our sleep was rather disturbed. We were still awake early - we knew that today’s journey to Oaxaca would take a long time. We breakfasted by the beach and left at 8 o’clock.
A reluctant farewell to nights by the beach!
We drove the few miles to Puerto Angel, which was already quite busy. We had our last swim in the sea, but the water wasn’t so clear today. We saw a great sight though - the fishermen were rushing their boats on to the beach, and when one came in, people (mostly women), dashed to it, and grabbed out the fish they wanted!
We were very low on fuel, and wound on anxiously to the road junction 7 miles further on. There was no sign of a Pemex, so I asked a soldier at the check point here. We followed his directions, but it didn’t look hopeful, so we asked again at the propane place we passed. It turned out that the Pemex was a few yards up the road we were taking!
Now refuelled, we drove through the busy town of Pochulta. A lot of people looked as though they were setting off for the day. I looked up Mexican holidays, and found that today is the celebration of the birth of Benito Juarez, the much revered early Mexican president (whose home was actually Oaxaca).
The road now wound on continuously up into the mountains, finally to 10,000ft, although it was ‘up and down’ for a lot all the way.
Initially the countryside was much greener, with a lot of large trees. We passed an area where there had been a great landslide - in fact earth was still falling as we drove past.
We continued on our constantly winding route, which wasn’t too good for my travel sickness! It had now become drier again. We drove through many mountain villages, all, of course with their topes. Because the road just wound up the mountainside, it was difficult to find anywhere to pull off for lunch. When we finally did, it was on a very unlevel area. It had taken 4 hours to do the first 75 miles!
We descended now to a dry valley and the road became much ‘straighter’. We passed a snake, which slithered across the road in front of us.
We drove through Ejutla, which had a fine church in the centre, and Ocotlan, which reminded us of Granada in Nicaragua.
When we reached Oaxaca, we had a lot of trouble, as always, with our inadequate maps tying up with the actuality. On trying to find our way, we had a little fracas with a bus. There was a noise, but as our mirror was still intact, it must have been his (we didn’t stop!). After many diversions around the outer roads, we finally got to Oaxaca Trailer Park at 5.15. It was a rather unloved campsite surrounded by building work (how much longer will it last?) We had heard bad reports of the site, but Bill and Shirley had thought it was OK. It was nothing to write home about, but was somewhere to stay. We had a cup of tea in the last of the sun, which was warm, but then it became quite cool.
As it was Mothers Day, Adrian cooked supper.
Monday 22nd March 79 miles
There was a blue sky but it was cooler. We breakfasted and left before 8 o'clock. Today we were going to drive on a tour of the Tlacolula Valley. We headed out towards Mitla but missed most of the sights on the way. The first one we stopped at was Yagul.
The first of many amazing sites today - Yagul
This was a lovely site in a beautiful setting. As we went in, I noticed a sign which said that entry was free for people over 60 - nationals or not. We had just been bemoaning the fact that it would have been free yesterday, as all sites are free on Sundays. The chap took some convincing, but he let us in. We were the only people there at that early hour (coach parties were arriving as we left). We were surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, with cacti (and cactus wrens). This site had become important after the decline of Monte Alban, which we were to see later. The unfortunate thing was that we lost each other as we wandered around this vast place, and by now it had become hot. Once reunited, we headed for Mitla, another site a few miles down the road. We passed 2 oxen with a primitive plough. To get to this site, we had to drive through the narrow streets of the little town of Mitla. This time the ‘non national’ bit on the entrance sign was crossed out, and we had to pay. The notable thing here were attractive carved decorations, which were known here as mosaics, around the top of various walls. The whole site was centred around a large catholic church (well, the church came later).
Carved walls at Mitla
After wandering around, we headed back towards Oaxaca. I was pleased to pass a post box, so posted the cards I had been waiting to send.
