We had a broken night's sleep, so we slept until about 06h45. We freshened up and headed off for Belize City. The people in Belize all seem exceptionally friendly and there is a laid-back Caribbean feel to the place which is set off by the colourful wooden stilt houses in varying states of repair. There are also lots of different churches dotted along the road.
Effectively Belize City is the capital, although it is officially Belmopan. It has to be one of the most relaxed 'cities' we've ever been to. A lovely old swing bridge (that was built in Liverpool in the early 1800s) spans a small river scattered with boats and edged with old buildings.
We parked Nyathi and wandered through the town, over the bridge and into the tourist haven where all the boats dock and loads of touts encourage everyone to join their tour group. It was vibrant and colourful, but aimed at the tourist who has come in for a short holiday and for whom money is not too much of an object.
We drove alongside the coast and up to Orange Walk. We stopped and relaxed for a while in Corozal and watched the waves crashing in and then went on to the border. We saw some Amish people there (in fact they pushed in front us in the queue gggrrr...) and they were speaking a language neither of us could decipher. Once again the staff were all very efficient and extremely friendly and it turns out that because our stay was so short we only had to pay US$30 exit fee, which was nice.
The Mexican side wasn't too bad, but the immigrations guy was Mr Unenthusiastic (he could learn a thing or too from his Belize counterparts). Customs were efficient and helpful. To import the car we had to have a photocopy of Michael's entrance card, passport, driver's licence, car papers and credit card. We also paid a US$29.70 temporary import fee and were given a fancy sticker to put in our window.
Mexico is very colourful and the people friendly. The roads were much better than we had anticipated based on what we had been told. We stopped and got ice, which was very welcome as it was particularly hot and making the drinks cold in the cooler make a big difference!
We stopped at a place called Ecotucan set on the shores of a lake about 1km's drive through a small forest from the main road. They are currently finishing building and are not set up for campers but they were happy to let us park and use the cold shower (electricity not yet working in that cabin) and toilet. Michael had an early evening swim in the clear, but choppy lake and we read for the rest of the evening.
Michael had another swim in the lake, while I sat in the sun and dangled my feet in. We met the owner of the Ecotucan, Arturo. He was a lovely guy who made us feel very welcome and told us about good places to visit in Mexico. We swapped some books with his extensive selection and were on our way.
We stopped of at Akumal and then Playa del Carmen to have a look see. They both looked very lively and were full of tourists. Playa del Carmen looked like it would have a superb vibe at night, but we couldn't find a suitable place to camp for the night, so we drove on...
We took the 'scenic route' past Acamaya and then backtracked a bit. The camp place at Acamaya Reef wanted US$7 each so we decided to try and find a place to bush camp. Unfortunately sunset was looming and none of the beachside options were any good and we soon found ourselves 5km further south in Puerto Morelos. The good news is we managed to find a spot next to an open area of bush at the entrance of Amar Inn. It certainly wasn't the most beautiful spot, with their rubbish collection area in a concrete alcove behind the vehicle, but it was a place to sleep for the night.
We wandered around the little town looking for eating options. There were about fifteen places spread around the town, ranging from very reasonable to expensive. The laid-back atmosphere was complemented with little shops selling clothes, curios and all sorts and although there were still a fair number of tourists, the place maintained its warm, tranquil feel. We had tasty dinner of quesadillas at a little roadside stall (next to the shop with all the lampshades made from pumpkin shells), where we could watch it being prepared.
We spent two hours in the internet cafe catching up on emails and doing some research for the next stages of the trip.
It was relatively windy last night, but we slept well. Michael spent the morning working with the Map Source software and synchronising the computers, while I went to the self service laundromat in town and looked at the options for snorkelling trips.
We ate lunch of chicken, tortillas and rice in the shade of a tree in the town square and then walked along the beach back to Nyathi. We decided to go snorkelling in the morning as the sea is normally calmer.
We spent the afternoon on the beach reading and watching guys kite boarding. What an amazing looking sport. It has so many different elements and one particular chap we were watching was obviously very talented. He spent about three hours out on the sea speeding out toward the reef and then coming into the extremely shallow waters at the beach, then zipping around and going back out again. He did loads of impressive jumps where he appeared to be suspended in the air for ages. After enquiring about the school and lessons (US$60 per hour including equipment, so way out of our league) we discovered he is the school owner.
In the early evening Michael went to the internet cafe to register the GPS software and I finished my book. When walking into town to meet Michael for dinner I met a Zimbabwean couple, Martin and Patty, who are now living near San Fransisco. We joined them and their friends for dinner and had a lovely evening.
