I say it was our favorite but it's starting to feel as though EVERYTHING was our favorite. There were a few places I had picked out already but as with most everything in our life, there is a lot of go with the flow and figure it our when you get there.. The few places we already picked out all involved water in some way and that kind of became the Chiapas theme for us. Chiapas truly was magical, it produced an intense amount of memories that we will have forever because I am about to write them all down!
Cascada El Chiflón
Just a few short hours from San Cristobal, a beautiful park with a hiking path alongside a turquoise stream that led you through the park, passing 5 different waterfalls on the way. The path to the last waterfall (also the largest) led you up a steep set of stairs up on a point where you felt like you were right in the middle of it. We both got soaked. From the view point you had this great view of where you had just hiked, this massive water fall and a DOUBLE RAINBOW. We took a couple selfies and headed back to our camp spot for the night, the parking lot.
On the way back down we took our time exploring the park, while letting the dogs roam and get some much needed outside leg moving time. I think at this point they finally started to get sick of being next to each other in such a small space. I mean we did ask them to live in a truck and drive across 3 countries (and back), so far they have been complying.
Lagunas de Montebello
A National Park with 50+ lakes in a pine forrest butted up against the Guatemalan border. We originally only intended on just driving through the area, snapping a few photos, and continuing on with our Chiapas loop.. but the lakes had other plans for us. Dirt roads that led us to small villages, with beautiful lakes around every corner. We ate lunch in a small pull off where the people of the village were having a meeting. The parking area had about 15 vendor booths and was full of people and Toyota trucks. The mother and daughter that prepared our lunch informed us that the meeting was about some changes in regulations for the vendors. And the term regulations was used very loosely. The village kiddos were super chatty and thought our truck was just the coolest. That night we camped right at the edge of the lake and were able to use the (hot) shower of a near by hotel.
Cascadas Las Nubes
Rain, fog and Topes around every corner, and more corners around those corners. The road to the Las Nubes turn off was no joke and the dirt road from there was absolutely beautiful, super green and lush.
We arrived to find a nice picnic area right on the river with benches and covered palapas. Knowing there was a nice hiking trail to view the cascading teal colored river and waterfalls, we were all pretty anxious to get out of the truck and move our legs a bit.
The trail was perfect and just what we needed. Thick lush jungle with a nice maintained dirt path that led to multiple viewpoints overlooking the bright river. The river was the most colorful water we had seen yet. The next morning we treated ourselves to a very strange breakfast at the fancy restaurant by the river and then hit the road.
150 mile day, all along the Guatemalan border. One wide open valley after another, with bright lime green covered hill sides. It was a pretty easy drive. Pulled into the hotel parking lot/camp spot and lo and behold -- THE BELGIANS! We were so happy to see them again. When we arrived Elly was deep cleaning the front of their truck and the aftermath of a rouge bottle of bug spray :/ Was nice to catch up and see some familiar faces.
The big plan for the morning- boat ride to Yaxchilan, an ancient city located on the bank of the river that doubles as the border of Mexico and Guatemala. After negotiating the price of our boat ride for the morning, we went to bed trying to drown out the sounds of the pack of dogs circling our truck and the howler monkeys in the trees above us.
All in all the start of the Chiapas loop was incredible and can't wait to visit again some day. With my parents now living full time in Nayarit, I see that happening sooner rather than later.
Well, the trip has come to what feels like a screeching holt. It has been about 7 weeks since we said our goodbyes to Chuck and Tasha in the Yucatan, pointed the bow of the truck North and started to slowly make our way towards home. In trying to squeeze in as much as possible and make as many memories as we possibly could, I got a little behind on the blogging. Making memories trumps taking the time to record them. But as I sit here in an airport waiting for a flight, I have nothing but time.. so here we go.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
A cultural city in the highlands of Chiapas, surrounded by mountains and now one of our favorite places in Mexico. Home of the $4 rotisserie chicken, allll the markets, and the cheapest 2 hour massage. Neither of us are very good at sitting still in one place for very long (we tend to get ants in our pants around day 2), but the crisp air, hot showers and fireplace made it easy to stick around for about a week.
The markets, oh Mexico you have the greatest markets. Indoor, outdoor, touristy, local, etc. You name it, they have it all. And believe me, I wanted it all. I managed to limit myself to a few small gifts and a blanket to cover the camper cushions. Favorite market snack: corn on the cob covered in mayo, lime, chilis, and Mexican crumbly cheese. DROOOOL. All of my mayo hating friends are currently gaging.
With the city sitting right around 7,200 ft, it definitely made for some chilly days and even chillier nights. On one of our many walks around the city we found a nice and clean rotisserie chicken stand that was dishing up some seriously juicy chicken. I deboned it, made some yummy stock and turned it all into a big tasty pot of chicken and veggie soup. We invited the two groundskeeper boys for dinner and sat around the fireplace enjoying our bowls of what Ken calls "Kally Soup". I make a lot of soup... It definitely assisted in keeping us toasty warm at night.
While Ken was working hard making sure the truck continued to go vroom, I got a two hour rub down! Worked out some overlanding kinks, and relaxed a bit. It was a much needed massage. Yes, I neeeeded it.
The campground played a big roll in us sitting still for a bit- met all the needs. Big wide open grassy area for the pups to roam around, hot showers (and I mean hot hot), clean bathrooms, and a large common area with a fireplace. Most of our nights were spent in front of the fireplace, sipping on a cocktail, chatting and planning our next move.
We ran into the Belgian's that we had met a few weeks prior on the coast. It was nice to catch up on where we had been and where we were all going next. Elly is a spit fire, strong mama with a great sense of humor. Joe is quiet and smart, and cracks jokes when you least expect them. They are both pretty great. Inspiring as a couple as well as individually. Joe has been in a wheel chair for close to 20 years and they have been overlanding for 10 of them. Within those 10, Elly fought cancer and won. Pretty incredible. Spoiler alert: they'll be making a few upcoming cameos.
It was time to go. We walked all the streets, ate all the food, climbed all the stairs to all the churches, drank all the coffee, and washed all the clothes. San Cristobal, check.
Next up: Honeymooners take Chiapas by storm.
