Acapulco to San Augustin 03-01-06 to 03-22-06

Filed under: Mexico — Aaron and Amy at 11:28 am on Thursday, March 30, 2006

After spending almost two weeks at the restaurant with Luz, Ajilio and Bria, it was time to move further south along the coast. We packed the RV the day before so we could relax and have breakfast one more time looking out over the bay of Barra de Potosi. We printed the photos that we had taken the day before and gave them to Luz and Ajilio. They really got a kick out of seeing themselves in the photos!
We met Jim and Sherrol and started our trek south in search of a possible dry camping (no facilities) spot that was supposed to be on a bay great for diving and snorkeling. It turns out that it wasn’t really a protected bay, just another beach on the open ocean. You may be asking yourselves what’s wrong with a Mexican beach on the open ocean . . . well Aaron can tell you all about the fishing and diving gear that he has lost due to the sizable waves on the Pacific (while diving and kayaking)! We were looking for something a bit calmer, perhaps in a small bay. The location was also a little remote for Jim and Sherrol to reach in their 38-foot RV, so we continued on with the destination of Acapulco in mind. Amy really wanted to see the La Quebrada cliff divers and check out the historic part of Acapulco, so we only planned on staying two nights. Once we finally settled on an RV park, we spoke to a number of people who informed us there were a few more activities in the area than we had expected so we decided to stay for a week.
The RV park was actually in Pie de la Cuesta, which is about 20 minutes northwest of Acapulco. Each ocean front space had its own palapa made of cement in order to provide shade, an outdoor shower, a BBQ grill and a little plunge pool. The pool was only about 2 feet deep and 5 feet in diameter, but that’s all you need to cool off during the day, or to rinse your snorkel gear with fresh water! Aaron thinks it may be the most we have ever paid for an RV park at $25 US/night. (We have not stayed in many RV parks in the US). Our first day in Acapulco we had lunch while watching the La Quebrada cliff divers. The cliff was about 80 feet high and they dove into the water at a narrow section between rocks. They were very spectacular and entertaining to watch. We also visited an old star-shaped fort from the 17th century. It currently houses an excellent museum on the history of Acapulco as well as some general history of the region. One day Jim and Sherrol invited us to join them on a site seeing tour of the lagoon that was behind our campsite. We took out their Zodiac and toured the Coyuco Lagoon, looking for as much wildlife as we could possible find. There were several beautiful birds and some photogenic cows munching on lily pads, but not much else as far as animals. We watched several fishermen throw their giant cast nets, but they weren’t bringing up much fish. Being in the big city of Acapulco, we were able to find a few items that we needed, such as a new pair of polarized sunglasses for Aaron (yep, one of his donations to Poseidon) and some flea and tick treatment for the dogs. We had been dealing with tiny ticks on Skylos for several weeks, but we think this vet finally got us the right combination of medicine. He seems to be doing much better now. One night at the RV park, one of our friends put on a little concert fur us. I wish I had my camera, because he and his wife Lilly had a great little set up! He had a small amplifier, some decorations and a kaleidoscope light for ambiance. He sang and played guitar wonderfully for several hours! We had a nice little crowd of about 14 people watching him jam. It was a real treat and a nice change of pace!
Once it was time to leave Acapulco we headed to Puerto Escondido. We knew that we would need to check out several RV parks before choosing one, so we stayed the night at a Pemex gas station about 45 minutes northwest of Puerto Escondido in a town called Santa Rosa de Lima. We celebrated Sherrol’s birthday with some great pizza and then checked out some internet cafes. Before we went to bed the family that lived next door to the Pemex station introduced themselves and we chatted for several hours. They all got tours of both the motor homes, which they found very interesting. One by one more family members kept coming out to meet the gringos and their dogs that were staying next door. One of the gentlemen was an avid spear fisherman and said he would take Aaron and Jim out to his favorite spot while we stayed in Puerto Escondido. Before the night was over, Sherrol gave the kids some colorful band-aids and they gave us limes and mangos from the trees in their backyard. We left the next morning at 9:00 and drove into Puerto Escondido.
We explored all the “RV parks” in and around Puerto Escondido, but we didn’t really love any of them and they weren’t providing much for their cost. We thought this might be a great place to get our generator fixed. In order to check it out we paid for a night and got the RV settled. Jim and Sherrol were going to continue south to Huatulco and we would meet up with them later. Turns out Aaron had a funny feeling about Puerto Escondido and he decided that Oaxaca City would be just as good of a place to work on the generator. So we packed up the RV and caught up with Jim and Sherrol (we travel with walky talkies for ease of communication). We heard from a friend about a really secluded bay just north of Huatulco and wanted to check it out; so we drove right through Puerto Angel in search of our secluded bay with calm waters. After driving through the hills, we eventually saw the sign for San Augustin and started down the 13-kilometer road to the beach. We had no problem in our RV, and it turns out that Jim and Sherrol didn’t