Chevy Astro and GMC Safari Forum banner
1 - 20 of 27 Posts

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Only 9 threads in the Road Trip section!! What are you guys doing spending all your time in the garage repairing your vans??? The past trip I have previously mentioned took place in 2011-2012, I have a new one coming up but do not know if it will be by van or moto...but here is something to get you guys out of the garage in the meantime. Cutting and pasting from my blog, (shamless plug: which had lots of typos, oh well, deal with it. Did half of Mexico with a friend, the rest was solo.

Baja California, Mexico
Posted on March 20, 2011 by Wiley

Bienvenidos a Mexico! Everything you heard about Mexico was correct, this is a very, very dangerous place. You probably will not make it out alive, the water is warm, the cervezas are cheap, and the Senoritas are smoking hot.

So I left Paul behind, he wasn't ready, still had a car to sell, an apartment to get rid of, and whatever other prep work the kid didn't do. The van was overloaded with stuff so I needed to get that taken care of and make room for him anyway. I drove pretty quickly through Baja skipping a lot of it, as Paul was flying into Cabo to meet me later in the week. I left San Diego and went through Tijuana, where the customs agents on the Mexican side don't seem to speak much English. Suppose that was for the best, as it forced me to start speaking Spanish again. I am much better at speaking than hearing it, and did not have much problem with anyone understanding what I was saying, but I usually am not sure what is being discussed if I am not driving the conversation. The drive down Baja isn't too bad, but much of it is 35 mph, otherwise 55, though everyone seems to fly down the Mx 1 doing as they please. Its never completely obvious what the speed limit is, but after awhile you get a feel for it. The road is in pretty good shape overall, though there are many sections of construction. I didn't count, but I probably went through 10 military checkpoints throughout all of Baja. Since I was heading south rather than north, the stops consisted of a 1 min conversation (95% spoke only Spanish), and very little if any inspecting of my gear. I am sure they have seen many gringos headed to Cabo as its currently spring break, so they were just interested on where I was coming from and going, and wanted to know where the senoritas were.

Guerrero ***** is probably about half way down the peninsula (Note: Time zone change here, I missed Paul at the airport in Cabo due to this change), and is one of the places where you can pay to import yourself and your vehicle. I recommend taking care of this in Tijuana as it is not difficult, I didn't oops. (Update, over the years I have found out that the Tecate crossing is where it is at, EASY!)

On day 2 I spent a few hours around lunch time in Loreto. Loreto is a an upscale, touristy town by Bajas standards, and was the 1st Spanish settlement of Baja. Loreto is located right on the Sea of Cortez, and is a National Park which consists of several large mountainous islands which provide some protection for Blue whales this time of year, so yes, there are tours here. There are places to eat, and there is internet here, I paid about 80 cents for 30 min. From here I think it was about 4 hours to La Paz, depending on how fast/slow you drive.

Cabo is probably everything I dislike about Pacific Beach, where we live in Cali. Loud drunk douchbags (you know who you are) running around everywhere. Luckily it also has the same benefits PB offers, Senoritas! We are going to spend a few days here getting the last stuff ready, as we don't really feel the trip starts till we hit Mainland Mexico.

I have hit 3 beaches here so far. The 1st is Cerritos Beach, located about 45 min north of Cabo, and known as a tourists beach with mostly English speakers, and a great place to catch some surf. This time of year the waves were good, but not huge, which is important since I suck at surfing. There are also whales which can be found here due to the protection the beaches crescent shape provides, I was able to watch a whale for about 15 minutes. There are mixed reports about free camping here, and there were some surfers who appeared to be living out of their Rvs. There are brand new condos/hotel being built, so no point keeping this place a secret. The second beach was about 15 min south of Cabo, and also offers some surfing which is good for beginners to experts according to the net. The 3rd was where I did some semi-isolated camping. It is just off of a ranch where they offer ATV rides and horse back riding. While setting up a group on horses came through my camp site, as I parked right next to the trail without knowing it. This worked out well as I was able to confirm with the jefe it was ok to park/sleep here, as I am not used to just driving down dirt roads and setting up camp. When the horses are not being used they run around free, and haul *** down the trails, which startled me the 1st few times. This is not a place to surf, but the palm trees provide some rare shade so I could reorganize the van.

Eventually I found Paul, so we spent some time exploring Cabo. We will head back north about 1 and 1/2 hrs to La Paz, where we will take the ferry over to mainland Mexico. I have been told it is best to purchase the tix at the ferry rather than in town. The ferry goes North to Topolobampo (a 6 hr ride), or south to Mazatlan (16 hrs). I believe the ferries only leave once a day, and only certain days depending on the destination, so check ahead.

1 last thing, I have read it before, but want to reiterate it. I pushed it a little to get to a good stopping point and drove at night. Don't drive at night, for real. I almost hit a cow on 3 separate occasions. Cows roam free here and at night use the warmth of the tarmac for heat. I could have easily clipped a cow walking on the shoulder (if you can call it a shoulder) of the road on 2 separate occasions, as well as a heard of cattle crossing the road another time. Those all black cows are not easy to see at night!

Hopefully this was not too painful to read. We may have drank too much, my head hurts a little right now, so it was painful to type. I don't think I will miss Cabo.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Oh Cabo, My Cabo
Posted on March 24, 2011 by Paul

Odd, I was just here a few months ago. Back again though, and not a moment too soon. After breaking my lease, selling my car (thanks Timm!), tossing/donating a ton of crap I didn't need and selling my broken down couch to a Guatemalan in a beat up old pickup truck, I've become a free man unencumbered by most of life's trappings. Well, except for the Astro Manly-Van. And my laptop. And my Droid, which I swear I am using only for the camera.

As Wiley mentioned, he took off before me since I was a little slow in getting myself together. I guess I was more attached to San Diego than I thought. Either way, I was flying from Tijuana Airport (my second time, and no, its not just a strip of dirt in a barrio) and would be landing in Cabo Friday night with an elaborate plan for getting picked up. I was taking a taxi from the airport to Costco, where Wiley would meet me. Upon arriving there, I was to call my friend Eric's sister who lives in Cabo, who would then meet up with the two of us so we could follow her to her house and spend the next few nights. Not too many working parts there.

Well, first off, the taxi took forever so I was an hour late. Wiley was nowhere to be found when I got to Costco. I called both numbers Eric gave me and neither worked. So far, so good.

After waiting around for about an hour and getting a slice of Costco pizza, I realized I was going to have to do something, so I found an approximate address of where I was supposed to be staying, showed it to a cabbie and took off. Bad idea - he drove me in the wrong direction, to the wrong place and then dropped me off and left. My situation had not improved.

Running out of options, I asked the security guard where I was left for dead if he knew of La Vista and how I could get there. He told me he would make a phone call. After finishing with his call, he announced that he would take me there himself, even though he didn't know where the place was. So he pulls up in what looks to be a beat up old Nissan Sentra with a homemade speaker box taking up the whole back seat. At least we'll have good tunes for my conversion to a drug mule. But he was a genuinely nice guy and proceeded to take me from community to community looking for La Vista until e found it.

The security guard for La Vista brought us up to the house and I ring the bell, relieved that I have a place to regroup, get my bearings and figure out how to find Wiley the next day. But the relief was short lived. Her husband answered the door with that look that only Chris Hansen can arouse. Apparently, his wife has made no mention that I would be arriving, she is asleep and can't be woken and I am clearly not welcome. I try to explain the situation, but it does no good.
So I confer with my Mexican buddy and he agrees to take me to a hotel in town. Since we're smack dab in the middle of spring break, I'm not confident that I'll find a room, and if I do, it will be painfully expensive. But, it's good to know the locals and he takes me to Quinta del Sol right on the outskirts of town where I check in at about 11 pm for a cool 799 pesos ($66). I wanted an adventure and it looks like I got one.

"Is he pointing his gun at me?"
Posted on March 28, 2011 by Wiley

"Is he pointing his gun at me?" I asked Paul, not 10 minutes into our drive around Mazatlan Mx. Now by gun I mean automatic rifle,and by him I mean GI I Joe, Cobra Commander, full on SWAT style Mexican Military Officer, with the mask and goggles and all. I figured I was driving the wrong way down a one way street for the 4th time (the 3 times were unmarked roads I swear!), but no, this time I was going the right way, and at the same time straight towards 3 trucks full of these guys with automatic rifles. As my instincts kicked in I quickly turned to the left down the nearest path of escape. Whew, that was a close one. We are not sure what they had the road blocked for, but they certainly do not f around here. Maybe I should let Paul start driving, I do not like being in the cross hairs of the Mexican, no check that, of any military personnel. We will see what the rest of Mazatlan has in store for us tomorrow.
Obviously not my pic

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank You Ray Kroc…and Whoever Invented Spring Break
Posted on March 29, 2011 by Paul

As you probably could guess from Wiley's last post, we did finally meet up, although, I'm not sure we're any safer. Anyway, I was able to get an email from Wiley asking to meet up at McDonald's (the only landmark we would both surely know), which was basically right across the street from the hotel where I was unceremoniously dropped off the night before. Oddly, he sent the email from McDonald's, where there is free Wi-Fi, not knowing I was two minutes away.

Alas, we were set to meet at three, so I had some time to kill. What does one do with time to kill in Cabo San Lucas during spring break? Go to the nearest bar and ask for two of the three shot/three beer special for $10! Better make that one, since it was only 11 am and I need to pace myself for the next six months. Then I realized I'm thirty, so I got a bottle of water, 30 spf sunscreen and sat on the beach for a few hours.

I rolled into McDonald's at two thirty so I could have enough time to grab a 10 piece McNugget (who doesn't have a soft spot for McNuggets?) and at almost three exactly, Wiley rolled in. Success! I explained what happened the night before and we headed back to the hotel to regroup and figure out our plan of action. Apparently, Wiley's plan was to dive headlong into the spring break madness and it didn't take much convincing on his part to get me to agree.
So we went to all the typical Cabo San Lucas bars, including Squid Roe, Cabo Wabo, Giggling Marlin, and the Pink Kitty Nightclub. During the evening we saw the following: (1) a man propose to his girlfriend on stage at Cabo Wabo (she sheepishly said yes), (2) a woman north of 45 having body shots taken off her by college kids (also Cabo Wabo), (3) a contortionist who was twisting himself into pretzels and dancing with a mop at Pink Kitty, (4) a Mexican wrestler in nothing but a blue cape, mask, boots and tighties jumping on things (unknown bar) and (5) a near fight in the middle of the main thoroughfare in front of Squid Roe. All in all, it was a fairly eventful night.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me to capture any of these images, so you'll just have to believe me. This taught me a lesson though, and when we ventured out again a couple nights later, I did bring my camera and was able to get some good images of the college age female human in her natural state during spring break: dancing on a bar. Oh, to be in college again.

In the intervening days between spring break adventures, we hung out on a beach about 30 kilometers north of Cabo off Route 19. This is one of the main reasons I decided to do this trip. Empty beaches, few people, waves crashing, clear night skies, sleeping in the tent.

It was everything I had been looking forward to. I got to lounge around for a few days, helped Wiley with the van, read This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, talked to the guys leading horseback riding tours and walked on the beach. Not a bad couple of days. But, we would be on the road again soon, making the short trip to La Paz to catch the ferry to Topolobampo on the mainland.

Beach Camping Outside La Paz
Posted on March 29, 2011 by Paul

So, I will be the first to admit that I am not much of an outdoorsman. That moniker was always more reserved for my brother Jason, who had asked our parents to take us camping from a fairly young age. I always went along begrudgingly, angry that I may miss a Yankee game. Mind you, this was when the Yankees had guys like Mel Hall, Alvaro Espinoza and Kevin Maas. Clearly, I did not like camping. However, in the last few years it has grown on me and I have really begun to enjoy the outdoors more - hence this trip. Well, I think I may have jumped into the deep end without the requisite lessons.

After indulging in spring break, Cabo San Lucas style, we headed north to La Paz in order to catch the ferry to mainland Mexico. After picking up a battery box that we will need to install our auxiliary battery, we headed north from La Paz to find the ferry landing. If anyone else is considering this type of trip, the first place you should go for a caja de la bateria is a marine store. It is just a plastic box, and cheap too (~$10), but no autostore seems to have them. Anyway, we were told that the landing was just at the end of the boardwalk, north of town. So we headed that way. Nothing. It was a nice drive, so I figured we might as well go a little further. We started gaining some elevation, but still, no sign of the ferry. Wiley was enjoying driving so much (the Astro can really corner!) that we kept moving along. Finally, 18 kilometers north of the end of the boardwalk, we caught sight of the ferry landing in Pichilingue. So we knew where the ferry was, but it was too late to catch it that day (the ferry to Topolobampo on Baja Ferries leaves once a day at 3 pm), so we needed to find a place to crash for the evening. Seemed the perfect opportunity for some beach camping.

Along the drive to the ferry, I had started googling beach camp spots in the area on my phone (Droid!), racking up the roaming charges, and discovered Playa Tecolote. There were some vague reviews available, so we decided to check it out. It was only another 8 kilometers past the ferry landing, so it would be convenient for the next days "events". We arrived, and the place looked a little rundown, with a couple of kayaking and surf rental shops and some sort of abarrote/taco shop. But the beach was expansive and there were only a few cars belonging to day trippers.

It was the end of the road (not to be confused with the Boyz II Men song) so we headed to the left, which seemed far more secluded. We pulled up to one of the last dunes and made our way onto the beach. On a side note, I should mention that the Astro was quite nimble on the sand and handled deftly by Wiley. Anyway, it appeared we had the beach to ourselves and completely for free!

I began setting up shop beneath one of the palapas and Wiley joined, studying a map in preparation for our adventure into Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre). It was all quite peaceful.

After finishing, I decided to take a walk down down the beach to what looked to be some sort of residence. I asked Wiley to join me, but he mysteriously declined. But no red flags there as he appeared busy preparing his sleeping quarters in the Astro. So I walked down to check it out and as I approached I was greeted by some dogs. Good start - anyone with dogs is usually friendly. I should make it clear now that my Spanish is pretty horrible - it sounds ok in my head, but once I need to actually speak with someone, I get nervous and it comes out a jumbled, incoherent mess. So, with that on the table, I hear someone on the far side of the building and I round the corner to greet them. "Que onda, amigo?" To my surprise, a man of at least 70 swings around and comes forward to greet me. I cannot understand a word he is saying. As he gets closer, I note that he has one tooth. And he is wearing dolphin shorts. Wiley must have known something before I left. I take a breath, refocus, and ask him to speak slowly, "Puedes hablar mas despacio?" I don't think he heard me/understood, as he kept going, much too fast for my brain. I tried to explain that we were camping for the evening and that we were from California, on our way to Argentina. He seemed to understand and I was able to gather that he had lived here a long time, alone. I thanked, him and wished him a buenos noches, to which he presented for a high five and fist bump. It was then I realized that he had five fingers on each hand. I'm not talking four fingers and a thumb, I mean, five fingers, no thumb! I had never seen anything like it before.

I headed back to camp to relay my story to Wiley, who only then told me he had seen the man and thought him a little odd. He also then told me he was glad he was sleeping in the Astro and that I would likely be brutally murdered by him and then torn to pieces by his pack of wild dogs. This kicked my over active imagination into gear and I started picturing a Mexican version of a Rob Zombie horror movie, complete with deformed and depraved individuals massacring me in the middle of my tent. Think House of 1000 Corpses meets the Hills Have Eyes.

Great, I should have no problem sleeping. It is dark by 8 pm and Wiley heads into the van. Before getting any further, Wiley had ran up to the abarrote/taco shop to see if they had any food. Apparently, they had closed, but were able to put together some shrimp and chicken ceviche with tortillas for us to munch on, which was really nice of them. So, Wiley is locked up safely in the Astro and I head into the Hubba Hubba. Its a pretty chilly night and the wind is whipping on shore, flapping the fly on my tent at a prodigious rate. The waves are crashing about 20 feet from where I'm lying and there are dogs yelping in the background.

I'll be asleep in no time, right? Nope. Every noise sends me twitching, reaching for my 3″ pocket knife. I should be able to fight off an army of the undead with that as my sole weapon. I begin thinking how much I would much rather be getting ripped to shreds by Judge Taylor for not having the correct whole punches than laying there on this ""peaceful" beach. About an hour into this I hear footsteps around the tent. I cease all movement, suppressing even my breathing. I start planning my escape route, realizing full well that I am on an empty beach in the dark and I am blind as a bat without my contacts. But the footsteps pass. I keep listening (I can listen to Jimmy, but I can't hear him) if they are circling around, but the wind is drowning out all other noises now. Seconds, minutes, hours pass, but I have no concept of time (why didn't I wear a watch?) Eventually, I fall asleep, exhausted from my uber-alertness. Suddenly, I jolt upright, feeling hands around my neck and begin flailing wildly, only to realize I was dreaming. I should have stayed home and watched the Yankees.

When I wake in the morning, unrested, I am relieved I am alive. Then I realize I'm more dramatic than a teenage girl, get up and start cooking some oatmeal. Soon after, my friend from down the beach walks over and asks how I slept. "Muy bueno!" is all I can muster.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You're in the jungle baby…you're gonna die!
Posted on April 8, 2011 by Wiley

San Blas, Mexico
Rolling in to San Blas on what I think was a Tuesday it felt a bit dead even for such a small town, though we enjoyed the relaxed pace, which I assume is the norm. While scouting out the free campsite I noticed a couple kids stuck in the sand. I figured we should give them a hand, since it is only a matter of time until we end up in the same predicament. How many people does it take to translate what is needed to remove a truck stuck in sand….apparently 2 gringos and about 7 Mexicans. Naturally the girls were worthless, one spent the whole time telling me I was Beau-Ti-ful..yeah thanks I have known this for years, let me get the truck out.

1st I tried to pull him out, which didn't work as I didn't want to abuse the Astro, and they were in it deep! Next came the hi-lift, which is a sort of super jack, and it worked like a charm. Jacked up there truck, threw a log and some other stuff under the tire and they were free.

Suddenly I was a hero and was forced into a picture with just me and 6 girls (this is the second time this has happened on someones camera, I need to start carrying mine!), and according to my translator I was now married to senorita Victoria. Unfortunately they were only 15-16 years old (Hi Stephen!) so I was relieved when they left, as my Spanish is probably not good enough to explain to anyone why I can't get rid of several loco 16 year old girls. I decided it best to lay low after that so that I didn't end up getting married to anyone else, and spent the next three days around the campsite surfing, reading, and playing guitar. I really need to work on my Spanish to avoid these problems in the future.

We spent some time camping here, I had noticed the death skull posted below during one of my walks, but declined to tell Paul, figured he needed to get some rest for once. Since I am locked in the van I wasn't worried about it, figure it is almost like using him as bait, they will most likely go for the easy target. Welcome to the Jungle.

Puerto Vallerta, Mexico
Turns out we haven't completely written off the tourist spots, and eventually ended up in Puerto Vallerta. Puerto Vallerta was a nice place to be if you want to party. I didn't, and despite Pauls attempts we managed to avoid the clubs with the volume set to 11, but still enjoyed checking out the boardwalk full of clubs and restaurants, as well as wandering around the old part of the city. We found a slightly less touristy bar with live music and a mostly Mexican crowd, so it worked out quite well. Also met a fantastic couple from Oregon in the RV park we stayed at. They have been driving around Mexico for enough time to make us extremely jealous. They overloaded us with useful info on where to go in Mexico and must see stops which I greatly appreciated. Had a blast just sitting around swapping stories with them as well. These are the kind of people that have made me want to go on this trip, fellow travelers who are out there enjoying life, and the people in it.

La Manzilla, Mexico
We then continued south to a small beach town which they had recommended, La Manzanilla. This place was quiet, just what I needed. Though it lacked waves, the beauty and quietness of this place made it a fantastic stop. We stayed at a small RV Park for 2 days, which we had all to our selves. Of course it was a bit dark when we arrived and the sand here was very deep (they can't possibly accommodate RVs)…so we got stuck. Yup, guess we have to stay here now. I think airing down the tires would have gotten us out, but we waited until the morning to get some help from a couple guys who came by for payment, and we were able to push the van out with our manly arms instead. The asking rate here is 60 pesos per person a night, 5 bucks each for a beachfront camp. We are right at the end of tourist season, combine that with the fact that most people are illogically afraid of Mexico, and it seems we get most places to ourselves down here. While it is great to have such beautiful places to ourselves, it is sad to see how badly the economy has effected the lives of the people who live here. We do try and do our part stimulating the economy by buying as many cervezas and tacos as possible, and even though tourism has really been effected here, people are not very aggressive about getting your money for the most part. We added a beach fire to the mix this time, otherwise it was more reading, and relaxing…there seems to be a pattern developing.

I also added a siesta to the schedule, since unlike Paul, I have a problem and stay up way to late at night. Without the light pollution the stars out here are amazing at night, and without any phone or watch I have no idea what day or time it is…ever. Possibly around 2 am while playing the guitar as the fire burned itself out one night I was lucky enough to see a meteor/asteroid/missle/ufo go blazing across the sky and what I have to assume crashing into the Pacific. I have seen a meteor or shooting star before but this was a whole other level. It was gigantic! Larger than a plane, this giant glowing fire ball shot down in a straight path to the ocean. I certainly never expected to see things like that on this trip. I was slightly relieved when I awoke to see Paul and his tent hadn't been washed out to sea the next morning due to this near Armageddon event.
Barro de Navidad, Mexico

We then spent 1 night in Barro de Navidad, which was another small beach town virtually empty of tourists. We only spent 1 night here as the whole town seemed dead. We did run into a couple from Minnesota and had a good time chatting with them. I did not take many pictures of this town, they all start to look the same after awhile anyway!

Our next main stop is going to be Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city with just over 1.5 million people. We are going to take a refresher course for our Spanish, which will also let us stick around for a week of exploring to check out what the city has to offer. We are also hoping for a miracle, and that we can somehow get our hands on some El Clasico de Clasicos tickets, if so, this will most definitely be the most dangerous part of our journey so far…keep your fingers crossed!

La Paz to Topolobampo: Getting My Sea Legs
Posted on April 9, 2011 by Paul

After a wonderful night of sleep and a hearty oatmeal breakfast cooked on the beach, Wiley and I headed to the port at around 9:30 am to start the process of buying our ferry tickets and figuring out the process of loading the Astro. Neither of us knew what to expect, so we figured five hours would be sufficient to get things in order, run into town for a few things and get back in time to catch the 3:00 pm ferry. It is a good thing we left as early as we did, as there were some surprises along the way.

As I mentioned in the last post, the ferry is actually in Pichilingue, not La Paz, and we would be taking Baja Ferries rather than TMC Ferries. From our research we learned that Baja Ferries had a nicer ship and was faster than TMC, although it was a little more expensive. Fare for one person on Baja was 790 pesos, whereas on TMC it was 710. For the car, it was supposed to be 1790 pesos (with driver, according to the website) on Baja and 2000 (with driver) on TMC.

Well, that's not really how it worked out. To start things off, we went into the ticket office to buy the tickets and the first thing they asked for was the vehicle importation permit. No problem, as Wiley had paid for and taken care of this in Guerrero *****. We handed what we thought to be the permit to the saleswoman, who appeared very confused. She explained that this was only Kiel's FMT (foreign tourist card) and that he would need to still import his car. Wiley was not happy. She also noted that we would have to go through customs, and only then could we purchase our tickets.

So we headed over to the Banjercito office, which is the Mexican authority who issues vehicle permits; it was on the ground floor of the main building. Luckily for us, the young woman who was working spoke excellent English and went out of her way to help us get our crap together. Wiley gathered up his title and personal identification documents by making several trips back and forth between the Astro and the office and after about 45 minutes, was able to get the permit he thought he already had.

Next, I realized I had not obtained a FMT. Neither of us were sure whether I needed it to get on the ship, so we went up to the Immigration office, which was upstairs in the main building. The immigration officer was rather vague about it, but said we should probably be ok to get on the ship, provided the police did not want to view my FMT. He could not process it there, but I could get it taken care of back in La Paz. Since we were pressed for time, I decided to take the risk of getting it later in the trip. A word of note, if you walk across the border, in my case, San Diego to Tijuana, they do not provide you with the application since you are in the border zone and it is not necessary. Typically, if you fly from the US, they will provide the form on the plane and the price will be included in the airfare. Since I walked across and then flew from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas, I never received the form. Whoops. Well, provided we do not get pulled over and I do not get asked to show the card, we should be alright. My plan was to pick up the card at another immigration office along the way.

After clearing up that confusion, we finally headed to the ticket office to purchase our tickets. Dos personas, uno auto, por favor. Thinking the tickets would be 2580 pesos, we were pretty surprised to find out that they included a separate charge for Wiley, even though he was the driver of the car. Explanation was futile and we needed to get on the ferry, so we paid. I guess the website is not entirely accurate, so be prepared to pay for the car and two people.

We were moving now. Next stop was customs, which we were dreading. We pulled up to the stall and the official took a look inside and did not seem the least bit interested. Wiley got out and pushed the button and we got a green arrow! No search necessary. That saved us a heck of a lot of time, so we decided to park the Astro and go grab some lunch from one of the taco trucks outside.

As with most of the places we've eaten, the food was good. The owner of the place recommended we try the octopus soup (I can't remember the name), which was really good. Since I tend to be a glutton, I also got a torta with pork, which was very good. Wiley got his usual mess of tacos, some dorada, some asada, all delicious. We also had the chance to practice some Spanish with the owner since we had a lot more time than we had expected. He spoke plenty of English and was able to help us with some basic stuff. We plan on taking some language classes in Guadalajara, as well as in Guatemala, and those cannot come soon enough.

After lunch we got back into the Astro and circled it around to get in line to board the ferry. From here it was just a waiting game to board the ship. It was about 1:30 and we were supposed to depart at 3:00, so we expected some movement pretty soon. No such luck. Everyone was just hanging out around their cars, waiting for something to happen. At around 2:30, a Baja Ferries' official came by and told me I had to go wait in the passenger departure area as only one person could be in the car during the loading process. So I went up and waiting in the departure area wondering if I was going to get sea sick.

Anyway, after about an hour of waiting and wondering if I was going to puke octopus over the rails of the California Star, they finally started checking tickets and boarding the passengers. I should mention that I have been on an oceangoing vessel twice in my life that I can recall; once on a small fishing boat off the coast of Martha's Vineyard and on what I recall was a high speed catamaran between Menorca and Mallorca in the Mediterranean (N.B. I vomited on the way back to Menorca). Clearly, I am a landlubbing wimp. Sorry to disappoint the Navy folk reading this. Anyway, this was easily the biggest ship I had been on that would actually be moving, so it was a little intimidating climbing up, deck after deck in order to get to the main passenger area. Plus, I had read stories that the ship would be full of Mexican truck drivers getting completely inebriated and vomiting throughout the ship. So that would be cool.

I scurried up as far as the stairs would take me in the hopes that I would get to watch some of the cars and trucks boarding and was able to just catch Wiley as he almost got plowed by a rig that was dropping off trailers in the cargo area, as the attendants told him he had to back up the ramp rather than just drive in.

After parking the Astro, we met up in the main passenger area to get settled in. We didn't get going until about 4:00 pm, an hour or so late, which meant we'd be getting into Topo at 11:00 pm. The ship was nice enough; there was a large dining area where they would be serving dinner (included in your ticket), as well as another bar/lounge area across from the dining area. As the ship was loading, a line began forming at the serving area, which should have clued us in that dinner would be served immediately after we left, but we waited until it died down. I'm not sure which is worse, airline food or ship food. I will say that there was an abundance of pastries and cake as the night went along, so that tips the scales in favor of the ship, although those were extra. Also they had a bunch of big screen TV's blaring Mexican telenovelas.

I hung out on the deck for a while, thinking this might increase my chances of getting seasick, but no such luck. The seas were pretty smooth and there wasn't much wind. Inside, it was more of the same. I could barely tell we were on the water, except for the occasional rocking of the ship.

I did notice as we rounded the point to head out into the Sea of Cortez/Gulf of California, that we passed right past the beach that we had camped on the night before, Playa Tecolote. I imagine our friend was on the beach, with his pack of dogs, scaring the crap out of some other unsuspecting soul.

Close to 11:00 pm, we finally pulled into port in Topo, with no where to go. Wiley headed down to the Astro and I de-boarded, not quite sure how we were going to meet up. But it was fairly simple - there was a waiting area just outside the ship where you could watch the cars coming out. As I saw the Astro roll off, I jogged over to where it would be passing, hopped in, dodged a Mexican semi who tried to run us off the road and we took off for Los Mochis.

