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Thread: 2Guys1Truck: Astro Van through Central and South America March 2012

  1. #21
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    Default El Espinazo Del Diablo

    Mazatlan, Durango, Zacatecas

    1 U.S. dollar = 13.4638429 Mexican pesos

    Miles driven to date: XXXXX

    Gas total for this section: 1450 Pesos (108 USD)

    Gas total for trip: 6450 Pesos (480 USD)

    Camping/hotel cost for this section: 106 pesos (7.42 USD)

    Camping/hotel total: 186 peso (13.86 USD)



    Note added maps to give an idea, the maps here show in red what Paul and I did roughly in 2011, and blue is the current trip. Also, regarding the picture gallery at the end of posts, you need to click the image to see where the picture is from, as I auto-named them by city. I would rather throw up a bunch with general names than only post a few with each one individually named. Thanks

    According to FBI crime statistics, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US in 2010. The US State Department reports that 120 Americans of the 5.7 million who visited Mexico last year were murdered, which is a rate of 2.1 of 100,000 visitors murdered in Mexico. Lets say that again.



    4.8 Americans per 100,000 murdered in US

    2.1 Americans per 100,000 murdered in Mexico

    I am safer in Mexico than my own country, now that is sad.

    If your afraid of visiting Mexico, you should be afraid of getting out of your own bed, its a dangerous world out there.



    I mention this because the US basically said stay the F out of Mexico, it is too dangerous with the banditos, cartel members, and tequila, though they are probably spot on about the tequila. This naturally pissed off Mexico, so the US, aside from giving them guns as a present in project gunrunner, revised that, to only about half of the states in Mexico, which seems just about the same as “stay the F out of Mexico” to me. They say avoid any unnecessary travel from region A to B, but if your trying to get from region A to B, that IS necessary travel.



    In the combined 5 or so months in Mexico I have driven through the following states on that list:

    Baja California (north): Check

    Durango: Check

    San Luis Potosi: Check

    Sinaloa: Check

    Sonora: Check

    Zacatecas : Check

    Aguascalientes: Check

    Colima: Check

    Jalisco: Check

    Michoacán: Check

    Nayarit: Check

    Veracruz: Check

    Now I am making progress.


    The 16 Hr. ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez was uneventful. Made my way to the “salon” where a movie in English with some sort of Asian subtitles played, all the while some dudes silhouette was in the lower screen from the bootlegged recording. Not sure why on earth they would show a movie in english, as I was clearly the only one on the ship who could even tell what was going on, and even then I wish I couldn’t. Think it was called “Battleship”, and it sucked. Then I got to watch “Battle of Los Angeles” in Spanish, and it also sucked. Good work Hollywood, keep raising that bar. After that I couldn’t take anymore and made my way back to the Astro for some guitar playing, reading, and then to sleep where I had dreams I was falling off the boat. That may have been because they wedged me in sideways on a ramp at a terrible angle…I tried every position I could but they all sucked! Luckily, we didn’t sink and eventually made it to Mazatlan, so I had that going for me.


    Mazatlan, Sinaloa:

    Not much to say about Mazatlan, another one of those “been there done thats” with Paul on the 1st trip. This was however the first time I have felt uncomfortable in Mexico regarding the military. After sitting on the ferry for over an hour as I was the 3rd from last to get off due to where they crammed me in, I was ready to head to the Malecon. Not so fast senior, these military guys stop me, pretty sure they were just bored since I already had to go through customs to get onto the ferry. The guys were nice, joking around, looking at my stuff, then it took a turn for the worse. The outgoing one mentions I have no girl with me, and suddenly starts dry humping my passenger seat. I made a joke or two I will leave out here, he does this 3 or 4 more times over the course of 10 minutes. I am pretty sure he threw his leg up on my dash at one point, which is rather impressive considering I lifted the van. They finally let me go, and I slowly drive out of the empty port as I was the only one left around. I figure this is what a walk of shame feels like. So, that was my welcoming to Mazatlan.





    The main drag was busy, full of Mexican tourists, with plenty going on. It was however, extremely hot, and that is saying something after the deserts of Baja California in June. After the ferry ride I needed a shower, so I went off searching for an RV Park to settle in. I had read there were pretty much no RV’s headed south this time of year so knew I wouldn’t have to worry about them being over filled. Well, the 1st place I tried was locked up and closed. Ok, lets try where Paul and I stayed, a bit pricey, and they guy wouldn’t budge with us on price, but it was right on the beach and I wanted a shower! Hmm..locked up and closed, next. 3rdtimes a char….closed. WTF, this place even had the gates open with the owners sitting in the office. I walk inside the office, say hello, duck as a bird flys over my head, all the while they just quietly stare at me, so I ask how much. Sorry, not open. Well I thought to myself, ok, why didn’t you just say that as you stared at me in silence, maybe you should do something about that bird with that free time you have sitting here in a closed RV park. But if your here, and the parks empty, why not take my money and let me spend the night? I didn’t ask any of that as not much ever makes sense in Mexico. Well I realllly wanted that shower, so finally I found a place on the 4th try, San Fernando RV Park, only 100 pesos a night (7.42 USD). You have to be kidding me, that is crazy cheap for Mazatlan, I think we paid about 30 USD last time. Only downside was they locked the gates, including the pedestrian doorway, so I had to ask permission to get out when I wanted to leave, as well as ring the bell to get back in, and of course I was the ONLY one in the park. If I had gone out and came home drunk at 3 am I probably would have scaled the fence rather than ring some bell to wake up the dude.



    After a night there I set off to head for Durango, which was several hours of driving a no nonsense road. First I stocked up on supplies, then filled up the tank, called home to catch up, did stuff on email, oh crap its 1pm already, too late to head out. Not wanting to go back to the RV Park and ask permission to enter, I decided its another night of stealth camping, this time in the histoical centro. The next morning it was time to tackle El Espinazo Del Diablo, the devils backbone. For those of you who have been following from the beginning, this is the road Paul and I decided not to tackle based on a conversation we had with a guy at a RV Park, as we didn’t want to go flying off the side of a cliff that early in the trip. This time I have discovered how bad *** I am, so it was on.



    Victoria de Durango, Durango:



    The Road to Durango, El Espinazo Del Diablo: The Devils Backbone. 1st of all, this is a dangerous road. Ranked in 2010 as the 19th most dangerous road in the world, over 200 kilometers (125 miles) of road that was nonstop hairpin turns reaching elevations of nearly 9000 ft according to the GPS (Denver is 5280 feet for reference) all while on the edge of a cliff with semi trucks using your lane around blind turns rather than crawl down the mountain at a slower pace, oh, and don’t forget the fog. Seriously, I honestly don’t think there was a single point where a straightaway of more than 25 yards existed, it was unreal. That said, it was relatively a piece of cake, never take advice on driving from an RV’er. The road is in great shape, and its paved, the real problem is the mother truckers. I had some closer than I would have liked calls, and see why it is such a dangerous road. Had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time, like 30 seconds here or there, I would have been messed up, there is no way I would ride a motorcycle on that road, those guys are crazy! Its very busy with the construction trucks as they are building toll roads to bypass it, but as I have previously stated I don’t take toll roads. I didn’t drive from San Diego to see Mexico from a highway. The road has also had a few instances of robberies in the past, but I had read it was pretty heavily patrolled by the military now so no longer a problem. I went through 1…1 checkpoint during the entire journey from Mazatlan to Durango, and they just waved me through. Thank guys, I feel better already. Eventually, I made it safe and sound to Durango, a city I had missed and one of the few regrets from the 1st trip. The other 3 being the Californis Grey whales in Baja….someday I will touch one of those bastards, the City of Zacatecas as its relatively near Durango, and Morelia. Well, I am not skipping anything this time (Uhh, yeah, next time Morelia, but that part of the story can wait)
    Here is a perfect example of the trucks haulin *** around the corners using the both lanes to their advantage.







