12/18/2008, Mexico City
The 3rd largest Pyramid in the world... quite a climb.
Detour to Mexico City
KB, Cold Evenings & Mornings – You Can See Your Breath, Warm Sunny Days
12/12/2008, Mexico City
For those of you who don't know yet I have lost my passport somewhere in the USA during our trip back for Thanksgiving and the effort to get it replaced makes me feel like I'm in the Amazing Race - I don't think I'm going to win the million.
I had an emergency passport issued by the Aust Consulate in LA - what lovely people - it only took 3 hours to issue but unfortunately is only valid for 7 months, which means I have one month to get a full replacement issued as most countries wont let you enter without 6 months validity on your passport. So we headed back to Mexico from the USA with my emergency passport (Jeff has a full blog on the epic journey so I wont bother with the details)
How is any of this relevant to Mexico City? Well once we got settled in Acapulco we had to head up to Mexico City to visit the Aust Embassy and apply for a full replacement passport. There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done and thanks to Mum & Dad back in Oz all the documentation had already arrived in Mexico City by the time we arrived to complete the application. The biggest hassle to date has been getting a mug shot (yes they are terrible these days, no smiling anymore), I've had more passport photos taken than want to think about. Jeff had a haircut quicker than I could get a passport photo that would be accepted. Anyway, all the paperwork has been lodged and I'm currently waiting for the new one to arrive - I will have it gaffer taped to myself after that.
We originally weren't going to hit Mexico City - we hadn't heard great things about it and it was not on our path. I'm glad we got detoured because it really is a great place to visit and was only a 5 hour bus trip from Acapulco so quite an easy detour to make. We arrived at 5am on Friday morning, after an overnight bus and killed a little time in the bus terminal catching up on email while we waiting for the Metro to open. The Metro train system in Mexico City has to be the best and cheapest train network in any city I've been in. 2 pesos gets you anywhere on the Metro system (that's about 20 cents). Trains arrive every couple of minutes and while its really crowded it sure beats the traffic - which is quite crazy, they drive fast and any kind of traffic signals are optional, pedestrians cross at your own peril...
We arrived at the Embassy at 8.30am as it opened, and got everything lodged and completed by 10.30am, including being refused being able to pay for my new passport with Aussie dollars, Peso or US Dollars only - how patriotic of them! We headed over to the Museo Nacional De Antropologia - this is one of the best museums I've been in - we spent hours here going through a chronological history of Mexico's ancient past - there was so much to see it got a little confusing in the end - but very worthwhile - especially at $4.50.
We decided to stay in the old town - Zocalo - and headed that way on the Metro. Mexico City is definitely one of the most crowded places on earth and they nearly match Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam for traffic insaneness. Nearly but not quite. We couldn't work out why there were so many people around - it turns out that it was Dia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe or the Virgins Day - Mexico Citys patron saint and about a million pilgrims were in Mexico City to take part. Finding accommodation was not easy and I left Jeff at a YHA Hostel (which was full) having a beer while I scouted around to find a place to stay - I drew the short straw but given the I was the one who had lost my passport I guess it was only fair. Old Town is centered around a square which is dominated by Catederal Metropolitana and I did a lap, stopping in a 5 places looking for a place to stay. It took almost an hour because of the amount of people around, as well as more police than I have seen anywhere else in the world. Everywhere we went there were police, army and all sorts of security guards - so we felt safe everywhere. We stayed in a small hotel a block off the Catederal. For a city as large as Mexico City it rolls up the footpaths early - the whole place was empty by 9pm - weird!
Next day we headed out to Teotihuacan (the-oh-tee-wah-kahn), which is the ruins of an ancient city built between AD 250 and 600, about an hour north of Mexico City. They have the 3rd largest pyramid in the world, which you can climb to the top. It's a pretty amazing view from up there and in ancient times there were temples on the top of the pyramids - lots of human sacrifices going on in this city over the years with many different rulers including the Aztecs at one point. The pyramids were well worth the visit - $5.00, it seems that all of Mexico's ancient site are very cheap to visit - especially considering how impressive they are.
