Costa Esmeralda

After visiting Las Pozas, Sotanos de las Huahuas and El Tajin, we decided that we needed a break from all that jungle and mountains attractions of Sierra Madre Oriental. From Poza Rica, it’s an easy ride to Mexico’s Gulf Coast resorts area, known as Costa Esmeralda – a stretch of beaches between Veracruz and Rio Tecolutla. It was about time to find an inexpensive camping and repair our budget, severely impaired by unplanned nights in expensive hotels.

Federal Highway #180 connects Poza Rica with Veracruz and runs through Tecolutla and other villages of Costa Esmeralda parallel to the Gulf Coast shore. For about half an hour we drove up and down a 10 miles stretch between La Vigueta and Casitas, looking for a camping spot. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of Areas de Acampar, often called RV Parks (we haven’t seen a single RV there). As usual, it’s a good idea to shop around as the amenities and prices vary significantly from place to place.

We settled on a place called “Trailer Park Alicia” – a very decent and fairly priced place, right on the beach. Within minutes Nadia and Alex were in the pool, while Agnieszka proceeded to prepare delicious shrimp tacos with guacamole – yep, we’ve been fairly well “Mexicanized” already…

In the evening, armed with a bottle of red, we approached fellow campers and started a little beach party. Since it was the New Years Eve, we stayed up late that night – probably until 10.30 PM or so… At midnight, woken by the fireworks, we celebrated beginning of 2012 with a quick run to the bathroom.  Going back to sleep wasn’t difficult at all. The night was uneventful and we got to recharge our batteries. Little did we know, how much we would need it.

The next morning, we welcomed New Year on the beach. Taking a long stroll along the shore, we got a glimpse of Costa Esmeralda’s Resorts… What a disappointment!

Lets start with the sand. Unlike Yukatan and the Pacific, the Gulf Coast of Mexico is mainly the color of chocolate (or whatever else dark brown comes to your mind). I’m not sure what’s the reason for that, but it gives an impression of the beach being dirty. Well, maybe it’s not an impression after all. One can see oil rigs in the distance and find spills of black, thick substance on the sand. None of the US beaches in the North looked contaminated. Costa Esmeralda on the other hand looks just terrible!

Tons of trash only amplify that impression. Everywhere, there are empty beer cans, water bottles, nylon bags, plastic waste and other more or less identifiable man made objects. Apparently, there must be a significant shortage of garbage bins in the region. Or rather it’s a country wide problem, but that subject grants a whole new post altogether. For now, suffice it to say, that these weren’t our dream coastal holidays…

The second night a violent storm made a landfall nearby. We used our car to shield the tent from strong winds blowing from the Ocean, but we couldn’t protect it from the heavy rain. Needless to say, for some of us the night was almost sleepless. With amazement (and a bit of unhealthy thrill) I was looking at palm trees bending half way to the ground, expecting the coconuts to smash on our heads or the tent to blow away any second. Obviously, nothing like that happened, but the scenes were like watching some of the more catastrophic relations on CNN.

Since the local weather forecast for the next few days was hopeless, we decided to fold the wet tent and move on to our next destination. Just a few miles further, we were able to assess damage the storm brought to this poor region. Water flooded banana plantations, houses and the main road. Luckily (or a bit recklessly) we drove through a flood filled pond just minutes before the only road to Puebla got closed down.

01-Jan-2012 13:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
01-Jan-2012 13:14, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 85.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
01-Jan-2012 13:07, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
01-Jan-2012 13:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 85.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
01-Jan-2012 13:09, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
01-Jan-2012 13:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 85.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200

Chattahoochee to Pensacola

Great Blue Heron at Sunset

Just as the name suggest, we stayed in Florida’s outback for a couple of nights. We’ve left Jacksonville on Friday morning, just on the brink of an upcoming storm. As we learned later, it was a rather large one, therefore I’m glad to report that our timing was impeccable once again. We escaped west far enough to stay dry and we left Chattahoochee just before the storm caught up with us. We’ve packed the car last night and after folding the tent, we’ve left before breakfast. When we stopped at a nearby Micky Dees for a bowl of cereal at a curb, it started to rain.

I think there is really no need for us to complain about the weather at all. Yes, we got wet, real soaking in fact, but only once in Rocky Gap near Cumberland, MD. We also didn’t time properly our departure from Cheraw, SC and left the campground in rain and in a hurry. We’ve learned from these mistakes and now we’re packing the night before departure and keep observing the weather forecest changes to react appropriately. In fact, rain and sun dictate the direction and speed at which we’re moving. After all, our journey is a a true wander…

If I was to rank the places we’ve visited so far, I would have given Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Virginia most points for their interpretive programs, their facilities and very friendly, dedicated and knowledgable staff. Hunting Island ranks best for the weather and the overall vacation-like setting. Buckaloons in Pennsylvania still holds the 1st position for their bathroom standards. In fact, I have to say that in this category, the cleaningness and features are adequate to park’s latitude. North ranks much better than the South.

All the places we’ve visited so far had their own highlights and all of them had their problems. Too moist, too hot, too many raccoons, ants, skuns, armadillos, you name it. But all of them were really fascinating and I’m glad we had a chance to visit them all.

This morning, we’ve crossed a timezone line. We are leaving the East and will be travelling along the gulf coast. If there only was a ferry from Florida to Yucatan, it would have saved us a lot of time, and probably money. In fact, apparently there used to be one, back eight years ago. Unfortunatelly it failed to attract enough interest to stay in business for too long and left the owner with a USD $Million hole in his pocket. There might be another one launched as soon as early next year, but it’s not sure. We’ll take the long road and start learning Spanish along the way.