We awoke for the ferry before sunrise. Arriving at the dock we encountered a scene I would describe as “organized chaos”. Loading our vehicle was an adventure in itself. “Back in?” Okay… In the middle of twenty semis not taking their time.
The sunrise was epic over the hills north of La Paz. Frigate Birds circled overhead in the morning rising air. The crossing was smooth as could be, with sunny skies and no wind or swell (sometimes it's a good thing).
We arrived in Topolobampo at midday. Immediately, we noticed the difference in humidity. The temperature was about the same, but much wetter. The land is green with the rainy season’s bounty of water. And at the same latitude across the sea, Baja laid dry and barren.
The area around Topo and Los Mochis is planted to crops, industrial agriculture style. Corn and sorghum fill thousand of hectares. Signs proclaiming the miracle of genetic engineering and chemicals line the road. Fields are planted with the newest strains from American corporations like Monsanto.
Huge yields are pumped out of the fertile soil. Pollution was evident in the drainage ditches, barren and filled with eutrophicated green water. We saw the land rapidly eroding as the rain fell on newly tilled soil.
Further south the land becomes velvet waves of green hills. We passed through Mazatlan only long enough to know we didn’t want to stay. We filled water and fuel, and slept on the busiest street in the world.
Tepic is the next large city you come to driving south on the coast route. It is high in the mountains, and the air became fresh and cool. Apples and coffee are grown, as well as carrots and sugar cane.
We hit the coast for the first time in a while at Playa Sayulita, a huge destination for euros and ex-pats because of its tranquil beauty and good beginner waves. As you approach the beach it gets really packed in, hundreds of houses and stores filling the valley. It looks like a cool scene, though. Coffee shops and local art galleries are abundant, and people cruise around on foot meeting each other. A river comes out and makes the break, but the water didn’t smell too good…
After passing another monsterous hotel being built and getting lost in the maze of Punta de Mita, we came to Puerto Vallarta. Oh Vallarta, que paso? Why are their so many hotels? And more hotels are being built as I type this. We really didn’t see the draw. Come to Mexico to stay in a crowded cement building, shop, and inhale exhaust.
Our favorite part of Vallarta was leaving it. The road on the outskirts to the south hugs the cliffs and valleys. The sheer rock walls are covered in vegetation with numerous cascadas (waterfalls). We found a spot on the Mismaloya river to rinse the salt off, and slept to the sounds of agua dulce.
We stopped in Manzanillo to get a part for the truck tranny, and liked it. It was definitely a tourist town, because of the long stretch of beach and nice weather. Unlike Puerto Vallarta, it was small and well done. The streets are all very clean, and the people friendly. This has actually been true in most places.
We made it to Pascuales with enough time to see how the surf was. Overhead choppy peaks pounded down, impossible tubes spitting spray. A few guys were out getting drilled.
The next day we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and some fun waves. It was a little torn up from the night’s wind, but we got a few. It is a hard wave to surf, breaking fast and heaving on the sand. Some great rides are possible.
Coming in, we were approached by a local kid named Alfredo. While talking he mentioned that he had broken his board pulling into a tube a week before, “en tres pedasos”, in three pieces! He was born just up the road, on a little ranchito a mile away from the break, where his wife and new baby boy stay while he works at Karla’s restaurant at the beach.
He seemed like a really good kid. He was concerned about the sea turtles on the beach. People come at night to poach the eggs as the female lays them. They are considered an aphrodisiac, and fetch good money. Poachers were out the night before, taking the eggs illegally. Alfredo wants to start a turtle preserve like they have down the coast, and take the eggs only to raise them in a safe place, then set the babies free.
We decided he was a great candidate to give one of the boards donated to us by Channel Islands. To go with his brand new stick we gave him a Pro-Lite leash, wax and some stickers. We handed it to him and the smile on his face couldn't have been any brighter. He invited us to come back to Pascuales anytime, and we would have a home. Mi playa es tu playa.
Passing into the state of Michoacan is like passing through a time warp. The area is protected from development, and preserved for the indigenous people. The most idyllic villages pop up here and there as the road winds through hills and valleys, rivers and cliffs. Children joyfully play with each other outside in their lush playground, free from the modern world entertainment of T.V.s and computers. They are happy this way. Living simply without many possessions seems to have that effect.
We made it to Rio Nexpa later in the evening. The onshore wind concealed fun, peaky point surf. We stepped foot on the beach, and the first person we came across was a familiar smiling face. Kelley had come from Pismo Beach with her friend, Kelly. Kelley's dad had been on the Royal Pelagic surf charter boat that Aubrey had worked on last year. It was an instant connection to say the least and definitely not a coincidence to finally meet each other! The Kelleys hosted us for dinner that night, and we met Flaco and Pablo, who turned out to be two of the best surfers at the point.
We paddled out the next morning and got some fun overhead and clean storm surf. Peaks on the point gave the normal lefts and some rights broke further up towards the river mouth. The water was hot chocolate, brown from the runoff.
We had a harvest party and drank nothing but coconut water and ate the fresh meat all day. It is such a rich food that you really don’t need anything else. So good!
Chicho has a restaurant and cabanas on the point, and an orchard up the river where he grows limes, avocados, tamarindo, and mangos. He composts the kitchen waste from the restaurant, and we added worm castings that I brought from Cabo San Lucas. The worm castings have red worm eggs in it, and they will grow and eat the compost to make fertilizer for his orchards.
He is interested in sustainability, and we made a copy of Introduccion a la Permacultura for him. We talked about different needs of local people. He thought education was very important, as new ideas and ways of doing things are readily accepted, they just need to be demonstrated.
An example of new ideas was a composting toilet we built for his campground. We built it from a 50 gallon drum, some 2” pipe, and plastic plywood left over from the local skate ramp. It took about 2 hours to make, and was made from 100% salvaged materials, all readily available. Also, it keeps all human waste out of the waterways, as there is no drain. Chicho was surprised how simple it was, and other locals were excited to build their own.
Worm castings, or better worms, are put in the drum first to eat all the human waste, which they convert into fertilizer. Carbonaceous material like dried leaves, sawdust, and also wood ashes are put on top of your business to soak up the moisture. It takes 6 months for two people to fill one drum, and then it is left for another 6 to decompose. Then it is harvested and put on your trees, dark and rich with no smell!
Managing human waste is a big issue in Mexico. If a home has a flush toilet, it needs to have a septic leach field if there is no sewer connection. This is a big expense for people, and many times corners are cut and the leach pits are not satisfactory. Furthermore, there are no aerobic organisms to consume the waste once it is put so far down into the soil, so it just rots. Organic waste is processed more thoroughly in the top layers of the soil, where it is active with critters to eat it.
It is so great to see the interest in sustainability from the people. We are grateful for this, and are excited to share what we know. We are also learning every day. It is a blessing and a joy to connect with like-minded people and share ideas and experiences.
We stayed at Nexpa for about a week, scoring overhead to double overhead surf every day. Light offshore winds groomed the peaks in the morning, and the rainy seasons afternoon showers left us with plenty of time to hang out with our new friends, work on projects, do yoga, and make epic food. It was a stellar time and a hard place to finally leave.
But as the swell dropped, we decided to should continue on towards our goal of reaching Oaxaca. So we said our goodbyes and hit the road, the turtle and its shell lumbering along the windy and bumpy roads of southern Michoacan.