Friday, January 21, 2011

Mazunte to San Cristobel

The 326 miles from Zehuatenejo to Pinotepic Nacional on my way to Puerto Escondido was more tiring than the 368 miles from Mazunte to San Cristobel, MX. The little towns and topes wear not only on the brake pads, tires and shocks but on the rider as well.
With a strong suggestion from Robert my masseuse in Puerto, I headed to the tiny hippy and local Mexican town, Mazunte, on the south facing Pacific coast.
I planned to stop only for breakfast, but got attached to the place very fast.
While trying to establish a room on the beach, Larry came suddenly popping up and asked me “Do you understand what he just said?”
I don’t think there is a window made with glass in the entire town so conversations are easily overheard from within a home and that’s how Larry heard me struggling with the little Spanish I had and the total lack of English the owner had.
$200 pesos (~ $18 USD at 12 to 1) for a basic room. No hot water, towel, mats, soap, etc. flush the toilet with a bucket of water obtained from a bigger bucket under the shower pipe w/o a head, but mosquito nets ARE included and needed. The room has a very nice tiled balcony overlooking an absolutely gorgeous view. (see Picasa pics) Mexico is a land of extremes.
The young people are into the usual things hippies do on a beach including acrobatic flips, paddle ball, soccer, topless sunning, mimicking martial arts and of course pot smoking and beer drinking. They are a wide variety of personalities and abilities to return a smile probably because in some there is initial layer of cautiousness that needs to be disarmed with a more powerful smile and hola… or not. Either way is OK.
Larry is a former eighteen wheel truck driver from Kentucky and is holed up with his son Sean. He cooks with a solar collector cooker which apparently gets up to 300 degrees F.
Russel is staying under Larry and Sean in the structure adjacent mine and is adamant about not calling him Russ as he snapped at Larry jamming his finger into the table repeatedly. He is running from something in the states, is trying to quit smoking but always has a liter of beer opened and is very broke. He had initial trepidations maybe even hostility about my being from NYC. I asked him about it and he denied it nervously stating “Ya, you’re from NY but you’ll fit right in here.”
Started the next day with a 9:00AM yoga class which Russel told me strongly was at 11AM and at a different location. After class he said he wished he could have gone to that….what can I say? He is starting to soften.
Later, Sean and I are in the surf chatting when BANG! Mid sentence, I get an extremely sharp biting pain in the front right quadrant of my right foot. Sean looked at it and confirmed blood flow and an almost inch long blue discoloration running up into the side of my foot. He thought it might be a Stingray and said they could be poisonous. Along comes Larry at the moment I am thinking, should I just relax and see if I get dizzy. Larry duck taped an onion slice to the wound in case it was a venomous sting, then took me to the local clinic in his truck.
Still in pain, the clinician put boiling water in a bucket and told Larry to tell me to add my foot. Hot as I can stand it is best, adding cool water to temper the heat to tolerable.
This helped a lot. Then I got an anti- inflammatory shot in the butt. They see up to 10 ray stings a day at high season and was certain there was no chance of infection. I don’t know how he knows that but he was certain.
All in all a very worthwhile visit and for no obligatory fee but they do accept donations. My 200 paso note was much appreciated and Larry confirmed it was a very nice gesture. Even insisted Larry take a 200 note for gas and truck expenses. He needed convincing that the money will go to a good cause if he takes it
Back at base camp Russel was aghast that I got stung within the first 24 hours at Mazunte. He was softening further and by that night he was signing the TAG book with four letter words about NY but maybe there are a few NY’er that are palatable. We shook hands goodbye as I planned to leave the next day.
Nice that he accepted me eventually.
Packed up and ready to roll at about 7AM Larry, alerted by my repositioning the WEE for departure, came down to see me off with route advice and a map.
Even brought me coffee and a bowl of fruit with yogurt. 20 minutes later I am off on the road again and the biggest ride day in Mexico to date. I’m going inland to San Cristobel.
