A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico

Oaxaca City & Palenque, Mexico

Back on the taco train, hello mezcal o´clock, ruins & jungle time!

sunny 32 °C

OK, leaving Puerto Escondido, an uneasy feeling kicks in when we go to buy the bus tickets to travel to Oaxaca City. 1st class v 2nd class? Sunny v red eye run?? An hr later 1st class is the choice due to robbery apparently rife on 2nd class buses, which also takes a poorly paved scary mountain road to Oaxaca. The 1st class bus takes a longer route on well paved hwys.

The fun and games begin on Hwy 200 - the most notorious hwy in Mex for hwy robbery. The bus tears around the corners on the wrong side of the road every bend as we snake around the hills - Travelcalm o´clock for J. We meet a couple from Aus, Robbie was born in Chile and raised in Sydney and he spoke excellent Spainish. It was a good reminder of home as his accent and the way he spoke was exactly like Juan!

Out of the bends now the bus driver floors it. BANG, a loud noise comes from underneath the bus and the bus stops in the middle of the road. We ask the bus driver whats going on and he replys, I hit something and now the bus does not work. The bus driver turns the bus off, takes his bus company shirt off, tweaks around under the bus for 5 mins and without saying another word, starts walking along the road and disapears into the heat mirage with 2 men that were just walking by at the same time we broke down. WTF!?!?

Ok. Thats just great. We are in the middle of no where, surrounded by dessert on the most notorious HWY in Mexico. Slightly concerned would be an understatement! Robbie and his girl hail a cab to the next town which is a couple of hours away so they dont miss their connect bus. Damn there goes our interpreter. To make matters worse the Mexicans on the bus were nervous and bailing in taxis! If the locals are freaking out it usually isnt a good sign right? Just 3 others and us left in the heat with the broken bus, hmmmm, interesting situation. MIERDA!

YEAH BABY! Phew! After 15 mins of fretting a second class bus appears in the distant heat waves, stops, and gives us a lift to the next town. So glad we didnt catch the night bus, if that had occured during the night, yeah, who knows what could have happened. At the next town we catch a 1st class bus the rest of the way to Oaxaca. Its dusk when we arrive after 8 hours of travel. A short, crazy, cab ride and we arrive to the Hostel Santa Isabel.

Hostel Santa Isabel is a stones throw from the centre of town, we stayed in a private room that was nice and comfortable on the 2nd floor for 180 peso a night - the cheapest in town. The Hostel has dorms, kitchen facilities, shared bathrooms, two bright leafy courtyards and a bar in the front. The place has a friendly atmosphere and the best breakfast in the world for 20 peso - cafe, Huevos a la mexicana con frijoles, tortillas y grande plata fruta. Bargain!! We meet a couple, Oscar from Venezuela/Denmark and Ellen from Sweeden/Denmark, who had stayed in Oaxaca for a lil so they had all sorts of useful info to share.
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Oaxaca is a mountain city, 1550m elevation with a population of 263,000. The heart of the city is colonial with narrow streets, liberally sprinkled with fine, old stone buildings. The main shady plaza, Zocalo, is lined with cafes and resturants and shadowed by many grand old buildings and an impressive church. Like all other Mexican towns we have visited, the locals love to hang out in the plaza under shadey enormous trees with their families.
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Oaxaca has a thriving artesian community. Folk art handicrafts are for sale at the markets, specialties being loom woven blankets rugs and tapestries, hand embroidered traditional clothing, fine black pottery and hard carved brightly painted wooden fantasy animals called alebrijes. Incredible cheap shopping!
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After a stroll around town we hired a couple of mountain bikes for the next day. The ride back from the bike shop was interesting, narrow one way streets, dark and heaps of traffic. Luckily the traffic in Oaxaca is pretty dense so the speed of the cars is pretty slow and the motorists are somewhat patient and curteous to bike riders. There was a few scarey moments though, extremely narrow streets, buses everywhere and cars drive side by side down a street really designed for one car, barely a bees dick between them.

