Posts Tagged ‘mexico’


Our Perspective

We knew before we moved to Ecuador that we were Gringos. And we have been called Gringos frequently – by store clerks, friends and even strangers on the street. I’ve gotten so used to it, I describe myself to Ecuadorians as “el Gringo” because its the easiest way to describe who I am. In a community of Ecuadorians, the term Gringo identifies me as the 6ft tall pale-faced guy.

What is a Gringo?

The term Gringo comes in a few variations

  • Gringo – for the man
  • Gringa – for the woman
  • Gringita / Gringito – for the child or the “dear little gringo”. This is a term of endearment.
  • los Gringos – the group of gringos

Online forums and blog comments are full of Americans and Canadians who are insulted at the thought of being marginalized, by being reduced to a word.

Here in Ecuador, a Gringo is anyone foreign – from any country. However, the taller and blonder you are increases the odds of being called a gringo. But the telltale give-away is when you open your mouth. Once you speak, either exclusively in English or with the distinctive English accent, you become a “Gringo”.

Something to remember: in Latin American culture, it is common, accepted and even a kindness to give people nicknames based on their physical appearance. For example:

  • Flaco (thin or skinny)
  • Gordo (fatty)
  • Gordito (little fatty)
  • Suco (fair skinned)
  • Negrita (little black)

Two years ago, while visiting Margarita Island, I was driving with a Venezuelan friend. He referred to a friend of his as “negrita” – I was shocked. I thought that it was out of bounds – that it was an international insult. But no . . . in Spanish its common term of endearment. A professional friend, a Cuencano, calls his wife “flaca”. When translated literally means “skinny woman”. In English, it doesn’t sound so nice, but in Spanish it is a sweet expression from a husband.

In Ecuador, people are often identified by where there are from:

  • Cuencano (a person from Cuenca)
  • Guayaquileño (a person from Guayaquil)
  • Quiteño (a person from Quito)

For us, being called Gringos is equivalent to being called Canadian. It simply identifies our origins. It isn’t uncommon to be walking downtown and hear two older Cuencanas say: “Mira – la gringita”, referring to our daughter. They say it with all the love and interest that her own grandmother would. To us, it is a very kind.

 

What Are the Alternatives to “Gringo”?

While most people from the United States consider themselves “Americans”, this doesn’t have the same meaning here. America isn’t a country: it includes everything from Alaska to Argentina. After all, Ecuador is part of Latin America, located in South America. Technically speaking, everyone from Canada south to Patagonia is an “American”.

If you are from Canada or the United States, you may be called norteamericano (North American). At a glance, it is impossible to tell Canadians, Britians, Australians and New Zealanders apart. So just as the the diverse nationalities of Latin America have been grouped (right or wrong) under the term “Latino”, it seems that “Gringo” have come to define foreigners as a group in Latin America. Have you noticed a Gringo Superiority Complex?

What do you say? Are you offended by the term? If you are Ecuadorian, what do you say about it?

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Easter dinner in Cancun Mexico??

Posted: April 5, 2013 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We decided to have Easter dinner in Cancun Mexico. the weather was beautiful, the temperature was right, and we were feeling especially thankful for the true meaning of Easter.

The plan was to purchase ADO bus tickets for a straight through drive from Cancun to Belize city, where we would meet up with Mckinley Pritchard, a new found friend who lives in Placencia Belize, a beautiful resort area located on a peninsula, bordered on one side by the Carribean sea, the other by a 18 mile long lagoon.

The problem with plans, is sometimes, they do not work out as “planned”. The man at the counter said, “the only bus to Belize is full”. This was not good, Mckinley was driving to meet us in Belize city. We were told we could catch a bus to Chetumal, Mexico and cross into Belize on another bus line. With this being the only option, we went with it. This bus left two hours earlier and there would be a layover, so we missed dinner and hopped onboard, happy to still be heading in the right direction.
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ADO buses are nice, rivaling any chartered bus line available in the states. An action movie played most of the trip, and it was entertaining just trying to read the lips of American actors, while their voices were dubbed in Spanish. The air conditioning was outstandingly cold! Angela, having read this warning online, brought light blankets to combat the Arctic air. At one point, she wrapped one around her head to deflect the icy blasts. In order to remain happily married, I chose not to share this photo on the blog. Take my word it was a sight! 5 hours later we arrived in Chetamul, chilled through and through, lack of sleep, and a little hungry.
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With the time change, we learned we had 4 hours until the smaller bus would arrive. At 2:30 am, nothing was open, so we had officially missed Easter dinner, save the half sandwich wrapped in clear wrap from the little deli at the terminal. The “chicken bus”, turned out to not actually be a chicken bus. This was a smaller bus holding about 15-20 people. The driver was eclectic and amusing to watch as he interacted with the passengers. He often “grunted” and made painful noises, when he encountered heavy luggage, one of them being mine.
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The bus ride was broken up only by the occasional close encounter with an oncoming bus headed the opposite direction. At one point, the driver pulled over for no apparent reason, without saying a word. 10 minutes later he emerged from behind a large dirt mound carrying his half full roll of toilet paper. Apparently when nature calls…..

Finally, we arrived in Belize city, only to be dropped off at another location than the pre determined terminal. Without phone access, and it being Easter holiday, none of the internet cafe’s were open, we hopped in a cab to the other side of town.

Pulling up to the terminal, we could not help but see Mckinley’s Land rover. He recently had it outfitted with a roof rack, ladder, and butane conversion. Needless to say, it was the only one of its kind on the street. We went inside, found Mckinley and the adventure continued!

Stranded in Guadalajara! Is the trip over?

Posted: November 26, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We stayed the night at the campground we found in Guadalajara. It had rained that day so the grass was wet and a  thick dampness settled in the air. It was nice to have some relief from the intense heat. Before setting up the tents, we stopped at an open air grille that offered a hamburger bar. The challenge was communicating what we wanted on the burger.  Another patron sitting at a table near where we were ordering came to our rescue translating for us. We thanked her as we sat down at the massive wood stump that doubled as a table. The TV was broadcasting a Mexican channel, people were talking loudly and, to top it off, we were near the highway, so the traffic noise bustled nearby. However, there was something enjoyable, even peaceful, about sitting back and relaxing after the stressful day of limping the Land Rover into town.

The next morning, we followed the internet directions to the Land Rover dealer. It took about 20 minutes to make our way through the early morning traffic, We carefully watched for the signs so as not to miss our turn. According to the internet, it would be a long way around if we missed it. As we approached the intersection of our turn, we noticed a detour sign! We had heard about this but did not realize it might affect us. Crossing in front of us and riding along the road that we needed to turn at was a steady stream of bicycles. It was not a race or coordinated event, just local families enjoying the open streets without traffic. Apparently, on Saturday mornings, certain streets are closed to vehicles and open to pedestrians and bikes. It is a very good practice and I would have been much more supportive had I known where to go to get back to the Land Rover dealer.

We finally arrived at the dealer. We pulled right into the reception bay and were greeted by friendly faces. A gentleman met us at the door and said “Beunas Dias”! He spoke excellent English and after sensing we would be more comfortable speaking English, he said, “How can we help you today”? I have been working on a nice bronze tan, being on the coast for so long, and Bernard came ready-made with a bronze tan ,but some how we still stood out as outsiders.

My next Expedition vehicle

Full attention of three mechanics!

We were ushered into to a very nice waiting area, offered coffee, Coke, and the password to the internet, while the Land Rover was being dissected in the shop area. I walked out there a couple of times and there were three guys working on it, computers hooked up, and diagnostic machines all attached with wires running from under the hood. It looked like an operating room. One mechanic was sitting up on the engine compartment while the other two monitored the equipment and spoke back and forth. After three hours of intense diagnostics, tests, and head scratching, the manager walked in to announce they think they found the problem.

