A Travellerspoint blog

Oaxaca, Chiapas

sunny

After a couple pleasant days in Puerto Escondido, we continued our journey through Mexico, into the Isthmus of Thuantepec, where the indigenous people are the Zapotecs. Fun words to say! This is one of Mexico's hottest areas. Temp was 97 degrees when we took a side trip to a beach. It was remote and gorgeous. Big surf and big wind. The wind was so strong that the blowing sand hurt--nature's microdermabrasion. We carried out our plan of making sandwiches, but it was tricky. Had to anchor down the bread, lettuce, etc. to keep them from blowing away.
This was also a day of twisty, strenuous roads. I don't often get motion sickness, but this time I was all shades of green. Even the pups were woozie. Sunny would not eat a peanut offered to her, and we all know that is a rare occurrence. Douglas escaped unscathed, probably because he had the steering wheel to hang onto.
We pulled into Juchitán to spend the night. This is a very crowded village/city (54,000), where we could count the number of gringos on one hand. The usual town square, and many of the streets were lined with stalls selling all sorts of things. Clothes, shoes, cell phones, CDs, food . . . We found a nice, simple motel, and Sunny and Cricket charmed the innkeeper into letting them stay in the room with us.
After wandering through the happy, crowded cacophony for awhile, we stumbled upon a cervezaria with a few friendly locals. The center of attention was the karaoke machine. One of the men had a nice voice, and sang song after song. Yet another great way for us to strengthen our Español skills, with the words on the screen and a native speaker singing them.
While I enjoy most of the cultural differences we are experiencing, I have a tough time with the status of dogs in some of these villages. Maybe Juchitán is where people who are mean to dogs in one life come back, as a dog.
Saturday we set off into the mountains. There was a wind farm outside Juchitán--nice! We were low on cash, and expected to drive by an Oxxo (Mexico's convenience store), which usually have ATMs. For the first time on this trip, there was not an Oxxo to be found. So, we drove into the center of a town. This was a Saturday, and everyone was out celebrating something in the town square. These folks like their music LOUD! Found a bank, and Douglas went to wait in the endless line for the ATM. Mexicans are very patient people. We see them waiting in LONG lines for ATMs often, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. I could find no coffee other than instant (what is this--isn't Mexico known for its great coffee?), but I did make friends with 3 little Mexican girls. One of them wanted to take Sunny and Cricket home with her. It is fun trying to communicate with little folks who are not used to people who don't understand Spanish. They probably just think I'm slow. And then some sort of traveling zoo rolled through town. Trucks pulling cages with monkeys, tigers, lions, bison, zebra . . . PETA would not be happy.
We crossed into the state of Chiapas, where the Zapatista uprisings occurred (another cool word to say), and drove through/around the big city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, home of the marimba museum! Apparently, there are nightly marimba concerts in one of the city's plazas.
From there, we climbed and climbed to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a lovely colonial city at 7000 feet, with narrow cobblestone streets. We are staying in a bungalow for a couple days. Last night, we walked around the streets filled with all sorts of people-indigenous, European backpackers, us . . . My favorite thing so far was the launching of many miniature hot air balloons into the night--absolutely magical! But man, it gets COLD here, especially at night! Had to get the jeans and fleece out again.
Tomorrow we will cross into Guatemala.

Posted by ceastburn 07:49 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

San Cristobal De Las Casas Mexico

This is our current location:
http://travel.nytimes.com/frommers/travel/guides/north-america/mexico/yucatan-peninsula/san-cristobal-de-las-casas/frm_san-cristo_0931010001.html

Posted by dpewen 07:16 Comments (0)

Acapulco (yep, spelled it wrong in the last post)

sunny

I am new to this blogging thing, and am concerned with being succinct and not boring readers. Hence, I leave out important tidbits. Well, this is also due largely to a spotty memory and a propensity for scatter-brainedness.
There do not seem to be beltways/bypasses around cities in Mexico. Or if there are, our Garmin woman is not aware of them.
We got an up-close tour of Acapulco. Douglas is a terrific city driver, rivaling NYC cab drivers. It helps that we are driving a big Jeep with menacing bumpers, and the cabs in Acapulco are old VW Bugs! Very cool. White ones with blue trim. Many, many classic VW bugs here in Mexico.
Cricket's smiling face out the window usually helps our progress, too.
Acapulco is a city of steep, narrow streets full of traffic. It all works. Mexicans might be animated, but they are not uptight.

Posted by ceastburn 16:18 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.

