Semana Santa

Semana Santa, the Holy Week preceding Easter, the Mexican Spring Break is one of the more fiestive periods in Mexican calendar. We have been warned, that most Mexicans from the interior of the country will join the Occupy movement declaring all beaches and coastal areas free from boredom and liberated from any rules. Despite spending five months in San Miguel de Allende, a city which knows how to party, we truly didn’t expect what we were about to experience…

We arrived in San Blas on Monday, which gave us couple of fairly calm, although painfully aware of mosquitoes days to explore the town. Ignorant of it’s history and past importance for the entire western hemisphere, we thought San Blas is just one of many small, sleepy coastal communities like many in this part of Mexico. At that time, we didn’t realize that San Blas was the first, once fairly large, very powerful and influential port on the Sea of Cortez. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Mexican naval base, we wouldn’t have known that there was a port at all! The fishermen in their little boats with outboard engines account for about the whole maritime traffic in this area. Inhabited today by roughly ten thousand people, it’s hard to imagine, this community was once several times larger and under the orders of the Spanish crown, ruled this part of the World.

We used the time before arrival of hordes of Mexican party-goers to discover the town. This actually took us only few minutes – there isn’t much beyond the main square and a few blocks in either direction. The time saved on sightseeing, we spent relaxing on the beach, taking surfing lessons and exploring miles of sand dunes.

On Wednesday, the amok started. Our campground, empty when we arrived, quickly flooded with hundreds of people. Most of them arriving in groups of twenty or more – usually in just one or two vehicles. The small family of iguanas, who lived in the bathrooms got quickly evicted and the palace has been conquered by Mexican women getting ready for their night on town. And I mean the entire night, not just a lousy evening, but literally the whole night. After dusk, the entire downtown area has been turned into an open air disco, with people drinking, dancing and (unfortunately) singing until dawn, at which time the party moved from downtown to the beach, where continued uninterupted until the following dusk. Then the cycle started anew. For five days in a row, the town, the beach, the campground were all ruled by forces of chaos and the Mexican fraction of the Occupy movement. I doubt if there is any affiliation…

Seeing the amount of people on the beach, we decided to escape the crowds. Fortunately, in a nearby village of La Tabera, there is a small farm of cayman crocodiles, a perfect attraction for the underage members of our crew. They loved the ride on the river in a small motor boat, seeing all kinds of wildlife was just a minor addition and didn’t really affect the experience. In fact, the most interesting part of a visit to a crocodile farm, filled with huge caymans, a jaguar and a few other, exotic species was… feeding the fish. Even the pond with crystal clear water and a tree branch swing couldn’t compete.

Two nights of passive partying was about all we could handle. On Friday morning we packed our stuff and kissed the midget mosquitoes goodbye. I’m sure we won’t miss them, even if we were to painfully remember them for several more days.

The Journey Isn’t Over Until It’s Over

We are out of San Miguel de Allende and on our way back to reality, looking for a job, exploring different options. That however, does not mean the adventure is over. The way I look at it, we are starting yet another episode of this Family Sabbatical Road Trip. Tonight I’m sitting at a picnic table at Los Cocos, a campsite in San Blas, small coastal town in Riviera Nayarit. In the rare and very short moments of truce, between treacherous attacks of some kind of midget mosquitoes, I find just enough clarity in my mind to realize that excluding our European episode, this surfer’s paradise is probably the most distant from Rochester during our trek. We are far from home and it took us nine months to get here. Granted, five of them we’ve spent grounded in the most picturesque of Mexico’s colonial towns, but it means it will still take another four before we truly get back. And we don’t plan on taking the shortest route either…

As much as I liked it in San Miguel de Allende, I think I’m also the most content that finally we are moving (…and we’re grooving) again. We started to feel very comfortable there, so before we got too attached, we decided to hit the road.  We left on Friday heading south towards Ixtapa and the first stop was… Roca Azul, a little dated resort in the town of Jocotepec, on the west coast of Lake Chapala, about 20 miles south from the outskirts of Guadalajara. Because of a failed arrangement, at the last moment we decided to skip the beach resort town and head directly West instead. Well, I guess this blog isn’t called Wanderlust for no reason…

We stayed in Jocotepec for three nights, enjoying the pools, getting re-adjusted to sleeping in a tent and making friends with a very nice family from Puebla. We liked it there and despite fairly low temperatures at night, got some decent rest – must be the fresh air, coupled with the tranquility of the neighborhood. That’s a welcome change from the constant fiestas of San Miguel.

From there we kept on pushing West, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived in San Blas on Monday afternoon, planning to stay for two nights and escape the Semana Santa (Easter Week) craziness using a ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz on Baja California. The plan backfired, when we tried to make a reservation for the Sea of Cortez crossing. There are two companies (that we know of) that offer the service – Baja Ferries and Ferry TMC. The first one is an overpriced tourist carrier, the second is a freight shipping company that can accommodate some tourists at significantly lower rates. Unfortunately Ferry TMC doesn’t allow young children on board, and Baja Ferries is booked until mid next week anyway. Since we need to leave Mexico in about two weeks, it means that we’ll have to skip Baja and instead head north towards US border in Nogales.

A little disappointing, for us who already failed once, 12 years ago trying to get from Baja to mainland Mexico, and for the kids who were thrilled about the idea of a sea passage. But that isn’t necessarily all bad news. After traversing Baja we were planning on a “side trip” back East to Grand Canyon, Zion, Brice, Las Vegas, etc… before returning to California and continuing north to Oregon before turning east on the final descent to Rochester. Skipping Baja means going straight up to Arizona, saving a fair amount of money on gas and the ferry tolls. Money which converts to additional weeks in Yosemite or Yellowstone. Baja can wait – maybe when the kids get a bit older we will do the peninsula on motorcycles…. and maybe we’ll finally get to cross the Sea of Cortez on a ferry…

That’s why today, we decided to extend our stay in Riviera Nayarit for a few extra days. We don’t need to hurry anymore, there is no “train” to catch, we will be beach bums again. We can relax on the beach, take a few surfing lessons, eat marlins, langustas and other seafood treasures at bargain prices. The beach is much nicer then Costa Esmeralda, although nowhere near as beatiful as Riviera Maya. Los Cocos has free WiFi Internet, so I can spend nights drawing maps of our future adventures (or these boring updates). Agnieszka and kids are sound asleep, only midget mosquitoes, giant iguanas and chihuahua size cockroaches keep me company. From a distance I can hear that San Blas has officially kicked off Semana Santa festivities. The whole town is singing aloud (and not necessarily clear)…

So, to paraphrase Yogi Berra’s words: The journey isn’t over until it’s over! Take it with a grin of salt..;-)