The sangria was pretty potent and after just two glasses I felt very merry (cheap drunk)!
The US$22 each for the snorkelling trip was well worth it. We had two guides in the water with us which was great because they led us to the best sites and pointed out things we would probably not have noticed on our own. There was only one other couple too, so it was a nice small group. The reef is not as good as the Great Barrier Reef, nevertheless we saw loads of fish and Michael saw turtles! Our guide saw a shark, but despite looking for him for quite a while the rest of us never saw him. Stupidly, I got badly burnt on the backs of my legs. I put cream on the face, necks and arms and was going to do my legs, but didn't -bad mistake!
We got back just before lunch and Michael tried reinstalling the GPS maps and eventually had success. I got chicken lunch again for us and was very annoyed to find no tortillas in the box when I got back to Nyathi, despite the fact I'd specifically asked if all the accompaniments were there! However, it was just too hot to walk the 800m back to get them. I read a bit and then had an hour's nap.
We left at about 17h00 and headed for Cancun to suss out the night life. We drove up the Island where all the fancy hotels are. It was incredible! Some of the hotels are absolute monstrous and I'd hate to think what the beaches must be like in peak season. We stopped briefly at one of the beaches and it was very big and remarkably clean . People were having moonlit strolls and others were leaving, looking sun-beaten by the day at the beach.
There were loads of people wandering up and down to the massive entertainment complexes or the myriad restaurants along the way. We were going to stop and have a wander around one of the complexes but when we saw it would cost US$6 just to park, we decided to go straight down town.
The place was teeming with tourists, but there were lots of local people too. We strolled to a couple of the parks, one where they had lots of stage entertainment for the children and it was noisy and vibrant, filled with happy families and kids running about all over the place. The other park had an art display and although very little of it appealed to us, it was very pleasant to wander around with jazz playing in the background. There were loads of restaurants, many of them with the various tourist platters on offer displayed on tables outside.
We found a big supermarket and spent some time wandering about looking at all the products and prices. Then we went and fetched Nyathi and filled her up with lots of drinks and food. We drove until about midnight and parked up for the night at a Pemex fuel station where the staff were helpful and friendly and even offered us the use of a shower. However, we just did the necessities and fell into bed with the sounds of a wild Mexican party not to far in the distance.
We didn't sleep particularly well and were pleased to take advantage of their offer of a cold shower to freshen up. We arrived at Chichen Itza just as a rain shower started. So we sat it out and I made ham, cheese and tomato rolls. The rain didn't last long and although it was quite a lot later than we would have liked we got in at about 10h30. There were about four tour buses there already. The pleasant surprise was that it only cost US$3.80 each to get in, which was very good value. The guides were charging US$40! Our wallets are happy we prefer to wander around on our own anyway.
We managed to avoid too many people by walking the opposite way to the main flow of traffic. The ruins had a slight Grecian feel to them and it was interesting because we could actually walk inside some of them. Quite a few had bats hanging from the very high roofs and the walls were streaked black from their droppings.
There are many walls which look like they are going to cave in within the next few hundred years, unless something dramatic is done. And there is also always the battle of nature versus man, when the roots of trees stubbornly push there way through the structures...
The main attraction of the ruins, El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulcan) stands in the centre of a large plaza and overlooks the surrounding jungles and the ruins which are scattered in all directions. - you call for miles...
It was originally built by the Mayans in the 7th century, stands 25m high and represents the complex Mayan calendar. There is a steep climb up the steps, but it is certainly worth it!
About 300m south of the plaza is a cenote (natural limestone well) with deep green water which was used for sacrificial offerings to appease the Gods. Archaeologists have found remains of men, women and children (dispelling the tale that it was only virgins who were sacrificed).
We wandered about in the museum for a while and then headed west for Merida. We stopped to get ice and spent some time speaking to a group of Mexicans who were really interested in Nyathi and our trip.
We thoroughly enjoyed Merida. There are some beautiful churches and buildings. The town apparently has a mini fiesta every Sunday and it was very festive. There were a few tourists, but mostly lots of local families and friends out enjoying the live performances by cartoon characters and then two live bands were due to start playing in the early evening.
We bought another two hammocks (without poles for easy storage) from a very experienced salesman (US$50 later). The other amazing thing we saw was a patch of cloud in the sky tinged with greens, pinks and oranges, but we couldn't get a particularly good photo of it.
