After a few days of knowing where we would be staying nearly every night, it was back to the reduced pressure of sleeping wherever we ended up. Our hope was to get to Acapulco on Christmas Eve which left us 5 days to go about 500km. I had hoped to get on the road not long after 6, and that was the plan, but Javier – our host – had invited us out for a quick drink… I turned him down Pedro went out to a karaoke bar and one drink turned into drinking until the early hours of the morning. We ended up starting at about 10 when the last morning chill for a while had been burnt off.
We headed south, dropping down from 1600m (5,000t) and then through what had been described as the last town between Uruapan and the Pacific, and onto the autopista. When we had gone through Tingambato we had been concerned about it being named the place where the fire ends, and we were definitely feeling the fire. Even though it was almost the winter equinox when we got down to the national park called El Infiernillo (Little Hell) the complete lack of shade made any climb more than a couple of minutes ridiculously hot. We checked on Pedro’s phone and found it was 41c (106f), and Baja was replaced as our new “It might be really pretty, but we are idiots for cycling here” place.
Our frequent stops, included the first restaurant in a long time, where we met a group of teachers in the local community. When we told them that we were going to Cancun, one of them let us know that we had better leave quickly as the end of the world was coming. It took me a while to realise that it was actually Thursday, and so the last night of the world. It had been the first talk of the so-called prophecy that I’d heard during my time in Mexico, even though it had been all over the news back home, and I was glad that it was being treated as ridiculousness as the stories that NASA was asked to confirm that nothing was going to happen made me cringe.
We had hoped to get 30km down the road from that restaurant to the toll booth, but tiring legs on a series of continually rolling hills and a lack of light made us stop about 10km short. We hopped over the crash barrier and found a place to pitch tents out of the headlights of the cars, although being on a hill we could hear the trucks braking through the night.
The next day we were up early hoping to get down to the coast before it got ridiculously hot and made our way to the toll booth where we found breakfast and water. The water just about lasted us to the end of the highway as the heat, which never really went during the night, returned to its previous day heights early on. We stopped there for a while to let the peak heat of the day pass, even though the phone was trying to tell us that the highest temperature was at 7pm, with the sun going down not long after 6 we didn’t really believe it.
When it had cooled down enough, we got onto the coastal highway, although we wouldn’t see the Pacific that day, and headed east until we got to a town far enough down the road and the sun was going down. We asked at the restaurant and were told that of course we could camp there after dinner and even use the shower, and although that was a bucket it was wonderful to clean up.
I sleep heavily, so had a good night. Pedro was a bit less fortunate and the combination of a 5-year-old crashing into his tent, constant trucks braking at the speed bump outside of the restaurant and us camping inside the mechanics workshop that was next to the restaurant with lights on all night meant a second not so great night for him.
Our third day saw us riding another 100km or so and we got to not only see the Pacific for the first time, but also got to go swimming. We made it past the resort of Ixtapa and into the old town of Zihuatanejo, the Mexican town from The Shawshank Redemption, where we stopped to not only enjoy the beach, but also to find somewhere for Pedro to get his shoes fixed as even with his best attempts with superglue they were really not holding up well. We left our bikes at a bike shop so we had a safe place for them when we went to the beach and to get a couple of minor tweaks.
The beach was pretty with small boats sat in the bay, and wasn’t too busy. Most of the tourists stay in the ridiculously priced hotels in Ixtapa and so Zihuatanejo has managed to hold onto it’s small coastal town charm, even though part of that was lost with the disregard for nature that was obvious during our brief time there. A guy swam out to a boat with some petrol, and you could see there had been some petrol on the side of the container which was now being cleaned off by the ocean. There was also a fair bit of rubbish dropped on the beach, even though there were bins in view.
After lunch and a swim, we went back and found our bikes had been sorted out. Even though Pedro had told the guy in the shoe shop that we’d be back in an hour, when we turned up he hadn’t started. Apparently he wanted to confirm his idea, which involved a strong needle and some thread, before doing it even though Pedro had told him to do whatever he wanted earlier. Oh well, after a 20 minute wait Pedro had fully functioning bike shoes again!