The first stop on our way back was Tlacolula, a village renowned for its large Sunday market. Today it was fairly quiet, with just a few stalls selling produce. After looking into the very ornate church, we wandered round and bought some cheese (50p), like the cheese we had been enjoying, some fresh rolls, which were good but filling, a bunch of flowers - (50p) and then an icecream - lemon (lime) and coconut, 2 pesos each, which we ate in one of the many tree filled squares.
Further back along the road we found the turnoff to Teotitlan, a village known for its weaving and rugs. We had lunch (including the rolls) beside the road, then drove on to the village. Rugs hung from many of the houses, but not many were being sold today in the market. Again this was centred near the church, which was really pretty, with a lovely painted ceiling to the dome.
The church at Teotitlan
Outside were jacarandas, and some other huge trees. We passed the post office, so went in to buy some more stamps. I was pleased to have found a post office, just by chance, but - today they weren’t selling stamps - that bit was closed!
Near here was another ancient site - Dianzu. Again this was in a lovely hillside setting, surrounded by parched countryside. The young chap let us in free (after we showed our driving licence with our date of birth). As we wandered around, another chap came over and said ‘have you paid?’ he seemed happy with my explanation.
We left here at 2.30 and made for the last place in the valley which we wanted to visit. This was El Tule, famous for a huge tree, which is supposedly the largest tree in the world. We saw 2 different trees first, which we thought was it, and weren’t that impressed, but when we saw the actual tree, it was certainly huge - a Mexican Cypress. It dwarfed the pretty church beside it.
The giant tree at El Tule
We had to pay 3 pesos each to get close to the tree, but the whole area here was so immaculately clean, tidy and litter-free that it was unbelievable. There were a few stalls, and from one a girl rushed out and implored us to try mescal (a relative of tequila, local to this area). She gave us each samples of all 7 or 8 flavours of their drink. We bought a large bottle of pina colada flavour.
Now we had to make our way to Monte Alban, on the other side of Oaxaca. It wasn’t without its difficulties (those awful maps and no signs again), but we got there, winding right up to the top of the hillside to this splendid site. We arrived at 4 o’clock, and had to pay this time. The site was huge, and very impressive, and the parched yellowish grass gave it a surreal look. We wandered round for well over an hour, climbing up the steps of some of the buildings, and looking down over Oaxaca, far below.
We had noticed 2 people walking around with Adventure Caravan jackets, and just before leaving we spoke to the husband. (we had passed a motorhome earlier with an Adventure Caravan symbol on it, and had discussed what they were doing). It transpired that they had just left an ‘Adventure Caravan’ group after travelling to Panama, just as we had last year. They had left the group early, and in the few minutes that we chatted, we had much to empathise with! Adrian was particularly glad to speak to someone who felt as we had about the restraints of this type of travelling.
We left here at 5.30, and made a relatively trouble free journey back to Oaxaca Trailer Park, arriving at about 6.15, and heading soon for the shower. Our ‘Adventure Caravan’ couple arrived soon after, and pulled in beside us, so more chat.
Tuesday 23rd March 1 mile
I was disturbed in the night by the loud and ongoing sound of a police car nearby. Nevertheless we were up quite early, and left at 8.45 for our day in Oaxaca (Wa-harker).
As we left the campsite, the chap gave us an old, badly photocopied map, but it was a help in finding where the bus was going. We had to walk down a street where market stalls were being set up for the day. It looked quite lively. A bus came along straight away, and we rattled our way towards the centre of the town. With the aid of our map, we got off at a suitable stop and started walking. We soon realised that Oaxaca is a town of churches - I think it must have as many as Venice!
The first one that we peeped into was St. Augustin. This, like many of them, had an ornately decorated front. We were to look in many more, and see even more from the outside!
We soon came to the zocala, the main square, which was fairly quiet at this time of day, but had its quota of shoe shiners. Adjacent to it was another vast church - Temple of the Company. It had a nice ceiling.
