Tag Archives: mexico

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From my experience propane tanks can be filled on the outskirts of select towns across Mexico, Central America, and most places we’ve been. It seems logical that these filling stations are not actually in the towns, because If an accidental explosion was to occur, only the employes and current patrons would be the unfortunate individuals to be taken down, instead of  the surrounding bystanders in a crowded pueblo. We have a 5 liter tank that can fuel our stove for well over a few weeks, depending on how much we cook. The tank will cost between $2 and $5 to fill, dependent on the country and who happens to be working the register that day.

We are somewhere on the central coast of Mexico on the hunt for propane.  We are caravanning with George and Rachel (southtonowhere.com), following their vanagon through crowded Mexican streets. They also need a fill. We find a station, the van gets filled, but we do not. Our tank adapter does not match with the stations hose. While this seems odd to me, we are still relatively new to the South of the border vagabond lifestyle and our Espanol is no bueno, so perhaps something is getting lost in translation. Either way, we shrug our shoulders and start problem-solving.

The chubby Mexican man perched on a small motorcycle with a plastic bag full of canned beer witnesses our current dilemma. He watches and crushes a couple empty cans. He wants to help. He is communicating a strong desire to guide us to another filling station across town. He assures us through hand motions, that he knows the way. We accept his offer with hesitation. Sometimes locals see gringos in a pickle and they want to help, but they also want money.  This has been our experience in a  couple different situations. We need propane, and navigating unfamiliar cities in Mexico is a feat not for the meek. So, we take the easy road, deciding to follow this complete stranger through winding back streets, wrong ways, down one ways, cutting off busses, all in an attempt to keep up with this intoxicated hooligan. Where are we going? is this legit? is this dude alright?

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We get to the station and fill the tank for a couple bucks. This means hot meals for the next few weeks, beachside under the stars. We strike a conversation with our new amigo, the beer drinking Juan G. He asked for nothing, but we handed him some beer, observing his love of the beverage. He refused the suds explaining that riding the moto with a bottle is more difficult than riding with a can. We then reveal to him our surfing paradise destination, Saladita. He knows it well, has family there, and says that it is close by. Cool. After thanking this man for his help, a few high fives and posing for a couple photos, he now insists that we follow him to the beach. Once again we accept his offer with hesitation. I mean, this is our new friend after all.

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The Taco (our Tacoma) and the van follow this motorcycle madman down the Mexican highway at generous speeds. As he rides helmet-less drinking beer swiftly, he tosses his empties like a bean bag at a town fair into the green roadside brush. One, two, three beers down on this 30-minute caravan. Yikes. Should we be concerned? As we tailgate this swerving rascal, he makes a variety of hand gestures. He points to a smoke stacked factory on the horizon, removes both hands from the handle bars, makes a typing gesture, and then points to himself.  He is trying to communicate that he works there (or so we think). The message is not completely clear. He points to the sea, makes gestures of fishing, and makes a motion to convey that this fish is BIG. No hands on the bars, beers in a plastic bag swinging from his handlebars like a pendulum. Caught up in this moving game of charades, we missed the turn. No problem. Juan G illegally U-turns on the uncrowded highway, gesturing  for us to follow suit. More than a few times during this trip we have been put in odd and, at times, uncomfortable situations. Although this was more odd than uncomfortable, sometimes you need to trust your gut. My gut was telling me to follow Juan until the bitter end. So this is what we did, and we made that illegal U-turn.

We arrive at the beach.  It is a dead-end dirt road with no one in sight. It is beautiful. A rocky coast with a perfect spit of sand, perfect for relaxation. The late afternoon sun was hitting the sea with a dramatic orange glow. We began to envision the hammock hanging. Juan stops his bike, pops kickstand down, stands up, and raises his arms in such a way that a referee might during a field goal kick. He is a proud man and he has shown us the way.  He smiles with an aura of satisfaction and accomplishment.  He looks to us, perhaps gauging our reaction to the arrival at this small paradise. We exit our vehicles and take a look around with a bit of confusion.

