Mazatlan to Puerto Escondido - spanglish, sun and surf.
24/03/2009 27 °C
We arrived at the La Paz ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare, bought our tickets for 800 peso each and waited...waited...waited. Time to board and we attempt to check our luggage in as we had seen the passengers of the previous ferry do. Some confusion followed, an exchange of spanglish and interpretation of hand gestures we realised that the passenger ferry docked next to the terminal was not ours and that we were to carry our baggage to the cargo ferry further down the dock that was currently being loaded with semi traillers (ahhhh so thats why the tickets were 400 peso less than the others).
Entry to the ferry was timed between semi trailers, down the vehicle ramp with all the gear, then up a narrow passage way with all the gear, then up several narrow flights of stairs with all the gear. Knackered! We actually had to stop and help a few people that had packed their kitchen sink and could not make it up the stairs without aid. Once on the upper deck we wander around aimlessly trying to determine where we are supposed to sit for the next 18hrs - on the deck? Can we sit right on the very top where it says high voltage no entry with skull and cross bones?? Great view but not the best idea as ferry man looks angrily at us shaking his head as we descend the ladder to the area we were allowed to be in! Anyway, the passenger room was finally located and comprised of a long narrow room with approx 70 seats, 2 TV´s playing badly dubbed spanish 80´s flicks and bathroom facilities.
The ferry about to leave and the passenger room fills with an influx of truck drivers who have finished securing their vehicles. We all get a few looks, they all stand around in a circle laughing at us and a few sly remarks were uttered that none of us could interpret - probably better that way!
The ferry was on its way, it did not take long for us to realise that the decision to sit near the toilet was not wise. As with most toilets in Mexico, it is expected that you do not flush any toilet paper as the sewerage treatment cannot handle the extra volume. It is expected that all used toilet paper is placed in the bin next to the toilet. You can imagine the stench after a couple of truckies pumped some number 2´s........RANK I TELL YOU!!!!
The stench of the passenger cabin too much to handle we catch the sunset from the deck and meet a couple of Canadians, Jordy and Chris, who are heading south down the Pacific Coast on a surf trip. Dinner is served in the kitchen - pescado, refried beads, hot sauce and tortillas. Apparently we cop a grilling from the truck drivers in the kitchen, Jordy understood the majority of it as his spanglish was much more advanced than ours.
Time to sleep - the stench of the cabin so intense that choking on your vomit during your sleep could be a possibility. We decide to sleep on the deck in the board bag with our sleeping bags. We drift off to sleep star gazing. This one shooting star was just insane - bright gold and exploded at the end rather than just fading out. You are supose to make a wish when you see a shooting star right? We awake wet from rain in the middle of a thick fog. Welcome to Mazatlan.
Chris and Anita line up a ride with the Canadians so we quickly say our goodbyes. After 5 mins of rubber necking trying to determine which way was north and what street we turn into we get directions from a local corner store and walk a couple of km from the ferry to Hotel Mexico (Wafe, it was a carbon copy of - WHICH WAY TO BOOMERANG!?). The hotel we stay at, appropriately named Hotel Mexico, is located a couple of blocks back from the beach (around abouts where the purple and blue building are next to each other in photo below) on a main road which leads to downtown Centro Historial District. Across the road there is a row of about 8 florist shops that appeared to trade 24 hours a day - they had puppies made of carnations? Our room is basic but comfortable with a decor that only a mexican would think of - bottle green, magenta, sky blue and pink.
After consulting the bible (lonely planet) we wander to the Centro Historic District to enrol in a spainish course at the Cetro de Idiomas. The course runs Monday to Friday for 5 hrs a day. The course administrator Dixie is incredibly helpful and gives us a heap of info about Mazatlan and its surrounds. We are taught by the fastidious Ucciel and the melodramatic Gloria. We enjoyed the whole experience however there were several moments of brain overload and it was challenging to say the least. The teaching methods were effective although a little frustrating at times. The end product being that our spanglish improved dramatically, i.e. we could count past ten and new the days of the week and even the months of the year!! Money well spent.
Mazatlan is a large port city with a population of 328,000 spread over a fairly large area. There are several swimming and surfing beaches, a tourist area called "the Golden Zone" (see photo below where tip of land nears the islands, its like the wanky area with all the ricos gringos - we did not spend time there), a long ocean side boardwalk with tacky stupendious monumentous every 50m and a charming Centro Historical Distirct. In Centrol Historical the attractive buildings are of colonial style, many dating from the 1800´s. The narrow cobble stone streets lead to tree lined plazuelas that are abuzz with art galleries, cafes and resturants.
The Teatro Angela Peralta was amazing to see. Originally built in the 1860´s it has been recently restored after years of neglect. You can wander through and check it out without a tourguide. There is an intimate auditorium with three stacked balconies of ornate carved wood and wrought iron. We explored dark trap door passageways backstage (steve the pathfinder with headlight torch on and all!) and climbed up onto the catwalk some 30m above the stage - are you sure we are allowed to do this? There is also a good archeological museum to check out as well as an impressive cathedral. On a couple of nights there was also a live classical guitar performance which we followed up with cervezas in a traditional style saloon.
