Mexico – ye gotta come here

Tapachula & Road South Acaplcu Puerto Vallarta & Sayulita Zihuatanejo Puerto Escondido

Photos: (1) Tapachula & Road South, (2) Acapulco, (3) Puerto Vallarta, (4) Zihautanejo and (5) Puerto Escondido.

I’ve now driven Mexico’s western coastline more than once, visited some great cities and small towns and met many fantastic people. Originally I expected to spend three weeks here. As I prepare to leave for Guatemala, I’ll have spent just over two months in this wonderful country. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, which explains why I haven’t posted a blog for sometime. Just been too busy with very little down time. So instead of sharing my Mexico experience by instalment, you’ve got it all in one shot.

My extra time in Mexico was partly by necessity and partly by choice. The former owing to bike repairs and been ill for a week and the latter because I simply liked the places visited and wasn’t ready to move on. I saw the beauty of this coastline three times now. First, driving to meet Tommy in Acapulco, returning to Puerto Vallarta (PV) to collect my bike and then riding south again toward Guatemala. This is a coastline for which a repeat trip is not a regret.

Where Baja California is Mexico’s desert landscape the drive south through the states of Jalisco, Guerrero and Chiapas amongst others takes you through the country’s lush greenery. The greenery takes many forms: jungles, forests on the mountains, acres of palm trees and vast stretches of rich farmland. I now see why Mexico, like Ireland, has chosen green as the country’s national colour. I’ve been blessed to drive along the Almalfi coast, from Brisbane to the Whitsunday Islands, South Africa’s garden route and throughout the USA. However it’s the contrast of Mexico’s desert to palm trees, mountains to farmlands, to blue sea ocean that ranks it favourite on my list of drives.

Like any such drive it’s not only the landscape that’s appreciated but also the think time. Since time to reflect on past events managed well and those which could have been handled differently is a rarity. The road trip with Tommy and a bit of slagging was fun too. It was surprising the number of cyclists I overtook whose loaded up mountain bikes also pointed to a similar journey just without the horsepower. I’ve also overtaken men riding their donkeys.

Where on the one hand, I wondered what it might be like to live such a simple and basic life while on the other hand being grateful for a certain level of privilege. Which is not to say that the man on the donkey isn’t happy or indeed might also feel privileged compared to a neighbour who perhaps doesn’t have a donkey. Of course the scenery is marvellous but the fun is in the city and towns.

Although it seems an ago now Christmas was spent in PV. It’s a remarkable place that attracts tourists from many different categories: Mexicans themselves, US and Canada folks (either retirees on extended holidays or simply those looking to escape the cold winters), to day-trippers from the numerous cruise ships that dock each week. In addition a large gay contingent visit PV as it seems to be the Mykonos of the region.

On arrival it’s obvious why so many people are attracted to PV: miles of fantastic beaches, tropical sea with great diving and fishing, great restaurants and inexpensive accommodation. Furthermore the people are friendly.

My Christmas stay lasted four days and I’d treated myself to a cool apartment, which cost Euro58pn. Expensive by Mexican standards but given that it was Christmas I decided I deserved it. Just for context, my hotel in Acapulco cost Pesos400 (Euro24pn) for a double room, ensuite, balcony, WIFI and was only a block from the beach. Back in PV, I met another Irish Tommy by the apartment complex’s pool.

This one from the North of Ireland, the part that is managed by the British and long may it be so as there is a bitter group on both sides of the divide and area is a major burden on Her Majesty’s Treasury which runs to billions per year. Tommy had the foresight to move to Canada over thirty years ago. Now retired, he spent 3-4 months per year in PV. I met a number of other American and Canadian retirees who spend part of their year in Mexico. For even a modest pension goes a long way here. As regular visitors Tommy and his wife were always given the best apartment in the complex.

Where I joined them on their balcony bar for a few whiskeys. One of the things I miss most about living back home is the wit, banter and slagging. I believe it’s an Anglo-Saxon trait to be so cutting and sarcastic in humour amongst friends. For you can only do so with good friends, the thick-skinned and those who can give as good as they get.

