Tyler’s Trek Driving from Utah to Costa Rica Part 2
The following post is part two of a series of posts chronicling Tyler’s drive from Utah to Costa Rica. Everything is written by him, and you can find part one here.
Day 4- Mazatlan to ‘Some Town I Can’t Remember’
The next leg of my journey was documented in one of my travel books. It said I should go from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta and stay the night there. It listed a journey of 287 miles and told me it would take 8 hours to make that trek.
Well, thanks to an itchy gas pedal foot and a perpetually guilty conscience I was once again up before the sunrise and on my way.
To Puerto Vallarta took me about 7 hours or so but since I’d left around 6 I decided to keep pushing on. For those that haven’t been, Puerto Vallarta is a really cool town. Yes, it’s touristy like Mazatlan but there were plenty of colonial parts to the town complete with cobbled roads and stunning architecture. I’d love to spend some time there one day.
I was sad to put Vallarta in my rear view mirror and even more sad once I realized the road that lay ahead. Ahead of me in serpentine fashion was mile upon mile of twisty, turny, coastal road.
For some reason the forefathers of Mexico during fore-score and siete years ago hadn’t had the foresight to plan for two lanes going in the same direction. I still remember being caught behind a slow moving truck, with no hope for passing, for at least fifty miles.
I learned a lesson from that. As I sat in line behind this slow moving truck with dozens of other Mexican motorists I noticed that they didn’t seem perturbed at all. Seeing their happy faces as they traveled this weather worn road shocked me at first. Had this been in the United States people would have been honking for this guy to pull over and let people pass. He would have been bullied, tail-gated, and harassed. But these people kept patient and didn’t seem to mind the slower pace of life. I realized something about myself at that moment and was grateful for the lesson. The lesson? Sometimes I am just far smarter than everybody else on a given road at a given moment. I mean, seriously. Just pull over for five minutes, guy, let some of us get past. Some of us have to be in Costa Rica in a week.
Because I had passed Puerto Vallarta, the recommended spot for finding a hotel, I didn’t have any real guide for where I should be resting for the night.
As darkness closed in I realized, though, that I needed to find something and quick.
I saw signs for a town coming up and to this day I can’t remember what it was. I’ve since gone back and traced my path on the map and can’t find the town name.
Upon entering the town, travel with me in your head for a minute. Have you seen Man On Fire? Do you remember the final scenes where you see the slum on the side of the mountain where the kidnappers have their home? I would have KILLED for that town.
This town was not like Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, jockeying for gringo dollars and rolling out the red carpet for Americans happy to buy Senor Frogs T-Shirts.
I honestly felt like I was in a movie as I creeped through town. While there were plenty of buildings, homes, and evidence of civilization I saw no one on the street. The occasional dog walking around or a kid on a bike helped me realize that I wasn’t in some sort of El Chernobyl and that, in fact, people did live here. Somewhere.
I found a sign for a hotel and stopped in. After promising that my dogs were well behaved I was able to exchange about $15 for the privilege of staying the night.
Upon trying to turn on the shower all I got was a trickle of cold, damp water. How can water be damp? I don’t know. Spend a night in El Chernobyl and you’ll find out.
This posed a problem, though.
Upon starting out my journey I had the foresight to realize that 10-12 days in the van carrying around progressively more dirty clothes combined with two dogs would one stinky vehicle make. I don’t have a major problem with certain stinks, I’m the guy who likes skunk smells and says bring it on to barnyard odors, but I assumed that even I would start to find myself offensive and repellent after a few days of such a situation.
They say that the best solution is often the easiest solution. So rather than try to put stinky, dirty, used clothes in airtight bags or containers at the end of the day I simply chose to wash my clothes in the shower at the end of each day, hang up all my clothes to dry, and stay in my birthday suit in my hotel room each night. As a helpful tip, if you attempt this plan make sure your planning skills are impeccable. Say, for instance, that you find yourself as created by your maker and realizing that you still need to take the dogs out to the bathroom before going to bed. Let’s just say that a handful of Latinos were witness to all my glory. I was bound and determined, though, to not have more kerfluffle on the floor from a sick dog. Boy, am I going to have some explaining to do at the Christmas social.