Early rise and we are negotiating 7am peak hour traffic on our way to Monte Alban, a Zapotec Ruin first occupied around 500 BC located on a flattened hilltop 400m above the valley 10km from the hostel. Armed with a photocopied map with the route for a 45km ride marked in highlighter we ride out of the city with weaving traffic, lanes disappearing and reappearing. Dammit 10 mins in and Jess gets a flat! We change the tyre then begin the 400m accent up to the ruins on a windy mountain road with buses flying down it. Due to the flat we arrive a bit after opening time, sweaty and hot from the intense hill climb. Temps were high during the day about 30 degrees dry heat and cool at night. Felt amazing to conquer the hill on the bike although it did tear a new shpank in us....
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Locked the bikes up and then climbed the stairs up into the ruins, ouch my legs. The ruins are amazing, the large site had a grande plaza, pyramid temples (damn more stairs, they didnt make life easy for themselves either, for little people they made really steep, big stairs) and tombas all with 360 degree views of the surrounding Valley Centrales.
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After checking out the on site museum on the way out we jump on the bikes to continue the mystery tour. Damn. Another flat. #2! The glass wasn´t removed properly first time (GOOD ONE STEVE!) so we fix it again and repair the tube.

Back on the road - yay downhill! We head down a steep dirt road towards a little villiage that makes the alebrijes. Steve almost looses it round a bend at 30km on gravel but holds it together like a champ. Jess notices another flat. Trifector! Steve was so happy.....Steve´s repair job was dodgey (just like his surfboard repairs) so we change the tyre with the last spare tube in the kit with 35km to go. We follow the instructions on the map and manage to find the village even through there are dirt roads branching off everywhere and our highlighter marked instructions are a lil vague. Jess checks out the locals making the alebrijes and buys a lil red coyote. We continue riding through the country side along meandering dirt roads through rural areas, past crops, cemeteries and little villages.
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A shop is spotted and we pull over for some tacos, tamales and coconut juice for lunch - yum! We gave em a tip, they were shell shocked! Back on the road and we complete the 45km track and land back in Oaxaca for the afternoon peak traffic. On the outskirts of town we crossed a six lane intersection that was just plain scarey, cars and buses flying in ever which direction horns honking. Somehow we just cruised across and fluked a path through the city straight to our hotel. How did we manage that? P3220061.jpg

Dinner time after a big day and Steve breaks the taco munching record - smashes 11 tacos with apparently room to spare?!!!