We were told that the only thing they could come up with was it needed a valve job. I immediately questioned this as prior to leaving on this trip, we had replaced the head gaskets, machined the heads, and had the heads pressure tested. The machine shop said they looked great and would not need a valve job. I explained all of this to the manager, to which he said,  “We are confident enough that it needs a valve job that if it is not, we will cover the cost of the job”. I asked how much will that cost? “Dont worry, it is cheaper than in the US. “Really, well how much?, I asked again. He said, $40,000 Pesos (about $3,000 US)! However, the shop was about to close and it was Saturday afternoon. We would have to come back on Monday morning.

What a slap in the face! $3,000, and 3-4 days for repairs??!! I was downcast on the ride back to the campground. What is the best thing to do? Should I scrap the vehicle, fly home and call it quits? Should I look for another vehicle? I don’t know, but I just do not believe it needs a valve job since we had just inspected the heads before we left on the trip. We drove back to the site in silence. Luckily, the Land Rover was still running. As long as I didn’t have to get up to high speeds quickly it drove fine. The check engine light glared at me as a reminder of the predicament we were in.

Before setting up the tent again, I called my dad to see if he had any recommendations. He has been in the automotive field his whole life, and was blessed with an over abundance of mechanical knowledge that has come in handy on countless situations in the past, not only for me, but all of his family and friends. He spends a lot of time on the phone or under the hood helping people out. I grabbed my tablet and headed toward the office to get the best wifi signal possible. We were using a couple of apps, Skype, and Tango to communicate, and it required a good signal.

I explained everything that we had done so far to try to fix the problem, replaced plugs, added fuel cleaner, tested injectors, secured wire connections, etc. As he listened, he was computing all of the info. All of a sudden, he said, ” I bet you have a plugged cat” A catalytic converter? All of these problems were caused by a bad cat? He said, “Disconnect the exhaust and see if your power comes back”. I thanked him for the direction and jogged back to the truck to try it.

I grabbed my tool bag, hollered at Bernard that I may have the problem fixed. Luckily the exhaust had cooled, making it possible to loosen the bolts. They cam off easily (benefit of a southern vehicle). I pulled the exhaust off the studs and crawled back out from under the vehicle. Turning the key, the engine roared to life, and I mean roared! With the open exhaust poring out of the engine, it reminded me of being at the local drag strip back home. It had a deep throaty snarl that any race car would be envious of, all eight cylinders pumping out the horse power. Bernard could not help but hear the engine start, along with the whole campground. We hopped in and were off for a test drive.

Guadalajara

As we edged out into traffic, an opening offered a spot to cross the three lanes. Well there’s no time like the present to test it. I floored the gas and the engine roared, the Land Rover leaped into traffic and responded to my stomp. We had power! Man it felt so good to feel the full power of all eight cylinders doing their thing. This proved my dad’s theory, the catalytic converter was bad. It was plugged up restricting the exhaust causing the cylinders to misfire.

We drove to down town Guadalajara to enjoy the market and festivities. While we were there, a large crowd had gathered around two clown street performers. We stood and watched as they performed tricks and the crowd laughed. All of a sudden, one of the clowns spotted Bernard. Sensing he wasnt a local, he began heckling Bernard. He called him out to the center of the crowd and both clowns had fun with him. I made the mistake of taking pictures, and this alerted them we were together. Now their sights were set on me. “You take picture, come here”. They were friendly and enjoyed bouncing back and forth between Spanish and English, making the crowd laugh at our expense. We got a few more pictures and moved on to see the world-famous market.

Is that an American in the crowd?

Bernard is in for it now!

SMILE!

The market featured everything you could think of. There was everything from watches, clothes, hats, shoes, trinkets, food, blankets, flowers, you name it. We spent a couple of hours walking around, and patronizing a food stand that had remarkable calzone type sandwiches. We enjoyed our time there and had to laugh at the sign for the bathrooms. We were used to seeing a charge for using the bathrooms, but this sign announced an extra charge for toilet paper!

Overview of atrium market

Meat market

Fresh Fruit

One bay muffler shop

Lets, “Git Er’ Done”!

The next day, we drove to a little muffler shop not too far away from the campsite and pulled into the one bay garage. I got out and pointed to a picture of the cat on the wall. We tried to communicate as much as possible, but it wasnt working. I am sure they were not used to someone coming in and telling them what they needed in English. Fortunately, Tom from Barre de Navidad had put us in touch with his brother who lived in Guadalajara. I looked up his number and the young mechanic let me call him. I explained our predicament, and asked him to translate. After their conversation, we were off and rolling! The courier hopped on his moped off to get the catalytic converter.

Job well done!

As soon as he got back they went right to work cutting out the old one and installing the new one. I was charged the equivalent of $225 us for the job! That’s a far cry from $3,000! The Land Rover ran like a champ. Man what a relief. Although I was thankful for all of the help along the way, it was amazing that my dad who was 4000 miles away was able to diagnose the problem over the phone. I am blessed to have such a wonderful man as my Father! Check our Facebook for more pictures of Guadalajara (click here)


We made it into Barre de Navidad just in time for breakfast and to meet a man named Tom. Tom offered to be an impromptu tour guide. We drove through town, looking at the nice homes and the unique marina layout. There were three roads that featured water front homes. A large lagoon made for some desirable homes sporting large private boats, docked right outside these homes. A particularly large home was distinguishable by the massive gates and security walls that surrounded the concrete structure. We were told that a local business owner had purchased it from an “alleged” drug dealer that had it built originally. We marveled at the apparent money that had been involved in building these architecturally appealing homes. Most of them sat vacant as they were seasonal second or third homes.

We spent nearly 3 hours touring the town and visiting a friend of Tom’s that lived out on the outside edge of town. To reach his house we traversed deep holes full of water, and gravel dirt roads. His family was friendly and inviting. In front of their home was a small family convenience store where one could buy an ice cold Coca Cola in a glass bottle. With the warning of drinking the water in Mexico, Diet Cole had become a staple. and you cant beat an ice cold glass bottle of Coke, when the thermometer threatens to blast past the maximum reading and burst.

Ice cold Coke or Diet Coke, actually

We told Tom we were looking for a campground preferably on the beach. He said, “there is one in Melaque, just 5 miles away”. He decided to take us there and get us set up. He warned us, “never pay upfront, you never know if you want to stay and then you are locked in”. We heeded his advice and checked into a nice beach side space looking over the ocean. The entire facility was fenced in and seemed secure, right in the middle of town. This would be great. We could set up the roof top tents and walk to the stores and restaurants. Tom hung around for a while and we chatted about life as an expat in Mexico, and our adventures so far. After a while he stated, “I should go, its starting to get too hot out here”! We dropped him off at home and made arrangements to meet for dinner at his “favorite place” later on.

Our tour guide, Tom, and the campsite

Ocean front with wifi at our tents!

The next morning, Bernard and I walked around town and took pictures after breakfast. Being interested in real estate, we were drawn to a building that looked like it had potential. Right next to a large concrete entrance to town, was a dilapidated two story structure boasting, “Se Vende” (For Sale). We peeked in the windows and wrote down the phone number. We headed back to the campground and fired up the computers. There was a strong wifi signal, so we wanted to update family and friends and see what was going on back home. We looked up just in time to see Tom ride up on a moped. He decided to pop in and see if we wanted him to play tour guide again and check out a cool little town up the bay. We gladly accepted and decided to call a cab instead of taking the tents down. And we were off!