Family in Mexico! Chuck and Tasha, Ken's brother and his wife Tasha came for a vacay/visit. First can I just say how amazing it was to have some girl time?! Also, Ken had someone other than me to talk to about Toyota's, campers and boats. Ken got some brother time, I got some girl time, and we all got some family time. Win, win, winning.
Birds. ALL the birds. Tasha, since I know you're reading this.. Remember that one time we went birding at night and I feel asleep standing up? Yeah us too...
Tasha is a professional bird lady back in Alaska. The State of Alaska pays her to play with birds, at least thats what I tell people :) So needless to say there was a good chunk of our time with the other Alaskan DiMarzios spent looking at birds. You definitely see things birding that you otherwise might not. The salt flats for instants.. Rio Lagartos, the northern most tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, one of the few places in the world where flamingos live in the wild. These beautiful and stunning pink salt marshes are where the flamingos get their vibrant pink color from, who knew!? Tasha, thats who. Rio Lagartos, also the town that flooded Chuck and Tasha's tent with rain water and almost blew it in to the river right before bed.
Chuck, Tasha and Ken all went on an early morning boat ride in Rio Lagartos to go birding while I stayed back and made sure all photos and videos were backed up. I was in panic mode during the laptop breakdown, well that and it also meant I got to sleep in. Once they got back, Ken and I went and grabbed some fish for dinner from the fisherman at the docks and met up with the other DiMarzio's at our next camp spot, a birding lodge. It was perfect. Quiet, calm and gave you all the feels. The feels that make you sleep through the night. Not to hot, not too cold. I made a fish fry dinner for all of us, the bird guide and the grounds keeper. It turned out kinda meh, I have never fried a fish whole before and only had olive oil soooooo. Between the weird fish fry dinner, good company and the night birding, it was a really great evening.
The next birding destination, Celestun, a small city on the western bit of coastal Yucatan Peninsula. It was honestly kind of a dirty shit town but we had a stellar flamingo tour there. Camped right on the beach in a super clean campground with one of the strangest campground showers yet. There was no shower head, just a whole in the wall but the water pressure was high enough that it shot straight out and turned out to be quite nice, warm even. The next morning we went to go see the flamingos, by way of tuk tuk. Four adults being towed around in a motorcycle/taxi hybrid, what could go wrong? Nothing. It turned out to be a really great trip. We saw a shit ton of flamingos, climbed around on big mounds of salt, visited an old abandoned town, and were almost killed by a snake. Apparently the older I get, the more terrified of snakes I become. Well its either that or the remanence of a traumatic snake encounter I had while hiking in Colombia. What I refer to as "a near death experience with a boa constrictor". Thankfully we all made it out alive and live to see another day and another centote.
A natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.
Yep, we love them. Any chance we get- cenotes, rivers, mineral springs, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, you name it we want in it. Unless it's the ocean, then I don't want in it. We visited 2 of the 3 centoes (Samula and Xkeken) in Valladolid, both of which were absolutely stunning. Very few people, clean and extremely refreshing. Our campground in Vallodolid came with our very own personal dry cenote. Sounds tiny when I say personal, but it was pretty big. The dogs had a good time sniffing out all the new smells. I took pictures, Ken was probably scoping out the engineering of the well system and Chuck and Tasha were investigating all the bird nest and eggs they found.
While Chuck and Tasha went and visited some ruins, Ken and I split off and went to IK KIL, another cenote. Huge with a ton of people but we managed to find our own little nook with nobody around. It was the perfect temperature, with little tropical fish swimming all throughout. After a good stint without a shower it felt pretty amazing.
Tall pyramids, temples, ball-game courts and sacrificial sites, yes please. Uxmal, an ancient Mayan city with its largest pyramid sitting at almost 13,000 sq ft. Some ruins are all roped off and you're not allowed to climb them. Some.. are not. These, were not. We got up early enough to get in right as they opened and before the bus loads of people showed up. Not only were there no crowds, but there just weren't any other people at all, well almost... It was a great morning. I got to take photos/video with out random people in my shot, Tasha saw plenty of birds, Ken got to read EVERY SINGLE informational sign, and Chuck got a workout in! Chuck and I did modified box jumps, jumping up the stairs of the pyramid. Perfect morning.
Well, Chuck showed up in Mexico looking like a homeless DiMarzio and while in Vallodolid we went on the hunt for a barber. Thanks to google maps and Tasha's internal compass we found one! 8x10 photos of 1990's models with a variety of haircuts wallpapered the walls with a number next to it, as if this were McDonalds and he was ordering fries and a burger. After contemplating a number 7 with lighting bolts on the side, he ended on a number 15, a nice clean look. We are not so sure he ended up with a number 15 but it was a $2 hair cut so what could he expect. A few days later while driving to the ruins in Uxmal we spotted a barber on the side of the ride in a very small town and he got all fixed up with another $2 haircut and now looks like a proper DiMarzio.
After the Uxmal ruins we made our way to Campeche, where the camping situation was pretty meh. We spent the night in a public parking lot, where using the bathroom is always a challenge and usually turns into a good story and a great laugh. There was an beautiful and massive mural painted on the concrete building that boxed us in, gave it a slightly better vibe. Chuck and Tasha spent the night in a hostel in town just 5 blocks away. This is one of our favorite towns in Mexico, just had a really cool vibe. It is a walled in city, the streets lined with buildings painted with bright colors. There is one main street that is closed off to cars, where all the touristy shops and restaurants live. While Chuck and Tasha got settled in and showered, Ken and I went up on the wall surrounding the city for sunset. It was reminiscent of our time in Cartagena, Colombia a few years back. Only sunset on the wall there included two very strong and not so tasty cocktails.
The next morning we walked outside the wall to have breakfast near the market we had visited the day before, where I stocked up on a ton of delicious veggies. Coffee and tacos for breakfast. It was after breakfast that we said our goodbyes. Chuck and Tasha continued their vacation and finished the Yucatan loop, while Ken and I headed for the chilly city of San Cristobal!
Just a hop skip and a jump through the winding green jungleous mountains of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, and we arrived at Lake Bacalar. Passing by acres upon acres of blooming sugar cane fields. Stunning.
