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Buena Vista Journey
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Rental car tour of Mexico – Itinerary (Dec 1 – Dec 20, 2010)
Before Christmas season “officially” begins, Mexicans join together for festivities of the “Lady of Guadalupe”, on December 12. Two weeks of festivities is a good reason for us to plan for another trip to visit this warm country, where snow is called “white stuff” for the luck of understanding what snow really is!
This year, in light of escalating drug-related crime in Mexico, safety was valid concern for us. While foreign tourists aren’t typically targeted, they occasionally find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Many of our friends are asking: “what, you’re going to Mexico? Aren’t you afraid? Is it safe? Don’t you read about the mafia killings?” It makes me wish to go, just to prove them wrong. I have never felt unsafe in Mexico before, at least not any more than anywhere else in the world. Common sense must prevail at all times and places…
The real concerns that Huatulco travelers like us, should have are: there is too much sun so watch out for sunburn, watch out for the surf, don’t drown, don’t drink too much, be very careful of the straw in your drink, as it can poke you in the eye; the relaxed atmosphere in Huatulco can be catchy!
Most people who travel to Mexico have a wonderful time and don’t encounter any problems. However, as in other tourist destinations throughout the world, crime is a fact of life in Mexico, and as a tourist we know that we may be targeted for theft. So, as part of our preparation for this trip, we made sure we followed these tips.
Traffic in Mexico City
I think that the best vacations are when you travel on your own. We refuse to go on one of these “All inclusive” tourist packages, where they give you a schedule and they say, “O.K., from nine to 10 we’re going to go to the museum, and then from 10 to 11, and we are going to the art museum, then we’ll stop for a lunch”. That to me is like being in school; that’s not a vacation. In addition, I don’t see the two of us just going to the same beach day after day… that’s just not us!
This time during the 20 days of “Champagne vacation” we’ll get a chance to discover the southern Mexico culture completely on our own. We are planning to visit only those places which really are of our interest. During our travel we are planning to stay at the small Bed & Breakfast places in private homes. We’ll pick up the rental car at the Mexico City international airport Benito Juarez and travel through Mexico country side for the next 20 days.
Beautiful vista of the Popocatepetl volcano
Vera and Zdenko’s “Champagne vacation” route
Here is our detailed itinerary:
Day 1: Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Mexico City arrival
Stage 1: Mexico City – Puebla de Zaragoza 123 km
We’ll be leaving the nation’s capital immediately upon our arrival, along a thoroughfare known as Zaragoza. Our destination at the end of stage one is Puebla, big city two hours away from Mexico City. The world famous city – Heroic Puebla de Zaragoza, was one of the first cities founded by the Spanish in 1531 that was not built on top of ruins of local civilizations. We’ll drive to downtown Puebla and look for a B&B place to stay for the next two nights.
Typical street in Puebla zocalo
Day 2:, Thursday December 2, 2010
Puebla de Zaragoza
After breakfast we should use the opportunity to explore the wonderful surroundings. We’ll visit the cathedral and appreciate colonial architecture and make a special visit to the convent of Santa Clara, where one of the most famous gourmet dishes in Mexico was invented: Mole Poblano.
I heard the downtown core is quaint, small and full of interesting shops, crafts, restaurants and clean, inexpensive hotels. Within a couple of blocks of the zócalo are good hotels, an extensive pedestrian walkway with many shops, and Los Sapos, a few streets filled with crafts, antiques and collectibles. I am sure Vera and I will have fun exploring this interesting city, the only thing is that one day might not be enough.
Day 3: Friday, December 3, 2010
Stage 2: Puebla de Zaragoza – Oaxaca 320 km
After spending two days in the beautiful city of Puebla, we’ll be on the road again. Today’s stage plan is to drive from Puebla de Zaragoza over the mountains to the capital city of Oaxaca that carries the same name: Oaxaca.
Entering Oaxaca City
The fastest way to get to Oaxaca from the capital of the country is the tolled highway 135D, also known as the Mexico-Puebla-Oaxaca Super Highway. The distance between both cities is of over 320 kilometers, which are covered in approximately 4 hours. I don’t expect any excitement on this leg of our trip, just moving from point A to point B.
We’ll be looking for a place to stay (B&B) once we get there. Something small, but nice, also within walking distance of the zocalo. The price must be within our budget and it should include breakfast.
Salida del Paso del Cristo de la Columna
Day 4: Saturday, December 4, 2010
Touring the city… Oaxaca is rich in history and culture. The urban center was known as Huaxyacac in the Nahuatl language until 1532 when the Spanish gave it the name Nueva Antequera. The zócalo (main square) is the heart of the city and has been so since 1529. On the south side of the zócalo is the state government building*; on the north side is the Cathedral of Oaxaca which dates from 1535.
