If you read my last entry, you already know how super duper excited I was to return to Mexico. As we drove to the border, I could smell that My Family felt the same way. They loved their time in Guatemala, but the thought of leaving the rain behind and discovering some new parts of this beautiful country was filling the Big Truck with the taste of grand adventure. AND, I suspected there would be many taco tastes in my future. CAN’T. WAIT!
We strolled our way to the border between Guatemala and Mexico. We were crossing in a very different part of the country, so of course My Family was a bit nervous wondering how that was going to go. We rolled out of the beautiful mountains and down into a busy border town. Music was blaring, motorbikes were zigging and zagging around the truck, streets were transforming magically from two ways to one, and everyone in the car was beginning to get nervous. Thankfully, our concerns quickly flew out the window. This border crossing was amazing! As always, Maya and I got to huddle up in the air conditioning while Jason and Victoria handled all of the paperwork. It’s so fantastic that humans don’t think I can write! They were back in no time at all, with big smiles on their faces. Jason and Victoria couldn’t believe it, but this was the easiest border crossing ever!
We drove under the ‘Bienvenidos a Mexico’ sign and found the other side of the border to be just as easy. There were two spots to visit, but Victoria said later that everyone was super nice and accommodating, and the whole process was over before even Maya had the chance to become bored and grumpy. This country really is paradise! Jason drove off and the entire family was in good spirits. The music was jumping, and we had the whole country laid out in front of us. I overheard My Family saying that we may well spend six months here, and I couldn’t believe my luck! Two quick stops later, and we pulled into El Chiflon, a very pretty campsite right next to a river.
After a fairly long day in the truck, Maya and I leapt to the ground to explore. We had a wide open field all to ourselves, and couldn’t be happier. The sky was clear, and after so long spent cooped up in the LJH the vast open space was just what I was looking for. Our plans for the afternoon? To do as little as possible. I couldn’t believe my luck! I ran around, lounged in the sun, chased Maya, and generally reveled in the absence of rain. The only downside? The stray dogs that decided to hang around our camper. Maya and I let them have it, but they weren’t getting the message. I was more than happy when it was time to snuggle up in bed and call it a night.
The next day we took some time before hitting the road, so Maya and I could run around the river bank. I loved slipping and sliding along the clay shore (though Victoria didn’t really love cleaning me off) and dashing into the river. After that we were off again, this time to the city. San Cristobal de las Casas was one of the places we had missed on our way south, and My Family had heard nothing but great stories about this beautiful place. It was a super long drive, with some stressful hills and a tricky few minutes squeezing our way through narrow alleys, but finally we arrived at Rancho San Nicholas, a beautiful campsite just outside of the city.
This place was super cool. Another big, grassy field, with ideal pooing territory and some great dogs to play with. My favorite was Tita, a sweet girl dog who was just my size! We spent about a week here, and I loved nothing more than lounging in the sun with my new friend. Best of all? No rain! Maya and I got to run around for hours, chasing down sticks that Jason would throw, rolling around in all the delicious smells hidden in the grass, and generally loving our doggie life. Jason and Victoria had a good time too, but not quite as care-free. The internet was very bad at the Rancho, so Jason spent many days wandering off into town to find a place to work. We made sure to always give him an extra special greeting when he came home. We got to go into the city with Victoria and Jason several times too. San Cristobal is another colonial city and it reminded me a lot of Antigua, just without the volcanoes. There were people there from all over the world, eating delicious food, shopping in super colorful shops (or so I’m told; us dogs aren’t the best where color is concerned), and taking pictures in front of the beautiful central square. After the last few months in Guatemala I felt like I was in paradise.
Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. We did get one day of pretty serious rain, but nothing like what we had been seeing. There were also a couple of people at the campsite that I really did not like. Maya and I would bark at them when they got too close to the camper, but they never seemed to get the hint! Look, I’m not a biter, and I really love people, you just can’t mess with our home, you know? That’s our space! The whole thing was stressing Victoria out a little bit, so My Family started to think about moving on. San Cristobal was absolutely beautiful, and jam-packed with the sort of restaurants Victoria and Jason love the most. After all of our time stuck in cold, rainy places, however, My Family was more than ready for some sun and heat. We packed up the camper and left on our mission to find a beach.
