Tuesday, 17 April 2007, Acapulco, Guerrero
We had been looking forward to the Pacific Coast, in the hope that it would be warmer and we'd have the beach break we had been looking for when we left Texas and headed down the Gulf Coast. So we had stayed in Pátzcuaro until Semana Santa was over and then left the very next day - Easter Monday at home, but not part of the holiday here - to head for the coast. Our destination was Playa Azul. Some friends had recommended the Playa Azul Hotel which has a trailer park in the back. 'Not pretty but convenient' was the advice. And something about quiet, I seem to recall. We arrived to find that although 'holy week' was finished, the school holidays would continue for another week. The so-called trailer park was full of cars as the hotel was full of holidaying Mexican families. The swimming pool was unavailable for swimming - it had standing room only. We just managed to find a place to park that allowed us to reach the hook-ups we needed.
The beach was within walking distance so we thought we would check it out. All the restaurants that usually seem to operate on the sand had packed their furniture away and were watching the tide come into their space. The waves were bigger than any I've ever seen and I come from southern Australia, where they can get pretty large at times in some places! I swear that some of them were breaking as high as a two story house. We returned to the 'campground', had dinner and somewhat later tried to sleep. Mexicans on holidays don't have much respect for those of us who might want to go to bed as early as 11.00pm! It was not a pleasant night and the next morning we left to continue on down the Pacific Coast to Zihuatanejo.
The road along the coast is the 200, but it doesn't seem to run right along the coast. I have this idea of coastal roads giving gorgeous views of the coast - not here. The road was at times quite hilly - the mountains along this part of Mexico come almost to the ocean in places. We arrived first in Ixtapa - we were looking for a supermarket and thought that this might be the place to find it. How wrong could we be? Ixtapa is a purpose built holiday resort full of high-rise condos on the beach and restaurants. Fast food is readily available but the only supermarket is grossly understocked. I tried a tourist info booth and discovered we could have avoided Ixtapa altogether because the major supermarkets are all in Zihuatanejo, which was our destination anyway.
We drove along the coastal cliffs and had amazing views on the short trip to Zihuatanejo. The supermarket was fairly easy to find and, after filling our fridge, we headed for Playa la Ropa where the campgrounds are. Zihuatanejo is on a bay and there are a series of beaches around it. We were headed to El Manglar restaurant on Playa la Ropa which has an RV park behind it. It had been recommended to us by several people so we had decided to check it out. It is not a pretty campground by anyone's standards but as a place to park the camper and sleep it would do. Once you leave what is nothing more than a parking lot which has had full hook-ups installed, and walk into the restaurant, the place becomes a little slice of heaven. The restaurant is open air, with just a roof. It looks out to the bay and along one side there is a mangrove lagoon which has resident salt-water crocodiles (which we were assured were no threat to anyone - different to the Australian salties!), iguanas, turtles and many birds. The golden crowned night herons, paired up and constructing nests, were a beautiful sight to behold.
Even though there were still many people holidaying in the area and the beach was crowded, the campground only takes RVs (because of the crocodiles) and there were not many people staying there. (We were however confronted with the uncomfortable sight of a fifth-wheeler, which had suffered serious fire damage - it makes you think...) The brothers who own this place are very friendly, helpful locals and Julia, who is a permanent resident of the RV Park and Zihuatanejo, is a mine of useful information.
We spent a very pleasant week there - and ventured into the town centre on only two occasions. It was just so nice to sit around the restaurant (they even provide hammocks), or take a walk on the beach or laze around in the camper - I think I read about 4 books! They also provide a good WiFi internet connection, which allowed us to update our page and get some emails written. On a few occasions we even got our Spanish books out and attempted to take some more in. To add a little excitement to our otherwise totally relaxed time, we were woken one night by an earthquake. It was a relatively minor tremor, once we realised what it had been, but until then I was convinced there were 20 Mexicans outside shaking the camper, although it was remarkably quiet for this to have been the case!
The food at El Manglar is exceptional - we ate there 3 times and were tempted to everyday. They seem to specialise in seafood and fish and the dishes we tried were all excellent. The crocodiles showed themselves briefly at times but we didn't get a good look at one until yesterday - they knew that all the crowds had left on Sunday and that it was safe to come out! A rather large one was out on the beach sunning itself for a large part of the day. I had also heard there were many Iguanas around the lagoon area, but they also hid themselves until the crowds went home - we had our only sighting yesterday morning and he sat around posing for photos for some time.
The weather has also been quite perfect. We were constantly being warned by people in Pátzcuaro who had just come from the coast that it was extremely hot - well most of them come from Canada and they have a different idea of what 'extremely hot' is. It is finally the warm weather we have been seeking and expecting since we arrived in Mexico. Juergen's knee is so much better and we think it may be because of the warmer weather - or it might also be because we haven't been driving so much. Neither of us like swimming unless it is really warm weather and the ocean is warm, and we did manage to get our swimsuits out while in Zihuatanejo. I got a bit spooked when a Mexican kid told me he'd seen a snake just near me, but everybody assured me they were harmless, so the next day I went and overcame the fear and got wet...
So it was with a measure of regret that we drove out of Zihuatanejo this morning to continue our journey south along the coast. The next stopping point with a campground is Acapulco, so we decided to head there. The trip is somewhere around 240 kilometres, and it took us more than 4 hours since it is not a major highway and every small village has speed limits which are enforced by many topes. These are guaranteed to slow you down - providing you see them in time! The road continues to follow the coast, but the coastal glimpses were rare. There was one part that actually ran right along the coast and that was great, but the rest passed through countryside that was scorched brown with the dry weather. Fortunately this was interspersed with extensive coconut groves and large mango orchards, the bright greens of which were a welcome relief. There were also signs of spring amongst the brown - more pink blossomed trees and green buds appearing. It would be nice to see this area after the wet season, but I don't think we will be staying that long in Mexico. Of course there is always the garbage along the roadsides to add some colour to the landscape!
We arrived at Pie de la Cuesta, just north of Acapulco and checked out the campgrounds. The first we looked at was the Quinta Dora Trailer Park and were completely shocked that they were asking 200 pesos per night. The bathrooms were in a sad state and the sites were mostly on a lean down towards the water of Laguna Coyuca. We then drove back up the road to the Acapulco Trailer Park which, at 300 pesos, is to date the most expensive camping we have found. It is right on the beach and the surf is almost deafening. But the bathrooms were in good repair and the campground seemed to be well looked after, so we handed over the money and settled in.
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