Las Tortugas!

It felt good to spend a few days in Mazatlán. The weather was definitely warmer and we had time walk the beach and enjoy the pool. Technically we were still in the state of Sinaloa but there was little evidence of trouble at this resort city.

As usual the sunsets were stunning over the ocean.

On one of our walks on the beach we saw this couple getting pictures taken when suddenly he drops to one knee and asks her to marry him. Everyone all around broke into applause. It was pretty cool to see.

I had a short motorcycle adventure when I rode across town in crazy traffic to the ferry terminal. We needed ferry reservations for our return trip, when we will go from Mazatlán to Baja at the end of February, for the much anticipated wedding of Lindsey and our son Jon. I was navigating with the Google maps voice in my head telling me where to turn as I dodged cars, busses, taxis, trucks and other motorcycles zipping around. A true adventure motorcycle ride! At the terminal I needed to make reservations for us and our bikes. As expected they spoke no English and I had to rely on my slightly improving Spanish. So, I “think” we have reservations to LaPaz or else maybe I booked a cruise to Hawaii… we’ll see.

Deby and I were pretty much recharged when we departed for points south. Our next stop would be Puerto Vallarta. We’ve been to PV many times and I could have skipped it, but our good friends, Don and Terry were there for the winter in their new condo. The ride was nice along the coast but the temperatures were getting much warmer, so we were glad for our mesh jackets. As we exited the state of Sinaloa there was another military presence but they were just keeping an eye on the roads. We felt completely safe and had a good day’s ride.

We booked a hotel room next to their condo in the Marina district over our friends objections but we knew they had a lot going on with a big remodel and we didn’t want to impose (next time guys!). From our hotel window we could see these huge cruise ships coming and going. Don and Terry’s condo was in one of the white buildings to the left.

I’ve known Don for many years from his time working at I-90 motorsports, besides motorcycling, we are both musicians and have a long history of similar music backgrounds and tastes. It was really fun spending a few days with them exploring the area, sitting at the pool and trying our some of their favorite restaurants. One night they took us to their favorite music venue and we listened to this really fun band. Of course, Don was best buddies with these guys and was even getting ready to play some gigs with them.

Dang, I have a short video clip but the bandwidth at our last two hotels (and this one) has been really bad so I can’t upload it. Maybe in a future post.

Don and Terry – thanks for everything, we had a great time and hope to return soon!

Off to see the turtles

We felt well fed and rested as we packed up the bikes to continue our ride south. It ended up being a longer day than expected in even hotter weather. The road south of Puerto Vallarta is really one of my favorites in Mexico. Most of it is a remote two lane road that twists and turns along the coast. The mountains come right down to the water in most places and the sharp corners commanded all our attention. Again, I took some helmet cam video and pictures but I don’t think I can upload them from here. The terrain was more and more like riding through the jungle with thick vegetation creating a canopy over the roadway.

We were looking for a hotel called Las Brisas del Verano that was supposed to be right on the beach in a small town. Deby and I both typed in the hotel into our GPS units and Google Maps on my iPhone. It seemed a little strange that the estimated time to get there was only 4 hours but we didn’t think too much about it. We knew it was right off Mex 200. Somehow as it got later in day, and hotter, and we were getting tired, we were just blindly following the electronic directions when we found ourselves in the stupid big city of Manzanillo. I wasn’t sure why we were going right through town but the GPS said we were close to the hotel. Hmmmm, we thought it should be outside of town “a little” south. Suddenly we are in traffic in 90+ degree heat and my iPhone starts going dark from overheating and acting strange. At one point I was stopped at a light and took a screen shot of the directions.

Arrg, what does that even mean? And we were 0.5 miles from the hotel! And, we were in the middle of town. No way was that correct. The best thing to do was to find a shady spot and just stop and figure out what was going on. I booked the hotel using and clicked on their link with directions to the hotel, yep that’s where it was taking me. I’m sure that wasn’t it because we weren’t in the best part of town and there was no nice sandy beach anywhere nearby. Finally, with more research and having to actually enter the hotel GPS coordinates into my Garmin, we found the place (we hoped). The bad news was it was almost two hours to the south in the blazing heat. We rode to a Pemex, filled up our gas tanks and hydration packs and maneuvered our way out of town. Discouraged but looking forward to a nice beach.