We walked on to the first of 2 markets, where people were just setting up for the day. Beyond it was another church, St Juan de Dios, which contained lots of paintings, and the other side of that was the other market. This was really atmospheric. Many locals were sitting at stalls eating. We thought that we ought to try something, so I had coffee and Adrian hot chocolate. Both came with a large unexciting bun. My coffee had a very strange taste -we had heard that coffee was cheap here, but I didn’t bother with buying any! Chocolate too is very popular.
Coffee and unexciting bun in Oaxaca market
While we were eating, we were bombarded non stop by vendors asking us to buy something. All the things were very similar - little wooden bookmarks, snakes, spatulas. We resisted them all, but had to give something to the musicians who started up nearby, presumably for our benefit!
We had hoped that we might get my photos printed in Oaxaca, but after trying about half a dozen places, when we did finally find one that would do them, it was at more than twice the price of in England. As there are now 200 waiting to be printed, that would be quite an expense!
We did have success with an Internet though. We had recently received messages from all 4 of our kids, so were able to read them, and send them a reply. However, this was after a lot of problems getting logged in. The good thing was that there was a loo off the entrance courtyard, a bonus in busy towns!
Now it was time to visit the vast cathedral. This really was huge, but the amazing thing to us is the devoutness of the people, many of them Indians. They pray in front of the effigies, some of them in tears.
We saw even more churches - San Felipe Nero, where Benito Juarez was married, had plenty of gold decoration. Solidad (the virgin of solitude) had even more gold, and a diamond crowned figure of Mary.
The church of Solidad, Oaxaca
I much preferred the simpler church of San Jose opposite, which contained lots of bright yellow and orange flowers. The church of Santo Domingo was the most opulent of all, it just drooled gold!
The former monastery next to this last church is now a vast museum/cultural centre. It is one place I did not enjoy! The building was similar to the one in Guadalajara that we visited, with dozens of courtyards. These, however, were absolutely bleak and barren. Only one had a few frangipane trees, and even those didn’t have any scent!
All the officials looked really miserable, and none smiled. We had to leave our small rucsac at the entrance - we couldn’t even take our bottle of water in with us!
There were dozens and dozens of rooms of exhibits, but as not one sign was in English, it was difficult knowing the relevance of things. Much of it was of a religious nature, but there was a lot of stuff from the Zapotec sites. I really enjoyed seeing the collection from Tomb 7 at Monte Alban - it was a bit like Tutankhamen’s treasures.
From the large windows we could look down over the grounds, which were full of large cacti and succulents. They were so painfully neatly arranged, that I was quite glad that we never found the entrance to them!
It was 2 o’clock when we left here, and we needed some food to eat. We had left the area of food stalls, so were really pleased to find a woman tucked in a corner outside and selling some kind of freshly cooked filled tortilla. We bought one each, hoping that they wouldn’t be too spicy for us. They were very good, but rather messy, as the orange coloured filling oozed out. They were wrapped in pink paper like washroom paper towels! We sat on a step by the road to finish them, then, thank goodness for wet wipes!
The last place we had wanted to visit was the former home of Bonito Juarez. We wondered why we hadn’t found it, when, on walking back, we saw that it was right opposite the woman with her stall.
The former home of Benito Juarez
The good thing about going in here was that they let us in free when we showed our driving licence with our age on it. The house had been set up as a small ‘museum’, and it was very pretty.
The colourful zocala (main square) in Oaxaca
Now we walked back to the square and set about finding a place to catch the bus back. This wasn’t that simple, as most streets are one-way, and we had no idea which way the bus might be wending its way! We tried at one bus stop, but it was going in the wrong direction. Luckily we knew that we had to catch a bus saying Gigante VW on the front. We were wondering how to find the right place, when a chap got off a bus (maybe the one whose driver I had asked) and told us how to get to the stop. Gratefully we made our way there, and were soon rattling back, passing even more churches on the way! I had written Gigante on a piece of paper to show the driver, as my pronunciation would never be understood! All was well, and we even got off at just the right stop. We walked back along the street of market stalls, which were now packing up, and arrived at Oaxaca Trailer Park at 4 o’clock.