We pulled into a little town that didn’t appear to have more than 50 residents, but it was right on the beach and their were several restaurants just starting to open. We wandered along the beach and enjoyed the ocean breezes, even though they didn’t do much to suppress the intense heat. There were many photo ops and we took advantage of them. The grand tour didn’t take long, so we were headed back to camp pretty soon. Tom hung around for a while longer and then hopped on his moped.

Beachside restaurant

Around 6 PM, the manager of the campground stopped at our site and said, “you need to pay for the four nights you stayed here.” I figured she was mistaken and I said, “tonight will actually only be our third night”. She became defensive and said, “No! you were here 4 nights”! I told her we would pay her for the actual amount of nights we were there (going on the third). She walked off, obviously upset with me. I didn’t think much about it that night and decided we would go to the ATM in the morning to pay for our stay.

Our campground. We un recommend them!

A great place for a nap at the campground

The next morning we got up headed to breakfast and then to the ATM. We were met at the gate by the manager of the campground telling us we needed to pay for four nights. I again explained that we were only there for three nights. She became argumentative and then walked back in the office. I was planning on working on the Landrover because it was still misfiring. We loaded up and headed toward the gate. I hopped out to open the closed gate and found it was padlocked. Dont tell me we were locked in! The gate always stayed closed, however this time, it was locked. I went to the office and told her I needed the gate opened. She said, “You must pay for 4 nights”. I began to understand that we were in fact being locked in. I became furious.

Caged like an animal!

I told her we would pay her for the three nights that we had stayed, but she needed to let us leave. She refused, and stood there glaring at me. Now I was angry. We were not animals to be caged up and locked away. I told her she better open the gate and let us leave. I said, “are you telling me you are holding us here against our will?” She said, ” I will call the police”. I told her she better go ahead and call them, so I could tell them we were being held against our will. I took it further, and said. ” I will also be calling the U.S embassy and letting them know we were being held against our will. Ironically, she all of a sudden said, “No inteindo”. I dont understand. She had been arguing with us just fine in English and now she doesn’t understand? How convenient. I said, spitefully, “well when the U.S embassy shows up, you will understand”. I was furious. She finally said, “Fine, you pay three days and leave”! I told her that would not be a problem, as we would not consider paying her for one more night. We packed our trucks, paid the bill and left.

Before we were kicked out

Well the truth is, it was a little bit of a problem as there were no other campgrounds in the area. We drove back to the restaurant that we had visited when we first arrived, to determine what to do. At least we had internet access there and we had made some friends there as well. As evening set in, we still didn’t have a plan. We walked the sidewalks and it began to come to us. In the center of town about a block from the restaurant, was the town square. The stage was in the center, and fortunately, there were electric outlets on the back side of it. We could park along the street, use the restaurant internet, and plug into the electric outlets on the stage. Breakfast in the morning could be had at the restaurant! We had everything we needed…..except a shower. At this point it was our best option, so we set it up. To avoid drawing unnecessary attention, we routed the electric cord up a pole, overhead to the balcony above, and then overhead to the plaza stage. It was genius if I do say so myself! Anyone walking on the sidewalk would be oblivious to the cord since it was overhead. We  hopped in the vehicles for a overnight stay.

Our makeshift power supply ran overhead

The next morning we woke to small  children walking down the sidewalk on their way to school. They were talking excitedly and chasing each other. All of a sudden a little boy yelled, “Connectodo” Apparently he noticed the electric extension cord running into Bernard s vehicle.  Bernard later told me that he woke up when he heard the shout and then noticed a small face and hands pressed to the window trying to see in. Bernard said, “Boo”! and the little boy ran off. Leave it to a small child to notice we were “borrowing electricity from the town square.

Our breakfast hosts

After breakfast we headed back to Melaque where we were to meet up with a “Facebook friend of a friend”. We were told by the friend if we needed anything while in the area  to look up their friend. With the Landrover running worse, we decided to call in a favor to find a place to work on it. After changing the spark plugs and wires and looking for vacuum leaks, and scratching our heads, we were referred to a local mechanic. That’s a whole “nother” story, so watch for it…….


We packed up and hesitantly started down the road toward Puerto Vallarta first thing in the morning. We had such a good time in Sayulita, that it was difficult to leave, but the road was calling. My check engine light had been giving me some problems since the trip into the jungle the day before. Fortunately, I had brought my diagnostic scanner on the trip. The codes were indicating a misfire. I didn’t really notice anything too detrimental, so I just erased the code and hoped for the best.

Welcome to Puerto Vallarta!

We drove through Puerto Vallarta and were a little underwhelmed. The entrance to the town was inviting enough, but the traffic, businesses and tourist littered the small ocean front town. There were some interesting statues, monuments and views, however nothing drew us in to stick around. We stopped at the local Pemex gas station to fuel up and then headed out of town.

Many miles spent on this “highway”

Highway 200

We found ourselves quickly driving down Hwy 200, a two lane narrow road with overgrowth extending in to the driving lanes. Traffic was very light and we decided to put some miles under our belts. Angela had decided to stay home until her next doctors appointment, which meant we would pick her up later down the road. For now, Bernard and I were loners travelling the roads unknown. The light on the dash popped on again.  This time, I noticed some “fluttering” mis fires. Fortunately it wasn’t affecting the power, however, the fuel mileage was another story. Im pretty certain I could see the guage as it raced toward “E”. I was running premium fuel per manufacturer requirements, and even though Mexico has subsidized prices, it was still expensive. Darkness was rapidly approaching and we were still not close enough to Barre de Navidad, the next town we planned to stop at. Each “town” we approached was another missed opportunity for a place to stay. There was hardly a neighborhood convenience store let alone a hotel or camp ground. Darkness set in quickly as we tried one more small town. We stopped at a small roadside restaurant and ordered tacos. We inquired about accommodations. There were none. We decided to ask one of the restaurants if we might park next to them and spend the night, but this was a very small town and  nobody spoke English.

Home for the night in front of the arcade

After wandering around the few places that were open we headed to a side street. One lone house seemed to be lit up like a football field. As we approached we could see that it doubled for a small video game arcade. The owner peeked out his window as we approached and he met us n the front yard. He spoke some English and agreed to let us stay under the lights on the parking pad and plug an extension cord in. He wanted to make sure we would be gone first thing in the morning which was not going to be a problem. We gave him 20 pesos and set in for the night.

The next morning, sore from an uncomfortable night sleeping in the vehicles, we were off. The town we were headed to was about an hour and a half away so it was an easy trip. The night before it had rained heavily, however the sun was brightly shining, promising a new start. We were hoping to get into town, find some internet and then a shower! As we rolled into the quaint town, it was hard not to notice the ocean, the blue skies, the people walking around, and kids running in the park. Mexico just seems to do more outside, in spite of the heat hovering in the mid nineties. Straight ahead was the centro part of town.

Barre De Navidad beach

Busy street corner

We parked on the street and checked out the surroundings. It was reminiscent of a small town you might find in the States. Storefronts lined the sidewalks with signs marketing their products. There was a post office, a police station, a smoothie bar, and a small store offering beach items. The large sign on the front of the police substation said “Tourista Policia” or tourist police. They actually dedicated an entire force to the tourists here! We walked in the door a slender built officer with his feet propped up on the desk greeted us in English, “Buenas Dias, how can I help you?” We asked for a restaurant with wifi offering breakfast. Leaving our trucks in front of the police station, we followed the directions on foot to the next street. We walked into the open air restaurant and found a table under the ceiling fan, as the heat was picking up already. We were greeted by the waiter, ordered breakfast and set right into accessing the internet.

