Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 23-24, DAY 13-14

Day 13:

Arrived at Costa de Cocos, in Xcalac, on the Caribbean ocean. It has about a dozen hatched-roof bungalows (with hammocks in each room), restaurant, dive shop, and fishing boats. We arrived about 4 pm. Met up with John and Tammy who would be traveling with us the remainder of the journey.


Day 14:

I don’t want to rub anything in for those of you at home or reading this from the comfort of your cubicle, but I am typing this from a hammock on the beach. The crystal blue water of the Caribbean stretches out before me. In my line of sight are palm trees (with coconuts, no less), several docked fishing boats, a cluster of mangroves, the thatch roofed restaurant (great salsa, and the owner said she is making carrot cake for dessert tonight – my favorite), some beach chairs, oh, and my feet propped up on the multi-colored hammock. My hair is still dripping wet from the snorkeling trip we just returned from. Some fishermen just passed by after returned from a day at sea and showed us their catch, a three-foot barracuda. 


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 22, DAY 12

Left the beach in route to the jungle camp and ruins in Calakmul. As we neared the ruins, the vegetation grew thicker. Sometimes the canopy would enclose the road in a tunnel of vegetation or there would be vines hanging from above down into the road. 


We parked and paid our fee at the visitor center that reminded me of the Jungle Book tours at Disneyland – thatched roof, dark colored furniture, open dark wood shuttered windows.


Began walking down the jungle trail. Almost immediately we saw a group of about 6 monkeys crossing in the trees above us. It was unbelievably cool (this means a lot from someone who hates monkeys).


Came to our first ruin. It was one of the smaller temples, but still pretty good size. Once everyone climbed to the top, we could see another bigger temple in the distance, which we just had to make our way to. 


All in all, we climbed about 4 of the temples and saw several more, plus smaller dwellings. It seemed all of the temples had 10-12 foot tall upright stones in front of each of them. They were pretty worn down, but on some of them you could still see the carvings in the stone. My personal favorite at each site, was the trees growing out of the temple steps. Seemed like something you would see in an Indiana Jones movie. The stairs were pretty steep and some of them were quite tall and narrow (you might get a few similar steps, and then you’d get a 3 foot high step followed by a 4 inch wide step). It wasn’t so much a problem going up, but it played with your mind a little going down. You knew that if you took a wrong step you’d be falling to your death (well maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but at the very least, you’d be taking the medivac home). 


Our day was capped of with a must-go dinner (everything must go) and my first firefly sighting (ever).  


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 21, DAY 11

Nothing much to report. We had an extra long driving day today because were were unable to make our jungle camp last night due to a horrific accident caused by a storm that reduced visibility to two car lengths through a windy mountain pass. We basically sat in bumper to bumper traffic for six hours. I was so bored, I considered reading…and I was driving. We got off the freeway to get gas and coffee and didn’t lose our place on the highway. 


Anyway, we got in after dark (something we don’t like to do). The camp spot in Isla Aguada was great, except it was located next to the local discotec (it was a Saturday night). The music, complete with DJ, was so loud  I seriously contemplated going next door and joining them (because I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep). But in the end, I put my ear plugs in and read until I fell asleep. 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 20, DAY 10

Went out to the Aztec pyramids of the sun and moon this morning. Besides the two large pyramids, the complex where the pyramids are is huge. There were many other ruins over a pretty large area- and they were still excavating. 


We got to the pyramids early so there was not a lot of other people there, but climbing up to the top along side us was a set of Chinese tourists. They were cutting up at the top, taking pictures of themselves doing silly things and laughing. We were about to head down the pyramid, when one of the women in the group approached Stacey and, we thought, asked her to take a picture of the woman and another tourist. But it turns out the woman wanted to take a picture of Stacey with one of the Chinese tourists. Stacey agreed so the woman took her picture. But then the woman wanted a picture of everyone. The woman rounded us all up and made us stand together as a big group for a top of the pyramid photo op. So we have pictures of us and all the Chinese tourists on the top of the pyramid of the sun. The Chinese people didn’t speak english, and we didn’t speak Chinese, so we were communicating in Spanish. It was great. 


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 19, DAY 9

Mexico city is a snarled mess of traffic and people. 19.2 million people all trying to get who knows where. We took a wrong turn off the freeway  and ended up in a nightmare of chaos. We began to negotiate our way through the city. It seemed every road we turned down was full of road construction. The traffic was atrocious the drivers even worse. No one seemed to be able to stay in their lane, look when they pulled into traffic or not block an intersection. It was common to have people merge into you, come at you headfirst, back up in the middle of the road, completely block the road, or just stop for no reason. It is only by the grace of God we made it out of there unscathed. We knew where we wanted to go, but seemed unable to get there. We passed our freeway several times, but it was blocked by the construction or simply didn’t have an onramp to access it. Finally, after several hours we found the road we needed to be on AND an access point. We were on our way out of the city. 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 18, DAY 8

Life on the Road: We spent the morning in camp. Had a group breakfast, then everyone did laundry. We set up two Action Packer bins. One for washing, one for rinsing. Strung about 80 feet of line (between all of us), and hung everything out to dry. Even the trees had clothes hung on them. 


