So we woke up early to leave Acapulco, in fact we set the first alarm since starting our trip. After our evening arrival in Zihuatanejo we wanted to ensure even if the drive was really long we would be somewhere we could stay before the sun set. At seven am we set out and we had a lot of ground to cover. At first the coastal highway heading out of Acapulco was similar to what we had been driving on to get into the city, lot’s of topes through small towns.
Along this route we were stopped at our first military police checkpoint. In Mexico every time you cross from one state to the next there is a police checkpoint. So far we hadn’t been stopped at any of the ones we each one we passed the guys were standing around talking, not paying any attention to the passing traffic. But there is a first time for everything and a driving tour of Mexico would not be complete with out at least one police stop story. The police flagged us down and we pulled over and opened the door. The guy stepped on the bus and asked for our passports. I grabbed all our documentation and handed over Trevor’s passport first. He began flipping through the pages looking at the collection of stamps from around the world. I then handed him Trevor’s Tourist Card and receipt and Aurora and my passports. He wasn’t really all that interest in any of that. He wanted to know where we were headed and we told him Puerto Escondido. He commented on how far it was and He and Trevor had a brief conversation about how there is no where else really to go between Acapulco and there. While that was going on another guy came on the bus and had a short conversation with me – he spoke English and commented on how well I spoke Spanish. I think he just wanted to check out the bus. And that was that. We were told we could continue on. No problems, no excitement.
Shortly after that we decided to stop and fill the tank with gas. We needed to get more cash and were hoping there would be an ATM at the convenient store at the gas station. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case but we confirmed that they did accept credit/debit cards and decided to just use that. Not the best choice. When we tried to pay the card kept coming up as an invalid transaction. The girl working the pump informed us that the nearest ATM was in town and the streets were too narrow for the bus. So Trevor set off to town while Aurora and I waited with the bus in the parking lot. Luckily Trevor was able to relatively quickly find a taxi to drive him there and back again. Still it took an hour to sort out the money issue and pay for our gas. No quite the quick pit stop we were thinking.
After that it was a long windy road to the beach. We officially entered into the state of Oxaca, which is known for it’s quality traditional handicrafts, impenetrable mountains and beautiful coastline. While we were still traveling along the coastal highway our route took us high into the mountains, on narrow twisty roads. Driving up to this region you understand how the culture here has been able to remain relatively unchanged over time. You have to be very determined to truly access some of these areas. It took us a number of hours to travel what in the end is a fairly short distance and climb back down to the coast again.
We arrived in Puerto Escondido in the late afternoon before dark. We headed towards a campground located on Bahia Principal, which is the fisherman’s beach. The gate was locked when we pulled up, so I hopped out of the bus to check things out. As I was poking around an older French Canadian gentleman who was standing by a tourist shop outside the gate asked if I was looking to stay there. When I said yes he told me he would go around and see I was lucky and the guy was there to let us in. After a few moments another older gentleman came up to the gate from the inside. Speaking in Spanish, French then English it took us a few tries to settle on a language that worked well for us but we eventually worked out that if we thought we could fit we were welcome to park there. Trevor took a look at the obstacles and decided the bus could squeeze in. So with Richard, the French Canadian gentleman who let us in, directing and me watching Trevor negotiated the bus into through the gate and into a spot. This was not without a small bump in the road so to speak. As the bus crossed over the threshold from the street the bus rocked to the side and broke the hinge on the gate. Ooops. Remember though, this is Mexico and not uncommon. It would be a quick and easy fix with a welder in the morning.
It also rapidly became clear that Richard, who let us in, was not an owner or caretaker as we had first assumed but another camper who had been staying there with his wife Mona for only a week. We spent some time chatting with them, they were full of advice on where to go and what to see. They asked the question we had been hearing a lot from the other RVers we had been meeting- “Do you have the book” which refers to the Church’s book on camping in Mexico and seemed shocked like everyone else when we said no. We seem to be doing just fine without it.
The location was phenomenal. We were parked right next to the beach behind the fishwives. Every morning the fisherman came back with their catch and sold it to these women who then cleaned them and resold them. Fish doesn’t really get any better than that. If we walked out of the campground away from the beach the street was lined with souvenir shops and food stands. At night the streets were bustling with Mexican and foreign tourists shopping, eating and just walking around. We bought a hammock, and later bought another one.
The day after we arrived the French Canadian couple who had let us in headed out and we had the place to ourselves. We spent the weekend hanging out, eating good food and walking the beach. One day we bought some fresh tuna and shrimp from the fishwives and made up some amazing fish tacos. We hung up our hammock and watched the fisherman. It was nice and relaxing after the rough road to get there. But we woke up Monday morning and it looked like the streets had quieted down enough to try and get the bus out so it was time to move on.
We packed up and the manager helped direct us out of the campground. This time we made it out without any incidents. We were back on the road but our destination wasn’t far. We headed towards Mazunte and Zipolite beach area about an hour further south. We had wanted to explore around here when we were in Mexico five years ago but simply hadn’t had the time. After a relatively short drive we found ourselves in Mazunte, where we stopped to use the ATM. While there were definitely backpackers and surfers in Puerto Escondido, it was simply too big for us to really meet any, and we were parked closer to where the Mexicans were vacationing rather than the backpacking crowd we were looking for. While we were parked in Mazunte, both Trevor and I encountered people who wanted to talk to us about the bus. Unfortunately, I hadn’t found anywhere we could park the bus there so we headed onwards toward Zipolite beach about a half an hour drive further.
In Zipolite, the first place we thought we were going to park looked deserted so we headed off to another Hotel RV park that had been recommended but was a bit more expensive, Rancho Los Mangos. Los Mangos has beautifully manicured grounds bursting with almost ripe mangos. It also has an amazing pool. What’s even better is once you step out beyond the walls you are in town and about a two minute walk to the beach. We talked the owner down from the 350 pesos to $300 pesos saving us about $3 US an night. Once we parked the bus and got out we realized we were parked next to the same French Canadian couple, Richard and Mona from Puerto Escondido. It is a small world. And when we saw them again their first question was, “How did you ever get out of that spot!” to which Trevor responded, “Very carefully.”
Zipolite is an interesting little place. It is Mexico’s only official nude beach so it definitely attracts the free spirits. I’ve got to say there is nothing that quite prepares you for walking down the beach and seeing the seventy year old man, naked, bent over forward, doing “yoga” on the beach with everything hanging out for everyone to see. But not everyone on the beach is naked and not everyone is old. We’ve met a number of people who are interested in our place on Ometepe. We actually met a girl, Kat, who used to work at the Cornerhouse on Ometepe. She recommended the location she works at, Calibre, to spend our St. Patrick’s Day.
We had only planned to spend two days here before we headed on to Guatemala to spend Semana Santa, Easter week, there. However, we like it so much here we decided to stick around for a little longer. Trevor’s gone native and bought a sarong and we’re just starting to get comfortable. And I’m finally getting my beach time. Any other time of the year this decision wouldn’t have required much thought but it goes against my instincts to travel during Semana Santa. In the end we’ll find out of this was a good decision or not. As it stands now, the plan is to head out on Monday and hope most of the people are wherever they intend to spend the week by they and aren’t on the roads. Only time will tell. In the meantime, we have a few more days of beach time to enjoy before we hit the road.