PART 9 – Dec. 16, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010
We last left our stupefied travellers at Playa Novillero, just south of Mazatlan, ready for some serious relaxation after a grinding drive through the Copper Canyon and the Sierra Madre mountains.
This “lost” video clip shows how happy Roz was to finally feel the warm Pacific waters at the wonderful RV resort of Punta San Miguel.
And now, back to our story.
Have you ever been hit by a car? And then a train? And then had a Brazilian soccer team tap dance on your corpse with their cleats on? Well, that’s what dengue fever feels like. I know because both Roz and I contracted it within a week of arriving in Novillero. Our original plan was to spend the Christmas holidays at our favourite Mexican beach, play in the water, hang out with our pal, Vicki, and catch up on some blog writing. Then after the New Year, we’d continue our journey south. But that plan was hatched when we were healthy and thought the idea of staying in a dilapidated hotel was romantic. Now, as we painfully lay in our lumpy bed staring at the cracked ceiling at three in the morning unable to sleep, we had only one goal: escape from dengue death camp.
Dengue fever sucks. First there’s an intensely hot fever that lasts a day or so. Once that subsides, you’re treated to aching bones, low energy, no appetite and sleepless nights for a week. Our experience was further intensified by living in a hell hole. The old hotel that Vicki was housesitting had no running water which meant each time we used our room’s toilet, one of us would have to retrieve two buckets of water from the well to throw down the bowl. Not so bad normally – awful with dengue. Every flush job left us sprawled on our bed with exhaustion for an hour afterward. Then there were the Buick-sized cockroaches which lived under the other bed in our room. I sprayed the room with pesticide the first night, but that only stunned them. Every night after that, I’d find a couple of roaches that finally fell to the floor muttering, “I’m not dead yet.” As the he-man bug killer, my job was to then beat them with a broom and sweep the ugly brutes outside. If staying in our room became too much and if we could muster up enough energy, we could go sit outside and be greeted with the view of a crumbling concrete building complete with a swimming pool half-filled with green murky water. No doubt, this pool was home to our dengue-carrying mosquito. All in all, it was a dismal place to be sick.
(ROZ: While each phase of dengue fever hit me hard, the worst part for me was my loss of appetite, since I LOVE FOOD. I would spend my sleepless nights going through a huge list of foods in my mind, trying to imagine myself eating a bowl of pasta or a big salad or a papaya, only to feel my stomach doing flips of disapproval. The only imaginary food that my body didn’t reject and that I began to crave in a BIG way were Strubb’s dill pickled tomatoes – which only added to my misery knowing that I would never be able to satisfy that craving.)
But after a week, our health slowly returned and we were able to make little forays to the beach for a change of scenery. We also went to the local clinic where a young doctor from La Paz confirmed that we did indeed have dengue fever. But since there’s no cure, all he could do was prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for the aches and encourage us to rehydrate with electrolytes. Roz and Vicki (there for a swollen thumb), were quite smitten by the handsome doctor, and would have spent the rest of they day there asking him questions and insisting on a complete physical if I hadn’t quickly thanked him and ushered the women out.
(ROZ: No comment about the doctor. Sigh. But I gotta say I was thoroughly impressed that even a tiny ejido like Novillero, with a population of approximately 500, could attract such a qualified doctor from a big city like La Paz. In fact, everyone at the clinic was friendly, helpful and thoroughly professional. And to top it all off, the visit only cost the equivalent of $4 USD.)
As much as we had enjoyed Vicki’s company, we were both ready to leave Hotel Dengue. We were also ready to leave Novillero – not just now, but possibly forever – which was a huge revelation for us. This little fishing village had figured so prominently in our lives and discussions of future “lifestyle” plans for over 15 years that we were both pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to let it all go. But after a week of dengue fever and listening to Vicki’s stories of its petty small town politics, we realized that perhaps it was time to look elsewhere for our paradise. And that’s a good thing when embarking on a journey of Latin America – you never know what you may find on the road.
With big hugs, we bid farewell to Vicki and her animals. How strange to be on the road again in our still-weakened states. The countryside seemed so much greener then before – it almost seemed to pulse. Maybe I should have waited a couple more days to recover, but I didn’t care. It just felt good to be off my back.
We drove south through the state of Nayarit in search of a place on a beach with a comfortable bed, working toilet, wi-fi and no chemical-resistant roaches – a tall order during the busy Christmas holiday season. As we turned off the highway for San Blas, we got weakly excited. In the three times we had been to Novillero in the past, we had never explored south of there. This was finally new territory! But my excitement waned as the road began to twist and turn its way through the jungle towards the coast. We both got a little dizzy from all the curves, but thankfully, they didn’t last too long and we were soon in San Blas. It’s too bad that we didn’t have much of an appetite because the place seemed to have lobster for sale at every second restaurant. Damn! Next time, my fine crustaceous friends. Next time.
