Friday, November 30, 2012

End of 1st week at Xpu-Ha

It’s been a pretty relaxing week. The weather has been near perfect. High for the day in the Low 80’s and partly cloudy, night time lows in the mid 60’s. We had one day where it rained in the late afternoon and into the night. But other than that it’s been very nice.

John_Peg_XpuPalapaEach morning we take our 3 mi beach walk on the white sand beach and rest under the little palapa at the end of the beach.

Of course, as always, we use the pieces of coral to write our names in the sand and see how long it goes undisturbed from dogs & tourists.






JohnKayak_Xpu-HaI brought my Remix 69 river kayak down this year since I was going to do some river paddling in the mountains. But it is also is a great surfer. On Wednesday there were some nice small waves to surf.

Today I decided to get a a little more exercise and paddle over to Puerto Adventures. It’s about 3 mi one way and takes about an hour.


The Remix is a little slow for Ocean paddling but I’m out for exercise not racing. I spent about 1-1/2 hours there watching the tourists play with the dolphins. You can bike or drive over there also and walk all around and watch the free shows.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On the Beach at Xpu-Ha

We are early risers so we left Tepetapan at 6:15 AM on Friday as the sun was rising. We had a long day ahead of us since we wanted to get to our winter beach home at Xpu-Ha, QR on Saturday. Our plan was to overnight in a Pemex along MX186 near MX221 road to Candelaria.

We found the roads much better and with the early start we were in Acayucan 30 min ahead of schedule. Last year when we hit the MX145D cuota it was in terrible shape. This year it was way better and we gained more time and we got to Villahermosa at 11 AM. Then we took MX186 heading east, that road was in great shape also so we found ourselves near the Palenque turn at 1 PM. We gassed up and figured we could make it beyond Escarcega for the night. After a quick check of Church’s great campground guide we found what would turn out to be a great choice.

At milepost 53 km is a place called Campestre Restaurante Bar-Familiar Maya. It is set back off the noisy highway on Laguna Silvituc. It has a nice large grassy area where very large RV’s can park and a great restaurant. We had both fresh fish filets, with salad, refried beans, tortillas and a beer. Our total bill with the tip was only $17 US and the camping was free. A word of warning, when the sun sets there are many mosquitos so put on your repellant before going to the restaurant.

RVXpuHaSaturday we again left with sunrise, stopped twice for fuel, once to fill our Propane tank and went grocery shopping at the big Chedraui in Tulum. We arrived at Xpu-Ha at 2 PM. We were able to squeeze into the same spot as last year.

There were already 10 campers here but room for at least 4 more. We had a nice day after we setup and a cool night’s sleep. Temp’s 58oF.


SignPostsSunday morning we took our beach walk to see if anything had changed since last year.

The beach was much wider everywhere and super clean. No new hotels but they are adding a couple of new rooms to Al Cielo. The small place where they filmed the Corona Beer commercial last year.

NY_Corona_ComercialAl Cielo 2012



Of course we saw a bride on the beach being photographed and laying in the surf. I assume she was married yesterday since she was trashing the wedding dress on Sunday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving–Our Last day in Catemaco

We stop here each year and enjoy an American Thanksgiving dinner prepared by our American campground owner, Gene and his Mexican wife, Gaby. After we explained last week that the holiday came on 11/22 they moved their plans forward one week.

We stayed here a full week but it was the coolest, wettest  week since we have been coming down here. I didn’t take my bike down off the rack since I felt I would either get soaking wet or muddy if I took a long ride. We always expect some rain here since the area is a rain forest and the vegetation is lush & green.

Tepetapan2012There are only three people staying in the Casitas that Gene rents out in the winter and only one other camper. So I’m not sure what kind of pot luck supper we will have today. Gene prepares the turkey and Gaby does the dressing & trimmings. Of course Peggy cooked her famous brownies for desert.

