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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mexican Busses...From the Costalegre to Pochutla and back again.

This blog post is for anyone...and everyone... who could benefit from our experience with our massive bus trip down the mexican coast. There wasn´t a lot of information available to us, and as a result, we had to figure it out along the way...so, hopefully this helps someone out.

From Melaque, there is only one bus line that will go straight through to Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo. The bus line is called "Elite" and operates a direct first class bus service that runs only once a day from Melaque. The bus leaves at 5pm everyday and costs $400 pesos per person ( roughly $30- $35 canadian) The bus that we were on took exactly 12 hours to arrive in Zihuatanejo.

From Zihuatanejo to Puerto Escondido, you cannot take a direct bus, as one does not exist. You must first take a bus to Acapulco. The bus to acapulco is run by "Estrella Blanca" bus lines. We took the first class bus as it was only a few dollars more than the second class bus. The departures were at 4pm and 8pm. We chose the 8pm bus, as we were told that we would be able to transfer to a 2am bus in Acapulco going to Puerto Escondido, minimizing our wait time. The bus from Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa to Acapulco Ejido cost $133 pesos per person (roughly $10 canadian), and took 4 hours.

Unfortunately for us, when we arrived in Acapulco at around 12 or 12:30 and tried to buy tickets for our connecting bus, we were told that it was sold out, and the next bus would be leaving at 7:45am, meaning that we had to spend the night on the floor of the bus terminal. Note to anyone who is planning to do this leg of the trip that it would be in your best interests to pre buy your tickets from Acapulco to Puerto Escondido. The bus line that ran this bus was "Alta Mar / CosteƱos" The bus trip was first class and took 10 hours. It cost $303 pesos per person (roughly $25 canadian).

From Puerto Escondido to Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Punta Cometa, or Zipolite, you must take a bus at the OCC bus terminal bound for Pochutla...but get off at San Antonio and take a cab to you destination. This will save you about an hour of travel time, and money. The fare cost $30 pesos per person ( about $3canadian) and the taxi from San Antonio to San Agustinillo cost $50 pesos.

Some notes on bus travel in Mexico:
- First class buses do not really have a specific standard that they have to adhere to. Some are really new and fancy ( and we found the most uncomfortable) and some are extremely old and ghetto. The only thing that makes a bus first class is the fact that they will all have the air conditioning blasting you the whole time, a TV (whether it works or not) and some sort of toilet facility, which the second class busses do not have.
 - I highly recommend that you wear pants, bring a sweater, and a blanket on any first class bus ride. It is freezing on those busses, so much so, that it is impossible to keep warm and makes the trip uncomfortable. Someone told me i should bring a blanket, and i figured, im from canada, the AC on a bus cant be that cold....but believe me, it really is.
-Any time we got on a bus they tagged our bags and gave us a ticket. This lead us to believe that the ticket would be required to claim our luggage at our destination .Wrong. The tickets are basically just a show...nobody checks anything, so if there are people getting stuff from under the bus before your stop, i would recommend that you watch the bags coming off the bus to make sure yours isn´t one of them.
- You must stop in Acapulco, whether you want to or not. Acapulco is the end / starting point for all of the bus lines. The bus lines that run north of Acapulco only run north, and the bus lines that run south of Acapulco only run south, therefore if you are doing a trip such as ours from the northern mexican coast down to the southern part of Oaxaca, Acapulco is unavoidable.... which is good if you want to go there....but if you dont, it sucks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mexico in a nutshell

Mexico really is an amazing country, and as a result, our time here has been just flying by....a lot more quickly than anticipated. We have been here for over 2 months now, and will be here until after christmas, at which time we will work our way south into Guatemala and the rest of Central America.
We started off in by stopping in Melaque, a quiet little town on the west coast of mexico just a few hours south of Puerto Vallarta. I had lived here for close to a year when I was 20 years old, and we decided that it would be nice to start off our trip with visiting our Mexican friends. We had originally planned to stay in Melaque for a month maximum, then work our way south along the west coast of and then across from Puerto Escondido over to the Yucatan Peninsula...however, after a month in the costalegre, we decided that we were not ready to leave, and that we would at least stay for the halloween festivites. In total we ended up staying in Melaque for 7 weeks...it was too easy. Life in Melaque is sweet. We have amazing friends that share their time and their food with us, take us surfing and are just overall spectacular people. Its sunny all the time, and we generally have no worries other than trying to figure out what we are going to do in the afternoon.  The end of our time in Melaque was to be marked by a trip to La Ticla with our good friend Benja for a week long surf trip, after which, Owen and I would continue south, trying to surf along the way until we got to Puerto Escondido...but.... that didnt happen....the going south part...we ended up going back to Melaque for a couple of days to figure out just where we were going to go, and how we were going to get there.  We departed from Melaque just short of 8 weeks after we arrived. We dedided that we were going to take the bus to Zihuatanejo, the fourth largest city in the state of Guerrero. It was a first class, 12 hour bus ride that went surprisingly well and cost us each only $400 pesos (roughly $35 canadian). 

