Southern Coast

On the way south from Zihua, we stopped for breakfast at Barra de Petatlan. The road in to the handful of small restaurants that attract the laid back tourist skirts mangroves that are teaming with egrets and other waterfowl. The picture at right from 1996 shows Karen perfecting the hair flip.

Also in 1996 we stayed at a small hotel in Pie de la Cuesta, just a few miles outside of Acapulco. The handful of travelers who stay in Pie de la Cuesta certainly don't come for the swimming. Although the waves here don't look that bad, the sea floor drops off quickly from the water's edge. The waves can easily slam you into the bottom and then refuse to let you go. The towns main claim to fame are its sunsets, and tourists from Acapulco throng to the small estacionamientos that gladly fill the need for coco locos, cuba libres and beach chairs for the hour before and after sunset. Those who stay are here more to enjoy the lack of anything to do than anything else. Although I found myself a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice on my first visit here in 1969 (a story for another time), I harbor no ill will for the place, and always try to include a short stop here when I can. We were thrilled that our rigs could be the source of amusement for this fellow biker (above) who was on his return leg from Guatemala.  At right is the obligatory sunset shot. Not anywhere near others I have enjoyed here.

Entering the Oaxacan coast as we head south I show just what a sucker I am for an interesting tree.

This section of the coast is still not that well traveled, and laundry days like the one above are still not that uncommon. Like the road north from Acapulco to Zihuat, this section south to Puerto Escondido is less than 150 miles but on my first visit here was more than a ten hour drive. This river in those days was a ford.

Because of the strong waves Puerto Escondido is a bit more popular with surfers than with other tourists and those that do visit are here for the more relaxed atmosphere found in the surfer haunts. It also apparently appeals to motorcyclists as well. We encountered three different groups traveling by bike--two of them in the same hotel that we stayed at. The town has also done a remarkable job of keeping the beach nice by separating the few hotels at the beach level behind a street that fronts the beach. The only thing on the beach side of the road are a handful of seafood restaurants and a few places for bathers to change clothes. The majority of the hotels sit along the cliff top that parallels the beach. On the days that we were there the waves were quite calm and swimming was possible. The majority of people out on the waves were on little boogie boards that can be rented everywhere like in the photo above. Occasionally there would be something big enough to get up on a regular board. (below)

Our next stop heading south was San Agustinilla, which sits just south of a major sea turtle reserve. It is a few klicks north of Zipolite which is a well known hangout for Mexican teens who wish they had grown up in the sixties. Zipolite was the scene of a very unfortunate incident on our trip through here in 96, and we found ourselves departing in haste (another story for another time). One can see though what makes San Agustinilla such a popular spot and the view from our hotel balcony in the hour just before sunset had the quality of light that made it look like an artist's pastel. We could see why it was chosen as the site for this wedding ceremony (below).

Heading inland you must first pass through Puerto Angel before beginning the climb into the Sierra Madre. When viewed on a map, San Miquel Suchixtepec appears to be only about 1/4 of the way to the city of Oaxaca. What measures as 100 miles as the crow flies for the entire trip, turns out to be 148 driving miles. It does however climb from sea level to more than 8,000 feet in just over 40 miles, and accounts for about half of the driving time. The picture at left is from 1996 and the one at right from 2009. As you can see there has not been any dramatic change over time. This road, named for Porfirio Diaz, was begun even before Diaz' 30 year reign during the presidency of his predecessor Benito Juarez in the 1870's. It was over 100 years later before the road was paved in its entirety. My first time across this road was as a hitchhiker in the back of a pickup truck with a family from Aspen Colorado. Their 4 wheel drive unit proved to be an absolute necessity when it came to fording rivers. I recall wondering why they insisted on leaving by 5 am, but it turned out that you had to leave at that time to reach Oaxaca before dark. Guide books still advise allowing 8-9 hours for the 148 miles even today.

The plaza that fronts the church in San Miquel Suchixtepec was deserted, and we had to seek out some children whose voices we heard around the back to find a place to eat. Behind us to the left in this photo and down a steep path was an unmarked place with several tables but with nobody inside. At the boys' insistence we went in and had to call out several times before a lady appeared and asked what we wanted. Still not sure, we asked if this was a restaurant and were assured it was. They had no menu, but asked what we would like, so in keeping it simple we asked for huevos a la Mexicana. The lady then walked outside and called out to someone who turned out to be one of the boys who directed us there and sent him scurrying off to buy bolillos and eggs. As visitors we were treated like royalty, our coffee mugs were kept full, and we were asked repeatedly if we wanted more of anything--and all of this for about 1/2 of what breakfast would cost along the coast. When we returned to the plaza which had been deserted when we arrived, nearby doorways were full of nonchalant looking young people trying desperately to conceal their curiosity. Did I mention that we LOVE traveling by motorcycle.