    One of the things Durango is mostly known for today for the wild west movies Hollywood shot back in the day, I saw some cowboys walking around, and driving towards the city across the plains definitely had that wild west feel. Google told me this is where John Candy died shooting a movie. I have also read they are no longer making movies there anymore though, I had read that the last movie made was with Salma Hayek, I looked, but was unable to find her, I do need to practice my Spanish after all. I had also read both Durango and Zacatecas were cities which see very few North Americans, and they were right. It takes a bit of adjusting walking around a new city in Mexico alone and being the only American in sight. In reality though, no one really cares, everyone goes about their business as usual, and obviously Americans do visit there, just not the day I did. Durango had a great feel, and awesome weather after all the heat I had been dealing with, seriously there is a reason I have only seen 10 gringoes in all of my travels through Baja and the mainland, who goes to Mexico in June, I did say I was a genius didn’t I? At 6,200 ft the cooler temperatures were a pleasant relief. The Centro itself was much smaller than I had thought it would be, though the main roads away from there have all the fixings, Home Depots, Burger Kings, Walmarts, Autozones, you name it, that goes for every decent sized city I have been through.





    I stayed in the centro area to people watch, it’s what you do in these cities. Its a very clean, and nice centro, and tons of people were out and about having a great time. The main street full of shops had tons of people out as it was Saturday, hey I finally knew what day it was! I then hiked up the hill where the teriferico (cable car) was. I do not know whos idea it was to build one in this town, that dude must have been super lazy, but I will tell you, if you are looking for somewhere to take your girl for some HEAVY making out, that’s the place. If you didn’t know, Mexicans love making out in public like its been years since they saw their loved ones, and they don’t hold back. I believe the kids these days call it sucking face. Sadly I lost all of my pictures of the centro and main drag full of people having a great time. Another night of stealth camping 3 blocks from the cathedral, this stuffs too easy, might as well do it while I can, and then I headed out to my next stop, Zacatecas.





    Zacatecas, Zacatecas:



    Mmmm, Zacatecas 62 degrees, 68% Humidity, rained heavily everyday for 20-60 minutes, and it was great. I can’t believe I wore jeans, a hoodie at times, and was chilled several times through out my stay. Surf, what surf, I may never leave the mountains, forget the beaches, this is great weather. Zacatecas is amazing, and while Durango was nice, it blows it away for me. Zacatecas was THE silver mining town of its day. El Mina del Eden is still in production today, and you can take a tour to the 4th of 7 levels, so I did. I figure worst that happens is I get stuck down there for 2 months and they make a movie about me, it worked for the Chileans. Nothing eventful happened so I am still not famous, sigh. The tour was ok considering they didn;t have an english speaker for me, I told them that was fine I had read about it and just wanted to look. Since it was a weekday, and June, it was rather slow. Luckily there was a small group with me, otherwise it would have been a bit awkward, as there was a teacher, 5 kids, and myself. The kids were hilarious, they were all scarred to be in the mine, holding each others hands and articles of the teachers clothing. Then we took the elevator down and they freaked out, I am pretty sure they had never been in an elevator before, I wasn’t even sure they were going to walk into it the way they were acting. The mine was cool for the price, but it didn’t blow me away. I think the basic story is the same, the Spanish from back in the day were dicks, came over and enslaved the men, women, AND children to force them to mine the silver so they could get rich. Obviously many died from diseases and accidents, see who needs a tour guide. The mine had mannequins to show how it was done, you can see a pic of a kid dangling over a deep crevice in a cage. They also just used ropes and ladders to get up and down, it was pretty nuts.





    This town also has a teriferico, and whoever came up with this idea was a genius. I love walking cities, so I hiked up to the top, but I must admit after living at sea level since what, 2005, this city at 8.000 feet was a bit of a workout. After getting some great shots of the city from above, and catching my breath, I hit the other sites, the catedral, aqueducts, plazas, etc. This city would be perfect if they just banned cars, its a great city to walk around, and is reminiscent of Gunajuato, except there are tons of cars here which not only ruin all the shots, but make parking a bit difficult. I don’t know if I got lucky, but both days I found awesome spots to stealth camp, 1st 3 blocks from the cathedral, and the second night right by the aqueduct…now that’s location. Just make sure to bring earplugs, lots of cars and noise. I also spotted a great looking place to eat by the 1st nights parking, but had already eaten, so planned to go the next day. I then read in lonely planet that this was their recommended place, “Los Dorados de Villa” and it did not disappoint. This place is a few blocks away from the cathedral, and apparently always locked, so you have to ring the bell to get in…unless your smooth like me and just walk right in. Its a small place broken into several room, and the room going into the bathroom has a tree with some birdhouses, and birds, what is up with these indoor birds in Mexico! If you recall I got really sick back in Mexico city, like Poltergeist sick. I decided I don’t want to deal with that in the hot jungles as I head south, so ordered up some soup, and agua de horchata to see if I could build my tolerance slightly, as everyone knows you can’t drink the water down here, and need to be careful of the foods. I forgot to order with no ice, and am pretty sure thats what got Paul when he was sick, but went for it, if I am going to get sick I want it to be here where I can grab a nice hotel with some cool weather. I also grabbed the enchiladas valentinas which where good though not my typical go to choice. All of the above for only 150 pesos (10.90 USD), which was pretty good for the amount. Also note, non of my prices include tipping, that is up to you to decide. Hopefully I am fine, and build up an iron stomach, I will let you know how that went later, I feel fine, but it isn’t an instant kind of reaction. Fingers crossed! Edit: Hmmm, not sure if I am glad or disappointed, but I was fine, I will be pissed when its 90 with a 127% humidity and puking my guts out!









    Still deciding my next move, I told you I fly by the seat of my pants. Ready for some surf, but definitely not ready for that weather that comes with it.

    Also, if you havent noticed, I dont use apostrophes, and only occasionally use paragraphs. I hate those things, plus I am on vacation here, get off my back.

    More pics here
    El Espinazo Del Diablo
    Last edited by Wiley; 07-10-2012 at 04:30 PM.
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiley View Post
    Also, if you havent noticed, I dont use apostrophes, and only occasionally use paragraphs. I hate those things, plus I am on vacation here, get off my back.
    El Espinazo Del Diablo
    Amen...My kinda trip report! Way to keeps it real.
    Recently finished 2 years exploring North, Central & South America in our '87 4Runner

  3. #23
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    great reading...keep it up

  4. #24
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    Default Theres blood in the streets of San Luis Potosi

    San Luis Potosi, Lago Luna Media, Aquismon:


    1 U.S. dollar = 13.3317335 Mexican pesos

    Miles driven to date:

    Gas total for this section:

    Gas total for trip:

    Camping/hotel cost for this section: 410 Pesos (30.75 USD)

    Camping/hotel total:



    There is a general "travelers path" taken through Mexico, which I have tried to avoid for a bit this time. I am still hitting spots others have been to, I am not discovering anything "new" necessarily, but generally people take the west coast area down and then swing through Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Mx City, ect. Pretty much what we did last time. From Zacatecas I can jump back into that path and try and find some gringoes from North America or Europe by heading south....nah, not yet. From Zacatecas I decided I wanted to delay the inevitable heat I eventually have to face, and decided to try out San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes 1st, before making my way down to Guanajuato. I have previously been to Guanajuato, its a great place that I would recomend, but I don't feel I need to revisist it, though I am confident I could at least meet up with some Europeans, if not some North Americans. As far as SLP and Aguas, I have read they are nice, nothing too spectacular, but I dont know much about them so could be wrong. So, here is an idea of my rough plan, which has lots of backtracking, but hey, I am not in a rush. Hit up SLP, backtrack to Aguascalientes, head south, and then back west to rehit a few places Paul and I blew through for some surfing and beach life. The map should help for those who are unfamiliar with Mexico.



    San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi:



    For those travelling SLP has much more restricted parking around the centro with green and yellow zones all over. White or non painted are what I grab for the stealth camping. I think I got lucky again and found a good place a few blocks away but was ready to hit an RV Park. That said there are pay lots that were crazy cheap, but bad asses dont pay. Im not really sure why I am making it more difficult to be honest, I saw one for 6 Peos an hour, which means they are almost paying me to park there.





