Archive for November, 2010

Cascada Cliff Jumping…



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Classic Nexpa Left Hander

I’m not sure whether it is that I have been to Barra de Nexpa before or that it is truly a special spot. I’m guessing it is most likely a little bit of both. Either way I was borderline giddy when we turned off of the highway. We have been anxious to get a little further south so oddly we considered skipping Nexpa and fanging it to Zihuatenejo. We don’t know what our return date is quite yet, but we may have to be back in San Diego on December 30th, considering we need 10 days to get home, that means that we may have as little as 3 weeks left to do as we please. Where does the time go?

Nexpa, and the upended cabana

Eventually sanity and reason mixed with some nostalgia won over and we decided on a couple days in Nexpa. Shortly after pulling off of Mexico 200 we ran into Lewis, a solo traveler from Reno, whom we had surfed with in La Ticla. Lewis is hopping from town to town by bus; a mode of transportation that while economical and efficient, often leaves him with a pretty long trek from the highway to the beach or town on foot, lugging his board and backback along. He jumped in the van as I, probably annoyingly, pointed out places to stay and eat to him and Natalie.

Chicho and a good size Snook his uncle shot with a spear gun...

The plan was to camp at Jorge & Helen’s place. I had stayed there before and thought the grassy area adjacent to the palapa would be an ideal spot to park the van and camp out. There have been rumors for some time that La Familia Michoacana has essentially moved in to Nexpa and had been harassing the business owners there for protection money and had started some land ownership disputes. The whispers that I had heard were that the bulk of the residents had been able to comply or work it out with the cartel but that Jorge and Helen were experiencing on-going headaches. The talk amongst the gringos in the water was that yes this was true and it seemed pretty likely considering the restaurant was closed and the hammock palapa seemed deserted and abandoned. Two ratty, forlorn hammocks is the only evidence that I had siesta’d away the afternoons there just two years prior. Their units still appear to be in good condition and there were people staying in them that had booked with Helen over the internet. Helen and Jorge were conspicuously absent, Helen having taken the kids to England for schooling in the winters as I was told was her custom now regardless and Jorge being in the United States for some other reason, planning on returning in January.

With that camping option now seeming less attractive we pulled up adjacent to a palapa next to Chicho’s restaurant – the best food in Nexpa, and amongst the best we’ve had on the trip. Lewis rented a cabana from Chico on the other side and we took to doing what you do in Nexpa, surf. The long left hand point break was considerably smaller than when I had surfed it before but the first day we got it head high and a bit bigger on the better sets. Despite the lack of swell it was still working properly and producing long, fun rides, the smallest day kicking up some little peelers that made for epic, all-time, Kassia Meador style longboarding.

Broken Reel... sad 😦

When the surf was blown out or we had enough we spent some serious time fishing. One day catching 20-some 15 inch jacks. Lewis also hooked into a large needlefish with some not-to-be-trifiled with teeth. Saddly my brand new reel broke. Nothing horrific but hard to fix and find parts in Mexico. Chicho’s uncle and I went on a spear fishing adventure, we didn’t catch anything that day but the man was a total badass. Probably in his early 60s, totally fit, the dude carried a monster spear gun and had it anchored to a boogie board that he used as a fish float for when he shot something big like a 40lb snook. He free dove with a weight belt and stayed underwater for several minutes at a time. He was and is still under the impression that I am also such; senior badass free diver, what he didn’t know was that I would come up for air and dive back down twice in the time that he was under once. Visibility was such that he couldn’t see my frequent surfacing for what it was and thus assumed that I was under for the entire time as well.

Needle Fish Hook Surgery

Other than the change at Jorge & Helen’s and a beachfront cabana with an eroded foundation that was now upended on the beach, Nexpa was as I had remembered it and remains a place I’ll come back to again. Lewis has taken up riding with us for the time being, he also had planned on Troncones as his next stop so we saw no sense in him bussing it when we were all headed there together.

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The beaches of Michoacan and Guerrero are famous for a lot of reasons, incredible beauty, sands of every color, rugged terrain, world class surf, and… Tortugas. The Tortuga Negra, or Black Sea Turtle is one of several endangered turtle species world wide. We have been lucky enough to see several of them. Almost every beach here has a turtle sanctuary where the locals dig up the turtle eggs after they have been laid and rebury them in a safe location where the sea birds, dogs, and people who would use the eggs for a local delicacy can’t get to them. When the eggs hatch the tortugitas are gathered up and released after sunset.

