Highway 200 south of Puerto Vallarta through Michoacan… A.K.A. Why Nexpa Sucks

When we left Bucerias we didn’t really have a plan. Just hit the next town 4-5 hours away and hope to find camping or access to a beach or remote location to boondock. The next place we planned to stop was Bahia de Navidad.

There are two towns – Barra de Navidad and San Patricio de Malaque (or Barra and Melaque)We went through Melaque first, as it was northern. The town was small, and had an extraordinary amount of French Canadians. Not that we are prejudiced, it’s just from our experience they neither speak English or Spanish so we decided that and RV park would be a waste of money (we wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with, and there were only like 3 rigs there anyway).

We were heading out of town when we spotted a familiar truck that we last saw in Kino Nuevo. http://www.SmoothieTribe.com / http://www.Acrobaticthoughts.com. A family traveling from Canada with (I think) 7 of their 9 kids, and a few guests – it’s a big crew! Everett and Karen recognized the vehicle as well, and ran out to get our attention before we drove off. They were kind enough to show us where they were camping, in a courtyard of a motel, in Barra. We checked it out, decided to look around a little more, but ended up back at their spot. There wasn’t any surf right now (as we were lead to believe from http://www.wannasurf.com), and there didn’t look to be anything going on, even though it was supposed to be King’s Day. We didn’t get such a deal as they did (120 pesos, and the bathrooms were ICKY and I already have low standards at this point – I didn’t want to shower there, and no hookups). The place was called something like the Seahorse Apartments.  The “Tribe” got a much better deal and use of an apartment with the bathroom and shower, because they were staying longer.

We had no idea where to next, but figured we would find something on this coastal highway and headed south again. We thought we would make it to Maruata, and hopefully catch up with Mike (the guy we met in San Carlos), but we stopped in a town an hour or so before. The town was a bunch of hotels, a few houses and a small mini-super. There weren’t really any tourists around, and it seemed everything was vacant. We had easy access to the beach though and decided to camp for the night, and maybe try to surf a little. There were two problems with this place – 1) It was hot. Like INCREDIBLY hot. We hadn’t dealt with heat this bad yet so it was hard on us and harder on the dogs. We got them set up with some shade though and they toughed it out like good doggies. 2) Sand fleas. Or biting flies. Or no-see-ums. Whatever the hell you want to call them, they are EVERYWHERE in Mexico (or at least on the beaches). We ended up having to build a low, smoldering fire (seems to do the trick) to combat the bug issue because no amount of Deet will keep these bad boys away.

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That droopy tarp was their shade, but they cooled off enough to wander around. This was the first time we left them off-leash 90 percent of the time. They were very good doggies.

Those two problems dealt with, we hit the surf. Or the surf hit us. It was shallow. Not really any more shallow than some spots we surfed in Sayulita, but the break was hard, and curled really fast, so if you were even just a smidge too far forward on your board you were taking a nose dive. I thought I had it figured out and rode a couple (ok like one), but when we came in, the damage was done, and I had broken a fin (WAH!). At least it’s the replaceable type, and not the shaped-in type. Tuna fish for dinner (Mike didn’t catch anything), and then we sat around our fire, before catching some ZZZ’s. The beach had a few party-goers later that night driving around on the hard-packed sand, but other than that, it was a quiet evening.

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Mike attempting to catch us some dinner.

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The kind of beach you can drive all over.

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Camp

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Me and Barley jumping around…. so excited for beach camping!

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More pretty sunsets

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Beach car wash.

We found out, when leaving the town we had stayed in was called San Miguel de Alima. We couldn’t find it on any map, but it’s there. That’s actually a common thing in Mexico. A lot of towns are there, but not on maps (not even Google maps!). Back on 200, we drove through a bunch of towns along the coast, and even through Maruata (no Mike), but ended up in Rio Nexpa.

