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Old 08-19-2014   #11
Corvallis, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 15
i drove from oregon to the belize border and back via the valles and alseseca areas in late fall 2012. i frequently drove at night without incident, although most signs in mexico are not reflective and can be difficult to read, making navigation more challenging. as others have mentioned topes are a real hassle but they are mexico's much better system of controlling speed. instead of a bunch of police with radar guns and a mandate to bust ass, you get poorly marked speed bumps near towns. other than in tourist areas like cancun you are unlikely to be shaken down by law enforcement.

in chiapas children and self-styled zapatistas routinely will pull a chain across the road in front of your car to get you to stop to try to hustle a few pesos out of you. keep your nerve and don't stop. this is a game of chicken and they will drop the chain if you don't hesitate. driving towards agua azul from the north you will encounter at least 20 improvised road blocks manned by aggressive local kids.

mexican drivers are generally much better, more vigilant, and more cooperative than american drivers. expect a lot of communication with flashers, turn signals and the horn, all in a spirit of sharing information and keeping traffic flowing on a difficult road system. pass frequently and without fear of hostility or reprisal by those you pass. if an oncoming car appears, both it and the car you are passing will move to the side to allow safe passage. it is customary to move to the side to allow cars behind you to pass.

the only narco episode i had was near the border 10k south of reynosa at a gas station. i was filling up and a cadillac escalade and bmw suv pulled up near me and a young guy called me over to the escalade. there were four young men in the car, and other than the driver, all were armed with military type weapons, heavy, 2-handed rifles with big clips. the driver asked where i was from, where i was going, and if i liked mexico. i answered succinctly and was allowed to go back to my car. five minutes after leaving the station these same 2 cars passed me going about 110 mph. 2 miles down the road was a military checkpoint.

good free camping can be had but is hard to find. i don't have many good recommendations, but around the put-ins and takeouts of rivers in the valles area there are definitely some good options. while cranking out miles i often stayed at the love shacks where locals and truck drivers take prostitutes and you pay by the number of hours you want to stay. these places are usually very cheap, reasonably comfortable and open 24 hours but not great for the family because the tv, if turned on, will be playing hardcore pornography.

mexico is a great place for a road trip. hope you have a great time.

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Old 08-20-2014   #12
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,239
It's funny you guys mention Oaxaca and chains in the road.I wrote a long winded reply to this post yesterday that I accidently lost before posting.I was advising against driving at night because a lot of weird stuff goes on in the middle of the night in Mexico,like indigenas putting logs across the road.I have ridden many night buses and always wonder why so many people are out at 3 or 4 AM in the middle of nowhere.The indigenas move the logs if they approve of you passing..In Guerrero in the late 70' s Indians used to just get in the road to block traffic and try to hustle tourists and ricos from Mexico City headed to Acupulco.Their would be little old ladies under 5 feet tall with a 4 or 5 foot iguana on their heads trying to get you to take pictures and pay for them.
The people with the logs were in Oaxaca.Which route did you take Dan? We went the long way via Salina Cruz a boomerang shaped 9 hours to Puerto Escondido.I really like Oaxaca City.Chiapas and the road to Chetumal had a lot of military checkpoints .

Others already said most of the advice I'd give.I would agree with Brian ,it would be a shame to blow by the Valles area.Aside from the standard stuff there check out the Minas Viejas run ,really looks cool..You could also go a half day past Veracruz to the Teapa or Palenque areas.Checkout Sierrarios or Mayanwhitewater for info on the Almandro,LaSierra ,Tulija,AguaAzul,and many others in the Tobasco-east Chiapas zone.

Also hope you'll take the opportunity to see off the river attractions like :
Ruins -El Tajin and Cempoala are on your route.El Caujilote and La Vega can be visited by boat on the Filo -Bobos(3+) down river from Tlapocoyan.Palenque is a premier Mayan site and close to Agua Azul.

Natural wonders-Puente Diablo and Cascada Tamul in SLP...Pico Orizaba and El Encanto waterfall in Veracruz...Macuspana and Agua Azul in Tob.\Chi.

Beaches-Not on par with the Pacific or the Caribbean,,but a lot better than Colorado's oceanTuxtla and Chachalacas are among the best.No need for no tell motels I had a room for $8 at a dilapidated beach motel at Barra de Nautla (mouth of Alsaseca -Filo Bobos) no frills and lizards on the wall.

Other attractions-Xilitla,Veracruz zocalo,Spanish Fort San Juan Ulua in Veracruz,2nd best archeological museum in Mexico in Jalapa,and it is only apx 4 hr.. $50-$75 bus to Mexico City.

Old school Mexican boating on the Antigua,the Arkansas of Mexico,contiguous intermediate runs around Jalcomulco with hot springs at Banos Carrizal also a put in or take out.Boats and shuttles readily available.

Have fun .Eat at places popular with middle class locals.Mexico is a gastronomic paradise.Try unusual foods.Ummm,chilaquiles de pollo for breakfast and chapulines for snacks.

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Old 08-20-2014   #13
DanOrion's Avatar
Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,448
My Oaxaca route took me from Oaxaca through San Jose del Pacifico on 175 to Puerto Escodido, then down to San Augistinillo and finally to Hautulco. Short trip..10 days. Lots of driving and surfing. Took a lot of back roads.

In so far as driving at night, the one time we did, we nailed a huge pothole and flatted the tire. Road conditions were really poor.

Funny about the kids with chains. I always paid the toll, maybe I should have played chicken.

The road stops were a hoot as well. I recall three road stops within 2km: one military, one police and one "other." All very well armed and super friendly.

This phrasebook goes in my bag everytime I go to Mexico: Great when you forget a key.

And topes, or reductores, etc. Brutal.

Here's a picture of using a truck as an icebreaker.
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Old 08-20-2014   #14
BV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 131
Thanks for all of the advice. It seems like this thread is headed this way, but I'd love to just get general advice on a Mexico trip. Neither me nor my friend have paddled there and are curious where might be best? We're both V minus ish paddlers. We're looking to step up but want some easier options as well.
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Old 08-20-2014   #15
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,239
man why did you have to get me started surfing Mexican travel and kayak porn ? Sorry ,the beach town is Tuxpan ,between Valles and Tlapocoyan,not Tuxtla.And it is Puente Dios not Puente Diablo,God not the devil
.Was planning to fly into Cabo ,take a ferry to the mainland and work my way down to Michoacan,surfing and doing some newly found rivers along the way to Uruapan and exploring some rivers around there.Nothing too difficult or committing just relatively easy access III /IV I'll be looking for more serious stuff others could do.The stuff on the Gulf side looks so awesome and is better known ,major understatement,and more concentrated....can't seem to get away from Chiapas and northern Central America though when I travel,you want something new but have unfinished business in the areas you love I guess...

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