Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beaten Up and Eaten Alive in San Blas!

As planned, we said our goodbye’s to Bucerias on March 5th. It was a pretty quiet couple of days leading up to our departure, as the family and most friends had left days before.

After being parked for two months, I knew there would be some ‘acclimatization’ to hitting the Mexican roads again in the RV – for both myself and the cats. Sure enough, it wasn’t a treat for any of us. Molly promptly got car sick – and everywhere. I was running around the motor home with a wad of paper towels cleaning up as we weaved around the narrow, windy roads, freaking out with my usual enthusiasm.

We had made arrangements to stop in Lo de Marcos to visit our buddies, Adrian and Brenda, who were staying in El Refugio RV Park (one of the nicest in Mexico). We thought we could pull our rig over to the northbound Pemex station and park there while we had our visit. Unfortunately, the parking area was not able to accommodate us without our blocking the outgoing traffic. We discovered that after we had pulled into it. Stress levels began to run high.

Terry decided that we may as well fill up while we were there, but that required him to back up a considerable distance so he could manoeuvre over to the diesel pumps. He casually informs me that I’ll have to ‘get out and stop traffic’ while he backs up the rig.

Are you kidding me?? Stop traffic in Mexico! For god's sakes they pass ambulances that have their lights flashing and sirens blazing!! Of course I balked. After a brief ‘difference in opinion’, we managed to get over to the pumps and fill up. Terry then left me watching the rig while he pulled out his bike and scoped out a parking spot. Once settled, we rode our bikes over to El Refugio and had a nice visit with the buddies.

Off we headed to San Blas. Del and Angel, who we had also met at the Hideaway RV Park in Bucerias, were living there and convinced us that it was a place worth visiting before we left Mexico. The remainder of the ride there was fairly uneventful. We drove in around 4 or 5:00 that afternoon.

The RV Park that Del and Angel are staying at is not right in San Blas, but between the little town of Aticama and San Blas. The RV portion is right along the beach, and will accommodate only 4-6 rigs (with services). It sits beside a really nice hotel, and has a great pool.

Del and Angel are in the process of having a palapa built, under which they will park their motor home, and are working with the owners of the hotel/RV park in a business venture raising cattle. They are hoping to become ‘full timers’ in Mexico. It should be an interesting experience for them.

Here's a picture of Angel with their dogs - Buster and Bootie. Buster is a freak when it comes to balls, and will steal them from anyone. We watched with great amusement as he stole one from a couple of kids playing on the beach one day. He is like Pele with a ball - once he has it, there is almost no way you can get it back, and it is usually destroyed in a short while. Angel went running over with a $50 peso bill as replacement funds, which caused the boys' eyes to open pretty wide. She managed to get the ball away from Buster, but in a little while they came over with the ball punctured, and looking for the money. Hmmmm.... wonder if they wanted the money more than the ball ....

Bootie LOVES to fish. There is a river that runs alongside the RV Park, and she spends hours and hours splashing through the river, jumping frantically after the small fish and shrimp that call the river their home.

The area around San Blas is very tropical and fertile. They grow tons of bananas, corn, sugar cane, mangos, and many different vegetables.

Angel is working with the family to secure international buyers for their banana crop, as they produce an incredible volume of bananas, but cannot market it all.

The beach in front of us is great – long (3-1/ miles approx.), flat and perfect for riding your bike, walking and jogging. People use it as a roadway, with many vehicles driving up and down it.


It sits along the Bay of Matanchen. The water is the warmest we have experienced since Florida.
There are also many stretches of ‘ramadas’ along the length of the beach. These are long palm-covered buildings that people rent for the day.

They can park their car and have shade and the use of plastic tables and chairs for their day at the beach. Most of them are affiliated with restaurants, so you can also have a meal. Apparently the beach is extremely busy on Sundays, with many Mexican families coming out from the City of Tepic to hit the beach.

Del and Angel had offered us the use of their small zodiac boat to tour the bay while we were there. It is just a small 2-man boat with a 15 h.p. motor.

Our first full-day there, we got up and took a bike ride down the length of the beach, and decided to come back and head out for our boat ride.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a comfortable ride, but I was not prepared for the beating I took as the passenger. There is only one seat, which is occupied by the driver, leaving the passenger the choice of sitting side-saddle across the front (and risk being tossed out), or sitting on the bottom in the front of the boat. Let me tell you there is NO comfortable position when the waves are high.

We CRASHED through the waves, and it felt like I was riding a Brahma bull. I had a rope that I looped around a couple of cleats in the front, and hung on for dear life. It was probably one of the most painful rides of my life, and I paid for it dearly the next day when my back was seized up. I felt like I had been thrown into a sack and beaten with a mallet.

Now, for the positive side of the ride … the Bay of Matanchen is beautiful. The surrounding hillsides are very green and lush, with banana plantations visible in the distance. The beaches are stunning, lined with palm trees, and with virtually no people on them. We lucked out and spotted a group of dolphins, so followed them for a while. Del and Angel had come across whale sharks on one of their recent boat rides, so we were hoping to see one or humpback whales, but no sightings.

There are a couple of rivers that run into the Bay, so we toured up the larger river (not sure of the name) for a bit. This is a crocodile area, so I was not real thrilled with the idea of meeting a large crocodile while sitting in the bottom of a rubber zodiac (we didn’t).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures of the boat ride, as it was far too wet a ride to risk taking the camera along.

The next day, we were up early and had a great run on the flat, wide beach (and passed a small cattle drive along the way). We wanted to tour around a bit and drive into San Blas, so Del and Angel offered to go with us. We stopped at the crocodile wildlife centre and toured briefly. Some of their ‘cuddly’ residents were over 50 years old!

From there, we hit the town of San Blas, which is a fairly typical Mexican town – the standard Centro with large church, gazebo and such. The boys decided a haircut was in order, so took their respective turns for the mere cost of $3.00/head.


One of the residents wintering beside Del and Angel’s RV Park is ‘Tioga George’, a very interesting fellow. He has been full-time RVing for over 7-years, and writes a daily blog about his experiences. He supplements his income from the advertising revenue earned from his blog, so we had a good discussion about our respective internet businesses. He joined Del, Angel, Terry and I for supper that evening at a restaurant just outside of Aticama.

Three of the neighbouring campers had brought their ultralite planes with them. The beach there is perfect for the take-off and landing, and the rules very casual on flights. Angel kindly made arrangements for me to take a ride with Chip, from Northern California, who has been flying ultralights for 28 years.

It was an incredible experience. After a ‘rush’ of a take-off (it is unbelievably quick), we flew over the bay and spied a whale shark not too far off the shore. Then we flew over the crocodile farm and followed the river path from the air towards San Blas, buzzed over San Blas, and headed back. We were flying at an altitude of approximately 600-800 feet during our flight.

The bay was like glass. Again – no pictures because of the bulk of the camera (time for a new camera). To view aerial photos of the air, check out Tiogo George's website, as he also took advantage of the opportunity to fly as a passenger on one of the ultralights - http://blog.vagabonders-supreme.net/.

The San Blas area is beautiful – but with a horrible downside. We were literally eaten alive by the ‘no see-ums’. Who knew a creature that small could reek havoc to such a hideous extent! Terry and I look like a pair of scabby lepers. These hellish creatures laughed at our ‘Deep Woods Off’ – considering it a lovely accompaniment to our flesh. I have never had so many bites on my body, and in places I never thought could be reached.

All you can hear in the quiet of the night is Terry and I scratching our bites and swearing. That alone may deter us from returning to this lovely spot. Too bad!

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