sunny

All's well that ends well, right?
We are in beautiful Puerto Escondido at a lovely place run by a Swiss couple.
Yesterday we drove 700k from Zihuatanejo. By the way, in case you didn't know, Mexico is a BIG country! 700k is too many miles to attempt in a day in Mexico, at least on Highway 200. Zihuatanejo to Aculpulco was ok, no big deal. Topes, etc., but it was an easier drive than into Zihuatanejo. And more stunning views! Those never get old.
Aculpulco to Escondido, however, was another story. There were, and I do not exaggerate, 4 topes/kilometer most of the way. For the love of Buddha, when will they ever end? One more bag (a soft one, but still scary for them) fell on the pups. It is like sailing--everything must be secured/tethered. Anyway, that, plus the fireworks that Mexicans seem to be enamored with during this holiday season, sent poor little Cricket over the edge. Even with her thundershirt, she was very nervous, and spent the trip in my lap, both in the passenger and driver seat. We are hoping that this does not make her fearful of riding in the car from here on out.
Anyway, due to Aculpulco's traffic, the afore-mentioned topes, and fiestas in countless villages, we broke our rule of driving after dark. ¡Muy malo! Topes are even tougher to see, and Highway 200 has many curvas peligrosas. We were getting very close to our destination, 10k or so out, when, BAM! "What the hell was that?" An oncoming truck had sideswiped us, ripping off the driver's-side rearview mirror. Yikes, that was close. Too close. We kept going, arriving at our place at about 9.
Got the dogs fed, and then walked down the street to get something to eat. We thankfully were not gone long, because the dogs raised hell while we were gone. The gringo staying next to us was not happy, understandably. The pups don't do that often (no prior problems on this trip), but I can certainly understand why they were upset last night. My bad. Should've taken them with us.
So, it was some rattled nerves that we fell asleep at the end of our 12/12/12.
This morning, Manuela, the proprietress at this place, was very helpful recommending a mechanic to us. She was also very understanding about the dogs. We found a big, shiny Auto Zone, and with the salesman's help, bought a big, shiny rearview mirror. Took it down the street to a shop that does body work. Thankfully, it was a slow day for them, and they were all about fixing us up. We find that Mexicans are very creative and ingenious when it comes to fixing things. Granted, we don't have the fancy dashboard control, but we have a bad-ass chrome mirror. And a few minor wounds on that side of the car. Much better than the multiple-day wait we anticipated for the repair.
The dogs are well today. I walked them on the beach this morning, and they made a new canine friend. This place boasts being 3rd in the world for gnarly waves. Known as the Mexican pipeline. There is a big world surfing competition every November, and the X-games games have been held here. The surfers were already out at 7:30 am. The beach where we are located-Zicateca-is definitely not good for swimming. The only folks in the water have boards with them. There are some lovely swimming beaches right down the way, though.
So, this afternoon we get to go hang with the super-tan surfer dudes and general beach bums.
¡Luego!

Posted by ceastburn 11:47 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Topes, Dramamine, and Views

sunny

Whew. We are happily in Zihuatanejo. The place where Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding end up in The Shawshank Redemption. Woozie-Doozie. It was an epic drive, with challenges similar, symbolically only of course, to Andy's crawl through the sewer.
But first a quick rewind. We spent 3 nights in San Blas, a nice beach community in itself, also popular with surfers. 2 nights at a surf camp in a cool hut on stilts, with the Pacific as our front yard. Sunny and Cricket loved it, even though they had to be carried up and down the ladder to our quarters. Swimming was fantastic. It was fascinating to watch the surf break, often in both directions, like zippers. Although the surfer dudes thought it was fairly quiet at this particular time, it was plenty for us. I got thrown in a somersault or two. Only downside to the place: MOSQUITOES and No-See-Ums. I was lucky not to suffer from acne as a teen, but I sure look like I have it now! Either that or measles. Yes, we used repellent, even Deeted-up, and burned one of those coils. But the right side of my body, the one that I slept with up, is spotted.
Our last night in San Blas was our first night tent-camping! There is a terrific campground there, providing us with the opportunity to spread everything out and re-organize. Also gave us a chance to determine that the girls are fantastic watch-dogs, who will be assigned to guard the Jeep the next time we camp.
Saturday we drove to Colima. The dingbat Garmin woman took us an ass-backwards way, up and over several mountain passes (volcanos), which was unexpected. Curves and altitude changes that leave Madison County in the dust. So, we were both disoriented and glad to get back to the toll road, even though it costs a fortune.
We made a pit-stop in Tequila! Wow. Touristy, but fun. That ol' blue agave has caused a lot of fun and pain.
Colima was fine. Mostly a place to sleep. A lot of Chirstmas hub-bub, which is fun to see down here.
And then there was today . . .
Mexico Highway 200 hugs the Pacific coast, which consists of beaches and mountains (cliffs). The views are SPECTACULAR, and the beaches are drop-dead gorgeous. The road is in basically great condition. But with mountains come switchbacks. 180-degree switchbacks, one after the other. And THEN there are these things called Topes. Pronounced "toe-pay." Means door-stop, or speed bump, in español. Mexicans love 'em. They range from a big rope across the road to strips of rubber (broken tires) to big-ass concrete speed bumps. Some are marked, many are not. And they seem to be more invisible to some drivers than others . . . Ideally, they are crossed at 1-2 mph. We experienced several quicker crossings today. One sent a plastic storage box sailing on top of Sunny and Cricket. Sunny was not fazed. Cricket spent most of the rest of the ride in our laps.
A sure sign that there is a tope ahead is the sight of a llantera sign--tire store.
Anyway, combine the switchbacks with big altitude changes and Topes for 300k, and you have a trying day for driver and passengers all around. We were prepared with Dramamine today, though! And I learned that the handle in front of the passenger seat can serve as a steering wheel of sorts to brace myself.
Most importantly, I am writing this outside our room, w/o mosquitoes, listening to the waves break beneath us.
I understand why Andy and Red chose this place.

Posted by ceastburn 16:35 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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