Mexico – The First Week (La primera semana)

Posted from Aticama, Nayarit, Mexico.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

We crossed the border into Mexico last week Tuesday.  If you want the details, see our most recent post.  The short version is that all went very smoothly and we spent the night in a very clean and nice RV park in San Carlos for about $15.

Wednesday we left San Carlos and drove over five hours to our next stop in Los Mochis.  The grand scheme was to cross the border on Tuesday and arrive in Aticama on Friday, so we broke the trip down into four equal distances for each day of driving.  We saw many interesting things, even on the toll road.  Again are the issues involved with speed limits: sometimes we genuinely had no idea what they are supposed to be because too often there are no signs to tell us.  On the tollway, the top speed could be anywhere from 80-110 k.p.h.  And (we’ve said this before) since we have not budgeted for speeding tickets, nor do we want to deal with Mexican (Spanish-speaking) police when we currently have such a slight grasp of the language, we drive the speed limit and get totally passed by buses, semis, pick-up trucks from the States loaded to the sky with stuff, grandmothers on bicycles… you name it.

Is anybody there? Apollo?

In any case, we made it to Los Mochis before 2 p.m. and went to the only RV park/campground in town, which was in the middle of town.  One would think that being the only game in Los Mochis would be good for business, but there must have been some detail we were missing.  Not only were we the only ones there when we arrived, we were still the only ones there when we left 18 hours later.  The place was little more than a parking lot with no shade, but it was fairly clean yet slightly more expensive than the very nice place in San Carlos.  But for $16, we passed the time by giving Erik a haircut, trying to teach ourselves Backgammon, and drinking our final bottle [sob] of Cabernet Sauvignon from Wines of the San Juan.  The nice thing was that they locked the gates at night so we felt pretty safe.  The curious thing was that we had no idea when anyone would return to unlock the gate in the morning so we could leave.  (Someone did show up to open it pretty close to the time we planned to leave.  Whew!)  But someone needs to inform the Los Mochis roosters that roam about that it is completely unnecessary for them to crow from midnight until 7 a.m.

View from the campground in Mazatlan

The coast in Mazatlan

Despite tolls, police check points, and cows grazing in the highway median, our Thursday driving was again thankfully uneventful.  In fact, we have yet to even enter into a conversation with anyone at a checkpoint.  We must look too innocent – or clueless.  Thursday night was in Mazatlan, and even though the RV park was dwarfed in the shadows of all the neighboring towering resorts and condo buildings, because it was just a short walk to the beach we had to shell out around $25 for nothing more than a parking space.  But we did take advantage of the beach and went for a long walk, which was very welcomed after the days of driving.  We both felt it odd that the beaches were almost completely deserted.  If there were people staying at the resorts, we didn’t see them.  But then again, Christmas is coming up so despite being dead now, the area will probably get more crowded this week and next.

Mazatlan Resorts

Joe looks out into the ocean






Friday morning it took longer than expected for us to leave Mazatlan, because for some reason we couldn’t find a gas station for the life of us.  It took about an additional 30 minutes (thanks, in part, to a wild goose chase initiated by Emily, our GPS), but the good news is that we actually got to see Real Mazatlan, as opposed to Tourist Mazatlan.  Driving down the main roads in the morning, we saw people opening their businesses, selling newspapers, driving to work, etc.  After over three hours, we finally left the toll road for the small town roads of Mexico, which is a completely different world.  The cities are smaller, the speed limits are lower (not that anyone cares – they still drive fast), but there is more culture, more people, more colors – more Mexico – to see.  And lots of dogs roaming about.

Our spacious living quarters for the next two weeks

Just outside of Aticama, a small fishing village of around 600 people, we arrived at our next Help Exchange, a farm that works hard to be self-sustaining.  (More details about the farm will be in the next post.)  The hosts, both American, are wonderfully nice people, who also take in stray dogs from the area; and so we were greeted by several barking pooches, too.  (This is a real issue in Mexico: so many unclaimed dogs roaming about in search for food.  They are almost always gentle, never vicious or scary.  As dog lovers, this situation makes us very sad.)  We also met fellow helpers who have already been here for several weeks and know their way around the area quite well.  That first day they showed us around the farm and then took us into town, where we bought food supplies at the corner market (mercado), had pizza, and then walked back to the farm in the dark.