Not really knowing where to go, we just headed into town, about 20 km away looking for a RV park or other suitable camping area. There was nothing available except autohotels, which are apparently by the hour and mostly for picking up prostitutes. Since that wasn't our aim tonight, we drove past and around town and couldn't really find anything. So, we headed to the Pemex on the edge of town near Mexican Route 15 and crashed in the Astro around 1 am.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Barrance del Cobre…PWN3D
Posted on April 16, 2011 by Paul

Urban Dictionary defines "owned" as:
To be made a fool of; to make a fool of; to confound or prove wrong; embarrassing someone; being embarrassed.
e.g.: I owned you in counter-strike. You were owned at the party yesterday.
That was us trying to get to Copper Canyon.

After spending a night in the Astro in a Pemex parking lot in Los Mochis, we set out for Copper Canyon. We would be heading for Batopilas, a town on the southern edge of the canyons. This would be our jumping off point for Urique and Creel. We had done quite a bit of research on routes heading into this area and knew that we would be encountering a fair amount of dirt roads and a potential river crossing, none of which would be easy. But we were not deterred. We had devised a cognizable set of directions that were confirmed by some of our "resources" and were ready to go. With a mix of optimism, apprehension and gratitude for Bear Gryll's introducing us to Copper Canyon on Man vs. Wild, we set out.
We jumped on Route 23 headed toward El Fuerte on our way to Choix. This small town was the last significant outpost and would be our jumping off point for the rough stuff, but it was about time for the Astro to get a good work out after stretching its legs in Baja. We rolled up to the outskirts of Choix and were provided a warm welcome. Bienvenidos a Choix! Yes, welcome to Choix.

Such a warm greeting from an overwhelmingly warm nation of peoples. We rolled into town, following our directions as closely as possible, even bottoming out and hitting the transfer case on an unusually large tope. We didn't appear to be headed in the right direction, so we circled back into town to ask directions and make sure we were going the right way. We stopped at the Pemex near the entrance into town and asked the two young chicas working the pump if they knew of Batopilas. Negative. Alright, but maybe they knew some of the towns on the way, like Tasajeras or Tubares. Not a chance. The way she looked at me I might as well of been green and had antennae.

Time to check the convenience store next door. I walked in and they were playing the Mexico-Paraguay friendly. Ah, yes, I can finally connect with someone and hopefully get some real insight about directions to Copper Canyon.

"Quien esta ganando?"
"Mexico, 3-0."
"Quien estan los marcadores?"
"Chicharito, por dos y algun mas."
"Ahhh, Chicharito es bien jugador."

Nice, a little rapport started, they know I'm not some stupid American. Well, clearly I'm stupid (and terrible at Spanish) for trying to drive into Copper Canyon from here, but at least I'm not ignorant.

After much discussion, one of the employees drew us a map of where to go and warned us that it would be a long drive on mostly dirt roads. We were ok with that, as this was the sort of thing we were looking forward to. So we head out, with map in hand, ready for the Astro's real first test. A couple of kilometers out of town we came to the first dirt road we would be traveling on and turned off. Not much later, there was a fork in the road…with no indication where to go. So we headed left and hoped for the best. This worked out, and we came upon signs for Tasajeras, one of the towns we knew to be on the way. It was slow going, and dusty, but the Astro was handling things well, so we pushed forward. There were a couple more forks in the road, but luckily there were signs this time, so we followed along, all the while, passing these tiny communities dug right into the sides of the mountains with only a few people living there. Although we weren't far from a decent sized town, this place was a world away. Well, except for a few satellite dishes. No one wants to miss the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifiers.

Eventually, we came to another fork in the road, this time with no signs and no clear indication as to which way we should go. It was only later that I wished I had taken my camera out so that I could convey the types of roads we were traversing and the people we were passing by. Unfortunately, I'm an idiot and I didn't take it out at all (as you'll see later I took about 100 pictures at a soccer game I attended - priorities). So with no idea which way to go, we decide to ask someone. We had stopped in the middle of the road, opened the window and waved down the closest man. He walked over and we attempted to ask him which direction would take us to Tubares, Batopilas, Urique, or any other town we knew to be on the way. Sadly, I think we got the village idiot. We were clearly struggling with asking directions and all the kids that had gathered were laughing hysterically at us. The man pointed to the right, which seemed like about a 45 degree grade littered with potholes. Of course, why would it be the nice road to the left? So we eased the Astro downhill and it handled like a champ. But the road was only getting worse so Wiley and I decided this was probably not the best idea. Plus, it was getting late in the day and our progress was too slow. We turned around to head back up the way we came, which was no easier than going down. And it was over. We headed back towards the main road.

Once we got back, we decided to head north on the main road instead of going back to Choix to see where it led. It was clearly brand new, so maybe it would snyc us up with a town further down the road on a path that no one yet knew about. Pie in the sky. After a few kilometers (and a huge crater in the road) later and there was a detour onto a dirt road. So we took it, of course. And drove straight up hill through winding mountain roads for about an hour until we finally admitted we had no idea where we were going. Once again, we turned around, tails between our legs and headed back to Choix. We were going to need to do some more research and find better directions. The question was, would we stay in Choix for the night, or head all the way back to Los Mochis. That question was answered as soon as we got back into town. As we pulled up to a stop sign, a military pick up truck with an "adequately" sized machine gun mounted to the bed, along with 4-5 masked troops hanging out there convinced us that Los Mochis was the better decision. And so, the sun set on our adventure to Copper Canyon. Bear Grylls would be terribly disappointed.

Decision, decisions, decisions
Posted on April 18, 2011 by Wiley

Only half way through Mexico and I am loving every minute of it. Well, almost every minute of it, there are some minor issues with the Van/gear that were out of my hands that are causing minor inconveniences. That with a few other things have left me with some decision making to do. Paul and I unfortunately are on different schedules which may mean we go separate ways. If that happens, I am left with 3 options.

The 1st option would be the most ideal or me, though it would mean Paul and I miss out on enjoying Central America together. 1st I can continue to enjoy Mexico a little longer and return home to fix the problems and maybe work until my brothers wedding, delaying Central and South America until Oct 1st. As of now this is my plan, though I have at least 2 weeks to be convinced otherwise. The second option is to rush the rest of Mexico, rush through Central America but not cross the Darien gap as that is the point of no return due to the expense and inconvenience of crossing the gap, and then take my time coming back. This option means I drop Paul off in Panama, but means I spend more money than option 1 with gas, border crossings, etc as I would do them more times obviously. The last option is to go on through both Central and South America as planned, but rush both Central America and South America on the way down to get Paul there by October, leave my Van in SA as I return for my brothers wedding and work until the end of Dec, then returning and continuing the drive back alone when Paul flys to Italy. Hmm, there is nothing easy about those decisions. But 1st….Guadalajarrrrrrrrrrrrra.

So the plan was to be in Guadalajara Sunday as our Spanish classes start Monday, we then decided to try and get there early and head up Saturday to see if we could somehow get our hands on the hottest tickets in town…well of course we couldn't. But lets not jump ahead, here it was Thursday and suddenly I find myself in Guadalajara…um, what just happened? Well we decided to make a last minute change of plans, and that has worked 0% of the time for us so far, so we figured we were due some change of luck. We were headed to a place which is not far from Guadalajara recommended by one of the people we met in Barra de Navidad, but we either missed a sign, or more likely as is the usual case here in Mexico there wasn't one. Well once again I am kicking myself. I should have stayed by the waves for a little more surfing. If not that, I should have gone and checked out Parque Nacional Volcan Nevado de Colima for some hiking and camping. Lots of should haves, but I need to let that go, I now find myself in Guadalajara.

Guadalajara is a great city, I wish I could say that I saw more of it, unfortunately our Spanish schedule made it a bit difficult to get into the city without canceling all our meals with our host mom. We had decided to take a week of Spanish classes, which included a home stay with Senora Alicia, in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. We knew this would be a bit more expensive than Guatemala, where we plan to take another week of Spanish, but also knew it would be worth it so that we could converse more with people, rather than just use basic statements. The total was just under 300 US dollars (will update) which included 4 hours of Spanish a day for 5 days, 6 nights at the home stay with 3 meals a day, and also gated parking which is important for us.

The price would have been slightly less (will update) for those of you not driving. Tlaquepaque is a nice area to stay for a week. The bus into Guadalajaras Historico Centro is about 20-30 mins, and Tlaquepaque itself has a nice plaza with a good amount going on. Overall it was a great experience, Alcia was wonderful, but I was left with a few minor things I would have hoped worked out different. 1st the home stay. The place was beautiful, but had its pros and cons. We had a separate building to stay in, with our own rooms and showers which was great, it allowed us to come and go whenever we wanted, and after a month of van living let us get back into normal living mode. The downside to this was we only had 20-25 min of face time with Alicia at breakfast, 45-60 minutes for lunch, and another 30 minutes for dinner. I am not sure if I would have preferred to be in the same house with a family all the time or not, but you should keep this in mind if you sign up at the same school and request Alicia. (I would definitely recommend her, she was fantastic!) The second was that dinner was at 8, which meant the nights we went into the city we either skipped dinner, or couldn't really go till 9…no big deal, but again keep it in mind. The teachers were great, as well as Wouter who runs the school. My only semi complaint is that you jump into learning…there is no review. I figured we would be loaned text books, or at least get a sheet with a list of common verbs we would use, but you just jump in depending on your Spanish level. I haven't read, spoke, or listened to Spanish in 12 years, so that was a bit tough! Otherwise it was great, and I would tell anyone considering it to sign up with Wouters school…it was worth every penny. An obvious bonus is that everyone at the school is doing the same thing we are, traveling the world. You will meet some great people who all share that common bond, and most likely find one or two going the same direction as you to meet up with later. In our case, Roel from Belgium, and a dutch girl, Maria. Unlike us travelers, Roel is a brave tourist, he flew into Mexico City, his 1st experience in Mexico…. without knowing a single word of Spanish. We enjoyed some drinks and conversation with him while watching the UEFA Champions League matches Tuesday and Wednesday.

They both joined us for "Lucha Libre", Mexicos WWF. Lucha Libre was recommended most surprisingly by Senora Alicia. Senora Alicia is a slightly older woman, so it was a bit of a shock when she got so animated talking about what to expect….I think she may have wrestled a bit in her past! Well it was…an experience all right. I think everyone should go once…..only once. But for 60 pesos who can complain, it certainly was entertaining. Its a bit more theatrical than anything…I am not a wrestling fan, but this was more over the top than the WWF stuff if thats even possible. More entertaining was the crowd, though they were more civil than I imagined after all the stories we had heard. Anyway, I won't ruin it for anyone, if you can, you should go.

Thursday Roel and Maria joined Paul and I for the Atlas-Pumas futbol match. Atlas is Guadalajara's second most popular team. This was also a great time, also only 60 pesos, and again not what we expected. Atlas is terrible! Pumas is also terrible, but apparently the best team at the moment. Seriously, I have seen better college matches. This was not the level of soccer we thought we would be seeing down here. The game ended 0-0, with the highlights being the lights going out with about 10 minutes left, the crazy girl behind us singing along passionately to every chant/song, and possibly the last 3 minutes of the game when Atlas turned it on trying desperately to score. Paul, Roel, and I have discussed canceling the trip and trying out for the team, we think we could turn their season around.

Of course we did the normal things like walk around Historico Centro, but my highlights were the churro guy in Tlaquepaque, and of course the taco stands Paul had discovered….6 tacos for 15 pesos. Yes, 15 pesos, that is 1.25 US dollars! Now you should know tacos are smaller than what you see in America, but still…6 of them? Well, once again I felt it was my duty to stimulate the economy and went with 12. I wanted 18, but they were closing down, and I wasn't sure 18 end of the day tacos was a good idea. Too bad too, I was hoping to top the 14 tacos I had in Puerta Vallerta…luckily there is still plenty of Mexico left. From there we met up with Roels friend of a friend at a cool, alternative bar that we never would have found on our own. We hung out in that place for a bit and eventually the girls took us to a local Salsa bar. Let me say one thing about Mexican women, they are dangerous! While I have never had a drink thrown in my face, I have seen it happen a few times in America. You can usually see it coming, the drunk girl slurring words struggling to stand looses her cools and wastes whatever fine beverage is in her hands at the time. Well, some girl at the salsa bar who appeared absolutely sober, tossed her drink in the face of the guy she was with, hitting several other people, myself included…in the process. Now I am fine with a wasted girl doing this I suppose, but you just don't see it coming from a sober one. On top of that…they continued to argue over in the corner, where she later punched him in the face before people stepped in. All this happened around people who not once broke their salsa groove…which was almost as impressive as the gentleman who appeared to be in his late 70's salsa'ing like there was no tomorrow….which could have been true for him.

Before we kick the bucket, we are off to Guanajuato, a UNESCO world heritage site. Marie from the Tlaquepaque school also happens to be headed for Guanajuato, so we will be meeting back up with her at some point.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Addendum Post
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Paul

Clearly, I am a little behind on updates. As you can see from Kiel's post, we made our way south from our failed attempt at Copper Canyon, hitting Mazatlan, San Blas, Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta, La Manzanilla (not to be confused with Manzanillo, which is just south) and Barra de Navidad. I thought I would throw in some more information and pictures since I am sure we will eventually convince some of you reading this to make the trip.

More like Mazat-lame. Gotta say I was not really a big fan of this area. It was basically just overrun with tourism to the point where it lost any sort of Mexican vibe. We stayed two nights and I'm still not sure why. Also, it should be noted that when I went to the Immigration Office to get my tourist card squared away, the woman working basically told me that her boss would only do it for $1,000 pesos, even though the cost of the card and the penalty was much less.

According to her, the boss of each Immigration Office is allowed to charge whatever they want in addition to the actual cost. I guess this happens often in Mazatlan so this is a good money maker for them. Plus, she said it would take a week! I decided to take my chances without the card until we got to Guadalajara.

San Blas, Mexico
San Blas was a great way to forget about our Copper Canyon failure and get out of the spring break/tourist areas. The town was quiet and the beach was even quieter, minus Kiel's nuptials to a minor. For three days I did nothing but read a book (Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes) and a random selection of Playboys provided by my friend Troy. I swear I was reading them just for the articles! Also, I was getting bit incessantly by sand flies, especially at night. This was really the only drawback to the beach.

Sayulita, Mexico
After a few days in San Blas we packed up and headed to Sayulita. We had heard that it was a chill little town right on the coast that had some good waves. I'm not so sure I would describe it that way. The town was awesome, and totally alive, but it was unbelievable packed with people from all over. The beach was really rocky and there were a ton of people surfing, so it wasn't the best place to jump in and relearn the little I know about surfing. We subsequently talked to a couple of other people who passed through recently and all of them said it was not that busy, so maybe we just hit it on a particular weekend when a lot of people were in town. I would certainly still recommend going, just plan ahead for where you are going to stay as there are not that many camping options.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Another town like Mazatlan. PV is pretty huge and the malecon can be fun, but you have to be ready to party like its 1999. We thought about hitting one of the clubs, but they were just too much. As Wiley mentioned, we went to this bar with live music, called Bebotero Company (528 Paseo Diaz Ordaz). It appeared to be mostly locals and the band played some good music that got the crowd going. Beers were cheap enough, 6 for $200 pesos. And there was an awesome picture of Diego Maradona as a fat cherub - which is basically what he is anyway. A fat cherub with a coke problem and lots of gold jewelry. Also, right before you get onto the malecon is a taco place with a 5 for $35 pesos deal (1055 Avenida Mexico). And they are safe.

On the last day before we were heading out of town we stopped at a taco shop to fill up for the road. As I was sitting there, somewhat out of it after a night out, about to scarf down my tacos, the woman next to me pushes this bowl of salsa over to me and tells me it is great for tacos. And she is saying this with a smile on her face. And her friend is laughing under her breath. Obviously she means well and wouldn't be trying to play a joke on me, right? So I slather the salsa on one of my tacos and dig in. Her and her friend start dying laughing, my eyes start to tear up and I'm now regretting not getting a refresco. I was punked by a middle aged Mexican woman. Good riddens to PV.

La Manzanilla, Mexico
Cheap beach camping, a cool little town. Can't beat it, right? Unless there is a crocodile preserve across the dirt road protected by a fence that looks like this and you are sleeping in a tent.
Needless to say, my first night was a little sleepless. That may have been helped along because the book I was reading as I was going to sleep was ending with an intense scene in the Vietnamese jungle where this young kid is out on a night patrol and while walking through the dark his partner's head is bit off by a tiger. So my imagination runs wild with scenes of a crocodile (think Lake Placid, the movie) leaping (can crocodiles leap?) through my tent to crush my cranium to small pieces, while Wiley watches in the relative security of the Astro. Why does my imagination run wild like this in the middle of the night when it is completely unnecessary, but never when I was at work and needed to come up with some solution to a unique problem? Anyway, the taco truck that is parked where the paved road begins leaving the camping area, and also right across from the entrance to the crocodile preserve, has great fish burgers for like $60 pesos. Also, there is no ATM in this town.

Barra de Navidad, Mexico
Not much to add here, except the place we ate was called The Office and the burger was pretty awesome. So were the quesadillas. Also, Wiley ate about six pastries in the space of a day.

18-1 Bitches!!!
Posted on May 1, 2011 by Wiley

Hmm today's title was a tough decision. I was saving the shirt for a special occasion. I was going to wear it when we planned to drive from Mazatlan to Durango on one of the worlds most dangerous roads; "Espinazo del Diablo" otherwise known as The Devils Backbone. Filled with both perilous cliffs without guardrails, and crazy truckers who have no choice but to take blind corners in your lane due to the narrow roadway, this is apparently a hair raising journey that lasts for just under 200 miles of both beautiful scenery and enough stress to shave off 10 years of your life.

Unfortunately we changed our plans and headed south instead…besides it was way to early in the trip for Paul and I to go crashing off a mountain to our death, what would you read if we had? I then thought about saving the shirt for the border crossing from Mexico to Belize, since so many people thought we were crazy to try and travel through the dangerous third world hell hole known as Mexico. But alas, as you read in my previous post, that border crossing will most likely not contain the two of us…so once again I had to revise my plans. So here we are, what better time to break out a symbol of triumph and greatness, than the day Paul and I climbed the worlds third largest pyramid, as well as meandered down the "Avenue of the dead". Yup, Teotihuacan….bad-***.

But 18-1 Bitches!…why you ask?? Well, 18-1 stands for excellence, determination, the greatest NFL Quarterback of all time Eli Manning and the 2007 New York Giants, and because I know Tom Brady reads my blog regularly and it brings me great satisfaction knowing I just made him cry. But once again I am jumping ahead of the story, so lets start where I left off, headed for the crazy looking city of Guanajuato.

Guanajuato, Mexico
Once we finally said our goodbyes and got out of Guadalajara we headed for Guanajuato, one of Mexico's many UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city lies in a small valley, with houses of every color crammed side by side up the steep hillsides. Anyone who has done some research before heading to Guanajuato has heard it is a rather confusing city to drive in….which we found slightly true. This small city has a series of underground tunnels, formerly used for the river, now used to confuse any tourist stupid enough to try and drive through the city. There are guides all over the city that practically jump in front of you to offer their services…but we chose not to use one due to the fact that there was no seat for them, and traffic is not very bad here as most roads are so narrow they are for walking only. Wellllll, I would recommend you pick one of these guides up if your looking for something in particular. There are not many roads, but the directions and signs are terrible. It was easy to figure out our way around the city as we did 2 or 3 circles, but finding the RV park we stayed at ended up being a whole other challenge. All directions regarding Mexico are incorrect, we have seen this on maps, the internet, as well as directions from the locals themselves. This place proved to be difficult to find, so difficult that I decided when we left I was going to retrace my steps and video the drive into the city to the RV park to help any one else trying to find it. Unfortunately when I tried to get back to the west side of the city where we originally started from I got lost again, and eventually ran out of time as we had to meet Marie in San Miguel de Allende though that is again getting ahead of the story.

Sunday morning we hit up breakfast at a place that I had assumed would be too expensive, as it was very fancy looking and right in the main plaza. Well, for about 100 pesos or less than 10 US dollars I got some hot cakes with ham and bacon (5 pesos) some orange juice (3 pesos) and a water (2 pesos) along with a basket of free, delicious bread. After that we walked around the city checking out the sites and decided since we are so young and in shape to head up some random alleys, which are nothing more than stairs going straight up. Near the top of one particularly long set of stairs I had Paul wait below so we could get a picture of each other to try and show the distance, when a gentleman stuck his head out the window and started talking with me. Now I assumed he was going to yell at us for being too loud, but he was just curious to what we were doing way up here, and knew just enough English to really converse with my non-fluent Spanish. After many stairs Paul eventually joined us and suddenly this guy invited us up to his rooftop for pics of some great views of Guanajuato. This is the type of thing I feel like I will go on and on about here on this site….people will go out of their way to help you or show you a good time when there is nothing in it for them, he simply wanted us to see his city from an amazing perspective few tourists get to see….good thing we are not tourists, but travelers (See, I don't make this stuff up). His house was huge, and the rooftop had a sweet fireplace, along with some empty cerveza bottles. The only thing I didn't get a picture of that I wish I had was the ladder required to get up there…it was lacking a bit according to US safety standards. I joked about him getting down after too many cervezas, I could tell he knew exactly what I meant from previous experience.

So as I stated in my last post Maria from our Spanish school was also traveling to Guanajuato, so we met up with her on day 2. She also brought her new friend Rodolfo from her hostel, and the four of us wandered around the city, enjoying an amazing day. We hit up the normal sites, as well as checked out the mummy museum. It was interesting, though didn't do much for me personally, but for 5 us dollars who can complain. We spent the rest of the day chilling at a cafe, then a restaurant where I again proceeded to eat way too much, and finished off the night on the hostel rooftop where I was smart enough to avoid the tequila drinking that was going on….for the most part.

Overall, a perfect way to spend the last night in Guanajuato. While packing up camp the following morning I went and began talking to an older gentleman who had gotten to the RV park the night before and had NY plates. Turns out he was from the general area Paul and I went to high school at, and had been driving around the world in a van for years. He pretty much reinforced our opinion on travel, the people out there, and the relative safety of it all. He also provided us with some more tips on what to see in Mexico…so I may never get out of this country.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
So the next stop was San Miguel de Allende, a small town about 1 hr from Guanajuato that a friend of ours from San Diego had told Paul we had to checkout. San Miguel de Allende is a bit upscale, especially for Mexico. This is not what I was looking for in Mexico, there were American license plates everywhere, and the prices were jacked up slightly with Semana Santa (Easter) around the corner. We met up with maria, decided to walk around a bit, and relaxed in the plaza for awhile as we listened to a guitarist and pan flutist play renditions of Dust in the Wind, along with a few other well known songs I cannot remember. Eventually we made it back to the RV park, but in just a few hours I got a second wind, and decided I was not going to spend my time in Mexico watching movies or checking email. So off I went to see what San Miguel de Allende had to offer, leaving Paul and Maria behind to make whatever important facebook status changes they needed to make.

Let me tell you, once the sun went down my perspective of this place completely changed. As I walked down the streets I couldn't help but note how the dimly lit lights perfectly illuminated the cobblestone roads, while lighting the Baroque (yup, I had to look that up!) colonial architecture painted in brick reds and golden yellows. There were hip looking restaurants and bars everywhere, which appeared to be filled with younger, yet elegant girls, I mean people…now this I can handle. I made my way back to the Plaza, which was absolutely beautiful at night, and as with every other plaza, was filled with people out enjoying the great weather and atmosphere. But this plaza was different, this one had bands serenading people, which we hadn't seen much of yet, at least not at his level. The music was perfect, not too loud, not too fast, and with that Spanish flair I had been searching for. The guitars melted away as the trumpets came in at just the right times, the violins accented the singers voices as people gathered to watch, dance, and just have an overall good time. Now I don't usually say things like this, but this place was magical. This was just what I needed, I ended up staying in the plaza the rest of the night, just people watching and enjoying the music (and of course I couldn't pass up enjoying a delicious hotdog wrapped in bacon, peppers, onions, etc….you can tell by looking at me I normally do not eat everything I see, but for some reason, I cannot stop eating down here). Of course all good things must come to an end, and mine certainly did. As a man stumbled in my direction and began slurring to me, I quickly realized I was in for a treat. As I explained in Spanish that I didn't speak Spanish, which threw him a bit off, he proceeded to sit down next to me anyway. Oh, what do you have there, a bottle of tequila, hmm, ok I will stick around and see where this goes, I am sure this guy has a lot to offer entertainment wise. Oh wait, your just spit a giant wad of saliva on the street, then turned to me with 3 inches of spiut still hanging from your mouth without any inkling that it is there….ok I am out. Within seconds I was out of my seat, speaking some rapid fire English knowing he clearly wouldn't understand, and hurried my way across the plaza back to the safety of the Astro. Ok San Miguel de Allende…I suppose I deserved that for not giving you a fair chance from the start.

Mexico City Pt 1 (The long way around)

Mexico city is a nightmare to drive around. But before I get into that, these next two pics are a must see. One of the main reasons I have held off on buying a big rig for so long is my fear that I had no idea what I would do if I lost the top half of it. Well, while driving to Mexico City my concerns have been answered, you just keep going. Unfortunately my driving while picture taking skills still need some work, but you get the idea here. The only thing I didn't capture were the sweet goggles he was wearing.

Now, back to Mexico City. I have spent some time in LA, that place is a hippies green paradise after being in the sunless Mexico City. I think my lungs will forever be scarred. There is so much traffic and pollution that there are restrictions on what days you can drive depending on your license plate number. There are also reports that a US plate may always get you in trouble, regardless to your plate number. For this reason, many people choose to head north to Teotihuacan, home of the famous Pyramid of the Sun, and Pyramid of the Moon. Teotihuacan Trailer Park provides a base camp within walking distance of the pyramids (30 min walk, or you can cab it), and you can leave you vehicle here and take a 45 min-1 hr bus ride into Mexico City, avoiding driving through or around the city. What a great plan, we like simple solutions. Now if you have just tuned into this blog, you know that for us this just sounds too easy. I am going to blame my navigator here, simply because I only have another week or two where I can do just that. Paul got us lost, sure he says it was because there were no signs with the route numbers we needed, but come on man, its Mexico City, piece of cake. Teotihuacan is northeast of Mexico City…we basically followed the periferico all the way around the city the long way…south, then east, then north, eventually finding our way to our destination….hours later. The further south we went, the more rundown the city became. As it was daytime (or ignorance) we never felt we were in any danger, though it was clear many parts of the city would not be the same at night . I have been in nasty areas, but some of the places we found ourselves once lost were really bad. Some of these poor people live in a truly awful place, I wouldn't wish on anyone. At one point there was a terrible smell of sewage, it was overwhelming. But like the Mexican way, there were kids in the "parks" if you can call them that, and people out running, trying to make the best of what they have, seemingly oblivious to the odor. I have seen this mentality everywhere, they play the cards they are dealt in life, and that is something you have to respect. Oh, and on a side note, a guy hit me, can you believe it?? As we pulled up to a light one of many window washers we have seen came to clean my window. Now I am torn on this, I know its at least a respectable source of income, and he is not out robbing people or anything, but even if my windows are clean they see the cali plates and zoom in. I said no several times making it clear I wasn't interested as we just got it cleaned a few blocks previously, Paul also reiterated that we did not need a cleaning. Though stopped I didn't like him approaching us in a nasty area so went to drive past him, and he kept going right up to us, walking into my mirror. Now in honesty it tapped him if I was even moving, we stopped right there, he didnt fall back or anything, he just intentionally stepped into a slow moving vehicle. But this he didn't like, so he punched the mirror and went back to his corner after giving us a look of disgust. Ok, well at least that is over. Green light, lets get the F out of here….as we drive by he squirts his cleaner on my window. Making the best of the moment, I give him a friendly wave and throw on the windshield wipers, sweet, at least we got a free cleaning!