    As soon as I got here I knew it was a mistake. Now SLP is nice, has all the plazas and centros that other cities have, and is famous for their red tacos and enchiladas from the chili packed dough I guess. I certainly dont want to discourage anyone, if its on the way go for it. Eitherway, I was centro-ed out. I got to one plaza, snapped a photo, moved on to the next, snapped a photo, walk, click, repeat. I just didnt have it in me, vacationing can be tough. I have read it on other blogs, but sometimes it all starts to feel the same. So, I went back to the van for an early night. I am fully aware travelling is going to have its ups and downs, and not every place is going to be great, but what a bummer to go out of your way for a place that just didnt do ir for me. Slightly annoyed that I went out of the way, and would have to backtrack from this place to aguas which may or may not be more of the same, the wheels started turning as I lay there in bed. While I really wante to see Morelia, as its apparently a beautiful city full of college girls, I mean students, there isnt much point in going to a university town in the summer, and other that that one city it would mostly be revisiting previous destinations. Remember that map up above, to hell with that plan, I am headed east! What can I say, thats how I roll. Great, I will be a lonely gringo forever, or proabably at least until Oaxaca.





    The next morning, knowing I am headed for the countryside, I decide to try and find a walmart as I needed over 20 litres of water, and thats the easiest way to get that much that I know of. I try and avoid gringo stores, but sometimes you gotta hit them up, I will occassionally, with my head hung low, eat at a McDonalds, Burger king, or even a Starbucks which I rarely frequent in the states, all for the wifi. For most things down here I try to go to a local store, I even avoid the OXXO (think 7/11) since they are just anotehr chain, but it had to be done. Now the question is, where is one around here? Since I lost my navigator Paul, I picked up a cheap garmin to use for visual reference as things can get hectic driving in a Mexican city. I picked up some free maps of Mx and Central America here (http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/) They have helped greatly and surprising I have yet to get lost, what the hell Paul. It certainly is not perfect, it did say route 40 for the devils backbone was north when I knew it was south of Mazatlan, but they are free and available for most of the world. I figured hey might as well try it, and proceeded to type in Walmart: 1.5 miles, sweet! It worked, and just as I get to the main road where I can see a Home Depot, Sams, Costco, and Walmart, I see a man in the street, and literally said to myself, that guy looks angry. There are several cars stopped due to a light, but a taxi and grey car in the center lane seem to be a bit in the way and almost bumper to bumper (turns out the taxi driver was in street). I am about 4 cars away coming in from a side street at an angle so the view was good. Suddenly the taxi driver throws his hands in the air and kicks the bumper of the grey car in front of him. That was it, it was on. Suddenly the guy in the grey car jumps out, while the taxi driver adapts the classic fighters stance, and I notice these were two pretty good sized dudes, though looked evenly matched. Now since the two cars were so close it was one long barricade, with each fighter at opposite ends. The grey driver runs towards the taxis driver side so taxi moves around the other side keeping his distance. Its all happening pretty fast and I am fumbling for my camera in the door as I keep it locked and loaded for these spur of the moment treats. Suddenly the grey driver reaches into the taxis window, why I dont know, but I figure its Mexico, maybe theres a gun, think I will leave the camera out and try and move on. Other people had the same idea and cars start to slowly go around, which means I cant move. While the grey driver is hanging half in the window, why he would do this during a fight I dont know as it put him in a very vulnerable position, the taxi driver runs around the car toward him. Suddenly a box truck goes by and all I get to see is the taxi driver bear hugging the grey driver from behind, while blood is pouring from grey drivers head. Meanwhile I see a man walking some poor old lady to the side of the street, I can only assume she was a passenger in the taxi during all of this nonsense. Grey driver is clutching "the club" so I am not sure why he is the one bleeding, but the blow to his head seems to have cleared it, as the fight suddenly ends. Then it gets really bizzare, taxi driver lets go of grey driver and they have a few words, its clear the fight is over, the taxi driver didnt look worried at all. Then grey driver and taxi driver both calmly get into their vehicles and slowly drive to the Pexmex right there. I can only assume they were going to hug it out. I then proceeded to walmart, where I could have, and in hindsight should have, gotten my car washed from guys with buckets in the lot while I shopped, just to make the story that much better!



    Side note, I have commented to people on the lack of road rage in Mexico, especially considering some of the crazy, though often well played moves these fools make. There is however a lot of honking, usually taxis just trying to pick someone up, though occasionally someone gets angry and it seems to last for 30-60 seconds. I wonder if they are just really pissed or the poor bastards horn gets stuck and they look like a jackass, who knows. Road rage seems to me anyway, a fairly rare occuance in such large cities here, but maybe that is just because I lived in Boston for a few years, and those guys are always pissed off since their sports teams suck.



    Lago Media Luna, San Luis Potosi:






    Mexican states were named after the biggest cities of the time back in the day, which is why you see Durango, Durango, ect, so the above is showing Lago Media Luna is located within the state of San Luis Potosi, not to be confused with, or near the city, as it is a few hours from the city.





    A few hours from the city of SLP, is a unique, though extremely small clear lake, Lago Media Luna. After being centro-ed out this sounded like a great place to re-energize. The water comes from a spring I believe, and as it is not very deep the water is warm, not hot, but for a lake its nice. People come here to snorkel and scuba dive in the clear blue water, though aside from lilypads and one species of invasive fish it is pretty much devoid of life. There is also a shallow river/aqueduct which provides a great place for the familys to relax and let the kids swim around. The river is only maybe 3-5 feet deep at most, but there were tons of people with life preservers. I dont know, I would think this is a great time to learn to swim, but they clearly had safety in mind, and that was a first for me here in Mexico. The enterance fee is 30 pesos a day (2.22 USD) and there is camping for 70 pesos (5.19 USD) within the park. When I got there I asked if I could sleep in my van, assuming I would pay the small camping fee, but the girl said it was free to sleep in my car since I would be in the parking lot, not within the gates, read sleep at your own risk! Sweet, I would rather stay with my stuff, plus I have a bed and fan! There is apparently a security gaurd but I think your pretty much on your own for others who are considering this.



    You can also use the showers for 5 pesos (0.37 USD) and bathrooms for 2 pesos (you have to divide by zero). Definitely a one day stop, but as I had some minor suff I wanted to do to the van the next day, and there was a good amount of shade, I stayed 2 nights. A good amount of the people were there the 1st day, and even more the next as it got closer to the weekend. I was either there wed/thur or thur/fri, so I bet sat is a zoo this time of year. It was a good decision to unwind, but now I was ready to roll, its off to the real reason I scrapped the western pacific portion of Mexico, and had decided on a wim to head east, and that is found just outside of Aquismon, San Luis Potosi.



    Aquismon, San Luis Potosi:



    Aquismon was a cool little village, a fair amount of people for such a small village, though not a whole lot to offer. As soon a I got there I hit up some food, I was not feeling great and figured it was due to being hungry. I spotted a busy little restaurant and decided that was the spot. I ordered up some chicken asado and it was the bomb! I got half a chicken, some tortillas, grilled onions, and some salsa. Yup, no silverware, you tear that sucker apart with your hands and enjoy. It was delicious, and after that I took a quick lap to see that aquismon didnt have much to offer, but the location was incredible as its built at the foot of some pretty large, lush green mountains. Figuring it was time to move on, I headed for the reason this small town is probably even on the map.





    The cave of swallows: Sótano de las Golondrinas




    Remember when I was lying in bed in SLP, not very pleased that I came out of my way to get there, of course you do, unless you are terrible at reading. Well I started looking into reasons to continue east, and this was the one that got me. So, last minute game changer, and I find myself atop the largest cave shaft in the world, and Mexicos 2nddeepest pit. For those of you BBC's Planet Earth lovers, you may rember the opening portion of the Caves epsidoe, where fools jump into this open air pit cave, a whopping 160 by 205 feet wide, which opens up to a greater diameter below of approximately 995 feet by 440 feet. At a depth of 1,220 feet the empire state buildings roof would protrud the entrance by about 30 feet, yup 30 feet! An interesting phenomenon here is the thousands of birds (technically not even swallows) which live within the cave. Each day at dawn they begin their 45 minute ascent circling around the cave climbing higher and higher, and then coordinating their exit with some voodoo bird language, 50 to 100 birds at a time will take off at once exiting the cave to head for the coast for food more than 100 kilometers away.