We had hoped to camp at this campground that I found randomly on Pinterest about six months ago, it has a swing set placed just above the shallow lake. Your feet get wet but your head stays above water, totally my style. Buuut, we were turned away because they don't accept dogs. No big deal, it was pretty over crowded with people. Just a few miles down there was a parking lot next to a restaurant that worked out perfectly for us. Big grassy lot right next to the lake with a long wooden dock and two water slides! Dogs were happy to roam and we were happy to swim and enjoy the lake. I actually swam laps if you can believe it. Sunset was perfect. Sitting on the dock with my love, feetsies in the warm water with pastel colors as far as the eye could see.
The next morning we got a late start and made our way to Puerto Morelos, just a 3.5 hour drive up the coast towards Cancun. There aren't a lot of great camping options in the Cancun area (mainly because of the dogs), so we settled on a parking lot near the beach in an ally. Sounds sketchy but it was wonderful, the only worry we had-- ANTS. The beach was full of families of all kinds, made for exceptional people watching. We spent most of our day and night walking the beach and streets, not our cup of tea but I imagine Puerto Morelos would be a great destination if you have kids and are looking for a little beach time for a week or two.
With quite a long chore list and about 5 days until Chuck and Tasha arrived, we headed for the big city, Cancun.
To do list:
4 of the 6 were completed on our first day, we make quite the efficient team. Found a nice shop owned by an english speaking Peruvian couple. New brakes and calipers, maintenance we actually planned on! They have already saved us from hitting multiple topes at full speed. The owner called her waxing lady and made me an appointment for right then. Annnnnd there was a laundry place right across the street. Three birds, one stone. The next day we did find a car wash and they did an exceptional job, felt like a whole new truck!
Last but not least, my poor laptop. It randomly decided to not turn on a few weeks ago with out warning and then two hours later booted itself up and was operating at a snails pace with the fan constantly running. At least it was on? After hours of research and following all the instructions on all of google, still no luck. She needed to go to the doctor. A few days at the Cancun laptop doctor and we were told the logic board was super dirty and possibly not salvageable. Greeaaat. So my new laptop has no brain basically. Thankfully, it is covered under warranty and will either be repaired or replaced at no expense to us. The down side is I don't have a laptop to edit photos or video, hence the wordy blog posts sans photos. I am sure eventually I will go back and add photos. In the meantime, I am not going to worry about it and be thankful I didn't loose any of my files (I store them all on an external hard drive). About 10 years ago I had my camera stolen in Argentina and lost a large number of photos from my trip in South America, it just about crushed my soul. Lesson learned and everything gets triple backed up and stored in numerous places.
Cancun was certainly not all running around checking things off our to do list. It has a lot to offer if you manage to squirm your way around and past the crowds. Or just embrace it and take them head on. We did both. One of our favorite free activities other than walking the endless beaches, is people watching. Where better to go people watching than at a busy shopping center right on the water. Coach, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, allll the fancy stores. Most with security guards at the door (which is locked until you walk right up to it, and then then unlock it). Looking and smelling as if we had just crawled out of the gutter we walked up to the large glass door at Tiffany's and waited for the guard to press the hidden unlock button.. The staff was so friendly to us even though we clearly were just looking. After walking through all the expensive shops looking at over priced watches and purses, we parked our booties at a restaurant on the water and enjoyed a cold beverage in our new prime people watching spot.
Isla Blanca, a long skinny peninsula just north of Cancun. Where the clear blue water is shallow enough to walk out a half mile and still only be up to your knees. It definitely is making the top 5 list of our favorite spots. We drove in the sand as far as the beach would allow and parked to where we could see ocean in every direction. It took a few tries and almost getting stuck in the sand but we found the perfect spot. 5pm, all the kite surfers and beach goers had called it a day and the beach was all ours. Shredded beef tacos for dinner and Jackass episodes off Youtube for some late night entertainment.
Back to Cancun the next day to await the arrive of Chuck and Tasha and find a carwash, salt water under the truck= no bueno.
Christmas Eve Eve
Christmas in Oaxaca, where all of Mexico goes for the holidays.. so we learned. There are very few camp spots in the city that allow dogs but we knew we wanted to be close to the action. So we settled on a public parking lot in the center of town. I mean, at this point I am getting quite good at peeing in a Nalgene, no se necesita baño!
We arrived in town late in the afternoon with our minds blown by the amount of people bustling through the streets. After getting settled in the camper and drugging our poor animals (damn fireworks), we headed straight to the Zocalo (main square) to check out the radish carving festival. The whole square was COMPLETELY full of people, a line with a 3 hour wait to see the radishes that zigged and zagged its way through in a surprisingly organized manner. Neither one of us have the patience for that so we just peaked through the crowds at them. Oversized radishes carved into intricate displays of art by local artists and farmers, unreal.
The food. Ohhhhh, the food.
Corn on the cob covered in mayo, chili powder, lime, and cojita crumbly cheese. I mean, come on! GET IN MY BELLY. I could have eaten 10 ears all to myself and still been able to take on the street tacos that came next.
Tacos, tacos and more tacos. Some are small & some are big, some with carne asada, some al pastor, some with meat from the head of a pig. Wait, what?! We were feeling adventurous and headed for the stand displaying an entire pig head. What could go wrong? We placed our order. There were three men in an assembly line chopping the meat into tiny little pieces and rolling them into corn tortillas with a mystery green salsa. While waiting we chatted it up with the guy next to us and learned that yes, the little chopped up bits in our tacos were in fact from the face of a pig. Snout, ears, eyes, all of it. Pig face tacos, check. We never need to eat that ever again.
The next morning we set our sites on the market for breakfast. Never met a market we didn't like. Found two seats at a busy vendor, and started scoping out the menu. We kept seeing these large crunchy tortilla type flatbreads all over the streets, so with a little research found they are called Tlyudas. A traditional Oaxacan dish that consist of a thin crispy tortilla/tostada covered with beans, different types of meat, cabbage, tomatoes, avocados and a variety of other toppings. Ken loves all things chorizo so he ordered his with chorizo. I however was still feeling adventurous. I recognized all the meats listed except for one, chapulines, so I got that. Breakfast was served and they both looked amazing! Chapulines, dried shredded beef, no big deal! A moment passes, Ken says in a very calm sweet voice, "Hey babe, I think you have a big plate of crickets." Yes, yes my darling you are correct, well almost. My tlyuda breakfast was in fact covered in about 2 cups of tiny grasshoppers. Grasshoppers toasted with garlic, lime, salt and the extract from agave worms. Mmmmmm. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really good either...