Headed into town about noon, via a taxi (burgundy minivan). First stop was the mummy museum. At first you felt like you were at the haunted house at Disneyland (good effects), but then you realized these were real people. The mummy museum was kinda creepy and definitely not for the faint of heart. (Pictures and story to come in future issues of Overland Journal). 


After lunch, the group split up. The girls walked around the city shopping, the guys went to an Internet cafe to work and check e-mail. One of the girls stops was the market. It was a 2-story indoor/outdoor bazaar of food vendors, fresh produce, flowers, fresh meat items (most notably chicken feet and some other things I couldn’t identify), tourist stuff, clothing, obscure house items. 


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 17, DAY 7

Arrived at our camp spot in Guanajuato. Decided not to take all the vehicles into town, so all seven of us piled into the two Jeep EarthRoamers and we drove into Guanajuato Centro. Let me just say, this is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever had the privilege of exploring. Do not let life pass you by without visiting this city. Guanajuato is a magnificent feast for your eyes. All the buildings are richly colored: reds, oranges, yellow, blue, purple, lime green. There is an abundance of wrought iron, flowers, beautiful architectural details, statues, huge churches, ornate concrete and tile work, fountains, columns, keyholes in doors, hand carved doors with ornate details, crazy knockers (I’m talking on doors, not women), “lantern” street lamps. Lots of fun restaurants, little shops. I could go on…

Guanajuato is a university town, so there were tons of young people and the city had a great vibe. But the coolest part of the whole city was the underground tunnels. As you descend into one of the underground tunnels, you immediately become Indiana Jones in a rickety runaway cart traveling wildly through an abandoned diamond mine. Miles of tunnels, twist, turn, and intersect each other. As an added bonus, water periodically drips from the ceiling enhancing the ambiance of the near pitch black rock tunnel. 

After our walking tour with a local guide, we had dinner at a beautiful two-story Italian restaurant that overlooked the square. The waiters were kind enough to move our table into the doorway of the second floor balcony, so we could enjoy the people, music, and others dining by candlelight below. It was a fitting end to an amazing day.  


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 16, DAY 6

On our way to Tequila. The toll roads are great. Divided four-lane, nicely paved highways with speed limits at 110 km (about 65 MPH). 


About 35 miles outside Tepic, we began to see the scenery change dramatically. Began around the inactive Ceboruco volcano, with volcanic rock, then we began noticing stands of palm trees, which turned into full-fledged lush sub-tropic vegetation as we gained elevation towards Jala. When we came down the other side of the large grade, the scenery returned once again to dry and deserty.


As we neared Tequila, we began seeing huge fields of agave, the plant used to make tequila. There were miles upon miles of the green, angular, spiky plant. 


Cooked dinner, then decided to head across the street for tequila shots (we couldn’t come to Tequila and not have tequila). Got a bottle of Arette, an nejo (aged tequila). The restaurant was a dive and the tequila was weak, but now we can officially say we’ve had tequila in Tequila. 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 15, DAY 5

Drove from El Fuerte to Mazatlan. About a 6.5 hour driving day on a paved 4 lane road. Passed through many mid-sized towns along the way. There were lots of people out and about in each town. I felt like a spectator in a strange abstract dance watching the people, trucks, bicyclists, burrows, dogs, street vendors, motorcyclists, farm animals and tractors, all move in and around each other seemingly without rhyme or reason, but flawlessly. 


Arrived at our camp spot in Mazatlan. Despite the ocean stretched out before us, we instantly became the center of attention of all the people already at the RV campground. We had an endless stream of people wandering by to ask about the vehicles. 


Charlie, Dave’s son, needed a hair cut and a little old barber guy just happened to come walking by. It was perfect. Charlie sat in a camp chair, the guy covered him with a white cape and went to work cutting his hair out in the open on the beach by the EarthRoamers. 


We concluded the day at “the internet cafe.” We found the area outside the showers had especially good internet reception. Four of us set up our chairs and broke out the laptops. In the dark of night four faces, each lost in their own world, being illuminated by glowing crystals. 


Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 14, DAY 4

Today we drove from Alamos to El Fuerte via a 78 mile dirt track. 

We dubbed this the “cotton ball tree.”


The camp ground we ended up in in El Fuerte had a “suicide shower.” The water goes through a large shower head, which has a 120 V electrical heating element attached to it. One false move and the puddle your standing in becomes an electrical death trap. Let’s just say we all passed on showers.