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Mike thought you’d like to see a dead donkey and a vulture. There are a LOT of vultures along coastal Mexico. And big domestic animals are one of the reasons you don’t drive at night. This donkey was dead on a blind corner, probably from a passing motorist.

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Some views from the road

There are two Nexpa’s. There is the beach area/surf tourist community of Nexpa, and then there is the real town of Nexpa (a kilometer or so south, away from the beach). Both offer little in the way of activities or food/beverage options.

Arriving in town, we drove along the beach, and spotted a ton of surfers. OK, we thought, so this is where we need to be to surf. We spotted some palapa campgrounds, some bungalows, but no RV parks or dry camping. We stopped at a small convenience/surf shop to ask about camping and, Jorge, of “Jorge and Helen’s” said, (in perfect English) “You can park over there (referring to a grassy lot across the street) and camp. I charge 50 pesos a day and you have use of a bathroom and showers”. Sounded good to us (you’ll see why this was important later). We set up camp, made some eggs (all Jorge’s store offered as a protein) and wandered around to check out the beach and the surf. The surf there is strange, and hard to handle if you aren’t experienced. Jorge suggested we head a little away from the rivermouth, and the break was sandy bottomed and there wouldn’t really be anyone over there (so we wouldn’t have to worry about being in anyone’s way). Along with food and beverages, we also bought new fins for my board, and Jorge did a small repair on Mike’s board, all from their little store – all in all about 1000 pesos in 2 days. For us that’s a lot, but the fins were 500 of that, and we bought two hats. Aside from all that, we got a very “asshole-ish” (like just straight up rude sometimes) vibe from Jorge and some of the people around. While most came across as friendly we felt pretty exiled in our random campground.

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Bungalows of Nexpa

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Beach – it looked really pretty from out in the water.

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We surfed as well as we could the next day, but I didn’t get much accomplished, while Mike was doing pretty well.  We were thinking of staying a few more days, so we asked about bungalow prices. They are pretty reasonable, but it’s basically camping with 4 walls. We figured we could just camp a few more days and get some more practice in. The next day, Mike whined about getting roadkill chicken (Richard and Ashley of www.desktoglory.com called it that once, and it stuck – pollo asado is the actual name) so we had to pack up everything, and head to Caleta, the next, bigger town south. We got some groceries, and Mike got his chicken, and we were back before lunch. Afternoon surfing wasn’t much better than the previous morning, except we both stood up that day, and we were feeling pretty stoked about the next day. Aside from some scratches on our feet from the rocks getting out of the surf, and I may have lost my surf shirt to the river current, we got out of two days of fairly rough surf unscathed.

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Fruiteria in Caleta

After showers and cleaning up, Jorge approached Mike about renting a room again. He offered it for 250 pesos (without WiFi). A good deal, but we are on a budget so we said no thanks (again). He then proceeded to say, something like “what’s the big deal, you’re already paying 100? What’s 150 more?” Wait, what? If I remember correctly we already discussed a price of 50 pesos per day. Well he meant 50 pesos PER PERSON. Well thanks for clearing that up two days later, asshole. Mike said, after that little surprise, that we would pay for what we owed and just leave, since the price just doubled.  While I wasn’t happy about it, but I also wasn’t about to stay anywhere near that guy. I didn’t trust him.

The guy got all pissy and said that he would have charged us 50 pesos a day, except we had shit everywhere and the dogs. HUH? He saw the dogs when we were asking about camping, so that’s a cop out, and we had the tent open and a table and chairs out. Shit everywhere? I knew he was an asshole from the beginning but that was more than I was really expecting. OK so that escalated quickly. Then he proceeded to tell us that attitudes like ours get people killed in Mexico (no attitudes present, seriously. We were just surprised and were going to pay and be on our way – for those of you who know Mike, you may know he has a short temper – he literally was cool, calm and collected. Even I was surprised), oh and by the way “White people don’t last in Mexico” while making the motion of a gun to his head. So now he’s threatening us? Awesome. He finished by telling us he didn’t need our fucking money, so we didn’t fucking pay him. He made enough off us anyway. With that lovely conversation finished, we packed up everything (all our “shit” packed away in just about 15 minutes- tent, annex, table, chairs, dogs, and all of our wet stuff from showering), and headed south again. The most annoying thing was, he pulled this stunt at 5pm. Sun sets around 6:45. That meant we had under 2 hours to find a place to camp for the night. Super. Asshole.