We spent most of the day wandering the different markets and getting lost in the streets. What an incredible city. The Orchestra set up in the Zocalo was the perfect soundtrack to the sites around us. Parents playing with their children in the park, couples making out on a bench, women with large heavy stacks of blankets on their backs and arms full of trinkets trying to sell them to anyone who looked remotely interested.
It was the night of the parade, massive amounts of people all dressed in their Sunday best, as they are heading to midnight mass directly after. Loud music, parade floats, tall dancing statues on stilts? It was bizarre, amazing, loud and unexpected. Indescribable really.
Christmas day and the party had tamed down. The fireworks subsided, there was no longer a large figurine man dancing in the middle of the street. We took advantage of the quiet streets in the best way we know how, driving. Said goodbye to Oaxaca and hit the road. Going through the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, and making our way towards the Yucatan, where eventually we meet up with Chuck and Tasha!
At last, beach time! Having spent a lot of our time in the interior, we were both pretty thrilled to get a little sun on our bellies and sand between our toes.
After leaving Zacatecas the plan was to make our way to Guayabitos (with a quick stop in Tequila), where my pseudo grandparents live, and also where my parents are moving to very soon. This is Mexico home base for us.
The plan in Tequila (or as I like to call it, Techilla) was to explore town a bit and visit a distillery. Well, sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan, they work out better. We arrived at the camp spot we found on iOverlander that just seemed like it was going to be amazing. It wasn't. Turns out the guy that wrote the review was a creepy con man like guy reminiscent of a greasier (if thats even possible) version of Billy Bob Thornton. Needless to say we passed and ended up wild camping across the highway. Ken made me a nice bonfire, it was the perfect evening entertainment. It was then we discovered that we were on the base/side of a volcano. Dig a little more into that to discover that THERE IS A ROAD up said volcano! Plans for the morning are now made. The next morning we woke up to birds chirping and made coffee over what was left of the fire from the night before. Not because I was trying to be all hipster and do things the hard way, but we ran out of propane while making tacos the night before.
The drive up the volcano was about what you would imagine driving up a volcano would be like. Bumpy, winding roads that don't seem to ever end. We started around 1,ooo ft, and were abruptly halted around 8,000ft by a rusted out gate with a sign that said "do not pass go, do not collect $200". If you have read previous blog entries, you know that these signs are becoming quite a trend for us. Ok fine, we can't make it to the top top, we'll get out here and take our photos. While harmlessly tromping through the tallish grass to take a simple photo, WE WERE ATTACKED... by freaking grasshoppers! It was the weirdest thing. It was like we had walked straight into the 7 year locust cycle or something. It was gross, and I didn't like it. When driving down we had our windows open and those little #$%&ers were jumping in the windows, one of which HIT ME SQUARE IN THE EYEBALL! I don't do bugs, but we made it out alive and put Guayabitos in the Google.
It's was so nice to get a visit in with people we love and hit the reset button yet again. It's been two years since we have been and was a much needed visit. When we arrived we pretty well gutted the camper and took it straight to the car wash. She was pretty filthy on the outside and completely covered in Petra hair on the inside. Petra has been having some skin issues, with the most unfortunate symptom being aggressive shedding.
After getting a good ole wipe down, she went back into the shop, where she had her leaking gas tank repaired. Thankful to not have the smell of gas living in my brain anymore.
The laundry was done, the leaks were fixed (ish), and we were as clean as a whistle. We shed about 200lbs of stuff that now lives in the bodega in the back yard. A lot of the stuff we thought we would use didn't make the cut, along with the bikes and bike rack. The bikes were the saddest thing we parted ways with but it was extra weight that we didn't "need". We need little ole Chinooie Dookie to make it to the end and all the excess weight was killing the old girl.
It was time to go. Hugs and I love you's were exchanged and we were on the road again.
ARROYO SECO- PLAYA CHICA
It was a long day of driving, not because of the distance as much as it was the windiness of the roads. Remember when you were first learning cursive and it just seemed like a looooong squiggly line with no spaces? Thats about what the road looked like on the GPS. But honestly, it has look like that since we crossed the border.
It was about 5pm and the sun was just about to set when we came to our next camp spot. The plan was to hustle butt to get camp set up right on the beach before the sun went down, get up early the next morning and move on. We pretty well stuck to the plan with one small exception. Upon our arrival in town, there was a local bull riding competition going on. How do you pass that up?! You don't. We tried our best to not look like complete gringos so we climbed up the wooden fence that gated in the bulls and had a seat next to 1 of the 100 locals doing just the same. Just a few minutes later, YEEEEE HAAAAW! I think the guy lasted maybe 4 seconds before he was bucked off. It definitely was a great sign of what was yet to come for us on the Michoacan Coast. Next up? A town we didn't know the name of until I just looked it up :/
The town we found by accident.
How does one describe this place? It seems impossible.. Our day started off just as any other amazing day we have been having. We drive from one incredible town to the next and say our "oohs" and "aaaawwws". Well, Maruata was extra special. It went a little something like this..
The sun was directly over head and the temperature was at its max for the day (90 ish degrees), and we're about 70 miles into our 120 mile day. Why is there a sudden car pile up on the bridge? Is there a wreck? Was anyone hurt? I’m hot, please don’t make us turn the car off and lose the AC. It wasn’t a wreck, it was a protest and they were blocking the road. It appeared as though no one was getting through, not even the sweaty gringos that are on their honeymoon. Shit. We turn around, find a shaded spot and try to map out a different route. Nothing seemed promising. Regardless of the route we chose we still have to cross the state border, another potential road block. We turn around and decide to wait it out as others were. Parked in the sweltering heat, Ken walked up to the front to get a better look at the action and discovered they were infact letting a select few through. Maybe we had a chance! In hopes it wasn’t an awful decision to nose our way to the front of a political protest in a country that we barely speak the language, we did exactly that. We sat for a few minutes as we watched the organized chaos, while chatting with a local man aggressively eating a coconut popsicle. Chunks hitting me with every bite. There were no guns and everyone seemed to be quite calm, happy even. The most aggression we experience was the popsicle guy. And then it happened, the tires in the road were lifted and we were being waved through. YEEEES. Don’t make eye contact, don’t do anything weird, just say gracias gracias grasias and GO. High fives were exchanged and off we went with zero traffic, SCORE.