So as you can see a lot happened in Mexico City considering we were trying to avoid it. Finally in Teotihuacan Paul wants to get up early and beat the rush to the Pyramid. I told him not to wake me, if I heard him getting his stuff from the van I would decide whether or not to go. Well I got up, but we barely got out. Since Paul was up before me and had a much more difficult time than I did I will leave that part of the tale to him, but I believe we left at 6:30 since the park opens at 7:00 (7:20 Mexican time). So we hike over there and they finally let us in at 7:20 and we book it to the Pyramid of the Sun, thinking we need to beat the rush. This thing is crazy big. Now I don't know if I am more blown away by why those people would do so much work building this gigantic structure out of stone, or the fact that people think its a good idea to climb to the top of the world's third largest pyramid. Ok so it wasn't awful, though there was a bit of huffing and puffing from Paul. Eventually he made it to the top, and thanks to his eagerness to get a jump on the day, we found ourselves on top of the pyramid with absolutely no one else around, aside from 10-15 hot air ballons above. Now this is sweet, and we had it to ourselves for about 30 minutes, so we could relax, enjoy, and take it all in. Oddly down below we could see all of the people getting off the tour buses and going to the vendor stalls 1st rather than the site, which worked to our advantage.

Once we had our fill and saw some people finally start to storm the pyramid we made our way down, and over to the pyramid of the moon, a smaller,but still awesome structure. The pyramid of the moon sits at the beginning of the Avenue of the dead, which is lined with even smaller, but still impressive pyramids and structures. As you can guess from the name, there was a lot of human sacrifices going on here. Think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Over the next two or so hours we walked around the rest of the park and eventually made our way home, I was extremely glad I had taken Pauls advice and gotten to enjoy the park virtually to ourselves.


· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Mexico City Pt 2 (Where is everyone???)
We later took the bus into Mexico city, which cost us 26 pesos (2.16 US), and got us right to the metro. There are stories here I will leave to Paul, I am only going to focus on the negative here. I actually enjoyed Mexico City for the most part, and there are many nice areas as well as great people. But Mexico City was not what I was looking for. Now it was Santa Semana, and we had been told everyone leaves the city and heads to the beaches. Well, I wanted to see the crazyness, not empty streets, and with a city of this size how empty can it get? Well, this place was dead, I couldn't believe a city of this size could be so calm. The only people in town were tourists, great just what I hate! This also made it a pain to see things as lines were everywhere for the touristy things, which may or may not be normal.

We decided to take one of the hop on hop off city bus tours, which would provide easy access to safe areas of the city, all for 12 US dollars! Sweet, lets role, 1st stop, museum of Anthropology. We decided we would split up for the day as we had our own interests, and since I didn't have a watch on me it would be too tough to meet up at specific times. The museum was great, I would recommend it to anyone in the area. Unfortunately when I left I tried to get onto a bus where the guy informed me that my ticket # didn't match my bracelet, it was off by one. Clearly the lady had switched Paul and my tickets, but he wasn't having it. I forced my way onto the bus so the driver would go as they are impatient and continued to talk some reason to the tour guy, but all he wanted to do was sell me another ticket. So he forced me off at the next stop, telling me to go talk to his boss. Fine, this should be no problem, and at least I know Paul must be having the same problem so they will know the situation already (Of course he had no idea what I was talking about the next day, not 1 person questioned him!). So I find the ticket counter, talk to some people, and they tell me it shouldn't be a problem. Great, I wait around for 20 minutes, the bus pulls up, and walk up to get on, ignoring the long line in front, since I already waited in a similar one this morning in Zacalo, and they made me get off. Well the guy here doesn't buy it. He tells me he needs to respect the paying customers who are waiting in line. What?? You guys made me get off at a stop I wouldn't have gotten off at, now needing to get on a bus going the wrong direction, why on earth would I wait in line again? He tells me something else about them having priority. So your telling me once you get our money you don't care what happens to us? A little more "bickering" (I have worked retail and know to be calm, I was very civil with this guy) I even get him to admit his company was at fault, and he still wont budge. Hmm, ok, this guy is a dead end. I decide to track down the guy who said no problem, as he was extremely reasonable with the situation. I tell him I am not waiting in line and play dumb asking for directions to the museum…hoping he will just put me on the bus. Success, this guy rocks, knows the other guy is being a dick, and just lets me on. But now I am too afraid of getting off the bus and not being allowed back on…so I take it all the way back to Zocala and walk the streets for awhile. I waited till 5pm for the lines to die down and ride it once more around the city as I had missed half the tour from where they made me get off and walk due to the directions the buses ran. While I generally try and avoid fast food since I am in Mexico, it was late and I was tired, so I headed for the quick and easy Burger King. This is where my world fell apart.

A Refreser Course…In Revenge and Bureaucracy
Posted on May 1, 2011 by Paul

So after a few weeks of soaking up the rays in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast of mainland Mexico, we turned inland to Guadalajara. We had decided to take a week of Spanish classes in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara (GDL), but Wiley already told you that. I had done some research and decided on the Guadalajara Language Center (GLC). There were a lot of options out there, but this school ticked most of our boxes, including easy access to the city center, a homestay option with parking for the Astro, small classes and the ability to start according to our schedule. We planned to stay for a week and were set to begin in a beginner/intermediate class on April 11.

Both Wiley and I had taken Spanish throughout high school (12 years ago!) and we had picked some up in the first few weeks of our trip, but neither of us were conversational. I guess having a perfect average through four years of high school and receiving a perfect score on the New York State Regents exam doesn't get you anywhere close to being fluent in Spanish. Thanks New York state educational system!

Anyway, a few more words about GLC; the school is run by Wouter Stut, a Dutch transplant to GDL. He is a great guy and made it exceedingly easy to sign up and get us scheduled into a class. He was also very helpful with details about the city, how to get around on public transport, things to do and see and general information about Mexican culture. We had class from 9 am until 1 pm, with a short break after two hours. There are other options available, including more or less hours per day and private lessons. Wiley and I shared a class with a woman from Vancouver, Janine Coney, who was on vacation in Mexico for a few weeks. If you happen to be in Vancouver and need a photographer, check her out. In the mornings, our classes were taught by Monica and in the afternoons, we had Alejandra, both of whom spent most of the classes speaking only in Spanish. Both were wonderful teachers and the verb tenses and vocabulary started stirring in my brain again. I wasn't fluent after the week, but I certainly was understanding the language better and was able to gain some confidence when speaking, which was in short supply the first few weeks.

The reasons I didn't get as much out of the class as I should have were twofold: Mexican bureaucracy and Montezuma's Revenge. I won't give you the gory details of the later reason as I don't want to scare anyone away from the site or make anyone sick. I'll just say, be careful when you order a drink to request no ice, even if you want a whiskey on the rocks. You'll be better off drinking it warm. Besides, the flavor is probably more full without the ice, especially if you are drinking Old Grandad.

However, I have a lot to say about the former reason. As you may remember, I had not received a tourist visa when I entered Mexico since I had walked across the border in Tijuana, which is a "free zone". Since La Paz I had been inquiring about it with local officials, but because of timing and excessive charges I had delayed the inevitable. Realizing I would be in GDL for a week, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get this out of the way. Being the second largest city in Mexico, I also figured things would be handled a little more "officially" instead of with the local flair of places like Mazatlan ($1,000 peso extra "fee"). Now, I should have went first thing on Monday morning, but I wanted to start class and get everything in order, so I decided to wait until Tuesday. When I arrived at class Tuesday morning, I asked Wouter how to get to the federal administration building since I wanted to go after class. Apparently, they stop fielding inquiries at 1 pm so they can be done by 3 pm. Must be nice.

So Tuesday was out of the question and I was definitely going to have to miss class. Exacerbating the problem, while watching the Manchester United - Chelsea Champion's League quarterfinal with Roel and Wiley on Tuesday, I had my whiskey on the rocks, initiating my demise for the week.

So Wednesday morning rolls around and I pick up the 275 bus from Tlaquepaque to GDL Centro. After an hour of fighting through rush hour traffic, I arrived at 500 Alcalde, which is the Palacio Federal. On the fourth floor was the Immigration office. What a zoo this place was! It was filled with Mexicans getting passports, Americans and Europeans renewing or getting visas for the first time and some people that looked like they had no reason to be there except for some sort of masochistic principles. I jumped on the information line, which is to the right when you get off the elevator. It is possible I never noticed this in the US before, but Mexicans give you no personal space while in line. I could feel the guy's breath behind me on my neck the whole time and I am pretty sure he had eaten chiliquiles for breakfast.

After about a ninety minutes of being shadowed, I spoke to a nice woman who helped me get the process going. I explained how I walked across the border and then took a flight, so I never received the tourist visa form. This appears to happen often, as she had a form letter already available; we just filled in the dates and location where I crossed. Next, I had to fill out an application online; conveniently, they had a kiosk right there. This is where things got dodgy. Obviously, the application was in Spanish, and I understood most of it, but there were all these odd questions about religion and whether I was working with a partner, etc. that I just did not know how to answer. Luckily, after about thirty minutes, I flagged someone down and asked what the heck was going on with these questions. She helped me finish the application and since the machine couldn't print, I had to write down my application number and bring it to the other side of the office to present it for approval. Not so bad, right? Ahhh, but first, I had to find a bank to pay the application fee. Makes total sense, why would you be able to pay the application fee for an immigration issue at the immigration office? So I headed out to the nearest bank to pay up, acutely aware that time was quickly dwindling. I should mention now that Montezuma was attempting to viciously exact his revenge this whole time.

I paid the $260 or so pesos at the nearest bank and headed back to the office just before 1 pm. I pulled a ticket number and waited. And waited. After what seemed like too long without calling a new number and no one at the counter, I just walked up and tried to explain my situation. In the middle of trying to show I had paid and providing my application number, it came to the woman's attention that my application did not match my passport. I had forgot to put my middle name in the application, but it is in my passport. Damn you WILLIAM!!! I offered to write it in, but that would not work. I had to go back to the other side of the office and redo the application. So I did and returned. When I returned, a nice young gentleman was there, Armando, how spoke excellent English, who helped the process along. He explained that it would now take until at least Friday for the application to be processed, and, oh by the way, there was an additional penalty of $299 pesos that the first woman had forgot to tell me about, which was calculated by the number of days I was illegally in Mexico. How ironic that a San Diego resident was illegal in Mexico. So, I was coming back on Friday, hoping that the application would be ready and Wiley and I could set out on our way.

So Friday morning I rushed through breakfast, explaining to Senora Alicia that I had to return to the immigration office and would miss another day of classes. Maybe I wasn't meant to speak Spanish. Anyway, off on the 275 bus again and into Centro, having paid the penalty and done all that was asked of me by Mexican Immigration. I was actually rather nervous as I was expecting that I would have to wait until at least Monday and that there would be some new fine I would have to pay. Not understanding the process causes a level anxiety that I am not familiar with and I began understanding (only slightly) the apprehension that Mexicans must have when awaiting their fate from the US government. It all seems rather arbitrary.

So I arrived at the office and went straight to pull a number. I was there early enough that the line was not too long and my number was called within twenty minutes. I was hoping to get the same woman that I submitted the application with, but I got her less patient, less helpful and more incompetent coworker. I showed her my application, the receipt from payment of the fine and my passport. She had no idea what was going on. I asked if Armando was around, as he helped with the application. She said he was and told me I had to wait for him. But she took my application and receipt and told me to sit back down, rather brusquely.

After waiting for quite a while, I saw Armando and asked him what was going on. He told me that it would be a little bit longer, maybe 20 minutes, but that he needed the original receipt for payment of the fine. I explained that I already provided that to the woman who had helped me earlier in the morning. Not surprisingly, she completely denied that she helped me and that I gave her the receipt. I showed Armando all of my paperwork and explained again that I already provided the receipt and asked that he check if it was mixed up somewhere. He looked around for awhile, but could not find it, explaining that I would need that to finish the application. I made it clear that she had taken the receipt and that they would have to find it. Luckily, the woman who had helped me on Wednesday decided to look around the three desks to see if it was misplaced. Wouldn't you know it, the receipt was on the rude woman's desk, buried under a pile of other applications. Even though it was right there, she continued to deny she took it and tried to blame it on the woman who helped me!

Either way, they had all they needed so Armando told me to come back around noon. I left to try and eat something and returned at noon as instructed. Armando explained that it would be another twenty minutes or so, so I sat down in the office and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally at 3 pm, he reappeared with my tourist visa and a form for me to sign and I was on my way! In total, I spent about two full business days in that office, missed two days of classes and was out about $550 pesos. The moral of the story is get your tourist visa as soon as you cross the border!

GDL was not all bad though. First, our homestay was great. As Wiley mentioned, we stayed with Senora Alicia, a widowed, older woman, who was unusually vibrant and full of vigor. And an excellent cook! In addition to the fresh fruit and fruit juices at almost every meal, she whipped up delicious traditional Mexican fare that was healthy and filling without weighing you down. For breakfast we had dishes like chiliquiles, huevos con chorizo and frijoles; at lunch, which was the biggest meal of the day, we had sopas, quesadillas and mixtas (unfortunately, I missed a couple of lunches); and for dinner it was always something light, like a bocadillo. Everything was made with fresh ingredients and right in front of us. It was a wonderful change of pace after eating mostly rice and tacos for the past few weeks.

Her house was also beautiful. As Wiley mentioned, we each had our own private rooms with bathrooms in a separate building across the courtyard. The house was Spanish colonial, with bright, colorful tiles adorning the walls and trees and flowers throughout the courtyard. There were also two dogs, Cleopatra and Ben Affleck. I think the dog had more talent than the actor, but that's just my opinion.

GDL itself was unlike any of the other Mexican cities we have been to. It was very modern, with highrise office towers, broad avenues, shopping malls and abounding with technology. However, it has not lost all of its traditional Mexican and colonial feel, especially in the historic center. We walked around a couple of evenings when the churches, theaters and administration buildings were lit up, making you forget that just outside this area there were all the trappings of modern life. The tacos were cheap here and you could also grab one of the local specialties, the torta ahogada, which is a torta drenched in a chile sauce with onions.

In addition to checking out the sites, we went out a few nights to experience the local nightlife as well as some local activities. On Friday, we checked out this little cafe called Cafe Andre Breton with some Mexicans who knew Roel's brother from when he was in Mexico. The place is located at Juan Manuel #175 in the Centro Historico. It was a cool little place with good food and $30 peso beers. There was going to be live electronica, which didn't sound all that appealing at first, but ended up being pretty cool. The friends we met there knew the guys performing and the show was very entertaining. The three of them dressed up in what appeared to be naval white dress uniforms, complete with covers and toy swords. They were also passing around a $25 peso bottle of tequila or mezcal, which I was smart enough not to partake in. We also checked out a salsa bar, but Wiley gave you the details about that. All I will say is that Mexicans, and probably most Latins, must have been born with a gene of some sort that gives them rhythm and dancing abilities that has been bred out of caucasians.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The Ladies of Lucha Libre
Posted on May 1, 2011 by Paul

This post is more about the pictures and I couldn't help but use the alliteration in the title. It was just too easy.

On Tuesday we checked out Lucha Libre, which is Mexican style wrestling. As Wiley said, Senora Alicia was very enthusiastic about it, so we figured it was a must see. There is a "show" every Tuesday night at the Arena Coliseo GDL, which is located at Medrano 67, only a short bus ride from Tlaquepaque on Ruta 275, which you can catch anywhere along Donata Guerra. In case you haven't noticed, Ruta 275 (sometimes it is 275-B, but I didn't notice a difference between the routes) is the ticket into GDL from Tlaquepaque. Tickets were only $60 pesos and two beers were $50 pesos. Lucha Libre is much more about the show and the crown than it is the wrestling. All the wrestlers must have been gymnasts or acrobats at some point, because these guys were flying all over the place. Of course Wiley thought he could do all the flips and jumps, but I don't think he would stand a chance. I would be remiss if I also did not mention the ladies of Lucha Libre. Between each of the three rounds of fighting one would walk up the runway, similar to boxing and between matches six or eight of them would park on the runway and just stand there for the crowd to ogle. And apparently sign autographs for young girls.

As I mentioned, the crowd really gets into the action. All night there was a crowd to our left (we sat in the balcony) chanting at both the wrestlers and the fans. In fact, after the matches were over, we were standing outside deciding if we wanted to get some tacos when they came over to me, Wiley and Roel and started chanting Taliban at me! The next morning I shaved my beard.

Futbol Mexicana
Posted on May 1, 2011 by Paul

On Wednesday, Wiley Roel, Marianne and I attended the Atlas-Pumas game at Estadio Jalisco, kickoff 8:45 pm. We had tried to get tickets to the Clasico between Chivas and America over the weekend, but that was sold out, so this was the next best choice. Getting to the stadium was pretty easy; again we took ruta 275 to the Lazaro Cardenas stop of the Macrobus and exited at the stadium. I'm not sure which stop it is, but just follow all the fans in the red and black jerseys. The stadium seats around 75,000, so getting tickets was easy. Seating in the upper deck is open, so just find a spot and take a seat.

With typical Mexican efficiency, we had purchased our tickets and made it through security by the 20th minute, although we didn't miss much action. I was really surprised by how disorganized both teams looks, loosing shape easily, hitting long passes to no one and bad fundamentals in general. I would say it is about the same level as MLS, with more flashes of technical skill. The only player that stood out for me was Moreno on Atlas. He did a decent job of holding up the ball even though he was getting terrible service. There were a few chances here and there, but the finishing was woeful and it was not until the last 10 minutes that Atlas really came alive. Pumas basically had possession the whole game until then, but it looked like Atlas might steal the game. It was not to be though and the game ended 0-0.
However, the crowd was entertaining. Sitting centrally in the upper deck was the Rojinegra fan group, who was singing for most of the game. I couldn't quite understand most of the songs, but I did pick out a fair number of curses. There was a lot of flag waving, but a lot of it seemed half-hearted as Atlas was not showing much on the field. There was a woman behind us reeling off every curse word known to man, which was entertaining. At some point in the second half about ten police officers escorted a group of the Rojinegra fans out, but I couldn't tell why.

After the game we stuck around and got some tacos from one of the street vendors. Everyone was really aggressive so you had to fight your way up to order and be quick about it. Of course, Wiley got eight tacos, which were some of the biggest we have had all trip. While eating we met a gangbanger from Los Angeles who had spent time in jail in the US and had been deported. We have actually ran into a few other people who were in the same situation. After eating we hopped in a taxi back to Tlaquepaque, which was $120 pesos. All in all it was a fun night, although, I think the Clasico would have been much more lively. Next time!

Posted on May 2, 2011 by Paul

This is another post more about the photos than anything. Well, that and some info on places to check out, whether for eating or just to see.

This city has been one of the highlights so far on our trip. I know we are only about six weeks or so in, but I don't see that changing over the course of the next six or so months. There is a reason why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (there are 31 total in Mexico, more than anywhere else in the Americas!) and I hope some of these photos show why.

The city itself has a disorienting feel about, starting with its location in the mountains. You can't see it until you drive through a pass in the mountains and then it begins to appear on the mountainside. As soon as it appears, it disappears again as you drive into a tunnel. When you pop out of the tunnel, there is no indication of what direction you are facing or what part of the city you are suddenly in. But you are smack dab in the middle of a city and there are people everywhere, cars honking and street signs likely to send you in a direction you had no intention of going in. This was one of the only times I was glad I was not driving because I would have just pulled over and studied a map for about an hour before moving another inch. Wiley prefers to figure things out on the go, so we went. And went, and went, not finding our camping spot. Instead, we ended up heading back out of town to regroup in the Bugamville Trailer Park, which was just a big, empty field.

We got camp set up just in time for a thunderstorm to pass through for most of the night. I'm happy to report that the Hubba Hubba tent I have been using withstood the best
thunderstorm Mexico could offer and I came out completely dry, Although, I did not make it to the next morning without a little mental scarring. Just after sunrise I was abruptly awakened by what I presume to be a stray dog that sprinted straight at my tent, jumping into the rainfly and bouncing off. Startled and disoriented, I reached for something to protect myself, coming up with the rubber mallet I use to pitch the tent. Mallet in hand, I laid completely still for about fifteen minutes while this dog sniffed around intently, poking his snout under the fly, trying to figure out how he was getting to his next meal. Finally, he left and I tentatively got out of the tent, telling Wiley we needed to get the hell out of there. So we did, heading back into the city. And somehow, we were able to find Morrill Trailer park right away. What a difference a day makes!

Other than the stunning appearance of the city landscape, as it climbs up the mountains, bursting with colors, there are some specific, interesting sites to check out WHEN you make it here. There is the Museo de Momias, which is on the outskirts of town, towards the Plaza de Toros (I'd give better directions, but I kept getting twisted around - but if you take Benito Juarez (the main street) out of the center, away from Nuestra Senora, you will eventually get there) and is within walking distance of the center, but there is a bus that goes there. It is $50 pesos to enter, or $35 for students (I used by BU ID from 8 years ago!). You are not supposed to take pictures, and I did not, but there were plenty of people snapping photos. There is also a tour guide (in Spanish only) who works for tips only, so hook him/her up. However, while the story behind the mummies is cool (bodies were exhumed in the late 19th century if families could not pay the imposed burial tax, but were preserved by the minerals in the ground) the exhibit itself is rather underwhelming. And don't bother with the secondary exhibit when you exit from the mummy portion. I didn't go, but Wiley said it was definitely not worth it.

The Pipila Monument is also cool, more for the view than anything. Again the story behind the monument doesn't hurt either; the Spanish were entrenched in the Alhondiga during the war for independence and the Mexican nationals could not drive them out. El Pipila put a slab of stone on his back to protect him from the Spanish gunfire and crawled up to the walls of Alhondiga, spreading oil on the walls and setting fire to the structure so the Mexicans could attack. Ultimately, it was successful and the Mexicans won, with El Pipila getting a huge monument overlooking the city. You can take the funicular up ($15 pesos, one way) or you can walk up if you are feeling energetic. I took the funicular. The views are amazing and certainly worth the climb or the $15 pesos.

As with all major cities in Mexico, there is a main, central market, which is the Mercado Hidalgo in Guanajuato. It is a cool place to just walk around and take in all the sites and sounds. It was two levels, with lots of local crafts on the top floor and food on the first. Just to get an idea of prices, it was $9 pesos (less than $1 USD) for a kilo (2.2 lbs) of bananas!

There is the Callejon del Beso, which is an alley leading up the wall of the valley with another interesting story behind it. The story has a Romeo and Juliet feel, as a young woman was forbidden by her father to see a young man she was in love with. Rather than listen to her father, she disobeyed him, as teenagers are wont to do, and arranged for him to visit her from the house across the alley. Since the alley was so narrow the balconies of the two houses almost touched, allowing them to exchange kisses, or whatever teenagers in the 18th or 19th century exchanged. The father found out and killed the daughter. Anyway, you can walk up in one of the houses for free and see how close it really is. Again, this is also right off the city center, just before you get to the Mercado when coming from Nuestra Senora.

We really lucked out in meeting Rodolfo here, as he was able to recommend some great places to eat. Before me met up though, Wiley and I ate at Casa Valadez, which he mentioned had great pancakes and bread, as well as great coffee, for very cheap. It was right across from the Teatro Juarez in a crowded little plaza. The second day, Wiley, Rodolfo, Marianne and I had breakfast at Santo Cafe at Puente del Campanero #4, which has a cool little seating area on a bridge looking down over an alley. I had huevos Aztecas, which were awesome and only ~$45 pesos. Most of the other dishes were about the same. Also, the waiter (not waitress) kept telling me I had beautiful eyes, which became the running joke for the day. He even showed up at the cafe we were hanging out at later in the day, Club Cafe (free wi-fi, just ask for the code - its LeBlu, shhhh!), and reminded me. I think he just missed his Norwegian wife. Anyway, the moral of the story is I have nice eyes. For dinner, we went to Trunco 7, which, oddly enough, is located at Calle Trunco #7, just behind Nuestra Senora. Wiley had the tortilla soup which looked and smelled awesome. I would have tried some had he not finished it in a matter of seconds. I had mole poblano con pollo, which was so tender, the chicken just fell off the bone. The mole was rich and was plentiful enough to be scooped up with the freshly baked bread. And my dish was only $70 pesos! Also, I would recommend getting a liter of either (or both!) the sandia (watermelon) or melon (cantaloupe) refresco. It was so good, Wiley got a liter to put in his camelback for the walk home.

Finally, I will use this forum to say that Wiley is a wimp. We had a wonderful day touring the city with Marianne and Rodolfo, our new Mexican friend who lives in Poland (really, wtf???) and he could only have one shot of tequila with us! If I were Rodolfo, I would have been highly insulted. Instead, the three of us who were not wimps, came close to finishing the bottle, before Wiley and I headed back to camp.

I said it before, but I'll say it again; I really enjoyed our time in Guanajuato. It was a walkable city, if you can handle the hills, has beautiful vistas, a lively spirit, great food and a sort of lost world feel to it. It seems like the Mexicans and Spanish know about it, but I don't think US citizens, Europeans (except for a sprinkling of Germans and Dutch), or Asians have really discovered this place, but it is well worth the effort of getting there.

Back to San Diego
Posted on June 6, 2011 by Wiley

Yup, not the most exciting of posts, but after getting very sick I am back in San Diego. Rather than ruin this with bad news, lets begin with something positive, lets start with a post about freedom. Remember Plaxico Burress, the guy who caught the game winning touchdown from Superbowl MVP Eli Manning to propel the NY Giants to a 17-14 victory over the Pats…well he was unjustly framed and sent away for a couple years but today that man is now finally free! Welcome back Plaxico. That catch was so devastating to Tom Brady that aside from all the crying I have previously mentioned, Brady actually faked a season ending knee injury 7 minutes into the beginning of the following season just to avoid having to face the deadly Eli-Plax combo again. For that, I thank you Plax.

The last post from Mexico City alluded to the fact that I got sick. I puked, for days, I couldn't keep anything down, no food, no water, nothing. I was very weak, and it sucked. Well, I had a post on all that somewhere, but lost it. It was a pretty good post. Our friend Roel met back up with us, he was also sick, though he caught his from elsewhere in Mexico a couple days before meeting us, so while he was in rough shape, he was lucky enough to be coming out of it, when I was going in. I picked him up at the bus terminal, had a nice long story about how I puked out front of the terminal in front of a bunch of people. Then there was a little bit more that happened here, some stuff that happened there, who knows, the post is gone. There wasn't much aside from puking everywhere, as I told Paul and Roel they were on their own, I was too weak to worry about sightseeing. We went to Oaxaca, and after a few days once I got myself under control I left them behind and drove a bit outside the city to Hierve del Agua, in order to recoup. Admission is 20 pesos (under 2 dollars) and it was only around 3 us dollars a night to camp there. The place cleared out by 7 in the evening, and I was the only person there the 1st night. I enjoyed some more reading/guitar as I ate some rice to regain my energy. I did not do much hiking, just walking to the pools and cliff nearly left me stranded due to my lack of energy. The second day I hung out with a couple from Switzerland, and later that day Paul and Roel were able to meet up with me for one last night of camping, which ended with the 5 of us sitting around a fire fueled from an entire tree. There is not much wood around up there, so you may want to bring your own, or look around before it gets dark. Roel found a downed tree that must have been 30 feet long. The reason it was there was most normal people would not bother with that, well most people are not Belgian. Roel broke down that entire tree, with a bit of help from Paul. I used the old "Im weak from being sick" excuse and stayed away from that scene, due to our lack of saw, there was a lot of rock balancing and jumping on the tree to break it going on up there, I like to think I knew better, i'm probably just lazy. For those thinking of checking this place out, I would recommend going there in the afternoon and camping the night. I had the entire place to myself in the morning, and was able to get some sunrise pics, as well as the pools to myself, as opposed to the previous day when I arrived and shared the pools with many people who stop by for the day. As I mentioned I did not do much hiking so do not know how much exploring you can do, but there are trails all over the place.