MyThanksgiving DinnerOur plans changed after I got an e-mail from Gerry who flew into Xpu-Ha earlier this week. He said they are saving our campsite but things are starting to fill up, so he suggested that we get here as soon as we can. We feel we could make it there in 2 long days if the roads are OK. We will try to stay at a Pemex about half way there on Friday night.

Our Trip Plans for Friday


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catemaco Weather is Improving

No rain today so we took a nice walk into town and then stopped at the new Soriana Grocery store about 1/2 mi from our campground.


Here is the new town pier and some of the launches that they use for tourists.


Here is a nice view from the new pier looking toward town.


Very colorful tree along the Malecon.

Things have still been cloudy and cool (75oF - 64o), hopefully each day will get better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lazy Days in Catemaco

SwimmingPool-NoWaterThe weather here has been a little cool with off & on drizzle. Gene says he will fill the pool when things get warmer. On Sunday the couple from Michigan that was camped in their minivan next to us decided to move on to Chiapas where it was drier and warmer, They plan to go into Central America, maybe as far south as Costa Rica.

Things dried up after they left so we took a walk along the malecon listening to the cries of La Lancha from the local boatman looking for customers. They built a nice new fishing pier but I forgot my camera, so maybe tomorrow I’ll get some pictures of all the new stuff in town.

I stopped in a two little Telcel stands but my Spanish was so bad and their English lacking that I could not get them to understand what I needed to get my Banda Ancha working again. Not a problem yet since we have Wi-Fi here at camp that works quite well.

SwissRVWhen we got back to camp a new couple arrived in their little German truck camper. They are Swiss and had the truck and camper shipped to Halifax, NS early this year. They toured Canada, Alaska and the west coast of USA before dropping down into Mexico. They must have gone down the West coast and all the way around the Yucatan and were now travelling up the Gulf coast back to the USA. Their plans are to continue around the Gulf coast and down into Florida . After that they will drive up to Baltimore where they will ship their rig back home.

OurCleanRVWe finally got a chance to wash all the road grime from our RV and compared to the little Swiss rig our little RV actually looks big.

We woke to a light shower again on Monday morning but the weather quickly cleared and there was plenty of sunshine. I decided to take a bus over to San Andreas Tuxtla which is a much bigger town of 150,000 people compared to the tourist town of Catemaco’s 20,000 people. The round trip bus ride on a local bus cost a little over a dollar for the 18 mi ride.

The center of town is about 1/2 mi. from the main road. If you get off at the Bodega Aurrera (mini Wal-Mart) there is a nice walkway that follows a canal into near the city center. Somehow I spotted a small Telcel store right off the town square. I explained my problem in my best Spanish which was good enough for them to understand. They did a few things, got on a computer, did some more and showed me that the account was magically valid again. They suggested I go a few doors down to a Coppel store and recarga the phone number associated with the card. I have no idea why the Telcel store couldn’t do it. I added 400 pesos to the account with no problem other than the long lines of people buying other things. I walked back to the Telcel store showed them my receipts and they said all is well, no charge.

When I got back to camp I found out that yes indeed my account was operational with 400 pesos credit awaiting me to sign up for 30 days service. I’ll do that tomorrow so that the card will work until we fly back home from Cancun in December. That way when we return in January I can add more and pay for 30 days from that point.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Here for a week in Catemaco

We are now at Tepetapan RV Park in Catemaco, VC. They keep predicting rain but it was dry all day until we got right outside of San Andreas Tuxtla. It rained hard for  about 20 minutes then the rest of the day was beautiful.

The drive was uneventful, we got an early start at sunrise and were happy to see the the roads between the Emerald Coast and Veracruz are still in good condition. We made pretty good time getting to camp at 1 pm after stopping to shop and gas up.

There are a couple of campers here. When we arrived, as always we were greeted by Gene. When we said we will stay until Thanksgiving he realized that Thanksgiving is not the last Thursday in November but the 4th Thursday. I hope we convinced him that he needs to put on his annual turkey dinner on the correct date.

Our RV was so dirty from the muddy roads a few days ago that I could not touch the outside without getting dirty. I got out the hose and washed off all the dirt, it looks new again.

