Mainland Mexico // a rough start

“Bye-bye Baja!”  Colette shouted from the top deck as we sailed from port.  Thanksgiving morning we arrived safely in Mazatlan after what was a 23 hour excursion crossing the Sea of Cortes by cargo ship.  We took TMC, as opposed to Baja Ferries, as you are not required to purchase a hotel room on the ship, our total cost was about $300 USD, and we were able to sleep in the van.  The barge was a floating truck stop… containing a kitchen (or shall I say slop-house?), bathrooms, showers, big-rigs and all the drivers that were transporting cargo to and from Baja.  We were the only gringo’s and definitely the only passengers with a toddler.

Two relaxing days were spent beachfront in Mazatlan, where Adam finished up our first videoBAJA.”

The GoWesty tent that we installed on our pop-top has windows on all three sides, keeping the cross vents flowing and allows us check the surf or take in the surrounding views from the comfort of our bed.  We can’t imagine how we survived for so long without this gem of an upgrade!  Here in Mazatlan, however, we enjoyed a grittier morning view of this brick wall.

As we headed out of town, we were excited to start on the next leg of our journey, Mainland Mexico.  The city elements quickly disappeared and the roadside stands thinned out as we headed into the verdant countryside.  Amongst the mango orchards, coconut fields and lush spells of uninterrupted forest the tiny highway eased its way along.  Emily spotted a pond just of the highway with a large flock of migrating storks amongst the reeds, so around we turned to document the ungraceful transplants.  As Adam assembled the tri-pod into place, a local on a bicycle stopped to crush his days collections of cans.  The storks took off into a flurry of gangly legs and irritated screeches.   We waited patiently for their return, then we heard the far-off grinding of a train working its way around the bend.  Well, that scared the last of the birds off and so we decided it was a sign to get back on the road.

As with any good VW, there is always some sort of issue… this week, it is that when the motor gets hot, the car will not restart.  As Adam lay under the van to take a peek, he sees men with black laced boots and machine guns exit their vehicle that had just pulled up behind us.  The policia and Emily spoke, they were very clear that this was a bad place to be pulled over, as many armed robberies occurred along this stretch of lonely road.  We tried to start the van again, but when it did not turn over, they made it clear they were not leaving.  They hitched us on a short rope to the back of the truck and said they would bring us to the next pueblo, just 1.5 km down the road where it was seguro.   Well, the ride to town did just the trick to cool the engine, and when we were untied it started right up.  With a sigh of relief, and a shake of our heads, we continued our drive towards the beach town of San Blas.

Twenty minutes down the road, we saw a small plume of smoke rising from the bushes.  Two cars were stopped and six people peered over the embankment at the smoke.  We pulled over.  It unfolded rapidly, and in the strange way that accompanies tragedies, time also slowed…

It was a car that was smoking.  The cries of an 11 year-old boy, who was surely the passenger of the truck, mixed with the shouts of the lookers-on.  Emily realized, thru translating, that there was a person still in the car.  Emily yelled that to Adam, Adam jumped out of the van- leaving it running because of the aforementioned starting issues.  Emily stayed between the van and the accident, and Adam ran for a closer look.  He saw the small truck slightly jack-knifed, and inside the cab the driver’s blood stained white t-shirt, and noted his still, contorted body was lodged between the windshield and the steering wheel.  He was already dead.

All stood frozen in shock, then the smoke turned to flame, which licked around the edges of the hood and onto the windshield.   The boy’s shrieks crackled with panic as he yelled “RAPIDO! RAPIDO!”   The drivers’ side door was ajar, and men tugged at the lifeless, bloody, twisted limbs of the driver to free him from the trap he was set in.

Emily’s eyes were transfixed on the horrified face of the young boy.  Glancing from our van to Adam, and back, she sees Adam assessing the situation.  He paces towards the van, “Get in, it’s time to go.”  We could not save a life already lost, nor stay to see a young boy watch his fathers’ corpse burn.  There was too great a chance that the burning car could explode at any moment, and a bad situation would suddenly turn much worse.   There was not going to be a hero today.

When we saw friendly faces selling fruit cups on the outskirts of San Blas, we sighed with relief.  It was somehow a signifier that things were kind and simple here.  The sand met the sea with a gentle slope, and we all eagerly washed ourselves in the warm water and relaxed on the caramel sand.

Near sunset we asked an abuelita  about the safety of our beachside freestyle camp location.  She said it was very safe, but there were some bugs there.  I said we had repellant and she said that we would be just fine.  There were a few mosquitos, but nothing noteworthy.  We thought we were in the clear.  We woke in the morning to a blue sky and gently rolling waves, and our bodies covered in tiny pink dots, but not itchy bites.  OK, we thought, weird bites, but if it’s not itchy, no worries.  Enter the third hiccup in our “welcome to mainland Mexico” saga… the no-seeums chapter.
Yes, San Blas is also known as the no-seeums, aka jejenes capitol of the world… and we had camped right in their headquarters.  The tiny bugs had ravaged us, and now we would suffer.  Colette, in typical Colette fashion, is amazingly unscathed by the bites that mark her little body and sweet face.  She has itched a few times, we apply some cream, and when we tell her to breath thru it, she does.  Adam and I have, however, were ruined.  Our second night in San Blas we spent at Stoner’s Surf Camp, set on the beach, just down the road from where we slept the night before.  The burning coconut husks keep the tiny assholes at bay, however the itching had commenced.  Never had a more miserable nights “sleep”.


Smoked fish on the grill entice the hungry passers-by.


Fate led us to the little town of San Francisco, locally known as San Pancho, in the state of Nayarit.  This little nook, just north of its trendy neighbor Sayulita, was the perfect place for us to heal from the micro-savages that had their way with us.  Adam and I suffered thru a brutal 3 days, trying a variety pack of remedies including tequila, bennedryl, ice, vicodin, prednisone, coconut oil, various topical creams, and the local remedy- fresh lime juice.  Lime was Adam’s only saving grace, and although a bit sticky, was well worth the relief. The community in San Pancho was uber-welcoming and we found it hard to push off down the road.  We will be back!
By the light of the full moon, we  were lucky enough to witness a rare and magic event.  The ocean race of just-hatched Olive Ridley sea turtles.   A dune-buggy rumbled down the beach, and a small group gathered to wish the tiny turtles bon voyage; the conservation group has worked in the area for 20+ years.  Colette hopped up and down with delight as she  squealed “tie-neeey tortugas” and tried to grab them as they worked their way to the lapping waves.

On the road we roll to Sayulita…