In Nexpa, one of the few places without a sanctuary, the locals saw them coming out of the ground, dug them up, put them in a bucket and then let them go once the sun went down. The next night in Troncones we stumbled upon another nest that was hatching and along with some true gringo tourists we gathered them up and directed them away from the frigate birds and the dogs towards the sea.

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Cocos Frio… Listo

I can confirm with 100% certainty that it is easier to open a coconut with a machete versus an axe.

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We spent a bit longer in Ticla than we originally anticipated, mostly because we just had no motivation to pack up camp. It turned out to be the right choice after all. Friday night, a couple of gringos with Colorado plates pulled into Ticla and camped next to us just after sunset. As they were walking by I heard them comment on the van and our California plates. I took this as an opportunity to chat them up, being Coloradoans and all. John, Nick and Kelly are all teachers at a school private school in Guadalajara. John and Nick, Denver-ites, have been in Mexico teaching for several years, Kelly for four months. They spend their weekends exploring the beaches and surf breaks of Mexico. We spent several meals, cervezas, and surf sessions kicking it with them and their friends Rodrigo and Lucy from Guadalajara.

Another friend of theirs, a gringo med student, arrived for some surf sessions on Saturday as well. Turns out that this guy was one of the people that got robbed while camping at Ticla. The stories of the armed robberies at Parador Turistica and Amalya’s are ubiquitos in San Diego, everyone has a friend of a friend or knows a guy that was there. But here was a real life participant, so we got the story first hand, under the ramada where it actually happened. There was probably more than one incident, so I can’t deny or confirm specific rumors but the gist of it is that yes, armed robberies (with knives and guns) took place, no one was injured, a Mexican was taken hostage for a couple of hours as a get-away driver, and they took as much money and high dollar items (ipods and the like) as they could. Other lower profile crimes have been occurring at Ticla as well, board and clothing theft, etc., but no one has been hurt. It’s been over a year since any of the major incidents have taken place and there are many rumors that the culprits have been identified and punished. Some say they were initiations for a cartel, local wannabe thugs from nearby Maruata or La Placita and that other rival cartels solved the problem; others think they were kids or crimes of desperation. Regardless it seemed totally surreal being camped there, feeling totally safe, leaving boards out on the racks at night, walking up to town for dinner and back well after dark.

Obviously, Nick, John and company didn’t have too many reservations about coming back to camp here and didn’t seem to overly cautious or scared. Nick it turns out spent a year in Fort Collins for eighth grade and went to Boltz, yes the same Boltz of the aforementioned mug that I have been carting around Mexico. He got a kick out of the Phoenix mug and recognized the names of a few of my brother’s friends. Weird.

Also weird are lizards falling from the sky. We purchased a hammock from one of the beach vendors, which, greatly contributed to our lack of motivation to continue down the road, that, and some fun surf sessions. We spent many hours lounging or reading under the palapa curled up or spread across the hammock. Despite her reluctance to making the initial purchase Natalie wasted away in the thing; until, reading one afternoon, a lizard fell from the roof of the palapa landing in the hammock with her. While she is not normally easily spooked or troubled by things like lizards, being a park ranger and all, this sent her launching from the hammock catapulting the poor lizard, who was probably just as surprised at his fall, across the sand.  I can report that both are unharmed.

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The state of Michoacan is one of the wildest, most undeveloped in all of Mexico. It has a stunning coastline of cliffs and rivermouths, fertile valleys and hillside agriculture. I imagine the drive along Mexico 200 through Michoacan to be amongst the best in the world. It’s incredibly hard to know where to stop and what to see. Luckily our new friends from Guadalajara pointed out a few stops on the map and several that weren’t. Incredibly beautiful beaches with Black Sea Turtle estuaries, ecotourism lodges, fishing villages, camping spots, tiny palapa and enramada restaurants line the curving, treacherous, no shouldered, untrimmed road. In roughly 100 kilometers we stopped at places called Ixtapilla, Palma Sola, La Manzanerilla, La Llirona, El Faro Bucerias, Maruata and we finally are camped for the night at Tizupan, about 50 kilometers north of Rio Nexpa. Some places had surf, others snorkeling, all of them were muey bonita.