We found a wonderful bush camp along a disused dirt road about 120km before Campeche. We had bush showers and both remarked on how fantastic it was to camp in the wilderness, with a wonderful sunset giving the night a warm glow and we didn't see a single soul...
We had a late start. I went for a run and had a bush shower. We drove most of the morning only stopping for ice and to look at the sea en route. We crossed two toll bridges which were very expensive, but we didn't have a choice along the coastal route. The first was US$4.480 and the second US$8.20!
We stopped to have a beer at a beautiful beach with more shells than I have ever seen in my life. Michael investigated why the six wheel drive unit wasn't engaging and then decided that as he was already dirty he may as well do an oil check and fill up. I did my oil pumping duty, but apart from that spent a wonderful two hours roaming along the beach collecting shells. They were all perfect specimens and in total I must have collected about sixty. However, I dutifully sprinkled them back across the beach before we left.
We regretted leaving our beach, because finding another suitable place proved harder than we thought. We left Yucatan and entered the state of Tabasco! We stopped at an (inefficient) Chedraui supermarket and it took us ages to return our Sol empties and buy bread, roasted chicken and rice. When we got back outside the sun had disappeared completely. Eventually, at about 20h00 we found a nice little place on a little used road which lead through some lakes / swamps. There were loads of insects, but we didn't spend much time outside, preferring to dive upstairs once we had finished our roasted chicken and rice.
We were up early to the sound of frogs, insects and birds. There were thousands of no-see-ums which were biting me when I went for a pee, so we didn't loiter and chose to move on out which we did by 07h00. We had our ritual stop at a garage or ice and we washed the windscreen and windows, freshened ourselves up and generally got organised.
We went to El Parque La Venta in Villahermosa. It has a zoo and an archaeological park set in the jungle alongside a beautiful lake in the outskirts of the city. It was surprisingly good and all the displays were written in both Spanish and English. The zoo had animals mostly native to Tabasco including, playful spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, tiger cats, otters and enormous crocodiles, plus an excellent aviary and snake section and more... The animals looked content and well fed and all the enclosures were clean and decent-sized.
The archaeological section comprised a small museum showing the history of La Venta and that it was necessary to relocate the Olmec structures to, Villahermosa, among other places, to preserve them. There was a 1km path which led through the jungle and had the carvings tastefully displayed en route.
We had some tasty hotdogs from a neat little vendor next to the lake outside the zoo and then headed south for Palenque. We had just under three hours to visit the ruins and that was just right. There were so few people there and the weather was slightly overcast so it made it particularly pleasant to wander around. The ruins are in a lush jungle setting and you can walk in amongst them, which we enjoy. One thing we were very annoyed about though, was that you had to get written permission prior to entering the park if you wanted to go down the staircase inside the Temple of Inscriptions to see Pakal's sarcophagus. Had we been told when we bought our tickets (reasonable at US$3.80), we would definitely have gone to the library to ask permission. Apparently they only let about 40 people in per day and as most people aren't even aware you can go inside they generally accommodate all requests!
We spent the afternoon climbing the remaining ruins and going down the mountain a little to some beautiful waterfalls. We crossed a wooden swing bridge and walked back up to the main plaza through some deserted ruins with absolutely nobody about, it was great!
We camped at Maya Bell Hotel where we met Angela and David from Vancouver. We spent the evening with them eating dinner at the little restaurant and chatting about books, travel and all sorts. It started bucketing down and we were forced to linger there until we took the hint with all the lights going off and made a mad dash back to the vehicles!
We said our goodbyes to Angela and David and then decided to spend the day relaxing.
I started off with a run through a lovely green valley, which was actually quite enjoyable and then had a swim to cool down. I did some diary writing, made some rolls for lunch and read my book. Michael spent most of the day relaxing in the hammock reading and then did some stuff on the computer.
We had at least a dozen people come and talk to us about Nyathi, our trip etc. We met one young guy from California who was driving a bus run on vegetable oil and had seven other travellers with him. We also met Alejandro from San Cristobal who gave us some tips on good places to visit in Mexico.
In the evening we got some enchiladas and tostadas from the restaurant and sat and ate them outside in our camp. We had some drinks and relaxed for a while before heading to bed.
We had a water-filled day today. I went for a run at 07h30, had a nice hot shower, we packed up camp and got some provisions in town (which looked like a lively place). First we visited Misol-Ha waterfalls, about 25km south of Palenque. The falls are about 35m high and comprise what I would call the main falls (two big drops), then two smaller waterfalls thundering out of holes in the rock face and then some lower, broader cascades gushing out of a cave.
