We left Mazatlan feeling rested and a bit reluctant. We had such a good time, right there on the island, that it was hard to leave such a spectacular place. Was that the climax? Had we peaked on our trip, or was there more to come? What adventures lied ahead? All of these questions crossed our minds as we made our way toward a small town named Teacapan, also on the ocean, that bragged of multiple beach campgrounds to choose from, according to our camping guide-book.
After a fairly short hour and a half drive, then down a two lane road, we finally came upon the first markers of the campground we chose. We passed the driveway initially, because the sign was faded and hidden behind some tree branches. The camping guide had said this place was special. It offered many camping amenities and beach sites, along with a restaurant, and soon to be built laundry facility. We had not been able to do laundry since we had crossed into Mexico, so this was a welcome addition. However, once we turned around and pulled up to the entrance, it was clear the place was closed. Possibly indefinitely…..Grass was over growing the cottages, the chain fence crossing the entrance was rusted, and appeared to have been there a while. The name of the facility was “Los Rancho”. I believe it truly was a lost ranch. The cottages were neglected of maintenance. Either the campground was closed for the season, or our 20-year-old campground book was obsolete?
We trudged on to the next choice in the book. Again, it was not well-marked, however, we did find a dirt road that appeared to lead back into the Coconut tree fields. Just as we were about to enter an old two-track lane, we noticed a sign on a half-open fence gate that said the name of the campground, so we made an abrupt turn entering the coconut tree field. We followed the drive back a mile or so, over ruts, bumps, sand, and mud, before popping out the other side of the coconut farm. The exit was chained across the driveway. We could see some people picnicking on the other side of the chain close to the beach, but it did not appear to have camping accommodations. Yet, again, our book had failed us, or because we were travelling in the off-season, it may have been closed.
No worries, we will travel on to San Blas! It is only another couple of hours, and we can still make it in time to set up camp. Bernard said, “I know they have campsites there, it is a more touristy area”. So off we went. Travelling back up the highway away from Teacapan. As we pulled into San Blas, we could not help but notice the welcoming entrance.
As we drove through the large arch, our excitement blossomed once again. On both sides of the streets were vendors and restaurants displaying Lobsters! Most of them appeared to be cooked on a large fire pit or barbecue grill. The air smelled of fresh seafood and burning wood. The sun was blazing down, but we just had to roll the windows down to take in those amazing scents.
After making our way through the gauntlet of seafood, we tried to navigate the one way streets. The one way sign generally consists of a small black board with a white arrow painted on it indicating which direction to travel. The “sign” might be on the side of a house or business, or any other place found to be convenient at the time of hanging it. I also found it useful to just turn down a street and look to see which way the cars were pointed. If they all were headed toward me, well I made a wrong turn. A helpful, but impatient driver also “pointed” me in the right direction a time or two, after turning on the wrong street. Apparently, the middle finger also means, “you are going the wrong way gringo”, in Spanish of course.
After only circling through town twice, I noticed a small shop selling ventiladores, or fans. We were looking to buy one for the campsite and tent as the humidity and heat hung around well after dark each night. We had brought a 12v battery operated fan, but I was concerned about killing my battery running it all night. Plus, when sitting at the campsite,the little fan would only work for one person. We pulled up to the store front and looked at the fans. We were able to communicate enough to have him let us try each one, checking to see which one moved the most air. The prices were clearly marked and seemed to be reasonable. We settled on one, and due to the price, Bernard decided to get one too. We noticed on the tag there was some other word along with the price, that we did not understand. As it turned out, that little word made the price significantly higher. We have got to learn more Spanish! We passed on the fans, one more night with no air moving.
As we were leaving town headed for the beach campsite, we passed by the Lobster again. This time, our senses would not let us pass. We sat down at a table under an open air restaurant. Ok, let’s be honest, it was a tin roof nailed to some logs supporting the roof structure. Flys were over head flying in frenzied formations, eyeing the fresh food on tables, waiting for their opportunity to “fly-in” for some dinner. The waiter came over to ask us what we wanted to eat. We all had Lobster on the mind, so we tried to communicate that to the him. He spoke absolutely no English whatsoever. We were able to get the order in by having him repeat the options several times. Angela and I went for Lobster de Diablo, guessing from the name it was spicy. Bernard ordered his “Lobster” some other way, admitting afterwards that he had no idea what he just ordered.
When the food came out, we had a large plate with 3 lobsters on it split open and covered with red-hot sauce. Man was that ever good. I usually prefer it dipped in garlic butter, but this was some kind of good stuff! Bernard on the other hand ended up getting Marlin. At this point he was so hungry, he said it was fine. In the end, he said it was also delicious, so we all made out good.
On our way out-of-town, we stopped at the Pemex, a government subsidized gas station found throughout Mexico. Premium was about $3.10/gallon. Not a huge bargain like we had hoped would greet us in Mexico, however still cheaper than back home. The attendants topped off our gas tank with 500 pesos. I found it is easier to just hand the attendant the amount that I want as opposed to figuring out how to say another denomination in Spanish. That will come soon enough. My gas cap door has started giving the attendants a problem closing. It has a lock on it and has to be adjusted to make it latch. I have figured out the correct procedure to get it to close, but an unsuspecting attendant is confused when it wont close. I usually just jump out and latch it myself. Almost every gas station in Mexico is full service. However, when they see our filthy trucks, we do not even get an offer to wash the windows. I think they figure it is pointless.