Ok, so I left off hinting that Paul and I were unsure of our future plans, I know, pretty rare for us right. In Guadalajara he had mentioned to people that we would be out of Mexico in 2 weeks. Well, we still had Mexico City, Oaxaca, the Yucatan, and everything in between before we would hit Belize (checkout a map, that is a lot of Mexican real estate to tackle). It would by physically impossible to see everything on my rough list in 2 weeks, and of course that doesn't include anything we randomly hear about or find along the way. This made me look at our future destinations and timetables as well, since Paul and I were both planning on being somewhere in the area of Argentina in the Sept-Oct time as he has to fly out of there to go to Italy, and I have to go to NY. So we started talking about splitting up, I knew he could backpack at least Central America with Roel, which would help him get his feet wet on backpacking travel, and give him time to figure out his South America plans. I figured I could either ditch him and go at a slower pace all the way to South America, or at least take my time down to Panama trying to arrive there around Sept, and then fly home for a short break from the trip. Another option I did not spend much time considering was sticking together through Central America, skipping things on my list to move at Pauls pace. I dismissed this idea as I was concerned that I would for some reason or other end up not being able to go back and see what I missed, something I did not want to risk as there was already too much to see as it is. I then started thinking about returning to the US, since even though we were 6 weeks into our journey, I was still only a 3-4 days drive from Cali by toll roads. Well, as the list of things I could use grew (I want a skid plate, and possibly bigger tires, and of course now that I am back I want a million minor things to change) the decision was easy, send that sucker packing. Secretly this was all part of my master plan. I mean come on, who in the hell goes to Central, let alone South America? Don't you people watch fox news?? Anywhere outside the US is a cesspool of poverty, crime, and Boston fans…yeah I think I will stay here for now. I needed to find someone who didn't know any better, someone I could get pumped up with tales of free flowing cervezas, and women who don't care what language you speak. I needed to send someone ahead, to scout things out, and test out the safety levels of the various 3rd world countries. So the plan was simple, get Paul on board, and then once we were deep enough in Mexico and he was hooked on this adventure, leave him to fend for himself, survival of the fittest. So now, I have decided I will wait at least until my brothers wedding before going anywhere. This gives me time to make some changes/get a bit more organized, as well as see how long Paul survives. I am shocked to say they have already made it to El Salvador…I estimate I might have just been making it out of Mexico at this point, so we clearly made the right decision.

So I am not sure what happens now. I have to admit it was easier when it was our blog, now that it is just mine I do not know that I want to have it. As far as I am concerned you should have better things to do with your life than worry about mine. I may let it go, or I may go all in, we will see how I am feeling when I finally depart. I know there are some friends and family who are keeping up with it, and I do want to provide information that may help others with the logistics, but what can I say, I hate blogs. For now I will keep everything and throw it under a "practice run" section, so that I can start fresh with a trip blog that goes in order and is not so confusing as the masterpiece Paul and I have made. I make no promises to whether or not anything is done with the site after that!

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Deja Vu (Baja California Part II)
Posted on July 2, 2012 by Wiley

Baja California, Mexico
Or should I say, Deja Blue?? That's right, like two time Superbowl MVP Eli Manning and the Champions of the Multiverse New York Giants I am back! Ok ok, this is a travel blog, so lets leave the sports talk behind for now, and get to the story.

Been in Mexico for weeks, months, hell maybe its been years now, I don't know. Contrary to what Einstein thought time does not exist down here. Hit some new places in Baja Mexico, since I have previously been there it didn't feel like the starting point for the trip, so here is a quick recap. Spent the 1st night solo camping in the Catavina desert, a unique area with some great bouldering and hiking.

Then did a little backtracking north for some surfing off a point break not too far. Shared the waves with 2 new Zealanders and a Canadian from California, plenty of waves, though the water was freezing, I though this was Mexico in June? The cana-fornian had a hoodie and 5/3 which is a thick suit, I wore my winter suit and booties, the New Zealanders are real men I guess, they just had normal wetsuits. It was a bit rocky, when I got their one of the guys told me they were "soft rocks". What does that even mean..are you F'ing with me?? I didn't find out but the others said they got racked over them a few times, but the rocks were smooth and covered with seaweed apparently. The New Zealanders then headed off into the unknown for some off road adventures, no map, no water, and a beat up rented subaru forester…hope they made it, they certainly had the go-for-it attitude you need down there.

The Cana-fornian was interested in my Catavina stories, so we headed out there for one more night of camping since I obviously need to head south to be successful here. (Note: I had read mixed reviews on the safety of camping alone in Catavina, let alone Mexico before I started the trip, I figured its a wrong place wrong time scenario, as well as perhaps a nice big expensive rig, vs a tiny chevy astro…but remember, sometimes you just gotta go for it out here, just be safe, I am not responsible for what you fools do).

After that I had a full days drive through some dirt roads, over the salt flats that flood depending on the tide, followed be even worse dirt roads, only to arrive in San Juanico with 1 foot waves, and not much of a town. No thanks, spent the night but wasn't waiting around for the waves to show up, I have a long way to go. Camping on the bluff is 150 Pesos (11.23 USD), but I am badass, and slept in my van on the streets, cost, 0 USD.
Continued onto La Paz where I relaxed and did some people watching. The 1st time Paul and I went we pretty much passed through here for some free beach camping before taking the Bajaferry to Los Mochis. There is a large mix of both Mexican and North Americans who have relocated to La paz, and yes I am aware that they are one and the same, its just easier to differentiate that way. Every evening when things finally cool down hundreds of people come out of nowhere to enjoy the malecon (boardwalk) to walk, run, bike, skate, and even roller blade…well kind off. La Paz must have the worlds worst roller bladers ever, though you will be happy to know Mazatlan seems to have blading down a bit better. It seems a general theme in Latin America that they all suck on blades…which is good cause who rollerblades now a days anyway? Regardless, everyone is having a great time, and there are tons of shops full of crappy things and some nice restaurants and cafes. Make sure you get out and explore a bit more than Paul and I did, it's a nice place to relax for a bit.

After that I did some more surfing down at Cerritos which I had hit up the previous trip, as well as tried my luck at the 50 miles of washboard road that goes northeast of San Jose Del Cabo. Unfortunately I lost one of the 6 supports to my lift without knowing it. As luck would have it, I had turned around to go back to a beach for some stealth camping I had spotted earlier and what do you know, 1 mile after turning around I spot a spacer laying in the dirt, wtf, that HAS to be mine. A quarter mile from there I find my bolt and bushing, score! Out of 50 miles of rugged terrain, where I could have lost it anywhere, not to mention there was no real way for me to know I lost it until something else broke due to losing it, I was lucky enough to not only find the spacer, but the long bolt and bushing. Now, had I not found them, I assume the other 2 bolts and spacers on that side would have warped or stripped causing some real problems. 1st, only 1 guy makes this lift as far as I know and he is either in Colorado or Canada, I don't remember. So getting a new spacer and bolt down here would have been pretty much impossible, and since I put on larger tires its not like I could just take the rest of the lift off otherwise the tires wouldn't fit, basically I would have been F'd. Eventually I popped them back on, slapped some locktite (think mechanical super glue) on all of them so I don't have any more problems in the future, and headed back to la Paz to take the Ferry over to mainland. Next stop Mazatlan!

The Devils Backbone
Posted on July 9, 2012 by Wiley

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, ok maybe that is not entirely true, but interesting stats nonetheless. 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. I 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, Mexico
Not much to say about Mazatlan, another one of those "been there done thats" 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 before I get out of the ferry terminal, 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 the 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.

Durango, Mexico
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, lesson learned, never take advice from a guy driving an RV. 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. 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 safer already. Eventually, I made it to Durango, a city I had missed and one of the few regrets from the 1st trip. The other 3 nearby regrets being the Californis Grey whales in Baja….someday I will touch one of those bastards, the City of Zacatecas, and Morelia. Well, I am not skipping anything this time (Uhh, yeah, next time Morelia, but that part of the story can wait)

Ignore the weird hand gesture from the cameras timer (as well as the awful hair), here you can see a perfect example of a trucker haulin *** around a sharp curve using all of the road to his advantage, going into my lane.

One of the things Durango is mostly known for today is the wild west movies Hollywood shot back in the day. I saw some cowboys walking around, and driving into 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 and could use her money. I had also read both Durango and Zacatecas were cities which see very few tourists from the north, 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 gringos 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 gringos 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 down here.

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 as its an easy walk up, but I will tell you, if you are looking for somewhere to take your girl for some HEAVY making out, apparently 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, Mexico
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, forget the beaches, I may never leave the mountains, 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 while the Spanish got 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 as someone is leaving, yeah I am a rebel. 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 rather than play it safe 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, none of my prices include tipping, that is up to you to decide. 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 am the self proclaimed king of run on sentences, I dont use apostrophes, and only occasionally use paragraphs. I hate those things, plus I am on vacation here, get off my back.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Theres blood in the streets of San Luis Potosi
Posted on July 10, 2012 by Wiley
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 revisit it, though I am confident I could at least meet up with some Europeans, if not some North Americans there if I got bored. 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, Mexico
For those traveling SLP has much more restricted parking around the centro with green and yellow zones all over, something I hadnt encountered elsewhere yet. 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 as there was no parking anywhere near the centro. 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 its that cheap.

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. Either way, 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 traveling 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 it for me, especially when I know it was more mental than the city itself. 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 want 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 ****** forever, or probably 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 ****** stores, but sometimes you gotta hit them up, I will occasionally, with my head hung low, eat at a McDonalds, Burger king, or even a Starbucks which I rarely frequent in the states, 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 another 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 ( They have helped greatly and surprising I have yet to get lost, what the hell Paul, you suck. 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!

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 standing 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, and 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 driver moves around the other side keeping his distance. Its all happening pretty fast and I am fumbling for my camera as I keep it locked and loaded for these spur of the moment treats. Suddenly the grey car 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 blocking the view, and finally I see 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 car 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 knocked sense into everyone, as the fight suddenly ends. Then it gets really bizzare, taxi driver lets go of grey driver and they have a few words, and shake hands. Its clear the fight is over, the taxi driver didnt look worried at all about retaliation, so whatever was discussed was successful. Then grey driver and taxi driver both calmly get into their vehicles and slowly drive to the Pexmex on the corner. I can only assume they were going to hug it out. I 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 occurrence 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.

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 entrance 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 as I never saw him.

You can also use the showers for 5 pesos (0.37 USD) and bathrooms for 2 pesos (you have to divide by zero for that total). Definitely a one day stop, but as I had some minor stuff 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 reason is found just outside of Aquismon.

Aquismon, Mexico
Aquismon was a cool little village, a fair amount of people for such a small village, though not a whole lot to offer, as the main lure is the surrounding area. 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. Still not feeling right, but figuring it was time to move on, I headed for the reason this small town is probably even on the map.

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 remeber the opening sequence of the Caves episode, 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 protrude the entrance by about 30 feet, yup only 30 feet, that is DEEP! 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.

Yup, this should hold me. Think I should have paid more than 10 Pesos so he would have double knotted the rope.

They then repeat the process in reverse at dusk returning home. Interestingly enough the fools free diving 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 enormous 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 tourists from the local vans or truck taxis, so there are only 20 or so spots to park, but of course I was the only one. 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 loosely with rope 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, dizziness, and came close to losing the delicious chicken lunch I had. Who wouldnt want to be on the edge of a giant cave during a dizzy spell? I know it was not 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 poisoning 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 pictures though…so it was good enough for me. The parrots which also 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 to recuperate in case I was coming down with something. 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 of birds 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 Mexico 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.

If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby
Posted on July 17, 2012 by Wiley

Starting to get closer to Oaxaca, I cant help but get excited. I am Still very far from it, but for some reason, even though this is all new territory, having stopped there makes me feel like the trip doesnt restart until I return to Oaxaca. I also dont know what to expect out here in this part of Mexico, though so far there has been plenty to see.

Xilitla, Mexico
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 for such a small town, 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 without 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 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 1stday 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 Mexico, 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.

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 guards 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 more or less 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 sitting perspicaciously on the edge of a cliff….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 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 since I love unexpected surprises, and one of the pluses to having things entirely to myself the past few weeks.

El Tajin, Mexico
Eventually I 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 down 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 MPH, 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, the couple from the RV park we previouslt met had lost their rear axel on their trailer one day from these. 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 country or city. Well the route I took through Mexico this time has not had many topes, and when they did they were not very bad ones. I had wondered why that was, and thanks to this drive the answer was clear. Mexico simply ran out of topes. 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 they run out again, and 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 known 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…yay 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 fedarales 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. There is nowhere to pull over so I continue on, but they stick with me. Well I finally hit a spot and 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, not sure why they stayed behind me though, they could have passed me as no cars were coming from the other lane.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guero, guera!
Posted on July 21, 2012 by Wiley

Ok, so like a broken record I have mentioned that I am feeling like the only ****** 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. Vendors don't bat an eye when they see me coming which I love, little old indigenous ladies cross to the opposite side of 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.

Veracruz, Mexico
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 and cash in. 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 by. 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 (might be a similar fruit to papaya, not sure) and fresa (strawberry), 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, Mexico
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 1sthand 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 1sttwo 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, 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 ****** 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 I did not see any 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, it was only me. 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, and he knew he was in trouble if he didnt find her some shelter soon.

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 made 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, and realize where everyone is going.

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 crazy greatness like 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 had 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 shitfaced while you watch your kids kind of bar, grab your Vodka, Gin, Rum, you call it, and get shitfaced 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 shitfaced and headed back to the Astro. Ok relax mom, lets reword that, unfortunately I did not get shitfaced as luckily 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.

Figuring I couldn't top a fair, but not quiet wanting to head out yet, I set off the next morning for a different waterfall nearby that I had seen signs for when driving into Catemaco, and had also read a brief blurb on. Salto de Exipantla is a 150 foot tall waterfall, and almost equally as wide, plus only 20-30 minutes away. As I get to the end of the road where it is located I see the hoards of vendor booths surrounding the parking lot. If you haven't noticed I am not a fan. Its a small lot but as I headed out early there were plenty of spots. Some guy is waving his rag directing me into a spot, so I pass him and go to one farther up to show him I am a big boy and know how to park on my own. I did ask him where the falls were so that when I gave him a few pesos I could at least pretend I paid for something worthwhile, even though it was obvious where I needed to go. Then one of the vendors comes over and tries to sell me some crappy plastic ashtray with a pic of the falls. No thanks, I don't smoke, and live in a van, I don't need that, but at least now I know what it looks like to decide if I want to see it. Funnily enough I saw the same ashtray with a pic of the lake later that day in catemaco, I guess they all buy their crap from the same place. A women then comes over trying to get me to eat at her restaurant, I tell her maybe later and she respectfully leaves. Then a second parking guys comes over and says he will watch my van for 20 pesos (only 1.50 USD). I tell him no thanks as its Sunday morning in a public lot, if anyone messes with my van it will be these guys for me not paying them, otherwise the area is perfectly safe. Well, he backs off a few feet but keeps lingering, so I know we are not done, even though I already paid his friend for his help. Keep in mind I haven't even opened my door to get out yet as all these events are playing out, this is all from my stupidly leaving the window down. From now on when I see vendors its windows up and English only! So, I linger inside, put on some sunscreen, and eventually get out. The guy then says its 15 pesos to park in this lot. Ah, so 20 down to 15, but the reason changed… I don't think so. Its clear this is a public lot and these guys are looking for free money, and see this ****** as an easy target. At this point I have had enough, it is only pocket change, but its the principle that drives me nuts. At least the vendors are working for their money, these guys aren't doing jack. So I tell him no problem, I am leaving…which I can tell shocks him. I went to school in Buffalo NY, and have been on enough dates to Niagara Falls to know that I am not missing anything at this tourist trap, you probably shouldn't have shown me the picture earlier. I jump back in the van and head out, as I don't want to risk parking a short distance from the lot and walking in case they mess with the Astro. I see him talking to the main parking guy, and he doesn't look happy. Now they lost the admission fee and any money I would have spent on food or drinks. So while it kind of sucks that I let those guys ruin this little side trip, I wasn't even sure I wanted to see it originally, so headed off to plan B, a secluded beach on the gulf down a rough dirt road, which worked out much better and was more my kind of place.

Yup, the road is rough, no problem for most of the rigs on expo, and no problem for the Astro as long as I went real slow. It was fairly short, but a bit rocky. Of course if you had a rental, and were from New Zealand, you would have had no problem. I arrive at the destination and am greeted by a one armed man wielding a machete. We exchange some words and the next thing I know I am walking away from the beach and following him into the jungle. I am pretty sure I have previously said that this blog would be an example of what not to do on a trip like this, so don't act so shocked. While my Spanish is not very good, I think we are looking for monkeys, but I would be lying if I said the thought that a ****** took his arm back in the 70's and he has been extracting revenge on gullible gringos ever since didn't cross my mind a few times. Occasionally I switch sides with him to make sure if I lose an arm its my left.
Well it turns out my Spanish doesn't completely suck and I finally get to see a monkey in the wild…sweet, oh crap forgot my camera back in the car. Well, there will be plenty more of these guys later. This guy was pretty big, just lounging in a tree as he clearly doesn't like the heat either, so wasn't providing much of a show, but hey, its a freaking monkey! The guy then takes me back to where I parked and up on the old hotel roof for some awesome pics, then inside to show me the bats…hmm, I could have done without the bat part of the tour. He shows me the path down to the beach and tells me its 20 pesos. Now that is 20 pesos I will gladly pay, I got a tour, at least 30 minutes of free Spanish practice while we shot the shit, and I haven't even seen the beach yet…he has earned his money. I tell him no problem and reach for my wallet, no no…you can pay later when you get back. Ahh, that is the attitude I like, this guy will get a tip. I head down to the beach and its beautiful, I will let the pics do the talking.

I return to Catemaco to enjoy a Sunday in the centro, where there is more live music, good food, and great atmosphere. As I sit on a cafe balcony overlooking the centro a little girl squeezes into the 10 inch space between my chair and the view, to see the sights. Now, it seems to me Mexicans in general don't have much of a concept for personal space, earlier that day I sat on a bench reading the lonely planet info on my iphone. There was easily 15 feet from me to the nearest person and some guys walks less than 6 inches from me as he passes by…that happens all the time, its just something you get used to here. I slide over for her as its no big deal its what kids, let alone Mexicans do. I say hello, and let her do her thing as she seems a bit shy. She goes away and comes back a few times, slowly warming up to me. We chat a bit and eventually I cant understand her so tell her I only speak a little Spanish, but mostly English. This unleashes an incredible flurry of words as her entire face lights up. Her name was similar to Emily, turns out senorita Emily is learning English in school!

She is very proud of this, so we spend some time over the next hour exchanging Spanish for english as she points out all the "beautiful" parts of her city we can see from the balcony. She was very proud of her city, that she is learning English, and her hello kitty earrings, as she did the "move the hair over so you can see and pause bit for me haha. Eventually her mom comes and gets her and they head out.

Then a family takes the table her mom was at, which consist of a teenage girl, a girl in her early 20's, and two older ladies. Its pretty clear that that girl in her early 20s cant keep her eyes of this stud, and the next thing I know the mom is sneaking a picture of me. Of course, she is not a very good stalker as her camera flash is blinding me, and there is nothing nearby that would warrant a picture aside from me. Great, I have gone from invisible to zoo exhibit. I go back to doing my thing as this is not the most attractive group of ladies I have seen. 15 minutes later I hear some yelling down below, I look down from the balcony, and there is senorita Emily, who dragged her mom back so they could say goodbye. Hast lluego senorita Emily, and adios Catemaco.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Missing Person No. 38153729
Posted on August 25, 2012 by Wiley

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, or ones I have never heard of like Reddit, were doing their part to help "locate me". But here I am jumping ahead of myself, first, moonshine!

Oaxaca, Mexico
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 looking 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.

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 grabbed a beer at yet another cafe with an 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 at the mezcal festival, 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 salsaing 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 all 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 the Aussies 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, but they gave him a shout out and made a big deal of it so there must be a connection in there. 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 rich snobs who paid for their tickets, I reluctantly walked all the way to the end of the line…after contemplating several times trying to cut my way in and seeing if I could play the dumb ******, but knew I would get 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 a bunch of 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 pickpockets can be a minor issue up on that hill, and I didnt want to have to hurt anyone tonight.

The group began to split up after the weekend. When everyone was doing their own thing I went to check out Monte Alba as they had already been. 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 (decent signage this time), 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 as we were the last of the group left. 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.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico
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. As the strike came to an end I 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, often 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 its 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 times. 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.

We spent a lot of time hanging out on our sketchy balcony overlooking the river when the tides were not favorable for the surf. I think we hit 12 people one day and it didnt collapse, but it had to have been close. There were some local kids around the age of 10 fishing everyday with some makeshift ghetto reels though catching a good amount of fish, which made for some good entertainment. 2 of the Aussies finally walked over and gave it a try, unsuccessfully. After 30 minutes another local kid came out and stood next to them, catching a fish first cast. They also reported that in plain view of them, beside a tree was a couple passionately in love, trying to conceive, not caring at all that they could be seen be them, or the kids.

We saw a few other adults in the water who appeared to also be passionately in love, and a couple of topless chicks made a few appearances occasionally, so there was plenty of action on riverside to keep us entertained. The Aussies who had fished left for a few days for a side trip but when they returned, they showed up with some brand new shiny fishing poles. Turns out the problem wasnt the equipment, as they were still unsuccessful. I also rode my first collectivo, a truck which is like a taxi, though with a set price which is ridiculously low. The collectivo was packed, so I got to stand on the tailgate with another kid hanging on and ducking branches as they tore down the dirt roads through the woods, aside from the Astro I think it may be the only way to travel. There are no pictures outside of Puerto as its clear these places have been, and will continue to blow up. As I hope to return someday, and not see a resort in its place, I will not be giving anymore information than what is here. The places are not secret, but also not well known, so if your looking to surf just head down to the Oaxacan coast, you cant go wrong, though this time of year has some large, powerful waves. Keep in mind that places on the coast from Michoacan to Chiapas can have some problems with banditos, so use caution. Some of the coastal roads are over an hour from the main road, on dirt which require 4×4, so you are pretty far from help if problems are encountered. They are usually petty robberies, a result of a combination of the poverty in the area, as well as a way to keep an influx of surfers from coming to the area.

OK, so I thought I was done with this post, and had enjoyed not dealing with anything blog related for over a month, that was until I returned to civilization to find out that everything went to hell and I was a missing person. Sadly (in terms of the awesomeness of my blog) there is not much more to the story. Just what I wanted after weeks without internet, finally getting connected and instantly bombarded with an enormous amount of emails and facebook messages from all kinds of people I did not expect to hear from. I am not sure how far it went, or exactly what went down, and who did what, but I was told, and saw, that facebook posts had spread across peoples pages about an American missing in Mexico with a link to my blog with pics, van description, ect, which then spread to reddit and who knows where else. Mexican embassies and consulates were notified by several people of my disappearing act, and my files were sent over to an office in DC. Tears were spilled as my parents thought they lost their favorite and were stuck with the other two less awesome siblings. As I was chilling on a beach enjoying life this news was slightly embarrassing, and more so annoying, as I not only informed my family of my plans as I knew the place I was going to did not have internet. Luckily things in Mexico move much more slowly, and I doubt they have much of a system in place, so I am pretty sure I could still be "missing" now and not had any problems at the borders from officials as they had no clue, though I am glad I happened to get in touch with my family when I did, so things did not get any more out of control on the US side.

In my families defense we recently had a relative pass away, so it has been a bit of a stressful and hectic period back home, full of long days getting things in order. Even though I took the precautions necessary to avoid any freakouts in my absence, my words went unheard. I was a bit pissed I had to jump on facebook to tell people everything was fine, I am an adult after all, but at least I am not saying it to military police or government officials I suppose. I have to admit, my badass level would have certainly risen had a helicopter full of armed men came barreling over the mountain dropping tear gas and repelling down lines for my rescue in front of the Aussies as we sat by the river watching life go by. Now when shit really does go down, I am pretty sure no one will come to my rescue, as I must be blacklisted from whatever groups the US has to rescue people after wasting their time on this occasion.

So, I am headed down the coast to Chiapas, then either heading north, or south, not sure yet. If you do not hear from me please dont do anything, at all, just leave me alone. That is part of the purpose of this trip I suppose… get away and enjoy myself.

Also, if you haven't figured it out, while I have kept the stories up to date, the rest is a waste of my time and effort, its just not what this trip is about for me. I do not have a budget, do not know what I started with, and dont watch what I spend while traveling. I basically just keep an eye on my finances so I know when my bank account runs dry and its time to start walking, or strippin for cash. This is also why I dont think I will be going to South America this time around. I have no budget whatsoever, so it may be a good idea to work for a few months before taking the jump across the Darian Gap, as I have mentioned you have to ship your vehicle across which costs a decent amount of money, so you only want to do it when you know you can fully enjoy it. I also figured one month of Mexico would be sufficient this time around, but I was way off, so have obviously spent more time and money in Mx than planned. I will not be keeping track of gas, lodging, or much else, though I will keep giving examples of prices to give you an idea on what hings cost in each location.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
War within a breath
Posted on September 4, 2012 by Wiley

Chiapas is a highlight of many travelers in Mexico, so I was looking forward to seeing what this place was all about. This is all new territory for me, now that I have passed Oaxaca my previous trips ending point, it feels like the trip is officially starting. Turns out, I was not disappointed with what I found.

San Cristobal, Mexico
While I spent the 3-4 weeks at the beach previously I borrowed a book from the Aussie, titled "The War Against Oblivion: the Zapatista Chronicles". Now that I am delusional enough to think I am an expert, let me drop some knowledge on you. Aside from listening to what Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine wrote about the Zapatistas back in the day, I didn't have much previous knowledge of the E.Z.L.N. Lyrics from songs like war within a breath now make a lot more sense, as the chorus repeats "Everything can change on a new years day". The Mexican Government had been controlled by what many consider a "dictatorship" known as the PRI which held power for 71 years, and with this control many people of Mexico, especially the American Indian descendants of the Mayans, have suffered. The typical story of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, they had finally had enough. On January 1st 1994, the same day the NAFTA agreement went into effect which also played a part in the loss of their land, a group of rebels known as the Zapatistas, also known as the E.Z.L.N, took over the four largest cities of Chiapas, the most famous being San Cristobal, where they announced to the world that they were here, and would not take it anymore, demanding freedom, liberty, and justice. In total 145 people were killed in the uprising, and after several days they were finally forced out by the military, but the damage had been done. This political army demanded food, land, education, and free and fair elections. This group of indigenous tribes had banded together and presented their list of demands, which became known as the San Andres Accords. While many meetings were held over the years working towards reaching an agreement, the Mexican government would inevitably end up ignoring any promises they had made. The Zapatistas for the most part used the poetry of one of their leaders, "Marcos", as well as the internet, to capture both Mexico, and the worlds attention. They themselves made many mistakes which would also hinder any progress towards reaching an agreement, but with this world wide attention they were somewhat protected, though att he same time always in danger, as the government continually supplied upwards of 70,000 troops to the jungle closing the noose. Sadly this world support was not enough protection, throughout the years the military raided villages looking for rebels or weapons, burning houses, destroying corn crops as a means to use starvation as an indirect attack, as well as raping and killing many innocent people, despite the outcry of world human rights groups. Just one example of the horrific acts was when 46 unarmed Tzotzil Indian peasants were shot while praying in a Church near the town of San Christobal de Las Casas, shot with Ak-37's and cut up with machetes. I wish I had read the book sooner, I had partied with a group of 20 or so kids from Mexico City at the beach until 2 am one night back at the beach. One of them had brought up the PRI and E.Z.L.N. when talking about the current elections, though typical ****** I didnt know much of it. Funny side comment to lighten the mood after this depressing info, I was with the Aussies when the mexicans invited us to join them, I immediately jumped in and sat down eager to do a little fiestaing mexican style, while the Aussies bounced instantly as they were either intimidated by their lack of Spanish, or by the Spanish chicas, im not sure which. They certainly missed out on a good party.
I finally broke away from the Aussies, and headed to San Cristobal. San Cristobal is another city built up in the mountains, as always a relief to the heat the lower altitude areas provide. The mountains are covered with pine forests, which are both beautiful and provide clean, refreshingly cool air. The weather was great while I was there with chilly nights, though I have read it gets very cold in the winters. San Cristobal is one of the favorites for travelers due to the large amount of indigenous people in the area. There are many different tribes in and around San Cristobal, who speak their own dialects, each with different styles of clothing, all extremely beautiful. It is also amazing to note how pristine their clothes are for a group coming from such extreme poverty. Once outside the city I would see women with their elegant clothing walking into their tiny, run down shacks, which at least in the 1990's did not even have power or water. I saw people washing clothes and bathing in creeks, so I assume this lack of resources is still the case today for many of them.

Within San Cristobal itself it is mainly the women who still wear their traditional clothing, especially those selling these clothes and fabrics, the men tend to wear normal clothes you or I would wear, jeans, t-shirts, etc. As soon as you get outside of San Cristobal this changes, and a majority of the men are seen wearing their traditional styles as well.

