Thursday, 24 June 2010

Mexican Maneuvers

Once reunited with Barry (see earlier post for details on shipping fiasco) we headed south west, from Veracruz, across the country to Acapulco on the Pacific Coast. Mexico had been described to us as "like Colombia 20 years ago". This is not an accolade; Colombia was not a nice place 20 years ago. Fortunately the very worst places were not on our route. However, we did get varying opinions on the level of peril we were setting ourselves up for by driving north along the coast road.

Our first stop after Acapulco was a campsite north of Ixtapa, conveniently located next to a 'nice break' (that's surf-break; see Point Break the movie for a comprehensive education on all things surfing, and bank-robbery); we got stoked and totally ripped some sick walls, I think.

Our next attempt to find a campsite was less successful. We got stuck. We're good at getting stuck, really good. Driving down a track along a dried riverbed trying to find a spot to set up camp we hit some soft sand. Unbeknownst to us our 4WD was broken so Barry stopped. Fortunately we had trees this time so we spent a couple of hours winching ourselves out of our predicament.

We continued along the beautiful Pacific Coast and, after camping on a beachside restaurant's lawn followed by a fair amount of searching the following day, managed to find a surf break known as Punta Burros. It was down a long twisty dirt track, the entrance to which is all but invisible from the road. In fact a lot of those surfing there had got there by boat from a nearby town. Our efforts were more than rewarded by perfect little waves served in a fresh ocean of warm water. The secluded beach also provided an ideal camping spot.

We were then Baja bound so caught a ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz. Dutifully arriving at the port at 4 in the afternoon we then sat around until midnight before being loaded. "It's always difficult" we were reassured. The very calm seas must have also made things difficult because the 12 hour crossing took 18.

Once in Baja California we were blest with more of the beautiful Mexican weather, a little cooler but just as sunny; very difficult of course! After watching the England vs USA World Cup match in the tourist hole of Cabo San Lucas we camped our way up the Baja Peninsula sampling some of the surfing along the way. This time a combination of Google Earth and our GPS made finding our way to the breaks a lot easier. The coast is littered with luxurious holiday and retirement homes in enviable locations in sight of the Ocean. A kind American chap by the name of Drew let us stay at one he was watching over for his business partner. An equally kind old Mexican guy let us camp the following night in the grounds of the offices of a marina-type place. He turned not-so-nice the following morning when his boss found out he'd let us stay for free and put on a comic finger-wagging, foot-stomping-performance presumably for the latter's benefit.

Whilst getting supplies in Loreto we bumped into a Brit/German couple (Bret and Sylvie) who were working on a house in the remote (15 miles down a rocky dirt track) coastal community of San Sebastian. They invited us to camp outside the house and so we got a unique glimpse of an ex-pat community hidden away from the the rest of the world. Fortunately we'd tracked our way in with the GPS (the modern equivalent of a Hansel and Grettel scenario) as people have been know to spend literally hours finding their way back to the road.

Once back on said road, after a hearty breakfast and a bit of DIY repair work to our disintegrating exhaust pipe, we continued to blast our way north through desert, mountains and cactus fields.

Mexico is a huge country; have a look at a globe (rather than a distorted map) to see what I mean. With that vastness comes incredible variety of landscape and climate. It has jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, coasts. The Copper Canyon is bigger than the US's Grand Canyon but few have heard of it. We only got to see a small fraction of Mexico but what we did see was stunning. Unfortunately Mexico is blighted by corruption and plagued by drug trafficking and drug wars (current 2010 drug related murder total in Ciudad Juarez: 1,400). There is a quote from the late Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz: Poor Mexico, So far from God, So Close To The United States. Wherever one lays the blame (many blame not just the US narcotics market but also its 'War on Drugs' for much of the troubles - a saying about omelettes and eggs comes to mind) this has probably never seemed more true. Hopefully things will change because, despite its frustrations (as always its the people who mess things up), Mexico is an amazing country and in many ways sad to say goodbye to.

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