A guy walked up and said, “Are those your trucks on the next street over?”. Was it that obvious that we were the outsiders? Did something happen to them? “Yes, we are we are travelling around Mexico and Central America in them”, I said. The guy pulled up a chair and began talking to us, enjoying our accounts of the trip so far. Bernard showed him the newspaper article and pictures online. We learned that he was an American and had moved to Barre de Navidad 20 years ago. We enjoyed chatting for a while, and then he asked, “What are your plans today?” When we said we didn’t have any specific ones, he offered to ride along and act as a tour guide. We hadn’t even been in town 30 minutes and already we were onto or next big adventure. It is truly amazing the generosity of the people we have encountered. We found out the mans name was Tom. He was an expat, an American that has lived here 20 years! He lives in a one bedroom apartment above the restaurant and paid $300/month including his electric, water, and cable! He said he couldn’t afford to NOT live in Mexico. I see why! We loaded up and headed out for another fun filled day of pure unadulterated adventure!

Beaches, caves and food!

Posted: September 24, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We woke up early again thanks to the chickens and “Soni Gas”! So we decided to do some exercise.  We ran by the smoothie guy, standing behind his cart dancing to the music, promising we would be back after our run. We ran through town and along the beach. Three quarters of the way down the beach we found a large log laying at the water’s edge. It was just perfect for some sit ups and pushups. The waves were refreshing, washing over us as we counted out the reps.

Sayulita Beach- Great for work outs and beautiful!

Farther on down the beach we saw a large protrusion of rocks. Rock formations that would make a rock climber excited. They jutted out into the water. It seemed there was no passing the rocks when the tide was in. However, as we neared the formation, light could be seen deep in the rocks! As we looked closer, we found that there was a cave tunnel, allowing access to the other side. Crabs ran around on the rocks, eyeing us, as if to say, “Do not enter”! We did any way of course.

Beach cave exposed an untouched beach

At one point you had to nearly get on your hands and knees to crawl through. I decided to just go for it and not contemplate what was crawling through with me. Waves crashed around us into the narrow passage adding to the excitement of exploring the unknown

All of a sudden, we popped out the other side. There before us was an unscathed beach! It was untouched by human or otherwise. There were no tracks, no beach chairs, umbrellas, or noise. There was just the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks, the birds overhead, as they circled above, and pure sand and nature. It was an exciting thought that we had discovered a vacant beach.  We walked around just enjoying the fact that for a moment we were on our own private beach, before heading back into town .

The hidden beach

Back at the smoothie stand, we ordered a fruit smoothie and watched it being made. The contents were ultra fresh as he walked across the street to the vegetable and fruit stand, minutes before, to  get the ingredients. For mine, I chose oranges, pineapple, papaya, mango, strawberries, and a little lime. Bernard ordered the green drink. Of the many ingredients, it contained cactus leaves, celery, and carrots. The blender was full for each drink he mixed up. The great part was, he would fill your cup nearly three times with the contents from the blender all for only 35 pesos. That’s a little over $2.00! Very refreshing!

Dancing smoothie man

Around lunch time we ventured back into town to see what we could find to eat. That is where we met Art. Art is a hard working guy; His sole responsibility is to get you into the small family run business for lunch. We saw him every day for a week. Each time he was out in the street directing traffic to the restaurant. He had the laugh and personality for it and easily convinced us to have lunch. This is where one of my many tolerances were tested. Anyone that knows me well, knows I am a germ phobic. I have an extremely difficult time drinking from a glass someone else has drunk from, even family members. I wash my hands all the time just to make sure I’m not carrying a virus. My stomach gets queasy at the sound or site of nasal fluids. You get the point. I am paranoid. So we walk into the tiny one room restaurant where mother is standing behind the grill waiting to prepare our order. Daughter is washing the dishes from a previous customer and Dad is smiling at us not speaking one word of English. After we ordered, Dad brings out some chips and salsa. Great! Every good Mexican restaurant should serve chips and salsa. However, I noticed right away, that someone had already been eating my salsa. I felt like I was in the story of the three bears. And somebody ate all my porridge! No, there was still some salsa, but clearly, someone had already been eating on it. The chips at least did appear to be fresh from the bag. Bernard dug right in never giving it a thought, But I couldn’t get over eating salsa after someone had already been eating it. It was as if the prior customer left some in the bowl and the owner said, I think Ill save this for my next customer. I chewed on a couple of chips and passed on the salsa. I have found since then that it is fairly common for the restaurants to reuse the chips and salsas. It is kind of a community offering. I have timidly eaten from some of these recycled bowls, however have to draw the line when I physically see the flies helping themselves. I know they are full of germs!

Our buddy Art and the owner of the family restaurant

Later after a swim in the ocean and a little sun on the beach, we noticed a man staring at our roof top tent set up. He was standing a ways off, so I decided to continue relaxing. However, Bernard got up and started talking to him .The conversation turned from the tents to our travels. The man said he had made similar trip years ago and was envious of our adventure. He had toured Central America on a motorcycle. He said he had some detailed maps that he would like to give us and invited us to his house 30 minutes away. He said it was deep in the jungles of San Pancho. He agreed to come by later that week and let us follow him to see his home. We said good bye promising to visit and talked excitedly about the many people we were meeting in Sayulita.

Checking the maps

For dinner we found a place on the out skirts of town. A man had an electric spit that was cooking numerous chickens simultaneously. We chose the half chicken, which included grilled whole baby potatoes, rice, salsa, tortillas, all for 50 pesos (about $3.50)! We found out that the mans name was Pepe. He told us he was the owner of a local non-profit radio station in town. The recent storm had damaged his transmitter so it was currently off air, but he hoped to be back on soon. We exchanged info, and promised to stay in touch.  He said his non profit benefited young women and ladies that suffered from domestic abuse and elderly that could no longer take care of themselves.. We promised to be of any assistance we could. We took the meals back to the hostel and settled in checking our emails and facebook ,and discussing the days events with our fellow travelers at the hostel. Life in Sayulita is great!

Sayulita life is the life for me!

Posted: September 14, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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Ahhh waking up in Sayulita is an experience that cannot be compared. The first thing you will notice is there are several roosters around the hostel. The funny thing is they do not tell time. The first one starts, “COCKA DOODLE DOO”! at 2 am. Of course not to be out done, the neighboring roosters all reply with more “COCKA DOODLE DOOS”! So you just nicely get back to sleep and the next wave of crooners starts about 4 am. Then, finally the traditional ones finish up at 6 am. I think the early morning roosters are the ones that are actually just coming in late from over doing their tequila shots at the hen-house.

The next thing that  your ears are molested with, without fail, is the dueling propane gas trucks. They both pass by the hostel around 8:00 am, with their amplified stadium speakers booming  from atop their trucks, “Soni Gas!!”, “Global Gas!!” There is also a blaring accompaniment of, off to the races, music distorted, bellowing across the street. They are competing for the beloved business of anyone that will stop them to buy gas for their homes.

This morning was not unlike any other morning. We decided we were hungry and wanted to walk into town to find some coffee and breakfast. I had some laundry that needed to be done, and I had seen the local launderia on the main street. So off we went to do our daily errands.

Curbside parking

As we left the security gated hostel complex, a man was singing in a drunken melody, rock and roll from the 70’s, while strumming his guitar. Surprisingly, I have heard much worse, late night at a karaoke contest. He honed right in on Bernard and began singing even louder. Bernard, being Bernard, could not resist the opportunity for a duet, so soon they were both singing along. The man then began to philosophize while strumming the cords of the guitar. He was solving the worlds problems, deep in ponderous conversations when we decided we were ready to move on. This is when without any apology, he asked Bernard for 10 pesos so he could buy more alcohol. Keep in mind that this was about 8:30 and he was just finishing the bottle he had in his hand. Nothing like thinking ahead so that he didn’t go without!