    They then repeat the process in reverse at dusk returning home. Interestingly enough the fools freediving are not the only ones doing it. The birds begin their circular pattern on their return, and once crossing the opening to the cave tuck their wings and legs for their own free dive, pulling out when they get to the appropriate level with their nests. Its a pretty enourmous cave, though due to the size and darkness, it is hard to grasp just how big it really was. Due to the road condition getting up there, they mostly get toursists from the local vans or truck taxis, so there are only 20 or so spots to park, but of course it was just me. You then pay 20 pesos (1.48 USD) and walk 15 minutes down some stone steps to the cave. There are some guys there who will tie you up and let you crawl out to the edge for pictures for 10 pesos (0.74 USD). I had the place to myself for about 30 minutes, then another couple came along, but it is dead this time of year on weekdays.





    I did whoever feel terrible, for about 4 hours I had a crazy headache, dizzyness, and came close to losing the delicous chicken lunch I had. Who wouldnt want to be on the edge of a giant cave during a dizzy spell? I know it was the altitude as the cave is only at 3000 feet, and I had spent the past few weeks much higher. I also didnt get food posining so I am not sure what was up, but due to this I did not stick around for the birds to return at dusk as it was only 5, and the sun has been setting between 8-9 here. I managed to fake a few decent pictures though...so it was good enough for me. The parrots also which live in the cave do the same ritual all day it seems, so I got the idea as one group after another would circle their way up and out. I then decided to move on and find a hotel in Xilitla torecuperate. Naturally I was still the only white person for miles around, but it was a very interesting experience to say the least, though I do wish I could have stuck around to see what its like to have thousands ofbirds crapping on your head.



    The State of San Luis Potosi is full of rivers and waterfalls with crystal blue waters, caves, more ruins, and great hiking. Since this decision was last minute I was unable to locate the Puerte de dios which I had seen signs for, which now having googled it looks pretty impressive. I saw signs for it when going to a local waterfall, which was pathetic, and not knowing what it was at the time did not want to waste a day looking for it and being let down, not to mention the rain had started in and I was going up a mountain on a dirt road for whatever this thing was. I also did not want to go even more out of my way for any of the local ruins, as there are plenty of those to see in Mexico. There is so much diversity here in Meixco there is absolutely no way to see everything, so while I saw some awesome things, I do fear I missed even more great stuff. From here to Oaxaca I have no game plan, so I expect to miss more great things, but figure I will head to the hot and humid coast to check out Veracruz, the ruins of El Tajin, and then make my way inland to Oaxaca. That probably means I will really head north, then west, then make a left turn somewhere, as I have been way off on where I thought I would be going, but that is the general game plan as of now.
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pacific Beach, Ca
    Posts
    386

    Default If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby

    If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby
    Xilitla, and El Tajin

    Camping/hotel cost for this section: 380 Pesos (28 USD)

    Camping/hotel total: 790 Pesos (60 USD)



    Xilitla, San Luis Potosi:





    If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby... thats right New York, get over it. So yeah, if Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby, and they gave that baby mushrooms, Las Posaz is what I would expect that baby to create. I had read Xilitla was used by people as a jumping off point for some of the outdoor activities I described in the previous post, so I knew there would be decent hotels. Not feeling 100% I figured after all the stealth camping I had done I had earned a bit of real downtime. Driving into Xilitla I knew right away I liked the town, it was another small town built in the mountains, and it was hectic, the only way to be in Mexico. Actually getting into town though I quickly realized the streets can be a real pain. Every street should have been a one way street, but most of them went both ways, which meant I had to be extra careful of which ones really were one way, as well as getting out of the way of other cars coming at me. I pulled both mirrors in which helped, but what didnt help were all the cars double parked in the worst spots, and the vendors with carts in the street, whos umbrellas were lower than what my Astro can clear. I did a lap through the town looking for the cheapest hotel with parking listed in Lonely Planet. While I did not find the street I was looking for, I had managed to successfully navigate the gauntlet while not ripping off any umbrellas or going the wrong way down a one way street. As the town is very small I also realized it was pretty easy to figure the layout. The second round I was able to park and walk to find the hotel. The "parking" listed was actually only a few spots on the street out front of the hotel, pretty much all taken from random people. I told them no problem, I wasnt confident I could find the place again without going getting into trouble, so I would leave the Astro were it was and risk it, which turned out fine, no one messes with an Astro.







    After living in a van for who knows how long, the hotel was great, and only 175 pesos a night (12.72 USD)! Oh, and it was huge! Ok, not really, I got a small single room but again, after the confines of the Astro I felt like a king. The showers had hot water, not that you needed it in this warm muggy town during the day, also had a TV, a fan, and wireless internet for the 1st day I was there. Naturally it went out the second day never to return. The view looking out on the mountains wasnt too bad either, and while I didnt have a balcony the walkway to the 5 rooms on my side was basically a giant balcony so I could just leave my doors open while I was there, enjoying both the view and cool evenings. I figured since I was not feeling well, but already starting to come around, today was the prefect day to finally cave into the craving I had fought for weeks....pizza. Yup, I decided to get a pizza in Meixco, you can only eat so much Mexican food. I went to the local place down the street, and got a mexican pizza, I figured they couldnt mess that one up. Not sure if it had been my long break from pizza, but overall it was pretty good, which was a relief since i had it for dinner, breakfast, and then lunch the next day. The town kind of shuts down early, so I ended up getting a second one the next day due to lack of choices as most restaurants were empty or closed. It wasnt good enough for another pizza two days in a row, but it wasnt bad enough for me to test the lonely open taco stand that no one seemed to be eating at. This time I went with Hawaiian which might have been even better. What can I say, if I am going to cave in to my cravings I might as well go wild.







    Reading lonely planet they mentioned yet another bizarre thing of many in Mexico, Las Posaz. Apparently Xilitla is known for this art structure thing that some English guy built here in the middle of nowhere....eh, not for me. Well I am here, so I should check it out, especially since its a great excuse to stay another night at this cheap hotel. I also read there was another cave here with parrots so I figured I would rather check that out, but it was recommended to see it at dusk, so I head to los Posaz around 5, figuring 20 minutes would be more than I needed for this craptastic tourist trap, and then I could head to the parrot cave. Naturally I walked, so I didn't get to Las Pozas till 6, as I got slightly turned around, stopped for some ice cream, and then found the dirt road and began the mile to a mile and a half walk into the unknown.




    Las Posaz:





    For those of you who dont know me, I am pretty much a kid trapped in a studs body, and Las Posaz was right up my alley! Holy crap, this wasnt art, it was an amusement park. But unlike a US amusement park, there were no gaurds after you paid at the gate, no ropes, no rules, just pure joy. This English dude basically had way to much money so he pretty much built his own version of the drawings you see from that Escher guy, with stairways that go nowhere, end abruptly, and spiral out of control. Of course some of this is 30-50 feet above the ground, but this is Meixco, so climb away kid. There were paths through the jungle leading you who knows where, so as I still wanted to check out the cave I bee-lined it through this park in about an hour since I had gotten there at 6, and it closed at 6, woops. They said they dont kick people out till 7 or 7:30, but I had no idea how big the place was so figured I would fly through and then once i had my bearings relax and enjoy it. Of course I only saw 10 people, and they were all swimming in the natural pool, so I had this gem to myself. I ran around for awhile snapping pics and climbing things that people should not be allowed to climb. Then I saw it, a pretty good sized waterfall here in this jungle park. It looked awesome, and I knew there had to be a way up there, no way was the English dude Edward James was gonna let me down, and of course he did not. I found a path leading up... and up, and further up, and continued on to the top...while getting drenched with sweat, this is the jungle after all......score! After some pics, and a rest, I saw another less traveled path going higher and figured hey, so far so good, lets keep going. Further up and I stumble on a wooden tree fort...a tree fort! The only downside was the shoddy workmanship, I was not convinced it would hold up and figured both it and I may tumble down the cliff to my death, but hey, after the crappy tree forts we used to build at my grandmas how bad could this one be? It had a great view of Xilitla, so I climbed on anyway for more pics. It was here I dropped the lens cap to my camera, and of course it bounced through the wooden floor down below, which was the previously mentioned cliff. Crap, that is gone, I hope I dont scratch this lens up. Well, its kind of an expensive lens for a guy living in a van, lets take a look. There it is, sitting precariously on the edge of a piece of wood inches from the abyss. Now if just stick my foot on that tiny tree growing out of the cliff wall...maybe reposition this way, look back for something to grab, nope nothing to grab, ok gonna go for it, success! After driving through multiple mexican states, standing on the edge of one of the deepest caves on the planet a few days earlier, and driving multiple crazy roads full of crazy drivers, this was by far the most dangerous, dumbest thing, I have attempted yet, all for a crappy piece of plastic. I then ran around a bit more before heading back home...I had so much fun I scrapped the parrot cave completely, as I was beat. So maybe this wasnt an amusement park, but it was by far one of the best things I have done in mexico, and one of the pluses to having things entirely to myself the past few weeks.