have any problems either-but that road is not recommended for large RV’s! The entire 13-kilometers was a washboard that violently shook the RV if you drove over 10 mph and there were some extremely narrow points for Jim and Sherrol. As we chugged along the long beautiful road, we hoped the bay we had conjured in our minds would be at the end. We followed the road as if it were a rainbow, searching for our pot of gold. We came to the village, which consisted of a string of restaurants and palapas, and spoke to several people about parking two RV’s for a while. After driving around in Jim and Sherrol’s tow vehicle for about 20 minutes, we finally parked the RV’s and we were all able to finally see the bay. Yes! This is it! A small, beautiful, crescent-shaped bay with some rocks in front, small waves lapping the sandy beach, clear water and a protected reef right on the beach that is roped off for snorkelers! It was perfect! We all had a sigh of relief, as we had finally found what we had been looking for during the last 10 weeks of searching for a beach with these conditions! It turns out that Jim and Sherrol had been to this same exact bay when they visited Huatulco 12 years ago. They remember it just as it is now, except the restaurants have doubled in quantity. That night we ordered a late dinner of wonderful octopus, shrimp and fish.
Our first day at San Augustin, the dogs got their usual walks on the beach, the guys went spear fishing, we all went snorkeling and Jim made some of his wonderful guacamole for a light dinner. After dinner the guys got ready to go on a lobster hunt that night. This involves getting all their gear ready and then taking a nap for several hours. They don’t even go out on the boat until around midnight. That evening we had our first rain in Mexico! Aaron was trying to sleep in a hammock underneath the palapa; so Amy ran out to see if he knew it was raining (we all love the rain, and had actually started longing for a good rain that we could watch from a palapa!). After the excitement of the brief storm, the guys settled back into their naps. It turns out that the storm prohibited Aaron and Jim from going on the lobster hunt, but it is just as well. They found out several days later that it is prohibited for them to fish for lobster or octopus.
Our friend Jim introduced Aaron to spear fishing a few months back. He instantly took to it. Not that he was any good, but that the activity appealed to him instantly. Growing up in Florida Aaron snorkeled frequently and was comfortable in the water so the foundation was there. Initially, while diving with Jim, Aaron was diving down to 15 feet or so and had moderate success. This was destined to change in San Augustin. Aaron was fortunate that his friend Justin was going to be arriving in Zihuatanejo. On top of a wonderful week Justin agreed to transport “a couple” of spear fishing items down with him.
When we arrived in San Augustin Aaron struck up a conversation with one of the locals regarding spear fishing. Aaron was delighted the following day to learn that a boat had been arranged to transport three other travelers on a spear fishing trip and Aaron was invited to join them. Aaron immediately left to make their acquaintance. The group traveled together frequently. Matti, the national Finnish and Swedish champion (www.mattipyykko.org and www.teamkampela.com for pictures and video of Matti spear fishing), had met Joseba at world champion spear fishing events. Joseba holds a world championship title from his involvement with the Spanish team and is consistently in the top three from Spain and therefore one of the best in the world. Vulen is a long time friend of Joseba’s and Captains a Tuna boat off of the coast of Africa. Although not ranked internationally, Vulen was a capable spear fisherman. Needless to say Aaron received valuable advice.
The four dove together for four days total. Aaron was able to achieve a maximum depth of 18 meters (59 feet) although this paled in comparison to his new friends. Joseba and Matti dive to depths in excess of 100 feet in search of BIG fish. During their time in San Augustin 25 meters (80 + feet) was commonplace. The two most impressive fish that they brought up were a 44 pound Madregal (Amberjack) and a 31 pound Pargo (Cubera Snapper) both were the biggest that anyone in the village had ever seen. Every day that we went out the guys got enough fish to trade the boat captain for the day, appease a few locals, and trade the restaurant for a free meal. We always ate fresh fish.
Joseba and Vulen were leaving a day before Matti which worked out rather well for Aaron. Vulen was kind enough to sell Aaron his favorite “blue water gun” which meant that Aaron would be adequately equipped the following day for Matti’s last day and for subsequent dives. The equipment that Aaron had purchased, although very nice and quite adequate for the original scope of diving, was underpowered for this kind of diving. These guns are incredibly powerful. It took Aaron over an hour to learn how to load the gun and by the end of the day had caused numerous bruises. The rubber, which supplies the spear with its power, was too much for Aaron to pull back initially. The other unique feature of these guns is the attached reel with 150 feet of line. Even with a good headshot a large fish is liable to fight for several minutes. To put some perspective on this imagine a Cierra (Spanish Mackeral) at around 6-8 pounds. Only a week before Aaron caught one on a fishing reel and the fight took well over ten minutes. The first day of spear fishing with the new gun Aaron shot a sierra nearly twice the size of any he had previously gotten on a rod and reel. Without the reel on the gun there would have been no way to keep the fish from speeding away with a nice spear gun in tow.

