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Posted by Jordan:
We loved our time in Oaxaca (you should go there), but after 4 days it was time to hit the road. We packed up and headed due south towards the town Mazunte on the coast, to enjoy the beach and a much needed vacation.
We'd been in Mexico for 4 weeks and had not seen a the ocean, let alone a beach, although we've been seeing palm trees for quite a while as we travelled south, a good sign. The last proper beach we'd seen was in Prince Edward Island back in July, and it was very cold and rainy when we were there, so it was with great anticipation when we finally hit the road, beach bound.
There are some big mountains between Oaxaca and the coast, and for a motorcyclist that usually means great riding, and this was no exception. We continue to be impressed by the mountain roads that we've found in Mexico. Usually the roads are in very good condition, that is until you go around a corner and the road is covered by a landslide (we've seen this at least 10 times) or worse, the road is simply missing (we've only seen this twice). The roads are almost always empty, and since everyone pretty much ignores the speed limits and the passing rules, so do we. This makes for some pretty exciting riding. We usually ride as fast as we feel comfortable (which is not very fast, we rarely get over 90 or 100km/h), pass whenever we want and we rarely signal, because this only confuses people. For example, if you signal left, this does not necessarily mean you plan to turn left, this may mean that it is okay for the person behind you to pass you on the left. And, indicating with the right signal does not seem to mean anything at all. The drivers are a lot more respectful of motorcycles than some other places we've been on our bikes (Winnipeg, I'm looking at you…).
Unfortunately we got off to a fairly late start (this seems to be a trend, however it was even later than usual as there were more photo requests for Sandra, and again none for me, I just take the pictures and try not to ask any questions). So, late in the afternoon, just as the road turned from a pristine twisting alpine playground winding thorough the rain forest into an unpredictable death trap, the fog rolled in (or was it the clouds, we were at 2800m), the sky opened up and the rain came down. It was getting dark, it was pouring, and it became very cold very quickly. So we started to look for a place to stay.
There was nothing for ages, we just plodded along, avoiding potholes as best we could, knowing we had less than an hour of light left. Then, just as concern started to creep in we spied a beautiful lodge peaking out of the fog. Sure enough, it was about $50 for the night, more than double our budget, so we had to climb back on the bikes soaking and wet and keep looking (this takes a lot of guts and discipline). As it turned out, we were on the outskirts of a very small mountain town, we just couldn't see it through the fog and rain. After riding into town and some very incomprehensible instructions in Spanish to the next hotel, we saw what looked like an Irishwoman walking out of the fog and towards us in the rain. It turned out she was an Irishwoman (the red hair and rosy checks were a dead giveaway). She was on a beer run from the hotel she was staying at, which happened to be right next to where we were standing, just out of sight due to fog. How convenient was that?
We checked into the hotel, and at about $12 per night it was more our speed, it was a cute and cozy log building, with new born puppies and kittens to play with. How can you say no to a place that has puppies and kittens on offer, for just $12? As soon as we were off the bikes we were asked if we knew where we were, and to be honest, we had no idea. After being informed that we were in fact, in the town of San Jose del Pacifico, we were again asked if we knew WHERE we were. Well, although we now knew the name of the town, we assumed there must be more to it, so we took the bait and asked. Turns out we were in the "psychedelic tourism capital of Mexico", a veritable mecca of magic mushrooms. Who knew? And for a nominal fee (just $8 for the 2 of us if you are interested… ) we could buy the "medicine" and partake in the in the local Indian traditional spiritual ritual of mushroom tripping in the forest. It sounded interesting and we were informed that the best time to maximize our spiritual awakening would be at 8AM the next morning, and for the authentic experience they must be taken in the forest. We're all for embracing new cultures and enhancing our spiritual health, and naturally we did not want to be rude by refusing to participate in what was clearly an important local custom, so arrangements were made for the next morning. When in Rome… well, actually we were still in the covered parking lot in our rain soaked riding gear, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Did I mention there were puppies and kittens?
After warming up & drying off, we had a yummy dinner in the hotel's restaurant while petting one of the the aforementioned kittens, a white one named Bianca. We then went for a walk in the town, where we were offered the mushroom 'medicine' a number of times by shady characters during the course of our walk. This was really turning out to be a very spiritual place after all… We ended up stopping for a drink in the Italian restaurant / bar where we, again, met the Irishwoman, Paulina, this time in the company of a dashing Dutchman named John. They kindly invited us to join them, and we learned that although they were not in town to take the 'medicine' themselves, 2 of their travelling companions were tripping back in the hotel room as we spoke. Apparently their friends were not abiding by the strict 8AM time frame nor the prescribed forest setting to maximize their spiritual enlightenment… We ended up staying out very late and having a great time with Paulina and John. As it turns out, Paulina has also lived in Canada and currently owns a pub in the town of San Augustinillo within walking distance of where we hoped to stay on the coast. Although the pub was closed for the low season, Paulina offered to open it for us, and her friends for one night. Plans were made to meet up in a few days' time for an evening of fun.
The night continued to be stormy, I woke up and stepped out of our log cabin room at 4AM to see what was going on. It was incredibly windy, and for the first time I could kind of get a sense of where we really were, perched high up on a mountain side with incredible views lit by moonlight. The trees were bent over in the wind, it was very loud and quite cold. It seemed like a very wild and isolated place, at least in the dark at 4AM on a stormy night.
We woke up to more wind, more cold and a very wet forest. We realized that we could either stay in the village of San Jose del Pacifico for 1 more day and participate in the local cultural and spiritual traditions by partaking in the 'medicine' while frolicking in a very cold, very wet, and very windy forest (possibly with puppies), or we could sit on a beautiful beach where we knew for a fact it was hot and sunny, and partake in a different sort of beach-side 'medicine' (icy cold cervaza).