We spoke briefly to the Canadian couple, and to a German couple who had come in beside us - they had driven down from Baltimore in 7 weeks, having shipped their vehicle over. Then it was off to Gigante ourselves for a shop. Parking was difficult, with a very steep ramp, which the Bam grounded on. We had toyed with the idea of trying the other RV Park which is a bit further out, but decided not to, and returned to our usual spot, where Adrian lit the barbie.
We found that the pork we had bought was very thin, but it was good, and we even tried a bit of mole (Mexican sauce) with it.
Wednesday 24th March 233 miles
We planned to drive to Puebla today, taking the toll road, so that we would get there in time to see a bit of neighbouring Cholula, as we are aware how fast time is going!
We were up early - it was a dog barking in the night this time that was noisy. We left at 7.30 and managed to find our way out of Oaxaca and on to the toll road. It is annoying that they charge by the number of back wheels, and as we have ‘duallies’ (double wheels) we are charged more.
We travelled through some wonderful gorge and mountain scenery. We stopped once to view, but it was a bit early for coffee. When we did want to stop for coffee, there was nowhere suitable, and we ended up beside one of the toll booths!
Lunch was also spent beside the road, as we neared Puebla. We had passed several ‘parades’ today along the road - first some kind of march. Then relay runners with a torch, and lastly groups of cyclists. These were escorted front and rear, but we still thought the road totally unsuitable as it was supposed to be a motorway (and especially when half a dozen ambulances raced by on the other carriageway.) The most amazing sight though was a balloon seller beside this frantic road!
We could see the volcano la Malinche to the north of us, and then we could see 2 more - Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl - in front, but partly hidden by cloud.
There were road works at the exit which we wanted, which made life difficult, but we found our way finally to Cholula and drove around the town, past the zocala, realising that it must be market day. This made driving more difficult, but we managed to park in a side street and walk to the zocala and the nearby Convent of St Gabriel, where we looked into the gold and white church of St Gabriel, but didn’t bother with the 69 other churches of the town! We drove on and found the archaeological site - there is a huge pyramid here, but it is hidden under soil and growth. We had trouble in finding the entrance, but in the end, we parked opposite. It was then that we found that we had lost our bent hub cap when we pulled in close to the kerb earlier, and had bent another one.
This pyramid, when it was built, was bigger than those in Egypt, but unfortunately much of it was ‘re-used’ to build some of the towns 70 churches, so now it only looks like a hill with a church on top. The archaeologists have dug 8 km of tunnels through it to investigate it and now you can walk right through the pyramid, along some of these narrow tunnels. We were pestered to have a guide, but declined. We first visited a small museum, which had a model of the pyramid.
A model of the pyramid at Cholula
Signs in here were also in English - what a difference! After wandering through the tunnels, we looked around the rest of the site, then climbed up to the church on the top.
And the real thing
Again this was predominantly gold and white inside, and very ornate, but pretty. From outside we had excellent views over Cholula and Puebla - shame we hadn’t got my binoculars or Adrian’s video camera!
It was 4.30 when we left here, and after some confusion, we reached Las Americas RV Park at about 5.00. We had been expecting a large and busy site - it is the only one here - but there were just a few tents and one motorhome around a grassy area with facilities which had seen better days. I had been looking forward to a swim in the pool - the afternoon had been warm - but the once nice pool contained rather cool water, and by now the day had become really cloudy, with rumbles of thunder and even a drop or two of rain. I thought that a warm shower would then be good, but the water only came out cold!
Later we had more drops of rain.
Thursday 25th March 0 miles
It was sunny but cool at first, particularly as the sun didn’t get to us. We had breakfast and left at 8.40 for a day in Puebla.