Due to the time of year this is another city that has things going on, but at the same time feels a bit empty. There are a fair amount of Europeans who visit here, though not many Americans. It is not necessarily easy for Americans to get here, but at the same time, there are Europeans, come on, there is nothing easy about that. After talking with other travelers, as well as having driven a fair amount of Mexico, it seems in general aside from places like Cabo, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or certain parts of the big cities there is not much of a night life in Mexico. I had trouble finding places to eat that were full or busy in the evenings, usually there were three or four people to a restaurant, if that. I even eventually succumbed and eat at what was clearly a travelers restaurant, though it had a great atmosphere and was full of non-mexicans, one of 3 places I was able to find that had a crowd in a week or so in the city.

Even though I had never been in or near a cave in my life before Mexico, I visited my second of this trip, Las Grutas, which is just outside of the city. I grabbed the collectivos for the short ride, so round trip for collectivos along with the entrance fee to the cave totaled just under 4 USD. Not bad, but the trip itself is really only good if your looking to kill an hour or two, which I was. You can walk to the end of the sidewalk they built in the cave and return in about 10, maybe 20 minutes, it wasnt really good or bad, just kind of eh…but a large cave regardless. Another morning I headed out to San Juan Chamula, a tourist destination also just outside, if not part of San Cristobal. Known as a fiercely independent tribe, just about everyone here wears their traditional clothing, which is part of the tourists allure. Sunday mornings they have a huge market in the centro plaza, selling their clothing, cowboy boots and hats, foods, shampoos, more plastic crap, you name it, I got there early as they close down the market early in the day, as it is not geared towards the tourists. The vendors in and around San Cristobal are great, they dont hassle you like Cabo, so when I bash vendors its really just the ones who wont take no for an answer.

I have grown to enjoy it though, many times they dont give up after a simple no thanks, and keep spitting their game to me in rapid fire spanish like I may suddenly need that little wooden jaguar probably made in taiwan. I have started answering them in rapid fire english as retaliation, dropping an occasional spanish word or 2, then back to english, and then abruptly turning and walking away. Nothing like getting their hopes up only to crush their spirit. Again, its just for the ones who are dicks. This did not happen here at all to me, which is a nice change of pace, though I already know its coming as I head for the Yucatan. I forgot to mention but I snagged a pic back in Oaxaca of women in traditional clothing preparing their "authentic" merchandise, which consisted of ripping the price tags off the merchadise that was probably bought from China. This is the reason why i dont like "vendors", the ones who push their crap taking advantage of unsuspecting tourists. I also had a guy try and sell me an "authentic, straight from the ground" artifact at Monte Alban, only 20 pesos, which is probably a buck fifty! This ancient carved animal was a extremely great condition for such an ancient artifact, so I told him that was amazing and I couldnt possibly take it, as it belonged in the hands of the people of Mexican in a Museum due to its historical value. He was not amused.

San Juan Chamula is also known for its unique church practices. I dont go in many churches as I feel weird that places which are obviously important to peoples religious beliefs become "tourist attractions", but it is also a good way for the community to receive money, as you must pay a small entrance fee. Cameras are strictly forbidden inside, but they let you know before going in so you dont have to face gods wrath for unknowingly taking a picture, though I provided one below from the internet that some sinner took. There are no seats and the floors are covered in fresh green pine needles, and there are hundreds of candles, both on the tables, alters, and the floor. The people will place and light a bunch of candles on the floor in front of them as part of their practice, kneeling and placing their heads on or near the floor and chanting in their native tongue. There were several men and women both young and old with tears in their eyes, which made it quite evident that this was an extremely important and emotional part of their lives. I did not spend too much time inside as I did not want to overstay my welcome, though it was clear that they are used to tourists inside and did not have any problem with me in there.

I then headed north to the Mayan ruins of Palenque. Going back to the E.Z.L.N, while the accords never reached an agreement, there was a bit of a silver lining. These events helped unite and open the eyes of the Mexican people, and eventually led to the PRI loosing power for the 1st time ever. Unfortunately with the 2012 elections they are now back in charge though allegations of vote buying could lead to the recounting of votes from tens of thousands of polling places according to a NYTimes article. Many of the students I have met who have been traveling from Mexico city have told me they do not believe that they should have won, and are not happy with the outcome. Today the indigenous communities are still extremely poor, and fighting to keep their land, and for obvious reasons nervous with the PRI back in charge. While driving north to Palenque I would drive though many of these villages, built on the mountain sides covered with beautiful pine forest, tiny corn fields grown anywhere they can be grown, and people living in extremely tiny, basic, wooden shacks. About half way from San Cristobal to Palenque you go through Ocosingo, where in 1994 or 1995 the Military allegedly went in and destroyed buildings, tourtured many people, and executed somewhere between 5-10 civilians whos hands had been tied behind their backs. Many others were forced to flee and hide in the mountains, though actual facts from the incident seem to be non existent. This was a message to anyone who sided with the E.Z.L.N. There are many sides to the story as far as who did what, some blamed the military, others blamed the paramilitary who many believe was funded by both the Mexican Govt with Clintons help, others say it didnt happen, and to this day no one has been held accountable. Sadly to this day their is a large military complex on the outskirts of town, a constant reminder to those who lived through the nightmare.

A few hours further Palenque is located at the base of the mountains, surrounded by jungle, and due to this currently less than 5% of the ruins are excavated. There are something like 1400 sites within the ruins, most of them overgrown by trees and other jungle plants. My expectations for this site were probably too high, along with not being in the mood for ruins, I was not very impressed and did not take very good pictures, plus it is HOT. I then returned back to San Cristobal as a jump off point to Guatemala, as I had decided after my month on the beaches it was time to hit Central America. While both the Yucatan and Belize have plenty of amazing things to see, they are not high on my list, so I decided to skip them as I was already falling behind my already slow schedule.

After returning and spending a bit more time in San Cristobal trying to absorb as much of the cool weather as possible, I came to my senses. Theres no way I am skipping things, that was my rule from day one. Unfortunately that means backtracking back to palenque, as it is the most direct path up into the Yucatan. Well I told you I was flying by the seat of my pants, sometimes that means poor planning. I figured I should make the return trip count, so this time around I stopped briefly in Ocosingo to visit Tonina, another set of ruins located just a few miles outside the city. I had no idea what to expect, but knew if I left San Cristobal early I could visit it in an hour or two and then continue to Palenque in the same day. It didn't add much extra time to my trip, and as most ruins in mexico, was also under 5 USD dollars so worth the gamble. Tonina is a must see that I almost didn't. It consist of mainly one large complex, but it is huge, and you can climb all over it, always a plus in my book.

Tonina also played an important part in Palenques history. They spent many years at war against each other, and they eventually captured, and killed Palenques king. With the height and steepness of Toninas building, I am pretty sure their warriors were ripped killing machines as climbing all over it was a bit tiring. Agua Azul and Mis-ho falls are two more popular destinations on the way to Palenque, though I opted to skip these as the agua is not very azul during rain season, it is rather brown this time of year.
Since I was in Palenque again…I decided to pay 5 more dollars and get a few better pics. After you pass the 1sttoll booth entering the park, but before arriving at the gate where you purchase your ticket, there is an entrance to a hiking trail in the jungle off to the right, so I wandered around in there. There were some cascades, obviously all kinds of plant life, and some sort of pig like creatures running around that I was not quick enough to get pics of. I did not see any howler monkeys, but heard what was obviously speakers setup in the jungle to trick tourist into thinking they were around somewhere. I then bought an entrance ticket but sat down for a drink to relax before going in as it was very humid. While seated some guy offered me a jungle tour but I declined since I just did my own. Then a few minutes later another guy who was obviously a guide sat to rest and ended up chatting with me. He didnt speak english but his spanish was somewhat easy to understand as he works with torists every day. He told me about Palenque, the large amount of ruins in the jungle unexcavated, the plant and animal life, etc. Well, I like when people earn their work, so he sold me. He wanted 600 pesos (45 USD!) which is a bit much for a jungle tour, so I offered less than what he wanted but it was slow so he jumped on it.

We went into the jungle where he pointed out the various trees, including the tree of life which was important to the mayan civilization. He also pointed out other medicinal plants, my favorite being one which is used for hangovers…where was that back in my college days? He imitated birds to get them to start singing back, made some howler monkey sounds to no avail, but then suddenly stopped, and whispered that he "smelled" them. Not seeing any we continued on, but 5 minutes later we found 10 or so climbing around in the tree above, of course I only had my point and shoot camera as it was too hot to lug my nicer one. I am pretty sure the monkeys live in that tree and the "I smell them" was part of his spiel, but who knows, at least we saw some damn monkeys. He also took me to a small amount of unexcavated ruins, which are mostly just rock structures with trees growing out of them. It was a good time, and I love those chances were I am forced to speak spanish so it was probably worth the money, though the trails I was on are part of the same network we took, and I could have walked them on my own for free had I known where I was going.

I also met up with some guys from england, and some girls from New Zeland and Australia while staying in Palenque. They talked me into joining them in a temazcal, which is regarded by the indians as an important cleansing practice to rid oneself of sickness and evil spirits. They were a good fun group who I enjoyed hanging out with, so while I was not sure if it would be a tourist trap, I jumped on board. These guys were normal, had similar interests, were not weird hippies, so I figured it would be a good idea….though I am pretty sure its very popular with the hippies, a group of people I struggle to understand. Again I am trying to do things important to the locals, be one with the people or some shit like that, so since it is an important spiritual thing I decided it would be a good experience. Of course it costs 200 pesos which takes away from some of that spirituality thing, but that seems pretty cheap for some sort of exorcism. I will admit, I may have gotten in over my head on this one. There was a mix of us, some locals, and of course a couple hippies. I think there were 12 people or so who did it. Basically its a small, stone dome structure representing the womb of the earth, with a fire pit in the center. I may have misunderstood parts as things were translated roughly for us, so bear with me. One is supposed to emerge reborn I think, though I am pretty sure I am still me, I still sound like a dick on here. Lava rocks area heated outside in a fire so they are glowing red and obviously hot, and are supposed to represent the bones of their ancestors, which are summoned to guide us with their knowledge. The mind and heart are supposed to merge as one, kind of a meditation thing they said. We had to have them pass smoke around us individually before entering, which was important, though I wasnt sure why, I just stood their and let them do it cause everyone else did, they didnt really explain that part. One of the guys who was not with us, though was kind of a local and knew the deal, entered without doing this and was scolded. Everyone strips down to their boxers, bikinis, possibly just a towel if your an english dude though luckily it is dark in there so I cannot confirm that one. Everyone sits in a circle around the fire pit, and was it ever cramped in this tiny structure. They put the rocks into the fire pit using deer antlers, traditional, though dangerous as they often slipped out almost burning the girl in charge a few times. The door is closed, and you sit inside in darkness aside from the glowing rocks as there is chanting, singing, and drumming in some native language. They splash water on the rocks ever so often which due to the heat sends hot water on everyone as it explodes off the rocks, and eventually leads to complete darkness. They also use giant palm leaves to send water throughout the hut, so you end up getting soaking wet. Now I assumed I would be covered in sweat, but there was water everywhere, the floor, the roof, in my ears. I have stood in rainstorms and stayed drier. We did 3 doors, which means we were trapped in this thing for just over an hour. I think the 1st door was for air and invoking the "grandmother", an ancient spirit. Then the door is opened to get more rocks and give everyone a slight break, though the heat didnt really escape. Then its closed again, repeated with different chants and songs they sing, this time giving thanks to water. I dont remember what the 3rd door represented, as I was approaching my limit and just trying to make it to the end, possibly earth and fire, as it was some sort of combo since we were only doing 3. Did I mention it was hot, and I kind of wanted out, but I was ok so just stuck with it. They said they do 4 doors sometimes, and I am pretty sure I could not have handled 4. Turns out I was not alone, and the others I was with also wanted out around round 3 or sooner. I was oblivious to this, but one of the english guys couldnt stop laughing in the beginning, though he tried, everyone sitting by him said they could feel his body as he fought the laughing fit and heard him suppressing his laughter. One of the women made a comment about breathing deeply which I assumed was just helpful advice for everyone, but they agreed it was directed at him, as she wasn't really happy with him. Turns out he couldnt get the image of his english buddy in a towel sitting there cross legged out of his head. The next day I still had a cough that has been lingering, so I can only hope it got rid of my demons, otherwise I was scammed. We all agreed it wasn't something we would be doing again anytime soon. At the end I asked one of the girls running it how often she did it, and she said whenever they get enough paying customers, maybe tomorrow. Yeah, I was thinking she would say once a month, or maybe a couple times a year. I just googled it and it seems many different groups from the mayas, aztecs, to the american indians have their own form, but it might just be on full moons, which we happened to do it on, so maybe I misunderstood her and its just a few days at this time of the month, not sure. Google also said those who partake are considered warriors for having the courage to face their demons, so im a warrior…..fuck yeah!


· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Oh, it's going to be one of those police checkpoints
Posted on September 17, 2012 by Wiley

Welcome to the Yucatan, a part of Mexico I had every intention of skipping. For me the problem is Cancun, I hate Cancun, everything about it, and I have never even been there. Another drawback is the heat, its hot here, so hot that on the very first day in the Yucatan the heat melted every single piece of velcro I had on my windows, leaving my windows a sticky, curtainless mess. Well, if you can handle the heat, and avoid Cancun, it turns out the Yucatan actually has a lot to offer.

Not much to write about Campeche. It is nothing more than a stop over to get to Uxmal, if it is even necessary. I drove in expecting this city to be nice, as it is another of Mexico's Unesco sites. The centro is surrounded by a giant wall made of limestone, of course built by indigenous slave labor. The wall took over 50 years to build, and was to protect the city from pirate invasions, arghhhhh. The buildings have been restored, and are painted in bright vibrant colors giving it a mixture of Caribbean Spanish flair, and its a pretty nice looking place with some good photo ops.

I was hoping the night life would be good as it was a Friday, and my plan was to stay 2 or 3 days until Sunday or Monday so I could hit the Uxmal ruins on a weekday, to avoid the Cancun crowds. I tell you this place was dead. It's pretty in the centro, but the majority of buildings do not have any lights on inside at night, I don't think anyone is ever home.

There was nothing going on, and the busiest restaurant I could find was once again Burger King. Unfortunately instead of moving on I had taken a siesta in the afternoon assuming Friday night would be going off, so didn't realize this until it was too late. I spent the night eating at Burger King, and then salvage the evening played some guitar on the slightly used malecon while watching an awesome thunder storm off in the Gulf, before proceeding to Uxmal the next day.

As luck would have it I once again had no idea of what day it was and had actually ended up in Campeche on Saturday night, so I really arrived at Uxmal Sunday evening, which meant I would be going Monday so less people! Keeping with ancient Mayan tradition, Uxmal has been setup with a super high-tech light and sound show, which is part of the ticket cost….a whopping 177 pesos, very high by Mexican ruins standards. At least on the bright side the locals get in a bit cheaper, though I don't think it was anywhere near the standard 57 pesos I had seen at every other ruin site throughout Mexico, even they paid a lot here. You can blame Cancun for the high prices, as all major ruins out here are 177 pesos. I was able to camp in the lot across the street from the ridiculously expensive restaurant that served extremely small, bland portions.

The cost to dry camp was 131 pesos, there are no facilities, but it works out great for an early start into the ruins the following morning.I bought my tickets that evening and headed to the lights show as they are good for the show that night, and the following day for the ruins. There are electronic translators available pretty cheap, but I didn't realize that at the time so missed most of the story, but it was a great way to get my first sights of Uxmal, as myself and maybe 50 others watched the 45 minute show.Camping here also let me get in at 8:15 when the gates opened the next day, which is pretty good for Mexico as that's only 15 minutes later than it is supposed to open. This allowed me to enjoy the ruins with only 2 other people anywhere in sight, before the tourists busses started to arrive between 10-11am.

Uxmal is in great shape compared to other ruins I have seen, and had elaborate stone carvings on all of the buildings. There were also dinosaurs running around everywhere, so it was a pretty cool place to visit, though once again its tough to get into ruins at this point, but these should be seen if in the area, and were in some of the best shape of all the ruins I visited.

I then headed north to Merida, a popular destination with the Europeans from what I have read. While driving into Merida I encountered the most bizarre police checkpoint yet. I was asked a few standard questions, and then asked to pull over, nothing new here as I have gone through countless checkpoints. I pull over where another cops talks to me, and asks me to pull over even more, behind the police building temporarily setup under the overpass, and conveniently blocked from the camera they had setup. Still no big deal, but I am now out of sight of most of the people going through the checkpoint, I think to myself "Oh, its going to be one of those checkpoints…here we go. It's the usual where are you from, what are you doing, license and paperwork, ect. He is obviously not pleased with my expired license and passport which is my go to as they are known to keep them until you pay your ticket/bribe, so I reluctantly get the good ones out. This is the first time I have had to get them in all my time in Mexico. This guy makes it a point to remember my name, and is overly friendly once the paperwork is in order…which can be taken either way here in Mex as I have met tons of great cops, so still no red flags but is pretty suspicious. I have been leaving my guitar in the front seat rather than dragging the case out to put it away, so he tells me he plays and grabs it, where he begins playing me a song. Now he isn't the best guitar player, but neither am I so I let him give it a go, he should probably work on his chords a bit more but theres a bit of music in there somewhere. We are only about 3 feet apart now, and suddenly he starts singing, which I didn't see coming considering his skill level. I give him a nod and say hes pretty good assuming he would put it down, but no slow down amigo, I am treated to a full, and awkward, authentic Mexican serenade on the side of the highway. Finally finishing his masterpiece he put down the guitar, clearly impressed with himself. It was now time to get down to business. He must have asked me over 10 times if I did drugs throughout his search. Not if I had them, just if I did them, or had ever tried them, staring at me as he asks, grinning and giving me the nod cause all Americans must do drugs. He then asks me if I have friends. Confused, I ask if he means in Mexico, he says yes so I say no, I am travelling alone. "How about America?" Well, yeah sure I did before I started the trip and lost all touch with the outside world. Do they do drugs? I laugh a little when I see what he is getting at and say no. He keeps asking, and searching, and I am getting the impression his overly friendly attitude which is slowly fading is so I wouldn't realize that he is not the most honest policeman here in Mexico. Eventually he pulls out my empty cup holder, and without a word stars at it for a good 30-45 seconds. Finally he asks, "What is this?" He holds it up to me and points inside, but I don't know how to say empty cup holder in Spanish. Turns out he is implying the dirt or crumbs inside must be drugs, and he is slowly using more and more intimidation in his search process while this is occurring as his demeanor changes. Eventually he puts it back and asks if they have dogs in the US. Now there have been a lot of random unrelated questions at the same time while this is all going down, so I play like he is talking about pets and tell him I have 2, even though I don't, and make up some really girly names. He looks impatient and asks about police drugs, so I then say yes. "We have them here too" he says, and gives me the stare and grin look again, almost insinuating they are on the way. At this point the search has gone on for 30 minutes, well past my previous record of 5 minute searches, so my response was, "That's good, I bet your searches go much faster with the dogs." He has no response to that one and continues poking and prodding around my front seats, and asks if I have a knife. I tell him I have a pocketknife in the door, as he is bound to find it. He grabs it and says "Oh, this is no good in the Yucatan, I need to take it for your safety, I am sorry. Not for me, I take it to the police station, there are bad people, someone can cut you" as he makes a slicing motion over his throat. Now I figure this is bullshit, but have looked into it previously and am aware there are tough laws on weapons, including knives, in Mexico. I have also read countless reports of travelers who carry much larger hunting knives without any problem, as they have been told by the guys at the military checkpoints that they are more worried about drugs or guns, though it can be an issue if your carrying it on you in cities, and again I have yet to have a problem from anyone else. The US travel site does says not to take a knife with you, but the also say not to drive through Mexico, so that advice is clearly for the travelers who fly in. Plus, this is a Leatherman, and was in my van, not on me. It is more of a tool than a weapon, and is clearly for camping. I don't say anything to this as I don't want to piss him off until the search is done and play dumb not understanding his Spanish…so he leaves it on the seat. A few more stupid questions from this guy and eventually he is happy with his thorough search of the fronts seats, and decides that there probably are not any drugs in the remaining 75% of the van that he never even took a look at. He again brings up the knife, so I play dumb for a bit and act like I don't know what he is talking about. Eventually I politely tell him that it is fine if he takes it, but I need to photograph the blade and get the address where he will be taking it, as I was told by the US embassy that as it was only a 2 inch blade it was ok, so they should know they are wrong about the laws. This is all bull, I just wanted to say US embassy as I knew that may spark some fear into him. I didn't ask for his info yet, but planned to depending on his reaction, as you are supposed to get name, badge number, and even car number from these guys if you have problems. I certainly wasn't trying to piss this guy off as I liked my knife and wanted it back. I tell him I think he is right, but now I have been told different things by different people and am confused. Really I know this is probably going home to his kid, and while its just a knife a Leatherman is not cheap, plus it's the principle, he is clearly stealing it. Well he realized my level of awesomeness, and quickly his story changes as he becomes buddy buddy with me again, and says he is going to let me keep the knife, but if it is found in the Yucatan I could be in trouble. Suddenly he is done with me and tells me I can go, shaking my hand and playing good cop again….at this point I am not even pissed as I can add the shakedown and serenade cop to my collection, and think to myself that I will need these kinds of practice scenarios for Honduras, land of the corrupt cops.

I then made my way to Merida which was nice, but I don't see what the allure was to be honest. I later told two Israeli girls to skip it which I hate doing. Even though my opinion is always fact, I don't know what others will or wont like, but they were short on time and I am confident they will enjoy the other destinations they had planned more. By the way if all Israeli girls are as beautiful as those two I have another place I need to visit now. I may or may not believe in love at first sight now, but I have definitely been convinced of god(s) existence. Sadly they were leaving the day when I met them, clearly their god did not find the Jewish jokes I have made in my younger days funny and was punishing me, son of Jehovah! The Centro in Merida had a great plaza to hang out in, but it seemed just like any other nice city in Mexico. I stayed at a popular traveller's hostel to meet up with some people, and ended up taking a cenote tour with guys from the UK, Germany, and Australia. We took an hour collective to some town outside Merida, not sure where as the others had taken care of the details, I was just going along for the ride.

We then had to take a ride on a horse drawn cart, which was, well, an adventure I suppose. The cart was not very comfortable, though it wasn't bad, just a bit teeth jarring. As the man whipped the horse we sped along through the woods towards the cenotes, about a 20 minute ride to the 1st, and maybe 10 more for each additional one. There were about 50 horse flies attacking us the whole way, only occasionally biting us, but more annoying than anything. We got the cenotes and had each one to ourselves, as again tourist season is pretty much over. We spent about 30 minutes in each jumping into and swimming in these cenotes, though it was tough to take any pics of them due to lack of light. I believe much of the Yucatan has underground rivers, and the limestone collapses creating these cenotes, so they are found everywhere here. The water was very blue, and often had giant roots hanging down from the roof, though only a few catfish and a couple bats, not much else for life in the ones we went to. It was a good time, and after that none of us felt like there was much left for us in Merida, so I was not alone in my unimpressed opinion. There are better centotes throughout the Yucatan and Belize, but for the low cost and luxury of having it to ourselves it was well worth the trip.

The Aussie had said he was planning on going to swim with some whale sharks next, then head off to Cuba for a bit, and come back to do Central America. He almost convinced me to join him in Cuba….but I didn't want to drop the money for a plane ticket and parking my van in Cancun. I have since heard mixed reviews about Cuba so glad I decided to save my money, though I bet it's a very unique, and fun trip and most people seemed to enjoy it that I have spoke to. We exchanged info and decided we would meet up for some surfing later on Central America somewhere, though I will probably still be in Mexico at this pace. I told him I had planned to go to Chitzen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world, but ruins start to look the same after awhile, and with both the increased prices in the Yucatan, and the tourist coming from Cancun decided I didnt need to see it, so again the wheels started spinning again. The next day I decided to join him with the sharks so offered him a ride. The Giants game was on that day so we jumped on the toll road as I hoped to make good time and possibly could catch it somewhere close to where we were going, a long shot but it the 1st game of the season so I was hoping to catch it now that I was in more civilized areas of Mexico. Turns out the toll roads outside of Cancun do not have exits, and we were tricked into going to Cancun, a place I already knew I would despise, and would remind me of Cabo. We found a hostel right away in the centro, 10 bucks, good size, I had been sold instantly, the Aussie wanted to keep looking for a better deal. We walked over to another around the corner to check prices , our hostel was empty but much cheaper, 140 pesos (10.73 USD) for our own room, 2 beds, a fan and private bathroom vs 180 for a 10 person dorm. Yeah 10 bucks…why are we wasting time looking for better deal, we have a game to catch! While at the other hostel we met 2 more travelers from New York, so we made plans to watch the game later. I wish I had written it down as I have no idea where it was or what it was called but it was a pretty good find. We all headed to the tourist area and watched the game at Hooters. Now, I have only been to 3 or so of these, but cannot figure out why they exist. The food is terrible and overpriced, and aside from the Brazilian working in the Toronto Hooters, I have yet to see an attractive girl in there, but the game was on so we didn't care. As we walk in we were immediately greeted in English, and most of the waitresses were from the US. Yeah you have got to be kidding me, Cancun is worse than Cabo, its little things like that that can piss me off….greet us in Spanish dammit, this is Mexico! Fortunately The Giants ended up losing the game, as the key to their Super bowl domination has been to barely make the playoffs, and then crush the unsuspecting opposition, so we are right on track now. I have to admit I was looking forward to bashing cowboys fans, but since most cowboy fans don't know how to read I suppose it doesn't matter anyway.

We then decided to celebrate the successful plan Coughlin has come up with and headed out to the clubs right around the corner. It was a Wednesday night, this I know for a fact. Cover charges for the clubs went as high as 60 USD which included all you could drink of crappy alcohol, so we walked around to find the best deal. We ended up talking to a guy who ended up being from Iowa selling bracelets to the clubs for a good 10 or 15 minutes just shooting the shit. He appreciated that and told us about one for 15 USD even though he wasn't selling one to that place and wouldn't make any money off us, and it included a pass to enter the 60 dollar place, just didn't include the drinks, so we could get our drink on and then go to the better club. Turns out not everyone in Cancun is a douchebag, so I thought. Well, he then set me straight as he follow this up by laughing and telling us he just sold 4 girls passes to the 60 dollar club, even though the 15 dollar clubs pass lets you enter both places, yup there is the Cancun I expected.

It was a good night, with both a spiderman sighting and a Michael Jackson sighting. At one point "Billie Jean" came on and like the red sea the crowd instantly parted, where we were treated to moves I thought I would never have the privilege of seeing again since his death. Later the Aussie and New Yorkers headed home while I stayed behind as I was once again dancing to extremely terrible music. The girl was from somewhere in Mexico…it was waaaaay to loud to figure it out, as everything in Mexico is done at maximum volume. For someone who does not like to dance I have done way too much of it out here.

Eventually I decided I should head back as well since it was 3 and the group I was now with were showing no signs of slowing down for the night. I grabbed a cab and headed back to our hostel in the Centro. I was dropped off a few blocks from the hostel as I didn't know the street name and began my walk, late at night. This is not something I recommend, and definitely not in Cancun. There were a bunch of working girls on the streets, now I haven't read much about prostitutes on the blogs or travel forums I follow, but am aware it is common. I think due to the taboo of prostitution people shy away from telling these stories, but I told you I would tell the good and bad of the trip, so here is my prostitute story, yay! As I am walking a "working girl" approaches me and tries to catch my interest, "Come on baby, want to have some fun". I continue walking and tell her no thanks, while she tries to convince me otherwise. Finally she sees she is losing the battle, and in one last desperate move, helps herself to a handful of manhood through my shorts. It is at this point I am sure a good amount of guys out drinking for the night would have been F'd and succumbed to her business tactics. I immediately push her arm away and change directions, making it obvious I want no part of her. Suddenly, a cop car comes speeding up with lights on, throws her into the back, and tears off as quickly as they appeared. They certainly could have been dicks and accused me of being involved as I have heard nothing good about the Yucatan police, so I am thankful it ended the way it did, though that means I don't have a jail story…yet. I don't think it was a setup due to the amount of working girls around at this time of night, but who knows. Hey. At least I have my 1st, and hopefully last prostitution story.

