So where were we......
After our 4 day sojourn it was time to hit the road again to our next scheduled stop, Oaxaca, in the Mexican mountains, we weren't quite aware it would take us 3 days to drive there but 3 days it did. Of course at a leisurely pace with some sight seeing en route. Of note en route we visited Canyon del Sumidero just outside the town of Tuxtla, a 1000 metre plus deep canyon that drops straight down to a river below, we drove along the summit as far as the road would go with James throwing rocks as far as he could every five minutes. Not often you get to throw a rock about 1400m away, even if it is into a canyon.
We also visited, just south of Oaxaca, the small town of El Thule, famous for arguably the oldest tree in the world. Sitting beside a church, the tree is estimated at over 2000 years old, 42 metres high, has a trunk diameter of 14m, and has a trunk circumference of 52m and an estimated weight of 630 tonnes. One seriously big tree as the photos show.
Oaxaca is a large colonial city which is very famous for its traditional culture and cuisine. We visited the tourist market which was not impressive at all and the local market which was very colourful and interesting, including James trying some local grasshopper cuisine. A bit crunchy was the verdict. With restaurants abound we visited one of the recommended local food specialist restaurants and had a superb meal, full of flavour and spices we gorged ourselves silly. Mmmm but it was worth it. The local cuisine is very famous for its sauces, James having the Mole Negra, a bit spicier, 12 traditional ingredients and the colour of black paste. Kerry had the Mole amarilla, sweet and spicy and yellow in colour.
Enough of the mountains, our next destination was south to the Pacific coast, although only a 240km drive south, it was through mountains and took forever! We eventually found Puerto Angel and then Playa Mazunte which had been recommended, being the cheap skates we now are we refused to pay for accommodation, camped on the beach and agreed with a local restaurant owner if we bought a meal we could use is shower facilities and toilets. Bargain!!
A not so long drive the following day to Puerto Escondido, Mexico's most famous surfing town, here it is packed with Australian and American pro's who come here to practice in the off season. Hence the waves were a little too large and dangerous for us. We did however locate another fine restaurant that let us camp there for a cheap fee and it was probably the best camp site in the whole area. We spent 3 days here needless to say. However Kerry decided to go boomerang throwing while James surfed and proceeded to put the rang in the middle of a huge thorn bush.
Sending James in to the rescue, he stood on a massive thorn and has been limping for over a week now.
On from Puerto Escondido, after an early surf session, we packed up and continued along the coast towards Acapulco. A full day drive saw us arrive just south of the city and we found a peninsula with hundreds of restaurants on the beach. It was also a public holiday and was jam packed with locals. A very intimidating sight believe us. Anyway, our usual negotiation with a local restaurant and we had our camp spot for the night. The meal was the local speciality of Pesca a la Talla (No idea what it means -sorry) this was agreed as our most tasty meal the whole trip. We had a fish, butterflied open, basted in sauces and then chargrilled. A divine meal that will be difficult to top.
The following day we drove into Acapulco, a massive city, catered to "all inclusive" tourism and a bit polluted. But one of James' must does for the trip was to see the "Cliff Divers". So eventually finding the spot, we caught the afternoon show of the local divers diving over 40m off a cliff into a tiny cove. They have to time the dive right to hit the water when a wave is there or it is too shallow. A spectacular display which lived up to all our expectations!
After searching for some local accommodation to no avail, we continued west along the Pacific coast, wild camped near a beach in a cattle field and continued the next day into Ixtapa, another very popular "All inclusive" resorts holiday destination. Just west of Ixtapa we found the recommended Playa Linda, a good surf spot and wild camped and surfed on the beach for 3 days. A very cool surf spot for learners.
On from there our next "surf "spot was Playa Salidita, another very calm surf spot ideal for learning where we hung out with some American surfers and just chilled out on the beach for 3 days. James also managed to drop the board on a chair here and punctured our NEW board. Luckily one of the local surfers had a full repair kit and mended it like new for us - for the price of a beer. Thanks a million Bill.
Unfortunately we also discovered that Lodzi has started leaking oil from quite a few seals in the engine so James cleaned it up and will keep an eye on it as we seek a mechanical doctor. Not too likely we think in Mexico as we have only seen 2 Defenders since we have been here.
After a weekend of surfing, where we actually took the time, to plan the rest of our Mexico route and take our first look at the North American map. We had highlighted a truck load of recommended parks and attractions so started looking at these to plot our "new intended" route. After some thought and discussion we decided to head all the way east across Mexico and enter the US from Texas and then continue East as we both wanted to see Memphis, after this 3,000km detour we head back out to the west coast. Probably doesn't make sense to any-one with no knowledge of US geography.
Continuing north along the Pacific Ocean our next stop was the highly recommended Neixpa, a very popular surf spot with cheap accommodation, only $15 a night for a 2 story cabana on the beach with a full kitchen and fridge. Kerry had looked forward to this for a long time. A little more expensive than this in the end, but we had an awesome cabana with hammocks on the balcony right on the beach. The surf here looked HUGE, but James gave it a go and went out for a paddle on the first day. Defo not a beginners spot, as he returned 10 min later half drowned. Maybe the surf would be better the following day. There were some American and Australian professional surfers practising here and the waves were over 15ft high. Ouch!