This proved to be an excellent day, and Puebla became one of our favourite places. We walked down the dusty track to the main road, where a ‘collectivo’ was waiting at the traffic lights. We asked for ‘centro’, and squashed in with all the locals into this small minibus, a cross between a bus and a taxi, and the mode of travel here. One woman had an old painted wooden table and all her bags of things to sell with her. We were amazed at the speed and efficiency of the chap who scrambled up and cleaned the windscreen while we waited at some traffic lights.
We were dropped near the former railway station, where several locomotives were lined up outside, as museum pieces, but although 9.45, it wasn’t yet open. We then commenced our delightful walk around the pleasant centre of this town, where dozens of the buildings were fronted by attractive tiles. There were little specialist shops along the road we walked towards the centre. Adrian loved the huge collections of obtuse things, such as wheels on castors. We tried a few more photo places, but without luck.
This town too had hundreds of churches - we limited our viewing to the huge cathedral and one or two others. Adrian said he was ‘churched out’. The reverence of the local people still astounds us. If the cathedral was opulent, the church of San Domingo - THE church to see here - just drooled gold. The cathedral had notices translated into terrible English - ‘This is a place of cult. We beg him to employ withdrawal’ and ‘discover the head’.
Puebla is just so pretty!
The wonderful thing about Puebla was the beautiful pedestrian ‘mews’ type streets. It made me think of Bath. We had coffee in a delightful little café along one of these streets then came to a lovely area of craft stalls before we entered the ‘artists corner’.
Views of the artists corner in Puebla
This was the gem, as far as we were concerned. Impossible to describe in words, it was so lovely that it brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. We are not arty people, but we both just loved it - what would Emma have thought?
One of the artist’s displays
Each doorway along a wall of brick and tiles contained a different artist’s work. Curved arches framed the doorways, and, although still quite early in the day, we could see some of the artists at work. I make no excuse for the number of photos and amount of video taken!
Even the police seemed happy!
Just after this area, we came to the theatre, and outside was a poster advertising a concert of Beatles music tomorrow!
We made our way to what was called a market, but was more like an Outlet Centre. It was housed in a fine old building, reminding us of Swindon’s Railway buildings, but didn’t have outlet stores so much as modern western type shops and stalls. We used the loo here, and had to pay 4 pesos (20p) - certainly a lot for Mexicans to pay.
Upstairs were several eating places, all in a line, like a food hall. I had wanted to try ‘mole poblano’ which originates from here. Adrian ordered ‘ham and eggs’, a sort of ham omelet. Both came beautifully presented. Mine was really too spicy for me, but was good, with 2 pieces of chicken in a rich sauce. There were fresh rolls and tortillas, enough to take home for tea as well! I had ‘jamaica’ - a fruit drink tasting like weak Ribena. Adrian’s lemonade was a refreshing drink made from fresh limes. The total cost of all this was £3.50!
We wandered back to the railway station, which was where we had to catch the ‘bus’, passing innumerable shops crammed with fancy dress costumes, elaborate first communion and baptism dresses, fancy home made sweets - a speciality of here, and just about anything else you could think of. We had passed many newspaper stalls, selling a large variety of Mexican papers. The front pages were filled with 2 relevant stories. One was about a group of English cavers who had got trapped in a cave in Mexico, and had angered the Mexican premier. The other was the report of an accident yesterday involving 36 German tourists in a coach, 3 of whom had died. As this was almost certainly the reason that all the ambulances passed us yesterday, the fact that we were minutes away from the accident was very sobering.
Back at the railway station, the gates were now open, so we could visit this free museum, so Adrian was in his element! There were 6 complete trains, apart from other memorabilia - a good ending to an excellent visit!
And a railway museum too!
We caught the ‘collectivo’ back, without too much trouble, and managed to get off at more or less the right place to walk back along the dusty track to las Americas RV Park. It was 4 o’clock when we got back, and we felt pretty warm, so cooled off in the cold swimming pool, before having an inefficient cold shower. A cup of tea was now in order, but as we sat outside with all our books, sorting out our next few days, we had some spots of rain again. We wondered if this happens each afternoon as a result of the proximity of the volcanoes.