We arrived in Zihuatanejo at 5 am, and waited at the bus terminal until 7:00 when it got light out. Before we left Melaque, i wrote down the name of 2 hotels in Zihuat so that we could have a bit of an idea of where we were going to go when we arrived. So we climed into a cab and asked him to take us to the first ¨budget¨hotel on my list. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, and the cab just kind of dumped us off and took off. The place looked really sketchy on the outside, and when we rang the bell, there was no answer, so i phoned....also no answer. Then a guy from across the street told us that the hotel was no longer open...ugh... Luckily in mexico you can pretty much get a cab anywhere at anytime...so we only waited a few minutes before climbing into cab number two to take us to the next hotel on the list (which i first phoned to ensure that they could take us).  We ended up staying in Zihuatanejo for about a week. We met a cool guy that Benja recommended to us, named Sixto Mendez. He owns a surf shop in the centre of Zihuatanejo...really nice guy. He took us surfing everyday to a place called Playa Linda, a nice break that was not too big. From Zihuatanejo, we planned to go straight down to Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca.

Unfortunately, a direct bus from Zihuat to Puerto Escondido does not exist, and we were told that we would first have to take a bus at 8pm  to Acapulco, then connect with another bus departing for Puerto Escondido at 2am... meaning that we would only have a 2 hour wait between busses and arrive in the morning...perfect. We arrived in Acapulco on time, but ended up having to sleep on the floor in the bus station for 8 hours, as our connecting bus was sold out, and we had to wait for the next one...so that sucked....but we ended up getting on the next bus and arriving in Puerto Escondido the next day at 5pm. Puerto Escondido is a surf town known for its famous break at Zicatela Beach. It is known as the heaviest beach break in the world, and is second in size only to the hawaiian pipeline, so naturally, i was expecting something spectactular ( just to watch of course...not to surf...i would die) but...there was nothing spectacular about it. The water was flat...no waves...no gnarly surfers....no mind blowing, life changing experience....bummer... BUT, it was still a fun place....we just couldnt surf.... and that defeated the whole purpose of being there, so we left after 4 days to a destination just an hour south of Escondido called ¨Costa Chica¨which consists of 4 or 5 little fishing villages along the southern Oaxacan coast. We decided to stay in a town in the middle, called San Agustinillo, the only one of the towns that apparently had waves to surf. When we arrived, it looked amazing. A quiet little bay, with only a handful of local stores and guest houses, and a deserted beach with clear blue water and a nice wave to surf. Sounds too good to be true right?  Exactly.  The place is a complete tourist trap. Apparently lots of europeans go there...so as a result, everything cost an arm and a leg....it was rediculous how expensive it was, and nothing was opened after 8pm...and the nice wave....well, it wasnt so nice any time we tried to surf it... I wanted out of there after only a day...and so did Owen, so we hopped on the next bus outta there....back to Melaque....it would be a 30 hour journey.
This time, we took a bit of a different route. From Puerto Escondido we hopped on a first class bus for $500 pesos to Acapulco, where, we would connect with a direct bus 6 hours later that would take us straight through to Melaque. The differences in the first class buses between the different carriers is staggering. Some of the first class buses from one company will be complete shit, and so was the case with our bus from Acapulco to Melaque. When we arrived at the bus station to catch our connecting bus, we were joined by a massive group of native people....with more kids than adults (about 25 in total) all carting with them big rice bags stuffed with various oddities. The kids were wild children, and one of them infact, just decided he was going to take a shit in the middle of the floor of the bus station and dropped his pants and let it go....it couldnt believe it...so Owen jokes that they are all probably going to be on our bus...but i didnt think so, because our bus was a first class bus, and i couldnt imagine how this group of people would be able to afford the first class bus...but, when the bus arrived...they all piled on with us..joy oh joy...
Well, that was a bus ride from hell... the natives decide that they didnt need to use their seats and all decided they were going to sleep in the aisles, blocking anyone from using the toilet...and our bus driver decided that in order to make a bit of extra cash on the side, that he would pick up each and every person on the side of the road that wanted a ride, whether there was a seat for them or not....then, on top of that, just outside of Zihuatanejo, I felt a grinding jolt...and the bus wasn´t sounding too good... the bus stopped for about 2 hours, then carried on. I figured we had a flat tire, and that they had fixed it.... but when we got to manzanillo the next morning, they made us all pile off the bus.....turns out that one of the back wheels fell off, and they continued to drive for the next 8 hours with the wheel missing... well, they told us they were going to fix the wheel before we continued on  with the rest of our trip, so we waited another hour. Then the bus pulls up and the wheel is still missing!!! Seriously! so, we drove the rest of the way to melaque with one missing wheel, on the most ghetto ¨first class¨bus ive ever been on in my life....and arrived nearly 6 hours late. 

I am happy to be back in Melaque. We will be here until christmas, then will bus (yes, we will do the long journey once again) straight through to Guatemala, where we will be spending some time at a surf camp in Paredon on the west coast.
So, thats been mexico so far...in a nutshell....