We spent the night at the lovely Posado Del Rey hotel where, with wi-fi, I learned that our friend in Vancouver had sold Roz’s motorcycle. Yeah! (Thanks Rusty, you’re one good friend!) We took full advantage of our room’s hot shower and working toilet and slept long and deeply on our firm bed. Unfortunately, the hotel was a bit pricey so, with reluctance, we left the next day to find cheaper digs further south.
And so began an interesting week of hard driving, looking for a place to recover. Each place we found was great, but there was always something missing, which would push us onward to find that “perfect place”. In hindsight, I don’t think we were in a good mental state to travel, but there you go – this blog is about how NOT to travel.
The journey south of San Blas went roughly like this. Puerto Vallarta was huge, full of gringos and we couldn’t find camping on or near the beach so we carried on to Boca de Tomatlan where we rented a nice house for Christmas Eve. It was located in a lovely cove, but it was too expensive to stay so we left the next day and drove to San Patricio Melaque. Melaque was a sweet beach town, but it was also our first introduction to the Canadian Snowbirds (and I don’t mean the pilots performing death-defying feats in the air). There were Canadian RVs everywhere! Especially at the little beachfront RV campground we stayed at. We were the only tent there and felt completely closed in by all the behemoth RVs surrounding us, so once again, we pushed on after a night. We checked out at a couple of nice-looking surf spots along the Michoacan coast, but none felt right until we got to the beautifully curved beach of Maruata. We spent a couple of days there, but crying babies at night, primitive bathrooms and no wi-fi urged us on in our futile hunt for perfection. In Playa Azul, we found wi-fi in the Hotel Playa Azul, but since we were camped in the five star hotel’s parking lot, we felt out of place again and only stayed for two days. One thing we liked about Playa Azul (besides the lovely beach) was that it was packed with holidaying Mexican families from Mexico City, but hardly any gringos. It felt good to be the minority for a change. But the parking lot existence (and all the birds shitting on our tent) was enough to move us further down the coast.
(ROZ: On the plus side, the Michoacan coast was a completely new discovery for us, an unexpected pleasure of one beautiful, undeveloped beach after another. I told Trond that I’d like to return one day on motorcycle – packed very lightly – and spend a few months exploring every single beach along this beautiful piece of Mexican coast. He liked that idea too.)
The last spurt of stupid travel took us to the outskirts of Acapulco to Pie de la Cuesta – which was perfectly situated between the ocean and a huge fresh water lagoon. We spent one night on the ocean side in yet another packed RV park so the next day, we moved to a cheaper, near-empty campground on the lagoon side. This was on Dec. 31st. To ring in 2010, we wisely decided to head into Acapulco, where the driving was the worst yet and the traffic was relentless – one big honking mess of a jam after another. It was proof of our healthy recovery that we actually enjoyed the madness! (ROZ: Trond was truly in his element, driving with the agressiveness of a New Yorker, and the “anything goes” mentality of a Mexican. At one point, realizing that we were definitely going nowhere fast in one jam, he followed the lead of a taxi and swerved into a parking lot with an exit at one end that would take us out to another street. Little did we know that you had to “pay” the attendant 10 pesos to get through the chain guard and onto the street.)
We ate lunch, did some banking, looked for replacement tent poles at a Walmart (no luck) and then went to Acapulco Bay to see how the locals rang in the New Year. We weren’t disappointed. Unbeknownst to us, a dozen hotels along the Bay had prepared firework displays so that when midnight rolled around, the entire Bay lit up with firey explosions in the sky. It was incredible – we didn’t know where to look. They went on for over ten minutes without stop. And then they started up again! It was the most visually exciting New Year’s I’d ever experienced. And the loudest!
After some sushi (yes, real, not too terrible, sushi), we returned to Pie de la Cuesta at four in the morning feeling deliriously happy. And that’s where we stayed for a week. We just couldn’t leave. While it didn’t have wi-fi for me to post the blog, the little campground, Quinta Dora, had solitude. Two days after New Year’s, its few guests left and we were the only ones there. We spent the days reading in hammocks, swimming in the ocean, swimming in the lagoon and eating at the local restaurants. We finally got the rest and relaxation we were looking for. It had been a long haul getting here and it wasn’t what we had planned, but we got just what we needed and just in time. The Universe really is friendly, isn’t it?
END OF PART 9