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Our destination of Salidita, from what we read, is a popular surf-spot littered with traveling surfers, as well as accommodations and campsites. This beach was a nice one, but had none of the above. We look at each other because we know we are not at our desired destination.  We consult the map. We show our new navigator where we are trying to go. He says “Salidita? I thought you said Saydita, this is Saydita.” Several beers deep this could have happened to anyone. We all have a good laugh,share a few brews while Juan G tells stories of his time spent in the states.  He shows us photos of his life, exchange Facebook info, hug, and wish each other well. Juan rides off into the Mexican sunset like the outlaw he was.

Juan G did not want anything for his favors, he merely wanted to help some gringos in a jam. It turns out Juan loves the United States. Juan used to work in the states and managed to make enough money to go back to Mexico and build a fantastic home for his family. Most people we have met on our southbound journey have been warm and generous. There are a ton of Juan G’s out there.

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Mexico: A Reflection

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I remember the day we crossed.  The feeling of nervousness.  A sense of uncertainty about this new place with it’s curious smells.  Driving down Baja, heading South, the roads becoming increasingly narrow, winding through a barren cacti-strewn landscape.   We camp alone at pristine settings composed of red-tinted mountains and deep marine hued water.  The days are slow, the sun is hot, and most hours are spent in self-reflection. We continue to explore deeper into the country, venturing across the Gulf, a freighter chugging diesel through the night.

There are many wonderful meals eaten, recipes discovered, fish caught, and street food enjoyed.  Friends are made, moments are shared. I recall full moon parties, party waves, dog parties, and all that goodness. The late nights of conversations, storytelling, and laughter. So much laughter. We explored new towns, cities, villages, markets, beaches, and sites of the archeological type.  There are markets with meats.  So much meat.  But, what about the avocados, mangos, limes, and papayas. One must include warm, hand-pressed tortillas, and the spicy flavorful soups.  We discovered the warmth of people, richness of a culture as expressed in the vibrancy of their art, music, food, and dance.  There were waves to be surfed, and surf to be reflected upon.  We stared at the ocean for hours on end and the days just seemed to melt away. Adios Mexico. I will really miss you.

Photo update

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Here is a photo montage of our last couple weeks on the road. Included in this set you will find shots of Sara ripping the surf, new friends that we have made while on the road, wildlife, sunsets, and more. While there is no time now to write an extensive blog post right now, I can assure you that Sara is shredding the surf and the Toyota is running great. Within a few days we will be in the state of Oaxaca (located in the Southwest part of Mexico).

Surfing in Mexico

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Once we departed the ferry from Baja we blazed down the central coast. Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area is a full blown tourist zone with overpriced everything. So far camping in Sayulita has been the most expensive campground since we left Jersey. We decided to head South South South, more and more. We spent some nights here and there looking for a quaint spot to set up for a bit.

We checked out Playa Pascuales, which is know for its tubes. Traveling surfers from around the globe flock here for world class waves. The swell rolled in just in time to witness some real surfing. These dudes are no-nonsense surfers who know what they’re doing, and do it well. If your unsure of your surfing ability (which I am) its best for you to stay out of the water with the rest of the jokers.

About an hour, or two,South of Pascuales is the small Mexican Indian Village known as La Ticla. The wave at La Ticla is not as heavy and dangerous as Pascuales, but since we arrived there has been a consistent Southwest swell producing anywhere from chest to double over-head waves every day, all day.  The camping is cheap, the village is minimal, and the locals (as well as the surf tourists) have been welcoming and generous. We have been here for about a week and plan to stay through Christmas (possibly New Years). There is big surf every day (all day), bathtub warm water, tamale ladies strolling through the camp, and Mexican surf tourists from the big cities telling stories.

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Baja rundown

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The Santa Marcela going full speed ahead.