Whist on the topic of food Oaxaca had many different culinary delights to savour. Right out the front of the Hostel there a street vendor that sells the best empanadas ever. An empanada is a giant fresh pressed doughey tortilla filled with salsa, oaxacan string cheese and chicken, folded together and cooked on a coal heated hot plate.
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Also available are many dishes that have a varitey of Mole sauces, a chilli based spiced chocolate sauce usually served with meat. Drinking chocolate is also a favorite and the best I have ever tasted. Delicous fresh ground cocoa beans with cinnamin spice. And did we mention Mezcal? Mezcal is made in the Valley Centrales from the maguey plant, its similar in taste to tequilla but not as harsh and a whole lot easier to drink. That and you can get 700mls of it for $6.00 AUD! Cheers to that! Aw and they also had donuts to Steves delight....
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Oaxaca has an enormous labirynth of a mercado to check out. If you look long enough, you can find almost anything here. Each product has a section to itself and their overwhelming quantities of fruit, veges, baked goods, grains and spices.
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Another sight not to miss is the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca which is housed in a magnificent monastry building adjoining the Iglesia de Santa Domingo (an amazingly ornate church). The museum empathsises the direct linage between Oaxacas pre hispanic and contemporary indiginous cultures, illustrating continuity in areas such as crafts, medicine, food, drink and music. A highlight is the treasures from tumba 7 Monte Alban. The tomb boasted a hoard of beautifully worked silverand gold, turquoise, coral, jade, amber, jet, pearls, crystal goblets and a skull covered in turquoise.
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These two actually reminded us of Gaz and Pete!! Dergh.
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On our last day in Oaxaca we decided to visit the town of El Tule to see the largest biomass in the world - a REALLY big old tree. We tried to find the 2nd class bus to El Tule but caught a collectivo cab to El Tule instead - right price at 8 peso por persona. It wasnt long before we knew what the word "collectivo" meant and why it was only 8 peso. We stopped at every bus stop until it was not humanly possible to cram any more humans into a 5 seat toyota Corrola. I think the final humano count was 9! AND the car was reaching 100km in a 60 zone WHAT SPEAD LIMIT!!!!! Once at El Tule we pile out of the car and are confronted with the giant tree that dwarfs the town and the church it grows next to. The tree is a ahuehuete (a type of cypress), measures 58m around, 42m high and is reckoned to be somewhere between 2000yrs and 3000yrs old.
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Time to move on but where to next? We split on a night bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de la Casas. Mezcal and strawberry doughnuts 4 dinner, yep great combo, winding mountain roads, travelcalm is required and then sleep. As we disembark from the bus we are handed a card that stated "Welcome to San Cristobal, Do not talk to strangers and for your own saftey only accept authorised accommodation". Hmmmm maybe we should go straight to Palenque, that and it is freezing in San Cristobal! While we were waiting for the bus to Palenque we bump into a tourist from Norway who had had a rough night and a few bad Mexico experiences. The night before he had been punched up big time by a local in his hostel (apparently unprovoked, even though he smelt very rummy), he was then kicked out and slept on the street. He also mentioned that the accomodation he stayed in at Tulum was shot at in a drive by!!?? I guess everyone has a different experience in Mex, ours was great - 10/10, and generally you can avoid danger by a positive attitude and a lil common sense. The americans in california will tell you otherwise though........

12.00pm - wheres the bus? We talk to a local lady and the bus staition staff and the bus is running late due to a villiage protest that has blocked a road because the government is not providing electricity. The bus arrives and we leave at 12.40pm and are going on the long route to Palenque due to avoid the protest. As we decend from San Cristobal the bus winds through the mountains, the vegetation turns to jungle and irredecent green grass - this area recieves the highest rainfall in Mexico. High rainfall and mountains cleared of vegetation for impractical pasture land results in large sections of the road being washed away (a slow and bumpy ride). What seems like an eternity later (along the shankiest dirt roads in a coach!) we arrive in Palenque at dusk. We are in jungle country now, hot and steamy!