Otherwise you risk offending or worse end up in a bit of a pickle like I almost did in Death Valley; when a couple of guys thought they were up for a bit of banter – but their pencils weren’t as sharp. However without home soil advantage I stopped the proceedings before I agitated them too much. Anyway, not so with Tommy, so one night the Northern Prod and the Dublin Papist headed to his local where a live band was playing.

Despite the good band the atmosphere was subdued amongst the seated locals. Unsurprisingly the Irish started the party within ten minutes as Tommy and I asked up the older ladies to dance and of course their friends joined in. The younger crew gave us mixed looks, where the girls thought we were gents and hoped for a dance later while the lads probably hated us. All in all a nice way to spend Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day itself was a bit quiet. I dropped down to Tommy and Karen for a bit and then went to the beach. Where keeping with the sense of occasion I donned my Christmas hat and swimming briefs. Later that night I joined a boat party, which was, pretty good fun, well the parts I remember.

Thankfully I didn’t miss too much excitement at home as both my parents were ill. And given the poor weather in Europe they wished they’d been with me rather than the other way round. Naturally presents weren’t given or received due to distance. However I did donate Euro150 to charity.

Buying gifts of chickens, a goat, a smokeless oven and a water pump amongst other things. All of which would be distributed to needy families by a well-known Christian charity. It actually felt quite rewarding and I hope to repeat this modest act of philanthropy in the future.

I left PV early on the 27 to make the two-day drive down to Acapulco to meet my Irish buddy Tommy. A Uni buddy of almost 20 years. He’d treated himself to a three-week holiday for his 40th birthday. I was only a couple of hours outside PV when the travel plans were scuppered as I hit an unsigned tope (speed bump). Fortunately the car behind flashed their lights to alert me of the leak I hadn’t noticed immediately. The leak was too severe and I knew the engine would cease up if I’d continued. Then the bike rescue plan had to be put in action.

Which was not easy given I was in the mountains, with no cell phone coverage and in a non-English speaking country. Fortunately one of the first cars I’d waved down stopped and between my bad Spanish and his broken English he’d offered to call a tow truck on getting coverage. An offer also made by another motorist who kindly stopped without my flagging down. I’d anticipated that if they were successful that help wouldn’t arrive for three hours or so.

As time passed and more importantly darkness fell I decided to ditch the bike and hitch back into PV. It was a good call as I had no way of knowing if assistance was on the way and it was dangerous on the side of the road at night (accident and security). Furthermore, although not faint hearted, I don’t mind admitting that the sounds from the mountain jungle at night is quite errie.

So I pushed my bike into a ditch and camouflaged it completely with branches and foliage. Then, using a pair of boxer shorts and long-johns I marked two spots so I wouldn’t overlook the bikes location on return. As I hide my treasure another motorist stopped. Kent Opp an American living in PV (who also drives a Harley) generously offered a lift back to PV and gave me his mechanic’s number. As we drove back into the city we kept an eye out for the tow truck but it did not come. I later found out that they wanted a Peso5,000 advance payment.

I sorted accommodation fairly quickly and at breakfast the owner (Mitch) of the restaurant where I’d eaten regularly called the tow truck company, which he’d had occasion to use a lot. The tow truck service was the only let down on the process. They arrived at 1.00pm with a large pick up truck. Probably thought they had to lift a smaller bike although I had explicitly asked for a tow truck as my bike weighs roughly 350kg. Then the tow truck wasn’t available until 5.00pm, by which time it was too late; being too dark and the garage would have been closed.

We agreed on a 9.00am pick up the following day. The bike was easily found and obviously I was much relieved that it survived two nights in the jungle. Although I couldn’t completely relax until we arrived at the garage. A couple of stops had to be made to retighten the straps to prevent the bike rolling off the truck.

Fortunately there was a Suzuki dealership in PV, a find I made using the internet the previous day. Of course while this was going on my buddy was on his tobler(own) in Acapulco.