Dig that digging Erik

Saturday morning was our first day of work, which consisted of garden work such as picking rocks, digging holes, and shoveling and hauling wheelbarrows of broken coffee bean shells, which make great fertilizer.  It was fun and not stressful in the least.  In the afternoon we and our fellow helpers took the bus to nearby San Blas to go exploring.  We went to markets (at one we bought two bags of produce including carrots, broccoli, tangerines, limes, an onion, and bananas for just over $4), we walked to beach, had a really fun time, got some ice cream, and then took a taxi back to Aticama.  It was a super fun day with lots of walking, so we were tired by the time we got back home (again walking in the dark).

Looking back at the beach in nearby San Blas

Our initial thoughts of Mexico: we absolutely love it.  And it is so easy to differentiate between Real Mexico and Tourist Mexico.  Tourist Mexico caters so much to Americans (and Canadians) that it might as well just be a part of the U.S.  Billboards are in English (usually advertising real estate), restaurants serve typical American and Americanized-Mexican food, and so much of everything just seems contrived.  On the other hand, Real Mexico has streets lined with restaurants all serving the same food but by different owners who come to your table to calculate your bill aloud then announce your total with no paper involved, corner markets filled with brightly colored packages of crap food but also large bulk bags of beans and great produce where they record all your purchases in a lined notebook, and best of all people who always – no kidding, always – seem to be happy.  Sure there are issues in some places: piles of garbage on the side of the road, cars that spit dirty exhaust, homeless dogs, bad roads, and a lack of money – but the people are still happy.  It is so obvious to see that they work very hard, but they appreciate each other and life in general in the most wonderful way.  What’s not to love?

And in that spirit… we just want to mention that if any of our beloved readers were hoping to bestow upon us some holiday generosity on our first holiday season living in a truck, there are two easy ways to do so.  On the Share page, your can visit our Amazon Wish List (consisting exclusively of inexpensive Kindle books that we are interested in, but we would equally love a Kindle book not on the list if you think we would enjoy it; we just love to read) for the two humans on this adventure; or if you would rather brighten up Apollo’s Christmas morning you can send him a gift through PayPal.  We really only have two expenses on this trip, gas and food.  We are definitely not out shopping for new wardrobes, downloading music, or going to pricey restaurants.  We just have what we need to get by.  And, of course, never feel pressured by a certain amount; we can stretch a peso like no one else, so any amount can go very far.  We only mention this because we know some of you are thinking about it.  (Also, someone’s birthday is coming up in early January…see Calendar – hee hee.)

But most importantly, we ask that you continue to stay in touch.  We really appreciate all your comments and emails.  We are having the time of our lives so far, but we still like to be as connected so our friends and family as we can be and share in your lives as you are sharing in ours.  Even if we have periods where it is hard to reply to your comments (which we usually do privately) or emails, it means the world to us that you take the time to write a few quick words.

¡Feliz Hanukkah! and ¡Feliz Navidad! if we don’t post again before then!

Saturday night sunset in Aticama

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5 Responses to Mexico – The First Week (La primera semana)

  1. Valerie says:

    Hey guys!
    Greetings from Québec City!
    Hope you have a safe and Merry Christmas!
    My mom and I send you our best wishes!

  2. Anne says:

    The map is becoming awesome; you’ve already covered a lot of ground. I look forward to hearing about your experiences in coming unfamiliar cultures. Your confidence and courage awesome. It strikes me that it is only from reading about your experiences that I will come to know Mexico and points beyond. How wonderful that you can travel and write–and that I can read what you have written.

    Happy Holidays. The Nutcracker performances are coming to a close. I accompanied three last weekend. Earlier in the season I saw one in St. Petersburg and it was fun to focus on the stage and not just the music. Do mariachi bands play the La Fee Dragee?

  3. Alice Williams says:

    I love the look of your new living quarters and I hope you will send us pix of the inside as well. Glad you guys are being careful about speed limits and such… When do you start your Spanish lessons?
    ¡Feliz Navidad! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

  4. Gary says:

    Happy holidays and new year, guys.

  5. Merie says:

    I love reading about your adventures in each place!

    Cora and I just read an article (in American Girl magazine for heaven’s sake) about a family that built their own RV-like vehicle and drove around Great Britain, Western Europe, Turkey, and Eastern Europe. It made me think of you guys and your extraordinary vehicle!

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