The ride combines twists with dusty towns and topes, gabrage burning on the side of the road that chokes the lungs, then some breath taking mountain roads with dangerous curves and nobody else anywhere. Spooky pretty. Hot between about 10 AM and 3 PM then cool in the mountains northeast of Salina Cruz.
Mexico is a land of extremes.
Then there is the toll road or Cuota around Salina Cruz which, thank God, we had figured out a bit on the George/Steve Belize ride back in April. It is invisible to the Mexico maps on my Zumo. It comes across a very windy section that not only did we experience in April but Larry warned me about before I left him. It was not as bad as it was in April but most of the wind generators in the miles long farm were turning pretty well.
Just after the windy section I stopped for lunch at a noisy but good and friendly roadside joint where my request for Tacos Pescadores got me a bunch reply syllables that I just nodded “si’ to.
While I waited for lunch, I set the bike up on the center stand to do a chain lube but the back end was down a slope causing the rear wheel to tip to the ground preventing me from rotating it. Seeing that I was trying to get it so I could elevate the rear wheel by tipping the front downward, a fellow stepped up and offered to hold the front down while I squirt lube of the chain. I thought that was really nice and it reminds me of the line “I’ve come to depend on the kindness of strangers” Was the from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”?
A whole fried fish arrived with tortillas and pretty much looked like what everyone else was having so I faked like I knew what I was doing and assembled my own fish tacos. Quite good actually, after all the careful work to make sure no hidden bones try to lodge themselves in my throat.
Coming through Tuxla Gutierrez I stopped to see if I could get in touch with Mauricio Garcia, a fellow rider who we met in San Cristobel back in April while returning from Belize, but no luck. I was texting with him right up until my Blackberry broke and now, without his phone number, I continue to wait for even one reply on Email. I may not have his correct address. Oh well. (Update: Mauicio will come tomorrow and it turns out there is apparently a MC rally here tomorrow, Oh boy! Just booked an extra night)
San Cristobel is a colorful and vibrant historic city with travelers from all over lingering and passing through. The trip back from Belize through here was too short and I am happy to be able to spend a couple of days here now.
In the town center, I spoke a while with a solo traveler from Italy attending a Spanish school just on the edge of town. He is learning one on one with a teacher for three separate hours a day and says he enjoys it. Cost is about $150 USD for the week and includes dance and cooking lessons. We agreed the price is even lower in Guatemala.
Be careful walking in town though, as there is uneven sidewalks and streets all over and steps lurking, waiting to jump up and trip even a cautious pedestrian. A woman with crutches and a new cast is a reminder.
I am still reverberating from maybe a combination of culture shock and homesickness or babe in the woods feelings. It’s like boot camp for long term traveling. Invigorating and exhausting at the same time.
Mexico is a land of extremes…


  1. “I’ve come to depend on the kindness of strangers” Was the from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”?

    Blanche duBois, "A Streetcar Named Desire"

    Mexico IS a land of extremes. I'm very glad the sting was no worse than it was. I'm very glad you are having mostly fun and meeting mostly nice people. Take care as you go along. xoxo

  2. You are one smart dude. Happy trails. Glad you are well.

  3. I read a book written by a guy who travelled across the country with no money just to see if it could still be done. The book was called, "Kindness of Strangers"

  4. Hi, Dan. Am missing the morning yogurt juices. People are kind don't have to look very hard; they seem to find us. We are social beings after all. So glad you are meeting the best the world has to offer. I loved Mexico--the mountains, the valleys, ranches, cities, pueblos, cafes, the ocean and especially the people we just bump into. So delightful. It's 0 degrees F in Rockaway. I shoveled 3 times, Tues & twice on Fri. More snow expected Tues through Thurs. Georgette is coming out next weekend and we'll celebrate her B'day at Garlic Rose in Madison (G, Val & me). G and Chloe are staying over. We're looking forward to it. Tomorrow, the 23rd, is Leo's 95th. I am taking them out to dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to your next blog. Love, Jo