We scoped out a few towns along the coast that we for sure thought would be perfect, but ended up passing. Mainly because we were so hot that nothing seemed to satisfy us, not even a shaded pool… maybe ten miles past this incredibly clean and shaded pool camp ground and just before I was about to go into full blown overheated shutdown mode, we found an incredible palapa city that felt as if we were the first to discover it. There were 5 separate 1,000 sq. foot palapa clusters, each owned by different indigenous families. We paid 50 pesos ($2.94 usd) per person, which included the cold shower and a flat place to park the truck. Those are the amenities we were charged for. Also included: memories they didn’t charge for.
Beach side yoga, swimming in the ocean getting my world rocked by a waves that I had no business trying to swim in, sunset views from a cliff at the end of the beach. Crawling through a narrow cave on our bellies, reaching the other side all scraped up where we skinny dipped (sorry Gma & Gpa) with a hippy couple from Canada and found a sea turtle digging a hole trying to find a nice spot to bury her eggs. Yes, those things happened and they didn’t charge extra for them.
Our clothes and headlamps hung from our Canadian friends guitar that was propped up in the sand. The stars were shining and we ran into the calm water that was so salty even I managed to float. Every movement of our hands and feet showed the phosphorescence in the water. Where are we? How is this even happening? Here we are floating in the ocean only lit by the stars, all alone (except for our new Canadian friends a few feet away who also happened to have no clothes on), swimming in the perfect temperature water with my absolute favorite human in the whole world who loves me more than anything. I am so lucky. Period.
We make our way out of the water as if it is a scene out of Baywatch and put our perfectly dry clothes on our sandy, wet bodies and make our way back to the tunnel. Our turtle friend is still there so we hang out with her for a bit and watch her dig this endless hole. She showed us no aggression so we gave her back and feet a good rub. I am sure that is a big no no... Elbow, knee, elbow, knee, elbow, knee, rib, elbow, knee and we're on the other side. Endless turtle tracks in the sand lit up by our head lamps. A cold shower to rinse the tunnel cave off our elbows, knees and ribs and we make our way back to the camper to continue on with our normal routine. Bed gets made, teeth get brushed, and dogs go potty... almost as if none of those incredible things ever happened. But they did, we were there, and they are in our memory bank. #vanlife right?
It is hard to think of a creative way to describe how great all of these beach towns are. But I suppose I am not a writer, I am just a gal that enjoys documenting the memories and this is just another form of doing that?
It isn't so much the beaches or the towns themselves, it's the time, the memories made and the fact that I get to do all of that with this guy that chose to spend life with me. It's waking up, making coffee, complaining that I'm hot and don't feel like moving away from the fan. It's the routine of swimming in the ocean, getting sandy and salty (and pretending I can swim), showering to get the sand out of my butt crack and then doing the whole thing over again. But being able to do all of that with the human that loves me the most is pretty special. Ok that was the mushy bit.
Last beach town before we cut inland near Acapulco, about 5 miles from El Cayacal. It was a great camp spot (with all the amenities) in a meh "town". We needed to take care of a little business so having fast wifi and cell service was kind of a must. We met an amazing older couple that is in a super sweet overlanding rig from Belgium. We have been clinging to them hoping to gain even just a little bit of their knowledge. They have been on the road since 2007, and the husband is in a wheelchair. If that doesn't give a massive jolt of inspiration I don't know what will.
We stayed for 3 days and 2 nights, most of which was spent visiting with our new Belgium friends, swimming in the ocean that wasn't trying to kill me (for once) and sitting in front of the fans. It was hot, the hottest and stickiest we have been so far.
The last week or so that we have spent on the coast has really been amazing. We have made an incredible amount of memories, with each other and with new friends. But with that said... I'm hot, and when I'm hot I get crabby. Take me to the mountains please. Next up, Christmas in Oaxaca!
Mexico for the win, again. Zacatecas was everything we were hoping it would be. Narrow cobblestone streets weaved between beautiful, bright colored buildings. The air was crisp and cold, making our cheeks rosy. We nestled our camper in the back parking lot of a fancy pants hotel, layered up and heading it El Centro.
We spent a lot of our time there just getting lost in the city. Took lots of photos, stopped for coffee, enjoyed a taco or 10, peaked into a few huge and beautiful churches. The city was very clean, had quite a European feel to it.
The second day we did something a little more touristy. The mine tour. ALL ABOARD! We're in a choo choo train, wearing hard hats and about to drive INTO this silver mine. OOOOK. A 3 minute choo choo ride and we were in the middle, being guided through the mine. Really a pretty impressive tour. It was pretty interesting seeing the evolution of the mine and how the mining process changed over the years.
After the mine tour we feasted on more tacos and I stuffed my face with the 5 lb bag of candy Ken surprised me with a few days before.
Thank you Zacatecas for the memories. <3
I'll start off by saying that we did end up making it to Zacatecas.. rain, snow, differential, and wheel bearings be damned! I think my Spanish teacher in 9th grade mentioned this town in class one day and ever since I have wanted to go. She was bat shit crazy and a pretty awful teacher (Juneau friends reading this will agree!!!) but she was right about one thing, Zacatecas... (more on this later)
Started the morning off the same way we do every morning, coffee. Ken's with cream and sugar, and mine well, a little more complicated. A scoop of matcha powder, a bit of green chai, topped off with coffee and enjoy! It's either that or a scoop of hot chocolate, depends on how healthy I feel like being that day.
The day ended a little different than it does most days. We still finished the evening with all the rigamarole that goes along with putting the pop top up, and still ended with an evening cocktail.. All of this just happened to take place in "Taller de Raul" (Raul's Shop), instead of your traditional camp spot. After the experience we had, there will definitely be a review written up on iOverlander, all positive.