As I dealt with the bike we’d exchanged various options: him coming north, me going south, flights, car rental, bus etc. Flights were ruled out due to extortionate New Year prices. In the end, as the bike was being repaired, we settled on my hiring a car to drive to Acapulco, partly because we’d already prepaid the accommodation but mostly because Tommy had forgotten his drivers licence again.

After two days of hard driving I arrived in Acapulco late afternoon on New Years Eve. Like most cities Acapulco is built on a bay. However unlike other cities the bay is quite a tight u-shape that is surrounded by high hills. So from wherever you are on the bay you either lookdown onto the beaches and water. At night the city looks even better with all the lights on.

Fortunately, Tommy had used the time to get the low down on the city so after a quick shower; we headed for the restaurant, bar and later the strip. The strip being the Costera; a street lined with hotels, condominiums, bars and clubs which front onto the beach.

Once we’d caught up over a few beers we checked out a couple of clubs along the strip. There were no shortages of choices and a number of concierges and vendors with flyers tried to entice us into their establishment. The promotions were fantastic. Our Peso350 (Euro21) cover charge included entry and an open bar. Always an enticing yet dangerous inducement for Irishmen.

The night itself started late as everyone sat out on the club’s beachfront area awaiting the count down. The firework display, which ushered in 2011, was pretty impressive. I expected the pyrotechnique display would be launched from a pontoon in the bay. The show that lasted over twenty minutes utilised the entire bay, shooting off literally like a Mexican wave from the southern point of the bay, before ringing around to the north tip. Pretty awesome and Tommy and I congratulated ourselves with more than a couple of high fives for choosing such a great city to rendezvous. The New Year off to a good start. However as the party started we noticed that the two girls at the adjacent table didn’t look so happy.

On enquiry, they were only having an ok time, as there didn’t seem to be many guys to dance with. Naturally, being the Irish gentlemen, we couldn’t let this go unchecked so we all hit the tiles and had a great night. Both Ammi and Stephanie were from Mexico City and in Acapulco for New Years. We hung out for the next couple of days and had an awesome’er New Years Day.

Where the following night we went to Palladium, the supposed best club in Acapulco. In retrospect, I’ll make the bold statement that it is the best nightclub I’ve ever being to. The location, layout, service and off course the music was excellent.

Palladium sits mid way up the hill on the south parallel, so overlooks the entire bay. Its layout is like an amphitheatre where two thirds of the theatre has layered booths for groups and the pit is the dance floor. But the whole nightclub faces the bay with a 30m floor to ceiling glass wall that provides a stunning view. Not to let the moment pass, I requested the club photographer to take a photo of us. Unknowingly I didn’t realise we were in for an additional treat.

Fifteen minutes later 10 waiters carrying flaming torches entered the opposite side of the club from a stage door and marched in procession up and down the aisles. I guessed it was someone’s birthday, but knew it wasn’t when eventually they headed our way. They formed an honour guard while the photographer took our picture. A great experience made even better by that fact that the girls thought we’d arranged it especially and the entire nightclub was looking at our table. Of course we never revealed our trade secrets.

As the music livened up, the lasers beamed and the dancers got the crowd going, I knew we were in for a great night when the air-raid sirens went off before 1.00am. And, as Ammi and I danced a line from an INXS song came to mind: slide over here, I’ve got to let you know, I need you tonight cause I’m not sleeping.

In fact, the club was so good I began to look for faults. I couldn’t even fault the toilets. Besides being spotless, the urinals were supported by a waist high wall, which also supported a glass wall to the ceiling. So as I drained the lizard I had a view of the entire Acapulco bay. There were even thick navy towels underneath the urinals to catch the drops.

In the end, the only fault I could find was with some of the other revellers. And, although occasionally guilty of it myself I came to realise there are two types of people that wear dark glasses indoors: the blind and assholes.

We are amongst the last to leave and I realised that this was indeed the best nightclub I’ve ever been to. The cover charge was only pesos 450 (Euro27) on New Years Day, which included an open bar. Sure there are clubs that come close. Most of them in Ibiza but even then you’d have to spend a few thousand euros (with a group) to get this VIP treatment.