We stay in town for the night at the Posada Toucan, which had a pet toucan "Fichi"(crazy lil bird who was quite the character). The next morning we had out into the El Panchan jungle to stay a bit closer to the Palenque Ruins.
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El Panchan is a chilled out community set in a patch of dense rainforest home to a bohemian bunch of hippies, wanderers, archeologists and anthropologists. El Panchan has a couple of resturants and a heap of jungle cabana style accomodation dotted throughout the property inbetween the meandering streams. Somehow we manage to score the best cabana ever, chatos cabana liebra, located near the bottom of the property in an intimate jungle cloaked setting. Whats going on here? Middle of jungle, cheap 200 peso accom thats so nice it could be a honeymoon pad! Immaculate bathroom, comfy bed, tiled floors, balcony, air con, clean crisp white towels, flower arrangement - this must be paradise!
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Accross the path we meet John, a stone carving artist, who has been living in El Panchan on and off for years. John was minding the house of Alonzo Mendez, one of the artists for the archeologists who excavated the Palenque ruins. John explained a few things about the history of the Palenque ruins and let us know that we were staying in the original house built for the acheologists many years ago. After a wander around El Panchan we finally got our bearings in this maze of a place. A stroll though the jungle paths revealed our first encounter with howling monkeys (which really should be renamed roaring monkeys - the sound is like an elephant sized lion!!), humming birds, butterflies, toucans and a mass of jungle flora. A mini puma like cat was also spotted jumping through the canopy. Yep this is amazing. We saw two familar faces staring at an iguana in the bush - WHAT, we reunite with Oscar and Ellen we met in Oaxaca! The crazy cats that they are!
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El Panchan is a lot of jungle paradise fun. Don Muchos restuarant serves up a delicous cheap meal and a mean cocktail - hence we pretty much ate lunch and dinner there most days, and partied most nights. At dinner time they have cracking live music everynight, lots of local acts - acoustic guitar with hand percussion and 8 piece band traditional South American influenced tunes. Steve took a vid of this bongo player going nuts but we are having trouble loading it, stay tuned.....
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We rose early the next day and walked from El Panchan a few k´s to the Palenque ruins for opening time 8.00am. The road leads uphill to the ruins through national park jungle with the roar of the howling monkeys echoing through the valley. ¨Palenque was first occupied around 100BC, and flourished from around AD 630 to AD740. The city rose to prominence under the ruler Pakal (615-683AD). The ruins stand at the precise point where the first hills rise out of the Gulf Coast plain, and the dense jungle covering these hills forms an evocative backdrop of Palenque´s exquisite Maya architecture. Hundreds of buildings are spead accross 15 sq km and everything was built without metal tools, pack animals or the wheel¨.
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Once up to the top entrance you walk up some stairs to be confronted with the sites most magnificent temples rising out of the jungle. The temple of the Skull, the Temple of the Red Queen and the Temple of Inscriptions all stand in añ intimidating mass of stone stepped pyramids, all having entrances at the top to the tombs and temple passage ways. We poke around in the passage ways of the Red Queens Tomb and frighten a few bats that flee their positions on the tombs ceiling closely missing our heads. Unfortunatley the Temple of Inscriptions (King Pakal´s Tomb) is now closed to visitors due to the damage from the humidity exuded by humano breath.
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Wandering through the ruins we bump into Oscar and Ellen and we decide to explore together. In El Palacio, a large structure divide by a maze of corridors, passage ways and rooms, Steve spotted a poorly secured, unlocked trapdoor and couldnt help himself. The theme from Indiana Jones instantly sprang to mind (and remains the theme song/whistle for quite some time.....) as Steve strapped on the head light, glanced around to check no one was watching and disappeared down the stairs into the darkness. Jess followed down a winding stair case to a couple of rooms below. You could just imagine a big boulder hurling down one of the corridors or a statue coming to life and caseing us! No statue just some bats and we climb back out to see an angry guard blowing a whistle at us. Whoops, we pretend not to understand any spainish and run off like naughty kids.
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Very hot and sweaty we explore more steep temples then wander up a path into the jungle, Steves idea, apparently there should be some temple...soon. 20mins incline later we have walked up the mountain behind Palenque and its kinda spooky, no longer can you hear the voices of the tourists in the ruins, ónly distant howler monkeys, some spooky whistles, and an eery silence. Scared we would meet a man with machete demanding our camera, valuables and/or our schvank we head back down the mountain to the ruins - so much more to explore. You can see the hill in the background of this photo.....it went for ever!
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All the way up.......
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And all the way down....
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Back in Indiana Jones mode we explore the rest of the site, climbing pyramids and walking through dark passage ways to rooms within structures. That would have to be one of the most amazing things about Palenque, the fact that you are allowed to walk through the structures, passageways and hidden rooms.
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6 hours later, exhausted we walk back to El Panchan. What time is it - Party time.
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We all have dinner at Don Muchos and take advantage of the cheap yummy cocktails - they do a mean pina colada. After some live music the local hippies put on a fire show. Oscar being particularly brave lit his cigarete off a flaming fire stick when offered (got any eye brows left?). A good show, although sitting up the front wasnt the wisest idea, especially when one of the hippies looked rather out of it and dropped his fire stick quite frequently. Don Muchos about to shut we notice an ¨invitation¨ that has been left on our table. The spanglish was quite amusing ¨He/she invites you to party...We located 200m El Panchan.... music and drinks... set until down. Lets go...hmmm where is it? 200m N S E W? The Indiana Jones theme comes out again.

