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 :)