    El Tajin, Veracruz:





    I then continued on through the Hausteca area, named after the indigenous people, which means I drove the painfully slow roads. I had read this was a slow route, but assumed it was due to trucks and winding mountains, the usual Mexican slow free roads. No problemo, I am getting to be a pro at passing these guys. The problem here is the majority of indigenous people do not have cars, and rely on taxis and van transportation to get around. This also means they are all over the edges of the roads here, waiting to be picked up, or walking to their destinations. Because of this the speed limit is 40 KMH (25 MPH). Yeah, 25, for all of route 85, you could have mentioned that in the guide book dicks. The first trip through Mexico I mentioned topes, which sometimes have warning signs, most times do not, and rather than painting them they are left the normal asphalt color to keep you on your toes. They can certainly do real damage to your vehicle if your not paying attention. And let me tell you, it is hard to pay attention when your taking in the sights, as well as the sensory overload from all of the cars, people, and sign in another language in a new city. Well the route I took through Mexico this time has not had many, and when they did they were not very bad ones. I had wondered why that was. The answer was clear as I made this drive, Mexico simply ran out. Through this area south of Xilitla there are small indigenous villages every 5 minutes, so there are literally hundreds of topes on this 25 MPH road, it was F'in ridiculous. I get that it is for their safety, and suppose I am glad they are there, but it was terrible. If you ever find yourself in that area, you will be pleased to know that after Huejutla which is a few hours drive it returns to good, relatively tope free roads heading out onto the emerald coast.





    Finally making it to my next destination around 5pm and glad I had started my day early, I arrived at the ruins of El Tajin, where I was able to camp in the lot for 30 pesos (2.27 USD). Tajin means "lightning" "thunder", or "hurricane" due to its proximity to the gulf its easy to see where the name came from, and got a small display of this that night, though its rained pretty much every day since the rain season began so I am getting used to it. This site flourished from AD600 to 900, and was abandoned around AD1200. The site is knowns for its square niches, multiple ball courts, and sculptural depictions of human sacrifices. Its a good thing Brady didnt face Eli here, that guy would have been toast as its believed the captains of the losing teams were the ones to be killed at these things. Sorry Brady, rules are rules. Site opened at 9 so I headed over 10 minutes before, and of course as it was a weekday it was myself, and a family of 6. Yup, nothing like having ancient ruins to yourself. I went into speed mode clicking away at everything while there were no people to ruin my shoots. I figured I could go back after I got to the end and retrace my steps at a slower pace. Well, the gods had other plans, and about 5 minutes after I had finished with my picture taking they opened up the heavens on us, so I headed back to the Astro, glad I had taken the speed tour and seen it all. The only downside was the flying voladores would not be preforming, and i was looking forward to seeing that since its right there and only a small donation of 20 pesos (1.50USD) is expected. Basically its a couple of Mexicans with no regard for safety playing with physics. 5 mens in ceremonial clothing climb a giant *** pole, 1 dances and plays a musical instrument on top while the others twist up their ropes, only to then fall back in a graceful slow descent to the ground, having something to do with a fertility rite, and the four corners of the universe. This was previously carried out once a year, but in the name of tourism its now down 3 times everyday...yea for tradition. Cooled off from the rain I headed to the gulf, Veracruz to be exact, back to the city life.













    Of course on the way there I was going a bit too fast, it happens in Mexico, you slowly start to drive more and more like a local. Next thing I know I have the fedarles on my *** with their lights on, great, this will be the second time I am being pulled over for a legit reason in two trips to Mexico. Well, as I pull over they finally pass me, and carry on down the road. Turns out a couple miles up a truck had flipped and they were on their way to that, close call for me, not so much for him...hopefully everyone turned out ok, but these are the real dangers of Mexico.



    For those subscribed to emails, you can reply directly to that email with questions or comments. If you are not subscribed I wont make you, I dont care how many subscribers I have, you can reach me directly at kjswiley@gmail.com. Due to various requests you can also checkout my facebook, while I was not a facebooker, I have been adding food and centro pics as I hangout at cafes, slowly getting with this social media nonsense. Same name: kjswiley

    As usual, more pics here: If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pacific Beach, Ca
    Posts
    386

    Default Guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guera!

    Thanks guys, trips been mind blowing.

    Guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guera!


    Veracruz, Catemaco.

    1 U.S. dollar = 13.335467 Mexican pesos
    Miles driven to date: 2,400
    Camping/hotel cost for this section: 410 Pesos (30.75 USD)
    Camping/hotel total: 1200 Pesos (90 USD)



    Ok, so like a broken record I have mentioned that I am feeling like the only Gringo in all of Mexico. I knew going into the destinations I have chosen I would be in the minority, but after 2 months of it its starting to get a bit weird. There were a handful in Baja, though even Baja felt a bit empty as more and more people are scared to come to Mexico. Even Cabo lacked them, though I didn’t stick around long enough for a cruise ship to come in, the less time in Cabo the better, that place is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, the surrounding area is great, and if your looking to party Cabo is the place to be, but I despise Cabo. As for the mainland, its just me, and I am invisible. Well, I think I saw Jim Morrison down here, Mr. Mojos Risin, but otherwise its just me. Venders don’t bat an eye when they see me coming which I love, little old indigenous ladies cross the street as soon as they spot me for reasons I am unsure of, and I can walk down any street without anyone saying hello....I have tested it (again). If I walk down a street and say hi to every person who makes eye contact, they smile and say hello back 97% of the time. But then back in Xilitla I stopped to see what would happen, and it was silence...eeerie silence. So if you ever want to disappear completely and never be found again, just follow this map.





    edit: Before we jump into the story, time to jump back to Durango. To finally tell this story one last time, the hair. Yeah I grew it out I was working from home. Then I grabbed a short term project with a company I previously worked for so only trimmed it, as growing out hair takes a lot of work. Well I got butchered, tried to get it fixed two more times, then said F it and let it go. Well, while I could have put up with looking like an idiot or the heat, I decided i was not willing to put up with both. I would also like to take this moment to apologize to any ex-girlfriends I may have rolled my eyes at when they bitched about their hair and the humidity, I now feel your pain. Now the dilemma...where there hell to get a haircut in Mexico, especially when I know very few words regarding the subject? I decided to bite the bullet and just do it in durango rather than wait for a bigger city. Turned out there was a hair salon place operated out of a home 3 blocks from where I parked so a few hail marys and I go. The place was busy for its small size, and a baby was in a playpen crying, all good signs for a Mexican hair salon I assume. I show her a picture of a previous cut I had and ask if she can do it similar to that. So knows zero english but seems extremely confident she can. Luckily I am not vain so dont really care how it turns out too much, unlike some of my friends mine will all grow back. She says no problem and tells me it will cost 50 Pesos, Sold! (3.75 USD). Looks like I have a new stylist, my other one was apparently in upstate NY as they do not know how to cut hair in California, which I suspect is why the hippy movement started originally. My new stylist is now closer mileage wise, and much cheaper.