I’ve been fortunate over the years to take my main holiday during the New Year/early January period where I’ve spent time in Australia, Rio, Panama, Colombia, Berlin (amongst other places). But this was the best so far! Although I wanted to stay in Acapulco longer we left on 2 January, Tommy was keen to leave as he’d been there for three days in advance of my arrival.

Had my bike not broken down our loose plan was to head south into Guatemala. However since I had to return the car and collect my motorbike Tommy was cool with the change of direction. So we spent the next week and a half in two beach towns: Puerto Escondido to the south before returning north to Zihautanejo.

Puerto Escondido is the smaller of the two seaside towns. It’s not a resort area with most of the tourists being Mexicans themselves. Although we did stay in the best hotel but it only cost Pesos800(Euro48each pn). Admittedly we only choose this as we arrived late in the evening and hadn’t the energy to look for somewhere more reasonable. After Acapulco it was nice to chill out, doing nothing more than read, swim, eat, drink and visit the local market. One afternoon we went on a most enjoyable boat tour. Where I got to catch, hold and swim with a huge tortoise.

Zihautanejo is a bigger seaside town. Most people will remember the place as the location where Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman reunited on the beach in the final scene of the movie The Shawshank Redemption. One of my personal favourites.

We had a great hotel on the beach front at a much lower cost as we’d had more time to research. There were a lot more North American holidaymakers here and quite a few on extended holidays. We hung out at the local sports bar (Zorros) when watching English Premier League.

One evening we headed out to watch a live band but early in the act Tommy disappeared to the banos (toilets) for what seemed an age. As I became concerned he eventually returned looking pale and made a quick exit back to the hotel. Mexican belly getting the better of him. Guess he wasn’t quite ready for the chillies. I followed him back a little later. No sense in wasting the beers we’d just ordered and it’s not as if I could help anyway.

For the next two days Tommy didn’t venture more the 300m from the hotel. I did bring him bottles of Yoplait natural yoghurt, which is great for settling the stomach and bowels. Sadly he missed a great night in the local disco bar as he wasn’t ready to risk a fart never mind a night on the town. But thankfully he was able to join for breakfast the next day, before we headed back to PV.

I later regretted making fun of him as I caught a similar dose a couple of weeks later. Where I had to make an emergency dash to the hotel, arrived sweating and moments away from disaster. The further discommoding fact being that you experience the chilli a second time. For they burn on the way in and the way out. Funny, a line from another song came to mind, this time Johnny Cash’s: it burns, burns, burns the ring of fire. The ring of fire.

In PV, as I returned the car Tommy sorted an apartment with the rental agency I’d previously used. I’ll take my hat off to him. The boy did well; getting us a fairly big fully equipped apartment that overlooked the town. Best of all it had an infinity pool on the roof terrace. What a superb experience it is to swim in a pool, which seemingly drops off the edge of the building.

The following day I’d booked us on a full day boat tour, which included: island hopping, snorkelling, lunch and booze. As bad luck would have it – it seemed like our boat should have been called – family day out. Something we both couldn’t handle for an entire day, particularly as there was nowhere to escape. Before we bolted, I managed to sway the rival tour operators to swap our prepaid tickets. Guess they were tourist friendly, knowing that we’d skip the tour otherwise. Thankfully it worked out as we met a fantastic group of people.

The new boat had only 30 people on board and initially Tommy and I were the only non-Mexicans which was fine too. On the second stop, four other caucasians boarded. I knew we’d speak during the course of the day. However, within ten minutes of their boarding all four were toasting shots to tequila (at 11.30am). Even I was taken aback – my kind of people. Naturally we introduced ourselves immediately.

Gordie and Shelia are friends who’d met a couple of years back at Gordie’s restaurant in Duncan, Vancouver Island. Gordie’s Dad Norm (77) and his girlfriend of one year Susie (73) also joined the holiday. What a great day we spent together.

Most of the other participates undertook a two hour hike to see an inland waterfall while we opted for lunch on the beach and a couple of bottles of wine. The return trip was even better as the hosts pumped the music, poured shots and stirred the crowd. I was even convinced to give a Mexican girl a lap dance for her birthday. Glad Tommy only got photos of the return performance. Our groups spent the next few days together and had a ball.