Angela told us you could get into the cave behind the cascades by walking behind the big waterfalls and that someone had recommended to them to take a torch and wear no-slip sandals - all good advice!
To start, we got soaked through from the spray of the waterfalls and then we had to wade through the water in the cave, with the deepest part coming up to our groins (not to mention one very deep hole which we had to carefully stretch cross, shining the torch through the water to see where the next safe rock was). It was fantastic to sit in the darkness of the cave and hear the waterfall thundering into it. Here Michael is in the entrance to the cave...
...and here I am negotiating the slippery exit and descent!
Our nest stop was Agua Azul waterfalls, 35km further on. We gave a lift to two students from Mexico City who were waiting at the intersection for Misol-Ha. We had a rather horrible experience about 1km before reaching the actual falls. About four men stopped us with books of tickets and told us we had to pay 20 pesos (US$2) for the car. We asked if that was the only charge to visit the waterfalls as we thought it seemed weird to have a car fee and not a fee for individuals. Then they told us there was another ticket booth further down, so we asked why there were two booth and they said their booth was from a different municipality and for use of the road. We argued it was a public road and that's what we paid our road tax and importation fee for and of course we asked for identification. They said they didn't have any and we continued to argue and eventually Michael switched of the engine and when we saw a local pickup just drive straight through we told the four guys to please give way and let us pass, they got a bit aggressive and the guy next to Michael tried to grab the keys out of the ignition, so Michael smacked his hand away and shouted a few choice words and we sped off down the hill. Our Mexican passengers agreed that it all looked very suspect!
We paid the 10 pesos each proper entrance fee to get into the falls and went and parked and locked up the vehicle. I went to the tourist office to ask bout the first 'toll' he told me we were right not to pay as they were 'bandidos malos' however, when I asked him if I could quote his name if we had hassles on the return journey he very quickly told me that wouldn't be necessary, so he obviously did not want to get involved. the same with the police when I mentioned it to them later on (they patrol the paths higher up the falls to ensure the tourists don't get robbed) and they knew all about it, but of course not one is remotely interested in taking any action!
The falls were stunning. There are a number of them varying in size, staggered along the course of the river. The water is crystal clear with a turquoise tinge to it. Sadly the clouds were out in force, had it been sunnier it would have been even more spectacular. There were lots of places to swim, but the water was freezing, so we didn't stay in for long! One of the interesting things was the way all the rocks and trees that the water flows over are coated in a brown, sticky sediment, which also catches the leaves and other debris which forms an interesting base and shape for the water to rush over.
We left in the late afternoon and thankfully had no hassles at the 'toll point' up the road (nevertheless, we had put the windscreen protector down just in case they decided to hurl rocks at us and we also waited until another car was driving directly behind us). Just before sunset we stopped to ask a local farmer (Pedro) if we could park in the fringe of the forest next to his land. he said no problem, so we drove down and found a good spot. Then two other men from the farm on the opposite side of the road came down to see us and asked why we hadn't spoken to them. We explained we had asked permission from Pedro, but they claimed it was their land (we don't think so). They wanted us to park up near the main road and were not interested in the fact that we thought it was both noisy and dangerous, then eventually they asked what would we give them to make sure we were safe. i told them to give a figure and he said US$30! We explained we only paid US$8 to camp in campgrounds with hot showers. To cut a long story short - we left!
We ended up parking in a lorry park next to a Pemex garage on the outskirts of San Cristobal Las Casas for US$1 from 19h00 to 07h00 and we had access to toilets and basic showers. A bit noisy, but fine for the night!
We were up pretty early and out of the parking by 07h00. We drove into San Cristobal las Casas and parked in the main square.
There was another traveller's vehicle there and we discovered they were Jack (from Zimbabwe) and Petra (Czech Republic) who had driven down from Seattle in the US. We chatted to Jack and then went exploring the town a little. We walked up a very long flight of steps to reach the church of San Cristobal which was lovely and had spectacular views of the city down below.
Sadly it was a bit hazy down across the town and valley, so did not make for good photographs. We went back to the square and sat chatting with Jack and Petra for a while. We drew more cash and bought some fresh bread, ham, cheese etc. The drive was pleasant, but uneventful and slower than we anticipated because of all the damn topes (savage speed reducing humps)! I am sure they spread them liberally along the roads to encourage people to use their expensive toll roads.
