Manzanillo to Santiago Pinotepa Nacional. 2nd February 2001 - 8490 Miles.
A quality bike shop in Manzanillo sold all the Shimano spares, decent tyres etc., but still had no front bar-bag. Only one mile-o-meter was available but it was a wireless type at about 30 pounds. Not only did we think it too expensive, but a wireless type is twice as likely to go wrong. David replaced one of the chains and rode up and down. The rear sprockets were too far worn and also needed replacement. All together we bought two chains, two rear cassettes, another rear view mirror, a cheap bike stand, a metal tyre lever and a tube of glue. The total was 700 pesos (48 pounds). A reminder to touring cyclists that intend to cycle in Mexico or Latin America: We have seen no nine speed chains anywhere - if you have eight speed any chain will do. Only a nine speed chain will run on a nine speed cassette.
Joan finally managed to phone home, but Mum Wooldridge couldn't hear what she was saying probably due to the phone line. Only an answerphone answered at Paul and Wendy's. A call to Adam succeeded. Internet access at Manzanillo was 2 dollars an hour.
Transmission running sweetly and clean, we made our way out of town on a back road along the beach. After 10 miles it joined a motorway with hardly any traffic and a nice wide shoulder. Five miles further on we found out why it was traffic free. A woman in a toll booth asked us for 67 pesos each (4.50pounds) each and pointed to a silouette of a motorcycle. We said we were not on motorcycles and shouldn't pay. Prolonged argument brought out the reinforcements and we were told cycles were not even allowed. More arguments and they gave in as the road went another 200 miles and we turned off in the next 100 yards.
A very short day at 30 miles to Paraiso where we found a beachfront hotel with balcony overlooking the sea for 100 pesos. (By now, our readers should be able to convert pesos to pounds to dollars! We will introduce you to Guatemala Quetzals next month) By the side of the hotel was a small river leading to an inland lagoon. A sign said¨"Danger, crocodiles" (in Spanish of course). In the early hours, we were awoken by the persistent barking of two dogs answering each other. David went out onto the balcony and picked up a stone to throw at the dogs. The first shot resulted in a yelp and one of the dogs stopped barking. The other soon stopped as well. In the morning both dogs were o.k., so the stone didn't do any permanent harm.
One of the common features of Mexican hotels is that the water is turned off for several hours a day - mostly at night. If you haven't washed - tough luck.
The coast road for the next 150 miles was like the Big Sur in California. It was up and down about 500ft a time with no flat parts. The first big town with hotels was passed at 50 miles and we cycled through intending to stop at the next suitable spot. 30 miles later with half an hour before dark we rode into a small fishing village and camped on the beach under a talapa. "Beware of the robbers" we were told. "If you leave your bikes here they will be gone in the morning". The bikes were locked together under the tent vestibule and various booby traps installed by David. We slept soundly knowing that if our bikes moved we would know about it and the robbers would get a nasty surprise. (For security reasons we cannot give details here!)
Another day of ups and downs with wonderful sea views. Treated ourselves to a 250 peso hotel with sea views. Passed the 8000 mile mark today. Miles of unidentified trees in orchards were finally found to be mangos.
Lazaro Cardenas is a largish port town with a Mexican navy base. There is nothing much else but we stayed two days in a small hotel at 60 pesos a night. In the room next door we heard the screeching of a parrot and on investigation found the room to be full of bird cages with exotic birds of all sorts. A large mango tree overhung our window. We have now found out that all mangos are picked green and ripen to bright orange off the tree. A large football sized papaya costs about 60 pence and takes a lot of eating!
At last, we managed to get up while it was still dark and be ready for the road at daybreak. This way, we took full advantage of the cool mornings before the real heat of the afternoon. 74 miles were covered by 2p.m. Another 80 pesos hotel, with no window in the room, at Zihuatanejo (pronounce that!), missing the large tourist resort at Ixtapa.
An aside for the British motorists who whinge about traffic calming. They should come to Mexico where every town and village has its own system of traffic calming. The large concrete strips in the road are up to 1 ft high and everything has to negotiate them at walking pace. They are called topes and are very effective and cheap. Another way of keeping traffic speed down in the towns is to let the road deteriorate to a very bumpy surface and to concentrate road repair outside of towns.
Our plans at present are to go up into the mountains again from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ca) and keep in the mountains until we get to the Guatemala border. But, our plans have changed before.
As most people know, nouns in Spanish and indeed most non-English languages are either male or female. This can have some interesting results if you get it wrong. Our Whisperlite cooking stove can use any fuel but works best on white gas or Coleman fuel which is just a clean version of petrol without the additives. It is not easy to obtain in Mexico, but is available in some hardware stores (ferreterias) under the name of blanca gasolina. David mistakenly asked for blanco gasolino (the male gender) and got white spirit, which is used for thinning paint! I suppose the female form is more pure and volatile than the thicker male form?
The map shows a minor coast road from Coyuca to Acapulco. We soon found out why it was so quiet. It ended at an estuary with the road continuing a mile away on the other side. Never mind, a small boat and ten pesos later and we were on our way again. Oh! for a decent Ordinance Survey Map! Having already decided on a short day and to avoid Acapulco we looked around a small village called Pie de la Cuesta and found a gorgeous little hotel with courtyard. David knocked them down from 200 to 120 pesos.
This hotel, called the Hotel Paraiso is higly recommended and is about a quarter of a mile from the junction at Pie de Cuesta heading towards Barra de Coyuca on the beach side next to the church.
For several days now, David's gears have been playing up. The index was only half-working and needed constant adjustments. After many attempts to adjust the gears the problem was finally found. The gear cable had frayed at the changer and a new cable cured the problem.
Heading through Acapulco we decided to start at daybreak to avoid as much traffic as possible. The coast road all round the bay looked flat on the map but it climbed 1000ft before descending to the airport the other side. Yet another road that ended at a river. The bridge shown on our map had collapsed in tornado Pauline. Another 10 pesos ferry was needed.
It now gets very hot midday and we try to get most of our cycling done by 2oclock. An early start usually gives us about 60 miles by then.
In San Marcos both of us decided to have a haircut. The women spent at least half an hour on each of us while at the same time giving us Spanish lessons. The haircuts were excellent and she asked only 30 pesos for both of us. We insisted she took 50 pesos.
Quite a lot of hotels offer rooms with or without TV, air conditioning, fan and even toilets can be an option. The less you have the cheaper the price. Today we were stumped. "With or without Azulejos", which we had never heard of and was not in our dictionary. As it was only 20 pesos extra we decided we would have some. It turned out to be tiles. Either plain concrete walls and floor or all tiled!