The sequence of events went a little something like this:
-Limped into the town of Parral with a loud squeak/squeal and a new thumping glug glug.
-Found the 1st mechanic looking place we could, that then led us to Raul.
-Made an appointment with Raul for the next day and cozied up in the Walmart parking lot for the night. Free camping and a grocery run, all in one.
-Toweled up our new found leaks from the heavy rain/ snow.
-Spent the day, night and all of the next day chilling in the shop with all our new friends.
We quickly learned that we were the first Americans, or any traveler for that matter, to have visited the shop. It was a wide open area with possibly 5 different shops in what appeared to be old horse stalls. There was a lot of disorganization and lets say cleanliness was certainly not their strong suite. The day came and went, with no luck finding the parts we needed so we were forced to hold tight for the night. With our rear end completely torn apart and jacked up on old wood blocks, we spent the night in the shop. Soda bottles filled with oil, piles of clothes, random tools in random piles, expired calendars with bikini models covered the walls as you would expect in any American shop. A 55 gallon drum turned shop wood stove kept the off the chill from the rain/snow mixture that was coming through the massive whole in the piece of tin they call a roof. It was the type of scenario that would give my tidy step dad heart palpitations.
Darkness fell and we all found ourselves hovering around the fire, meticulously choosing where to step making sure not to tip over a random cup of coolant or bin of nuts and bolts. Every so often a car would pull up and have them put coolant in. Because the weather was so cold people were worried about the water they use as coolant in their vehicles freezing overnight. It was a particularly cold week for them. Before we knew it, it was 9pm and we were doing shots of tequila out of a Nalgene bottle that came from Alaska. An hour passes and there was a Nalgene of vodka and beverages being mixed on what I assume is Raul's work bench but could also be mistaken as the place he dumped out the junk drawer.
Of the 4 mechanics, none of them spoke english very well and well, neither one of us are all that great at Spanish. Thank you, Google Translate! You can speak right into the phone and it translates it into any language. We have English and Spanish both downloaded so were are able to use it even when we don't have service.
The vodka bottle dwindled, our laughs got a little louder, and the jokes about how messy their bosses shop was got a little funnier. It was bed time. They all thought we were absolutely crazy for sleeping in the truck and insisted we come stay with them. We were just as insistent that we would be comfortable and were used to the cold. Said our goodbyes and saw them all bright and early in the morning. Bright and early here in Mexico is 9am..
I spent the next day in the camper, editing a video and Ken helped the mechanics in the shop. 4pm, multiple trips to the part store, 1500 peso and a bottle of tequila later and we were on the road. The thumping glug/glug had bed fixed! It was 20 miles down the road we quickly learned the squeak/ squeal had not. 1 out of 2 isn't bad, right?
Well so far this trip has been nothing short of incredible. Each day is better and more adventurous than the last and blowing our minds. Thankful for a husband that is constantly pushing the boundaries and getting us both out of our comfort zone.
After crossing the border we headed to Bahia Kino, a beach town that had a decent size RV Park, a beach and was close enough that we could make it in one day. Knowing we were going to meet up with some friends in Puerto Peñasco just a few days away we didn’t want to venture too far south only to back track the same distance again. After exploring Kino a bit we decided we would slowly work our way up the coast towards Puerto Peñasco and stop in some of the fishing villages along the way. I found what seemed to be a really neat camp spot on iOverlander in a town called Puerto Lobos and wanted to stay there a few nights. Weeelllllll, little ole Chinookie Dookie had other plans. About 50 miles out of Kino we lost power, the truck stoped charging and we were 200 miles from an actual town. The coastal road from Kino north was very desolate. When someone says it was in the middle of no where, this is what you picture. Side note: we were also cutting it way to close on fuel. The alternator had gone… So, my genius husband hooked up the solar panel to the battery and we made a straight shot for Puerto Peñasco, arriving just before dark. We spent a total of 5 nights there, most of which the hood was up and Ken was elbow deep in the engine. What should have been just a simple alternator switch out turned into quite the ordeal, the part store had given us the wrong part. There was a “mechanic” working on the RV parked next to us that kind of inserted himself into the project and ended up making things way worse. The plugger inner piece of the new (wrong) alternator didn’t seem to fit just right and the “mechanic” shoved them together with the battery still hooked up, causing sparks and our entire (well almost entire) electrical system to fry. So bye bye tachometer, bye bye stereo, 12v charger, and bye bye a few other things I can’t remember. All in all it was a bit of a mess and we needed the right part in order for it to be fixed properly. We decided that because we were so close to the border the most responsible thing to do was shoot back up to Scottsdale and have it fixed, so that is what we did. It was nice to hit the reset button for a few days back at the parents house. Shower, laundry, Costco, and a truck that worked.
Honeymoon Take 2:
There are very few things we have planned out but we knew the Copper Canyon was making the list, we know we are meeting Chuck (Ken’s brother) and Tasha (Chucks wife) in Cancun on Jan 2, and we know we should be home sometime in early April to start prepping for our upcoming season. Other than that, it will be day by day planning.
1st up: Cascada Basaseachi.
Cascada Basaseachi was amazing. All expectations met. There was an overlook with short and steep trails that lead to other overlooks giving you different perspectives of the canyon and the waterfall. The drive into Casacada Basaseachi was our first real taste of what the small winding roads would be like. We had been staring at them on a map only imagining how shitty (but in a good way) they could be and now it is our reality and still doesn’t feel quite real. We have also since learned that we haven't seen nothin’ yet…
Next stop, Creel and the Copper Canyon.
