20 Apr

Puerto Escondido

Climbing out of the Oaxaca valley, we head into the Sierra Madre mountains where the “highway” is six hours of constantly winding turns. We were warned that motion sickness is common, so as we took turns driving, the passenger would keep focused on the road ahead to avoid sickness. We survived!

Below is a short video which sufficiently summarizes the six hours. Beautiful vistas and Nissan Tsuru taxis to follow (essentially the same as a 1991 Nissan Sentra). These cars are everywhere in Oaxaca. More common than even Volkswagen Beetles, which are also everywhere. Notice the two gentle and well-marked ‘topes’ that we drive over towards the end of the clip:

Despite the best intentions, when driving in Mexico it is simply not possible to notice and slow down for all topes. Some will jump out and get you. They even seem to be strategically placed, perhaps hidden in the shade of a nice tree, with no warning signs or colored paint to alert the eye. You’ll try to hit the brakes at the last moment, but all the shit in your car will still go flying into the air. Sadly, we had our first tope victim the other day. During the chaos of zero-gravity, our beloved salad bowl was smashed by his stainless steel pot friend and shattered. Amanda happily bought a new, brightly colored one for $3 USD. RIP salad bowl, you will be missed!

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After climbing out of the mountains, we descend upon the beaches and ocean we haven’t seen since Puerto Vallarta, two weeks ago. Also, our first real blast of jungle-like humidity: Amanda’s hair puffs out, and we are dripping like a couple of tourists.  Which we most certainly are.

Our Airbnb host greets us with local Mezcal, which he bottles, labels and sells himself. Steven-of-all-trades, his beautiful home is a revolving door of characters each with their own story. The young, beautiful Mexican mom who wants to be the country’s first Geisha. The retired neighbor from Kansas comes over to smoke with the live-in chef, who knows pretty much everything about the local cuisine and market foods.

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Steven also hooks us up with a very kind friend of his for private Spanish lessons by the pool. Up until now, our Spanish is limited to two tenses: speaking in the present (Buenas tardes, ojala puede ayudarme, me gustaria encontrar un gato…) or in the future (Vamos a comprar un gato pronto). We requested to spend our days learning the past tense and are slowly improving!

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Study.  Necesitamos mucho study.IMG_1971

No trip to the coast is complete without hitting the beach pretty much every single day. There are five beaches to choose from in Puerto Escondido. Most are not suitable for swimming, to which Travis says ‘what’s the point?’. Another is even more dangerous for swimmers, but has a highly renowned surf break known as the Mexican Pipeline. We stuck to the lazy, quiet swimming beach, which was completely lovely. We didn’t surf as expected, and instead spent our money on improving our Spanish.

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Travis calmly exits while entire group is pummeled by wave.IMG_1968

Gata Negro lives at the house and provides much entertainment and Spanish language practice. For example, cats only meow in one language, but dogs go Woof Woof in English, Jappe Jappe in French and Wow Wow Wow in Spanish!  Amazing!

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Bruno actually had some work done during this beach vacation. We replaced his Yellow Optima auxiliary battery, which was no longer holding a charge. We suspect either a) the battery was defective or b) we are defective and repeatedly drew the battery too far down to be recharged. Note that this battery, although made in Mexico, was no cheaper than it was in the States, and set us back $200 USD.

The OBDII scanner purchased on Mercado Libre arrived in PE, to our amazement. We now take comfort in knowing we can verify (and clear!) the Check Engine light codes whenever we want to. So far it’s only been that whiny little oxygen sensor, which failed to arrive in the mail during our stay. Our new friend Steven will be forwarding it to us in Costa Rica.

We also decided to tint the rear side windows in Bruno, eliminating the need for curtains, which kept falling down anyway. Total cost including tip was $10 USD.IMG_20150413_153607356_HDR

While in PE, we hit the one-month mark of our traveling. Comforts from home that we’ve slowly been finishing off, we’re having to do without: Travis’ ground nuts, almonds, coconut oil, bye bye canned tomatoes. Wah wah. Onto new and exciting fruits, vegetables and animal parts! We’re also slimming down on the items that we’ve brought all this way and haven’t used once (why did we bring two sets of tongs?) Charcoal continues to fail us. We suck at it. Thank goodness for the gasoline-fueled Coleman stove. It’s been awesome. Travis even fixed a leak with his own two hands!

The humidity really punched us in the face and brought on doubting questions like, will our home in Costa Rica be like this?  What if we don’t like it?? We have good days and bad days. We also received our first major onslaught of bug bites.  Well, Amanda did.  But who’s counting the dozen or so red marks on her legs?  Nobody but her, apparently.

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  • Jamie

    I had to watch the video to be sure what a tope is. We call them a speed bump or speed hump here in Australia. In NZ they call them a judder bar!

    • Travis

      We found out that in other Central American countries they are called túmulos!

  • Doug

    I Googled “Tope” where I learned, “Tope – To drink alcohol to the point of intoxication”. What?? Bruno is taking out the town drunks? I had to drill deeper to find out that that a tope is a speed bump. Happy sigh…

    • Travis

      Bruno is a friend of the town drunks – just as long as they don’t mess with him!

  • Tamara

    Oh my, just watching that video gave me motion sickness! 🙂 I like the gatos though!!

    • Travis

      Thanks Tamara! If we hit anymore twisty roads, I’ll be sure to record more video for you!

  • Nathan Smith

    This is how cats meow in Japan. https://youtu.be/QH2-TGUlwu4

    • Travis

      For our trip heading back north, I’ve painted a giant mural of Nyan Cat on the front hood of Bruno!

  • Frank Hinde

    On the O2 sensor.. Does the code reading tell you if the mixture is running lean or rich? Changing out the O2 sensor is worth a try, but it could well be the sensor is reading correctly and you have a different problem. The good news is, if the mixture is running weak it will normally do this when the intake vacuum is at its highest (which is at idle). This is good news for 2 reasons.. 1) Unless you are doing a lot of driving in traffic it will not likely damage the valves in the engine. 2) you can test it quite easily, but starting Bruno up and letting him sit there at idle.. If the mixture is lean the code will set within a couple of minutes. If the mixture is lean then you probably have an intake leak somewhere, normally you can find those by using a propane stove.. More on that later if replacing the O2 sensor doesn’t work.

    • Travis

      Frank, I have an updated hypothesis on the O2 sensor! I didn’t replace it, but since we’ve been in Costa Rica, the sensor has not gone off once. I did some research and I think this is because the gasoline is actually higher quality in Costa Rica (lower sulfur content). I’m thinking that once we start heading north again and start using lower quality/high sulfur gas then the O2 sensor errors will start happening again! I’ll report back with details!

  • So cool to hear other people doing this trek! I’ve just done the same journey from San Francisco down to Puerto Escondido, where I stayed two weeks for the second year in a row. It’s really paradise isn’t it? And so much better having a vehicle there! Also, what you said about topes is spot on. They will be the death of my poor VW Jetta!!