We chose the later and hopped on the bikes to head directly for the coast. The amazing mountain road winding down to the ocean provided us with an even more rewarding "trip", and I even had a my own very "spiritual" moment, when I came very close to crashing. I was making great time (this is motorcycle rider code for riding too fast) when I came around one of the dozens of blind hairpin turns that morning, and without warning (we've found there are rarely any warning signs in Mexico) the road went from perfect pavement to a huge pit covering the entire width of the road. I hit the brakes full on, briefing locking the front and then the back wheels, sending the bike into a slide. I managed to get the bike pointing in the right direction just as the front wheel fell into the hole that stretched from the mountain wall on one side, to a very steep fall on the other. That is the moment I realized I was very close to having our 1st accident of the trip (tipping over in the parking lot does not count). As soon as I hit the hole I was merely a passenger along for the ride, however my trusty Dakar sorted the tricky bits and we both emerged unscathed, and hopefully wiser, on the other side.
Arriving on the coast was like stepping into a sauna. Luckily, having lived in Finland (home of the sauna) for a year, I love saunas, although I'm very particular. It has to be a very specific, lake side, wood burning Suomalainen sauna. Whatever is in your gym or health club does not count. We rode through Puerto Angel, Zipolite, San Augustinillo, and found a found a great place to stay right on the the beach at the Posada Arquiteco in Mazunte. We even had our own private cabana, all for the low, low price of $28 per night, including secure(ish) parking for the bikes. With the day's prime directive (finding an awesome place to stay on the beach) out of the way, we stepped up to the next task at hand, jumping into the beautiful, warm, clear and very wavy Pacific ocean. What a great day, this was turing out to be a fantastic vacation.
We retired to our newly acquired cabana later that night well fed and tired from a very long day. I had just fallen asleep and was enjoying some much deserved shuteye when I was suddenly awaken. By what, I could not immediately tell. Our bed was suspended from the ceiling by 4 ropes (apparently to prevent creepy crawling things like scorpions and crabs, among other things from joining you under the covers, uninvited) it was also covered by a mosquito net, but the mosquito net seemed to be glowing. I thought this was very odd considering I had chosen NOT to take the magic mushrooms earlier in the day. It turned out someone was shining a flashlight in the room from the window and it was illuminating the mesh of the mosquito net. Once I realized what was going on, I sat up and in my best Cabana Boy voice yelled, "HEY, GET OUT OF HERE." or something to that effect. In the beam of his flashlight I could just make out his arm reaching though the window towards a table (there was no glass on the windows although there were some metal bars meant to prevent such behavior). I immediately sprang into action, also known as 'looking for my glasses' and 'untangling myself from the mosquito netting', but our new friend was long gone. After a quick inspection, we concluded that nothing was missing and moved the table a bit further from the window to remove any further temptation. We were very lucky, as Sandra's bag was sitting right in the middle of the table… We're from Canada where people hardly lock their doors, so we don't know any better. I guess we were just not as prepared for life on the beach as we had hoped.
The next morning we had a fantastic breakfast on the terrace overlooking the waves and were inspired to go for a morning swim, but alas, I could not find my bathing suit. I had just worn it the day before, I remember I had specifically hung it to dry on the chair right next to the window… It took a second for me to work it out, but I used my Sherlock Holmes-like mystery solving skills and realized it was gone for good. I really liked that bathing suit and a new one is not in the budget. To make matter worse, he also stole my hair product, so now I was left with no bathing suit and frizzy hair, not a pretty picture I assure you. Forced with the choice of swimming at the nude beach at Ziplolite (I'm not as young as I used to be) or swimming in the Lulu Lemon yoga shorts I wear under my riding pants (now you know), I chose the latter, but I was not happy about it.
One of the highlights of the week was hanging out with our new friends Paulina the Irishwoman and John, the dashing Dutchman. We met them as previously planned at Paulina's pub, the Casa Magica in San Augustinillo and much fun was had (you must visit if you're ever there!). It turned out to be another very late night and ended up having to walk a couple of kilometres from San Augustinillo back to Mazunte at 3:00 in the morning as the taxis & collectivos had all gone home for the night. It was an amazing full moon and the road was well lit, however if you've ever spent time in rural Mexico you know that the countryside and the outskirts of every town are littered with stray dogs, and believe me, they do not like it when you wake them up at 3AM. Some of them were very aggressive so we picked up a few big rocks for our protection (there is always a big rock nearby in Mexico for such occasions), luckily we did not have to use them.
We also had the pleasure of celebrating Mexican Independence Day, September 16th with John and Paulina. It involved a lot of hand-tossed fireworks by children (and me), live bands, dancing in the plaza, cold beer on the street, giant dancing puppet costumes and more fireworks. At one point we had a conversation about the chances of being killed by a falling coconut and immediately proceeded to sit under a huge palm tree without even thinking about it. Of course within 2 minutes of concluding the coconut conversation, John was hit on the arm by a falling coconut, which then ricocheted off him and on to Paulina. It missed both their heads by just a few centimetres! There's nothing quite like tempting fate… thanks for taking one for the team John. Apparently it hurt. A lot.
We really enjoyed our week vacation at the beach. We ate in real restaurants that featured dishes which encouraged the use of a fork and knife (a treat for us since we eat a lot of inexpensive street food), drank good wine and cold beer, made new friends, rode in the back of pick up trucks at night, bought fireworks for 1 peso, read books, and swam in the ocean every day. You really can't ask for more. I only rode my bike once during the entire week (mixed feelings about that), but it was a great vacation.