The philosopher

The duet!

As we walked, we passed several store front businesses, a vegetable stand, an internet cafe, and swim suit shop. As we neared the corner, we could not help but notice a man standing behind a portable cart next to the road, radio turned up, and him singing and dancing to the 80’s rock. We were getting all the genres that morning! He was mixing up fresh smoothies. They looked great, fresh papaya, mango’s, strawberry’s, pineapple, you name it, he was adding it in. He was having a great time, singing, dancing, and smiling all the while. The people so far were just in the happiest of moods. It was just a little contagious.

Shiny happy people

We stopped at a recommended restaurant for “The best breakfast in town”, Choco banana. They are well-known for their semi frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and the covered in granola. I have to admit is was very good, although pricey compared to other places we found later. We were particularly impressed with the artistic cafe mocha that was served. Besides tasting great, it was also appealing to the eye.

Work of art tasted, “Oh so good”!

Our next stop was the launderia where I could drop off my clothes to be washed, dried and folded. We met Leo. He is a local that was celebrating his one year in business, so he was under cutting the other competition in town, offering the lowest price for the services. As we walked in, we noticed parked outside,  a prime candidate for the “VW’s of Mexico” photo album, a green convertible bug. The home-made convertible job, and the missing front fenders all added to the uniqueness that was this bug. As it turns out this bug was owned by Leo, the launderia owner. I told him what we were doing, so he said, “Sure, you can take a picture”. He then said, ” I take one of you in it”. We had fun talking about the car. He said he was leaving it just the way it was. He did not want to fix it up just for running around town. It has its own character already, and the owner was equally a character, as we seemed to run into him all over town, later on.

The bug

“Yep, its me”

We walked back to the hostel, full from breakfast, and full of anticipation for all this little town had to offer. We couldn’t wait to get out and explore the area, but I wanted to get in touch with Angela to see what her doctor had said. As we climbed the stairs to the hostel, we noticed other people had began to stir. We met several friendly people right off the bat. One of the most amazing things about hostel’s are the people you meet. You are exposed to different cultures, ideas and traditions all in one location. Two of the guys we met stood out and became quick friends with, Brendon from Perth, Australia, and Pete from Ireland. They had both independently traveled to the hostel ,backpacking across the world, and met there. We had a great time looking at the big world map hanging on the wall, discussing each others countries. We also met people from London, Germany, Mexico, and even the U.S.! This was a miniature melting pot and everyone got along fine. I was intrigued with how many people, particularly young, were on world travels by themselves, exploring other countries for months at a time. When I was in my early 20’s, it never occurred to me that it was possible to see the world. I thought you had to work hard early, so you could see the world later. Man, just think of what stories these guys will have to tell by the time they reach retirement. Most of them worked a few months, long enough to save up travel expenses, and then moved on until the money ran out. I envy the free spirit, and seeming fearlessness exuded by the people we met.

We went how many miles now?

I was finally able to get in touch with Angela, she was ok! This was great news. She had a reaction to one of the medicines she was taking. The doctor wanted to observe and check her out again at a later time, so it might be a couple of weeks before she returns. I did not like that possibility, as we have never been apart for more than a few days in the 18 years we have known each other. This will be a new experience for both of us.

We will make the best of it here in Paradise and wait it out. Hopefully she can get back soon and we can continue on with our trip across Mexico and Central America!


You probably last remember that we were caught up in a traffic jam headed toward Puerto Vallarta Mexico, when we decided to make a small detour to visit the town of Sayulita Mexico. As we pulled into town, it was difficult to take it all in. Everywhere we looked offered fascinating sites. There were numerous restaurants, road side stands, people walking, dogs barking, children playing, and the beach! Let me tell you about the beach. There were several streets leading from the town square ending up directly on the beach. You could actually see the sand and water while standing in the center of town. It was one of the most amazing views I have encountered to date. Most beach towns are over built, allowing the mega hotels to hog the frontage. Not here. There was hardly a two-story building, let alone a skyscraper.

View the Ocean from town

All roads lead here

We quickly found a coffee shop where we could get internet, ordered a coffee and checked online while taking in the sites the sounds, and bask in the  exuberance of having arrived in what appeared to be the find of a lifetime. And all by happen chance? I think not!

Sadly, we loaded up the cars and headed to take Angela to the airport in Puerto Vallarta . Bernard and I vowed to return to the small town to wait for Angela to get back so we could continue on with our trip. We found the back way to the airport bypassing all of the construction traffic we were dealing with earlier. We encountered more beautiful beach and ocean views, along with the occasional vendor selling coconuts in a stand alongside the road.

Fortunately the airport in Puerto Vallarta is very easy to navigate. It only took 30 minutes and Angela was checked in waiting for her flight. We sadly said our good byes, knowing it was for the best to get her treatment from her doctor as she was still experiencing abdominal pain. We got back in the vehicles headed back to unknown adventures in Sayulita.

We had put in an inquiry for a place to stay that Bernard found online, that offered a kitchen and bathrooms. We decided if we were going to be here for a week or so, we needed accommodations. We drove through back streets, and passed people on bikes, and horses, all the while trying to locate the address. We noticed a dry river bed running through town that looked like a fun place to explore later. As we made a turn onto one road, we noticed a burm of dirt across the road that appeared to be part of the river. We needed to get to the other side, so I figured why not cross it? A man and boy were sitting on their front porch likely amused at the site of our vehicles attempting the crossing. The loose ground caused some interesting driving, and after making it into the dry creek bed, I decided to turn back. All I needed was to have our first day in Sayulita being interrogated by the local police..

A little off roading in town!

After wandering around town, we finally gave up on finding the house. However on our tour of town, we came across a little hostel called “The Amazing Hostel”. Hostels are common in Mexico, offering individual beds, in a common area, most having kitchens and bathrooms available as well. This particular facility seemed top-notch. There was a security fence and gate at the entrance, and as we entered we noticed the pool, rock climbing wall, and sun areas. Wow! This was luxury living in an unlikely spot.

Our new home

We met Anhuar, the live in host, and later  found out his daughter and husband were the owners. They had been awarded 3rd place on the Latin America version of The Amazing race. Anhuar showed us around the newer facility. The kitchen was clean, fresh and offered all the essentials including silverware, plates, fridge, microwave, and two burner stove. Attached to the kitchen was a common  area living room that featured lounge seating to watch tv, wireless internet, and a computer. Individual hammocks hung from the ceiling with views out of the wall size windows. Once you walk out of the kitchen you are literally at the pool lounge area and rock climbing wall. They had thought of it all. We were astounded to find out that the accommodations were only $15.00/night! We were told if we pre paid for six nights, we would get the seventh for free. That made it around $13/ night. Not too bad.

Anhuar- giving the tour

The sun deck at the hostel

Pool and rock climbing wall

After receiving our clean sheets we made our way downstairs to the dorm style bedroom. There were lockers next to each bed that allowed you to securely store your clothes etc. There was one shower and one bathroom inside the large bedroom, and several more throughout the facility. In front of the rooms was a patio with 3 tables and umbrellas where you could sit and visit, read or relax.

After getting set up, we decided to walk into town (a short two blocks to the main street), and find what it had to offer. Everyone we passed were so friendly, waving and smiling. This town was magical. The cobblestone streets made for a challenging walk, albeit beautiful. Each rock seemed as if it were hand placed causing an uneven surface individually, however a defined road to drive on. The humid, salty air was refreshing and added to the experience of the beach surroundings.  Each store appeared to be owner operated. These were not large chain stores, though there were a couple in town. One of the chains common to Mexico is called “OXXO”. As we passed restaurants, stores, produce stands, and people walking in the streets, we noticed a common theme. This town, like most in Mexico so far, was a very community oriented area. Children were running and playing in the streets, dogs barked and played, people visited in front of the establishments. It was just a great feeling to be here walking amongst the streets, in this town.