Down from Centro Historical there is a massive mercado with every type of food you could imagine as well as some dubious hygine and meat practices - watch the carcass - is that where last nights taco came from? Down from the mercado there was a streetside seafood market which consisted of fish, many diff sized prawns, and octopus in large buckets with ice under an umbrella in an attempt to slow down the effects of the blazing sun.
Steve got a couple of waves at a break called Cannons (sorry boys, no action shots again, but break was directly behind large building being constructed in photo below, bout 3mins from hotel, does that count as a surf shot??). Left hand reef break right next to the old fort, a lil small at 2ft but perfect indo shaped walls running for 50m. On the beach we met an aussie, Keith, who is living and working in Mazatlan. Keith gave us a heap of info about Mazatlan and Mex and explained a few things we had been wandering about. Like why were there copious amounts, and various types, of armed police?
That morning we had seen two army jeeps with 3 army personel on the back. All were wearing gloves, balaclavas, fingers wrapped around the trigger, including one with a massive rambo´ style gun mounted to the jeeps roof with a belt of ammunition to the floor of the vehicle, the other two holding menicing looking machine guns. We had also seen a heap of other police in Mazatlan. Keith explained that there were 5 different types of police that would all attend investigations - Transitos, Municipalis, Federalis, Army and Special Service. This is an effort to fight corruption - the idea being that it would be difficult for an individual or group to behave corruptly as it would be hard to determine who was corrupt/not corrupt of all the sections of law enforcment. The amount of police activity was due to the fact that the major rival drug cartel king pins are of the state of Sinaloa, more specifically Mazatlan. Be nice to man with gun, be very nice to man with big rambo gun!
Despite the high police precence, or maybe because of, Mazatlan was a friendly and safe place. The people are incredibly helpful with directions if you have a stab at spanglish and they are even more friendly once they find out that you are not American "No No Senor, Nosotros somos de Australia, Si? Si! Da kangaroo! And we start bouncing around doing our best impersination of skippy in his prime! Once they find out you are Australian they then laugh and also impersonate kangaroos and/or ask you if it is a beautiful big island. The locals appeared to enjoy life much more than in previous locations with many spending time on the beach and parks and utilising the ocean fron boardwalk. Definately the most exercise we had seen any mexicans do with many running, roller blading, walking, utilizing the beach front adult monkey bars, swimming and doing all manor of strange exercises which looked like the pretense to a serious injury.
Last day in Mazatlan is Jess´s birthday - time to party. Last lesson of espanol was made all time when Dixie showed up with a massive cake and we all sang the Mexican version of happy birthday in spanglish. Steve gave Jess a rose from the 24hr florist - smooth operator. We grabbed some prawns from the seafood market with Jim, a friend from Hotel Mexico, then headed to a local bar called Dunia´s. At the bar they prepared and cooked the prawns el diablo. Prawns were good, cervezas excellent and we had tunes as well - a local 9 piece mexican brass band that had one volume - LOUD! On that note if you are planning to travel to Mex and you enjoy your sleep, take ear plugs because they definately know how to party through all hours of the night no matter how small the town is that you are in.
After prawns and cervezas its back to the ranch for celebratory tequila. Jim is amused at how quick we Aussies can put a few down the hatch. We eat some chips called Racheros and we all break out in a rash from an allergic reaction. Ah who cares another round of tequilas. Sleep in. Oh oh. Ouch my head. Sleep in. Shouldnt we be getting on a bus soon? Sleep in. Worst hangover in the history of jessnstevekind. Was it the cervezas? prawns? rank allergic reaction chips? Tequila? All of the above - tick! We slowly get up heads thumping and pack our bags. Keith turns up out of the blue and offers us a tour to a lookout over Mazatlan and a lift to the bus station. Thanks Mate!Aussie LEGEND!
Finally. Gaz - what happened to teaching bro? You have a secret bottle shop franchise in Mazatlan I see??
Linda and Suri - You branching out into the healthy soy alternatives ey!
And thats Mazatlan.
We take a 4 hr 1st class bus to Tepic on TAP bus (not to be confused with the TAP arse suffered from previous nights shananagans - halapeno donut fury youch!). The bus system in Mexico kicks butt over the buses at home and the 1st class buses are comfy as, they are massive with only 30 reclining seats and economical. From Tepic to San Blas we take a 2nd class bus. Packed to the brim Steve offers his seat and sits on the floor. After stopping at every single shack at the side of the road we arrive in the dark 2 hours later than we expected. Insect repellant was applied on arrival as we were warned that the bugs here crave human flesh, will eat you alive and then fly off with your skeleton. We walk a couple of kms with the gear to the beach to find a cabana - all booked. DOH! We huff n puff back into town and stay at a cute family run joint with a pet 15yr old pelican who was adopted after a mangled wing incident.