Anyway following day, too big for Kerry but James gave it another go, to return 45min later, even more drowned than yesterday! Not an enjoyable experience but you live and you learn! Neixpa was obviously not the learning spot for us. A little further up the coast we visited a recommended Turtle Sanctuary and project in Colola. Here we were told to return at 9pm to "do the turtle thing" What ever that may be. So we entertained ourselves for the day and returned at sunset, set up camp in the car park and presented ourselves for the "turtle assistants" at 9pm.
On this large stretch of beach about 5km long, the whole area is a protected sanctuary as hundreds of turtles (2 species) weighing about 150kg's, so quite large, come up on the beach nightly to excavate a nest and lay up to 100 eggs before rushing back into the sea. The sanctuary has a fenced off area of about 80 sq.m, where they re-bury all the eggs they collect so ensure safe hatching. They then number, mark and record all the statistics associated with the hatching and release of the turtlets.
Not sure what our role was but following the guys into the fenced off section we were made to count all the hatchlings from the early morning before and as it turned dark we went down to the sea and released them into the ocean. Obviously keeping away the land predators including stray dogs, birds and crabs, yep huge crabs kill and eat them. We returned to the fenced off area where the 2 local turtle employee's got out there sleeping bags and went to sleep after giving us the instruction to collect all the hatchlings and count them into a large pan. Mmm OK! We then both spent the next 5 hours running around the fenced off area catching and counting baby turtles. It was so amazing, you would see one or two baby turtles pop their head out of the sand, turn your back to collect the pan and 1 minute later there would be up to sixty little blighters running all over the place. Just as we sat down to get some rest, another nest would hatch and so the evening progressed. Finally at 2am in the morning we woke up one of the workers to say we were off to bed. He asked for the final count, noted the numbers down and we went off to the ocean and released hundreds of then, just of 500 to be exact!! Definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
Our next days drive was another short one about 120km up the coast to another surf spot La Ticla. After arriving there and finding an awesome surfers camp spot with the cleanest bathrooms we have seen in months we camped in the "Corral", a thatched area resembling stables where you each got a little section of the corral with a light and electrical point. As it was all fairly close proximity we had an really fun filled social 4 days camped here meeting John, the 72 year old surfer who was out there with the best of them (All the oldies reading this take note) Okay he is not going to win any fashion contests but good for John. Other characters were Nelson the 49 yr old Canadia, a group American teachers from Guadalajara and many other friendly people.
James caught some great waves, it was so cool as there were about 9-10 spots that you could catch the wave so not every-one was waiting in the same spot for 1 wave! In this spot we also so loads of rays jumping up to 1 metre out the water amongst the surfers which was very cool. Kerry counted 14 in about 2 hours. Unfortunately on the 3rd day a lot of little jelly fish arrived on the coast so Kerry passed on the surfing all day.
After regrettably leaving La Ticla we continued along the coast through the large port town of Manzanillo to Maleque and found a very nice camp spot in a hotel car park (rigged up for camping though) and the bonus was they had a wireless connection for the internet and laptop. So we spent the next couple of days on the internet as we rigged up SKYPE, the most amazing internet solution to telephony where a phone call literally any where in the world is about 2 US cents. We had to buy a headset and microphone, but it has been worth it. We then caught up with tonnes of friends and family which was very cool. Hopefully we will use it a lot more.
James had also cracked a molar chewing some Mexican tostados so paid a visit to the dentist whom sorted the whole tooth out, rather well, for US45. Not too bad we thought. After leaving Maleque our next stop was to try and hook up with "Familia Francais" the French family we first met in Ecuador last year. They were camped somewhere in Playa Manzanilla after finding them we spent the next 2 days with the family and some Canadians that were also camped there. One of the afternoons we were shown a video from one of the young Canadian couples whom had done a world tour in a Toyota Hilux 10 years ago, the African section was very cool and the two of us left the showing with renewed aspirations to drive through Africa. James tried some rock fishing in the bay and only came up with an eel, luckily released and then made a stop in the local co-operative fish market on the way back to camp. As the fish was so cheap we bought enough for dinner with Familia Francais and had a really delicious BBQ fish dinner on our final night.
Quite a long hot drive followed the next day to Sayulita, ANOTHER surf spot, but very pretty and quite touristy where we found a gorgeous but expensive German campsite right on the beach. They had first class, and working, facilities including wireless internet so we were pleased. We were also camped next to Lyman and Susan, two Americans in an old ford camper van who were just a wealth of information. We both got in some quite good surfing on the first 2 days but the surf totally died after that. James did some body work to the rust on old Lodzi, ably supervised by Lyman.
We spent Kerry's birthday here and in the evening we went out for a Mexican meal in a local restaurant and had a very tasty meal. Not too many prezzies for birthday girl but she had just been on holiday for a year. As there was still no surf the following day we intended on packing up early and hitting the road, but after saying "cheerio" and swapping addresses with everyone, we only got going just before noon. As it was "Semana Santa" basically Easter week, it goes crazy in Mexico where over half the country heads for the coast and it is complete chaos and loud music every-where, for a whole week!! So we left the coast behind us