Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Towards Oaxaca

David figured that when we left Patzcuaro, we might as well go south to Oaxaca, via the coast road. Always a person whose leathery scales flex at the very idea of water, I thought what a good idea. It's a while since we saw water (even at times in our hotel showers). And so we set of for Zihuatanejo, but not before stopping for breakfast in the town square

Suddenly our host from the hotel appeared all out of breath. He gasped something in Spanish which I could not make out. Then after much gesticulating by both of us, it appeared that we had left a security wire on the leg of the bed. So David toddled off to retrieve it. Keeping our valuables secure in hotels/hostels can be a challenge, so we came up with the idea of a wire which we could fix to a locked metal pannier (which would contain most of our valuables and something immovable like a sink pedestal, bed frame or U-bend on a loo). It has worked well so far, but we do have to remember to detach both ends when we check out!

All breakfasted on jugo de naranja (fresh orange juice), avena (oatmeal), pan tostada (toast), cafe americana 10/01 004 to the strains of the police brass band
delightful, we set off.

The roads are always interesting-there is plenty to keep me/us occupied. Here are some guys going to work

a village

a roadside shrine to someone killed on the road, of which sadly there are many (every couple of hundred feet) in some places,

We stopped off for refreshment of Jamaica (hama-ica) a lovely infusion of hibiscus flowers - (spot them sitting on the wall)

in a bustling town

We needed a pee so asked a local policeman of which there are many, many, stood on the steps of a municipal building ¿donde esta el baño? (where's the toilet?) He consulted with his mate and they let us into the stadium to use their loos-how kind!

Then we set off again past more dwellings

At lunch we stopped at a roadside restaurant

over some bridges

through tunnels

following rivers

passing stalls selling fruit and coconuts and hammocks (very popular-I would like one but we can't carry it on the bike)

We arrived in Zihuatanejo, about 5pm after a pleasant enough ride in rising temperatures, as we descended the mountains, where we had spent Xmas and the New Year. In the hub-ub of the city, and checking out the cost of one hotel which turned out to be $1350 a night, David pointed the bike in the direction of La Playa in search of perhaps a camp ground. A few meters from the beach, and Hotel Zone, just as my nose began to tingle with the thought of breathing in the salty sea air, and the possibility of an evening walk along the Malacon, he turned around, pointed the bike out of town saying he didn't want to spend ages looking for a place to stay and we ended up in a 'no-tell motel' out of town, heaving with mosquitoes, with powdered soup for supper and a cheese and tomato sandwich. So I didn't quite get the sea experience I had hoped for. Ah well onwards and onwards!!

Finding somewhere to stay the night can be very jarring on the nerves, even if we are prepared and have a couple of places in mind. Part of this is that at the moment the GPS is knackered. It was a replacement for one that also broke. And it is only a year old. So we end up trailing around with poor directions, me on and off the bike finding out tariffs that will suit our budget and whether there is secure parking for Nancy. After about 5 or 6 attempts I start to get frazzled. And so does David, then we get bitchy with each other. And it just doesn't work when we arrive in a town and David asks 'right where do you want to stay' I've driven you decide, like I know where we are!! Other biking couples have told us they have had similar challenges. Often though when the woman hops off the bike and makes the decision about a place to stay, the bloke invariably complains it is too expensive and they bitch.

But of course we have to make decisions about the cost of hotel or hostel. Often the expensive ones are pretty featureless, and it is almost impossible to meet other guests, but the cheap ones are like student digs (I'm feeling old!!) It's a tough call!! Being on the road for so long there is a balance to be struck between the luxury of an over priced hotel, which has all the usual amenities of most package holiday hotels necessary when you are whizzing off for the annual two week laze on a beach: a clean room and bed, (close to vital amenities such as the beach, restaurants and bars!!) hot water, shower/bath, soft towels, heating or air-conditioning and if you are lucky a balcony, bar, swimming pool and
mini bar!!!; and the very basic necessities for life on the road which allows your dinero (money) to go further than two weeks. Some folks we have met, actually plan into their trip a bit of luxury (a holiday type break) every now and then, which is perhaps a good idea. Needless to say I was feeling a bit miffed about our brief sojourn to the coast (I so wanted to see the sea) and the digs which were very adequate (as most tend to be) but a bit industrial.

