The ferry terminal is near the historic city center of Mazatlan. I said goodbye to my boat friends and drove to town for lunch. On Baja all towns are small and I would just put the church square in the GPS and park there. Mazatlan is a bit bigger and a bit busier. So I had to circle around town a few times and get stuck in traffic before I had a spot. Nice town with a few nicely renovated squares. But no time to stay. I wanted to head a bit south to find a campsite on the coast. The last bit of road was quite remote and bumpy but the campsite was at a hotel and looked really good. As always I was the only guest and could park close to the beach. Sunset was very pretty and when I walked to the toilets I saw an armadillo race by. The toilet building was filled with geckos and at the end of the evening my van was filled with some 10-15 cm big moths and grasshoppers. When I almost wanted to go to sleep I was blinded by a huge flashlight. Two guys with machetes showed up. Turns out they were the owner and the security guard coming by to wish my a good night. Always something new to get used to.
I wanted to see some more of the pacific coast on this side of Mexico. I heard some nice things about the local fishing villages. Sadly they were still recovering from last week’s hurricane and the streets were flooded and broken. The beaches were also filled with trash and trees. So no more coasts for me. Time for another empty campsite at another empty hotel. Beautiful sunset followed by loads of rain.
Next morning on the way back from the shower I slipped on some extremely slippery mossy concrete and fell on my ass. I immediately felt that it was no good. My back hurt like hell and I could barely get up. I struggeled to make my way back to the van and could only lie flat on my back in the van. Quick self check showed the damage wasn’t too bad, look like it was just a stretched muscle but I couldn’t sit up or move all day. Only at 6 I managed to sit up again. Luckily my van was parked in the shade.
*End problem time*
I decided to head inland for some cooler weather and nice mountains. This part of Mexico is way more densely populated than Baja. So driving the non-toll-roads took much longer because of the many towns with even more speed bumps. I found another empty campsite at a lake in an old volcano crater at Santa Maria del Oro. The roads were steep and curvy but the views were great.
Volcano are awesome (everyone can agree with that). So I went for the next one: Volcan Ceboruco. You can actually drive all the way to the top on what was described as a 20 km long cobblestone road with some 1000 height meters. The beginning of the road was actually tarmac. This quite quickly changed into cobblestone with two concrete stripes in it, exactly wide enough for a tire each (great driving practice to really know where you tires are). The concrete disappeared and the cobblestones became more and more overgrown. Also the road was getting narrower. The road had started in some wide plains, but now I was between dense bush. But there wasn’t really a place to turn around so as long as I wouldn’t run into anyone I should be fine. And then while I was in a steep sharp curve I ran into two army pickup trucks with guys with machine guns on the back (a very normal sight around here). Even though I was on my way up and uphill traffic normally goes first, I had to back down the curvy, bushy, narrow road. The trucks passed and I continued. The views were getting even better with low clouds hanging in the trees on the slopes. I had to let one more truck pass and than I made it to the top. Which was in the clouds… So the view wasn’t too good. On the way up I had seen that you can actually drive into the crater where steam was coming out some vents. So I drove back there and just when I drove down the sun came through for some great views. And that’s when I almost got stuck in a volcano crater. The road back out of the crater was steep but not too steep. The problem was that the road went from unpaved in the crater to paved on the slope. This caused a big bump in the road which meant I couldn’t make to much speed beforehand. To make things worse the steepest bit of this slope was in a tight curve with a nice big pothole in it. It took me 5 attempts but I finally managed to get out. The clouds were now getting dark and I didn’t want to be stuck in the rain on these tiny roads down so it was time to go. I almost made it all the way down without rain until I got stuck behind/between a herd of cows that refused to leave my tiny road, only slowly walking in the same direction. Some more rainy driving and a campsite which actually had other people on it. Score!
This campsite, the other people, the weather and a surprising amount of three legged dogs were a good enough reason to call for a rest day.
Todays goal: Tequila! Not just a bottle but a whole town. But first a stop at the ruins in Teuchitlan. These were my first prehispanic ruins of the trip. Located on a hill with a view over the colonial town. It had two circular pyramids (pretty rare, most of them are square) and some nice other buildings. Tequila wasn’t far from the ruins. The only problem was that there was another volcano in between and the road has to go around it. But the drive becomes very nice when you realize that most of it leads through huge agave fields (used to make tequila). Tequila is an UNESCO restored village which means it looks very nice, but it does feel a bit fake. I planned to stay next to Guadalajara that night (second biggest city in Mexico, it’s huge). But I couldn’t find a campsite and the traffic was a pain. So I continued and ended up at a run-down gringo filled camp spot at Lago de Chapala.
The next morning I got a call from my dad telling me my grandpa had passed away that morning. These are the times travelling by yourself really sucks. I didn’t know what to do. Should I keep travelling or go back home? I decided to go home. (Luckily I have some good insurance paying my flights). To make things more complicated (but also better), Tessa and Egbert would come join me for 2.5 weeks next week. This meant I wouldn’t have to travel alone but also that I would have to be in Mexico City and I would not be able to stay in the Netherlands for long.
So the next two days I hopped on the toll roads and could drive with 120 km/h towards Mexico City (as long as I didn’t have to cross any mountains). Things that happened those two days:
– The toll road people gave me 100 peso change in 2 peso coins… A huge stack of coins.
– I spend the first night at a disused campsite near a water park. Once it got dark I found out I was in one of the no go areas in Mexico. I heard loads of bangs that night. I’m assuming those were fireworks.
– I took an extremely crowded (canned sardine style) evening rush hour subway in Mexico city towards the airport. Nobody in the train was taller than my shoulders.
The special thanks for this post goes to my grandpa: Opa bedankt voor veel te veel dingen om op te noemen!