In the center of town we noticed a square or plaza. From the plaza, you could see the beach and ocean. Vendors stood along the streets selling tacos, smoothies, refrescos, and of course sunglasses and wrist bands.

Do you want a bracelet with your name?

There were VW bugs everywhere. This gave Bernard and I an idea. Why not take pictures of the bugs and upload a photo album online to enjoy later as there are not as many bugs back in the states? You can see the VW’s of Mexico by clicking: VW’s of Mexico. We are adding new ones as we go.

Many VW’s in Mexico

We walked down to the beach and noticed the families playing, surfing, eating, and sunbathing. Man, I could spend a week here no problem! Out in the bay was a sail boat that appeared to be anchored. Some locals were paddle boarding out to the deck and diving in. Our best guess was that someone left it here year around and the kids enjoyed it when the owners were away.

Sayulita Beach

The sailboat

Playing in the sand

Tired from all the walking and sight seeing, we decided to go back to the hostel to settle in to our room. I was ready for a hot shower. One of the things I have missed on this trip is hot showers. Even though it is hot outside, I enjoy a good hot shower. So I entered the room where the shower was. On the wall was a sign posted that read,”To get hot water on the shower,you need to turn the light on and only use the right hand side knob”. This seemed strange, but when in Rome…..or Mexico. I clicked on the light switch, turned the shower knob, and presto, there was water. On the shower head was a small valve that instantly blew off and landed on the floor. I picked it up and started to return it to the head, when all of a sudden, I felt a tingling sensation going through my hand from the water! I jerked back and looked up. Just to be sure, I hesitantly touched the water again. Yes! There was definitely an electrical shock coming through the water. I looked up at the shower head and noticed a lamp cord coming from the light on the ceiling directly to the shower head. Now water and electricity mixing, with me standing wet, in the shower, went against all common sense, I might have. I quickly turned off the light switch, and continued my cold shower in the dark!

Here’s your sign

Electric shower

I know this is only the beginning of our many adventures in Sayulita, so stay tuned as I will try to get caught up on writing these blogs.  For more up to date photos and stories visit our Facebook page at Central America Overland Expeditions. If you havent signed up to receive notifications of our blog posts, please scroll back up this page and sign up now.

Lo De Marcos Mexico, the surfs up?

Posted: September 4, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We left San Blas headed towards Puerto Vallarta with no particular destination in mind. We had heard of a few small towns that might be interesting to visit. One of those towns was Lo De Marcos. We rolled into town looking for a campground. After some challenging one way streets, we came to campground row. There were numerous campgrounds all promising similar accommodations. “Free wifi”, “beach front”, “electric hook ups”, they all boasted. We chose a nice location and set up camp.

Campsite under the fruit trees

We used the same campsite but were still charged for three people!

We walked down to the beach where there were many tourists and locals enjoying the 96 degrees. The waves were gently rolling in, much to the surfers dismay. It didn’t look like they would have a chance to display their talents today. However, as with many other beaches thus far, it was beautiful with lots of clear sandy beach. It was nice that there was not much sign of anybody peddling their wares. We dove in and took a relaxing swim, as Bernard looked around for photo opportunities. Now isn’t this what Mexico is all about? Sun, surf, sand, and locals?

Lo De Marcos beach

We noticed the beautiful trees scattered around the campground, and had chosen our spot based on the shade covering of a coconut tree and mango tree. We were able to sit around the trucks while enjoying the 10 degree difference in temperature the tree covering provided. All of a sudden, there was a loud thud and then a “splat”! What in the world was that? After some investigation, we found a large ripe mango had fallen on the other side of the truck. It smashed open upon impact gushing its sweet contents all over the asphalt driveway. The bees wasted no time attacking the pulp, and sweet juices.

Bernard went down to the beach taking pictures, while Angela and I sat in our loungers being lazy, reading and surfing online. It was hot even in the shade of the coconut trees. If you sat perfectly still, you might avoid having sweat trickle down your forehead, but mostly it was unavoidable.  Bernard returned to the campsite and said he had some exciting news. He had met some surfers that operated a surf school on the beach, and because Bernard promised to take some pictures of them, they offered free surf lessons. Learning to surf is definitely on our list of things to do while here in Mexico. The waves might be a problem though. If I am going to learn to surf, I need decent sized waves to propel me through the water. The waves that were rolling into the beach currently, barely resembled a ripple on an inland lake when a ski boat drives by.

Small waves on the beach

Bernard siesta!

We decided to head into town to find something to eat. We also wanted to pick up a fan for the campsite and tent. We drove around asking about fans in the area, but much to our dismay, were informed we would have to drive about 20 miles away to another town, called Rincon, that might have them. We decided it might be a good thing, because it would allow us to be in the air-conditioned truck for a little longer. It would be  a nice relief from the sweltering heat. We decided to wait until the next day to go.

We headed back to camp to settle in for the evening and had to laugh as we approached Bernard’s truck. A very ripe mango, half eaten by squirrels, had fallen from the tree above and landed on his fender guards. The “guts” splattered down the side of the fender and onto the ground. Of course this became another photo opportunity, so Bernard began snapping photos for memoirs. After some wireless internet time right at our campsite, we climbed up tour tents for the evening. It was still uncomfortably humid, and sweat was threatening to stream out our pores with any slight movement. We decided a shower in the shower house was in order. Fortunately, we found the bathroom and showers very clean and accommodating here, unlike the mediocre ones back at San Blas.

Splat!

Mango’d!

The next morning we closed up the tent on the Landrover and headed into town in search of a fan. Upon arriving in the predominately tourist area of Rincon, we did a little tour of the town and discovered many seasonally vacant homes along the ocean side community. From the markings and flags, it appeared many of the lavish homes were owned by Americans and mostly Canadians. These were very nice homes decorated with local flares, such as masonry, block and wrought iron work. Many homes had a concrete walls defining the property lines and offering access through large wrought iron gates. The architecture was very appealing. These homes would  fit in nicely in any upscale neighborhood in the states. I wonder if they need a house sitter to keep an eye on the home while they are gone…..?

Rincon statue in town

Cowboy in town

Some vacant homes

More homes in Rincon Mexico

We found a fan and a body board to play with in the water, back at camp, and headed back to find something to eat. On the way we stopped at a fruit and vegetable stand, so I could buy a whole, fresh pineapple. I paid 20 pesos, “venti” (or about $1.50), for a nice large one. I would put it in the cooler to get cold for a snack later. There were not many restaurants open, so we chose one that looked clean and the people were friendly. They were probably glad to see us, as we were the only ones there. After ordering from the menu, we enjoyed chips and salsa, with varying temperature salsa. My favorite was “Caliente”, which I enjoyed, but not sure how much of the taste I experienced as my tongue went numb after the first bite! Our food was brought out and we enjoyed the hot fresh fare, along with a Coka Light, and “botella agua” (Diet Coke and water), and Bernard, Pacifico, a watered down beer, common here in Mexico.

We arrived at our campsite, set up the fan facing the lounger chairs and enjoyed the breeze the fan offered. Angela decided to do some reading, and Bernard and I decided to go down for some surf lessons. Unfortunately, when we arrived on the beach, the surf instructors were standing around talking. The waves were still belemic. We talked for a while, and they offered to take us out in a boat to an island that has better waves, but it would cost $250 pesos or about $20. I had my body board or boogie board, and noticed the glee in the surfers eyes, as they somewhat discretely laughed at me. They said surfing is way more fun. We decided against taking the trip at this time, but told them we would get lessons later.