We also took in the show Vallarta Nights. Another boat trip to an island including dinner, drinks and a fantastic show. The show was a mixture of tribal dance meets a respectable attempt at Cirque du Soleil. All this for only Euro45.

Thereafter I was a little sad to see my old buddy and my new friends head to the airport for their homeward trip. To get over their departure I headed to Harry’s bar. Which despite being owned by an Englishman (Harry), is predominately frequented by locals. Being four blocks from the beach most tourists don’t venture that far.

I’d been there a few times previously and am pleased to report that my game of pool is improving even further. On one occasion I kicked ass beating Tommy and an American guy who thought he was good. Magnanimously I stepped down so they could play against each other. However Thursdays is Ladies Night and the place was packed. Unlike most venues where ladies enter free, Harry’s provides the fairer sex with free drinks all night.

Obviously this bait draws women like a shoe sale, which in turn brings in the fisherman. I met a great group of folks that night. Rosvelt, Gerrie, Kiki and Roman. All locals and great fun who thankfully spoke fantastic English. After Harry’s I joined them in the nearby gay club Manana. What a great club.

It even had a swimming pool and a two story waterfall (a first for me). I thought Irish pubs were friendly places but this was different. Well cannot blame the boys for having good taste. Funny, I was reminded of a line from yet another song; the Kelis hit: my milkshakes make the boyz come round, you’re damn right. We all had a great night and I hung out with my new crew for almost a week with beers and tokes on the terrace, the opening of the restuarant Coma 7 and even taking a trip up to Sayulita.

A town 30 minutes north of PV. Nice to escape PV as this town attracts a different tourist (domestic and foreign). Here the visitors are surfers, those not into resort holidays (either through the cost or simply camping folks) and those just more down to earth. Not too many doctors, dentists or lawyers here. Where you’re just as likely to see a white guy along side a local selling handcrafts or other beach wares. No doubt funding their trip.

Then just before leaving to head south again I was hit with an awful flu and mild conjunctivitis. It took me almost a week before I felt up to driving. Over here you need your wits on long trips as there are too many potential hazards what with: topes, bad drivers, cars not always with indicators or brake lights, potholes, mountainous terrain, animals etc. When my eyes cleared up and the sneezing fits stopped I left PV.

Now to follow the road south again to Acapulco where I’d anticipated spending a long weekend. Which eventually turned into a very long weekend, lasting over a week. The longer stay arose as I wanted to participate in a motorbike rally which was to be held to following weekend. Roughly 1,000 bikes were expected to tour the city.

Glad I did. Fantastic buzz with all manner of bikes including: Harleys, sports bikes, custom bikes etc. I’d met the organisers early that day to get the evening’s programme. On hearing of my trip, they asked me to say a few words at the rally. Off course I obliged.

Afterwards I met a group from the L.O.M.O Toluca motorbike club who generously presented me with their club’s white bandana, which I proudly wore for second leg of the rally. They even offered the assistance of their 1,500 nationwide members should I need any support in Mexico. Great people and a great night later in the biker bar.

While I waited for the bike rally I spent much time at the beach and I also revisited the Palladium. Just to make sure the sequel was as good as the premier. And, yes it was.

During the day I usually hit the beach around midday and stayed until late afternoon. Prior to this trip I was never a beach bum, as I always got restless within a hour. Here in Mexico I am happy to spend three to five hours at the beach. I guess it’s a combination of factors: being completely relaxed, not working, great beaches with Palapays (parasols) and table service where a bucket of bottled beers costs only Pesos100 (Euro6).

With all this beach time I was fortunate to avoid the Irish tan. For only the second time in my life I’m sporting a shade somewhere between milk bottle white and lobster red. I’ve also met some cool people at the beach. Cristian, the waiter at the beach bar, became my wingman/sparing partner while in Acapulco. He was just back in Mexico after ten years in the US where work dried up.