Luckily for us, Playa Azul was about an hour drive away. We drove around there looking for camping or RV parks but finding none. Just after dark we drove by a waterfront restaurant and a lady shouted she had rooms to rent. I hopped out and asked about the rooms, explained about the dogs and asked about safe parking. I’m getting good at this Spanish stuff. 200 pesos, and we had a room, secure parking, dogs were fine, there were hammocks to relax in, the restaurant right outside, and we could surf. We were golden. We spent two nights in Playa Azul (left this morning) and, while we did surf, it wasn’t great. It was shallow also, but the break wasn’t that hard so not so much of a risk of breaking anything. We did spot a cool sunken ship just off the coast, and after wandering around town, strolled a few miles down the beach to take a closer look.

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From far away, it looked like a giant Snoopy head

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Playa Azul

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Front view of the ship

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Me, wet and giving up on walking out to the ship

San Miguel De Alima: Private, nice beach, no surf, too many sand fleas, no food, and probably 98% Mexicans. We spotted a few old ex-pats wandering around. Ok place to stop for the night, if you have food and can get on and off the beach (easy enough, we saw a 90’s Maxima do it).

Playa Azul: Had 99.9% Mexicans (we spotted one BC plate), had good food, meh surf, some cool sights, and slightly fewer sand fleas than Nexpa. Not so bad. Also, we got back on budget (YAY!). OK spot to stop for a day or two.

Why Nexpa Sucks: The only WiFi in town was at Jorge’s (if you paid for a room), and the telcel stick worked, but only kinda (red light). The restaurants were small and mostly looked like no one was working there, except a few times, so we have no idea of the prices. Food is all in Caleta, unless you catch and clean your own fish. The people are all, or mostly, surfers. Surfers, from our experience, are cliquish (at least from our observations). The only people who were friendly to us were local Mexican surfers who came to Nexpa to surf, and one chick from NY who was also nice. So, unless you surf really well, and don’t try to live on any sort of budget, don’t go there. We got more bug bites in two days there than an entire month in Bucerias.  I could go on, but you get the point. My biggest point is, even if you do go to Nexpa, probably to surf, please don’t go to Jorge & Helens. Anywhere else please. Most of the other people don’t speak any English but it’s ok, they’re the nice ones.

A side note about land travel through Michoacan: The USG has warnings regarding firefights and serious threats to tourists through Michoacan. Travelers we know who traveleled through Michoacan on Highway 200 the week prior to us encoutered “indigenous” roadblocks. Roadblocks set up by locals to money from motorists. That was the most violence they saw, but they didn’t end up paying anything, just rolled through, or around the road blocks. Road blocks set up by TCO’s look like military/police and have guns. Stop and cooperate if you encounter something like this (your car/cellphone/money/whatever isn’t worth your life). We were lucky enough on our trip through Michoacan to encounter neither  TCO nor indigenous roadblocks. While leaving and crossing into Guerrero, we did see (in police or mechanic lots) windows of vehicles shot out, and police riot truck completely burned out. The violence is real, but if you travel safely (toll/main highways) you have a better chance at avoiding it. Currently, we are in the state of Guerrero, another state with severe warnings. We have made it as far as Acapulco with no issues (ok everyone knock on wood for us). We plan to head to the state of Oaxaca when we leave here, a state with no travel warnings.   Safe Travels all around!

One more side note: You can follow us on instagram @tiffany_rox or @mfriguy or on facebook: Tiffany Frieary or Mike Frieary (search and ye shall find).

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