Lets Boogie! Boogie board

In the sand, on the beach, is a large truck or tractor tire that is buried half way. When the surf is down, the surfers use it to perform tricks. apparently this is common at most surf beaches. One of the guys began showing us his tricks. He would run up to the tire do a hand spring, flip in the air, and land on his feet on the edge of the water. It was purely acrobatic. Bernard began snapping photos, so naturally, the tricks became heightened, and his friends started joining in. It was a great show of athleticism and skill.

Up, up, and Away!

Great shot! And he landed it too!

We said good-bye to the surf crew and headed back to camp to try the now chilled pineapple. I went to the truck to get my Crocodile Hunter knife to cut it up. As I approached the table to begin surgery on the fresh fruit, I could not help but say, “That’s not a knife, This is a knife”, in my best Australian accent possible. Wow, fresh pineapple is nothing like the canned fruit back home! Well its similar, but so much more juicy and sweet. The cool pieces of fruit was just what the doctor ordered.

After dark, Angela decided to go take a refreshing shower before bed. Bernard and I sat waiting our turn checking emails, and surfing Facebook. It was really nice to have a strong signal right at our campsite. All of a sudden I heard Angela call for from the shower area. I was a little panicked. Was she ok? Maybe I had become too comfortable just letting her wander around alone, in a foreign country. I quickly made my way over to where she was. She was leaning over the sink saying she was dizzy and in a lot of abdominal pain. She said she could not walk out of the shower area because she was in so much pain. I didn’t know what to do. I wasnt sure that I would be able to get her up the ladder into the tent or if that would even be best. I just stayed with her trying to see what I could do for her. She told me she had to have a bed to lie down on. I hollered at Bernard who by now was just as curious as to what was going on. “Can you try to see if the camp host is still around? I need to rent a room”.

Family suite entrance from the beach

Of course, we were one of the few people at the campground, but for some reason there was only one room available. It was the family suite on the beach with 3 beds, a kitchen, patio and view of the ocean. I couldn’t argue, so we took it and got Angela laid down. She was still in a lot of pain as I helped her walk the 200 yards from the bathrooms to the room. There was A/C in the room, however, apparently you have to pay extra and they give you a remote. By this time, there was nobody around to get a remote from. I went and got our newly purchased fan and set it to blow the air on Angela. I didn’t get much sleep worrying about her and not knowing what was causing her the severe pain she was in.

The next morning, Angela was feeling slightly better but still in pain. We decided it would be best for her to fly home to see her doctor. It was too severe of pain to just leave unattended and travelling in a roof top tent might just inflame it more. We decided to head to Puerto Vallarta to get her on a plane as quick as possible.

Travelling south on Mexico 200 was slow going there was construction and it was common for us to sit for a half hour or more at a time, at a dead standstill. People were getting out of their vehicles impatiently looking to see what the hold up was. At one point just as traffic was starting to move, we noticed the vehicle behind me did not move. Then the yellow Nissan truck turned on its flashers. sitting right in the middle of the road. Bernard and I stopped our vehicles and ran back to see if we could help. We communicated the best we could and could see it was overheating. Bernard went back to his truck and pulled out a half full bottle of antifreeze and gave it to him. It was too hot to open the cap, so we just helped him push the truck off the road. So as not to hold up anymore traffic, we wished him well and jumped back in our vehicles to go.

Traffic jam

A little farther ahead we were stopped once again. I could see a Pemex gas station and a sign for Sayulita Mexico. I had read about the sleepy surf town online, and it had been recommended to us by DJ, a woman back at Stone island, as a must see. The campground book we had said very little about the town, stating, ” there are a few restaurants, a small market, and not much more”. It wasnt much of an appealing sales pitch, and anyway we needed to get on to Puerto Vallarta to get Angela on a plane. We continued inching forward for the next hour until we finally came to the intersection to turn or go straight through. Still wanting to make it to Vallarta, we inched forward some more. All of a sudden, I had enough inching! We can wait out the traffic while we look at the town of Sayulita.

Sayulita Mexico!

I made the turn, the sign said 3 km to Sayulita, Somewhere around 15 km, I figured we had missed it. We turned back, and finally found the one street that led into town. It was a little cobblestone street that ran off of the main road in a “V” heading in a direction difficult to see from the other direction. A small sigh hand painted on a post marked the turn. We had arrived.

We drove farther in and found a place to park right near the center plaza. We got out and Bernard and I just stood there in disbelief. This was an absolute amazing town! It was so inviting, we could see the beach from where we stood. We could not believe what we had just stumbled on. It is going to be difficult to spell out into words what we experienced next. Check out the next blog for the rest of the adventure!

Sayulita Mexico- What have we found here?

Check out our facebook page for pictures of these and many more pictures at Central America Overland Expeditions.

Mazatlan -We finally made it to the coast!

Posted: August 2, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We had made good time getting into Mazatlan, so we were confident we would be able to find our campsite before dark. As we drove up the highway, things began to take on the big city feel again. 3 lanes of steady traffic met us about 10 KM before we actually got to town. The traffic was slowing due to a military checkpoint. We had to laugh at the apparent cutbacks the military there were experiencing (check out his skateboard!).

Scary Military man

Mazatlan is a very busy town. It is tourist oriented so the streets are packed with people. As we drove in we were in bumper to bumper traffic 3 lanes wide. We were looking for the shortest route to Stone Island or isla de las Piedras, to be accurate. This was supposed to be a small rural island just off of town. It took nearly an hour and a half to make it to the other side. At one point there were 4 wheelers riding in traffic, one with 3 people hanging off of it with no helmets. Vendors jockeyed their way through the lines trying to sell their products. Taxis were cutting people off, zipping in and out of lanes as if they owned the road. All the while we were travelling along side the ocean. It was a beautiful view, the sun gleaming off the water. The beaches were equally over populated. The water looked like a shipwreck with heads bobbing everywhere.

Not the floating heads, but close…

We could not get through that area quickly enough. It was getting late and we just wanted to get set up on our campsite and relax after that long days drive. We asked directions to get to the island. After a few missed turns and stopping to ask yet another person for directions, we finally found our way heading down the road toward Stone island. After about two miles along the paved road, we passed an exclusive golf course community. Almost immediately the road turned to gravel. It was dry and dusty, and gravel stuck in our tires to be catapulted a minute later into the air. We were following Bernard as the night began to close in. Here we were again, driving to a destination unknown, in the dark. It seemed like we were driving for miles, as we could only do about 20 MPH due to the relentless chatter bumps. We were passing mango and coconut orchards, and occasionally seeing a tractor. On and on we drove, no indication where the end was.

All of a sudden, from nowhere, I saw Bernard turn his lights on high beam and hit his brakes. Coming straight at us was a herd of what appeared to be horses running right down the middle of the road. They did not appear to care that we were there. It was a sure collision if they did not give. Bernard had the stout ARB bull bar on the front of his Landcruiser, but surely it would not take the repeated blows of a frenzied horse stampede! Then from the back of the pack a cowboy on a horse divided the stampede by riding into the middle of them. This caused them to just barely miss us running by on both sides of our vehicles. I could feel the earth rumble as their hoofs pounded the dirt road. I thought I could hear the air pass through their nostrils in heavy breaths as they passed, but soon realized that it was mine that I heard. As the cowboy approached us, we waved and he tipped his hat and continued on. Did that just really happen? Are we getting so tired that we were all seeing the same mirages? No, it did happen, the dust was still thick in our headlights to prove it.

Stampede!