Typical street in Oaxaca
Day 5: Sunday, December 5, 2010
Stage 3: Oaxaca – Huatulco 248 km
This is going to be the “highlight” of the whole trip. We had done our research before this trip and we’re aware it is up there in the list of “crazy drives you’ll probably only attempt once in your lifetime.”
First, here’s how it looks on a normal map:
The orange dot in the middle is Oaxaca City, the dot on the beach is where we drove to: a private little beach in the Huatulco area.
But in reality? Well, I expect this ride to be spectacular and not just because I still enjoy driving a car. Today’s route is going to look like this homemade map:
But if you can imagine, there’s a good reason it’s this twisty. The never-ending mountains! Lots of them — through the desert, then the pine forest, and finally the tropics. (Segment 1: Twisty, dry, and hot. Segment 2: Twisty, dry and cool. Segment 3: Twisty, moist and very hot.)
After all the hard work thru the mountains, when we finally reach Huatulco, we’ll be rewarded with a view of the ocean and some nice playas… paradise!
Monday, December 6 – Sunday, December 12, 2010
At the moment Huatulco is accurately described as “the best-kept secret in Mexico”. For us this is one of the charms… it is unspoiled with a leisurely. We’ll be staying here for ten days. I didn’t make any advanced accommodation arrangements, because someone told me that if you book your B&B in person, you can get much better deal compared to the Internet booking. Though we’ll know more after we experience it! At the moment they are all starving for tourists…
Puerto Escondido beaches
The climate here will suit us perfectly. The weather during our stay in December shouldn’t be oppressively hot. An average daytime winter temperature here is about 28C and winter maximums are about 32C. The hottest time is from late April to the end of May, when the humidity is building up prior to the rains. The winter evenings are pleasantly cool but never below 15C. The Pacific coast is mountainous and the breezes from both the sea and the mountains go a long way toward keeping the climate comfortable. There is a huge colony of Canadians leaving here and number of developers from Calgary and Edmonton advertising big sales!!
Day 13: Monday, December 13, 2010
Stage 4: Huatulco – Puerto Escondido 106 km
Puerto Escondido is a great place for non-surfers. It’s only 100 km drive from Huatulco. Most of the Carrizalillo area is actually visited by non-surfers. There are no ancient or historic sites in Puerto Escondido. There are a number of nature/eco type things outside of town though. If we like it in Huatulco, we’ll probable just make a day trip to Escondido area with our car and return back to Huatulco, so we don’t have to change hotel. But if we don’t like Huatulco, we may just move to Escondido area for few days. That’s the advantage of traveling on your own. Some arrangements you just make as you please at the moment…
Panoramic picture of Puerto Escondido
Day 17: Friday, December 17, 2010
Stage 5: Puerto Escondido – Acapulco 382 km
This will be the beginning of the end. Our vacation is getting closer to the end. We are leaving tourist resort town of Puerto Escondido and driving north towards big city of Acapulco. I expect it to be 6-7 hours of driving. Some people told me to be prepared for about 150-200 topes (speed bumps). I am! Other than that, the road on the map doesn’t look challenging. It’s basically straight all the way into Acapulco.
At this time we are not sure if we’ll stay overnight in Acapulco. I will leave this to be the spear of the moment decision, once we get there.
Acapulco bay beaches
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Acapulco is Mexico’s premier beach resort areas. There are beach areas where you feel you are far away from the city in an unspoilt natural haven. Acapulco is one of Mexico’s most exciting tourist destinations. It has a vibrant nightlife, postcard-perfect beaches, an amazing array of local food, and visitor-friendly locals.
We are going to discover Acapulco on our own, and in our own way – driving around the city in our car, and stopping when we see something interesting. It’s a big million and a half city!! I’m sure we’ll manage somehow…
Acapulco bay beaches
Day 19: Sunday, December 19, 2010
Stage 6: Acapulco – Mexico City 345 km
Leaving Acapulco will be anticlimactic. The highway connecting Mexico City > Taxco > Acapulco – the “Autopista del Sol” – is one of Mexico’s best (and it’s most expensive toll-road). It should be very nice road, divided four-lane, very smooth with wide shoulders.
Unfortunately there is no way to completely avoid driving in Mexico City. We’ll have to go through the outskirts, entering the city from south and going north/east towards airport. Fortunatelly there is the Periférico around the city, I just hope that I’ll be able to find it…
Day 20: Monday, December 20, 2010
Mexico City – departure for Edmonton
This is it. Today we are leaving warm mexico and flying back to the cold weather in Canada. I wish the car rental guys won’t give me hassle when returning the car. But, I guess, you’ll have to read my blogs to find out.
Traveling by car can be a great way to explore Mexico. There are however certain issues that one should consider before choosing this mode of transportation. Visit Driving in Mexico Facts before deciding to drive and do what we did. There are many rental car agencies located throughout Mexico.
Have a good and healthy season.
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