After our ample lunch, we just had ham and cheese rolls for supper, followed by the last of the strawberries.
Adrian had been chatting to the German motorcycling couple Gudi and Charlie, so we invited them in for a drink and chatted until 10.45. They had already had many adventures, as they were half way through a year’s trip which started in South America and was continuing through to North America. In Chile they had had much of their stuff stolen, including all their maps (bought in Switzerland and irreplaceable), many items of clothing, and her contact lenses. They lived near the Swiss border, near Schaffhausen. Charlie (Karl Heinz) was 48, and had his own heating business. Gudi (Gudrun) who was 36, was a nursing tutor, but had become disillusioned with the way things were run in Germany.
We didn’t envy them camping in a tiny tent when the nights are cool and dark but we admired their spirit.
Friday 26th March 127 miles
We were awake early and it was still cool. We breakfasted and left at 7.45, heading for Cuernavaca. We diverted first to visit 2 nearby churches which Gudi had told Adrian about. We managed to find our way around Cholula, in the morning traffic, and with our poor maps. We could see the 2 magnificent volcanoes, Popo and Itzi, looking wonderful against the blue sky, with their tops dusted in fresh snow. Also we could see the church on top of the pyramid looking very misty.
The first church, Santa Maria Tomantzintla, was in a village which we couldn’t drive into, so we had to walk. We were intrigued by flower petals scattered on the ground near the church and along the pavement. Unfortunately we were too early to look inside this church, which is supposed to be very colourful, but the outside was impressive enough, being covered by colourful tiles.
Santa Maria Tomantzintla
As this was how the second church, San Fransisco Acatepec was described, we were understandably confused. This church was a mile further on, and we were disappointed to find that the tower was under scaffolding as they were cleaning it. I still managed one or two photos though.
A bit further on we stopped to photograph the wonderful volcanoes, which we saw quite a lot of as we had to travel first south west to Izucar and then north west towards Cuautla.
Popocatapetl volcano, with Iztaccihuatl hiding on the right
We sometimes thought that Popo was smoking, but maybe it was just cloud. We had more views when we stopped for coffee. We had passed through numerous villages, all with their quota of topes, but a delight today was the number of gorgeous purple jacaranda trees in flower.
We continued towards Cuautla, being stopped for an inspection. They wanted to see all our papers, and a young chap looked right through the van. One chap spoke English pretty well. He said that his family lived in Los Angeles - he had presumably had to return to do his National Service.
We had been making good time until now, but on the outskirts of Cuautla we were held up by road works for at least half an hour, with poor (no) signs to show us where to go. We managed to find our way towards Cuernavaca, along a road which on the map looked like a super highway, but in practice was a toped rat run. We stopped at a Pemex on the outskirts for lunch, and then to get some fuel.
We negotiated the busy town of Cuernavaca and were able to park not too far from the centre. We walked in, arriving through yet another craft market outside the Palace de Cortes. This former home of Cortes, built on top of a pyramid which he destroyed for that purpose, is now the regional museum. Here the signs were written in excellent English, as well as Spanish, and were quite deep and thought provoking. The museum is renowned for its large murals, made in 1930, depicting Mexico’s history, but there were also a lot of ancient maps and pictures which we liked. We had had to leave our little rucsac at the entrance, and our drinking water - very unfriendly!
Once outside, we made our way to the square, where a lot of people seemed happy to just sit and dream. We bought icecreams - mango/nut - and joined them briefly. There was a large stage, and a drummer was ‘tuning up’, rather unmusically!
We made our way to the huge cathedral complex, where we first looked into an ‘extra’ church, which was very bare except for a totally gold altar wall. The cathedral itself appealed to me. It again was very bare, but it was vast, and had brightly coloured windows - one yellow and one red. Along the walls were recently discovered huge murals. I liked the pretty cloister, bedecked with large pots of geraniums set high up on the walls.