We had a really busy couple of days in Mexico City and decided to head straight back to Acapulco that afternoon. We had left Nemesis anchored unattended for the first time and didn't want to be gone for too long. We arrived back in Acapulco around 10.30pm - I've discovered that I can happily watch most movies in Spanish (my Spanish is definitely not good enough to understand the dialog) and understand the plot. We hitched a ride back to Nemesis with some people on the yacht anchored next to us - Nord69.com - a French yacht doing an Americas circumnavigation through the Artic.
Wildlife Extravaganza… Humpback Whales, Sea Snakes, Turtles, Dolphins– Where to Look Next?
KB, Fine, Light Winds
12/10/2008, On Passage – Manzanillo to Acapulco
We have just spent a week moving south from Manzanillo to Acapulco, with an overnight stopover in Zihuatanejo. We have had my 2nd cousin Joan on board with us for the week. And what a week Joan decided to join us for. We saw more marine life this week than we have any other.
The absolute highlight for all of us was sailing for an hour or so with a pod of migrating Humpback Whales. We had spent the afternoon anchored in a delightful cove at Isla Ixtapa, swimming, snorkeling and walking along a beautiful white sandy beach. About 3pm we decided to make a move towards our overnight stop in the anchorage at Zihuatanjo, about 5 miles south. As we left the anchorage I was on watch for any obstructions, there was lots of traffic in the area -it's a very popular spot to spend the day.
I was diligently making sure nothing was around and to my amazement saw a whale breaching on the horizon. A few minutes later both Joan and Jeff saw the whales breaching as well and all plans to head for the anchorage went out the window. We motored out to the pod, watching them breach and surface. They spent about 1 minute or 2 on the surface and then 5 - 10 minutes below. As we got closer they stopped breaching but continued to surface. The closest we got was about 20 - 30 meters from the bow. They are huge, much bigger than the boat and incredibly graceful, it was a sight to see. We were very lucky - the migrating season has just started and we thought we would miss them - thankfully we didn't. At one point there was a pod of dolphins swimming with the whales - its one of the only times that dolphins took second place.
We did see a huge amount of other wildlife on the week long journey. We were joined by dolphins swimming off the bow almost every day, we also saw a group of deadly Yellow-Bellied Sea Snakes as we were leaving the Manzanillo Harbour. The day of our arrival into Acuapulco we were becalmed (0 knots of breeze for 2-3 hours) and the sea was like glass. During that time we saw hundreds of turtles bobbing along - a great way to end our wildlife watching for this passage.
Bury the rail
jT, cool (for Mexico) in the 20's (70's) with building winds to 14 knots from the E - NE
12/07/2008, 20 miles South-West from Ixtapa, Pacific Coast of central Mexico
The moon has set by the time I start my watch. 4:30am. Kirsty has been working the boat to wind, what of it there is. She passes on the highlights of her watch, building winds from 5 knots up to the 7-8 that I'm seeing now. As I grip my steaming mug of coffee, I check the GPS and see we are heading 90 degrees away from the lay line and our goal. Ah, the joy of sailing into the wind.
As Kirsty disappears below to get the second part of her nights sleep, I gaze up at the stars. Nothing matches being at sea. From horizon to horizon, a full 360 degrees of sky. No buildings. No lights. No smog. Just the stars and the boat. Orion is my favorite constellation, and is slowly setting in the south. The moon is cycling towards full, but only half-way there. She has already set for the night, but I I was on early watch (10pm - 1am) I would have seen her dancing with Orion in the North-Easterly sky as they both rise into the sky. Nemesis is gently bobbing on the 1-2 foot waves, Robbie is clicking softly as he keeps to the course Kirsty had set (Robbie is our autopilot - a Robertson autopilot). As I do my first scan of the horizon for ships or other traffic, a few of the brighter stars cast a reflection on the water. When's the last time you could see stars cast a reflection?
