Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo, Mexico

Summary

We’ve only put in another 280 km (180 miles) but they’ve been full of great people, beautiful sites and waterfalls of sweat. After heading out of Puerto Vallarta, we ended up staying with some great Mexican hosts, on the beautiful beach of Boca de Iguana and finding magically, wonderful people to stay with in Manzanillo and our bus trip into Gudalajara, Mexico. We’re getting ready, after another week of tourist gawking, to jump back on our bicycles and head further south. Best wishes to everyone!

Best,
LatvianAlaska Family

03/04/15 (Puerto Vallarta to North of El Tuito)

Puerto Vallarta stretches out like an urban claw for almost the entirety of Bahia de Banderas. It morphs from the strung together outskirts to the super touristy downtown to a cluster of huge hotels capitalizing on the warm weather, palm trees and blue water.

You then begin a 3000 ft climb towards El Tuito. We’d already said our farewells to the Šica family the day before. They had headed off onto their own little adventure with some Canadian friends on a planned trip to a remote beach south of Puerto Vallarta. In the morning we were able to give our hugs and smiles to Vecs Mamina (Edite) before we departed.

Both Augustine and I continue to fight off a persistent stomach bug, making the day a bit more than just a sweat. Although the weather was cloudy and not overbearing heat wise. No real places to pull off the road to eat or rest for most of the day. Ended up just pulling off a couple feet from the road and having a small lunch and one other 40 min rest, just laying down, letting our blood and bones settle a bit. The 3000 ft climb took up the majority of the day.

Stopped in a small village, wrapped in a cooler and drier mountain air, just north of El Tuito. Actually ended up camping in the casita of the overgrown and abandoned looking rural Plaza. Children hung out with us until dark, asking all the questions under the sun. We were only able to answer and understand about 30% of them.

Juan, our local host who waved us into the little plaza, hung out with us for most of the evening – breaking bread with us over our little traveling kitchen. He shared some of the hottest little peppers I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. My eyeballs almost fell out. He also chipped in a fresh avocado picked from a nearby avocado grove.

The mountain air was glorious. Cool and not so humid. Some of the best sleep we’ve gotten for a long time.

03/05/15 (North of El Tuito to south of Tomatlán)

First 8 km continued to be uphill. Then trucked into a downhill straight into El Tuito. We stopped into the half beautiful slumbering town, half strange tourist destination for Puerto Vallarta tourists. Drank a cold Coke, got another pair of sunglasses (I am destroying them every few hundred kilometers or so) and Augustine got an ice cream to ward off the heat.

Off we rode for a good 15-20 km of downhill that turned into slow rollies and finally flats of a steady cadence. At around 5:30PM decided to ask a farm house with tons of children running around if we could camp for the night. We were treated to dinner and great company. Augustine ran around with the 8 or 9 other kids chasing chickens and climbing trees.

As side notes, I’ve noticed that kids seem so much more grown up here for their age. A seven year old is taking care of her little brother and teaching others the ways of the world. Pretty interesting to watch Augustine play and interact, while trying to grasp (I imagine) what in the world is being said in Spanish.

Additionally, we’ve somehow entered into farmland. Jungle farmland. Our hosts for the evening keep a stock of animals and their home sits on top of a little hill that overlook vast green fields that apparently get flooded in the rainy season. They’ve asked repeatedly if we want to sleep in the bedroom they have, inviting total strangers who speak broken Spanish seems only to be the tip of a vast mountain of hospitality around here.

03/06/15 (South of Tomatlán to río San Nicolás)

Different day. Made 36 km in three and a half hours. Muggy hot day on black new tarmac. All roads seem to be in an almost done stage. A thought for a new improved road was conceived. The old road was widened and 75% of it re-paved over. There was a thought for new lines to be painted, but the right day has not been found. 20 km of road, 6 guys with shovels and one backhoe with a guy literally sleeping in the cabin.

First 15 km were a bake after a great overnight stay with the DeRosas. Tons of kids for Augustine to chase around and imitate in practically every way. Augustine’s now got the full blown stomach bug I’ve been kicking around. A series of explosive accidents from the south, predominantly, through the night that necessitated the need for a washer in the morning.

Stopped in a little campo for lunch in a windy bus stop. Some kind of festivity going on near the church. Glass cased shrine, lots of motorcyclists. Heading out, cycled slow due to these flat looking rolling hills that slowly break down your will. Decided to stop beating ourselves up and pull off onto a road near the río San Nicolás. We’re hoping we don’t have a repeat bandito adventure for the evening, however, fun that sounds.

03/07/15 (río San Nicolás to Francisco Villa)

Another slow beating of a day. Cool night really damp. Woke sorta late as well. Augustine continues to have runs during the night. Ance is slightly fighting the stomach challenge as well.