Then I meet Lyon from Newcastle who had two days leave from one of the cruise ships. He spotted the Irishman and we had a few bowls of loud mouth soup. The Geordes are great people and it’s always a safe bet that you’re going to like them. Conversely the opposite can also be true. Of the dozen or so Israel’s I’ve met, either in work or personally, I haven’t liked one of them.

One afternoon Christian and I surveyed the scenery and noticed that the self-pointed beach photographer was taking photos of two cute Mexican girls next to a half submerged jet ski. I’m sure we weren’t the only one to notice either. We discussed various options to make an introduction. I was surprised that Cristian was so nervous as he is a good looking chap and had the language advantage. I told him to follow me. We walked directly over to them, smoothly passing the other parasols, past the semi filled beach, introduced ourselves and spent the next twenty minutes chatting away. Of course we had our photos taken too. The girls were with their mother who I waved to join us.

The first invite received a friendly declining wave but the second invite received a quickly flashed two fingers. A gesture I’m sure she wanted to give us on our first approach. As mother packed up we wished them a good weekend. On the walk back to the parasol we received a few nods/winks of bravo.

Later that same day, while on my regular two mile beach walk, I had the better fortune to meet even more Canadians. Joanne, Sharon and Calvin. Friends who’ve been visiting Acapulco for over ten years and for varying amounts of time – Joanne, 3-4 weeks, Sharon two months and Calvin semi retired in Mexico.

They were heading back to their luxury condo and invited me to join them to watch the sunset from their infinity pool. Naturally I didn’t want to appear rude so I accepted their kind invitation. We spent the next four or five days between the beach, restaurants and on the strip. No matter where we went we greeted like celebrities, as everyone knew them. However each evening we made it back to the infinity pool to catch the sunset with a glass of wine in hand. At one such sunset I was reminded of a line from another song, Phil Collins: …Just another day in Paradise….

One evening I cooked a BBQ for a group of their friends. Although I have to admit to being disappointed with my own produce. I know a good tradesman doesn’t blame his tools however in this case the BBQ itself was terrible and wasn’t up to my usual Webber standard. Regardless the guests were polite and we had a great evening all the same. At the end of the week it was time to pack up and head south again.

Tapachula was the next stop along the route. An inland town, which is only 25km from the Guatemalan border. I’d planned to have the bike serviced again and the tyres replaced. I’d also taken the liberty of having my Garmin GPS maps and a package from home expressed to the Suzuki dealership. Which turned out to be a big mistake.

Despite being listed on the official Suzuki Mexican website the branch closed at least six months previously. I wasn’t too worried about the bike as there are a couple of garages in Guatemala City, which is only 200km away. However the problem lay with the snowball impact of having to redirect items with DHL and UPS that were in mid shipment. No big drama but a hassle all the same. The positive arising from this mistake was a longer stay in Tapachula.

At first appearance I wasn’t too impressed as it’s a small city, which wouldn’t win any beauty pageant contest. This isn’t a tourist town by any measure, there’s no beach and few striking buildings. Actually, it’s predominantly a transit location between Guatemala and Mexico. Initially I’d judged it too hard having come from more idyllic parts of Mexico, however I was turned to its charms for the very reasons I wasn’t impressed with in the first instance. This is a quintessentially Mexican town.

There are effectively no tourists here. On my first day touring the city I did not see any other Gringos. On the second day, I noticed a black man in the main square. As I tipped my baseball cap I could tell, he like me was thinking – you’re not from around here. There are limited multinational chains; no Zara, Jack Jones, Starbucks, Footlocker etc here. I haven’t even seen a McDonalds, although I suspect there must be one somewhere as I did notice a Burger King and a KFC. All of which is good for my slowly improving Spanish. Having said that the English here is still reasonable.

The effect of this is that I’m having quite an authentic Mexican experience, which is even more appropriate in timing given that I’m about to leave this great country. The food here (and throughout Mexico) is fantastic and hasn’t been altered for the foreigner’s palate. I eat regularly in fundas (a simple Mexican diner) next to my hotel or on the main square.