We left in mid-afternoon, which is strange for us. Normally my family liked to leave for a new camping home early in the morning. But the drive to find the beach pushed My Family to decide to just get on the road. I heard that it would take more than a single day to get to the beaches of Oaxaca, so Victoria figured we’d just get a head start. Our first step was getting to Tuxtla Gutierrez, a very busy city where My Family hoped to fill the camper’s water tank. This was a pretty serious miscalculation on their part. The drive out of San Cristobal was beautiful but slow, with a ton of mountain driving. We ended up reaching Tuxtla in the middle of rush hour. That’s a human thing, when everyone is trying to get somewhere at the exact same time. It makes for a very slow, very frustrating (for Jason) drive. At the end of their ropes, Victoria and Jason decided to stop for burgers and reassess the situation. I snuck some french fries while they figured out the next step. There was no way were were going to reach the campsite Victoria had chosen as a mid-point before it got dark. Yet we couldn’t well camp in the parking lot of the burger place. Jason decided we’d just get as far as we could, and then look for a Pemex.
We ended up stopping for the night at a Pemex in a town called Cintalapa. In case you missed some of our other Mexico posts, a Pemex is a gas station. Yep, we were spending the night in a gas station. Jason and Victoria passed several they didn’t really like before finding the perfect spot. It was just outside of town, it was quiet, and the bathrooms had grape-scented hand soap. I don’t know why this was so important, but Jason and Victoria couldn’t stop talking about it. Apparently, it reminded them of Welch’s Grape Soda, whatever that was. Sleeping in a gas station is an unusual experience, and this time it was a first for Maya. I’m a pro at it, and had no trouble snuggling up under the Pemex lights and calling it a night.
My Family slid out of bed bright and early to get us back on the road. We still had quite a drive to get down to the beach, but with the anticipation of finally seeing sand again I leapt into Victoria’s lap and sat up for most of the next few hours, sniffing at the air as the familiar ocean smells began to take over. Maya is still not particularly thrilled with the driving days, but Victoria and Jason reworked the backseat situation to try and make her more comfortable. She was still a bit drooly, but nowhere near as bad as she had been before, and mostly just laid down with her head on the center armrest, looking sad.
After eight hours of crawling up and down hills and bouncing along dirt roads, we finally made it to the beach! Our first stop was a town called San Augustin. I jumped out of the car as soon as the doors opened and dashed onto the sand. It was beautiful! San Augustin is a very small town, basically a string of restaurants perched at the ocean’s edge, and My Family found a nice place to park behind one of the restaurants at the far end of the beach. The people there were super nice, and there were tons of dogs to play with. Unlike other beaches we had visited, all of these dogs were pretty cool, and most even had families of their own. That meant everyone was happy, and Maya even enjoyed their company after a little while. The beach was wide and clean, just perfect for running. And the water was crystal clear, very welcoming for my little paws.
We spent the next two nights at San Augustin, hanging with the other doggies, and playing with the nice family at the restaurant. There was a little boy there that absolutely loved my family and me, and spent much of each day asking questions about every little piece of the camper and petting us dogs. One dog in particular latched on to My Family and followed us everywhere. Her name was Puma, and though I liked her a lot, I didn’t like overhearing Victoria and Jason debate possibly taking her with us. C’mon, one puppy is enough! Thankfully, nothing ever came of it. All in all, San Augustin was just what I was looking for, and I would have been more than happy to spend weeks running along this beach. The problem was, there was no good internet here, and with Jason’s work week approaching we had to go find a better place for him. Oh, and the humans reported that you had to pour buckets of water into the toilets in order to flush them. Sometimes being a dog is pretty great. The world is my toilet!
We bounced back up the beach road and out to the highway, making our way to a town called Playa Zipolite. My Family had heard a ton of great things about this beach, so everyone sported big smiles as we drove into town. We quickly hit a snag, however. The road that leads to Cabanas los Habana, the campsite right on the beach Victoria had planned for us to visit, was completely dug up. Big trucks were blocking the path, and workers were shoveling and mixing concrete. Victoria went in to investigate, and they told her that the road was closed, and there was no way to get to the campsite other than walking. Disaster!
Jason turned the big truck around and we quickly looked for Plan B. We found a pretty place called Rancho Los Mangos that was open and right on the main road. We pulled into the front gate, and Jason’s face dropped. It was beautiful. Too beautiful. A pool, big swatches of grass, and a pretty hotel. This was one of those RV parks that the snowbird creatures like to stay in. And just as My Family feared, it was really expensive! The people there were very nice, and even offered Victoria and Jason welcome coconut drinks after we set up, but My Family knew our plan to stay in Zipolite for quite some time was in jeopardy.