    Veracruz, Veracruz:

    I was unsure what to expect of Veracruz, it seems to be a love hate thing from what I have read. Being on the Gulf of Mexico and such an industrialized city, many people are turned off by the many trucks and cars driving around, the oil platforms and ships all over the horizon, and the heat and humidity this city deals with constantly. At the same time it is a lively city, with a nice Zocalo area in the historical centro, with a passion for music, especially salsa. You can hangout at the open air cafes while music is played, enjoying the sites, though once again there were not a ton of people this time of year, but its still a city and still enough people with plenty going on. This I loved, the downside, I am no longer invisible. When I walk around restaurant owners go into their spiel trying to coax me in, as if I cant decide for myself. Vendors also try and push all kinds of crap ranging from plastic back scratchers, jewelry, kites, and fake rolexs. Luckily, that’s not enough to ruin the city for me, I found that I rather enjoyed it for my stay, though that could also be because I have decided to ditch the stealth camping, and live the hotel life. It is just way to hot to stealth camp, and there is nothing stealth about windows down, screens up, and a fan running. My book says the daily high in July is 87, and humid, and they were correct. I was a bit worried as I read mid July was when hotel prices skyrocket in Veracruz, but I managed to just miss that being that it was only the beginning of July. I stayed at hotel Amparo which was only 150 pesos (11.25 USD) and located right around the corner from the Zocalo. The internet was terrible there, but I had garage parking (huge when all my stuff is in the van) hot showers, a fan, and this time a double bed....its gonna be tough going back to the Astro after spoiling myself like this.

    Gringos spotted! This city also has a few gringos, I suspect European due to their dorky outfits and the fact that they were speaking dutch, yup nothing gets past me. I was so caught off guard when two walked out of my hotel with a lonely planet book in their hand, that I didn’t even say anything, I was shocked. That must be how my dad reacts when he wakes up from his naps while hunting, only to see a giant buck slinking off into the brush while his gun lays on the floor of his tree stand. In my defense they didn’t say anything either, they probably read my blog and realize what an *** I am. Either way, I was slightly relived to get a bit more time to myself, as I was not mentally prepared for travelers. Due to the cheap hotel I stayed longer than I really needed, but I like the slow pace. I of course saw the sights, but also relaxed in the hotel room to avoid the heat for some reading or guitar playing ...where I even snuck the amp in. The downside to the cheap hotel, aside from it not being the Ritz, is that it was more like a hostel. It was loud, the hallways echoed, and the rain would fall hard enough to set car alarms off outside all night. Yeah the rain, not thunder, it rained hard, but hey, at least it was cool in the evenings and I had ear plugs.







    I enjoyed a meal or two sitting outside the cafes as people played their music, and spied on other people going about their daily lives. I also enjoyed the entertainment provided by the ice cream vendors. Apparently Guero is slang for “pale-skinned” or “blonde-haired person”, and it was often used in Veracruz back in the day. Sometime ago the ice cream guys, along with Beck, decided to use this to their advantage. So now, they sit outside their ice cream shops luring people in with the annoying “guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guera!” whenever people walk buy. They must say it 1000 times a day, it is so ridiculous those poor bastards must say it in their sleep. Though I must admit they got me with this cunning ploy. Unfortunately I did not discover this phenomenon until the night before I left, so all I tried was the mamaya and fresa, but both were great. Still needing to cool off I then headed to the rainforests of Mexico, yeah they have those here too, I told you this place is diverse.







    One minor note for travelers, if your driving a multi lane road in the far left lane and have a straight or left turn arrow, and the lane to your right has a straight only arrow, assume they are going to turn left as well. I guess I am getting used to things here as I anticipated it before it happened, but would have t-boned the crap out of a woman had I legally gone straight while she took the left. I saw it in Mazatlan previously which is probably why I was prepared, this time I was going about 45 mph and planning on going straight, but instinctively took the left as I saw trouble coming, it would not have been pretty.

    Catemaco, Veracruz:




    Catemaco sits of the edge of Laguna Catemaco, don’t let the name fool you, it is actually a lake, surrounded by lush green volcanic hills. You can take boat tours on the lake, one of the destinations is to Monkey Island, where monkeys from Thailand were brought in by the university for study. I skipped this as the tour guides feed the monkeys so they come close for pictures, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole studying them in the wild part. I also read that the place were I ended up camping has howler monkeys, so I was hoping to see some 1st hand in the wild. It seems most overlanders first experience with monkeys is at the mystical “Palenque Ruins” so I was slightly pumped that this random path I have chosen may produce an encounter earlier than I expected. The town itself has a decent enough centro, and an ok malecon which follows the lake, but is full of vendors hawking more junk, and slightly rundown. I heard it was a really nice place back in the day, but at night the rundown part is less obvious so I loved it. I decided to stay a few miles outside of town the first 4 nights and stayed at “La Jungle” for a whopping 80 pesos a night (6 USD). The owners were nice enough, and spoke just enough English were we could combine our languages to chat throughout my stay, but at the same time they left me alone to do my thing which was nice. There was no internet, the showers were cold though I hear they have hot water, and there is a fresh mineral water pool, plus \2 water slides, haha what? Hey, what do you expect for 80 pesos, you gotta lure the people in somehow. Luckily it didn’t work so of course I had the place to myself, literally.





    Ok, well the 1st two days there were actually two Canadians staying there who both spoke fluent Spanish, a first for me. It turns out one has been living in Mexico since the 60's, and the other had bought land with her Mexican husband and was down making arrangements, so they might as well be Mexicans. They chatted with me about the trip, and told me about a nearby waterfall I should checkout, which sounded much better than those crappy cascades I provided a pic of in the last post. So off I went looking for this waterfall but missed the turn, so instead of going back I decided to follow a random dirt road to the top of a mountain for a better view of the lake, this is supposed to be an adventure after all. The road was in great shape so it turned out to be a joy ride, I then returned to camp a triumphant explorer. See, the downside of staying at a lake in the jungle is you cant really see the lake, the trees block most of the view, so aside from downtown Catemaco I hadn’t really seen much of it, which is why an adventure was in order. Of course I later found that at the bottom of one water slide there was a great view, and I suspect the cabanas also had nice views, but for us cheap campers, there was just trees, lots of nice shady trees. I grabbed a few pics from my new found view, and then took my guitar over to play a little while the sunset. As I am playing a tour boat goes roaring by, and then stops about 100 feet from me. With the sun setting it was impossible to see which way the people were looking. The guide was either pointing out one of the volcanoes, or the stupid gringo playing guitar at the edge of the jungle, I will never know. Oh, and about those monkeys, I was told they do in fact hangout in the trees above where I camped, but not the days I stayed, oh well, there’s always Palenque.







    Two days later the Canadians left, and knowing it was a Friday I wondered how busy the weekend would get. Around 5:30 I walked around to find everyone, and the place was deserted. The tiny restaurant was closed, and the two families who lived and worked there were no were to be found. Even their little kids who swam pretty much 24/7 were gone, so I went back to the van and played some guitar. Later as its getting dark some guy comes walking out of the woods by himself. We chat for a few minutes and I tell him its just me, I have no idea where anyone is. I deduce that his rapid fire Spanish is telling me that he had been camping with his wife, who found out she is afraid of spiders and forced him on the hunt for a cabana. Well, off he went cause even though they were all available, no one was their to let him in.

