Not what we expected

February 1st, 2018

With Baja California we travelled on Mexican land for the first time. Generally speaking, this was a completely new chapter for us both from a linguistic and cultural point of view. Sometimes also quite a challenge. After a little more than three weeks in Baja, many nice encounters and experiences, we shipped our van from La Paz in Baja California to the Mexican mainland to Mazantlan at the end of November 2017. I admit: we were a bit nervous. For a long time it was not clear whether we were also in possession of all relevant documents for the vehicle import and the Mexican films and series drew (preliminary) a rather gloomy picture. Not to mention all the - unfortunately terrible - media reports that are making it to Europe.

But the shipping went without any problems and also the 16 hour crossing took shorter than expected. Our cabin even had a shower, which after four days camping on Tecolote Beach, was a very welcome feature. As it luckily happened, we met the guys from @exploringtheamericas on the ship again. The latter was also ideal in so far as we were able to drive through the following death road - as the locals also call it because of the many raids and kidnappings - in a convoy. The following drive was long and led us through some villages until we finally were back on the coast again. In San Blas we found our first overnight accommodation. A nice place by the ocean. The nearest restaurant kindly offered us an alternative parking place if we were surprised by the police at night. After a perfect sunset we were so attacked by sand flies that we had to return to the van early. The next morning we drove early on to San Francisco or as the locals call it: San Pancho. A "hippie" village by the sea, with many small cafés, colourful houses and a good surf spot. We would have liked to stay here a little longer, but unfortunately we didn't find any suitable accommodation. So we drove on to Punta Mita and ended up in a luxury resort. Unplanned. Not an everyday thing for us, but since Pat was celebrating his birthday that day, we were happy to make an exception. Luckily, he managed to get us a relatively good birthday deal. And so we let it go well - 24h all inclusive. However, we soon noticed that all inclusive offers also attract a certain clientele. Initially entertaining, later more disgusting. The later in the afternoon, the more lost, often rather older guests, body control and sometimes respect towards the hotel staff.
In spite of comparatively modest Spanish knowledge, we were covered by the bar staff with many (travel) and especially surfing tips and almost a little too well cared for. They seemed to be developing a taste for us. The way you scream into the woods, that's how it comes back. The evening shift at the bar asked us to stop by the hotel's own club later on and so we were suddenly in the middle of a Mexican wedding. We can certainly say that we were not entirely innocent of the good mood. An unforgettable experience that lasted until the early morning hours.

After three great days with the Canadian guys we parted ways again. We went to Puerto Vallarta to visit our friend Marc and the two boys had to hurry to be in Nicaragua just in time for Christmas. Puerto Vallarta was also a holiday season for us. The last few months we spent almost exclusively in the van and only if there was no other way we stayed overnight in a hostel or "hotel". For a long time we have been diving into the pulsating nightlife. Contrary to what many readers at home might suspect, we are rarely "celebrating"because we avoid big cities, because there is hardly anything going on outside of these places due to the lack of secure parking facilities for Douglas. That's why people here in Mexico call it the "mexican midnight"among overlanders after 9 pm. We had to get used to the new rhythm again first.
Our friend Marc introduced us soon to the world of Tequila and Mezcal. And one thing can be clearly stated here: it definitely tastes better than the one we get served at home. In addition, it is not only drunk as a shot but also (surprisingly) with soda. This can sometimes end badly. Thanks again to Marc and Ötzi for the great time in Puerto Vallarta!

After a longer than originally planned stopover in Puerto Vallarta we left for La Ticla, a famous surf spot in the state of Jalisco. He has been recommended to us by the bartender in Punta Mita and is also a regular guest in the famous surfing magazines. According to the number of surfers, this is the place to be. Unfortunately, it was too challenging for us. The waves were too big, the backwash too strong. Not to mention the flowing river, which makes paddling even more difficult. After two days we continued our journey through the mountainous coastal area of Guerrero to reach La Saladia in the state of Guerrero.
But things turned out differently. Shortly before the state border we were stopped by the police in Michoacan and warned about the dangers lurking in Guerrero. We were strongly advised to stay only in hotels and drive through the state of Guerrero as soon as possible. The area has not been safe for some time. Although we were well informed and prepared, this warning made us very insecure! In short, we had to reorganize ourselves.

Fortunately, we found a suitable place to stay overnight in Barra de Nexpa. Apart from a few bungalows and hostels there is not much to do here. Whoever comes here wants to do (just) one thing: surfing. And so we were able to unpack our surfboards and ride some waves for a long time.
In our first night we were suddenly shocked by loud engine noise. All of a sudden we were surrounded by military men searching the area and illuminating our van with their headlights. Our neighbour, long-term campers and overlanders known as Captain Jim, told us the following day that men with guns and walkie talkie were occasionally to be found here. However, these were not police officers but members of the local cartel. His tip: just keep walking and don't interfere. No sooner said than done.

So we were a little bit insecure when one day we were approached by somewhat dubious looking men about our equipment - especially our mobile solar system. At times we thought we had to hand over the solar system. Our fear, however, was deceiving. Probably it was only local fishermen who tried small talk.

After a nice and relaxing stay in Nexpa the original planning should take us past Acapulco to Playa Ventura. Due to the great distance, however, we planned a stopover in La Saladita. There we met Dave. A very admirable man. Although he is in a wheelchair, he has been travelling for years in the USA and Central America. All alone. They were very inspiring conversations. After the last insecurity in Nexpa, he showed us the basic idea of our journey. To get to know new countries and cultures in order to overcome prejudices and to see the goodness in the people next to the comparatively few bad things which are spread in the media but which fuel the fears of foreigners.

After La Saladita we stopped on schedule in Playa Ventura and stayed overnight on the beautiful and well-kept property of Esther, a Swiss woman who emigrated more than 20 years ago. She then also explained to us that the states claim to be safer than the neighbouring state. Those who are not involved in some kind of "special" business, travel and live very safely in Mexico. Or at least not more unsafe than in other countries. After two overnight stays in Playa Ventura we finally reached Puerto Escondido after a long day of driving, where we parted ways for the first time. I stayed in Puerto Escondido and Mathias and Anouk, who had flown in here for a long awaited time of intimate togetherness.

After almost two months in Mexico we can say with a clear conscience that we have travelled to a very varied and beautiful country. The people were very friendly and, if linguistically possible, very helpful. The food was, as hoped, excellent. Even though the country unfortunately repeatedly makes negative headlines in the media, these events are limited to a very specific group. We believe that anyone who observes a few basic rules - as is the case for many countries in the world - is very safe. We're definitely coming back to Mexico again.