We ask a few people who tell us it is down the main road inside the National Park. We walk out onto the main road from El Panchan and stare down the road that disappears into pitch black darkness, jungle either side. Should we really walk down there? We were told that you shouldnt even drive down this road at night because of muggings so maybe walking isnt such a good idea, after all, theres only 4 of us. After a while standing at the entrance to El Panchan 2 blokes walk out who also want to go to the mystery party ¨set until down¨. Ok 6 people sounds safer, lets go! We walk into the darkness, alot further than 200m armed with little blue cups of rum and a flashlight following the sound of music until we find a bar with a few people, it seems friendly enough lets have a drink! Good fun and we then make it back safely giggling the whole way.

Time to leave El Panchan, if we stay here any longer we risk turning into tripped out jungle hippies. We get up early and catch a shuttle to cross the border into Guatamala with Oscar and Ellen (new travel buddies with bonus spanish translator WOOOHOOO!). And that wraps up Mexico folks. Which leads us to:

OUR REVELATIONS FROM MEXICO
Heres a few things we have learnt from Mexico, which may be of use back home...........

1). You really don´t need to use so much toilet paper!! As a result of living in fear of blocking the overloaded sewerage system/toilets, and also not wanting to contribute to the festering pile of poo stained paper in the bin next to the loo, we realised that you can get by with only using a square or two. REALLY!

2). Use your vehicle horn much more often. It is now clear that in Australia we do not utilse the humble car horn no where near enough! The horn can be used for a myriad of purposes, some examples are listed below:
-Saying hello to all your mates or anyone that drives a similar vehicle (a quick bimp)
-Thanking a driver for letting you over take (a few rapid quick bimps)
-Sticking it up the person in front who swerves and does not let you overtake (long bimp)
-A voice to vent your frustration with the traffic grid lock, and/or the world (several long bimps until a car moves)
-And most importantly, to notify other drivers that you are going to drive around a blind corner at 80km on the opposite side of the road (mix of rapid quick and long bimps for 5 seconds).

3). Cement should not just be limited for the use of building construction. The Mexicans have proven that cement is a very diverse material that can be utilized for a range of home decor projects including bed bases, tables and chairs, vainities, shelves and cupboards and my favorite - fake tiled floor by dropping a rope for the tile outline effect. Add a few coats of paint, any colour under the sun will do and voila you have furniture that will last forever, at a fraction of the price and you will never have to waste time re-arranging furniture as its now permanent!

4). Although you do have to be careful, Mexico is no where near as dangerous as most Americans will have you believe:)

PS: check out the photo gallery, loads of photos not included in the blog!

Luego!

Posted by jessnsteve 16:37 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Central Pacific & Oaxaca Coast, Mexico

Mazatlan to Puerto Escondido - spanglish, sun and surf.

sunny 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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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??
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Linda and Suri - You branching out into the healthy soy alternatives ey!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Surf was pupming so no time wasted Steve was out there.
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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.........
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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......
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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.
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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.
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6-8ft day......
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Da girls...
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Sunset Cervesas........
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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.
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View sur along the point..
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View norte down the beach.....
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.......