They have Wi-Fi at Tepetapen, but I still haven’t got my Telcel Banda Ancha working. I stopped at a Coppel store and they confirmed that my number had expired so I needed to buy a new Sim card but they couldn’t sell me one and I had to go to the Telcel store. Of course they couldn’t tell me where it was. So I’ll try somewhere else tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Day at the Emerald Beach

The Costa Esmeralda is very different than the West Coast or the Yucatan beaches. West Coast is brown sand , the Yucatan is white coral sand, while this coast’s sand is almost black. There are at least 50 hotels, campgrounds and cattle grazing land in this 10 mile stretch of MX180 along the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure all this development has led to the water pollution. I think the oil rigs and oil deposits in the Bay of Campeche have added the dark black color.


But it is very popular in the summertime with Mexicans from all over the country. But in the late Fall and Winter months most of the tourists come from out of the country. It seems warm to us but cold to the Mexicans. So with an El Norte brewing, we have the campground and beach to ourselves. We like Neptuno campground but TP de Alba and Quinta Alicia are nice parks also, we have stayed in both of them.

We finally found a Italian Coffee Co about 2 mi. down the road at a Pemex that allowed me to use their wireless internet to catch up with all my e-mails. I hope by Friday I can get my Telcel 3G USB wide band working again.


So this afternoon we took about a 3.5 mi walk on the beach. The skies looked stormy but it was the temperature was in the mid 70’s and no rain yet. Tomorrow morning we head to Catemaco with a stop in the Tuxtlas for grocery shopping.

Rainy & Bumpy drive to Emerald Coast

We still have not been able to get our Banda Ancha computer stick working, and have not been anywhere where we could get internet access. Our Wednesday drive plan worked out exactly as scheduled. We left when it got light at 6:45 AM. It was cloudy and a light rain all day until we got to the coast. The drive had many areas of broken pavement and muddy areas so the RV was sprayed with dirt and the back window was opaque.


The picture really doesn't look as bad as it is, there is a very light dirt film all over the lower half of our new motorhome.

We arrived at 2:45 PM at Neptuno Campground. We have stopped here on our way South and North for the past 5 years. The manager keeps the place really clean, so it is a nice rest stop along the way. The temperature here was in the low 70’s, a little warmer than the high 60’s the past 2 days. It was really hot the first day we got to the Micos but cooled off nicely.

They have no internet here either but they tell us that 2 mi down the road is an Italian Coffee Co. with wireless internet. If these blogs come through you will know that we got access. We will stay here another night. and leave early on Friday for Catemaco.

Thursday's Trip Plan

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Rest Day in the Huasteca

This mountainous region outside of Ciudad Valles is full of turquoise streams and large waterfalls. The region is called the Huasteca in the state of San Luis Potosi. Nearby is one of the deepest (vertical) caves in the world (Sotano de las Golindrinas). People actually base jump into it and float to the bottom. Each morning and birds fly out by the thousands and circle back in at night. Google it for videos. The strange estate of Edward James called Las Pozas is also nearby.

Well the problem is even though all the sites are close, the roads are terrible. They get beat to death by the sugar cane trucks.  We didn’t want to take our RV down any of these roads but they would be OK for a 4 wheel drive SUV.

The kayak group is paddling north of here for today on the Rios Salto. Salto in Spanish means Falls, so more waterfall running. I scraped my knee yesterday while carrying my kayak down to the river. It rubbed on my thigh pad all day and was rubbed raw, so I decided to give it a rest and take a short hike with Peggy so that she could actually see some of the falls upstream of our camp that we ran yesterday.

I posted the pictures of the park and some of the falls in yesterday’s blog. So on Wednesday we leave for the Emerald Coast and the kayak group leaves for some even harder rivers for 3 more nights.

Wednesday's Trip Plan



Monday, November 12, 2012

Paddling the Rio Micos - Monday

The group included paddlers from the Eastern USA and one from France. I had paddled with several in the past. There was one young women who was a newer paddler, who may only paddle the easy sections.