The bay at San Augustin has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. It starts out quiet, calm, peaceful, with few people on the beach or in the water. Then every day at about 11:30 a.m., several boats come in from Huatulco with hundreds of tourists that snorkel in the bay with their little orange life vests on! It was really a sight to see the first day. First a small boat came with about 10 people. Then a larger boat that appeared half-full with about 20 people. The last boat was a double decker power catamaran with 100+ tourists! Needless to say, we got our snorkeling or beach time in before and after the tourist boats were there! It was pretty funny, the first day we felt like they were invading our bay – now we expect them and are used to it! It turns out that Aaron’s dive mask leaks, so he was borrowing Amy’s here in San Augustin. This meant she couldn’t go snorkeling while he was out diving, but she found other activities to fill her time. When there weren’t a lot of people on the beach, Amy walked down half the beach with the dogs running through the water. We strung up one of our hammocks under the restaurant’s palapa, so that was always a nice place to relax and catch a breeze. The kids of the village were adorable! I hate to say it but there were 2 or 3 that we were more smitten with than others. Janet and Jonathan were kids of the restaurant owners. They were some of the cutest and most beautiful kids I have ever seen! Janet is 9 years old and is quite the entrepreneur. The first day Sherrol and Amy purchased a few necklaces made of shell. Jonathan is 5 years old and is so cute with a laugh that goes on and on when Aaron tickles him! Jonathan also likes hugs, so he frequently runs up and gives us big, long hugs. Felicia is another 9-year-old girl from a few restaurants down. She is also quite mature and very interested in hanging out with Amy. After seeing Amy work on her Spanish both on the computer and reading books, Felicia brought her a school book to read together! It was a short biography on Benito Juarez. It turns out that Mario, one of the guys that worked at the restaurant has some mechanical skills, and so he worked on the generator for a while. This also involved Aaron and Mario going into town on the motorcycle to get a part of it fixed. One morning we both got up to go fishing in Jim’s Zodiac. We went out beyond the bay into the ocean trolling for a while, then drove along the coast to the north so Amy could see some different beaches. We saw a lot of animals while we were out! There were two sea turtles (one was at the surface of the water with a bird on its back!), a bright yellow and black sea snake, lots and lots of rays swimming in the water and jumping high above the water, and finally several whales. Whales have been a highlight of the sea life that we have seen on our trip and we have been lucky enough to see so many of them. Amy had only watched them from land, and had not seen any while out in the boat, so she really enjoyed being closer to them. At one point we got closer to them in the boat and then cut the engine so we could hear them blowing the water from their blowholes! It was so amazing! It appeared as if we were scaring them off with the motor, so after a while we let them be and returned to the shore. Later that same day we took the Zodiac out again and went to another bay for snorkeling. The visibility was rather poor, but Amy spotted a sea turtle crammed underneath some coral. She dove down to look at him eye to eye several times and he never moved. Aaron came to look and encouraged the turtle out of his position on the sea floor so we got to play with him for a bit! It was really great to see him so close!
Our departure from San Augustin was delayed to help Jim and Sherrol deal with a mechanical problem. Once we arrived in San Augustin Jim noticed that their RV was leaking a fair amount of coolant from the radiator. This could have made the arduous journey back up the 13 KM road to the freeway fairly problematic. Luckily one of the locals, Mario, was touted as an incredible mechanic. Mario is 27 years old and almost completely deaf. This made communication slightly more difficult since he had extreme difficulty hearing our poor Spanish and we had even more difficulty understanding his (he spoke with an accent since he had been nearly deaf his entire life). Mario first worked on our malfunctioning generator and turned to Jim’s RV once Jim decided it was prudent not to attempt to drive out. While Jim and Aaron drove to town Mario commenced his work. When they returned Mario had completely disassembled the entire coolant and hydraulic system! Jim’s Radiator, Fan, and various other parts were on the ground, in the sand! Jim was, at this point, extremely worried. He now had absolutely no chance of leaving until Mario finished the repair. After locating the leak it was determined that the next course of action was to drive to Juchitan, four hours away, in order to have the holes in the radiator repaired. Aaron offered to take the trip with Jim in order to act as a translator with Mario, who offered to go along as a tour guide. Mario resumed repairs the morning after our return from Juchitan and by that afternoon had the RV running beautifully! For compensation all that Mario asked for were a few items that could only be found while we were in the larger city. All totaled we paid Mario approximately 180.00 for which he seemed quite happy.

We left San Augustin headed for an RV park in Huatulco. This allowed us to get the slow drive out on the dirt road out of the way before the long drive to Oaxaca. While in Oaxaca we will finally get to see some big archaeological sites as well as lots of interesting indigenous people.

We are sending this update out from the Oaxaca Trailer Park. We will be here for a month total and have signed up for one week of Spanish class with Solexico. We start on Monday and will be going five hours a day through the end of the week. We will remain in Oaxaca for Easter and Semana Santa. The Mexicans are predominantly Catholic so this is a big holiday and we expect the celebrations to be impressive. Our next travelogue will cover Oaxaca and should be up in the next month or so.
We hope all are well!
A & A

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