We drove down the road toward the beach of San Blas. We passed a crocodile farm and a sign saying not to enter the creek due to crocodiles. You don’t have to tell me twice. We finally arrived at a hotel that appeared to have camping, and were told, “yes, you can camp on the beach for $50 pesos each (about $3.75 us)”. There were also showers and bathrooms at the restaurant that we could use. However the restaurant closed at 5 pm, so there would not be any opportunity for dinner there.
As we were setting up the tents, the winds coming off of the ocean were tremendous. The flaps whipped rapidly, and we were comfortable working to set up camp. A few day beach goers were watching from a distance with curiosity. They seemed to have the whole family out there, most likely for a barbecue or fish fry. They were friendly, waving as we passed by them. We walked up to the restaurant, though it was closed, to access the internet. The mosquitoes ran us out, as they tried to pick Bernard up and carry him away. I was able to grab ahold of his flip-flop and pull him back to safety just in time. Whew another disaster diverted!
We were told that we could walk down the beach and straight into the next town over, so later that evening we decided to find out what they had to offer and maybe get some dinner. As we walked, we noticed that this beach was not as nicely kept up as the other beaches we had been on. There was trash piles and debris washing in from the ocean. Of course this was the low season. Maybe they keep it nicer when all the tourists are here. We walked along a beautiful rock ledge cantilevering over the ocean waves on one side and a sheer rock cliff on the other. The road was gravel with pot holes and large rocks mixed in. You can tell it is not heavily travelled, but very sufficient. We did some video footage and plan on putting this up on youtube and/or Facebook soon, so keep an eye out for it.
As we entered town, we noticed a huge Coca Cola sign. In any country, in any language, it is always the same and a welcome sight. There were several road side stands set up grilling fish, chicken, corn, seafood, or selling fruits. It was quite a small little town, but quaint. The town square was directly on the ocean, providing a beautiful view. We chose a restaurant, another seafood place where no english was spoken. Either we will get better with our Spanish, or we will have to begin teaching English soon! We were serenaded by the local town drunk, so obliterated, he could hardly stand, let alone walk. He would start one direction and then almost fall backwards in the other. All the while he was fighting an imaginary opponent. He flailed his arms around like an amateur boxer nn his first fight night. He soon fell right on top of the coconut pile next to the vendor selling them. The vendor tried to get him to move on, but finally had to cut open a coconut for the drunk to get him to leave. The drunk laid back on the sidewalk and tipped the coconut upside down over his face, covering himself in bitter, white coconut juice. He sat up smiled and tried to walk away. Eventually he wandered on down the street. Amazingly during this whole episode, he never spilled a drop of his alcohol from his bottle with no cap. What talent!
Sleeping on the beach started out pretty nice, that evening, as we could hear the ocean waves, and the strong wind, blowing through the tents. However, as the evening wore on, the night breezes dissipated, until all there was left was stagnant air and humidity hanging in the air, threatening to choke us. There is nothing like lying in a pool of your own sweat hoping that morning would come, so you can get back in the air-conditioned truck and drive. This solidified the fact that we would be getting a fan asap!
The next morning we got up, and decided to do some much needed maintenance on Bernards truck. We had dismantled his winch and he has been carrying it around in the back for the whole trip. It would not do us much good if we needed it and it was in peices in the back. After some scratching our heads, sweating profusely in the direct sun, and laying in the sand, it was finally back together!
We packed up and drove back into San Blas for some site seeing and pictures. Bernard likes to take pictures of old churches. There was a nice example in the middle of town. Once we parked and walked to the entrance, it was clear that there was a wedding going on. This did not deter ol’ Mr. Bernardo, no, he walked right in like he was on staff. He began snapping pictures of people, the church, even getting up to the bride and groom in front of the priest! I tell you a camera goes a long ways for gaining access even to the most sacred of things. I am sure the bride is wondering, “where are those photos that one photographer was taking….”
Tiring from walking around town, we headed farther down the beach to another campground that offered luxuriously green grass, shade from coconut trees, and an elevated parking area above the ocean and rocks below.
There was electricity, so we could cook with the electric frying pan and use the lights. As an added bonus, we could get internet access from our roof top tents! This was nice. We could avoid the mosquitoes that San Blas is notorious for. We spent most of the night on the laptops, while Angela read a book. There was a beautiful sunset right out our tent windows. The showers were clean and a welcome sight after sweating most of the day.
We decided two nights was enough to experience what San Blas had to offer, so the next morning, we packed up, after Angela made wonderful blueberry pancakes in the skillet! They really hit the spot. There is just something about eating food prepared outdoors, while camping, that cannot be matched. It seems to taste so much better, or maybe you take the time to appreciate and savor it more. We hopped back on the “highway” heading south toward Puerto Vallarta.
You can see more pictures of our travels on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/centralamericaoverlandexpeditions
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