We drove aboard the Santa Marcela today. This is a large freighter ship which transports vehicles from Southern Baja to Mainland Mexico. The Toyota (Big Red) appears to be the only non-commercial, non-tractor trailer vehicle onboard. There are two levels on the ship, on which the trucks are parked. Big Red happens to be nestled on the top deck exposed to the open air in the way back wedged between a tractor trailer carrying a hazardous chemical, a tomato truck, and the port side of the ship.  Judging by our spot on deck, I’m guessing we will be one of the last vehicles to exit the vessel. The crew, along with the truckers, all seem to fear Lupe and pass Big Red with extreme caution (we assume that this is because of her breed, and in most countries south of the boarder people own dogs for security, so most people assume she is peligroso.) Now we relax truck-side, tequila in hand, gazing at the new moon, and listening to diesel burn as we await our 16 hour journey to Mazatlan, Mexico.

Our experience in Baja, Mexico (which I like to refer to as Canada Jr.) in my opinion has been a good preliminary run before we enter the real Mexico. Minus the number of California expats and weekend warriors who come down to surf and fish, I was impressed by the number of Canadians who RV down south for the Winter. And what a great bunch they are, beer in hand and numerous stories of near RV collisions with trucks on the narrow two lane blacktop. Mex 1 is the highway which runs from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas and, at best, the road runs one lane in either direction, with zero to 6 inches of shoulder to a drop down on both sides. There are thousands of roadside shrines, which I’m guessing are where casualties occurred on these dicey highways. Not to mention the dangers of driving at night into roaming livestock.

The trip so far has been an epic one, but the surf has been mediocre at best. I think it’s the time of year and my lack of checking the forecast and just straight up hunting for wicked surf. There was one memorable head high day in Punta Conejo where the wind blew off shore most of the day and produced a super long left that rolled so perfect. The water was like glass and once noon hit everybody (like 8 people) went back to shore for the day while me and my new surf buddy, Craig, had it all to ourselves. I also had some of the best fishing days of my life off this rocky arroyo point. I was able to barter my camping fee with fresh fish, as well as feed most of the camp for a couple days.

Big Red has run flawlessly. We are quite proud of the old girl. We have found our way in more than a few predicaments where the road turned from bad to worse, turning around was not an option, mountain on one side and 100 foot drop to the sea on the other, while rock crawling up steep terrain in remote locations. For the most part our maps tell us what type of condition the road is in. The red line is a highway, the double line is improved dirt road, and the dotted line is the kinda road. So far Big red handles the double line with no issues at all, until yesterday, when we were headed North from Los Barriles to La Paz. Judging from the looks of “old foldie” (our map) we thought a relaxing scenic drive up the coast was in our future. The “over the top” gringo estates littered from Cabo up the East Cape were becoming few and far between the more North we went. This two lane dirt road was becoming a one lane snaking kinda road. “But this is a double line on the map.” A couple miles later put it in 4wd. Steeper and steeper, more narrow, now we are rock crawling in spots. I do see the evidence of a fresh dirt bike tire track, which make me think that people do actually travel this terra firma. We agreed to keep pushing on (also because there was no options to turn around.) We’re not scared of this dead drop cliff. Yea yea, blah blah blah, many miles later, stressful times behind the wheel, 4wd tires bouncing and skipping, shooting stones from under my Goodyears, the end was finally in sight. For the record I’m not a high five kinda guy (I despise football and most sporting games where high fiveing is a regular act of celebratory exchange.) but screw it, “gimme five baby.” lets get the fuckouttahere. It could have been a lot worse but I’m pretty sure the completely flat tire I had today at the super market was related to this endeavor. Tire plug kit out, compressor clamped to the battery, no problemo lets keep pushing on.

This is the road, the best part of the road after the rock crawling drama.
Look behind the boat, thats the road.
Look behind the boat, thats the road.

We would recommend absolutely anybody to drive down the Baja from the states (or from anywhere). Seniors, families, singles, or lovers, they all do this trip. As long as you keep your eyes on the road, and are not a complete idiot you should have little to no issues. There is uncrowded surf, an abundance of seafood to be caught then eaten, cheap accommodations (if you camp on the beach its free) and don’t forget some of the most epic scenery in the Americas. Mexicans are generous people with a proud culture, and they will make you feel very welcome in Canada Jr. Its been such a great transition from those everyday encounters you have with your average asshole in the states in the parking lot of your local Home Depot, or any parking lot for that matter.