We found a Pemex garage about an hour before sunset and set up camp. It was great to cook for a change and I stuck to the Mexican theme. We had tostadas (like papadams, but made of corn) topped with spicy chilli soya, with trimmings of fresh salsa, guacamole and corn - delicious!
When we were about to climb into bed some grumpy guy from the office came and told us to move. He had already seen us parked there for the past three hours but had now decided he wanted to be Mr Bolshy. Nevertheless, we moved to a place where there was less light and a bit more noise, but further away from his office.
I was awake at 05h30 with the shrieking birds, revving engines and vendor on her loudspeaker! I got up and had a shower and Michael did the same afterwards. We spent the majority of the day driving. I did the morning shift and Michael the afternoon.
We drove through some really hot and dry landscapes filled with cacti and thorny scrub. we also climbed up and down the mountains a fair bit and put Nyathi through her paces. We saw lots of sisal plantations and many more areas of land being cleared of its natural vegetation in favour of more crops.
We tried to go to San Bartolo Coyotepec (12km south of Oaxaca - pronounced wa-ha-ka) to look at the distinctive black pottery they make there, but the traffic in Oaxaca was unbelievable and had come to a complete standstill on the road going south so we decided not to.
The map which Michael bought (Guia Mexico Desconocido Mapa de Carreteras 2004 - ISBN 968-5756-09-0, which was sealed and the guy wouldn't let him open it) was absolutely useless. It has no distances, millions of place names in tiny writing all squashed together so you don't know which one is referring to which spot, you can't tell which roads are tolls, or even which are tarred - but it will make good fire fodder.
We passed through some remote villages today and saw this lovely church en route...
We made lots of phone calls today - which gave us a bit of a high. I got the timing wrong and phoned Karen in Australia at 05h30, still, being Sis, she was just happy to hear from me. We also spoke to Kathy, Martin, Andrew, Angela, Ivor and Alison!
We spent the night at a 'Love Motel' called Los Leones. The owner was such a wonderful man. He was quite happy to let us use the room at no charge, but instead we parked Nyathi just outside and used the bathroom.
It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but if we ever come this way again, we'll be back to visit - thanks!
We spent the morning driving to Cuernavaca. We saw lots of villagers in the towns en route re-enacting Palm Sunday, with enormous, heavy crosses being borne by 'Jesus', surrounded by people dressed in flowing robes, with donkeys etc. The scenery en route was pretty impressive with a large, extinct , snow covered volcano lurking in the distance.
Cuernavaca is a lovely, lively colonial town. There are beautiful churches and old buildings along narrow streets. Frustratingly the tourist information office was open and I could see cars parked behind the locked gates, but there was no way to get in! I wandered around the various bustling town squares trying to find out more information on their Spring Festival week, which coincides with Semana Santa (Easter Week) and according to the big banners as you drive through the town, they claim to have all sorts of activities including rodeos, but I could not find out any information on when and where despite visiting two tourist information booths and asking local police and shop owners. Michael was more successful, locating a very good (but expensive at US$17) map of Mexico in a fantastic shop called Sanborns. We both went back together and wandered around for a bit. They are open until 01h00 everyday and were just like an old departmental store.
When we got back to Nyathi she had groupies looking at her underbelly and generally having a nosey. We chatted to them all for a while and they were so friendly and helpful, even promising to send us information on places to visit in Mexico - great ambassadors for their country!
On their recommendation we headed for Tepotzlan for the night , another lovely colonial village with steep, narrow streets and stunning carved mountains as the backdrop. The sun was beginning to fade as we got nearby and it gave the surrounding area such a warm glow...
After trying out one ridiculously expensive (US$27 for the night) campsite called Campestre Camila (or something like that), we met backpacker Peter from the USA and we gave him a lift to a Boy Scout camp set a the foot of the mountains in an area called Amitla (I think). It was very difficult to find in behind an upmarket suburb with big, walled houses and rabbit warren streets, but we got there eventually with the help of some really friendly boy scouts who sat on Nyathi's bonnet and showed us the way.
Sadly the camp site itself wasn't great with rather dingy cold water showers and a very cold and leaf-covered pool, but cheaper at US$6 each. By the time we found a place at the bottom of the car par to camp, we pretty much fell into bed.
Not a great night's sleep, despite the rustic surroundings. We had horses galloping around our vehicle and whinnying to their friends on the other side of the fence. Still, I soon livened up after a run and a very cold shower! We chatted to Diego and some of the other Boy Scouts in the morning and we (and they) took some photos.
They offered to go with me to register and pay, but there was no one about in administration and when we stopped on the way out again there was still nobody there. So, I wrote a note and tossed it along with US$6 for camping, my guilt assuaged!