Well it's 22.00hrs, I think we have killed all the mosquitoes in the room (may all beings be happy) I have lost count of the dead bodies lying around us (David's isn't one of them. We seem to have survived the evening). So I think it might be safe to dive under the sheets, hopefully the air conditioning on full blast sounding like the roar of an aircraft engine, will freeze the butt off any remaining critters still alive. Night!!

The following morning we set off and had been on the road maybe an hour when these people overtook us

We pulled in to a restaurant

on the beach

where we met Janet and Mike from Georgia in the USA. He travelling for a few weeks and she joining him for a few days. I found the perfect spot to rest, but it was short-lived.

We planned to meet up with them that evening at San Isidro Mancuemas. We headed off, passing a convoy of four US RV's towing cars (the first we have seen since arriving on the Mexican mainland-they don't seem to travel this far south). Passing more fruit stalls

coconut plantations

and towns

on our way to Acapulco

where we scanned the crowds for but could not find Brian and Beryl (friends from home who have a time-share here). We finally found a way out of the city, which is crowded with these fun Taxis

Along the highway we passed this

and stopped here (bit like a Spa in the UK) for lunch refreshment of pre-packed burritos)

Viva Mexico!

That night (we did not make our rendezvous with Mike and Janet sadly), we spent in small hotel in Marquelia

where air-conditioning meant air warming as it is the Mexican winter, but a darn good summer for us English. As it was late we set of in search of a place to eat. After wandering up and down the high street we settled on Pollo Asados Barbecued chicken. It was the only food we could find that did not involve bans, rice, eggs and tortillas! The following morning we departed bright and early in the hope of making Oaxaca by the mid afternoon. Only about 60 miles the crow flies.

One thing we have noticed, in fact can not fail to notice in Mexico is the litter. The countryside is rather like one huge landfill-mainly of plastic and cans it seems

This isn't a very good photo but it does convey something of the debris to be found everywhere, which is very sad as it is beautiful countryside. We made slow headway, passing more dwellings

and eventually stopping for lunch where we were fed a very passable scrambled eggs, beans, salad tortillas and coffee by these ladies

Where the roads to Oaxaca forked, and we had the choice of two, we asked a couple of people which was best to take. In true Mexican style they each had different ideas. So we chose the one which seemed to be complete at least. The other seemed to be under construction.

Then we headed up into the hills passing local taxis

Notice the woman by the side of the road carrying her baby. It seems here in Mexico that women carry their young children, they do not use pushchairs. Many women use a long scarf wrapped and tied around them to carry their little ones, often until about a year old. Considering the number of babies; we see many pregnant women, the children are remarkably quiet and content, snuggled into their mum and even when they are toddling it is rare to see a tantrum, unlike in the UK where it seems mothers constantly struggle to calm unsettled babies and children.

We stopped here for a loo break but they had no loo so we had to find a bush!

Then onwards through the beautiful hills

and more villages

The temperature by this time was around 95ºF so we had wet our LD Comfort t-shirts before we set off from our pee stop. The going was slow as all the villages had lots of topes (topays-sleeping policemen) and the road made the Colombres 5000 curves look like a walk in the park. The Oaxaca road, though through some wonderful scenery, was curvy, pot holed, sand, gravel, and in some places, missing

We passed through more villages

saw lots of Donkeys, some tethered, others not and the further up the mountain we passed native Mexican Indians, in traditional dress

The temperature remained high until we started to make our way down the north side of the mountain, when it rapidly fell to 5ºF and we had to stop to put more layers on.

Also the sun was beginning to set. It had taken much longer to get to Oaxaca than we thought. The road was very tough, it was ravaged by invisible or unmarked topes, snaked, all the way with probably less than a few hundred meters at a time that were straight, holes were filled with sand, towns were worse where the roads were very uneven rock and gravel, and often the road had just fallen away down the mountainside leaving a single a gaping hole which was either still threatening to grow or had been roughly filled with dirt which only one vehicle could pass over at a time. The HGV's were very quick, but their size and weight plays havoc with temporary infill.

Finally as it was getting dark we got onto the Auto Pista a toll road. We try very hard not to ride at night for obvious reasons, lighting, mad drivers, pedestrians (who seem to cross motorways on foot) animals and robberies. But we had no choice but to go for it. So we tucked ourselves in behind an HGV or other (they drive quick and seem very skilled: they have to be on these roads) and made good progress as the black sheet of night fell over us.

We found the hostel after a few wrong turns but David is a good navigator (who needs a GPS??). And we settled into Hostel Pochon a student digs type place for wanderers of the world.

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