It was 4:55 PM when we found the actual Las Brisias hotel. I had a small panic that they would say we didn’t have a reservation and I accidently booked the other hotel. I almost didn’t care, we were going to stay there no matter what. I was relived when she asked me if I was Mr. Donn, whew. I know we arrived at 4:55 because when I went to check in looking exhausted and dripping wet from head to toe, the nice lady asked if we would want to eat. Si señora por supuesto! Umm, the kitchen and bar closes at 5:00 so you should order your food and anything to drink right now. Yikes! In full riding gear we slogged to the restaurant next to the beach to order some food. They had a nice menu, but actually the only thing they had to order was fried fish. Ok, that settled it – dos pescados. What about the bar, could we get anything to drink later, water, beer, anything. The answer was no. Anything we thought we wanted for the whole night we would have to order right then. We decided we didn’t care and placed what would normally seem like a large alcohol order.

Topo chico, Corona, Don Julio, we were ready for anything.

With our order placed we unloaded the bikes and changed out of our smelly damp riding gear. Seriously, my boots really should be stored outside our hotel room from here on out. In Puerto Vallarta, at the swanky Marriot Hotel I put all our riding gear in the closet so the cleaning people wouldn’t have to work around the grime. The next morning, when I opened the closet I was amazed at the odor that attacked my senses. Ouch, put a hurt on my nose, as Frank Zappa would say.

Back at Las Brisas, we enjoyed our fresh caught fish, and finished well after the sun was down. The hotel had some hammocks near the water where we settled in with our electronic books for the evening.

In the morning we had time to survey our surroundings. How did we end up at this place? Las Brisas is a tiny, tiny town on the coast of Michoacan. I found out later that the population of the town is 30, but was told it could be 31, as they weren’t sure how to count one of the hotel workers. I was up before dawn and walked to the beach past the restaurant hoping against hope there would be some coffee or at least hot water so we could use our instant coffee. Nope, nothing. The beach is very remote, with only our hotel and another smaller one that had cabanas for rent. Looking out over the beach before the sun came up, in the shadows, I could just barely make out a hunched over figure walking on the beach. The figure was covered in long robes from head to toe and carried a huge staff. Seriously, I thought it could be the wizard Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi himself. Was I imagining this dark figure in the mist in my caffeine deprived state? I filed this information away meaning to ask the hotel staff about it but never did.

I found out the kitchen didn’t open until 9:30 so I went to deliver Deby the bad news instead of her morning coffee. We decided to take a walk on the beach to wake up and find out where the heck we were. I took a couple pictures of the hotel.

A very modest place, on a totally deserted beach, except for the occasional wandering nomad. We were on our walk when we noticed a number of these tracks.

What was that? When we were just in Puerto Vallarta there were warnings about crocodiles along the beach. Evidently a tourist was recently bit walking home in the water from a bar. Terry suggested the crocodile wanted a pina colada treat. With this in mind I was thinking we should be watching out for crocks as well as wandering nomads.

As is normal in Mexico, suddenly we notice two hombres on the beach heading towards us. I’m cautious but not overly so, and for some reason I remembered the Spanish word for tracks “Huellas”, I walked over and asked about the huellas. I’m pretty sure I pronounced it wrong and the surrounding words were incorrect but they seemed to understand. Son cocodrilos? No, tortugas! Really? All these tracks are turtles? Wow. They were huge. They came to shore in the night to lay eggs. .

Later after our much needed coffee, Deby and I went for a long walk on the beach. In the distance we again saw the shadow with the staff and this time with the two hombres I talked to earlier. They were using the staff and hands to dig in the sand. What were they doing? Could they be digging out the turtle eggs? We watched from a safe distance trying not to be obnoxious. I’m pretty sure it is illegal to disturb the turtles or their eggs. After they left we walked to the area where they were digging and saw a hole in the sand surrounded by broken egg shells. Hmmm, we suspected the worst. This was clearly a small village and I’m assuming the locals have been eating turtle eggs for generations.

I wanted to spend time uploading pictures and getting a blog post out but in typical rural fashion, the internet was more of a wish than reality. Sure, you could connect to the Wifi but that didn’t really mean anything. Our cell phones didn’t really work unless you stood at a corner of the beach at a funny angle and then we could only send text messages. Well, what’s so bad about that? We sat in the hammocks, read books, alternated walks on the beach and were sure to order dinner and drinks to last the night well before 5:00.