We filled up with fuel in Cuernavaca and headed through the mountains for Taxco. Taxco was a beautiful little colonial city with more VW Beetles than I have seen in one place before in my life. We encountered a rather brusque man at the tourist information who though it was ridiculous that we were only prepared to pay $20 each for a hotel, which had parking! He told us that Taxco was not the city for us - despite being annoying, he was right! So we left behind all the shops filled to the brim with silver and drove on...
We found a lovely little restaurant which overlooked the valley and asked the owner, Isabel if we had dinner could we park there for the night. We were her only customers and she obliged by serving us an overpriced, but fairly tasty quarter chicken with tortillas and trimmings. An added bonus was watching the moon rise between the mountains, a view of which she was immensely proud!
En route down to Acapulco we came across two guys with a transit van who had broken down on the motorway and were frantically trying to way people down, asking for a push. We stopped and towed them to a safer side road and they were really appreciative.
Acapulco was much nicer than we anticipated. There are loads of tourist police throughout the city and it remarkably clean. There were also lots of VW Beetles all over the place.
The city was not yet over run with local Semana Santa holiday makers, but it was still very busy with a great vibe. In celebration of Semana Santa we had a palm frond of Christ on the cross tied to Nyathi...
We wandered about near the beach, did some window shopping, ate delicious Italian ice-cream and then went for lunch and had a Oaxaca speciality - tlayuda (big crisp tortilla with all sorts of toppings - a bit like a Mexican pizza). I found a couple of beautiful dresses for Ange & Andrew's wedding, but neither of them fitted perfectly. I did however, buy a new bikini from the market.
We drove around the peninsula and saw where the mad people dive off the 35m cliff into the sea below. We drove about 10km north of the city to Pie de la Cuesta which a spit of land with the sea on the west and big lagoon on the right. We looked at the Acapulco trailer park (US$7.50 each) and it was well organised, with a small pool, but lots of holiday makers and people camped right on top of each other. We opted for Quinta Dora trailer park, which was more low key, with a friendly, welcoming family and campsites both on the sea and lake sides. We went for a cooling swim in the lake, followed by a refreshing shower.
We caught a taxi back into the city, wandered about near the zocalo (main square) and went in search of internet cafes where we could connect the laptop. I wandered down to the dockside and watched families fishing, but was not at all impressed when one of them caught a fish and proceeded to kill it by smacking it with their shoe! We went to an internet cafe for a while and then went up to watch the divers at La Quebrada. There were hundreds of people milling about and standing on their tip-toes to get the best view. There was a US$3 each fee to get down to a viewing platform nearer the bottom, but we decided to walk along the road where we had driven earlier and have a look-see first.
The cliffs are well illuminated and you could see the divers praying infront of the altars. The diving was most impressive and worth the almost 30 minute wait. We couldn't see the water's surface in between the two cliffs, but we could see the splashes. We got to see two divers dive from the 35m point and it was amazing to see how gracefully they pushed out into the air with their arms spread out, making them look like human crosses and then they plummeted down to the water. We also saw a double dive with fire torches and all the lights dimmed to enhance the spectacular effect. We decided we would probably come back and watch it in the day time from the viewing platform.
We walked about 4km back down the hill to the zocalo and down around the bay to the touristy hotel resort area and then caught a taxi back to camp.
Michael caught a taxi back to Acapulco to go and upload the website. I hand-washed two greasy items of clothing, pre-washed some others, packed them into two big bags and walked down to the laundromat at the end of the village. It was much longer than I remembered - 2km. It was hot and sweaty and my arms felt as if they would rop off by the time I got there. It was quite cheap at US$7 for about 16kg of dry washing. I made the mistake of walking back along the beach with just my bikini top and shorts on and I got badly burnt. probably because was distracted by a guy with a parasail and a large fuel-powered fan attached to his back who made several attempts to get up into the air, eventually flying off into the wild blue yonder about 45 minutes later!
I spent the afternoon hiding under the shade of the palm shelter on the beach and reading my book. I tried the local way of eating a fresh coconut with lots of lime juice ad a generous sprinkling of chilli powder - very tasty!
When Michael got back he collapsed into a hammock, read and caught the last bits of fading sunlight. We watched the local families playing football on the beach and generally having a raucous time. We met Ed and Melle from Ireland and Germany at the campsite and chatted to them briefly. Then we went for dinner at a little restaurant nearby which was showing a poor quality DVD of American Pie (I think) in the background. We both ordered hamburgers with chips, but my burger had a distinctly strange taste, so I just ate the miniscule portion of chips (about 15 in total)!