The attractive cathedral cloisters, Cuernavaca
We would like to have visited the nearby Jardin Borda, but time was running out, so we found our way through the Revolution Park. Through gaps in the wall, I could see a nursery/primary school, with all the children sitting on little chairs on the patios outside each classroom. I have been impressed by how colourful and welcoming kindergartens are here. There was also a swimming pool and a sports hall in this park.
It was just after 4.30 when we got back to the Bam. We now had to make our way out of Cuernavaca (which we had found pleasant, but too busy for us) and south for several miles to El Paraiso RV Park,Atlacholoaya. The journey was horrendous, with constant towns and villages and all their topes and dreadful traffic. Also there was the perennial problem of poor maps and few road signs. We made one detour before finding our way to the road to the campsite, then the last bit of the journey was down a long bumpy track to the entrance. Here we had to wait outside a large gate until a lady came to unlock it. We met 2 ladies - mother and daughter. Both spoke some English, but acted in a strange way, as if they were acting a part, and we were the first people who had ever come here. By now it was 5.45, and we just wanted to get settled in!
The site itself was very attractive, rather like a French orchard. There was a superb swimming pool, lined with lovely blue tiles. The surface was rather grubby, but we headed there for a pleasant swim.
A disastrous evening followed. We had been worried for some time by the unpleasant odour coming from the loo. Adrian thought that this was the time to take it apart and try to sort the problem. In retrospect, it was not the time to do it, after a long and difficult day, and of course things didn’t go to plan! With increasing exhaustion, and after losing bits that couldn’t be found, he had to call it a day, and leave the problem to be sorted tomorrow. This meant that we had no loo or water for tonight. By now we were both too tired and weary to eat much, so I made some simple scrambled egg tacos. It was a beautiful warm evening.
Saturday 27th March 133 miles
We woke early, so after breakfast Adrian got down to sorting the loo problem. This time things went much better (although he had found nothing wrong with it), and he was finished by 8.30. I had a quick swim and we left at 9 o’clock.
We bumped our way along the track to the road, and then found our way back towards the toll road. Even taking this road, we found the lack of signs made things difficult. And toll road does not mean motorway! At one stage, the ‘free’ road used one carriageway (newly surfaced), and we had the other carriageway! There were occasional pedestrians, cyclists and even a pack donkey on our road, and stalls of flowers and goods sometimes lined the side! However, it was a better option as we climbed into the hills towards Taxco.
The mountain scenery was lovely, but it was very misty. We stopped for coffee by a toll booth just before Taxco, as there had been nowhere to pull off, but soon afterwards we came to a ‘mirador’ - a viewpoint to the town of Taxco.
Taxco was an old silver mining town and is still the place to buy silver jewellery, and was the reason for today’s long diversion. It is one of those places one is supposed to see, and is a National Monument. The problem though, was parking - we knew that the streets weren’t wide enough for our van, even though dozens of cars and small taxis raced up them.
When a man beckoned to us and said that we could park in the hotel there, we decided to, whatever the cost! Many people were offering ‘Tourist information’, but really just trying to get you to go into the hundreds of silver shops. Our man had given us a plan of the town, which was very useful as we walked around, following a route in one of our books.
We got to the main square, which was bubbling with activity. The huge church was beside it, supposedly a ‘must see’, but all (dusty) gold - it didn’t appeal to me at all.
Taxco - the ‘silver town’
The most amazing thing was the market, which clung to dozens of Clovelly type cobbled streets, with hardly room to walk through. We made our way down and then back up along some of the many steep, narrow streets and steps. Back near the square, we spoke to an English chap from Leamington Spa. He is married to a Mexican, and has lived in Cuernavaca for a year, revelling in playing golf now that he has retired. He seemed to be enjoying life, but missed his children, who still lived in England.