    After days of relaxing at the lake, and doing more minor stuff with the van I decide to spend some time in the centro and make the drive into town. I grabbed a delicious meal at a sit down restaurant for 65 pesos (4.87USD), got my internet fix, and listened to the live “music” in the centro. I use the term music here loosely, as it was some of the most god awful sounds I have ever heard. The 1st band I cut some slack, since it looked like they were in their early teens, and one of the lead singers was probably 5. She was horrendous, but hey she was a little kid, and having a great time so you couldn’t help but enjoy it. She was one of those “I am super excited to be doing this and going to scream these lyrics at the top of my lungs” kind of singers....which really didn’t work for the rendition of La Bumba they did. Next up were the adults, so I figured it had to get better. Now I don’t know this for sure, but judging by the performance it was most likely the little girls parents, cause they were equally as bad. It was so bad that I couldn’t take it anymore, and this was a free show. I decided to head home, which was good since it was getting dark and the road through the jungle was riddled with potholes. Catemaco is very small, so I know where I am going roughly, but there are a lot of one way roads which are impossible to tell apart in the dark, so I follow other cars to make sure I don’t go the wrong way, as long as they are going in my general direction. I know where I needed to be but ended up about 10 blocks from there so I turn on the GPS. She sends me down some dirt road full of giant stones that I wasn’t even sure I could handle, so I shut her the hell up and continue on going my way, the mans way. The real problem was that there were people everywhere! There are always people walking on the streets in Mexico but this was ridiculous, is EVERYONE going to the centro for the free show, I thought these were every weekend, what gives? Well, after a right turn here, and a left turn there I find the road back to La Jungle, and am met with yet another of Mexico’s wonderful surprises.

    A Mexican fair! Now I mentioned I am basically a kid when it comes to this stuff, and who doesn’t love a good summertime fair, so I pull a u-turn (how the hell do you spell u-eee) and park illegally on the side of the street, which I am not sure is even possible in Mexico outside of the major cities. My general rule is if I am the only one doing something has to be wrong, and I was definitely the only one parking here, but there is no way I am not checking this out! I am under the assumption that most fairs in the US have an entrance fee, not in Mexico. Sweet... things are already off to a good start, in I go with a stupid grin on my face that I cant seem to get rid of. I head straight for the food section, I am picturing deep fried boston cream pie donuts or something equally as awesome, its Mexico after all. Well, for some reason there is not much of a deep fried thing going on down here. They have the corn dogs, french fries, and bananas, so I got a banana. It was covered in milk and sweet cream, could have used some chocolate, but still good so I wasn’t complaining, but I really expected to have my mind blown. Otherwise it was breads, pizza, and some ice cream, pretty lackluster. The rides were as you would expect, of course no ropes so I could stand under the spinning ones and watch them come a few feet from tearing off my head. I did almost get hit by a kiddie train as I walked around looking every which way but where that one was. Otherwise it was just a normal fair, not really that impressive, though some booths were rather strange as they sold random things like jeans. That was until I turned the corner and spotted the full service bar! No not grab a beer and get ****faced while you watch your kids kind of bar, grab your Vodka, Gin, Rum, you call it, and get ****faced while you watch your kids. There’s the Mexico I love. Unfortunately I don’t have any kids to set an example for, so I passed on getting ****faced and headed back to the Astro. Ok relax mom, lets reword that, unfortunately I did not get ****faced as I don’t have any kids to set an example for. Boom, a mom and dad reference in one post, this is one of many reasons why I am their favorite kid.









    Additional pics and story here, I hit the expo character max, sorry: Guero, guero, guero...
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Seattle
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    So what's goin' on with this trip report? It's been over a month and I need an update!

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pacific Beach, Ca
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    Quote Originally Posted by contento View Post
    So what's goin' on with this trip report? It's been over a month and I need an update!
    Hey, I'm on vacation here!

    Just got back to an Internet connection, will update sometime this weekend, glad your hooked, I'd hate to be wasting my time with this thing

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Seattle
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    You ain't wasting my time, lots of great pics + good info/backstory. Keep it up!

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pacific Beach, Ca
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    386

    Default Missing Person No. 38153729

    Ok, I normally don't take this blog very seriously, but I suppose if there is a time and a place, this is it. Thanks to all that showed concern, the list is way too long for here, but it is appreciated. To all that emailed or facebooked me, its too difficult to respond one by one while on the road, so consider this your thanks, I do appreciate it. Props to Ed G. for waiting on hold unsuccessfully on two separate occasions with the Oaxacan embassy, I have jumped out of taco lines for less of a wait, dealing with anything "official" in Mexico takes some extreme patience. I was shocked to see the amount of friends, as well that complete strangers, on sites like facebook, as well as ones I have never heard of like Reddit.com, were doing their part to help "locate me". But here I am jumping ahead of myself, first, moonshine!

    Oaxaca City, and Puerto Escondido




    1 US dollar = 13.1884 Mexican pesos
    Miles driven to date: back at the car of course!

    Oaxaca, Oaxaca:



    The night before heading off to Oaxaca was a fun, but rough one. I had spent the evening in Catemaco enjoying the sights, but not wanting to tackle the road back to la Jungle at night I decided to stealth camp in town as I had a good parking spot, though with the heat was forced to open the windows. Turned out those guys in Catemaco can party, as I was awoken on and off all night until at least 3 am. I had planned on heading out around 8 as I knew it would be a long day of driving, but at 6 am I was once again awoken to the sounds of people heading to church among other things. I figured it was time to bail, and hit the road tired, but ready for Oaxaca, the end point of my previous Mexico trip. I had seen shacks selling liquids of some sort which I assumed must have alcohol in them 30 minutes outside of Catemaco. I pulled up to one several booths side by side all setup and selling the same things around 7 am. Turns out they are selling bottles of honey, and vanilla for around 5 USD, and not wanting to try and explain to the woman in Spanish that I had stopped at 7 am for some moonshine, I am now the proud owner of a giant bottle of honey. I am not really sure what to do with it so I figure once I get my hands on some granola there will be a lot of "fruit, granola, yogurt, and honey" mixtures for breakfast.





    Disappointing that this would be a sober drive through the mountains, I continued on. Driving from the north as I was coming from the Gulf of Mexico, I came in on the 175, which is very similar to the devils backbone previously posted about, though with much less traffic. A winding road through the lush green Sierra Nortes reaching heights of 9600 feet, it is not a surprise as to why Oaxaca had long been isolated from the rest of Mexico. It was a long day of driving from Catemaco, and being deep in the mountains really gave an idea of what the terrain surrounding Oaxaca is like, as well as a sense that I had earned this drive, unlike when cruising in on the the toll roads we previously took from Puebla. This isolation is one of the many reasons people love Oaxaca, a city full of history, culture, and tradition. Last time I was recovering from a rough case of food poisoning, and was unable to explore Oaxaca and see what the city had to offer. This time would be different, and even though most of this trip consisted of new places, it still felt like Oaxaca was what would be the kickoff point of the trip. I feel many things have worked out great on this trip considering the last minute decisions, and here was yet another unplanned example of luck, as I had unexpectedly arrived during what must be Oaxacas most important festival, Guelaguetza.



    Guelaguetza



    Thousands of people come to Oaxaca to take in the festivities over a two week period for Guelaguetza, and to see the main event where costumed dancers from the seven regions which make up the state of Oaxaca perform their traditional music and dances. The auditorium holds 10,000 people, and the event is held two times a day on the 1st two Mondays after July 17th, which gives an idea of the amount of people here in attendance. On the Friday kicking off Guelaguetza I sat at yet another cafe with my Australian friend, taking in the sites. We ditched the Spaniard because she was shoe sopping, and as we are men we dont do that kind of thing. Well, little did we know what a great decision this would be. We sat there enjoying another beautiful day in Oaxaca, known for its great weather due to its location high in the mountains. We sat and did the norm, some people watching, telling the constant flow of vendors we were not interested in their crap, even telling the shoe shin guys my sneakers didnt need a polish, some day I may let them do it, just to see what happens. We then noticed all the people lining up on all sides of the road surrounding the zocalo. Clearly there was a parade coming, and we had front row seats for the show...well until the hundreds of people stood in front of our seats and partially blocked our view. No worries, this was the official beginning to Guelaguetza, and the crowd was full of positive, festive energy. You could see the pride these people had for this great city, and their great state, as chants of "Vive Oaxaca" would ripple through the many people filling the centro, while the costumed dancers who would be preforming in a few days gave the city a taste of what was to come. Once again it is the little things that make me appreciate Mexico. We were both pumped when they started shooting off fireworks right there in the zocolo, which hit us, much of the crowd, and even a baby. Yup, who doesnt love a good Mexican parade.



