After saying goodbye to Copper Canyon and Rosa in El Fuerte, we continued on our way along the pacific coast to the South. So far, we have not felt unsafe for a single day in Mexico. The country is not necessarily known for being a safe travel country. Whenever Mexico appears negative in the news, it is often connected to the drug cartels that are active here.
Recently, a week or two ago this happened after the son of ‘El Chapo’ was arrested in the province of Sinaloa. Unfortunately this took the lives of 29 people and and the media once again made a big story out of it. Sinaloa is the province we had to cross today. Basically, the cartels never target tourists, but we still thought it would be a good idea to leave this region behind as soon as possible.
Just outside El Fuerte, we bought freshly baked and stuffed empanadas for lunch and filled up again so that we were well prepared to drive the 500 kilometres to Mazatlan in one go. A column of soldiers in army vehicles might indicate a troubled situation, but everything else seemed to be calm again. It did become a long day of driving, though. Despite opting for the relatively expensive but faster toll road, it eventually took us nine hours to reach Isla de Piedra, where we found a nice overnight spot along the waterfront right opposite Mazatlan’s old town.
Such a place by the sea is always beautiful. We saw many jumping fish and from rocks next to us a herd of goats came down curiously and in search of food. We said goodbye to Brigitta and Josef, who were heading further south. We took the small ferry across to the old town of Mazatlan. In just a few minutes we were on the other side and from the jetty we walked another kilometer to the historic centre. First we visited the Teatro Angela Peralta, a theatre or opera building that was built in 1874. After a turbulent history including destruction by a hurricane and then being abandoned to decay, it reopened in 1992.
Via the Plazuela Machado with its many restaurants and cafés, we walked on to the Olas Altas beach promenade. While enjoying a fresh coconut, we watched a cliff diver perform a breakneck stunt. Then we immersed ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the Pino Suarez Market, a large covered market hall where you can buy anything you can imagine. We treated ourselves to some delicious tostadas for lunch while watching the hustle and bustle.
The last highlight was the big cathedral at Republica Square. This Catholic church was only completed at the end of the 19th century and due to lack of money the construction was financed by the Jewish community. We watched the pigeons and the shoeshine boys at work and walked back to the boat jetty. We really liked Mazatlan, a friendly and cosy town with flair. We spontaneously bought half a grilled chicken for dinner and enjoyed the sunset on the “Goat Rock”.
On the long way to San Blas, we did some groceries and treated our eyes to beautiful green scenery until we arrived just before sunset at Len and Margrit’s house, which makes their driveway available to overlanders for the night. Len and Margrit’s house is quasi almost in the water at high tide. A staircase in the garden leads down and after about 10 steps one is directly on the beach. We did put on our swimsuits and let the waves carry us along to the three-metre high wall that marks the border between house and ocean. From the terrace, we then watched the sun set and fell asleep with the sound of the waves in the background.
Next day we visited a mangrove area in San Blas where cocodrillos, among others, make their home. We bought two tickets for a three-hour boat trip and it wasn’t long before we saw a first 3-metre-long reptile lying on the shore. ‘Time is money’ the guide and captain of the small boat must have thought because even though we stopped briefly several times for turtles, birds, a boa constrictor and more crocodiles, his right hand invariably stuck to the throttle to quickly pick up speed again.
At a crocodile breeding station, we were given crocodile lessons. So we learned that apart from crocodiles, lynxes and jaguars live in this area. Big zoo fans we are not and here it became clear to us again why. The lynx and jaguars confined here unfortunately showed high stress levels.
After half an hour, we were expected back at the boat and to our surprise, when we returned, we saw two iguanas of all colours of the rainbow sitting in the tree. Both were at least a metre long and were slowly crawling from branch to branch. How beautiful nature is.
At the restaurant, we ate two ceviches. A speciality mainly served in this region, it consists of a hard taco topped with raw fish and vegetables. The nice thing about this restaurant is that here we could combine our lunch with a dip in the cooling waters of the mangrove. A fence through the water makes it clear how far you can swim so you don’t disturb the crocodiles on the other side. This also applies to the crocodiles, of course.
After a brief visit to San Blas, we drove further along the coast on our way to Playa Las Tortugas. There are a number of beaches in Mexico where turtles (tortugas) lay their eggs on the beach. Turtle eggs are in demand by predators and if we did not help nature with this, the sea turtle would probably already be extinct. At night, a team of volunteers search for turtle eggs on the beach here all year round and collects them for hatching in a protected area. Every evening around sunset, turtles born the day before are released. A unique experience for tourists like us to watch the tiny mini turtles make their way to the sea.
Playa Las Tortugas felt to us like we had found paradise. We parked right on the beach between the many palm trees and even though there were a few villas a little further away we felt like we were on our own uninhabited private beach. At least for another day because we didn’t feel like leaving this place yet. We lazed around and drank our coffee with a view of the ocean and watched the sometimes metre-high waves broke just before the surf.
And just when we thought it couldn’t get any prettier, a whale family swam past in the distance. The sun slowly began to return to the horizon. For us, the cue to take a little beach walk towards the turtle station to see the newborn ‘tortuga pacificos’ heading for freedom.
However hard it was for us, we started the car the next morning and looked back for one last time. It might be some time before we greeted the Pacific Ocean again. We made our way inland from now on. We did not have a fixed route plan, but it was more likely that we would hit the Caribbean Sea first. The Pacific Ocean probably had to wait until we are in El Salvador.