The only silver we bought was 2 bargain rings for me, but Adrian did buy a nice T shirt. We gave the gateman at the hotel 20 pesos and drove back to the Mirador to have our late lunch, including fresh rolls we had bought in Taxco.
We left at 2.30, taking the toll road back to Cuernavaca (total cost both ways 230 pesos). We were stopped once for an inspection, but as we didn’t understand the gabbling young chap, they laughingly waved us on.
At Cuernavaca we managed to find the road out towards Cuautla which we had come on yesterday. At first it was extremely busy, but was quieter as we drove out of the town. As we arrived at Oaxtepec, we saw that we were right outside the RV Park we intended staying at. This was in a large complex with 20 swimming pools, and we had chosen it as it sounded good. But! You’ve guessed it, after much confusion at the entrance, when we finally got to the reception, the man said ‘no RVs, tents only’. It was no good saying, ‘well it’s in our book’!
We were stuck now (this has often happened, where we have a choice of a number of sites, settle on the last one, and then can’t get in), but on driving out, we spotted an information place. However, the 3 girls were most unhelpful, even though we had the name of another possible place in our book. We started off up the road, in the direction they pointed, but there was a big traffic jam, and we realised that we didn’t really want to go that way anyway. We made for the nearby toll road, entering at first in the wrong direction, but after making an unlawful ‘uee’, we drove for the few miles (and paid no toll - perhaps it was on the proper entrance!) to the 115 north. Along here, after some time, we pulled into the back of a Pemex north of Tetelcingo.
The chap said we could stay in the corner, and apart from an occasional unpleasant aroma from the cattle behind us, it was OK. We even had a view up to Popo volcano. We bought an ice cream from the shop.
Sunday 28th March 105 miles
It was a fine morning, but misty. We had breakfast and left at 8.30, stopping to get some fuel from the Pemex.
As we drove through one of the many villages, I saw a shop selling large bottles of drinking water. As we were down to our last few dregs, this was a wonderful relief! We filled our 5 smaller bottles and continued on our way.
We were driving northwards along the western side of Popocatapatl and Itzaccihuatl, following the ‘Ruta de evacuation’. Popo is a live volcano, but we were pleased that we were able to drive right up toCortez Pass, between the 2 volcanoes. The road beyond was closed because of the possibility of an eruption, but this is obviously a popular Sunday destination, although fairly quiet while we were there.
The summit of ‘Izzi’ from Cortez Pass
We ascended on a continually winding road through forest, making me think of driving up Mt. Revelstoke. Beside the road, people were setting up drink stalls for the later picnickers. We had to go through a checkpoint, but as we couldn’t understand the chap, he just waved us on. The pass was at almost 12,000ft, so it felt quite cool, but it was lovely. We stayed long enough to wander round a bit, and have our tea/coffee before we began our long descent at about 11 o’clock.
When we reached the road northwards, half an hour or so later, we joined all the Sunday traffic. The sides of the road had numerous places for Sunday recreation - parks and fairs.
We were now driving northwards to the east of Mexico City. The roads were very congested, so for lunch we turned off on to a rough bit of ground by some old rail tracks - at least it was fairly quiet.
Continuing on our route, we passed a Comercial Mexicana, a large hypermarket, so stopped to buy some more goodies, mainly wine and other booze, but also a pair of shorts for me.
The road onwards to San Juan was exceedingly bumpy with topes, so we were glad when we reached the small town. We drove too far, so had to return, but arrived at the pleasant grassy Teotihuacan Trailer Park at about 4.20. A very pleasant lady greeted us. The site looked very busy, but most were Mexicans who had been away for the weekend and soon left. That left just us and a couple of tents, plus the Canadian couple Peter and Madeleine, who had been with us in Zipolite. We had a cup of tea, as we looked at our books to read about Teotihuacan, the huge ancient site a mile or so away, and Mexico City, which we plan to visit in a couple of days.