We did ask about the turtles but forgot to ask about the shrouded figure. We were told that yes, they come up at night to dig a hole and lay their eggs in the sand. Deby was all about it, insisting we plan on getting up early to walk the beach.

At 5:00 in the morning it was really dark, with iPhone flashlights and a small penlight, and sunrise almost two hours away, we stumbled pre-caffeinated onto the sandy beach. There was a half moon and a sky full of stars. We could sort of see without the flashlights once our eyes acclimated. We were not sure what we were looking for and sort of wandering when I told Deby to stop. Look – someone is out there. It was the bent over figure with the flowing robes and staff. Wait, was it someone? Was I seeing things? We walked some more and the image was gone, probably my imagination. Then inexplicitly, I sensed a presence near me and the robed figure was right next to us.

It was a woman wrapped in blankets walking with her staff. She asked what we were doing out there. Then, if we were looking for turtles? Yes, trying to recall every Spanish word I knew, buscar, huevos, arena, tortugas. She gestured to follow her, she would show us.

It was really dark but I fell back and pushed the limits of my iPhone nighttime photo capability.

Our new friend, who we found out was Maria, used her much brighter flashlight and staff to probe likely spots in the sand for turtles or their eggs.

In the dark with me walking behind I ended up being the one to almost stumble over a turtle.

Maria became animated and signaled us to be quiet and back away. I presume not to disturb the creature. To this point we still weren’t sure what her purpose was for searching out the sea turtles, for the eggs? To rescue the babies? Some of each? With us a few steps back she went over and started digging.

She came up empty handed and only said “otra personas” other people. So others already found the eggs? She signaled us to follow her some more, this time at a fast pace as she was working against time with the sun starting to come up over the mountains.

At one point, she found a hole like the one Deby and I found the previous day, with egg shells scattered about. She said that is where the baby turtles hatched and made their way to the sea. We were relieved that is what we saw and not the slaughter of eggs. Once she said that, we started noticing broken egg shells all over the beach. Clearly, many of these baby turtles managed to hatch and start their perilous journey of survival in the water.

We started heading back and I took this picture of a perfect morning sky on the beach.

We stopped a few more times to poke about in the sand bud didn’t find anything, or maybe she was just marking spots to come back to.

It was still early and she invited us to her “restaurant” for breakfast. It was well before time for our restaurant to open we we accepted under the condition they had coffee. Yes, of course they did! Is it strong? I asked in Spanish. Of course!! When we got there her husband greeted us and brought out two steaming cups of… hot water. Then he produced a container of instant coffee. Yes, we could make it as strong as we wanted!

That, along with some homemade bread and a selfie for her husband’s brother in Seattle (small world) was our breakfast.

The mystery woman of the beach turned out to be one of the most wonderful people on the trip so far. By the time we left we felt like best friends and she insisted that if we return we stay with them in one of their humble cabanas.

Sorry if this post was a little long. The places we stay don’t seem to have very good internet and it’s challenging to upload photos, much less videos. Right now we are in Zihuantanejo for a couple days. Next we need to get to Oaxaca by the 20th of January. We don’t exactly have a route but will probably end up along the coast to Puerto Escondido and then take one of the roads up through the mountains to the city of Oaxaca.

Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

5 thoughts on “Las Tortugas!

  1. So interesting. Loved reading it all!
    We have been to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
    Hired a guide to drive us up into the hungele ( jungle, Ha!) And the road was washed out all the way up from the aftermath of an offshore hurricane the night before. However, we were quite anxious when suddenly he stopped and indicated we should get out of the vehicle. He walked us through thick overhead vegetation and far inside was a clearing and huge round grass thatched roof restaurant with cascading waterfalls and a foot bridge . Surprised and Relieved!
    We had dismissed the instructions given to us the night before by our cruise ship social director to only conduct business with those listed on the sheet he handed out. We have photos of large iguana on our shoulders. But big smiles after our adventure.

  2. Don’t feel bad that the turtle eggs are eaten. Sadly, only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood. ( according to Google )

  3. So many of what are best described as “cosmic stirrings–” The turtles, Maria, the 6 degrees of separation connection with the Seattle brother in-law, the perfect morning beach scene. Thanks for taking us along on your adventures. So cool.

  4. So enjoying your adventure. Between your narration and great photos, I almost feel like I am along for the ride. Keep traveling and stay safe!

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