Posted by jessnsteve 15:02 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Baja California Sur, Mexico

Tacos n cervezas, cacti n dust, cervezas n tacos......

sunny 28 °C

WOW! Mexico! Although we may have missed a few things by not driving, we got some great views of the Sea of Cortez and the Baja peninsular during our flight from San Diego to Los Cabos (the Cabos, which are San Jose Del Cabo & Cabo San Lucas). The flight enabled us to see all the huge mountain ranges and delta systems in between, loads of islands on both coasts, and numerous windy roads weaving through the ranges. Stepping off the plane we shed layers of clothing that are no longer required. The sun is as warm as the dust is dry.
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Customs¿?¿, what customs, olah y adios, too easy and in no time we found ourselves just walking along the side of the road in search of a bus station. We find a road worker near the airport exit and Steve has a first crack at spanish "Disculpe senor, donde esta una autobus el stacion San Jose Del Cabo". Woohoo yeah smashed it! The response from senor was anyones guess but luckily for us he threw in a few hand guestures and we figured it was somewhere over a thataway!!?!?!?! Siga? A la deracha? Izquierda?
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About 2km, a few carcases, and hundreds of cacti later we arrive to what looked like a bus stop. Sweet. Now we just need the right bus and to hand over the right money. Everyone was a bit nervous slash excited slash exhausted from the walk.
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We finally get ourselves into San Jose and walk around with lonely planet open searching for street names which would lead us to accom. Bugger, not many street names available. Unable to find the hotel recommended by the lonely planet and with bags and boards getting heavy and Steves hip injury flaring up (did we mention that steve did his hip showing off doing stretches drunk in Hawaii??) we stumble across una hotel Posada Terranova. This will do! The bags are quickly dumped and we stroll the streets down to the closest beach as the sun sets over the ocean.
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TACOS and CERVEZAS!!!!!!!! we have our first Mexican dinner in a restaurant overlooking the main street next to the town square, it was a celebration we´d made it to mexico, and it was much much warmer than california!

San Jose was a nice quiet little town but we decided to move on to Cabo San Lucas - a larger town with more infrastructure and resorts spilling out onto the beach. Gringos, and gringas, are everywhere! Again the bus ride was too easy as we met more locals happy to help out by getting us off at the right bus stop. Muchos Gracias Amigos, Adios!
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This time we find accom as recommended by the Lonely Planet - una Hotel Olas. We are greated by the friendly grandfatherly owner, Senor Carlos, who had a wealth of information about the Baja and spoke some english. He is 85yro but looks like and gets around like he is 70. The big purple sedan beastie car out the front just had to be his. What a dude!
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Once settled in Cabo we just cruised on the beach, had a fish taco here, a swim over there, talked up surf breaks with locals and yeah the vibe of being on holidays kicked into another gear. But it was totally weird seeing this massive, and I mean MASSIVE cruiser in the bay next to the headland of the beach we were swimming, looked like someone had photo shopped the moment. The bay must have been deep as the next day there were two cruisers....
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Time to explore, we decide to rent a car, a chrysler voyager van from thrifty. The next couple of days we did day trips to Playa Cerritos and Playa Pelican Pt. Well that is what we called this little beach after sharing it with a lone Pelican who was very interested in us to say the least. While the boys scored their fare share of waves and frothed over the warm water, Jess put Anita through some training on the beach. No one seemed to exercise here and the girls got some classic looks - wtf are they doing???
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In the Cabo we ate at ultra cheap taco joints e.g. $1AUD (10 peso) tacos and cervezas at Vernados, and also at nice mid range restaurants like Mariscos Mocambo which served up an assortment of delicious pescado dishes for $11AUD. The equivilant at home would have been something in the order of $30-35. And to top it off we had the coolest Mariachis do their favourite number for us! They carved it up and I think they put a little extra into it to impress the girls....

Time to move on again, we say our farewells to Grandfather Carlos and head norte to Todos Santos. SHITE STEVE´S POCKET KNIFE NOT AGAIN YOU IDIOT! Nearly lost it in Hawaii going through customs and now he has left it back at Hotel Olas. He cops a grilling from everyone, especially the miss´s, and we drive back to get it, along with the cervezas and limes we also left behind (160km round trip!).