In any case, washing clothes and bathing myself was no easy task that night. Further, attached to the shower head was one of those electric heater things that, apparently, is notorious for electrocuting inexperienced bathers. I barely escaped such fate and found myself certain that I may wake up dead and/or kidnapped in this town and fell into a fitful sleep after instructing my Rottweiler to murder anyone who was coming to sell me to the highest bidder.
Day 5- Zihuatanejo
I woke up neither kidnapped nor murdered. Thankfully Rocco the Rottweiler had done his job and we were safe for another day on the road.
Going back in my memory banks I don’t remember too much of this day of travel. All I remember is pulling into Zihuatanejo in the late afternoon.
I was excited about Zihuatanejo. Some of you may be thinking that name sounds a bit familiar.
If you’ve seen Shawshank Redemption you may recall that at one point Tim Robbins nebulously spins a tale for Morgan Freeman about a paradise beach called Zihuatanejo and should Freeman ever find himself capable he should go there. The final scene of the movie shows Freeman in a suit and tie (Why? It’s bloody hot there.) making his way across the sand to a weathered and happy Robbins who is working on an old boat (Why? He had tons of money, just buy a new boat.)
I wanted to see that beach, I was hoping to meet Tim Robbins, and if nothing else I wanted to ask Morgan Freeman what the heck he was thinking when he made The Sum Of All Fears. I mean, come on, did he really think that Affleck could resurrect Jack Ryan at that stage in his career?
In any case, I was excited for all this but as I pulled into town the only thing I was thinking was ‘I’ve been cheated!’ No, not by the town. The town was a precious gem with an awesome waterfront. I wish I could have stayed weeks there.
No, I felt cheated by the notion that Morgan Freeman could have made it to Zihuatanejo at his advanced age and in that time period. I mean, it had taken me nearly a week in a fast moving vehicle and I speak fluent Spanish. We’re supposed to believe that Freeman, 75 years ago, with no Spanish somehow made it from back-woods Maine all the way down to the nether-regions of Mexico in a bus or something? Nope. Sorry. Not happening. Shawshank Redemption is easily a top 5 movie on any discerning movie lover’s list but I now find myself wondering what King was thinking when he wrote in Zihuatanejo versus Miami or Cleveland or something.
Being that this was a town that also catered to tourists I once again found myself with problems finding a hotel that allowed dogs.
I asked around for probably an hour with no luck. I finally found a couple working on some home repairs. I explained to them my situation and they explained that this was a house they were fixing up for long term renters.
Well, how about letting me stay the night then? I’ll leave first thing in the morning and won’t be any trouble. They seemed pretty hesitant about the idea but for $30 let me stay in the house which was fenced in so the van could be safe and the dogs could roam around in the courtyard for a bit. I took an evening walk while there and fell in love quickly with this town. Put that on the list for places to go back to.
Day 6- Puerto Escondido
What the crap? How am I still in Mexico?
At this point in the journey I’ve been in Mexico for days and days and can look at the map and still see mounds of Mexico left to be conquered.
Rome wasn’t burned in a day, though, so off I went. Leaving Zihautanejo behind I continued on.
Within a few hours I was in Acapulco. I don’t think I ever saw the tourist part. All I saw was the gaping maw that seemed to draw motorists in from miles around, swish them around like so much vehicular mouthwash, and spit them out the other side.
I’ve got to assume, seeing as this is a tourist spot (and also the famed location of the classic Fabio TV series Acapulco H.E.A.T), that I completely missed beautiful beaches and wonderful restaurants. I got out as soon as I could and kept on my way.
That night found me in another amazing little beach town called Puerto Escondido. Were I to have it all to do over again I’d spend time in Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Escondido.
By now I was quite accustomed to showers with no hot water, liberal smatherings of bugs, and assaulting pot holes but I was also pleasantly welcomed by the hospitality of great people, wonderful food, amazing views, and overall a country I was happy to travel through.
I found a hotel for about $30 with the most amazing views over the Pacific ocean and went to bed with the knowledge that the next day would be my last in Mexico.
To be continued…