Hotel Morelos is a very nice budget option, leafy courtyard, kitchen facilities and rooms with bathroom, and TV. San Blas plazuela is lively in the evenings with all the local familys hanging out, eating and drinking. The plaza has a token water feature with no water, trees full of birds and lined with many options to consume tacos and cervezas. San blas beach is lined with sandy resturants and locals love to soak up the sun on the weekends, the whole place has that summer holiday feel.
The fort over looking the town is a great view point to get your bearings and get an aerial view of the two estuarys that flank San Blas. Steve like an excited kiddie was standing on a wall taking some photos and was promptly told to get down by man with gun. Be nice to, and obey, man with gun.
With no swell on the radar and none of the breaks working we go on a tour up an estuary to La Tovara Spring with our guide, Edwardo. Champion bloke we teach each other spanish/english. We depart at sunrise and spot a range of wildlife - hundreds of species of birds (many to fast to take a photo of!), cocrodillio, iguana, fish and many species of flora. The boat glided quietly through narrow murky mangrove passages to jungle flanked streams of crystal clear warm fresh water. We stopped at the fresh water spring for a swim, thankfully there was an enclosed area with a cocrodillo proof net.
Off to Rio Nexpa the next day we attept to have a good nights sleep. Unfortunately we had cats fighting, and a drunken man singing, outside our window ALL NIGHT!
Bus left San Blas at 7.30 (Jess still packing bags at 7.10 in true Jacobs style!) and we were on our way to Manzinillo. Changed bus at Manzinillio and shot through to Caleta de Campos. The bus trip was crazy, again, and we were in transit for 24hrs total. The trip from Manzinillio to Caleta took 2 hours extra then expected and it was dark. There were plenty of moments when you would wake up from banging your melon on the window half asleep with the bus speeding around corners in the middle of nowhere wondering if you had missed the stop. It was still dark when we arrived and Caleta was like a ghost town. But then a taxi turns up out of nowhere and 5 mins down the road we arrive to our final destination - Rio Nexpa.
Rio Nexpa is a small isolated surf community situated at a river mouth. There is a world class left hand point break that runs for 300m, maybe even longer. The beach is lined with small cabana style accomadation, there is 3 shops that between them have everything you could need during the visit, and a few resturants too (Smoothies and pescado dishes at Chichos rock!).
We managed to score an awesome two story thatch roof, beachfront cabana (now I really mean beachfront - right on the sand!) which had a private bathroom and kitchen located pretty close to the point. The upstairs was getting renovated but we still used it as our surf viewing, cerveza consuming platform. A couple, Ollie and Lia from nrth California, pulled up and camped near our cabana and we now had neighbours and new friends.
Surf was pupming so no time wasted Steve was out there.
When we arrived the surf was 2-3ft, had a bit of the wonk in it but looked smashable and was supa fun for a first day! The next day was 4ft and going off! Nice barrell sections (not really square but round enough) with wally down the line sections in between.........
Even with the cabana right on the beach our zoom wasn´t enough, especially with low light during early morns. This barrell on the inside was Steve´s 5th on the one wave......
The wave was breaking super long. It was barrell, then top turn, then barrell, then speed burn, floater, then barrell, then floater, then cutback, then barrell.....bla bla bla 200-300m later....you get the drill.
The 3rd day was 4-6ft, yep and slightly more pumping than previous day, and by the 4th day it had built up to peak at 8ft. Steve managed up to 3-4 sessions at 2-4 hours each per day. Usually first or second in the water and last out. The dawn patrol was groomed with a chilly offshore blowing down through the valley. Sessions in the middle of the day were the best. They were either really light offshore, total glass offs, and then really light onshore. If you timed it right you got all three conditions in the one session. The onshore would pick up pretty strong in the afternoon but it was still surfable and not as crowded. Jess and Lia chilled on the beach while the boys surfed, Jess pulled out some core training moves and Lia in return gave a couple of lessons on fire twirling and belydancing.
Of a night time we had massive cook ups in the cabana and beach fires that often ended in tequilla showdowns and fire twirling to djembe rhythms.
View sur along the point..
View norte down the beach.....
Rio Nexpa was paradise. Full of surfers from around the world, maybe a little bit too full of surfers for the first swell of the season, and had a really friendly vibe.
Time to move on we catch a bus from Caleta to Lazaro Cardenas. Then Lazaro Cardenas to Acapulco. Then Acapulco to Puerto Escondido. In transit for nearly 24hours again.
Turn up to Puerto and find a sweet place to stay at - Edda´s Cabanas. The room was basic but sizey and clean with a private bathroom, porch, palm trees and our own personal hammock.
Eddas Cabanas was located 200m from Zicatela beach, the main tourist strip. Backpakers paradise there is a heap of accomodatoin along Zicatela beach and plenty of shops, cafes and resturants that are right accross the road from Mexican Pipeline.
The swell had dropped off a fair bit buy the time we made it to Puerto Escondido but Steve still had a couple of sessions out at Mexican Pipe. Arvo session 4-5ft light onshore no one out! Couple of 2-3ft sessions very crowded....Swell disappeared quickly - time to head inland.......