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The last couple days we have been camped out at La Ticla, a few kilometers south of Colima along the Michoacan coast. A pretty fun little surf spot with great camping and bungalows/cabañas filled with Canadians (British Columbia), Italians, Canadians (British Columbia), Spider Man (Mexicans), Canadians (British Columbia), some expat Brits, Canadians (British Columbia), a few Texans from the South Padre part, Canadians (British Columbia), and us. Our campsite here is something to behold. It seems that we are manifest destiny campers, how much ever space you give us, we’ll utilize it all. We’ve been spots where we barely had room to put out the awning, totally fine. Currently we are parked along a 30 foot X 10 foot palapa with a concrete and stone patio, lights, electricity (2 prong ungrounded tho), board racks, and a few tables and chairs. We are using it all. It looks like we are camping with 10 people, not 2. We have a dining area, a kitchen area, boards on the racks, laundry strung from end to end. Most Mexicans live more modestly than we are currently camping.

The waves here have been super fun. The first day it never really glassed off so we jusr cooked dinner and kicked it. The next morning it was a couple of feet overhead and built throughout the day, it got a bit heavy when the offshores were up and the bigger of the sets definitely cleaned up the lineup. I was in the water for five to six hours and must have caught close to a hundred waves. This morning it was mellower and had backed off to shoulder to head high but was lined up for 50 to 100 yards. So fun, maybe I’ll drag the camera down around the corner for some surf pics a bit later.

The swell seems to be backing off through the weekend and we have no idea what is in store since we haven’t had internet in over a week. With the swell fading we’ll probably move on south.

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As you roll into Boca de Pascuales you see a couple of hotels, some small palapas, a couple of tiendas and some umbrellas on the beach. About a fifty yards into town, there is a break in the palapa restaurants and you see the surf. Saturday night was definitely the biggest we saw it. Roughly the end of the W-SW swell that we had hoped to pick up in Barra de Navidad. I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget seeing that first wave, some unknown surfer silhouette charging down the face of this gaping, wedging, monster of a wave; a solid 3-4 feet overhead and pounding. I’m certain that Pascuales is the heaviest wave I’ve ever surfed (seen) and supposedly this was the end of the swell. You should’ve have been here yesterday was the going mantra (for you non-surfers, this is always the going mantra as surfing stories and fish stories have a lot in common).

I paddled out the next morning into slightly smaller but still grande waves. All it does is barrel – over and over and over again. For me, there is no shoulder, there is no late take off. No whack on the lip. Just air drop off the peak and hold on until it either swallows me up or I get spit out, arms held high like I just got that perfect 10 you needed to win the world title. Morning number two was slightly smaller still (the pictures are from this day), but still not for the faint of heart. I was in the water at 7:00 and by 8:30 my shoulders were burning but not as much as my stoke. I had managed my way into a couple of meaty ones and lucked into a full cover-up backside barrel. Needing a bit of rest I paddled out the back to recover a bit. A huge roller came right at me, not wanting to look the kook that I am, I turned and jammed my tail into the face, two strokes and to my feet as fast as I could manage, apparently not quite fast enough. I made the drop but the barrel was already cranking over. It picked me up spun me over the falls and then just for fun scooped me a second time.

Wha???? No leash?

The thing about Pascuales is that it is super shallow, maybe only 18 inches in some spots. The wave comes from deep water and smacks the shallow sand bar pitching the lip of the wave over the front on just about any swell from any direction. I must have looked a bit stunned by the time I made it back to the peak. A local asked if I was ok and then a Mexican paddled over and said “poco lento” (a little slow) while holding his thumb and index finger about two centimeters apart. “Are you sure” I asked rhetorically in English, turned and stroked into the next wave that came my way, a smaller left… the other thing about Pascuales is that the backwash off the beach can double up the waves or, worse, pitch a launch ramp about half way down the take-off that sends you uncontrollably hurtling through the air while the face of the wave chases you down for some more punishment.

That was the last wave of the day for me. Natalie and I might walk down the beach in search of a less pitchy wave that we can surf together. We’ll kick it here another day or two and then head south to softer, gentler, kinder, breaks when the next “real” swell fills in.

For the whole set of surf pics check out the flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22504035@N04/sets/72157625420530076/

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