24 January, 2008

Zihuatanejo Hiking Adventure

I had always wanted to go to Zihuatanejo, a tropical paradise on the Pacific shores of Guerrero. It lies southeast of Lakeside. A few years ago, my wife and I headed there in our old van. It broke down seven times on the trip due to ingesting dirty gas along the way. We never did make it to Zihua. Shortly afterward we bought a new Honda CR-V that has been extremely reliable and appropriate for exploring Mexico. However, after our van breakdowns my wife has always said no to travel. Therefore, this year I organized an adventure travel trip for my hiking buddies.

The plan was to drive straight through to Zihua, enjoy being there and casually hike from downtown to the furthest point of the bay toward the south, a seven hour sojourn. This would involve hiking along three different beaches separated by rocky headlands. Each beach would offer a different character where we could eat, drink, swim and people watch. Later we would visit two national parks and the Paricutin volcano on the way home.

We left Lakeside at 8 AM Monday in two full cars -- Al Borchardt, Norm Tihor and Don Simes in my SUV, and Duncan Poole, Herb Foster and Dave Riddell in Clive Overton's Volkswagen. Ocotlan was an hour away, the highway 37 exit from the Mexico autopista was another hour, and then after many miles of very twisty and rough roads we were into Uruapan for lunch about noon. From Uruapan to the coast we enjoyed a new, high quality, high speed highway through dry and mountainous country to arrive at the coast about 3. A final hour along the twisty coast highway 200 got us to Zihua by 4.

Here Is A Google Map With the Location of Zihuatanejo. Close map window to return.

Our priority was to hit the beach and have a cold beer or two while looking out over the bay. Surprisingly everybody felt great after such a long trip of 568 km. Here we all are: Duncan, Dave, Herb, Gerry, Don, Clive, Al and Norm. (Double click images to enlarge. Use browser back arrow to return.)

I had reserved the dormitory for us at Angela's Hostel, about three blocks from the beach. It was an interesting location right beside Zihua's busy market. The owners Gregg and Angela were extremely friendly and helpful. We felt like honoured guests in their home.

As you can see the hostel was a lovely and clean place with plants, fresh paint, and bright colours everywhere. I prefer to stay at hostels as they encourage friendly mixing and have common areas for people to visit and cook, although we ate our meals out. In expensive hotels, people isolate themselves as if in fear, for example, they watch the elevator floor numbers change, without greeting anyone.

Our accommodation was simple, inexpensive (100p) but perfectly adequate allowing us as a group to share the adventure. Everyone had a separate fan and all were necessary as it was quite hot and humid all night long. Here, Don jokes with the others about their bunk bed accommodation. Home Sweet Home.

Finally, the cold beers under the palapa beside the surf. Beer ran between 10 and 20 pesos. Norm was in charge of finding the best two for one deals.

We had made it, but were not the first to arrive. At first glance the cruise ship seemed to fill the bay and we thought every bar and restaurant would be packed but it was not so. They were gone by sundown. That evening we walked along the elevated boardwalk. It was a romantic sight with all the twinkling stars, candlelit restaurants and coloured lights. I missed my wife!

The next morning we went to Bananas for breakfast and then headed out on our hike along the coast. First Playa Municipal and over the walkway to Playa Madera. Near the end of this beach we headed up over the hill (as shown below), past fabulous views and beautiful resort hotels, and then back down to sand at Playa La Ropa.

What a beautiful, relaxing hike this was. The trail was truly level with not even a root or rock to trip over. Were we ever being spoiled.

La Ropa was indeed the best beach, wide, with perfect sand and delightfully warm water. It is bordered by palm trees and lined with sunning beds and low-level seafood restaurants. It was only necessary to buy a coffee to use the facilities so we stopped and enjoyed ourselves for the rest of the morning. Half of us went swimming while the others watched the best bikini show imaginable.

It was a blue sky day, hot but without the crowds. We were totally content and I couldn't talk anyone into being pulled on the big rubber banana by a power boat nor even parasailing.

However, eventually everyone wanted to explore further along the coast. So off we went sliding on slippery wet rocks to get to our final beach, Playa Las Gatas. This was good practice for the final part of the hike.