Where I’ve eaten outrageously tasty dishes. Back home we all know of the tacos, quesadillas and burritos. The latter is not traditionally Mexican but something created by Mexicans living in the USA. While the tacos and quesadillas were delicious, even those from street vendors, I enjoyed trying the items that don’t make it to the menu cards at home. Great dishes like: sopes, mole, tamales, washed down with either agua de horchata (rice water) or atole (sweet beverage) on a dry day or a cerveca (beer) most other times. My favourite was Pozole.

A dish often eaten on a Thursday evening, in much the same way that Anglo-Saxons might eat fish and chips on Fridays. Pozole is a broth with either chicken or beef and comes with lots of vegetable and a large plate of onions, rice, chillies etc which you later add.

I also liked it when restaurants would grind and prepare salsa, guacamole or pico de gallo at the table using a pestle and mortar. And two items which are much under-utilised back home: the avocado and cilantro (coriander). I’d even go as far to say that many Irish wouldn’t know that guacamole comes from an avocado. Both ingredients will freshen up any dip, salad, burger etc. In the end, I wish more Mexicans would skip the USA and move to Europe to open more restaurants as we’re missing out in quantity and quality.

Besides the food, the people here are great too. I get many “hellos” from novelty factor. Even a homeless man welcomed me to Tapachula in impressive English. He told me he’d been deported from the USA after 23 years. I listened to his interesting story and gave him the price of a dinner. Apart from that I was pleased to spend three or four days by myself.

Over the last two months I’ve been in great company almost all of the time so it was nice to have some private time. Where I used the space to write up this lengthy blog and finish reading the best cowboy book ever written – Lonesome Dove. What an incredible read (cheers PJ).

By the weekend I’d had enough solitude and found out there was an Expo festival just outside the city. A great fanfare. Amusements, helter skelter rides and attractions all day with music in the evening. On Friday a famous Mexican DJ played into the early hours. I hung out with a couple of Mexican lads who were pretty cool and even in a reggae band. Somehow I always seem to gravitate to people who work, in some shape or form, within the entertainment business. Anyway, good night but I was also struck by the number of cowboys at the Fiesta.

Where the explanation came the next morning in the hotel’s breakfast room. Eight fully-fledged cowboys were eating breakfast. I half expected their names to be Gus, Deets or Captain Call (characters from the book). Meeting them was almost like a premonition as I’d just finished the books 1,000 pages the previous day. As they hung outside I introduced myself where I found out they were part of the Expo’s Rodeo Show. Sound guys and they were equally interested in my trip. I told them I’d just finished Lonesome Dove, of which most had either read the book themselves or seen the mini series. Two of the guys hadn’t so I got the book from my room, inscribed it and gave it to them.

I received the last of my two deliveries today and was going to leave tomorrow but will probably stay a few days longer. Oscar, the hotels F&B Manager, invited me to the reopening of the City Bar (following remodelling) on Thursday evening. It’s a mock Irish pub (partly why I got the invite) and there will be free beers for a while. Why not and its only a couple more days. Might even have a few words prepared just in case…

I’ll head south by the weekend and will partly make up for the longer stay in Mexico by spending less time in Guatemala and El Salvador. I’ve been to Guatemala before anyway. It really is a shame we only hear the bad stories about Mexico because it is a fantastic country.

I haven’t had any bad experience here. However I’ve been pick pocketed on the doorstep of an upmarket hotel in Barcelona, know someone who was robbed at gunpoint in Amsterdam and heard of tourists in Dublin who were beaten in an unprovoked attack. Bad things can happen anywhere.

So long as you don’t stray too far off the drag, be sensible and keep your head on your shoulders you’ll have a fantastic time in Mexico. I will come back.

Me encanta Mexico.

Al Dempsey
9 March 2011.

Update– 11 March 2011
– The opening of City Bar was great fun. I gave the owner the Irish flag which my family sent over, with my name and date on it. I was also interviewed on the local radio station.
– This morning the hotel staff told me there was a nail in my back tyre. I don’t think it was malicious as the carpark is secure and the space was covered by CCTV. While the tyre isn’t flat I now have to try to get it replaced. Not easy as there is no Suzuki dealership here. More hassle. Don’t know how long this will take to sort out…..