Todos Santos saw us stay at Hotel Guluarte WHICH HAD A POOL hahaha you should have seen the girls faces light up and in no time the bikinis were flying around the room and we were just doin what you do on holidays - pool side beers in the sunset. Holidays just keep getting better and better and our beer guts keep on getting bigger and bigger....
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We meet Mick and Amy poolside. Mick is a trippy lookin solar power guru from the states, and Amy, well she could have been his daughter, and we wereñt really sure where she fitted into the scheme but apparently they were travelling together and working on solar power systems in the area.

Whilst in Todos we visit Playa San Pedritos and San Pedro. San Pedritos has this classic right hand reef set up. Scored it fun 2-3ft but on the last day it was firing 3-4ft.
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Jess overcomes her bout with a cold which has lasted since Hawaii. Steve also overcomes his slightly less severe cold but still has a severly sore hip. Anita is struck down with the runs and Chris looks like coming down with the plague. Yep we have all had our fair share of it! Nonetheless cheap tacos and poolside cervezas are still on the menu and its one sunny day after another. Since turning up into Mexico every day seems the same. What day is it?? Sunny. Dusty. Light to no wind. Coolish nights and warm to hot days. Not like home where the temp and winds vary nearly every day.
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Wait for it, hows this feed we have one night - 19 tacos and 4 drinks for 200 peso (yep 20 bucks) and these tacos were loaded!!
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After a few days of reasonably good surf, cruising the local art/jewellry/gift shops, and munching tacos a unanimous decision was made. Todos was the nicest place to date, and as sad as it was to leave, we were keen to keep on choogalin onto La Paz where La Carnaval was taking place.

Apparently a 2hr drive we arrive to La Paz in 50 mins. How fast were you driving Steve?? No one knew as for nearly the whole trip everyone was asleep neck titled, mouths wide open, drible down their cheeks...... The HWY between Todos and La Paz had some very long really straight sections. Entering La Paz from the south you cruise through an industrial area and you get the feel that this is the biggest city we have come across. Loads of cars. Somehow again we navigate through the grid and find our way to the Pension California. WOW what a cheapie with heaps of character. Chris has got a fever so we opt for seperate rooms this time. A tiny bit more expensive but worth it to avoid the plague. He looked in a bit of pain.
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La Paz was a bit crazier than the previous locations. Yep heaps of cars, and HEAPS of people at the La Paz Carnaval which was on the main drag habourside. While in La Paz we did la Carnaval of a night and explored during the day.
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Playa Balandra was mind blowingly beautiful. The beach wrapped around an expansive tidal bay of turquise azure waters and was flanked by typical Baja landscape - undulating desert hills covered with cacti. The tour to Isla de Espiritu was also mind blowing and highly recommended. We paid $55 AUD each for a day trip which saw us snorkle with a sea lion colony, not to mention a very diverse range of fish species aswell, visit isolated beaches of cultural indigenous indian significance, cruise through rock arcs and past surreal formations. One formation resembled a masked face and was rumoured to whistle (scream) when the wind blew a certain way.. It was totally worth every peso. The company is Punta Baja, our tour guide was an 18yro called Migueal, and you leave from Playa Pichillingue which is the next beach around from the Ferry. Words cant explain the beauty we experienced that day, hopefully the fotos do!
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We bump into Micheal and Amy again and share a 750ml bottle a Biccardi which I might add cost just $8AUD. The last night of the Carnaval was absolutely crazy and nearly out of hand when a local was not so friendly this time and tried to pick a fight with Steve. Steve´s ninja aquatic merecat skills had this guy bamboozled and in all sorts of trouble i.e. he kept asking for a fight and Steve ignored him and he walked way.

So, with the sea lion snorkle, Playa Balandra beauty and craziness of La Paz Carnaval under our belts, it was time to move on. We hand the voyager back into thrifty, oops sorry about the scratches aahhh insurance will cover that sweet as, and hop onto TMC Ferrys, destination Mazatlan.
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Posted by jessnsteve 10:59 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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