Bounced around off and out of the steep dirt road to river we’d come down last night. Workers in the distant fields, sweat out a living. Some catching our presence, staring, waving. Saw lightning bugs for the first time before going to bed last night. Those Disney cartoons get them all wrong. They are like little flashes of lightning burning white and only for a few seconds, whirling aimlessly in the black jungle like night.

Cycled on early this morning. Still hotter than hell, just more humid. We ended up pulling off to take a lunch break under a small palapa. Two guys with a parked pickup truck next to the palapa. They informed us in Spanish that we could cross the road, hop the fence and use the facilities at the house. Two rich people live there but they have not been seen for two years. We decided against technically trespassing. Perhaps when we are a little bit more desperate.

Hung up our hammock that we bought off an old man in El Tuito that apparently made them by hand. Hide away in the small sombre cast by the palapa for almost two hours. Set off at 4PM. Continued slow pace, sweating and heaving. Stopped into Francisco Villa for water and ended up staying in town.

We were aiming for the Church courtyard (some cyclists informed us that asking the Catholic Padres often yielded a place to crash in front of the church). However, after asking some locals where we might be able to camp, we were led into a courtyard used for bicycle polo. Not exactly sure how that works, but sounds awesome.

Ance was taken with a woman to the house of the man in charge of the courtyard – she took it upon herself to explain to the serious man that we were traveling by bicycle and just needed a quiet place to rest for the night. He slowly agreed to the arrangement, but just for the night.

While setting up our tent and preparing to make dinner, a couple of the local girls in the neighborhood showed up and played with Augustine. Par for the course, she was ecstatic. There is little more to say other than people are so damn nice.

03/08/15 (Francisco Villa to Boca de Iguana)

Short day. Though the 25KM to get to Boca de Iguana were not the easiest in the world. Slow lumbering jungle hills, made 9 km in an hour and 10 mins. Sweaty potato sack the whole way.

We did start early (in our terms) at 8AM, which provided for pleasant riding up until about 10AM, when the heat starts to kick in pretty well. Around 10:35AM we were passing the road to Boca de Iguana and decided to pull down the 3KM road to the beach for lunch.

Trucked into the first turn off to the beach. A random deserted hotel, two RVs and a mash up of palapas running along a beautiful beach with rolling blue waves of paradise. Our lunch stop turned out to be a beach camp for the night of 70 pesos (about $3.50).

Swam, ran across the hot sand, walked the wet surf and snacked all day. Great big Mexican family playing and fishing on the beach. One couple of the family struck up a conversation with Ance. They ended up giving us a bag full of goodies and food before heading back home for the evening.

Again, people are insanely nice. For us, I think that the combination of Ance and Augustine, along with our cycling journey invites a certain kindness. That, and that other thing – people are by and large just wonderful.

03/09/15 (Boca de Iguana to Emiliano Zapata)

Where do I start with this day? Flat road out of Boca de Iguana, fairly easy for the first 5 km. Then we began to repeat the theme of the last few days – steep steady climbs with too short of drops in compensation. We dropped down into the valley that Melaque sits in – glorious curving hill with glimpses of the valley below.

We rolled into Melaque and bought some supplies. Canadian French men everywhere, who have something against shirts and buttoning them. One with a bucket hat, round reflective sunglasses and bright red trunks adorned with a hairy barrel of a torso asked me while Ance and Augustine went to the store “How you cross the Darién Gap?” The Darién Gap is the 100km or so of nothingness between Panama and Columbia.

After shrugging, indicating that we’d figure that out when we got there, I was plunged into a monologue about how this stout Frenchman had traveled throughout Central America in the 1970s. “I met one cyclists in Colombia who took his bike through the Darién Gap in 1973, said it was the biggest mistake of his life. He carried his bike for 90KM on his back.”

Note to self, do not try and cross the Darién Gap by bike. Check.

We got out of Melaque and opted for a small little town on the outskirts. No gringos and kids running wild everywhere. Hung out in the plaza for a few hours, ate some delicious tacos and off we went.

Ran into Kip again! (a great retiring guy with a police mustache and great big smile that we met on the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan). He apparently lives in Melaque. A little while later, ran into our first cyclists since Mazatlán. Great adventuring group of four making there way to Argentina as well. Cyclists. So predictable.

We pounded on another 25 km or so to Emiliano Zapata. We tried to ask if we might be able to camp in the school yard. While trying to explain our request in our broken Spanglish, a man asked in Spanish if we needed a place to camp. YES! He had a spot where we could, only the bugs where really bad – gesturing about the bugs by slapping himself. We were totally fine with that.