A lot more people arrived during the day and the noise level had gone up considerably, though thankfully it did not continue into the night.
Our plan to leave today got thrown out the window after we got chatting to Ed and Melle (so did their idea of going into Acapulco to see the divers). I went to collect the laundry and wisely took the local bus both ways!
Thankfully one of the larger, noisy groups of people left, so the place was more tranquil and the toilets and showers looked more like bathroom facilities than a bomb site!
It was almost oppressively hot and we all had a number of showers to cool down. We spent the majority of the day sitting in the shade of Nyathi's awning chatting, drinking, eating and watching the ferocious little ants industriously picking up crumbs and drinking the remnants of my shandy on the sand. We also had a visiting hummingbird flitting from flower to flower and a butterfly which liked Melle's hat...
In the early evening Michael had a cat-nap and I cooked chilli soya and spaghetti for us all. We ate dinner, washed up, had a nightcap and went to bed.
I didn't sleep very well with tender sunburn and a sore throat. Ed and Melle left to go into Acapulco and we went to the fantastic Carrefour supermarket to buy some goodies. On the way back out past Pie de la Cuesta we filled up with fuel at a Pemex station and Michael noticed that annoyingly the pump wasn't calibrated properly. It was showing a reading of 488 litres and we know that's impossible as our tanks are only 450 litres, plus we weren't empty to begin with. Of course there was nothing the station manager could do, but give us a machine reading and receipt and we said we'd contact the head office.
The scenery was stunning, with lots of little beaches and then twisting roads with mountains dropping dramatically down to the sea. The roads were very busy with local seaside frenzy, but it wasn't too bad. We saw a couple of smaller villages with processions of brightly clothed people following 'Christ' carrying a big wooden cross down the dusty road.
Just before sunset we found a wonderful alcove beach with very few people. It was possible to drive down to the beach and we parked about 20 metres from the high tide mark.
We climbed up onto Nyathi's roof with some sundowners and snacks and watched the last of the pink light fading from the sky. A number of really friendly people came to talk to us and find out where we were from, going etc. They told us to come over to their camp area if we needed anything - lovely people!
We had a wonderful drive along the coast up to Puerto Vallarta. We stopped to photograph a hairy spider which was crossing the road...
We passed loads of beaches absolutely thronging with people and music bouncing loudly off of all the different groups of people. The traffic was really slow going some of the time, but then we would break out into the countryside and the road would wind up through the hills and we'd come around the corner and see magnificent coastline with craggy rocks exploding up through the surf.
We stopped at a garage to use the toilets and get something to drink, when a group of friendly guys in Jeeps and other assorted 4x4s pulled into the garage. Some mutual vehicle admiration took place, and of course, the obligatory photo.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta in the late afternoon. We put up the door bars and the window guard and went in search of an internet cafe and then spent about half an hour looking for some Huichol beaded craftwork. After much negotiating we came away with a spectacular jaguar mask head with an iguana perched on top. Very colourful and traditional. The shop owner, Cesar, was friendly and pleasant to deal with.
However, our next discovery was far from pleasant! We got back to Nyathi to discover the passenger window had been smashed in and there was glass everywhere. We both stood on the pavement in shock, cursing and tamping our feet. The flat screen monitor had been ripped from its mounting, the wires torn out and it lay on my seat, the computer bits and bobs box was lying open on the driver's seat, the contents strewn about the place - the cab looked like a hurricane had hit! Annoyingly both pairs of binoculars were gone (and as we only discovered later in the evening - both our MP3 players and a tape walkman). Thankfully we both had our wallets and cards on us and we think the filthy little *!%*! must have been disturbed, because he hadn't found the digital camera, nor the video and we could see his next move was to the boxes stores behind the Togo seat, as one of the safety belts was undone. We so wish we'd come back to find him trapped in the cab - Lord knows what we would have done! I cannot have been easy for him to squeeze himself in through the window with the bar in the middle - he must have been quite nervous when he was inside.
We asked a number of people nearby if they had seen anything, but of course the answer was no. I went to call the police who were most apologetic and he cursed the thieves themselves. We told him what was missing and he took our details, apologised again and left. Then a few minutes later some tourist police arrived and we told them the same story, although all we wanted to do was get going...
We spent the night at a Pemex garage north of town and slept fitfully, worrying someone might push through our makeshift window of towels, bungy cords. I also rigged a delicately balanced cup of coins and pens which would have come crashing down on the plastic tray had anyone disturbed it!