Creel was just a place for us to pass through, stay the night and hopefully get a shower. No shower, but the town it self proved to be a lot cooler than we had hoped. Took a late night bike ride into town after having a hot feast of refrigerator stew, had a drink in town at the fancy bar, street tacos, and a good night sleep. Yes, we had two dinners. The next morning we decided to make a “quick” stop at the near by hot springs because well, as we learned, we will both do just about anything for a hot spring. This quick stop turned into an all day affair. A 1 hour mission on a sketchy, winding dirt road brought us to a parking lot with a big sign saying “do not pass go, do not collect $200”… So we hiked. It was about a 30 minute hike down the canyon in the most serene setting you could possibly imagine. About a .25 mile before the hotsprings we were greeted by a less than friendly skunk. Who knew skunks were so aggressive? The dogs had a nice little meet and greet and then were lightly dusted by a stench that will forever haunt the inside of my nasal cavity. Ken tried to shoe it away and was also lightly dusted by the same stench that will forever live on everything he was wearing. After about 15 minutes we were able to sneak by. The hot springs were completely abandoned, no sign of life to be seen. There were about 5 different pools, all different sizes and different temps ranging from luke warm to luke warmer. It was a blast, a really nice refreshing break. Made it back out of the canyon in about an hour with no skunk run ins and headed straight for the Copper Canyon.
Being one of the only boxes we were looking to check, we had big expectations set for Copper Canyon. Holy smokers were they met. We rolled into the park just as the sunset colors were falling on the canyon. Parked the truck, grabbed the camera and headed for the railing that butted right up to the edge of the cliff. Silence. Jaws to the ground, and a lot of blinking. It was real, we were finally there and it was incredible. No fancy words I try to put down will really even come close to how amazing and overwhelming the view and complete setting were. Night fell, we took our photos, wandered the park with the pups, ate dinner and made some cocktails. After around 7:30pm, we were the only people in the park. Well, us and the security guard, he was on the other side of the parking lot playing on his phone. We had the whole place to ourselves, no rules. It would be the equivalent of having the Grand Canyon all to yourself. After the first cocktail we were yelling into the canyon listening to our echoes and throwing rocks down to see how long it took to hit bottom. After the second cocktail we graduated from rocks to really big rocks, like the size of two basketballs.. Somehow Ken managed to get one on his shoulder and we timed how long it took to hit bottom. 7 seconds, if you were wondering. After shot putting rocks into the canyon under a full moon, we settle into the camper for the night.
Breathtaking beauty from the canyon aside, it was one of the best days either one of us have ever had and that is saying something because we both live extremely blessed lives. Every single day brings a new adventure, new problems to solve, different lessons to be learned. Traveling is learning. You learn about yourself, your partner, different cultures, language, the list could go on and on. Traveling is important, it helps you grow.
Where to go next?
After a bit of back and forth of which direction to go next we set our sights on Urique, a small town at the bottom of a canyon with a population of about 1,000. The drive through the mountains and down the canyon was unlike anything either of us have ever experienced. Both of us have driven through Mexico once before; Ken in a truck/camper set up and myself in an car. So we knew what “holy shit roads” felt like and were looking to take the road less traveled. Well we found a whole different level of “holy shit roads” in the drive to and from Urique. It was the kind of day that you just don’t explain the details to your mom. We arrived to our cute little camp spot we found on iOverlander around 4pm, it was stunning. It was as if we passed through the gates and entered a lush jungle oasis amongst the dusty desert. There was a perfectly flat camp spot, an amazing garden that we could pick from as we pleased, full access to a kitchen, a wood fired hot shower and the dogs were gated in and could roam around as they are used to at home. We spent a few days here, I stocked the fridge with veggies from the garden, edited some photos and wrote a bit of this very blog while relaxing in our hammock. Meanwhile, Ken was off riding his bike around the town exploring.
There are only two roads out of Urique, the shitty road we came in on and an even shittier road to a smaller town a little further south. After discussing it with the groundskeeper, we decided on the less shitty of the two and went back the way we came in. From here we will be taking an iterior route and heading in the direction of Zacatecas, at least thats the plan today :)
Trips to AZ for me are a bit like visiting a fancy spa/bed and breakfast. The bed is always made up real nice, the fridge is full of the food you want to eat but never actually buy for yourself, and a fresh batch of Nana's macaroons ready to be gobbled down. The last month was no exception. Basically we all gained 5 lbs, dogs included.
We weren't elbow deep in all things camper the entire time. There were mini pool parties, desert hikes, sushi dinners, an early Thanksgiving with the G-rents, and a lot of Filiberto's tacos.. Nights on the patio with a fire became a routine with all the camper wood scraps in the Scottsdale Fireplace (chiminea). A fun day trip to the zoo with friends and our first Scottsdale halloween, skydiver costumes compliments of my dads closet. Pika pants got herself a real nice haircut and both pups went to a snake proofing class.
AZ was both extremely productive and a blast. There was a lot of vodka and a lot of wine, camper builds are no joke.
Day 2-10 ish
Woke up day two and Petras right eye completely swelled shut. No explanation. A little Benadryl and she was good as new. It isn’t unusually that she has one or two cuts on her face or legs at any given time. Ken calls her scar face, she is pretty tough.
Once we crossed the border into Canada we started working on our Canadian accents pretty seriously. I think we are both doing pretty well at it. The problem is, its hard to turn off and we end up holding regular conversations with our new personas ending all sentences in “eh”?
I would say our three favorite spots in Canada were Liard Hot Springs, Jasper and Banff. The hot springs were really nice. It was a really long day of driving, I think we arrived around 10pm, so it was dark out. Side note: the spot right above our heads (where the truck and the camper are merged) pours cold air, rain, and/or snow right on our necks. You can see my clever (not so helpful) duct tape/binder clip quick fix in the photo above. We both wore multiple layers including our problem solvers (puffy jackets) and winter hats just to keep kind of warm. That is a top priority project that will be worked on when we reach Arizona. So needless to say, after 3 full days of driving and freezing our asses off, we were more than looking forward to an evening soak in the hot springs.
We pretty well booked it through to Jasper and Banff, stopping as little as possible just for potty breaks and fuel. Camp spots are easy in Canada, even though most everything is closed this time of year, there are tons of parking lots and pull offs on the side of the road that we can park in overnight for free with out being bothered. We are pretty self contained and don’t need any hook ups that campgrounds offer. The night driving through Fort Nelson into Fort St. John was pretty sketchy. Super dark, tons of huge trucks with big bright lights going really fast. Poor little Chinookie Dookie has a hard time keeping up with the big boys.