At this point I am almost home, but still need to go 3 more blocks so pick up the pace. As I near the hostel a different group of cops come tearing up in a truck and come to a stop in front of me. About 6 cops jump out, push me up against the truck, start patting me down and emptying my pockets asking me if I am drunk multiple times. Its fast, forceful, and certainly unpleasant. Then they put everything back in my pockets and without so much as a thank you jump in the truck and tear off. It all happened quick, and I was sure I had been robbed. I check my pockets, and still have my iphone. I open the wallet and all my money is there as well, phew. Turns out they were only looking for drugs, but could have gone about it in a much more professional way. Speaking with others here the cops out here have a reputation for both robbing and intimidation, as they know they can get away with it. Between Cancun and Merida, I certainly have gotten that impression.

Hung over and having spent about 15 hours in Cancun which is way too long, we headed off for the whale sharks. Some of you may have heard of the mystical Liger, a hybrid killing machine combining the agility of a tiger and the power of a lion. Well there is a similar animal of the sea, the whale shark. This man killer combines the enormous size of a whale with the taste for blood and killing power of a great white…my kind of adventure. The only down side, its very touristy. Even though the season would end in a week as they head off to warmer waters, there were still a lot of people. We paid 1000 pesos (76 USD) for a boat ride out to the deep ocean, which also included a few waters/cokes, a crappy sandwich, some fishing, and a stop off in a lagoon for some ceviche, if we caught anything fishing. The scene was a bit chaotic with about 100 boats and people snorkeling everywhere, though it must be 10 times worse in July with even greater numbers of people. 3 people at a time get to jump from the boat wearing a snorkel, mask, and fins, and swim along side the whale shark for a few minutes before losing it in the great abyss. There is some confusion with all the people as everyone looks the same in a mask and the mandatory life vest, but our guides set us up away from the pack so it worked out well. These guys are enormous, though small from what I have heard compared to whale sharks in other parts of the world, may have been the time of year too. You are not allowed to touch them (I presume that is when they will eat you as I somehow survived the ordeal), I came dangerously close to being hit by their giant tails often as I snapped away with my camera.

I got a few good pics but it was tough as you are swimming along trying to keep up as long as possible. After 5-10 minutes max you get out and another 3 go, though you get 2 rounds in total so 10-20 minutes for 76 bucks. We heard others had paid up to 150 USD so I am not complaining, but some had gotten them as low as 53 USD as well. The second round my camera was off so I didn't get any of the great pics I thought I had grabbed, but I saw the guy from Spain vere off and follow another group/whale. Well hell, I am following him to hell with these time limits. We took off and got some extra time in before finally being yelled at by another boat. swiming back to ours we laughed and high-5'd, nothing like working the system to bring people together. We then went fishing to catch our lunch of ceviche, which really means we paid to catch them some fish, as they kept the best ones either to take home or sell. An Irish girl caught her first fish ever which was enormous and ended up being the catch of the day…I wish I had gotten a pic of it. I told her she should probably never fish again, it could only lead to disappointment, hey I am an optimist. Turns out I am very good at catching bait fish, many of which were thrown back to the ocean. Overall it was worth it, but its definitely all about the money…as are most thing in Cancun.

Some more beach relaxation away from Cancun was enjoyed, as I wanted nothing to do with cops or prostitutes. The Aussie and I hit a new hostel and grabbed a room for 125 pesos (9.80 USD). I misheard the guy at the desk mention the cost of a room with AC and figured the fans in the dorm would be fine. It was a 10 person room and we had the last beds, so I had one no where near a fan. I joke to the Aussie I should pay the extra for AC, even though it was crazy at 30 USD. Confused he tells me it was 145 pesos for the AC room, which cant be right, since that is only about 1.50 USD more. Its really hot so I go to ask and verify, the Aussie is correct. He stayed in the cheaper room and even joked travelers like to cut corner whenever they can so it would probably be empty. Turns out he was right, travelers are cheap, and I had the room all to myself the 1st night, what is wrong with these people, AC for 1.50 a night, I would rather skip dinner than AC in this heat. The next day I return to "MY" room and see a bag on a bed, damn, too good to be true, I should have known. Well, I didn't stay upset for long, as I write this it is myself, and 9 attractive chicks from around the world all enjoying some AC in our 10 person dorm room…yup, life is good, that's what you get you cheap bastards!

I keep getting emails about chicks in Mexico, sorry you losers, this is a travel blog, and its already too personal for my taste as it is. Im not trying to brag about where I have been or how your stuck in your boring cubicles, it just naturally comes across that way. Really I hope it shows the awesome places that exist and should be visited by more people, though not too many more, on second thought just stop reading and go back to work, I don't need you ruining my paradises. Besides, Mexico is not known for its number of attractive women, and as soon as you leave the cities the numbers drop into the negatives. I don't mind sharing a few failures though. What began as an easy night of drinking in this beach town somewhere in Mexico ended with too much tequila, which is how the story usually goes around here. Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for blondes, so two hot blondes from my awesome room and i decide to grab dinner, foolishly I invite the Aussie. As it's a pretty social hostel, more people were invited and it spiraled out of control. I cant complain as I started it when I invited a guy who worked there, but it was one of those awkward things where we had asked him where to go and he hinted that he was hungry and let the awkward silence ring… so I felt I had to. Damn, so much for me, an Aussie, and two hot blondes, in hindsight I shouldn't have even invited the Aussie and just kept the blondes all too myself, lesson learned. At least the guy to girl ratio was still well within our favor, as we invited more people since my diabolical plan had been ruined. Much later most of the chicks went to bed so a German dude and I hit up the local bar where a few of the remaining girls were going to meet up with us. Turned out this bar was where all of the local average looking to below average looking women apparently go in this town. As soon as we walk inside some guy who is clearly shitfaced is hanging all over the German and I. He wraps his arm over my shoulder and slurs to me "where are you from", so I tell him "California". 15 Seconds later he asks me where I am from so I say "USA". 15 Seconds later he asks me where I am from so I say "California". 15 Seconds later he asks me where I am from so I say "Me gusta chicas". 15 Seconds later he asks me where I am from, you get the picture, he couldn't remember anything, let alone stand up on his own. I shake him off me as he clearly is not going to do it himself.

He was harmless, and the local chicks thought it was hilarious, so we politely humored him for 2 or 3 minutes before his friend finally pulled him away and told him to leave us alone, so I though. 5 minutes later I see the German dancing hand in hand with him, not that theres anything wrong with that. The German was shitfaced but was a good sport and had no problem putting up with him. We finally get away and were forced into more dancing though finally with women, and actually had a good time as we were often the center of attention being the only white boys in the place. We left with a group of 10 or so locals pilling into a golf cart (no really 10, we were all hanging off the thing) to head to another bar. We did a lap of the town and ended up back at the same crappy bar as it was all that was going on. The bars there close at 4, so later as it was closing everyone was outside hanging out in front of the store having a good time. A new group of girls approaches us and starts talking to us. Now I will admit I was pretty drunk at this point, so the vision was a bit blurry….but something was defiantly off here. The girls were dressed nice and all done up…but they were looking a bit…well…er, masculine, with some pretty thick eyebrows. I figure I drank way too much but brush them off figuring it is probably just more unattractive girls from the bar. The next day I mention it to the guy who works at the hostel, and he confirmed that there were definitely some lady men in this place. Great, now I have a tranny story as well…I think its going to be a long time before I drink again, this shit is getting out of control.

Naturally that didn't last and 48 hours later I was suckered into a bit more drinking, I need to get out of here fast.

On a side note I met up with a Colombian who was with the Irish fisher woman, (you can check out their site so we exchanged info as we figure we will meet up later in our travels. A few weeks later he sends me a facebook message saying he randomly stumbled upon the reddit page of my "missing persons thread" where people were asked to help find me. Great, I will never live that one down.

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Never Say Never…Never Say Never
Posted on October 15, 2012 by Wiley

Slideshows, Facebook "Like" links, and the email notification has been fixed, welcome to the 21st century! I have added 450 pics of Mexio HERE, its a mix of new and old, just give the slideshow a second to load if you want to check them out.

Yes, you may have noticed a huge gap in posts between the Cancun area and Guatemala. I was considering paying for one more week where I was to enjoy the beach life, I had also been talked into getting my open water certification on Cozumel, and SCUBA diving my way down the Yucatan coast. It didn't make sense to save a couple bucks waiting for Honduras diving with the amount I would miss in Mexico and Belize, so I was looking forward to it.This all would have worked out great as the Mexican Independence day was only 2 days away, and some pretty attractive German girls would be in Playa del Carmen which had to be a good spot to party. As I looked at a calendar I was reminded of how far behind I already am, the whole point of going into Mexico during the hottest time of the year was to get to Central America for the summer surf…uh yeah its already mid September, and I figure I have 4-6 more weeks in the Yucatan, and of course there is Belize. Time for another 180!

Pushing the image of drunk German and Mexican women out of my mind I decided to skip the parts of the Yucatan I haven't yet seen, and all of Belize. With so much of Mexico still on my list I know I will be back soon, so plan on doing these things at that time, as I still have a large chunk of the Pacific coast I skipped from both Mexico trips as well. Sick of telling people I don't know if I am doing South America when that was originally the highlight, I now sit in Guatemala, and at this time plan on doing a relatively quick trip through Central America to ensure South America happens. I will still hit some of the major tourist spots, but the talk of living in this country for a month, that country for two months are over….for now. I wasn't sure about South America since I have no budget and wasn't sure how much I would spend here in Central, but this way I can make sure to do South America the right way, and return for anything I miss later, as Mexico and Central are pretty much in my backyard. There is always the race against time when dealing with South America and avoiding the Tierra Del Fuego winter, so I either need to pick up the pace, or slow down even more to avoid it. Looking back I am still glad I took the alternate route through central Mexico. In my opinion the sights on the pacific coasts and the colonial cities we hit the 1st trip are much better than what is offered in central Mexico, there is a reason the tourist path goes where it does, but it was definitely a great trip, and I loved every minute of it. (2014: Now that the trip has ended/paused and I reread these posts I think it would be tough for me to go through Mexico without hitting all of the places I hit the 1st 2 times….Mexico really is an awesome place, it will be tough to pick my route next time.

Belize is easy to get through, you pretty much follow one major road and eventually get to the Western Border, I did both the Belize and Guatemala crossings the same day, though I recommend you get an earlier jump as I arrived at my destination of Flores a bit after dark. Since I hadn't put much planning into this I didn't have any maps of Belize or Guatemala. I used the cartoon map they gave me at the Belize border and did not get lost once, just head towards Belize City, but once close to the city you can follow signs to bypass it and then head towards San Ignacio where the border crossing is.

Some hostel are great, some are terrible. Want to know my biggest quam with hostels…idiots. You cant help but eavesdrop on people when they are speaking English, and since I love to judge others I eavesdrop all the time. Sitting here now as some chick goes on and on about how she will continue to be a vegetarian until animals get treated better. She follows this by saying fish and chickens don't count…yeah I am pretty sure they are both animals last time I checked. There was also a holocaust reference connecting this poor treatment of cows in there somewhere, so you can see what I am dealing with at times. I think your corn rolls are a bit too tight hippy. Seriously, its been at least 15 minutes and showing no signs of stopping….I think its time to order a nice juicy hamburger, mmm that was delicious. Ok its been 2 hours now and she must have mentioned weed 150 times. How she wants it, how she doesn't have any, how good it is elsewhere. I don't wish ill on many, but I wouldn't mind if she gets robbed and has to cut her trip short as she clearly gives travelers a bad name. I thought hippies were supposed to spread love, but they just bring out the hate in me. I am pretty sure the only reason the guys sitting with her are letting her go on and on is because she is a girl, and they are guys. I would move, but I am right next to the fan, so either my ears are in pain, or my whole body is….its a hopeless scenario. Oh good she just left looking for weed, maybe this is where she loses all her money and has to hitchhike home, fingers crossed!

Shifting my focus back to Guatemala now…ok just breath. As luck would have it Independence day isn't just a Mexican holiday, all of Central America is celebrating today, so I only missed out on beautiful German and Mexican women, the festivities are still in full effect, and from a quick look some of the Guatemalan girls have potential. The island of Flores, located on Lago Petén Itzá is mostly a jump off point for Tikal which is about 1 hour away, though it also has a relaxing vibe to it that can be ok for a day or so, and with the festival I expect a good night life, we shall see. Unfortunately there is a causeway so access is very easy, after the islands I have hit in Mexico I was hoping for something a bit different but it isn't a bad place to kill 2 days as I want to hit Tikal on a weekday. There is nothing to do here though, you can circle the island with a 15 minute walk, but at 7 USD a night at the local hostels I am not complaining, especially since this trip has spoiled me with not hitting ruins on weekends.

So I wake up after a long night and find a small purple flower on my bed. Its obviously not for me, so I disregard it. A few hours later a cute girl comes over and tells me her friend who works here is interested…come on now who isn't, I should have known they knew purple was my favorite color. Now I have seen this game before, the old bait and switch, so am a bit weary that they sent the cute one in. I figure hey this is Central Am, so respond with a reluctant fuck yeah, I will meet your friend at the bar. Well, it's the train wreck I expected, but it was a good time, and if nothing else I realize now my Spanish really sucks. It also involved a motorbike ride before hand where my new friend was driving. While it is never a good idea to let a chick drive, it is a terrible idea in a developing country, especially when I am wearing shorts and sandals….All the gear all the time (ATGATT)! We got to a local bar where it was myself and 3 average looking girls who all worked at the hostel. This should also help to enforce previous stories that when I say I had a room full of hot chicks that my stories are legit. I could easily make things up and say they were hot when they were not, but they were very nice, and we had a good time. I also enjoyed that I had gotten to know "the help" as most backpackers ignored them, meanwhile I am walking around addressing them by first name like old friends during my stay. I was relieved when I escaped though I am not going to lie, as it was a bit strange even for a blind date.

This was definitely one of my least favorite hostels as there were lots of burnt-out hippies, not really my scene. I planned to sleep in and then head off to Tikal, but unfortunately am awoken by my "admirer" caressing the inside of my hand at 8am as she wants to wake me to say hello…great, well now I am up I guess I should get going. There was also another, larger purple flower, I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. I gathered up my things and happily headed north to Tikal, a mere hour or so away, but took my time as I needed to arrive in the late afternoon as I wanted to camp at the grounds and get an early start on Monday morning, having read that you cannot enter before 3 if you plan to do this. Camping was about 7 USD, so I setup my tent and enjoyed a night of jungle noises. I was the only one camping, so I spoke with the grounds keeper a bit who ended up being a nice guy.

The pic of the shack below is where he stays, I presume every night though did not want to ask. Sadly my parents have a shed for their lawnmower bigger than this guys digs. The weather was perfect during the night, luckily there were no mosquitos though I went to bed early so may have missed them, and woke up just before 6 am when the park opens. Tikal is great, though if you took the ruins out of the jungle and put them elsewhere it would probably just be another set of ruins, impressive but not necessarily spectacular. Man I am such a dick, some people bend over backwards to see these things while im just "eh, ive seen old buildings before". In hindsight I was just burnt out, they are pretty awesome. You will see monkeys, toucans, some animals I didn't recognize, and of course the pyramids towering over the jungle canopy, so its certainly worth visiting. Basically you want to head straight for Temple IV 1stto avoid the crowd that arrive by bus later, as it provides the best view of the jungle canopy mixed with the morning fog, and then backtrack through the park after. The walk to temple 4 takes about 30 minutes, you can also pay a guide to go at 4 am and catch the sunrise, but I figured me and a dude on top of a pyramid overlooking a jungle may not be the romantic setting it sounds to be.

I had Temple IV to myself for as long as I wanted basically, and then walked the rest of the grounds after. The major ruins are good, the other smaller ones off to the sides can be skipped in my opinion. I was there for 4 hours but could have stuck to the main structures and bailed after 2 if I had known. I don't know what those people who say to go in the morning, return to your hotel/camping to rest, and return to the ruins in the evening are up to, maybe they haven't seen enough ruins yet, maybe I am missing something. I figure one bus came that morning around 10 or so, as when I left I saw about 15 new people, but basically this was another park I had to myself as I only saw about 6 other people throughout the park the 1st few hours. With an empty park, and the fact that I often say hi to people down here, I exchanged a friendly hello as a couple passed. The lady asked if I was from Spain, which was a rather random quesiton. I said no, I was from the United States and asked if she was from Spain wondering why she would guess that, but she said no she was from Mexico. She then told me I had a great accent. At first I though F' Yeah! But this is exactly why I get into trouble when trying to talk to people down here. People hear me speak with an accent and assume, incorrectly, that I can speak Spanish, which they then reply in their rapid fire responses. I think I need to learn ****** speak, so I sound as dumb as I really am.

Now Asians had never caught my eye until a few friends from San Diego turned me, and there were two attractive ones here so I snagged some stalker pics with my cam. I then started heading over to see if they spoke English, but before I got anywhere near them this guide swoops in out of nowhere and the next thing I know they are all posing for pics….man those guys are good, he had it locked down. Defeated I continued on.

The jungle was a bit hot, but not unbearable as you spend most of the time under the canopy. On the way out I gave a guide a ride down to the town about 20 minutes outside the ruins, so was treated to some free knowledge of the area and Tikal, though he didn't inform me he was sick until inside the van and on our way coughing into his hand, my dashboard, and pretty much everywhere else. What was bizzare was that he was from Italy but had been there for 28 years. I would think they would give the job to locals first, but he married a Guatemalan so maybe he is considered a local at this point. I then returned to hippyville for one more night of 7 dollar sleeping, ready to head off to either the Candelaria caves, or Sumac Champey. I was told I could probably do both the same day, but not sure I want to do the guided tour of the caves, as it's a weekday I am sure it would be just me, and a guide, for another romantic adventure.

I decided to skip the caves and head for Semac Champey, where it is common knowledge the roads going there suck. I woke early again, I never set an alarm, but am starting to feel I have insomnia on this trip as I never get a solid 8 hours. The ATM with the checking account access was closed, and not wanting to waste time hanging around doing nothing I pushed on, figuring I can find one later. A few hours and 10 ATMs later I am starting to get nervous, as I don't know the pin to my credit card so cant use that option of the ATM either. There are western unions everywhere so I know I can have money transferred as a last resort, but decide to see if I have enough gas to make it to Guatemala City as they certainly have other ATMs besides the "5B" ones here that I am struggling with. I scrap the Semac Champey plan as I need money, and that is out in the middle of nowhere, and I don't even have enough to pay for camping, let alone gas. Eventually I realize I wont make it to the city on whats left in the tank combined with what I have in my spare gas can, so tear apart my van looking for the other credit card I hid away in a spot so well even I had problems remembering where it was. This one works, and I now have cash, cha-ching! Ive missed a good portion of Guat, so decide to add this country to the list of will see later and decide a quick stop in Antigua, and possibly Lake Atitlan were all I would have time for. This meant I ended up doing a lot of running around, as I should have just jumped into northern Honduras, but that's how it goes sometimes. You have to drive through Guat city to get Antigua, and I arrived in Guat city around 4. Knowing this was a beast to get through I push on knowing I have 2 hours of light, and Antigua is just on the other side.

Again, I have no map, and my GPS is only showing the 3 or 4 main roads for the entire city, so if I get off those I am screwed, not a place you want to be driving around blind in the dark that is for sure. The traffic is bumper to bumper, its raining, and there are motorbikes cutting in and out everywhere. I get fairly lucky and pretty much make it through without much trouble, leaving the city just as night is approaching. That could have been much worse, though it's a fairly easy city to navigate regarding the main roads. I then continued on to Antigua, in the dark, with hundreds of people walking on the shoulders, this ends up being a much too common scene in Central America.

Antigua was ok, another one of these why is it so popular with tourists? I certainly didn't stay long enough to get a real feel for it so cant really comment, though I think this is a city popular with people who enjoy the company of other tourists. Not a bad thing, but it certainly doesn't have the Central Am vibe I was looking for. While walking the streets some guy offered me a pamphlet selling some tour I already knew I wasn't interested in, so I politely declined. This guy was a bit rough looking with a long scar across half his face. He persisted, we had some quick friendly back and forth in Spanish as I told him I didn't need it, and eventually he said "never say never….never say never" as I walked away. I was not sure if that was friendly advice, or a threat, so when another guy immediately followed me for the next block to offer me his pamphlets I accepted them right away haha. I wasn't sure if the original guy sent him to see what I would do, but of course as soon as I get the pamphlet he is offering me weed, hash, coke, and girls. Every single one of these guys does it, and while I know its how they make money, is freaking annoying. I just want to walk around and check out your city, leave me alone. I suspect I am hit up more often than other travelers since I am alone, but figure everyone gets it to a degree. Anyway, I saw the same never say never guy a few times the next day and took his pamphlets, he was super friendly so I don't know if he remembered me or not, as there are a lot of gringos around. The second time he offered me a pamphlet I told him I already had it and showed him but he showed me this one was new which it was. He gave me 3 or 4 more throughout the day, maybe he was f'ing with me, I couldn't tell, but it was funny at this point. After a problem free night of street parking I drove the van to the police station, as they provide free camping. They are a bit weird about it, but its free and safe, as I have heard there can be break in problems in Antigua.

They don't make you feel like its something they are necessarily thrilled about, its almost like your inconveniencing them. I would think they would want tourist to come to their city and encounter zero problems, so more would come as word spread Antigua is safe, especially since it's a large campground type of place and I just wanted the parking as "I had a hostel", but if your in Antigua definitely take them up on the offer regardless to how they act about it, its worth the peace of mind to know your things are safe, and is in walking distance of everything if you want to camp there and save some cash.

Fortunately for me, though not for them, my internet friends of were still in town taking care of a few problems with their vehicle. I headed over to a bar that night to meet up with them, so I could stop calling them internet friends as that sounds crazy stalkerish. Now, I had envisioned rolling up with a hot blond or two to show them my level of awesomeness, but instead showed up with some dude from LA. It wasn't that bad though, he was a traveler as opposed to a tourist, and we had been talking about manly things like motorbikes in the hostel, so I didn't mind too much, though I fear ruinedadventures has no idea of my sheer awesomeness now, talk about false advertising. The four of us had a good time over some beers talking about the normal things travelers talk about. My hopes are not high for meeting back up with them but we will see. It took them 5 months to get through Mexico, I think they are already up to 3 months for Guat, and well, you have seen how well I am with scheduling, but who knows. Either way it was great to finally meet the newlyweds, now that is how a honeymoon should be done! They also confirmed the weird attitude of the cops, as they have used the lot on and off over the past few months.

After talking with them about Lake Atitlan and all there was to see there I decided to move onto Honduras, saving Lake Atitlan for the return leg when I had more time. I think the real reason for my hasty departure was what I had spied my first pass through Guat City. Now, It has been about 18 months since I have been back east, and that means 18 months of craving Dunkin Donuts…and would you believe Guat City has one! Well, in I go with a stupid smile on my face like a kid in a candy store. I cant decide what I want as I am a bit overwhelmed. The young girls at the counter love a ****** who speaks "stupid" in Spanish, so I am an instant hit. They drop a few words in English while blushing, and eventually they talk me into getting 6 donuts. I figure that sounds like a great plan as I will have some for the road. Not able to contain myself I sit down to dig in rather than eat them in the car. I must have blacked out from the sugar rush, as the next thing I know I am looking at an empty box and a half drunkin coolata. I had been so excited I posted a pic on facebook of my box of donuts. I then posted an after shot, and was informed by a disgusted friend that it had only took me 8 minutes to devour all 6 of them. Now that's no record, but I had only planned on eating 2 when I sat down. Damn that was good…its going to be a long time before I see one of these places again. Its times like these that remind me why I am traveling in the 1st place.


· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Breakin Attempt No. 1; AKA Welcome to Honduras
Posted on October 23, 2012 by Wiley

Well, the 1st 24 hours in Honduras were relatively pleasant, especially considering the reputation Honduras has, but naturally that would all change soon enough. Land of the corrupt cops, many overlanders fear Honduras, and the only reason they enter it is the fact that it is impossible to drive to the rest of Central America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) without crossing through it. Most trip reports I read consist of people crossing at the infamous El Amitillo border crossing, and making a mad dash to freedom. Now each persons experience is almost always different no matter what border they choose, but this crossing consistently brings about horror stories of corruption and hassles, sometimes paying fees as high as 200-400USD, nowhere near what you should be paying to cross the Honduran border. People seem to put up with this as once crossing here, you can drive across Honduras to the safety of Nicaragua in between 3-5 hours depending on how bad/many police checkpoints there are, limiting the time spent in this savage land. Well, I am awesome, and only fear things like hippies, so I decided to see what Honduras has to offer and headed north for two reasons. One, I don't fear Honduras like the typical ******, and two I have read a few comments about the northern crossing of el Florido being a mellow crossing. Turns out those who want to experience Honduras, rather than believe everything they hear and rush through it, end up often having a great time in this country, with very few problems, if any.

Amped up on a Dunkin Donuts sugar high from Guat City I headed for the el Florido crossing late in the evening. It was dark out, and there was a military checkpoint not far from the crossing, but no one was manning it, they were all standing around on the sides of the road. I had my window down and heard a whistle that sounded like they were trying to flag me over. I continued on not wanting to deal with it knowing I could claim I never heard it and its dark so never saw them…but as predicted no one was up for attempting what would be a futile attempt at chasing down an Astro, they must have known they could never catch me. I arrived at the border around 7:00 pm, well after dark this time of year. I have read the crossing here is a breeze, so the late start in the evening did not bother me. I had not worries of how it would go since I have read others have arrived later at night and were forced to sleep here, with zero problems, so I knew worst case scenario meant a night on van camping in a safe area. The Honduras portion to get your passport stamped is open 24/7 I believe, while I think the vehicle import portion is open till 9pm. Speaking of driving at night, I remember back in my naive days when I said I would drive the speed limits, not pass on solid lines around blind corners, and not drive at night…well those all get broken too many times to count, but I really try and avoid the driving at night, that one is very important. Seriously, I have almost hit at least 4 cows, encountered missing portions of road large enough to swallow the Astro, and in Guatamela while driving at night had to not only deal with tons of people walking the lonely back roads, but also had to deal with hundreds of kids running around carrying torches. Yeah it was bizarre, I think it was some sort of high school cross country thing, but it went on for the entire 2 hour drive from the border to Flores, all driven at night. I asked the guy running the desk (UK tourist) at the hostel in Flores about it, he didn't know. See what I mean, tourists just don't care what is going on around them unless it involves partying in some way. Anyway, I still don't recommend it, but here I was, ready to exit Guatemala after a successful session of night driving.

Copan Ruinas
It began to pour heavy rain as I was finishing up at the border. An older woman had been hanging around and I figured she needed a lift, so I asked the customs guy what the deal was, and he confirmed that if I could take her to Copan it would be a huge help. No problem, I am headed there now. I make room for her, and another guy, luckily skinny, asks if he can get a ride too. Sure, if you can both fit hop in, its miserable out there. We make our way slowly crawling through the rain down towards Copan, and he is asking me if I am going to Copan Ruinas now. Confused, I tell him tomorrow probably, but he doesn't understand. What the hell man, why would I go to the ruins now its pitch black and raining cats and dogs. Turns out the actual town name is Copan Ruinas, so while I was saying I was going to the town tonight, I was telling him I would visit the ruins tomorrow. Eventually he has me let him out on the side of the mountain in the pouring rain. I think he was asking the questions to make sure the woman would be alright, but I hope he didn't get out early thinking I wasn't going into town. I certainly wasn't shocked at his request to get out on the side of a mountain in the middle of the night as it is Central America, nothing is out of the ordinary anymore, and it looked like there may be a house of some sort down the hill nearby. I then headed to the Centro to drop off the woman, who tried to pay me even though I refused. Eventually she said something about me and God and points to the sky in a move she must have picked up from Eli Manning during the Giants‑Pats Super Bowl game, (either one, Eli kicked Bradys *** in both) so maybe Jehovah is cool with me now, we will see if he sends anymore Israeli chicks my way. I stealth camp for the night right in the centro and wake up the next morning to go see some ruins, not exactly thrilled to see them but figure if I am here I cant not go, they are literally within walking distance from the town.

