This weeks progress
What we thought would be a day waiting for Ginger at the mechanics turned into three days, and an unplanned return on the fourth after a brake failure.
On the first day the mechanics stripped all of the front brakes apart, but couldn’t get the new parts they needed to rebuild them… so we left Ginger there with her parts strewn all over the workshop floor and went in search of a hotel.
The next day they managed to finish the brake work and also replaced all of the fuel lines from the tank to the engine as they were convinced we had a leak in one of the lines. They were also convinced that our fresh water tank was the fuel tank… but we had been smelling gas, so let them do the work anyway. When we went to pick her up at the end of the second day they had forgotten that we also had issues with the temperature gauge, but promised that they could do it first thing in the morning. So, another night in Mazatlan for us.
Killing time in Mazatlan
The next day they had the temp gauge replaced by about 2pm, but we decided to spend a another night, rather than risk driving after dark trying to get to our next destination – so back to the Mar Rosa RV park we went.
During our time in Mazatlan we saw how they celebrate Halloween and more importantly Dia de la Muertes or what we call All Saints and All Souls Day. This is to remember people who have died and they even think they come back to visit. Hence the reason why they make these sometimes quite elaborate alters with picture and food and flowers. It’s also a national holiday although we didn’t see much closed up but we were in the touristy area.
Typical family altar
We had also had the front sway bar removed while in the workshop, as both of the brackets that mount the sway bar to the lower suspension arms had broken and were making terrible noises on all the dirt roads we were driving (this was often the main interstate highway). Now it seems that in taking the sway bar off they have also somehow removed or loosened the rubber stop from the passengers side, as we now have metal to metal contact when we hit the bigger potholes and topes (speed bumps) that Dave seems determined to not see.
The next morning we set off nice and early on our way to Sayulita, only to have a horrific grinding noise start on the front left brake about 20km down the road. Thankfully we were able to pull into a Pemex gas station, from where we called the Green Angels (an amazing free roadside service available to all tourists). About 45 minutes later we had both wheels off of the drivers side of the van while trying to work out the issue. It turned out that the new brake caliper body was rubbing against the inside of the wheel rim. The Green Angel mechanic arranged to have the offending part of the caliper body ground away, and then happily sent us on our way content that his work was done.
We were not so convinced that the problem was solved, so decided to take her for a test drive, but head back towards the original mechanic in Mazatlan while we did so. As expected the grinding noise returned after the first application of the brakes. We managed to nurse Ginger back to the mechanics, where it was decided that the retaining brackets provided with the new calipers were not good enough, and was allowing the caliper body to rotate and hit the inside of the wheel rim.
Troubleshooting the brake issues
Once the old brackets were put back on all seemed to be fine (and still good a week later). It was once again mid afternoon in Mazatlan, so we headed to our now very familiar Mar Rosa RV park for one final night.
The next day we had an easy drive with no mechanical issues all the way to Sayulita. This turned out to be a very touristy small town, with more white faces than locals, but it also had a great little RV park, right on a beautiful beach and within walking distance of plenty of restaurants and bars.
The beach at Sayulita
It was in Sayulita that we met some other travellers with the same plans as ours. These guys are driving three camper converted Sprinter vans (soon to be four) down to Argentina. We had a good chat about each others plans, and they were even nice enough to introduce us to a great taco stand nearby that had absolutely amazing coconut shrimp. These guys are keeping a blog at www.southerntiptrip.com.
Ginger and two of the Southern Tip Trip vans
We decided to keep moving, so headed out early again for a 500km day down the coast, to what we had read was a great little eco resort with a nice pool and grounds right on the beach. We had planned on about 7 1/2 hours to cover the distance, as the roads here aren’t great, but eventually took over 11 hours of solid driving to get there. I did give the brakes a good test when I locked them up because of an unsigned tope which I was about to hit at 80km/hr… We also had hours of slowly swerving around the coast highway, trying to avoid the killer potholes that looked big enough to swallow Ginger whole.
The main coastal highway
Another great section of road
Vultures cleaning up some roadkill
The last two hours of the trip was in the dark, along the windiest road I have ever driven, with the threat of livestock on the road around every corner. This was not a good day, and not one of us enjoyed.
There were some nice views – very reminiscent of the Oregon coast
We were both very happy to finally reach our destination though! This was short lived and we were dismally disappointed to find out the pool was empty and going green, the camping sites were completely overgrown and there was no longer any power or water available. A couple of beers and off to bed, knowing we would just get up and get back on the road again in the morning.
The green pool and broken playground
The next day, 250km down the road, we found a great little site in the back of a hotel in Ixtapa. This had shade, power, water and wifi, and was only 100m from a beautiful beach with bars and restaurants. We spent a couple of nights here, and even managed a full day of chilling out.
Chilling with a margerita
Watching the sun set from the bar
Our lovely site behind the hotel
We are now in Acapulco, and plan to go see the famous cliff divers tonight. The RV park here is nice, but they are only just setting up for the season, so the pool’s not ready yet. We will probably head on again tomorrow.
The view from our bed
What else this week? We put the finishing touches on our fly screens and have them in full use every night. They may not look too flash, but they make the inside of the van a lot more comfortable, especially when we can sleep with the back door open.
Dave sewing up the mosquito screens
The back screen – fantastic for sleeping
Screens on the side doors – and our water filtration system at work!
We also finally made a decision about travelling back to Melbourne in December. This was an issue that we had been trying to find a solution to for a long time. Basically Daves brother, Steve, is getting married in early December, and we had planned to both be there for it. Unfortunately Mexico does not allow you to import a vehicle and then leave the country without it. The vehicle becomes illegal if you do, and can be confiscated – not something we need right now. This left three possible options.
1 – Christine would stay with the van while Dave went home for the wedding.
2 – Drive all the way back North to the USA and leave the van there while we both went to Melbourne.
3 – Drive all the way down to Costa Rica and leave the van there.
No one is really happy about it, but we eventually decided that Christine staying with the van was the only truly feasible option.
So Dave has booked his tickets home for the wedding. Luckily Christine’s sister Rita is going to fly down and spend most of this time with Christine.
Dave is flying out of Cancun on the 21st, which means that we need to get over the Yucatan Peninsular before then, which is also why we are moving on most days.
In short, we are doing great and still really enjoying ourselves, especially now that Ginger Lee is running well once again. We are driving most days, but keeping them short so we can enjoy the beach in the afternoon. Our Spanish is still terrible, but hopefully we can find a good school once Dave is back from Australia.
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