Over the mountains and to the sea

Wednesday we left San Miguel de Allende. We took our time getting everything situated in the bus before we left. The night before we had located an RV park along the route to the beach. The plan was to see how we felt when we got there and decide if we wanted to push through or not. So we got on the road and headed out of the city. The wind was gusting and it was a bit chilly out. The landscape was similar to what we had been seeing since Texas, dry and scrubby with lot’s of cactus.

Trevor had loaded the location of the RV park into Google Maps before we left along with the route to the coast. We had bought new SIM cards for our devices several days earlier but hadn’t put any money on them yet. When we bought them they came with fifteen days of free calls and texts to Mexico, the US and Canada as well as free limited internet- which is pretty much Facebook. Otherwise we had been using the wifi at the place we were staying and hadn’t needed the internet.

Around 2:30 we got to where the GPS said the RV park was and decided it was just a bit too early to stop. I’m not really sure who decided that- Trevor says it was me, I thought it was him, I think we were both anxious to push on to the coast. So push on we did. On into what was the most epic and beautiful drive we have had so far.

We began to climb into the mountains. Higher and higher we climbed. We reached a toll and the toll collector warned us to drive slowly. We soon found out why. We had climbed high enough that the intermittent rain we had been experiencing turned to sleet. We inched along the mountain passes. Then the sleet ended and turned to fog. But it wasn’t really fog, we were just driving through the clouds. It was a little white knuckle for Trevor and I as he hugged the lines on the road and I sang “Puff the Magic Dragon” to Aurora to keep her from crying. However once we crested the top of mountains the cloud cleared and a stunning vista opened before us. For the second time on this trip we had crossed a Continental Divide. 

Mountains of Mexico
  
Driving the Continental Divide
 
After crossing over the landscape completely changed. Immediately we could tell we had moved into a tropical zone. I began to recognize mango orchards and see banana trees. There were still some cacti but gone were the dry scrublands. Now we were entering the lush tropics. The road continued to twist and turn and around each corner another stunning view was offered. The highway hugged the path of a river so as we slowly climbed out of the range you would turn a corner and see red mountain cliffs that descended into the blue water. It just got more and more beautiful. However there were no signs of civilization. We didn’t even see a gas station for probably 100 miles, which was making me a little nervous.

Finally, we climbed our way down out of the mountains and onto the costal highway, highway 200, which runs all the way down to Guatemala. Now we needed to find a place to stay. Which became an issue because we didn’t have internet on our phones to load any maps. We’ve been using an app iOverlander to help us find places to stay. It is user generated content of places you can park created by travelers who like us are driving Central America, really anywhere in the world. This let me pull up a list of places to stay and how far away they were but won’t create a map unless you are online. So with this app on my phone and the map Google maps had rendered earlier we tried to find a place to stay.

It eventually got dark before we arrived in Zhiuatanejo, the beach town we had decided to stay in. So we found ourselves trying to navigate through the narrow streets at night based on whether or not my phone said we were getting closer or farther away. Let me tell you that is a less than ideal way to do things. We stopped for directions several times, went up a narrow cliff side road following a sign that soon became clear wasn’t correct because in typical Central American fashion the arrow was pointing the wrong direction, turned around and found the right way but then had to back up and go the wrong way down the road because we wouldn’t fit under an arch. Yet in the end we finally arrived at one of the locations, El Mangler, listed as a place we could camp with our bus. Only to find the gate locked because it was so late. Just as we had decided we were going to park where we were outside the gate one of the guests camping there, an older French Canadian gentleman, unlocked the gate and let us in. It had taken us over an hour to drive one mile. We resolved to promptly fix our connectivity issue (which we did) and never to do that again (which we hope). 

El Manglar
  
Leaving Zhiautenejo
 
We woke up the next morning to the sound of surf, we had made it to the Pacific. By the light of day the long push seemed worth it. We had finally reached the coast but we still had a long way to go to get to the coast of Oaxaca, where we really want to spend our time. After a quick look at the ocean and short chat with the other guests we got back on the road. Our next goal was Acapulco, which relatively speaking wasn’t that far. 

   
The coastal highway in Mexico in many ways reminds me of the Pacific Coast Highway in the states, which makes sense when you think about it. The borders are political not geographical and both roads run along the coast of the same ocean. There are lot’s of twists and turns and ups and downs and the road follows the jagged coastline in and out of bays and inlets. Here is one of the biggest differences between the two- “topes” as speed bumps are called here. Every time you enter a little town you get into a zone with topes to control the traffic. These effectively double the amount of time your trip should take. Now these topes are poorly marked and in some cases quite high. So enterprising men go out to paint the topes and ask for a peso or two from the folk who slow down to drive over it. For all my libertarian friends, I see this as a prime example of the free market stepping into something that the government should handle but is neglecting. It is very typical of how Central America works. 

 Despite all the topes we arrived at Acapulco mid-afternoon and had no trouble locating the Acapulco RV Park Campground we were looking for. The location could not have been better. It is right on the ocean in area called Pies de la Cuesta, which is essentially a little sand spit just outside of the main area of town. The campsites were lined with coconut trees, you could hear the roar of the surf, it was right up our alley. We walked the beach, got a great fish dinner at one the beach restaurants next door and decided to get up early and try and push on to Puerto Escondido. 

   

While the beaches in Acapulco and Zhiuatanejo have been lovely the crowd is a little old for our tastes. I keep saying all these beach names make me think of watching the Love Boat on reruns when I was home sick from school in elementary school. And the crowd looks like it has been coming there since then. The Oxacan coast and Puerto Escondido area is supposed to have more of a hippy vibe and attract a younger crowd. It seems like it should be more of our scene and hopefully we will be able to do some promotion for the business in Nicaragua finally.

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