I turn off Robbie and start to helm. Falling off a few degrees I pick up a knot of speed, and I grin. Robbie can hold a good course and mostly helms fast, but he can't predict and follow the wind. I check the hand held GPS and see us going further from our goal. Time for a tack. I load up the port winch and center the mainsheet. Tacking single handed is always an adventure, but in a black, moonless night it takes on more complexity. With a jib sheet in each hand I turn the wheel to port, while releasing the starboard sheet and dragging in the port sheet. After about 100 degrees I stop the turn and try to hold course while I tighten the jib sheet. Funny the mainsail keeps backing with wind, I've left the helm to winch the jib sheet, and the boat is turning itself back to the course I just came from. The backed main is pulling us back and the jib has now joined it, so with a critical eye to the main I notice the boom hasn't shifted at all as I tacked! Arrrgh the joy and pain of a boom brake! I un- cleat the boom brake and and snap, the boom tacks as it should have. Too late for this attempted tack! I quickly load the port winch with the lazy jib sheet and return the boat to my original course. Now the boom follows suit and tacks as it should. Reloading the port winch, I pause while the boat speed builds again. This time the tack goes smoothly and I settle on a course back toward land.
The stars are still winking, but a glow is starting to build in the East as dawn approaches. The wind is slowly building from 7-8 when I took over to 10. Speed is increasing on this favorable starboard tack, starting to push 4 knots. I trim the main, pulling in the mainsheet and taking her up the traveler good for a 1/2 knot. Hmmm we should be mid-6's with this wind. Once again the darkness of night is the culprit, that and my only being on my second cup of coffee. I vaguely recall Kirsty mentioning that the heady is partially furled, to keep it from slapping against the shrouds during the lighter winds she fought during her watch. With a quick loosening of the furling line, another ten feet of heady sail slides out. The extra ten feet of sail takes the jib trim from close hauled to beam reach trim, so a few cranks on the winch slowly settle her back into close hauled trim. Ahhh, that's more like it! Nemesis takes a little jump as her sails are fully unfurled and trimmed, and eases up to 6 knots. She's heeling just a bit, so a yank on the traveler and the rail gains a few inches toward the water , that's better!
As the sun comes up, we re-cross the lay line toward land, with the wind shifting we are starting to go backwards from our goal! Time to tack again. This time it's smooth and quick. The wind has settled around 13 knots and Nemesis is in stride. I can hear the stainless steel French press coffee rattle in the sink, so I know I have the boat's heel on. A quick tightening of the heady and we've broken 7 knots The waves are 1-2 feet (1/2 a meter) and slightly from the left of the bow. What a ride as we slice and slide over the waves. The wind gusts to 15, I see a pod of dolphins closing on the bow in welcome, a clatter from below as items shift from the increased heel, and the RAIL DIPS INTO THE WATER.
Ahh, another suffering day in Mexico!
Portland, Oregon to Mananillo, Mexico in 5 days... DAY 5
12/03/2008, Almost to Guadalajara, Mexico
So what is that smell? Burning rubber? Hmmm and why are we stopping on the side of the road? A small fire and a pool of oil lay behind the bus after we all pile out. Have to give kudos to the drivers (they have two, one sleeps in a little room under the bus), they pulled out tools and jumped right in to fix the oil pump gone bad. Only a few hours late, we FINALLY got to Guadalajara! As the bus is unloading a commotion starts under the bus. A small white cloud drifts up! Oh no! Don't tell me after all this, someone or somehow our liferaft got deployed With obvious concern, I press back to see what havoc has occurred. As luck would have it, someone set off a fire extinguisher, our raft is safe! Ahhh, bus rides in Mexico!
So we get to the next bus station in Guadalajara and transfer to a bus for Manzanillo. A few short hours later and we are back at Nemesis. The poor little taxi lugged us and all of our luggage back to the dock at Marina Las Hadas (where the movie "10" with Bo Derek was filmed). Gorgeous setting and the hotel and beach were quite stunning. At the marina bar, guess who is sitting outside waiting for us? Our guest, Joan. Joan will be sailing with us for the next week, and is Kirsty's cousin.
We sit down and join Joan for a very refreshing beer. The sun is settling low in the sky, temperature is back in the 30's. Ah, winter in Mexico!
Portland, Oregon to Mananillo, Mexico in 5 days... DAY 4
JT 15 degrees Celsius
12/02/2008, Tijuana to Guadalajara, Mexico
So here we sit, on Estrella Blanca bus lines. The bus left on time, and all the luggage including the liferaft is safely packed under. You wouldn't believe how much luggage people were taking! Our 125 pound liferaft was big, but not as big as some things. 36 hours on the bus. Reading by day, sleeping once the sun went down. Movies in Spanish, stops with little taco stands. It's all going good. Short and sweet, as what can really happen on a bus in Mexico?