The next night we stayed at a campground near the entrance of Jasper, one of the only open campgrounds in the park. Being day 5, we were both in major need of a hot shower. The next day we drove all the way through Jasper and Banff. The weather in Jasper was pretty cloudy/rainy/snowy so the views were limited, although still really wonderful. By the afternoon the weather lifted a bit so we were able to enjoy Banff a little more. In Lake Louise we stopped at the massive hotel/resort and took the typical photo in front of the beautiful teal green lake and then walked around the hotel, trying to blend in and not look like complete homeless people. Despite the signs stating entrance was for guests only, we didn’t get kicked out and were able to get warm for a minute and enjoy a break from the road for an hour. After finding out that the Radium Hot Springs was open we decided to pop in for a quick soak and warm up. I’m not the hugest fan of hot springs that are in swimming pools because it feels like you are just taking a bath with a bunch of strangers, but either way I was freezing and enjoyed warming up in the stranger bath.
Somewhere along the road there we ended up with a flat tire. Ken swapped that bad boy out so stinking fast, I just love him. *Swoon* <3 It could have been a pretty shitty situation but he stayed so calm and made it no big deal. Once we crossed the border into Montana we planned on buying a new set of tires but decided on just replacing the one that blew out and will replace them all once we get to Arizona. Ken had been to a Montana junk yard to replaced a tire a few years back so he knew exactly where to go. Once we got there he was pretty shocked/excited to find that not only did that have the size we needed but it was the exact same tire with the same tred as the others. Score! $50 later, a stop at the fancy new Taco Bell and we were on the road again.
We cruised through Montana in about a day and a half, I am sure the case of Redbull we got at Costco contributed to our endurance for the long days. I had never been and was pleasantly surprised by its beauty. We stopped somewhere along the way to let the pups potty and stretch our legs. Fall is upon us and the colors on all the trees were changing, even the needles on the pine trees, I had never seen that before.
Ken's uncle Dewey lives in Jackson, WY and is just getting settled in his new house. So we shot straight down for a very quick visit, not before stopping at a car wash to get our girl all spiffed up. Wanted to make sure we didn't look like complete dirt bags when we pulled in. Had a couple of yummy meals, caught up, SHOWERED, did a load of laundry and hit the road the next morning... Just as the massive moving truck showed up, perfect timing.
Jackson through Utah was a bit of a blur. We were trying to find a balance of go go go and get to AZ with taking every opportunity to enjoy every site and moment. I think we did a pretty good job.
It was our last night camping for a while, and the camp spot did not disappoint. Pulled down a bumpy dirt road, greeted by a few cows and found ourselves a nice flat spot. I made us a fancy dinner of turkey sandwiches with canned soup, served with only the finest of boxed wines, Red Bota Box. The stars that night were spectacular.
The next day was the day we arrived in Scottsdale. Made a quick stop at the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell, it was quite impressive, way bigger than I anticipated. The next 100 miles or so were suuuuuuuuper windy, our girl was struggling a bit to go up hills at elevation.. but she made it! We arrived in Scottsdale around 6pm to dinner ready and macaroons for dessert. Nana is the best.
The next three weeks or so we will be ripping in and turning the Chinook into our Honeymooner.
Clean, pack, clean, pack, clean, pack, rinse & repeat. The moment was here.. everything was diligently packed up in totes and in our new blue box, cabin cleaned, Honeymooner all loaded and somewhat organized. One final sweep in the cabin and we were on our way, HONEYMOON! Because we got a bit of a late start we knew we wouldn’t be making it too far tonight. So as we sit here at our perfect camp spot for the night, we are pretty ok with being 50 miles from Glenallen.
We stopped a few times before reaching Anchorage to stretch our legs, let the dogs potty and snap a few pics of the amazing fall we are having. Hit up the Costco for some cocktail fixings and snack food and got out of Anchorage. One last stop in Eagle River to see our friend Laura (Boomer) for a speed visit/ belly rub. She has the perfect little belly bump! Hugs and she sent us on our merry way with special homemade gluten free treats! YUM!
The drive from Boomer’s house to our camp spot tonight was dark, windy, rainy, and a bit foggy. Can I just say my husband is a champ driver, I didn’t get car sick at all… and thats saying something.
Life is feeling pretty damn good. Husband is reading his new book that he grabbed at Costco about the quake of ’64 and all cozy in his sleeping bag. I’ve got a blanket on my lap, glass of wine to my right, black dog snuggling to my left and the white dog is crashed out in the front seat on her bed.
I forgot how much I loved blogging. In 2010 I did a good stint of traveling and blogged the whole thing and loved it. I was very hesitant to do it but am very thankful to have the memories to look back on. Ken says it makes sense that I love it because I am a documenter. I like to document the memory.. photos, videos, blogging. I would say I get that bit from my dad, it is rare to find him doing anything fun without the go pro in hand.
Hoping to make it to Haines Junction tomorrow. Night night for now.
For a girl who loves her snacks and cooks usually 3 meals a day, food is on my mind. What are we going to eat, how am I going to cook it and how can I hide some kitchen gadgets in my stuff so Ken won't notice....?
Well, I married a man who is far too smart and I can't get away with anything. So I began doing a bit of research and came across a blog that mentioned they were using a stovetop pressure cooker, genius. From there I did a bit more research on which one to purchase and decided to go with the same model they suggested, Futura by Hawkins Hard Anodized 4.0 Litre Pressure Cooker. It arrived in the mail last night and I couldn't wait to try it out. We don't have a ton of groceries in the house at the moment, since we are trying to clear out the freezer and cupboards before we leave. So, I made do with what we have and whipped up a very tasty batch of moose chili.
Brown the meat, add the stuff, put the lid on and let it rip. Once it started releasing pressure I turned it to low and 14 minutes later we had dinner. Ken moaned a bunch so I would say it turned out well!
Feeling a little scatter-brained getting ready for this trip. We have a multitude of different projects to tie up. Life, photography work, Seward Maritime books and boat maintenance... All of which seems so easy when grouped all into one simple sentence. The plan: divide and conquer.
A few weeks ago we purchased a conex shipping container that was previously owned by Norseman Maritime (Ken's previous employer). It needed a new door and came full of stuff, most of which ended up at the dump but it is pretty well set up and we are both excited about our new blue box. It will serve as a temporary storage unit while we are gone and then when we are in town it will be Ken's little man shop.