It was all but dark as we pulled into what appeared to be a deserted rural town, also known as Stone Island. All of the streets were sand or dirt, and the businesses had coconut branches as roofs. We stopped at a campground right on the beach along the main street where we had entered. The gate was closed and locked. There was only one lone light on in the corner of the property with an RV sitting for sale under it inside the fence. It must be another casualty of travelling during the off-season we speculated. Just about then a frail little old man walked up to us to see what we wanted. We explained we needed a campsite for camping with tents. He informed us this was a camper site, not intended for tents, but that there was another one just around the corner in the coco field.

We followed his directions but did not find any resemblance of a campground, the dark starless sky not helping any. Bernard hopped out at the only thing still lively in town, a bar, with loud mexican music blaring into the night sky, echoing off the ocean waves. He was given more directions, “You passed it. Turn by the big tree, and go toward the speed bump, but don’t go over the bump”, the local drunk said. We headed back the way we came and still did not see anywhere to camp.

Of course, tired and frustrated again about trying to locate and set up in the dark, Bernard tried one last resort. He walked up to a hotel that had their lights on and decided to ask  if they knew where the campground was. A minute later, Bernard rounded the corner laughing and talking with a muscular built seemingly, American. He said, “I know right where it is. I will take you to the lady that owns it.” He said, “follow me on my ATV”. A minute later he was back and said he could not locate the key. Bernard offered his passenger seat and we were off! Back past “the big tree” turning onto another sand road. At the end, next to the bar where we just were, we drove out onto the beach. Bernard and the hotel owner, Gary, jumped out of the truck looking for the lady to allow us to camp. A few minutes later they were back. They had not found her. Gary, said, “I will let you camp on my beach in front of the hotel.” This was welcome news, we were finally getting somewhere. Even though it seemed really late, because it was so dark and the town seemed to be asleep, it was only 8:30, due to a two-hour time difference from home.

On the very short drive back to the hotel, Gary and Bernard talked of the fact that Gary had been in the army some 20 years ago and when he got out, decided he wanted a quieter, simpler life. He married a local Mexican girl, and together they have built a beautiful hotel and bought a restaurant beside the hotel on the beach. He said he loves his job now living on the premises. The name of his hotel, is Stone Island Gardens, and the restaurant is Carmelita’s. We highly recommend both as they are so friendly and helpful. Bernard showed Gary his license plate “Desert Storm Veteran”. They became immediate friends!

As we pulled up to the entrance of the hotel, Gary said, “or I can give you both rooms for the night for a really great price”. We were definitely interested, since it was dark and it was still quite humid. He allowed us to park in the hotel parking area, a nice parking garage, that we just barely cleared with our roof top tents.The Discovery 2 was really close, with its high roofline, but we made it. He guided us into the spaces and asked if we were hungry. A resounding yes, since we had not eaten all day. We met his wife and they told us there were some nice restaurants around, but the locals go to the place back up the street, good food and cheap prices. We were shown our rooms. Yeah! They had A/C! We were excited, since it was so humid and hot still.

Beautiful ocean views at Stone Island Gardens

After settling in, we walked down to the small restaurant that was recommended to us, and sat down under a roof structure outdoors. It was open air, but the ceiling fans made it more comfortable, along with the fact that we had cool rooms waiting for us back at the hotel. Angela and I ate for $3.50 total! Bernard’s was nearly $6.00, because he ordered two full meals, since he was so hungry. We had been pointed in the right direction. I love these prices! We both had gorditas, salad and a coke, Bernard had two Cheeseburger dinners. As we sat there for a few minutes, all of a sudden people started coming out of the woodwork. The place was filled with what appeared to be local people, excitedly chattering in Spanish, largely oblivious to the fact that we were there, though they all smiled, and said, “Hola”, or “Buenas Noches”.

Filled from eating a great authentic meal, we headed to bed to sleep off the long day we had just finished, and marvel again at the seemingly chance meetings with people who went out of their ways to accommodate us and make us feel welcome. We were beginning to see a pattern here….

After waking up early the next morning refreshed, we met down at Carmelita’s for coffee and enjoyed the beautiful day and the ocean view from our chairs in the restaurant. “Man, this the life” we thought. Can it be any better? Coffee, the waves lapping in, vendors setting up for the day. This was my idea of paradise! We ordered breakfast, and hooked up our laptops to get online to let our families know we were ok.

Bernard having coffee at Carmelita’s

Headed to work

We explored the island, and walked on the beach. It was very clean with a gradual approach, so walking was easy. You could stand at the edge of the water and wait for a wave to come in. You could feel the sand erode out from under your feet like a mini foot massage. It was glorious, albeit hot! It was so nice being on the island away from the general population of Mazatlan. It was a small community feel. Though there were small boats to bring tourist over, it was nothing like the mainland. I don’t know at what point we began to look at “tourist” as “those people” as if we were local, but I think it was somewhere right around here. We began to really feel like part of Mexico and its beauty instead of just visiting for a few days.

Angela “testing the water”

Scott in the “surf”- Bernard in the background

We decided to stay a couple more days while we waited for my brake light switch to come in at Autozone. We got up in the mornings and ran on the beach early before the heat set in, began to get friendly waves from people recognizing us after being there a while. Even the guy pedaling horse rides was in a jovial mood. I guess you just stay in a good mood when you live in paradise everyday. We found lots to do and see, even driving the trucks out onto a rock barrier reef watching workers try to salvage equipment from a sinking ship.

The “Happy Horseman”

Siesta, while watching work in progress

The rock barrier reef

“On the rocks”

We took a boat ride to the mainland to visit Autozone and the bank. We needed to get more pesos as there were no ATM machines on the island. On the small ferry-boat, we met DJ, a “local” Canadian that had been there for two years already. She had rented a house and had made it her new home. She told us of her travels and asked us about ours. She had worked on several sailing vessels as a deck hand and made her way down to Mexico. She was definitely a free spirit and friendly to talk to, claiming to speak her own version of “Spanglish”. After arriving on the mainland, being so early, there was only one golf cart style taxi. Dj made her way there first. As we passed to find another, she said, “Where you going”? We told her, and she said, “hop in, its right on the way”.

We were dropped off at the Autozone and then we walked around to do our other errands. By this time we were getting very tired from the heat and walking. We stopped at a McDonalds trying to get internet access and an ice cream. We were only able to get one, the ice cream. The internet was down. If we had to choose only one, my choice is ice cream every time! So we waved down a taxi and headed back to the boat ramp to go back to the island.

We stayed in the hotel for 3 days. The fourth day, Gary’s wife Anna, said she had a group of tourist that had booked the hotel, so we wouldn’t be able to stay that night. We went to breakfast at “Lety’s” on the beach, meeting the owners son there. He told us we could camp on the beach in front of the restaurant/hotel for no charge and use their bathrooms and showers. Man, finally we got to pop the tents, ON the beach! We popped the ARB tent and Ironman tent with little effort. As you can imagine, we were quite the spectacle setting up our site. People stopped to look and see what it was that we were doing. We pulled out the Ironman awning for shade and set up the lounge chairs watching the waves roll in under the sunset. Just before dark, we noticed a couple of sand crabs popping out of their holes to see if all the people were gone. We watched them for a while before moving, of course which prompted them to shoot back to the protection of their holes in the sand.

Beach side accommodations!

Campsite on the beach

The next day, we made the repair, organized our vehicles, said good-bye to our new-found friends and we were off headed towards Teacapan, a little town on the beach that promised several campsites on the beach. Gary told us we could drive 6-1/2 km up the beach and avoid driving on the chatter bump road again. What? Drive nearly 5 miles down the beach? You didn’t have to tell us twice. We had a blast dodging high tide and keeping momentum to plow through the soft sandy beach all the way to the golf course. What an amazing place to find, away from the usual tourist oriented areas.

Driving along the beach!

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