    After the parade was over the city seemed to kick off into party mode. My friends had seen a flyer for a mezcal tasting festival, and while my drinking days are well behind me we headed off for that. Due to the amount of people we never did find the Spaniard even though she ended up being there, but we did find plenty of mezcal...maybe that was part of the reason we never saw her, who knows. For a mere 20 pesos (1.50USD) entrance fee, you could go from booth to booth sampling all the mezcal you wanted. There were a variety of flavors, which also means a variety of colors. I had never seen a pink, blue, or green mezcal before, so naturally I tried them all. We had planned on doing several laps around the festival as the only limits to how much you drank where your own, but decided that it would be much easier and efficient to just buy a bottle for 80 Pesos (6 USD) and polish that off. There was of course live music, with a band that definitely rocked. People were up front salasing and everyone had a blast, which seems to be the norm for a Mexican fiesta.



    The next day was the Aussies birthday, and even though I hadn't previously drank since Jan 1st, I figured this was a good excuse for drinking two days in a row. After a nice dinner at some random restaurant we went off searching for the parties. While walking down the main street fireworks were set off in the sky. We knew it would be a good night as we figured this must be for his birthday, and even though we had already started drinking before coming to this conclusion, the logic was flawless. We continued on until we stumbled across a small bar with a live band, playing ACDC of all things, yup, that was all the sign we needed. The bar was full of Mexicans, and as word spread that it was his birthday the mezcal started flowing again, and some of our new Mexican friends let the band know so he even got a weird rendition of Pink Floyds Another Brick in the Wall in Spanish as a birthday treat...though I still dont understand what that is all about or how it related to his birthday. The evening probably went to well for some of the group, as I was the only one to make it to the Gualegetza dance festival the next day.



    In case you missed that last paragraph, there was some drinking involved the night before, so I obviously went to the afternoon, not the morning show. I had read you should go at least two hours before the show if you want to get the free seats, what I didn't read was that the line would be a mile long, and take over an hour to get in. I like to be one with the people, so rather than sitting up front with the fancy pants snobs, I reluctantly walked all the way to the end of the line...after contemplating several times trying to cut my way in and playing the dumb gringo when I assuredly got caught. Looking at the line, and flying solo, there were many times where I almost bailed, figuring there was no way I was getting in. With some perseverance and a little luck, I made it in, and was able to see the festival, though it was clear there were a ton of people who would not be so lucky. Each group comes out in the traditional costume and performs a few songs with dances. Then they throw traditional items out to the crowd. The traditional items mostly consisted of Bananas, Limes, straw hats, chocolate, and plastic water bottles. Yup, hard plastic water bottles, which someone thought would be a good idea to throw from both the center and rear sections, so you had them coming in from both directions, it was basically a war zone. I had the pretty girl sitting next to me literally dive onto my lap trying to get a water bottle, but she still wouldnt talk to me after I had no idea if she was 25 or 15, so i decided it best not to talk to her either. When someone did get an item, like a single lime, it was like they had caught the winning home run ball hit by Arron Boon in the 11 inning of game 7 against Boston back in 2003, an event I was lucky enough to see at Yankee Stadium in person, suck it Boston. Overall the festival was a good time, but I didnt quite make it to the end. Now, I think I did pretty well considering I was slightly hungover, I made it 3 hours which was about 2 hours longer than my dancing festival limit. At the 3 hour mark I could not take anymore and had to get out of there, the dancing was nice, but there were a lot of groups, as it ended up taking 4 hours for the festival to complete. The cement block seats certainly were not helping anything, but overall I was glad I went and saw what i did, it is clearly very important to the people of the state of Oaxaca, and because of that these are the kinds of things I want to be a part of. I did feel a bit guilty leaving when I know others missed out on getting into the festival, but I waited until the people on both sides of me left, so clearly I was not the only one over the dancing. I also didnt want to deal with the thousands of people leaving at once in the darkness of night, as I have read pickpocketers can be a minor issue up on that hill, and I didnt want to have to hurt anyone.







    The half way point


    Monte Alban:
    There was a group of about 5-6 of us, which began to split up after the weekend. When everyone was doing their own thing I went to check out Monte Alban, which I had hoped to check out the first time in Mexico but was unable to. Just 6 miles outside of the city the ancient ruins of the Zapotec capital Monte Alban are believed to have been occupied since 500 bc. I headed up to this spectacular site, which combines the ancient buildings with spectacular views of the city below. There was fog rolling in and out throughout the morning, which added to the mystical feeling. It is believed that these people may have been the 1st within Mexico to use a form of writing, as well as a written calendar. This is definitely a must see site if you are in the Oaxaca area, and once again only something like 5 USD to visit.







    The Aussie, Spaniard and I met back up and spent a few days checking out the city, and local markets. The food in the entire state of Oaxaca is fantastic, so I made sure to get my fill of that. There were three additional Mexicans in our group who had already taken off, but they certainly added to my Oaxacan experience. My time in Oaxaca has been amazing, and the people I met were directly responsible for that. One thing I really appreciated was that the Mexicans really got what the trip for me was about, and they appreciated the fact that I would be willing to travel alone, through their country. I have spent several weeks in England, and while a great country, I doubt I will go out of my way to return. Mexico on the other hand as I have previously said is a country I cannot wait to return to, even before I leave it. They are very lucky to live in such an amazing place, and while the beaches, mountains, desserts, and rain forests are all amazing places, it is the people that make Mexico what it is.





    See, everyone was Gualagetza'd


    Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca:



    As there was a taxi strike of some sort, which somehow affected the buses, the Aussie was stuck in Oaxaca unable to leave for 3 days. I finally did some rearranging and cleared out the passenger seat since the Aussie was heading to Puerto as well and gave him a lift, which worked out well as he knew all the spots as he had come from there a few weeks before. While headed south there was a roadblock setup, I assume it had to do with the recent elections as people dont seem to happy with the results, saying that it was once again rigged. Guess the US isnt the only one with this problem. As we sat for over an hour, we got to see entrepreneurship at its finest. Out of nowhere this guy with a box of donuts appears and hops into the military vehicle, where he instantly made a killing. I snapped a pic of this fantastic even as it unfolded which the military guys did not like. Instantly a tarp was setup to obstruct eyes on what was happening. I am not sure if it was because there were not enough donuts and they were greedy, or if they would get in trouble for buying donuts while on patrol or wherever they were headed. Eventually we made it to down to the hot and humid Puerto Escondido. World famous Puerto Escondido, also known as the Mexican Pipeline, was "flat"as the locals kept saying. I was hoping to see 25 ft monsters pounding down on the shore, but instead arrived with what probably 6-8 ft waves crashing down on the shore. Puerto is one giant beach break, normally closed out, though when you get a good wave it can be great. A deep water trench off the shore is the reason for this no none sense wave, as the swells travel miles before hitting the beach while barely losing any of their original power. Realistically it appeared you spend most of your time dodging the giant waves and when you grab a good one, you be-line it for the end, hoping you and your board makes it in one piece, well that is what it looked like from the shore anyway. I did return later on my way back through to see some larger waves, but still nothing like what I had hoped to see.







    I quickly realized Puerto wasnt for me, but there are many small beach towns in both directions that were. In one particular beach town we were staying at my Aussie friend bumped into different friends from home randomly several. One he knew was living down there for part of the year, but the other 2 sightings were within a week of each other, and were of the "I just saw him walking by" kind of deals. This worked out great as we usually had an entourage of 6-10, though that is definitely bad surfing etiquette. Great for hanging out when the surf is small, never good when hitting the water, so we made sure not to all paddle out at once as no one wants to be surfing and see a group of 10 roll up. Seriously, these bastards are everywhere, FOX needs to relax on those Muslims, its the damn Aussies that are taking over the world. Due to this I pretty much gave up on Spanish for a few weeks. The obvious downside to hanging with the Aussies was that not only has my Spanish not improved, but I am pretty sure my English has gotten worse.



    Character limit hit, additional story and pics here: Missing Person No. 38153729
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

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