Claudio brought us down to his sisters house. As it turns out, Claudio is like one of your favorite uncles, always ready to do something and joking with all the kids. While we were setting up our tent, he tinkered with the brakes on his white magical minivan courtesy of General Motors. Nine or so children ran around, some on a mound of dirt, others climbing on the roof of the house and a few hanging around me, asking me random questions and helping me set up our tent.

After Claudio’s brake job and the tent was up, we all piled into the van for a short excursion to the nearby lagoon. By ‘we all piled’ I mean 9 kids, Claudio driving, me shotgun and Augustine and Ance climbed into the van and drove off with both the side doors open to the moist late afternoon air.

We slowly bumped along a single lane dirt road, where I thought for sure we were going to get stuck or a kid was going to fall out the door. None of that happened. Just smiles and laughter and 9 kids with dirty school uniforms chattering the whole way.

We were brought to various sites along the lagoon and were treated to a little row boat ride, where Claudio rowed everyone around in turns. Leo, the bigger kid who we got some great photos of, is the mild mannered good natured kid of the group who everyone loves. He started off the lagoon fun by stripping down and getting into the water. Others followed suit after him.

After the great little 2X4 minivan off road excursion, we headed back to our neighborhood campsite. Prepared a circus dinner, kids hanging over our shoulders, all the mothers of the children trying to keep them in order and offering us everything out of their house. Claudio went home and came back with a big map of the world. We pointed out where we were from respectively on the map. Shared our dinner of lentil soup with everyone that wanted

After the horde of children left, dinner settled down and over, we climbed into our hot moist tent for a jungle slumber.

03/10/15 (Emiliano Zapata to Manzanillo)

Said our farewells to Claudio’s family and the host of children. Departed somewhat early, trying to stick to our new schedule of early birds get the worm philosophy. In our case, it is early birds don’t sweat so much in the scorching Mexican sun.

The ride into Manzanillo was fairly easy. I say that because we really only had to ride about 35 km. However, those 35 km were largely made up of a gradual downhill before a gentle glide into Manzanillo. Just before we summited the gradual climb, we ran into Peter – a Canadian from Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada. He was doing his traditional cycle and crossed the road to talk with us.

Within minutes, as seems to be the Canadian style, we were invited to stay with Peter and his wife Rene in Manzanillo. Its hard to turn down hospitality like that, especially when you are sweaty and wandering gypsies like ourselves.

Shortly after talking with Peter we mounted the small summit and coasted into Manzanillo, with a short pit stop to repair a blown tire on Augustine’s trailer. When we arrived to Peter and Rene’s, we took a siesta at the next door restaurant for some fish tacos. Peter and Rene joined us in the end and brought us into their little paradise compound on the beach, with a real bed, shower and everything.

03/11-17/15 (Manzanillo to Guadalajara via Bus)

After the Canadians took us in, we were offered the opportunity to leave our bikes in Manzanillo and take a side trip into Guadalajara – a city of 7 million people in the mountains of Mexico. Ance and I had talked about how we were going to miss heading into the historic and famous city by heading down the coastal route. We said to each other “well, next time we are in Mexico, we’ll go visit.” It then occurred to us, that we were not actually certain when, if ever, we’d get an opportunity to actually come back to Mexico. Bus to Guadalajara it is!

We lined up a host through warmshowers.org – Hector. After a 4 hour bus ride from Manzanillo, past the massive volcano near Colima, we took another bus to downtown Guadalajara and meandered our way to Hector’s apartment.

Hector took us in with smiles and quiet hospitality. Offering up his own bedroom: “since you have a child it is better to be near the bathroom, it is better for you I think,” he said when we argued that we could just sleep on the living room floor.

The stay in Guadalajara was like a bus/walking vacation from our cycling vacation. We walked the majority of historic downtown Guadalajara with all of its beautiful churches and building, taco carts and warm culture in the cool winter mountain air. We were able to cool off (finally!) in the cool dry air – though the last two days it did rain.

We took a trip to the massive zoo with kangaroos, lions, monkey’s and giraffes – Augustine loved every minute of it, even though it rained for most of the day. Another trip we took was through the touristy and bustling Tlaquepaque, where we found awesome Mexican coffee (it is actually kinda difficult to get a cup of coffee in Mexico that is not instant NesCafe).

The whole stay in Guadalajara was a great retreat from the coast. The cool air and hospitality of Hector made it a great experience and the sites of the beautiful city with all its hustle and insanity were wonderful.

On top of all this, our Canadian friends, Peter and Renee have let us crash for another night in one of their little casitas as we prep for the next leg of our journey. As I type, Ance and Augustine are out exploring Manzanillo and finishing up some shopping and loose ends before we jump back on our bicycles (hopefully) tomorrow!

We hope everyone is well!

Best,

LatvianAlaskan Family

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