Monthly Archives: November 2012

A quick Cancun update

A very easy driving week

We left Chichen Itza and drove towards Cancun stopping only at the prison outside Valladolid to pick up a hammock. They are all double weave, great quality and made on site by the prisoners. It can take up to a couple of months to make one huge one! But I guess they do have a bit of time…

Christine testing out the new hammock

We drove right into Cancun and onto the little spit of land/sand where all the fancy hotels are located. Parked Ginger on the street and found a public access to the beach. Beautiful! So different than the Pacific Coast with the spectacular turquoise colour here. Also different in temperature – definitely a few degrees chillier, though we aren’t complaining!

The main beach in Cancun

We checked out a couple of camping options on the highway heading south away from Cancun. The Paa Mul campsite just a little bit south of Playa del Carmen did the trick for the night. It had a nice pool and restaurant/bar but it was like we were camping in the parking lot. After a night at the bar listening to the permanent resident RV’ers try and do Karaoke we decided to look for more options. And we were so happy we did! We stumbled upon La Playa Beach Club while checking out a spot next door. Nothing fancy and bare basic amenities but it has power and water and is on the most gorgeous, pristine beach.

Ginger-Lee all set up for relaxing!

We are hunkered down here for a total of 5 or more days most likely. The longest stop in one place since we left Halifax! Dave left on Wednesday and is now back in Melbourne for his brother’s wedding and to catch up with family and friends. Christine’s sister Rita also arrived into Cancun on Wednesday for 9 days. And the latest news is that Christine’s parents will be joining the party to keep Christine company and for a bit of an escape from the Nova Scotia winter.

The beach and bar where Christine and Rita will be forced to spend the start of the week….

 

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Back to the Atlantic

This weeks travels!

We drove just north of Acapulco City and found the Acapulco Trailer Park. We were one of only 2 campers (one permanent) and got to set up close to the beach. The waves were beautiful, huge and loud and definitely not swim-able. Sadly the pool was being painted as well – oh well.

Our main mission in Acapulco was to see the famous cliff divers! Acapulco was the original tourist resort place in Mexico and had all kinds of famous people coming as long ago as the 50’s. However this boom really only lasted until the 70’s due to overdevelopment and oh yes raw sewage polluting their beaches. This is all since cleaned up, and they’re trying to get back the tourists. The biggest attraction, since 1934, are the guys that dive off the La Quebrada cliffs. Probably about 15 divers walk down the steps through the crowds on the viewing areas and dive into the water below. They then climb 25-35m on the rock face opposite this little inlet of water. They bless themselves on the little shrine on top and then take the tumble into the water. Really amazing to see especially with the tiny and shallow body of water they have to jump into with all the waves and variables. Of course just as we were to take lots of pictures we realised that something had happened to our SD card a nd our camera was not able to work – grrrrr. You’ll have to settle for an Internet pic instead!

Cliff divers of Acapulco

The next day, November 9th, we got on the road a bit late as we had to buy our new SD card. We continued south along the coast to Puerto Escondido, a big surfing and party town. Unfortunately we got into town after dark and the 3 campgrounds we had mapped out were either awful, closed or not able to accommodate us. It was a hoppin’ Friday night on the waterfront so we parked and went to find some dinner. We wandered the streets and checked things out, including a loud beach concert. We then parked Ginger in front of a hotel in a well lit area on a quieter area of the main street and went to sleep. Our first, non Walmart, boondock!

On Saturday we spoiled ourselves with pancakes and coffee in a nice cafe, and then watched some of the surfing competition going on. Puerto Escondido was definitely a young surfers hangout.

A surfer catches a wave (and a very hungover boy on the beach, still sleeping off the night before)

Another competition surfer

The main boulevard in Puerto Escondido

We drove a couple of hours further south to Zipolite Beach. Here we found a beautiful RV campground, Ranchos Los Mangos, that was set inside a walled mango orchard and had great clean amenities, plus a pool! We immediately signed up for 2 nights! We also arranged for a much needed spa treatment for Ginger. Well, a guy with a bucket and a rag anyway…

Ginger looking all shiney and new

The beach was lovely although still quite rough and tumble. It is known in Mexico as the only real nude beach even though nudity in Mexico is illegal. Dave was looking forward to seeing the sights! Hee hee, just kidding. There were actually only a couple of nudies and they were secluded at the end of the beach. The whole little town has a hippie seventies kind of feel.

The beach at Zipolite

We found this friendly guy about 3m from the van

What Christine got after ordering a mixed fruit smoothie… something got lost in translation…

In the next town over there was a turtle sanctuary with quite a large live turtle display. We saw lots of big sea turtles and baby turtles, but of course someone (not naming anyone in particular!) forgot the camera so we had to use our iPhone. Not great pics but here are the best.

We sadly left the Pacific Ocean and now started to head overland towards the Atlantic. The last time we did this crossing it took three weeks from Halifax to Vancouver. Down here you can do it in about 8hrs of driving. We overnighted at the Hogar Infantile which was pretty much midway. It’s an orphanage that also has a few RV spots set up. No money is accepted but you can donate through their website, which we promptly did. There was a french family also camping there in a Winnebago with their 5 kids, ages 2-13! They are traveling for a couple of years and also hope to reach Argentina as an end point. Amazing or crazy, we’re not sure!

We made it to the Gulf of Mexico the next day! We had scouted out on the internet a good campground in Isla Aguada. Unfortunately another long driving day made us arrive after dark and we weren’t overly impressed with the place. We were the only RV’ers there and the beach was only ok. In the morning we checked out the waterfront and then got back on the road.

Exploring around Isla Aguada

A couple of hours driving and we arrived at our first Mayan ruins – Uxmal [oosh-mal]! Our plan was to camp in their little camping area right at the gate of the ruins so we could see it by day and night. We got our hiking boots on and explored.

The pyramid at Uxmal

Exploring Uxmal

We came back to the van for dinner and then went back for the sound and light show. It was very impressive and all, but due to our idiotic inability to understand spanish we only stayed for half the show.

The light show at Uxmal

On Thursday we had another real short drive into the city of Merida, which is supposed to be the cultural capital of the Yucatan Peninsula. We wanted to stay close to the Grande Plaza in the centre so we got a hotel room.

The main plaza in Merida

Our main criteria for picking a place was that it had to have nice secure parking so we wouldn’t have to worry about the van. We spent the afternoon and evening exploring the city square and the markets and had some good food. But we both agree we’re not the best at being tourists in cities and decided that one night in town was enough, so headed on to the next Mayan sight of Chicken Schnitzel today.

The crowds at Chichen Itza (and the main temple)

This was a very impressive city ruin, but unfortunately within easy driving distance of Cancun, which meant it was jam packed with international tourists. This was quite novel for us, after having traveled the last few weeks with very few other tourists. It was good reminder for us that we don’t like other people – only joking!

The ball court at Chichen Itza – see the hoops on the walls!

Dave exploring

Where’s Dave?

The Observatory

This week we have also passed 20,000km driven since leaving Halifax (20,805km actually) – not bad for 108 days on the road.

We are now camped in front of a hotel near the ruins, and plan to be back on the beach by lunch time tomorrow. The Atlantic this time! Oh, that’s after we pick up some hammocks on the way.

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Mazatlan to Acapulco

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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