The Easter bunny had been to visit with 3 Kinder Eggs! We had refreshing cool showers, left a tip for the bathroom attendant in the empty box and went on our way. The scenery was still spectacular, though more dry and desert like.
We passed through Culiacan where there seemed to be rather a strong police presence. We were pulled over by three cops in an unmarked car and they stopped behind us and got out to talk to us. You could see they were eyeing everything out to see what could be wrong, but in fairness, they eventually left us and went on their way. I think they were quite impressed we could speak a fair bit of Spanish and thought it was very funny when Michael said we were still gringos, but not American as they had thought.
Annoyingly, even though we were travelling on a 'free road' we still had to pay a charge of 27 peso, but as they charged us the proper fee as posted, we didn't mind so much. We camped at another Pemex station for the night, which had a big parking area at the back with trees and bougainvilleas forming quite a pretty backdrop.
We came off the toll road and drove through some endlessly flat farmlands dissected by irrigation ditches to Isla Huvulai (which was recommended to us by Angela and David).
They said it was a deserted island, quite windy and exposed, but beautiful and lots of sea birds and shells. We paid the 30 pesos (was 20, has obviously gone up during local holiday season) to get in and drove across a spit of land with large muddy flats of tidal area on either side. As we got onto the sandy island we were disgusted by the amount of litter we saw laying about and it only got worse as we drove down to the beach on the other side. The influx of Semana Santa visitors had certainly left its mark!
There were still quite a lot of cars parked along the beach surrounded by people and their accompanying mess. We wandered what so many people did about toilet facilities when they camped like that, but decided to leave that thought right there! We drove as far along an inland road as we could to see how far up the people stretched. At the end of the road, which then led bacl down to the beach, we let air out of the tyres and decided to drive all the way along the beach to the end of the island on the far side, where we couldn't see other people. It was so annoying to see that the people, in general, were just like pigs, using what they needed and then discarding the remains on the beach to be blown either up into the sand dunes or caught by the sea and washed up somewhere else, or eaten by some unsuspecting animal!
Fortunately the further we drove along the far end of the beach, the less litter we found. The wind was very strong and nowhere offered shelter, so we chose the cleanest stretch of beach (about 4km away from anyone else) and settled down to some reading and relaxing. Only one pick-up passed us (and caught Michael tanning nude) and they drove off around the edge of the island. We retreated to the cab as the wind began to whip the sand relentlessly into our faces.
Some time later the driver of the pick-up (Manuel) walked up and asked if we could help him as his car was stuck and the tide was coming in.
We drove all the way to the end of the island and around the corner to discover the back end of his vehicle in the sea, with the waves crashing on the back axle! Michael started by winching him out, but then just towed him out as it was quicker and the tide was coming in and we still had to make it back around the other side. The pick-up's battery was dead and the terminal connection broken. Michael got a spare connection out and fitted it for them and then we jump-started the engine. Michael recommended they let some air out the tyres, and they tried making it across the sand, but still got nowhere, so we ended up towing them all the way back to our camp, which was not as easy as usual, without 6x6, but still no problem. We had to drive through the shallows of the incoming waves at one point, but we made it.
We told them to drive on the hard sand just above the waves back to where all the other cars were and that we would watch them to make sure they made it. If they got stuck, we'd come out and tow them. In the distance we could see them going hell for leather and the odd wave creating a big splash up against the vehicle - mad, mad people!
We had a dash into the sea to rinse off the sand, poured fresh water over ourselves and dived upstairs out of the windy, sandy weather.
The results of the windy weather were evident this morning...
We spent most of the day on the beach as the wind was almost non-existent in the morning and the sea, wondrously calm. Michael checked the oils and I dutifully did the pumping. Then I sat and made a drip sand castle and wandered up and down the beach looking at the beautiful shells.
We cleaned the tarpaulin and then sat in the sun drinking cold beer and reading our books. We both got burnt, despite only being in the sun for an hour and a half!
The wind began to pick up mid-afternoon, so we packed up and drove up to Ciudad Obregon, where we got some ice and fresh food.
By making our little island detour we also missed three toll booths which was a bit of a bargain, saving just over US$25 in fees! We found a quiet Pemex station where we pared for the night. There were hundreds of mosquitoes which invaded the cab, but with no window on the passenger side, there wasn't much we could do. I made us rolls for dinner and we fed some cheese and leftovers to two very appreciative dogs.