After seeing the coast, it was back to the so called coastal highway. I had imagined it would be like the Pacific Coast Highway down the west coast of the US, but it really didn’t spend much time with the ocean in view, and so it was for the rest of the day. We got to the town of Petatlán and again stopped at the first restaurant and immediately told we could camp. The son of the owners was also a student at UNAM in Mexico City and we spoke with him for a bit, although I retired to my tent pretty quickly after eating as the mosquitoes were doing a good job on my ankles and feet.
I was up the next day and after pulling down my tent was a bit surprised to find we were the only people at the restaurant. The son had told Pedro that he was going to sleep there in the hammock but he was nowhere to be seen. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except we were locked in. There was a padlock on the chain link fence and no way to open it. There was a small hole in the fence, and so Pedro squeezed through and I passed the bags and bikes over the fence to him. We had seen a possible way out the back, but had been unsure where it would lead. I didn’t fancy squeezing through the fence, I figured I’d rip a hole in some more of my clothing, so took the option round the back and found a path that looped round to the main road, much easier!
We rode away and a little down the road saw a beachside restaurant so stopped, Pedro wanted a dip and I was happy to rest at the tables listening to the Pacific rhythmically lapping against the beach. After sitting round for about 20 minutes Pedro was ready to go, but I had become enchanted by the ocean and all the energy and motivation I had to spend all that day and the next spinning my legs on a coastal highway with minimal coast on the way to Acapulco had vanished. I sat round and Pedro waited patiently for about another half hour. I didn’t get my energy back, but I decided to keep going in the hope that I would. There were plenty of pickup trucks going past us that I figured I could grab a ride down the road if I wanted.
To get out of my malaise as we rolled away from the coast I cranked up my music and started pushing the pace. Any time there was a climb I’d be out of my seat trying to race to the top, even though it was probably unwise given the sun and heat, but a couple of hours of it combined with spending a bit of time riding by the coast and I was back to wanting to ride.
Before the sunset we made it to the small town of San Jeronimo. Pedro had told me it was my turn to find a place to stay so I asked at the first restaurant and they of course said yes. It was a good thing I asked, because when Pedro arrived, 10 minutes after I did, all he did was lie in the shade on the floor. 20 minutes later he moved enough to ask me to get him a beer and then when I got back with that we went in to eat, or at least that was the plan. Pedro sat down and watched TV, Avatar was on, and slowly drank his beer. I had ordered two dinners, so got to eat both mine and his. The next day we figured that he had been massively dehydrated which had caused the problems.
On Christmas Eve, we didn’t have far left to ride to get us to Acapulco, and it was a good thing as Pedro was still feeling under the weather. He couldn’t eat much without getting grief from his stomach and so we rode slowly with a good few breaks on the way to Acapulco. It went well going past the place where Rambo 2 was filmed and being able to see the coast, until we got to the outskirts where the traffic became terrible, the road became steep and there were so many potholes which were difficult to avoid with the drivers being so close.
Amazingly we had managed to find a couchsurfing host for Christmas, Christian, who has a radio show, was in Acapulco while his family were back in Guerrero. He let us know that we could stay as long as we liked, but with the plans of getting to Puerto Escondido for New Years to meet our girlfriends we could only stay for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He showed us around on Christmas Eve, although Pedro was still feeling bad so we didn’t stay out long.
Christian had to work on Christmas Day, so we went out to see the cliff divers who are famous in Acapulco. We thought they’d be cheap, but when they asked for 50 pesos ($5) each we decided against it and found a vantage point where, thanks to my LASIK vision I could basically see what was going on. It was underwhelming for both of us, and we were glad to not have paid, especially when we watched a couple of Youtube videos of the dives later. We wandered around getting a feel for Zocalo, and I enjoyed the ability to drink on the streets although Pedro’s stomach still wasn’t feeling up for it. It did get remarkably hot though, the lack of the breeze that you get on a bike made us realise just how much we didn’t want to walk around in the sun so were back at Christian’s organising things until he turned up and we went out at night to a beach. A bizarre Christmas.
Toll road camping
Peaceful beach town
Where we camped
Pedro wiggling out
Me walking out
At the beach