Last Big Drop before the Park



They took it very slow on this short section of continuous waterfalls that ranged from 7’ to 30‘. There were really no rapids only a big drops and then a pool. Some of the drops were easy slides, while others required sliding, maneuvering and boofing the last part of the falls. Tom explained the boof stroke and the landing position which was different from what I was accustomed to. He made sure all the paddlers could do a few rolls on each side before we began.


The water level was much lower than last year. The first run took over 2 hours. The group took a short break, loaded up again and the second run took only about one hour. We broke for lunch and I decided to rest since after lunch some of them ran the river 2 more times. It is a spectacular river visually, Turquoise waterfalls and dense jungle vegetation.

MultipleFallsAfter all the big falls there is a private park where the locals or tourists swim or canoe in the pool below the falls. There are many food vendors and paths to see various views of the falls upstream.

The rest of the way back to camp the river breaks into multiple channels and series of small drops and for another 1-1/2 mi.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good days drive to the Rio Micos

Since we had all our paper work done (FMM & TIP) we could use the easy crossing at Los Indios. On Sunday you are allowed to cross here but you can’t get Visas or Vehicle Permits It is also open to return to the USA on Sunday but you can’t turn your permits back in, which is required when leaving MX for the year. They now use computers to keep track that you paid for your FMM and have returned it before the 6 month limit.
We got going early and crossed the border at 6:15AM. When we tried to reactivate our Telcel Banda Ancha to give us internet access in MX at a OXXO convenience store it didn’t work. It is possible that the number gets cancelled after  6 months of non-use. We got pesos OK from a ATM and tried the recharga at another store in case the first store did something wrong, no luck. Looks like no internet until I can get a new sim card.

AldeaHuestecaThe traffic was light the whole way but it was very windy. There were lots of Topes (giant speed bumps) in Valle Hermosa, but virtually no more until we got to Ciudad Valles. We tried a new way this year taking a very straight & not hilly highway from just before Ciudad Victoria back to MX81 at Gonzalez, then turned back on MX80 to Ciudad Mante. It’s 15 mi. further but 15 min faster than going through Soto. When they complete the widening of MX180 through Soto that way will be better.


We arrived at our campsite at 4 PM. The driveway into Aldea Huasteca was rather washed out but we made it in ok. Half of the kayakers were already here running the Rio Micos. I drove the fast 20 minute shuttle for them, so they could make their 4th run of the day. We then set up our RV next to a deer on a leash, weird.

TomsKayaksA little later Tom McEwan arrived from the Tampico airport where he picked up 4 more paddlers who will join the Liquid Adventures Kayak trip that starts on Monday. I only will paddle with them when they are staying at this campground, when they leave to paddle on some more advanced rivers we will move on to North of Vera Cruz on the Emerald Coast of Mexico. No internet here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Crossing Border into Mexico on Sunday

We said goodbye to the Priem’s at 6 AM, they are early risers like us. Leaving early in Houston is a good thing, there was very lite traffic all the way to Harlingen, TX. We got there at about noon but had a lot of stuff to do.

First thing since we have a new RV with a larger awning, we needed to have our patio mat enlarged by 4’. They don’t use the same color material anymore but luckily found a scrap wide enough to work for us.. This took about 2 hrs., so we bought a few things at the big flea market.

Next stop was to drive to the border at Progreso, TX. We parked on the USA side and walked to the Mexican customs to get our FMM’s (Mexican 180 day visa). This is the slowest place I’ve ever seen, instead of giving you the form so it could be filled out and then pay your 290 peso/person and have your passport stamped. She talked to everyone and it took over an hour. But we were glad we didn’t drive over, there were two lanes of cars backed up for a half mile that we walked past, but even the pedestrian line was long and they had 4 agents checking. I guess all the winter Texans go over to shop and have dental work done here.

By 4:30 we were back in Harlingen where Peggy got her fix of mall shopping while I checked my e-mails at a McDonald’s. We will stay the night at the big Wal-Mart and do some last minute grocery shopping. We hope to cross the border at 6:30 AM.