As mentioned I took the 10 minute walk from town to the ruins. The ruins were nice, and are famous for having the longest set of hieroglyphics of all the Mayan ruins, and are built into the stairway of the main temple. They are impressive, but they are also very worn, which is why the tent now covers them. I finish up with the site in an hour so decide to make the drive all the way to La Ceiba, on the coast. You end up taking the road to the ruins and continuing on, so you might as well just drive there and park in the lot if your not hanging out in Copan any longer, though it seems like a cool little town. I know the ferry wont be going to Roatan by the time I arrive but figure if I sleep there I can catch the 9:30am the next morning. Now I mentioned Dunkin Donuts in Guatamela City on my drive the day before, well Honduras has at least 4 of them, what the hell Cali, you cant even get one?? Anyway, I stop to get my fill of donuts in San Pedro, and see it's a pretty good area with a lot of new looking restaurants, with all kinds of fast food choices, my kind oft own, hey you can only eat so many tacos.

It's a very clean city in the part I was in, and there seems to be very attractive girls everywhere. I pull up my lonely planet on the iphone and consider staying here for the night as I am sick of driving. Just an FYI, turns out San Pedro has a crime and gang problem. It also mentions San Pedro is the AIDS capital of Central America, needless to say I grabbed some donuts and hit the road. To follow up with this, I considered staying here after taking the ferry back to mainland, but asked around and was advised it wasn't the best idea. Well, some friends from the island did a quick google search as they were figuring their options out as well, and it turns out San Pedro was named the most violent urban area in the WORLD in 2011. So yeah, skip San Pedro, just to be safe.

La Ceiba
I make it to La Ceiba after a day of driving and decide to crash early as I am a bit tired. Its not a bad city from what I have read, but it's a bit seedy and there are certainly poor people here, as is normal in Honduras, the poorest country in all of Central America. It apparently has a good night life, though I am in no mood to find out. I setup shop under a street lamp just off the main drag, but within maybe 30 feet of it, so basically on the main street. I have mentioned I don't mind sleeping in my van when its not too hot as I feel my things are safer, though I also have no problem leaving it behind to stay in a hotel or hostel. If the van, and all contents get stolen, well its just a van, mentally I am prepared for that. If I wasn't, there is no way I could leave it behind and enjoy myself, I would be busy stressing out about my things. So back in the van tonight, I am reading a bit of the Lonely Planet trying to figure out which island to go to, Utila or Roatan, as I have not had any time to catch up on reading/planning. Suddenly I hear some scratching on the side of the van, which is somewhat normal when I am in there. I figure someone is walking by and being careless as people are always walking into my car while I am in it unbeknownst to them. After 10 seconds its clear that this is no normal passing, so I give it 5 more seconds, and realize someone's trying to jimmy their way into the Astro. Ok, shit just got real, its on! I jump up, throw down my iphone, punch the window where the noise is coming from with a closed fist and rip down the curtain. I hear a scream followed by "ok, ok" and see some douchbag in a white and black striped shirt scrambling to his bike. Luckily my van is covered in curtains so there is no way I can drive, cause I immediately jump into the drivers seat and start the van, ready to run this bitch over. Now I don't want to kill him, I am thinking a nice love tap, enough to break a few bones and make him rethink his Iife of crime. I relax for a second and realize he is now gone and was just looking for an easy target. I look at the clock and somewhat shocked realize its only 7:45 (pretty much 24hrs since entering Honduras) in the evening, though again its pitch black by this time though im illuminated under the street lamp, pretty ballsy if you ask me.

For several days I have been telling myself I need to find the knife I packed away back in the Yucatan just in case something did happen, and now make a mental note that tomorrow morning that is the first thing on my to do list. Just two days ago during my visit with RuinedAdventures, we had discussed how we prefer being in the vehicle for this very reason, so we know our stuff is secure. We figured a kick to the face would deter any would be thief who was most likely just looking for an easy opportunity. I wish he had gotten his face in so I could have verified that, but am glad I was in fact in the vehicle, so nothing was taken, and of course that he gave up so easily. I think next time I will rip down the back and front window covers instead, so I can drive away (or at a bitch) if needed. I didn't have time to think and pulled the one on the sliding door side down so I could see him and what he was doing, knowing he wouldnt be able to see me due to the tint. I will also try and not throw my iphone in the heat of the moment, as it took me a solid 30 minutes to find it in the mess of my van.

Forgetting all about the Lonely Planet I find a hotel with some secure parking, as I don't need a repeat of this later tonight, and rest up knowing the van is safe for at least one more night. While I know my mom doesn't like to hear this kind of story, I think its great. It could have happened anywhere, to anyone, so you cant take it personal, its just another story for the books. Seriously, who wants to just keep reading about me sitting on a beach enjoying myself, sometimes a little adventure is a good thing.

Roatan Island
Speaking of sitting on a beach enjoying myself, the next morning I head off to Roatan which supposedly has a bit better animal life in the reefs than Utila, leaving my van at the terminal which is supposed to be safe, we shall see. I pay about 28 USD for the one way pass and jump on the ferry, where I resume my Lonely Planet reading and see Roatan is for Tourists, while Utila is more for backpackers….son of a bitch! It also says that unlike Utila, the toursists and locals don't really mix on Roatan, uh can we turn this boat around? Roatan is slightly more expensive, but both islands are pretty similar regarding prices as they are both more expensive than the mainland. Roatan does not have the whale sharks that Utila has, and while I saw them in Cancun I was hoping for more as they are supposedly even larger here. Turns out its very dead on Roatan this time of year, and it looks like Coconut Tree Diving school is the only one that really has any people, plus it comes highly recommended, so that is where I go. It costs 280 for the open water course, 35 for the book, 10 bucks for something about saving the reef, and I get a dorm room for 5 bucks a night since I am diving with them, as opposed to the 50 dollar a night cabin I was offered elsewhere. So for just over 300 dollars you can get the open water certification, in one of the best places to do it on Earth. The 1sttwo nights had 2 other guys in it, but the rest of my stay with the exception of 2 other nights I have it to myself, and it has AC…not bad. I don't particularly like Roatan, but I don't dislike it either, and the diving was great. I had been hoping to share my diving experience with a boatload of hot chicks, but once again it was myself and my instructor Marco, for some one on one romantic diving. Diving is kind of weird since you cant talk under water, there is a lot of fist bumping, some high fives, ok signals, a lot of underwater bro time….where is that boatload of girls? I suppose one on one was the best way to get my money's worth, and Marco was an awesome instructor. The water was nice and warm, we had 80 Ft visibility, saw a ton of giant turtles, one of which swam with my guide and I for 5 or so minutes, saw a 4 Ft moray eel which was kinda sketchy as hell, a couple octopus, and hundreds, if not thousands of fish. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium, except this is the ocean. The people at Coconut tree were all nice, but certainly a different breed than I am. It was like hanging out with Captain Ron and his buddies, as they sat around trading diving stories. I wasn't very social on this island, but they did lure me out a few times while I was there, and it turns out they were all really good people, and I can see why people go back time and time again.

There was also a big to do on Roatan as the paving of the main stretch of road here, about a quarter mile or so, was just being completed. Now originally I was going to head out after 3-4 days whatever it took to get my open water SCUBA certification, but was informed there was a festival in celebration of the road on Saturday, which would include the President of Honduras. A road paving party, now that sounds like something I should stick around for. I remember sitting home back in college one morning with my roomates as we contemplated taking the day off when some geese flew by the window. Now Canadian geese in Buffalo is an extremely rare event (heavy sarcasm here), so we immediately called it and made it an official goose day, which following tradition involved a lot of beer pong. But even we had never experienced a road paving party…I was pumped. So pumped that I decided to hangout with the diving crew Friday night, which led me to being extremely hung over on Saturday, which also meant I missed the President of Honduras and the festivities that afternoon. Luckily the festivities turned out to not be all they were cracked up to be, but I was hoping to get a pic with the President to put on my "wall of pics with myself and famous people", since it is currently a wall painted white, with nothing on it at the moment. Eventually 3-4 days turned into 18, even though I didn't really like the island I just couldn't get off. I always find it pretty difficult to get off these damn islands, my life is so hard. After the road paving party I was ready to take the 7am ferry, which meant I had to be up at 6. Well, I woke up at 3am, and couldn't go back to sleep. Not wanting to drive all day after 3 hours of sleep I decided to skip the ferry. Since I was still on the Island I decided to grab my advanced open water certification as well, as this would enable me to see more dive sites on the trip if I decide to, as open water limits you to 60 feet, where advanced gets you down to a max of 130. After that went down I got some food poising from the street food, so ended up on that island much longer than I originally wanted.

On the advanced dives I had a partner to go with, and a chick instructor…who was much better looking than my male instructor. Her looks were not the only reason I would have liked some one on one instruction, turns out my partner was pretty awful at scuba diving. I picked up the diving pretty easily, and Marco had previously mentioned that I was really good and hoped I would stick with SCUBA diving. I figured he said this to everyone on these one on one romantic adventures, but once I saw this guy I immediately understood. I guess some people get it, and others struggle, cause even the simplest tasks were tough for him. He was also an air hog, a term the chick instructor openly called him, so I am not even being mean. He had to use a larger tank than what most people used, and even then our dives were always cut short, which was unfortunate as I always had plenty of air. We did a deep wreck dive, which was at 110 feet, and that alone means your air will go faster. The wreck was cool, a giant shipping freighter of some sort that had been intentionally sunk in the 90s, and later broken into 3 pieces by hurricane Mitch, one of the few hurricanes the island has ever had to deal with. The site was also home to giant 4-5 foot grouper which would come right up to you and hang out or follow you, hoping you had some food for them. Well there were two groups doing the wreck dive, and my group had to surface about 10 minutes earlier as one of us was once again low on air.

The other group got to see some more moray ells, which I would have liked to see again even if they are weird. Luckily the terrible diver was a nice guy and meant well, so it wasn't a problem. He also provided some great entertainment during the buoyancy dive, were we practiced our skills going through hoops, and floating in place. While I lightly touched the hoops a few times with my flippers, something that pissed me off as I thought I would have no problem with them, the task were fairly easy. Well, this guy didn't just touch the hoops, he constantly hit them, and at one point ended up wearing a hoop around his neck and swimming about 30 feet up before he even realized it. Seriously, even if he wasn't wearing the hoop, there was no reason he should have been 30 feet above where we were. It was pretty funny to see my instructor doubled over in what was obviously laughter while under water.

One of the other advanced dives consisted of a night dive, which provided a different perspective and allowed us to see animals that are normally not present in the day. As a wanna be surfer I am fairly comfortable in the ocean, but why would anyone go down there at night, with nothing more than a couple flashlights to fend off any sea beasts? This is where I got to see the 2 octopus, and watching them change colors to blend into the rocks was amazing, so certainly worth risking life and limb for. Just when I thought this wasn't such a bad idea after all, it was then time for us all to turn off our flashlights, and swim around in the dark ocean at night. Wait what, are you trying to have sharks mistake us for gourmet meals, if I am going to get eaten I would like to at least see it coming. Well we shut them off so we could play in the phosphorescent green stuff, which was pretty cool as well, and it turns out there were no sharks. The night dive was fun, though due to the lack of visibility I don't know that I will do another night dive, its differnt, but you don't see as much.

So after doing dangerous things like diving at night, I decided it was time to smarten and play it safe. In typical fashion this meant signing up for the shark dive, yup, cause I am awesome. The shark dive is a bit expensive at 100 dollars, as well as an additional 20 dollar round trip cab ride. Had I known, I would have taken a colectivo or a cab from just outside West End, as prices are inflated greatly from here, especially when they know your doing the shark dive. Turns out the shark dive leaves from Coxen Hole, which should only be 5 or so dollars in a cab, max. Get in a cab and tell them to take you to Woods medical Facility, the shark dive operates out of the hotel literally across the building from it. Anyway, due to the food poisoning I didn't get to go with a couple I had met from coconut tree as we had originally planned, so headed over alone once I was back to normal. I was with 6 other random people, and the dive was awesome. I wasn't necessarily sold on SCUBA diving, its cool, you see neat shit, but its something to do occasionally. Well, if I could dive with sharks every day I probably would. There are Reef Sharks which live about 2 miles off the island, on the edge of a ledge which drops into some deep dark abyss. Reef Sharks are not very dangerous, I think there have only been about 30 attacks since 2008 worldwide, so what could go wrong? They have a bucket with fish closed off, so that the sharks spend 20-30 minutes getting all worked up looking for an alternative snack in their impatience, namely SCUBA divers. There was probably 30 sharks, though it seemed like 50 as they swim at you, over you, just past your head from behind…whoa where did he come from? You sit along a reef wall so they stay relatively in front of you, and I mean a 2-3 feet in front of you. Depending on the current the guide said you can swim with them, well the current was right so he signaled we could leave the protection of the wall and we all proceeded to swim along side the sharks, which means they are now coming from every direction. There was an instance or two where a shark and I would be heading at each other in a winner take all game of chicken. I admit, I lost every time and stopped in place, not sure if it was better to move or not, I figured I would let him decide my fate instead. After 30 minutes or so they opened the bucket of food and the sharks devoured it, at which point they left…mostly. 3 or 4 hung around after, I figured they were still hungry so kept my eyes on them, hoping to throw one of the chicks in the way if they came our way, hey survival of the fittest!

Oh one last thing, every speaks English here, something else I am not a fan of. The first woman I talked to about a room told me "relax, you are on the island now, everyone speaks English". I told her I need the practice, and she said most people, including her, don't even like speaking Spanish. I should have gone to Utila!

Like Jesus, I can walk on water

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Turns out it's harder to kick someone in the face than I thought
Posted on November 10, 2012 by Wiley

As mentioned it was a mad dash through Central America, one which turned out to be even quicker due to a last minute plane ticket home, to see the family one more time before jumping the gap. To the surfers, I apologize for the lack of surf content. For one thing, when there were waves, I was in the water rather than taking pics of them, I am sure you can understand. Second, as you can guess, there are no secret spots left in this modern world. I hope to get pics of beautiful beaches with waves, but wont be saying where they are aside from which country, you can find that info all over the internet. There have been countless beaches that were empty, but just as many ruined by one or more resort complexes or giant ****** homes. Central America is full of surf, so if your looking for a surf trip my best advice is to go out there yourself, don't worry you will find it. I also didn't do much surfing due to the revised schedule, knowing I will be back to focus on it more later. Of course I plan on Surfing in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chili, and possibly Brazil so don't worry, there should be more to come. There is a lot more to see down here than just waves, so it was a tough line to walk on when to stay near the beaches and when to head inland.

Back to the traveling, I stopped in Both Grenada and Leon, two cities in Nicaragua that people seem to love. I could once again take them or leave them. They were nice enough, and due to the rush I didn't have time to stop and take a step back to really get a feel for them, but once again they didn't have the Central American feel I was looking for, though I will be back to give them a second chance. With Grenada especially, it is clear that there are two distinct parts of Grenada, the touristy section that they want you to see, and the real, poorer Grenada on the outskrits, almost banished in shame. Once again it seems these are cities "tourists" like, as opposed to travelers. They come in, see a nice section and say they were there when they fly back home.

I then proceeded to Costa Rica, where I spent a full day of driving through the country to setup outside of the border, ready to cross in to Panama the following day. I am sure Costa Rica is great, and there is that surf stuff down there as well, so I will give it a chance…another time. Even in Panama I only spent one day surfing, followed by another day of beach camping, before heading to Panama City, where I would end up spending more time than I really wanted to.

Playa Tela
This beach I am naming for a reason. As I was flying home before heading to South America I wanted to be near Panama City as the flight date approached to make sure there were no problems making it, as delays are inevitable in Central America. Playa Tela is a beach break located about an hour outside of Panama City. Popular with the locals due to its ease of accessibility, and the somewhat consistent surf, I headed that way 1stbefore seeing if I would need a more isolated beach. I found the turnoff and followed the dirt road to the end where I came out onto the beach, with no people, or waves, in sight, sigh. I had decided I was camping here regardless so parked along the side of a natural rock wall and walked out to get my surroundings. This beach is another example of what I hate seeing, as there are several enormous new houses along the beach, most likely built by rich gringos from countries north of Panama. I am one of those people who would love to see only locals being able to own land or homes, but what can I say money talks. Usually people sell the land because they need the money, then rich gringos or resorts move in, and drive the prices up, forcing the rest of the locals out, ruining it for just about everyone.

Turned out there was one other guy tent camping just around the corner, with a board leaning against the nearby tree. He was relaxing in his hammock for an afternoon siesta, so I decided I would wait till later to head over and get the lowdown on the area. Some cops then immediately showed up, so I verified this was in fact Playa Tela, as there are several beaches in this immediate area. Once they left I took advantage of the solitude and did some quick Astro maintenance greasing the zirks. No I have not gotten too intimate during all this time alone with my van, that is what it is actually called. Later during the day a family with Cali plates rolled up and hit the water, hungry for any scraps they could find. Being a polite surfer I gave them 45 minutes before making my way out as well, as I had been waiting here all day to get some waves of my own after all, and there was more than enough room for everyone. I said hello and mentioned the Cali plates. They had moved down to Panama just two weeks ago, so didn't have a whole lot of info on the area, but seemed excited to be in the area. We shared some mediocre waves, and eventually they went in. I decided to stick it out, as it had been way to long since I had really surfed, and just getting out there always seems to make it worthwhile, regardless of the session itself. A person here or there would show up and surf for a bit, and then leave, but overall I had the waves to myself, and the tide finally cooperated. I don't know why no one came back out, but I had the best waves of the day to myself while others stood watching from the shore, they were probably intimidated due to my awesomeness out there. Now that's my kind of day!

I eventually came back in and tried to talk to the guy in the tent rather unsuccessfully, but he told me there were 3 of them, and one of his friends spoke English. Turns out his friend had lived in the same place as where I spent some time living north of San Diego, and mentioned he couldn't go out as he forgot his leash. Hello sir, have you seen my van overloaded with way too much crap, I have a leash, and possibly can throw in a microwave and airplane for free, who knows whats really in there. Even though my arms were tired, he immediately talked me into heading back out for a sunset session. I tried to convince myself 25 years old was still young and mentally prepared myself to head back out. As I am heading back to the van to grab the extra leash he warns me that Playa Tela has a bit of a smash and grab problem, where the young locals are breaking into the vehicles here, so I should park where I can see my vehicle from the water. I continue around the corner to my van and see too young guys hanging around the Astro. They are not right by the van, but also not where anyone would hangout for a day at the beach, so decide I had better head his advice and move. Its quite possible that they were just there not causing any problems, but I got a bad vibe from them after hearing the smash and grab news, and wasn't taking any chances. They then left around the same time I moved, so its also probable they were up to no good. Either way I enjoyed some more waves even though it was getting dangerously dark out. I was slightly bummed as I paddled in and noticed the pile of firewood I had gathered before moving my van was now blazing, as someone had helped themselves to it. At least it was a good fire. We stood around talking for a bit and suddenly the skies opened up and we all retreated to our shelters for the night, so it would not have mattered anyway as that fire went out quickly, and the people took off to escape the rain.

It had gotten dark early, and after about an hour of rain it finally let up around 8:30. I hear a knock on the window but cannot see out my windows, so roll them down to find one of the guys who only spoke Spanish from my new Panamanian group. This guy is pretty small, and soaked to the bone. He is asking for a ride to the store but I figure he just needs a tarp or tent, but we still cannot connect on exactly what he needs so I tell him to get his friend. Why they sent him is beyond me, but at least it forced more Spanish on me. I am also not sure why they waited in the rain an hour before stopping by. While he is off getting his English speaking friend I jump out and open up my never ending back of stuff to pull out the tarp, as I am sure that is what he is looking for. Seriously, if I keep digging I am pretty sure I can find the entrance to Narnia somewhere in my van. The other guy shows up equally soaking wet, does in fact need a tarp, and I once again save the day. I throw them a towel I have and wish them luck on what has to be a terrible night ahead for them. I get back in the van, crack the front windows, and open the side windows that open outward as its getting real hot without the rain. The only thing within reach are my board shorts and rash guard hanging to dry so I don't mind opening these windows, as the threat of theft is low. I then pass out to the sound of waves crashing, is there any better sound?

I wake up the next morning to a different, though familiar sound, almost like foil flapping in the breeze. The reflectix curtains I use are made from a foil like material, so with the windows open they blow around a bit and often wake me. Probably due to the smash and grab story in the back of my mind I awake from a deep sleep and lift my head to look over, even though I usually hear this sound and just roll over to continue my sleep. I see a young guy probably about 15, with his face up in the small opening the side windows provide, with his hand halfway in my van pushing the reflectix to the side. He freezes for a moment, and I whip my leg up into the air, and extend it fully connecting with his face knocking him back to the ground in his own pool of blood. Well, that is what I pictured doing in this scenario anyway. Instead I hesitate not sure if its the small Panamanian friend in case he is looking for a dawn patrol partner, as my vision is still a bit blurry while I come to my senses. The clearance from my bed to the roof is somewhat cramped to begin with, so any chance of extending my leg into this would be thief's face is pretty low. Add that to the fact that I am a bit sore from too much surfing, and this guy could have had a sweet rash guard. Instead we lock eyes for a brief moment, and he suddenly puts his head down, turns and breaks off into a sprint. Not that easy I think, and yell out "Fuck off bitch!" Yeah I showed him, I am so clever 1st thing in the morning.

At that point I am up, go about my normal morning routine, and eventually the Panamanians get up and come hangout. We discuss going to another beach as this one is flat again, and don't think it will pick up until at least 4 in the afternoon. I like this plan, but we sit around anyway as its getting hot and we have the awning providing some much needed shade. Just then we see a mini cooper with tinted windows coming down the dirt road to the beach. A chick is driving, and like a fortune teller I am hit with a vision, and instantly know she is going to get stuck, yup I got skillz. Before she hits the sand I say "we should probably go help her, but none of the guys move". For some reason that no male driver could ever understand, she pulls onto the beach and drives along the rock wall, then backs up to turn around , backs around, and then tries to pull forward, digging herself deeper and deeper into the sand. She then jumps out, and hold on, this chick is pretty attractive, and not wearing very much for clothing. She grabs a stick to put under the tire, and while its clear this will accomplish nothing, I have to commend the idea as she is on the right track. Next the other doors of the mini open and like a clown car 4 more super attractive girls pile out. Suddenly I am not the only one thinking these girls need help, and my Panamanian friends stop watching and finally get up to help. Of course by then its almost too late, as 2 cops show up out of nowhere, as well as some random dude to help free these girls from the sand. I am pretty sure we were the only ones on the beach a minute ago, but you get a group of hot girls in bikinis in distress and people come out of the woodwork I guess. While still an idiot, maybe she is smarter than I thought, as she clearly will never have a problem getting stuck on a beach assuming she normally dresses like she is. The mini is freed easily, and since I have lost all confidence in my Spanish skills from the 2 Panamanians that cant talk to me, I foolishly let them do most of the talking.

Basically all I get from the convo is that they are local, 4 Panamanians and a Venezuelan. Well once again I am reminded I NEED to learn to speak Spanish as letting those guys do the talking ends up being a huge mistake. I don't know what they said, but whatever it was did not impress these girls. After thanking us they wander off wanting nothing to do with them. At least that works out for you, as we can chalk this up to another failure story to share. With no hope of getting to know these girls I am forced to take a stalker pic for the good of the blog as that was the best I could do. Hey I didn't want to, but I have to keep my fans happy.

Later in the day everyone took off and it began to rain again, so I made a run to the store for some food. I came back expecting to do one more night of beach camping, but as I was driving back to the beach I find a parked taxi car that was not there when I left. In the hour or so since I had left this guy parked his car and headed down to the beach. Unfortunately when he returns he is going to be met with the same sight I saw, the shattered glass of a smashed window. I obviously decide that this place has to many petty theft problems and head out to find somewhere else to sleep for the night. Obviously this can happen anywhere, but I would avoid this beach, it just isn't worth the risk, especially for the average waves I saw.

Panama City
A day or so later I headed off to Panama City, which after months of relatively empty roads left me sitting in hours and hours of traffic. There is construction everywhere, and no matter what I did I found myself behind the wheel, mind wandering back to the beaches or deserts free of this madness. Luckily I wouldn't be here long, I just needed to catch a flight home to visit family before I jumped the gap. Of course the week earlier I had called and asked my family what their Thanksgiving plans were, as I figured this would be a great time to go home and see everyone at once, as well as working with my loose schedule allowing me to return to Panama and focus on the daunting task of shipping the van to Colombia, as you should know by now you cannot drive from Panama to Colombia, you must ship your vehicle across. I purchased my tickets and sent them the itinerary so they could pick me up. My mother then informed me that the tickets were for next week. Yeah, that's right, I want to come home for thanksgiving before I go to Colombia, we just discussed this, man old people cannot remember anything. Well, turns out thanksgiving is in Nov. this year, not Oct! I told you I had no concept of time anymore, and considering my birthday is 2 weeks before thanksgiving you would think I would know where it falls by now. Luckily as I am the favorite sibling, this just meant everyone would drop everything and an early thanksgiving dinner would be had in my honor. We had turkey, stuffing, a large variety of vegetables, an apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip pie, key lime pie, rhubarb pie, chocolate pudding pie, cookies, a chocolate cake, and I am sure I forgot something else…(Giant Inhale of air) whoo I feel like Bubba Gump. All proof that I am the favorite kid. It was great seeing the family, and my mix up with scheduling worked to my advantage as I got to go home during fall rather than the cold cold northeast winter upstate NY provides in late November, though I was delayed from the hurricane, but eventually made it out. As I write this they are now being hit by a nor'easter, if you don't know what that is consider yourself lucky!
After being delayed several days due to the Hurricane, I finally arrive back in Panama to find myself in more traffic. Son of a Bitch! It isn't consistent, some days its awful, other days there is hardly any. Today though, it is awful. Just so you know I am not bitching, on a weekday it took me 10 minutes to drive somewhere in the city from where I was staying, and 1 hr and 30 minutes to get back during rush hour (7-8:30 pm), and that is no exaggeration. Anyway no matter where I turned the main roads are closed,I am forced up one way streets going away from where I want to be, and quickly going nowhere fast in the stop and go traffic as cars cut in and out of lanes with no regard for each other. Luckily every once in awhile someone realizes that everyone is probably just not paying attention, so they lay on the horn for 30-60 seconds to politely tell people to go, even though there is nowhere to actually go. Thanks buddy, it almost worked, maybe you should hold it longer next time! Eventually I realize there is going to be a parade, not sure why but it is Saturday in Central America and sometimes that is reason enough. I crawl back towards the Casco Viejo, a touristy part of town that is nice, though immediately next to a rather rough area of Panama City. There is a lot of restoration going on there, so construction equipment is everywhere and I previously learned I would not be parking in that area as its currently a zoo (of course that was a Saturday the day I tried as well so it may be ok on other days I didn't try again, it sucked that much). I somehow find a spot to park somewhat near the area and not too close to the slums, and walk towards the action. Turns out it is Panamas Independence day, so everyone is ready to party. See, these bonuses happen all the time if you stay down here long enough, I had no idea what I was going to do all day, so Panama City provided the answer for me. The parade was actually pretty good, the bands really got into it, as did many of the people who lined the streets. At one point there was a group of drummers who rocked, though they really got intimate with their drums which gave me flashbacks to the Astro getting dry humped by the military, something I had hoped to block out. They also threw the drums up in the air and caught them. Things really started heating up so one guy decided to use the shoulder strap to almost hula hoop the drum around his neck several times, until it finally flew off his head into the crowd, both hitting a spectator and denting the drum in true Central American fashion.

The next day was Flag Day, so the roads were again shut down for parades, which seemed a bit excessive to me, I mean how many parades can you go to in a row? I now know how Bill Murray feels in Groundhogs Day.

I will save the shipping information for the next post, but figured a good drug story should be told here as many wont need to read the shipping post. Naturally I am sure this is butchered, but this was the gist of it. I met a couple from Europe during the shipping process, who had flown to Toronto to purchase their vehicle for the trip and head South. Somewhere in Belize I believe, they started having some sort of electrical problem so the guy checked the fuses. When those were fine he decided to follow the wires and see if any were loose, or if he could find additional fuses. While running his hand under the dash he was surprised as a large brick of powder fell from the dash. As you can imagine this got his heart racing and they did not know what to do. They knew someone in the police force back home and sent him a picture asking for help. Their friend finally got back them that they had a brick of heroine or cocaine, and they should probably contact the embassy. They asked the embassy what to do, and if they should bring it to them. The embassy did NOT want that, and not wanting to keep this on them in a foreign county they then eventually did what any smart person would do and ditched the brick, hoping to avoid becoming stars on the locked up abroad show. They informed the embassy that they no longer had the brick, and arranged to have their car searched with dogs and endoscopic cameras to make sure that was all that was left, which of course was not, as yet another brick was found! Again this car was purchased in Canada, so not only did they smuggle drugs into the US, the smuggled drugs out of the US as well, don't even get me started on the wasted money of this "War on Drugs".


· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Batten Down the Hatches, Im Turning 25!
Posted on December 7, 2012 by Wiley

Panamato Colombia
A quarter century on this planet, what better way to celebrate turning 25 than relaxing on the beautiful islands of San Blas while sailing from Panama to Colombia. Thats right, sailing…cause only bitches fly. I had previously considered sailing from Panama to Colombia but also read horror stories of delayed boats, terrible weather, and problems getting to Cartagena once actually in Colombia. This would really F' up the scheduling with shipping the van across the gap as I had to be in Colombia by Tuesday to start the process, so initially I wrote this plan off. My container partners mentioned they were thinking of sailing to the islands, and then returning to Panama to then fly to Colombia rather than risk the notoriously rough seas the passage is known for, and asked if I was interested. I entertained the idea of joining them to see the islands, but figured I would just fly to Colombia ahead of them rather than be a third wheel, though the sailing seed was still in the back of my mind. After giving it some more thought and a little time on google I decided I was all in on my original plan, and would sail from Panama to Colombia. I told them about my plan which included a larger ship, and they decided that they would join me. We would sail on "The Independence", a boat which had good reviews, good food, and less problems with seasickness due to its larger size of 85 feet…though she would take down 2 of our female passengers temporarily. Of course one of them was my shipping partner…sorry! This boat also dropped us off right in the Cartagena harbor, all while taking care of our exit stamps from Panama as well as the entrance stamps into Colombia, an added bonus after the border processes I am used to.

San Blas Islands, Panama
Naturally it would begin with the normal disorganization that Central America provides. I booked the ship online paying a 50USD deposit, and booked the 4x4jeep/boat combo required to get there through Lunas Castle hostel. They required a 5 dollar deposit to book the jeep, I believe the 4×4 is supposed to be 25 through them, but I never got it back as I forgot and payed 25USD to the office later on. I am not sure if I was mistaken on the price or they gypped me, but either way it was 30USD for me, waaah. The jeep was scheduled to leave at 5:30 in the morning, and I was warned not to go in the jeep with 2 girls as there were several jeeps headed headed out that morning. I get down at 5:30 and rather than 2 girls there is a guy and girl packing their things in a jeep so I assume its my jeep, give the driver my name and he tells me to throw my stuff in. Naturally this was not the jeep I was supposed to take, and the other guy was also not supposed to be in it, but eventually it got sorted out, but the drivers have no clue what is going on. We watched the girls jeep depart right at 5:30, while we sat outside and waiting for our jeep to show…finally leaving at 6:30. It was clear that they had paid more than we had due to their prompt departure, but even that would get them in the end as they never stopped at an ATM and had to have the awkward conversation with the captain in the middle of the Caribbean Sea on why they couldnt pay. The jeep took us to pay the remaining 25USD at the office, hit up an ATM, and grab the all important booze, and the less important food for the ship. We then paid 6 USD to enter the Kuna territory, and another 5USD for a tax and boat fee to get us to the ship…so total it cost 41USD for transportation. Later on the ship I paid 450USD, so that, with the previous deposit plus the 41 from above put the total trip at 541USD. Thats a deal when you consider what it costs to visit the Islands for a couple days (roughly 70USD round trip for jeep and boats), stay on them for 3 nights (Hostals start at 20USD a night and skyrocketed from there depending on island), and then fly to Cartegena (about 350USD for a last minute flight)…so I would say if you have the time sailing is the only way to go. I found out ruinedadventures later took the same boat, and it had twice the amount people on board, which would have been terrible.

We arrived at the ship around 11:30, two hours after we were supposed to be there. The South African and I were greeted by captain, "Michele", who immediately complains to us about the driver and our lateness, as he could have set sail hours ago and we could be swimming right now. Ok buddy, I dont care about any of that as none of it concerns me, just let me on the boat already, I am the one who had to get up at the crack of dawn and deal with 6 hours of travel after being told it would take 3, not you. We are introduced to the rest of the group, 13 of us, plus the 4 crew members, and then set sail…er, motor. Turns out, at least going to Colombia that you motor your way across, there may be more sailing when going the other direction.

The 1st three days are traveling around island hopping, where every place you drop anchor is a postcard in the making. This area is full of treacherous coral reefs, which is evident by the many grounded boats that were not so lucky on their trips. The reefs also provide protection from the elements, so the waters are usually calm, and provide some decent snorkeling. Then after a few days of fun, you set out across the Caribbean Sea, usually into the wind which requires a combo of sails and the motor, and often is a very unpleasant ride. We motored the whole way, using the sails when we could for added stability, and it turns out we had very good conditions. I talked to someone once I was in Colombia whos engine broke and they were forced to sail the entire way which was described as horribly slow, so I am glad we had the motor. Another group said that they came in the previous week, and the weather was so bad their boat, as well as several others, could not complete the trip and were forced to let them off wherever they were on land and find their own way to Cartagena, costing them more time and money, ouch.

The food was good, the boat was decent enough, and the group was awesome. We would sail for a few hours, and then stop and setup shop by any number of picturesque islands. Then we would snorkel, swim, explore the small islands, or just hang around relaxing on the boat. The first night we all went to the island with a bar, where we were the only ones there. We made it fun, but it wasnt quite the rager the captain had led us to believe. The two elderly Ecuadorian brothers who were riding their motorcycles from the US to Equator provided some great drunken entertainment. Sadly they burnt themselves out and spent the rest of the journey sleeping in chairs on the boat. The second night was similar, where we were let off on a different island for a bonfire and some drinking. The third day we stopped at another island and did some "shopping" for tourists stuff at a small kiosk in the middle of nowhere selling bracelets, and then some beach yoga from one of the Canadian hippies on the boat. The very first thing we were told was to center ourselves with the earth. You know how I feel about hippies, so at that point I let out a manly laugh which in Canadian apparently translates to giggle, but then shit got real and I was quite the rest of the time, focusing on some difficult moves. Turns out I am a natural and my form was perfect, I even levitated for a bit, and I'm pretty sure I went invisible but my eyes were closed so cannot be sure That night we actually set sail instead of staying at the island, so really we lost a night as we were told it was a 4 night 5 day trip. I am pretty sure the captain just didnt want to sail the last night to Cartagena, as he made it a point to tell us we were lucky to sleep in the harbor and be rested for the next day. I didnt mind as this gave me time to settle into Cartagena on Monday knowing the hellish shipping process would restart Tuesday, but we certainly felt we were getting the short end of the deal. Realistically we would have slept through the night regardless to in the harbor or at sea, so he was the only one benefiting from this.

I suppose most people stuck on a boat together for that long will become close, but I am sure at the same time there are always a few who can easily ruin it. Either way, everyone on our boat was great, and by the time it was over 9 of the original 13 had decided to stay together in the same hostel within the walled city in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena. You know how I feel about touristy things, they even talked me into going to the mud volcano, which I would have skipped but ended up being pretty fun. We saw the sights, did some more drinking, and eventually went our separate ways. Once again I was the last out of here, my pace just doesnt line up with most travelers, though part of that was also being worn out after the shipping nonsense, and just wanting to do nothing for a bit, which I am getting pretty good at. After they all left I fell in with another group of "sailors" who had completed the trip. Maybe I was biased but as I observed them I came to the conclusion that while they enjoyed their trip, they didnt quite seem to have the "family" vibe that we left with. One of their crew members came out with them though, who was smoking hot. If you have been on her boat you already know who I am talking about. I enjoyed our crew members, they were really cool and the 1st night joined the South African and I for some rum and Spanish/English lessons when everyone else had gone to bed, but those guys had nothing on her. Regardless, I think we got pretty lucky with our group, and everything about the trip made sailing from Panama to Colombia the easy choice. Hmm, you know how much farther I could make it in a boat? If any of you rich old bastards who are hanging onto life by a thread want to live vicariously through me and donate your boat, shoot me an email…otherwise its back to the van!


· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Colombia, where are the kidnappings, bombs, and murders??
Posted on December 16, 2012 by Wiley

People thought I was nuts when I said I was going to drive through Mexico, and fucking crazy for going to Colombia. Yes its true, back in the day, from the 90's and early 2000's, there was a pretty significant safety problem in Colombia. And yes it is true that there still are areas where safety is a problem. Take Cali for example, it is a relatively safe, fun city, yet just last year in 2011 there were bombings and kidnappings, and recent a bombing in Bogota of May 2012. Now I havent made it down there yet, but as its on my list I wont be skipping it, so I suppose you will get the real low down later, but for what I have seen of Colombia so far, it is just what everyone else who has been here describes it as, amazing. The country is beautiful, and the people are very friendly and love life…I suppose that living through a period of terror will make you appreciate things others take for granted.

Cartagena, Colombia
Finally free from the ship the Independence crew got dropped off in the harbor and we all headed to the aduana, where eventually we were given our stamped passports, no paperwork, no nothing! While most stayed there are the aduana, the two Canadian girls, the Swiss girl, and I went off to find an ATM and get some money, as they had to pay up their tab. Warning, ATMs in Colombia are a bit problematic. We eventually tried four different ATMs, I think I went 2/4, the Swiss girl could only get 150USD worth of Colombian pesos, and the Canadians couldnt get anything. My shipping partners later also head problems getting money, its actually quite a pain here. Most limit you to 150USD, but let you withdraw 3 times, hitting you for 3x the service charges, if they work at all. There is a citibank in Cartagena a few blocks from calle Media Luna where the hostels are, where we later found we could get at least 500USD which worked for me every time, so just ask where that one is and dont bother messing with the others.

I already mentioned we hung out for a bit in Cartagena, walking the streets of the walled city, where every corner reveals another picturesque setting. The city has a great feel to it, but I quickly realized that its pretty small, and can be seen in a day or so. Later I was even convinced to go to the tourist trap mud volcano. It was actually fun, a unique experience, has a consistency of yogurt, and tastes disgusting. I decided if I was going to do it I was going all in, dunking my hair and covering my face predator style, which resulted in me going blind for 5 minutes until one of the workers came to my rescue, as well as getting it in my mouth and forcing me to taste the mud continuously through out the experience whether I wanted to or not.

I missed out on some other fun as the shipping process had begun, but made sure not to miss everyones bon voyage party as the rest of the group was leaving on the same day, coincidentally the day I was supposed to get my van (of course we didnt get it when planned). This meant partying till 3-3:30 in the morning, and waking up at 6am to head to the port, for a 12 hour day of nonsense. That means at most I had 3 hours of sleep, I cant quite say exactly what time it was that I went to bed, but can assure you I woke up at 6 am, unfortunately I do not recommend doing this. I repeat, I do not recommend doing this….oh my god, what a terrible day. The worst part was I barely did anything all day, the lady wouldn't let me into the port even though I read that both owners of the vehicles could go in. She probably saw that I would be absolutely useless, but I would have rather been roughing it doing car stuff than watching the grass grow outside for hours upon hours not knowing what was happening. Eventually we defeated the evil port bastards and got our homes back…never have I been so happy to be living in a van again.

With everyone gone headed south I was a bit lost as to what to do. At the same time I was busy enjoying my AC room so stuck around Cartagena for another week, which is way to long for that place as far as I am concerned. Cartagena is extremely humid, but its is also a good time, and I made a few group of friends as people passed through in that time, as most people seem to stay for about 2-3 days. One night the new boat crew I mentioned in the previous post, along with two English guys and a German girl and I decided to have a wall party. This is just the crazy and wild party it sounds to be, as we hung out on the wall causally drinking beers, as you can walk around with beers in Cartagena. As we were winding down the party we were greeted by some cops, who looking for cocaine gave us some of the most throughout frisks of my life…now this is a wall party! Finding nothing they let us go, and at this point it finally happened. I have dreaded it for months figuring Cabo San Lucas would be my downfall as there are holes ewverywhere, assuming it would be the result of too much alcohol, but no, this would be a sober moment. Walking along the German girl says something to me and I turn a bit to respond most likely with a witty, clever response, when suddenly my foot falls through a hole in the ground and smashes my shin against a rusty grate. Thinking quickly I catch myself with the giant glass bottle in my hand which could have easily shattered on the rock walkway and sliced open an artery, see I told you I was smart. Luckily neither the leg or bottle broke, but even now, weeks later it still hasnt healed properly, but it could have been much worse.

With that it was time to get out of this city. I made plans to meet the English guys and German girl in Tagonga. Tagonga is a good place to meet other travelers and do some partying, as well as do some cheap scuba certifications, though not necessarily the greatest environment for it, the people I talked to who did it enjoyed the experience. After the great diving in Honduras I was in no mood for some sub par diving. At the hostel I bumped into the Australian from the Independence crew, so we invited him out with us for some food, but that is really all I saw of Tagonga originally. I stayed at some hostel with San Felipe in the name, it seems to be the backpacker place to be. I first asked if I could sleep in my van and just use their bathrooms and internet, but they said no. I asked if they thought my van would be safe if I left it out front and got the awkward face telling me, they were not sure. Sold…I decided the parking spot I had wasnt too bad and would risk it and got a room as I wasnt sure when my friends would show. Turns out its a pretty nice place, the dorm room I had was just a 3 person with our own bathroom. I had 2 more hot blond roommates from somewhere in Europe, but we unfortunately didnt really see each other until the next day at breakfast, and they had already been to Tyrona. Thats too bad, I was ready to ditch the English guys and make room in the van for these girls. BTW two weeks later I am back. It also turns out there is a bathroom in the main lounge area here. I know this as I am back, pretending to be a backpacker staying here, so I can use the internet…little do they know I slept outside last nigh in the van, mauahhaha.

Tyrona National Park
The next day I reluctantly loaded the English guys instead of two hot blondes, and of course the German girl into the van and we made our way to Tyrona. Tyrona is a beautiful, though pricey place. There are several campgrounds, but the popular backpacker one is San Juan del Guia, which is also the furthest. The entrance fee is 36,000 pesos, (20USD), and then you need to rent hammocks once you get to San Juan for another 20,000 pesos a night (11USD). Now that isnt terrible, but I carried in my own tent thinking I could avoid this fee as I had read conflicting info online, but I was still charged 15,000 pesos a night (8.35USD) for using my own tent so should have saved myself the effort leaving the ten behind and got a hammock. They also wanted to charge me 15,000 pesos (8.35USD) for the vehicle entrance fee, and then a daily parking fee of 7,000 pesos (3.90USD). Then of course the food is on average 8-12 dollars for pretty bland stuff. To save some cash I parked at a small store out front of the park and paid them 6,000 pesos (3.34USD) a night, which ended up working out fine, and saved me a whooping 56 cents a night! The beaches are beautiful, and there is plenty of hiking through the jungle to be had. To get to San Juan you have to hike about 2 hours. Everyone told us in Tagonga to get an early start, and make sure we were hiking by 3 at the latest, so naturally we started our hike at 3:30 haha.

Of course we ran out of light, and finished the last bit by walking through disgusting mud pits in the dark, but we kept our spirits up and the English guy even said it probably added to the experience in a comedic way. I wasnt sure I agreed at the time, but of course looking back he was correct, it was hilarious, and I am sure the norm for plenty of travelers. Everyone left the next day which seems to be pretty standard for the backpackers I met there, as most people grab the boat back to Tagonga from San Juan, rather than hike back out. I stayed and relaxed for 5 additional days getting my moneys worth and enjoying the beaches. One night I even met a couple from San Diego who lived 5 minutes from me, small world. Finally I had enough and got ready to leave early one morning only to find no one was at the exit of San Juan. I waited for 15 minuted intent on paying, but finally said F' it and headed off for my 2 hour return hike, saving myself some money as I only had paid for the 1st night. Yes, thats roughly 30 bucks saved, I am so bad ***!

· Registered
243 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
[/b]The Death of Joselito[/b]
Posted on February 20, 2013 by Wiley

Ooook, it's been awhile, you probably think I am in Ecuador or Peru by now. In the past two months I have managed to drive 5 kilometers or so from Tayrona National Park, or roughly 4-5 hours from my Colombian starting point of Cartagena. The Swiss couple from the crew had mentioned they were going to head north and check out a surf camp last I had talked to them. The Australian confirmed this when I bumped into him in Tagonga. Well I didn't see the surf camp they were at, so back tracked and stopped at a different one I had seen just outside Tayrona, turns out there basically next to each other.

Even if I had found the other one they wouldn't have been there anyway as they had moved on, the waves were not very good when they were there, and they are on a quicker pace than I can do. The surf where I was is ok, but certainly nothing to stick around 2 months for. What is nice from a surfers perspective is that in exchange for mediocre waves, very few people are normally in the water which is one of several reasons I have stayed so long, plus people tell me its cool to say I have surfed Colombia's caribbean coast, though I am not sure why. On the busiest day we had out there had 15 people, which is not a lot, but it felt crowded as there are usually 6 or less in the water at a time. The other reasons for my delay, I needed another vacation from my vacation. It was great to stop moving for a bit, and this allowed me to practice my Spanish daily, meet people from all over Colombia without going anywhere, see what the holiday beach parties were like in Colombia, and witness the death of Joselito.

Once again I had palm trees, billions of stars, and waves, so I was happy, all for 12,000 pesos a night for camping (7USD). This stop was originally planned as a two night stop, though that steadily changed as I kept saying, "one more week". A lot happened in the 2 months, too much to write about. When I showed up it was literally myself, a family of 4, and the people who worked at the campground, that's it. While I enjoyed having this paradise to myself, I decided that I wanted to stay there a bit longer to experience the xmas and new years holidays when 500 or so people show up to party, even though I was not sure I could handle that. Turns out I could, and having a van with Cali plates equals rock star status at times, which means lots of perks. Not only did people stop by to chat, they would often bring me free beers, free food, one family invited me back to their hotel room with a kitchen and cooked me up a feast, and many nights I was lucky enough to have the employees make fires for me. Yup, being there so long meant I made friends with the surf instructors and other people working there, and they would often stop by at night to hangout, and start a fire for me by the van/tent, while I stood by doing my all important job of supervising from my camping chair.

There was a few days were a particular group of people from Bogota came to stay and setup next to the van.Of course my van ended up being the command center for the fiestas. Most people avoided us those days due to the level of awesomeness, and after they left everyone commented on how crazy my new friends were, we definitely threw the best 4 day party of the season. Hey, that's how I roll.

The majority of people here were Colombian vacationers, as opposed to the nearby surfcamp down the road where all the gringos stay at. There were still a handful of people over the 2 months from other parts of the world which provided a good mix and nice atmosphere, but 90% of the people seemed to be from Bucaramanga, Medellin or Bogota. As far as the Surf goes it is a beach break, the waves are not very good most of the time, though staying as long as I did some nice swells come through. The current here can be very strong as well, so strong in fact that 3 swimmers had to be rescued on separate occasions during one week were the water was constantly tough to deal with. There are no lifeguards, but the surf instructors would keep an eye out when they were free, and go in with their boards to save them as people would get stuck in the currents and quickly tire, as well as panic. One day I heard calls of distress and saw 7 people staring out at the water somewhat near my van, yup that is a sign of a possible drowning if I know one. I couldn't see anyone as the beach slants down sharply by the water, but as a former lifeguard my training must have kicked in as I threw off my shirt, grabbed my board out of the van, and sprinted towards the water in a matter of seconds. Just as I got to the water the guy had finally made it back to the beach while the others watched and did nothing (sometimes a good thing, you don't want to make it worse, but they did NOTHING). I figured he would be a bit embarrassed, so rather than go over to him I turned around and tried to do a slow motion jog back to the van David Hasselhoff style. He later stopped by thanking me for reacting, as he was in serious trouble for a few minutes.

The next day the waves were a good size but rough. I fell on my board and thanks to my google MD education I determined I had bruised or cracked my rib. I couldn't take deep breaths, in fact it was hard to breath at all, so I was constantly panting and in pain. I told my friends I was taking a week off, but the next day the waves were good so out I went. Once I paddled out my Swiss friend said "That was a quick week"…well they always are once the waves are good. Anyway I probably shouldn't have been out there with those conditions. While out there my leash snapped and my board was sent into shore wihtout me, and I instantly worried that I would either drown or need to be rescued with this rib problem. I looked around but no one had seen what happened, so knowing I was on my own I made my way back to shore. I was fine, but can see how easy it is to panic when the conditions are that rough, as it was sketchy.

The next day the conditions were still rough but the waves were huge for this place. I couldn't get out past them on my first attempt due to the waves and currents, in fact most of us didn't make it, and many gave up. Not one to give up I went back out hurt ribs and all, and spent about 45 minutes dodging a few monsters. In the end it was worth it as I got what was dubbed "wave of the month" which is saying something as you really need to have that right place at the right time kind of luck there. For my level of surfing (I still suck) it was a huge, loooong wave, and thanks to the cheering of everyone on the shore, the girl from England was able to find me halfway through it and snap a pretty decent pic, even though she was not even looking at me (check out her other pics at I figure it will be on the cover of Surfer Magazine, I guess it wont be till next issue as I have yet to see it, but I am sure it will be soon, its just unfortunate she didnt get the bigger section of the wave.

Spending all this time here I have gotten a glimpse of the real Colombia, one which I would not have seen as a tourist. There was a guy who had run away from home at the age of 8 due to a rough childhood. Without going into details, he has done various jobs to get by, working in the labs hidden in the jungles making coke, working on the coffee plantations, as well as hiding out in the jungle with a machine gun…I don't think I have to say what he did with that. These were all things he had to do for survival, and made him who he was, though it was a life I couldn't imagine. Luckily the overall situation here has improved greatly, but it is far from over. The area around Tayrona still has its problems, and is considered a zone to use caution. As a tourist I have never felt threatened, in fact I would say the area is very safe for us, a perk of being a foreigner. That said, the locals still have to deal with the problems, and if your not careful you can get yourself into trouble. I have read in the papers, as well as been told several times by different people about the problems here, and how there are still people being killed on a semi regular basis, and how little value life can have to some people. One of the friends I made here was an example of what can go wrong, though I was out in the water when it went down.

He unfortunately got into a fight with the wrong guy one night at a bar. A few days later some guys showed up on motorbikes, armed, looking for him. He wasn't there, and eventually they were persuaded to leave. Arrangements were quickly made for him to leave for another part of Colombia for his safety, and sadly he wont be coming back. I didn't know any of this had occurred, and was shocked when he returned my board I lent him saying he was leaving in 2 hours. We were all sad, he was a great guy, and the waves are not the same without him.

After things settled down a bit again, the surf got good so I stuck around a little longer, suddenly before I knew it nearly 2 months had passed. I then found yet another reason to stick around, the worlds second largest (and arguably less touristy) Carnival party.

Barranquilla, Colombia
Joselito Carnival is dead. Even worse than that, I spent 6 days in Barranquilla, home to both Shakira and that hot Latin chick from Modern Family, and didn't hangout with either one of them, though I did hangout with Shakiras brother if that counts for anything…turns out it doesn't. No I didn't set the cruise control and head straight for Brazil, turns out the worlds second largest Carnival party is held in Barranquilla Colombia, just 2 hours from where I had been camped out. I mentioned to one of the instructors here that I was thinking of changing my plans yet again and sticking around for Carnival before heading out. She had some friends who lived in Barranquilla who I had met briefly earlier in the month when they came to party with her The decision was made before we had even finished talking…we would make a trip to Barranquilla for the celebrations, staying with them which not only meant saving money, but getting to see the Colombian side of Carnival rather than the tourists side.

Carnival is Colombia's most important celebration of the year, with traditions dating back to the 19th century. During Carnival there are parties all over Barranquilla, I never knew where I was, I just got out of the cab and followed the others. The city is very uninspiring, as well as disorienting, as you don't have any visual landmarks to use. I spoke to my Swiss friends from camp who also went and said it was a bit tough to know where to go at various times in order to find the better parties. There are parades in the afternoon, and then parties all day and night. The Swiss couple paid around 90USD each for 3 day passes to the parade. They said they had a good time, but after 3 days decided it was enough and headed back to camp, an option I didn't have.

I had read several times about the influx of pick pocketers in Barranquilla during Carnival, and it seems to be true to a point. We had a large group of people, but were always meeting up or splitting up, usually not together all at once. There were 2 separate groups of Germans, and both groups were robbed on different days. They were sprayed in the face with the foam you see everywhere in the pics, and as they reacted and put their hands to their faces, the robbers grabbed what was in their pockets, so future party goers be warned. I didn't have any problems, not sure if its due to my awesomeness, or the fact that I look Colombian and blend in so well.

During Carnival you can drink in the streets throughout Barenquilla, which means bring your own beer, Aguadiente, Whiskey, Rum, you name it. The first night we jumped in one of my new friends trucks and headed off to buy some Whiskey. After 10 or so minutes I thought to myself, "Strange, we have already passed 3 liquor stores, maybe I misunderstood his Spanish". Well, we were certainly in route for Whiskey, the reason we went out of our way was to buy some illegally imported Whiskey from Venezuela from a local house/illegal store which was 50% cheaper, I like these guys already. In fact, this would not be our only trip to the illegal store while I was in Barranquilla.

The next morning we were running late to meet the others at the parade, so to save time we jumped in the parade for a shortcut. I remember thinking to myself funnily enough this is not the first parade I have crashed, back in high school my friend and I drove our cars into the middle of our local parade cutting it in half, and then driving as slow as possible so that there was a quarter mile or so gap in the parade by the end. This time things didn't go as well, and after 10 or 15 minutes we finally got hassled by the cops.

Shots are constantly being passed around all day, there is no break. Somehow everyone is in great control considering how drunk everybody must be. I didn't see any fights, everyone was a having a good time, and as soon as music was heard bodies were moving. I don't know how these people never get tired, or excessively drunk. Everyone seemed to have a great time, people were covered in foam and what I assumed was cocaine this being Colombia, turns out it was just some corn powder. The only downside is like other places in Latin America, a lot of people drink and drive. We had a minor accident happen right in front of us as we partied at one bar, where a car hit another, breaking his front wheel off….that's going to delay his party.

The basic break down for the 6 days we were there was head to a local bar and drink. Then grab the rum and pop over to a parade where the locals were, only paying 3-5USD rather than the 90, though not necessarily seeing the best part of the parade, though possibly having a better time doing it up Colombian style. Then it was back to an overcrowded bar somewhere where we didn't even hangout in the bar, we just hung out on the streets with everyone else drinking. At one point we stopped at a party on the street provided by some guys sound system in his car. Then repeat this process each day, until the end of Carnival.

Day 3 or 4 was one of my new friends birthday, yeah, like they needed another reason to drink. Her friends had been out all night before, and decided to show up and start the festivities early rather than go home to bed. At 6 am they showed up ready to party with a bottle of rum. I stayed in bed pretending I didnt hear the loud music that was being blasted, but my friend from camp was not so lucky. I eventually came out at 10am and found them all a bit drunk, with an empty bottle to show for it. Not only that, but some of them had left in order to get another. It was pretty obvious they were drunk as they made a comment on how they were impressed that I could understand them…..though in realty I couldn't understand anything they said, probably due to their level of intoxication. It was here that I partied with Shakiras brother or half brother, and the guy didn't even bring her, what the hell…of course I didn't say anything, who wants to be known as Shakiras brother. He did tell me his casa was my casa, so maybe I will hangout there until she shows up.

Carnival FINALLY ends with the death of Joselito Carnival. According to Wiki, Joselito is a character who symbolizes the joy of the festivities, who had been resurrected the Saturday of Carnival and dies on the last day, tired and hungover, only to be resurrected again next year. Of course once Carnival was officially over, we headed back to the apartment for more drinking, and then to another local outdoor party/free concert, and then back to the apartment for more…so really, I am not sure the madness ever ended….I was just glad to get out when I did. I loved every minute of Carnival, though on day one had eaten some bad seafood. That made it tough to drink, move, or do anything the next few days. The last day I wasn't 100% but decided I was feeling pretty good and rather than at least pretend to take it easy, drank a mix of beers, Whiskey, Rum, and even Aguadiente which I don't even like….I paid for it the next day, but I think it killed off whatever had invaded my body. I loved that I got to experience carnival from a Colombian perspective. I owe a huge thanks to both my camp friend as well as her friends from Barrenquilla who not only welcomed me into their homes and treated me as a long time friend, but showed me a side of Carnival I could have never seen, thanks a million, I loved every minute of it, sick or not.
1 - 20 of 27 Posts