Jason popped up the camper and we left to explore Zipolite. What a pretty town! The streets are all paved in beautiful designs, and the broad beach is fronted by restaurants of all shapes and sizes. This town had everything from tiny taco stands to beautiful restaurant/hotels perched on the side of the hill. I was enjoying the hot walk, but Victoria and Jason were getting a bit annoyed. We walked every inch of the town, looking for a better place to stay, and just had no luck. Finally, Jason suggested we walk over to Cabanas los Habanas and check out the situation. The sand was so hot that they had to drag us along, and everyone was getting grumpy. When we got to the Cabanas, we found a set of beautifully painted cabanas up on stilts, and a couple of campers who were very friendly. One of them had a car so My Family talked to one of the owners about how they could get in. Apparently, there was a tiny side road right next to the closed road that we might be able to slip through. My Family thanked them and we headed home, plotting the next day’s attempt at getting to our new campground.
That night just underlined why we had to change locations. Rancho los Mangos was very, VERY hot, without the ocean breeze to cool everything off. And there were tons of biting bugs too! We all woke up early the next day to pack up and make the attempt. The owners of the Cabanas were very helpful, and they even moved part of the fence so we had room. It was a tight squeeze, but we finally made it onto the campsite. What a difference! We parked right on the beach, with our very own palapa for shade. Immediately My Family’s thoughts about Zipolite changed. Maybe this would work out after all?
Best of all, this was Jason’s birthday! We celebrated by going out to one of the beach restaurants, where My Family enjoyed botanas (snacks) and beers and stared at the ocean. It was pretty sweet. Playa Zipolite is known as a “hippie paradise”, and Jason and Victoria were laughing at the evidence of that all day. I don’t really know what that means, so you’ll have to ask them. We spent the rest of the day and night hanging out with our new friends at the campsite, a human named Oleg who came all the way from Russia, and a nice man named Denny who was planning on driving down to Panama. Jason had a blast, and after the disappointment of the day before, everyone was in much better spirits.
We woke up the next day to find the sky dark with thunderclouds. Not a promising sight. That afternoon the rain started, and it was crazy! The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was flying sideways, right into our camper. We spent much of that day huddled inside, while Jason and Victoria worked to keep the leaky bits under control. The next day was better, but Victoria soon discovered the rain was not done. They spent some time online and found out something called Tropical Storm Trudy was on the way. Trudy’s a pretty nice name, but it didn’t seem like this Trudy was going to be so nice. The humans were expecting as much as a foot of rain and high winds over the next couple days, and here we were on the beach! Not a good combo. Jason and Victoria pulled the giant tarp out, and with the help of one of the nice men at the campground, managed to totally cover the camper and the big truck. It was awesome! Everything was blue inside, and there was a wide covered area where we could all sit that Victoria called ‘the party tent’. When the big rains came we were totally secure, and the other campers all spent time hanging out with us in the only really dry spot available.
It took a while, but the rains finally passed and everyone was fine. The next few days flew by in a whirlwind of awesomeness. Victoria and I hung one of our awesome hammocks (thanks, ENO!), and we spent hours swinging in the breeze under the palapas, talking to all of the vendors that walked by. My Family met tons of people, from the super nice locals, to the ex-pats who have made Zipolite their home, to a bunch of other travelers. A couple of days into our time on the beach, two humans named Ike and Bethany pulled in next to us. They had just come into Mexico a couple of weeks before, and were planning on driving all the way to the bottom tip of South America. That’s super cool and all, but even better? They really liked me! Ike was super duper nice, letting me snuggle up on his lap, and even allowing for a kiss every now and then! We spent a bunch of time with these two, sharing stories and laughing at Maya’s attempts to fetch. She’s good at the fetching part, but not so hot on the bringing it back aspect. The days stretched on and on, and Jason and Victoria started to realize that they didn’t want to leave this amazing spot. It might have been Jason’s favorite campsite ever. So our plans changed. Instead of checking out one or two more beaches on this southern Oaxaca coastline, we were just going to stay!
We ended up spending two full weeks at Cabanas los Habanas, and almost every moment of it was jam-packed with awesome. I tasted fish, croissants, fruit, tacos, and even got to chew on a coconut! We met all sorts of nice humans, and spent many nights sitting with them under our lit up palapa, trading stories and snuggling up on laps. Sure, Maya and I were a bit barky from time to time (always, if you ask Jason), but who else is going to protect our home from people walking by twenty feet away? Finally, it was time to go. With heavy hearts we packed up the camper and left the beach behind. Luckily, we had a great next destination: El Tule, and my friends Calvin and Leanne at Overlander Oasis! We had a mountain to climb first, but I couldn’t wait to see these great humans I had loved so much on our trip south. Now that we were back in Mexico everything was looking up, and each day seemed more fun than the last. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
PS: To see some of the photos My Family took, check out our Facebook page!