Here is a link to tomorrows plan, from there you can see each day’s plans.

Tomorrow's Plan

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We made it to Houston

After two nights on the road in Wal-Mart parking lots, we finally made it to Rich & Tracey Priem’s house. Rich is my 2nd cousin and we have been close for years. He started kayaking 40 years ago at the same time I did. They have three sons who get bigger each time we visit.

      Cade                                                      Finn                             Dane



We will visit for a few days and hope to get an early start to TX/MX border on Saturday morning. We will get our camp patio mat enlarged to fit our new larger RV awning, and get our Mexico Visa so that we can cross the border early on Sunday morning.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RV Factory Repair

We pulled our RV into the Phoenix factory at 6 AM. The problem was a leaking rubber seal on the side-out which contains our refrigerator and dinette.


This is what the inside of our RV looked like at 6 AM.


One hour later the dinette was removed.

Then they removed the refrigerator.




The adhesive on the big rubber seal adhesive had failed and come loose from the rubber seal, not from the slide-out floor.

Here is the new seal.

They had to remove the slide-out to put the new seal in. Of course rather than just rely on the adhesive to hold they actually screwed down the new seal.


In their spare time they put in a new emergency exit window since when we tried to demo it, the window seal did not comeback together properly. They didn’t  know why, so they just installed a new window.

They completed everything and had us back together by 11 AM, a 5 hour job. They sure know what they are doing. A local RV sales place near us told us it was a 40 hr. job.

Minutes later, we were on the road to Houston. We will go via South Bend, Indianapolis, West Memphis, AR, Texarkana, AR, Marshall and Livingston, TX.  We will stop overnight at a Wal-Mart when I get tired.

I got tired at 4:30 PM and we stopped overnight in Salem, IL, and had a KFC dinner and a early sleep.


Monday, November 5, 2012

On Our Way

It was a rough week. Luckily we brought our new motor home early to pack for our Mexico trip. Super Storm Sandy hit the East coast of the USA on Monday morning. The storm was so large that all the way in Ohio the outer bands hit us hard. It had been raining hard for a few days and on Monday night the 70 mph winds hit the North coast communities. Trees were down everywhere and the power failed around 9 PM. Our power company had sent most of its trucks & crews to the east coast to help them out. Not realizing that our area would be hit hard. There was not enough help to remove trees that had fallen on the power lines. Crews from the far West USA were sent in. Of course it took them 3-4 days to arrive. We had no power, people’s basements were flooding, no sump pumps, food was spoiling in the refrigerators and no political commercials to watch on the blackened TV’s. That’s a good thing.

We had better luck, we had our RV home with a 4 KW generator and deep cycle batteries to run a inverter at night, so I didn’t need to run the generator. We hooked up the power with heavy long extension cords to our sump pump, refrigerator and one TV and a few lamps. When we needed to cook using the microwave we just stepped out to the RV microwave and used it. However it was obvious we wouldn’t be able to leave for our trip until the power came back on. We were also going to cancel our early Thanksgiving dinner that Peggy prepares before we leave for the Winter. 18 family members were expected.

CabinWinterStormAnother weather concern we had was the big snowstorm they had at our cabin in WV. The power was out there also and the report was 24” of snow with lots of trees down. Bud Chavez our neighbor went down to check on everybody’s cabins, no big problems. He sent this picture.

Power was restored at our home on late Thursday afternoon, dinner plans were back on, trip plans back on. Now never mind my mask, here’s my plans (as the Lone Ranger used to say), dinner on for Saturday, clean up, finish getting house back in shape and leave before noon on Sunday. The trip is starting out with a trip back to the Phoenix RV Factory to repair a rubber seal on our slide-out. It’s west but about 2 hours out of the way heading to TX . Hopefully they can do the repair quickly so we can be on the road heading south before 12 noon.

PamMomJoanMeg (Small)

We slept in their parking lot on Sunday night since they start work at 6 am Monday morning and we didn’t want to lose a minute.