Whereas other people take a water taxi to this beach, we had walked and enjoyed every section along the way. Las Gatas is a small, cove-like bay, with shallow water. It is pleasantly crowded with beach umbrellas, sun beds and seafood restaurants. Unfortunately there is considerable coral which is sharp and makes swimming poor.

After exploring around for a path up and over the final headland to get to the lighthouse on the point, we found our way blocked by a continuous high fence and an upset land owner. So, time for another beer and a delightful seafood platter for lunch. I'm not much into seafood so it was a great opportunity to sample various items. However, I quickly learned that he who hesitates is left with scraps as those in the know quickly overfilled their plates. Etiquette comes second for hungry men.

What a tropical paradise! We soaked it all in and felt elated by our good fortune.

Having been turned back from going over the hill and now well fed and rested, we attempted an indirect route along the sea edge.

As we swung around more and more into the open Pacific swells near the point, the route became more challenging with larger rocks against impassable steep cliffs and drenching spray. Here dauntless Don waits for the next big wave to hit and soak his rock.

I decided to try to climb the cliffs to avoid the spray and find a dry route to the lighthouse. Did you know, climbing down is a lot more difficult than up. So I'm glad I didn't get too far before turning back.

Don tried a higher pinnacle to avoid the spray but that didn't lead anywhere! Notice the lighthouse on the horizon.

And so the day ended with another beer back at Las Gatas and a water taxi ride home. Both Dave and Norm enjoyed the land route so much that they hiked back instead.

In recovery mode, we all enjoyed a siesta back at the hostel after our busy day. That is not a death grip on the hammock. At sunset we headed out again to a romantic , candlelit dinner at a little outdoor restaurant that we had discovered the previous night. I missed my wife again!

The next morning after breakfast we explored the wall of high rise hotels along the main boulevard in Ixtapa, a jet set resort area up the coast. We were not impressed. There was no way to get to the beach as each resort completely blocked the way. With all the guards around we didn't even want to have lunch there. So we drove on to Uruapan. Here we are ready to hike the Eduardo Ruiz National Park.

Intrepid hikers Clive and Dave follow the river from nowhere. The Cupatitzio river starts here from underground springs. The quantity and fast flow of water is impressive.

The park is actually very tame and contains elaborate manicured walks, waterways and waterfalls. It however, is a beautiful place to relax and be immersed in nature at the edge of the city.

That evening we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the central plaza area. There were dozens of bars, coffee shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants besides the usual market vendors. In the food market, we enjoyed a very authentic Mexican meal cooked in front of our eyes. Herb poured beer from quart bottles and we toasted everyone's health. Nobody got sick!

After a great night's sleep at the Hotel de Parque (165p), we had the best breakfast of our trip including specialty tea and coffee. We all heartily recommend the Cafe Traditional de Uruapan. However, we had a buried church to find. In less than an hour, we were at the Paricutin volcano. Below, Duncan is lost in the lava field. This is not a place to fall as the lava is incredibly sharp and the footing is most awkward.

"Hey guys, I found the church!" Even having seen it before, it is an awesome sight. This is just one end of the church. The altar end is where I am standing. The size of the people to the left give you some perspective into how large this church actually was.

Our last stop was at the Camecuaro National Park outside Zamora, Michoacan. National Parks up north are areas of wilderness protection and conservation. We felt that this natural area was over used and abused. We didn't rent boats here.

Our last supper. We were happy to have a break in the long, hard trip home. It always seems much more tiring to return home. But we had had an adventurous 4 day vacation with a lot of variety in scenery, climate, accommodation and eating places. As we pulled into Lakeside just before dark, people were already talking about where are we going for our next adventure trip.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

pGerry wonder if you will see this. We are Canadian, going to Ajijic for a week, December 3 to 10 can't wait then heading to Zihuatanejo for three weeks then an adventure for all of January where ever we wish to drive to. Would love to connect with you in Ajijic. Are you in the phone book there? We live in Walkerton and our daughter Caroline who lives in Madrid will be with us. She found your blog as she did research, we just love adventures. We are booked into Angelas as well. Funny.
Anyway not sure how we can find you but we will try. Just loved your Story. So sweet you missed your wife.
Rosemary Robert and Caroline Cooke