Cruising Southern Mexico, Inland Road Trips and Crossing the Tehuantepec

Southern Mexico is rich with culture, natural beauty and friendly people. We absolutely loved our visit to the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. In fact, other than the Sea of Cortez and the Loreto / La Paz areas, this was likely our favorite part of exploring Mexico. As the inland destinations had a tremendous amount to offer, we spent a good bit of time wandering with our two feet instead of our watery fins. This post is the story of our travels both on water and on land. While our explorations were fantastic, we had a very sad chapter of our story in Huatulco. And that has made this blog post very hard to write. I have procrastinated until my heart could handle it. Sort of handle it.

When we last left off, we were leaving Acapulco, heading south to Huatulco. It was a beautiful 32-hour ride (240 nm), and as planned, we arrived on time to enter Marina Chahue in the Bays of Huatulco at high slack. The entrance was STILL skinny, and we saw a low of about 2 feet of water under the keel. Marina Chahue is a government owned and operated marina and it sits just outside of town. It’s a peaceful place and after our overnight run all four of us were ready for a relaxing walk, a cocktail and some down time.

The entrance to Marina Chahue, marked up and shared with other Panama Posse members.
Looking in toward the marina
A walk on the beach by the marina

We were greeted by friends Peter and Tom on SV Bohemia with plans for dinner that week and Mary and Doug on N46 One Life who proved once again to be a most fabulous advance team, showing us the way to town and the Port Captain. With the Port Captain checked off the list we explored town a bit and followed Doug and Mary to an excellent Oaxacan restaurant in La Crucecita (think of this as the downtown area) named El Sabor de Oaxaca, specializing in, you guessed it, Oaxacan cuisine. The moles! And a new find – a tlayuda, which is like a Mexican pizza on a large flat tortilla, spread with spicy beans, lots of Oaxacan cheese and all kinds of toppings. I skipped the crickets, a local goodie. No gracias.

Red all tied up and hanging out at Marina Chahue
Now this is an upscale power situation….
“Crated” power, right here folks.
Marina Chahue
The Santa Cruz area of Huatulco
The panga harbor
Panga harbor in Santa Cruz area of Huatulco
Huatulco has beautiful green open space and parks
The boulevard between town and the marina
In La Crucecita (downtown) by the square.
Walking Huatulco
Cathedral by the central square.
The central square.
Huatulco streetscape


After a bit of town exploring, we were ready to grab a rental car and have a land adventure! The road to Oaxaca City is a windy mountain road, with some failing edges, houses built on incredible pilings, hairpin turns, rock slides and absolutely spectacular views! We loved it. All along the roadway there were small “Comidor” restaurants run by families, each trying to capture the attention of the drivers working their way through the mountains. We stopped at a larger Comidor on a cliff that had swings where people could fly out over the valley below. It was super foggy so the swings were not operational, but the hot chocolate, tamales and quesadillas were outstanding!

Zoe mans the back seat.
This is a highway. 🙂
Gorgeous views.
Homes and buildings on stilts over the cliffs.
So green and pretty.
Our lunch spot!
Swing into the clouds anyone?
Mmm. Hot chocolate!
It’s a road trip!
Hey there!
Logging trucks rolling along with us
Coming down into the central valley.

We had decided to rent an Airbnb outside of the downtown so as to give the dogs space to run around and feel comfortable when we left them for a bit to explore the town. What an incredible setting!

Zoe confirms that there aren’t any crumbs in the kitchen.
Max is frozen. Sweater needed!
The stunning view from our Airbnb.
I LOVE these mototaxis! We think we should add one to Red.
Dinner out in our Airbnb village.

We spent a few days in Oaxaca City enjoying this incredibly colorful, vibrant town. Oaxaca City is a UNESCO World Heritage destination, so earned because of its mix of colonial architecture, indigenous culture, artisans and historical significance. Oaxaca City is thought to be one of the key cultural communities in Mexico. The artisan work is amazing, from textiles to pottery to weavings to alebrijes which are beautifully crafted fantasy creatures. The cathedrals are inspiring and the markets are thick with produce, textiles, arts, chicken, fish, spices and home goods. Simply walking through one of these gathering places transports you to a different time and place.

The Zocalo, the town square
Breakfast at the Zocalo with a marimba band
Delicious table side made hot cocoa
Cathedral Metropolitana
Incredible doorway in the cathedral
Detailed carvings
Cathedral light
Beautiful on the inside too
A serious ceiling



The green stone of Oaxaca is so interesting.
Color everywhere.
Selling Oaxacan cheese



Sauces and moles.
Mole for sale
Gorgeous herbs and greens
Meat market stall
An early morning on the side corridor of the market


Selling tlayuda bases on the corner
Crickets anyone?
Tiny clay shot cups and tiny bowls
It’s a pepper production
The market is incredible
There really isn’t anything that you can’t find here
Which bag should I buy?
I mean, I’m tall, but she is SERIOUSLY tall!
I love this city of color
And I love this man.
Gorgeous streets
The art in Oaxaca is historic and also modern
Love this one
Take a bite out of art.
Art installation
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Cool streetscape
Mr. Jeffries strolls Oaxaca
I found this guy leaning on a cathedral
And then on a light pole. He must be seriously tired of waiting for his wife to take photos.
Streetside rolled stuffed crepe thing – delicious!
I think he was about 12. Working hard on Kevin’s crepe!
Dinner with a view
Cool bar by the cathedral
I can do that too!
Cool sign. We have to take these photos you know – work thing.
Basiclica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The cathedral, at magic hour

On the second day, we got up early to go visit the village of Santa Maria Atzompa, which is well known for its green and white pottery, and the nearby ruins at Monte Albán. Monte Albán is an archaeological site which was once a Zapotec city, from where the Zapotecs ruled the central valleys of Oaxaca. Monte Albán was first occupied around 500 BC, but was most populated between AD 300 and AD 700. At its peak, the population is thought to have been around 25,000 people. The city had palaces, temples, an observatory, a ball court and dwellings.

Shadow people.
That man isn’t actually a small person. The scale is huge!
View of the Oaxaca central valley
Kevin wanders…
With our take-along Posse burgee
Drawings abounded on the structures – some were maps, some spoke to the use of the building.
A view of the site
Another drawing.
Another view.
A carving telling a story in front of a temple.
It is an enormous site.
Simply amazing.

After our history lesson, we went on a shopping trip in Santa Maria Atzompa, visiting the Mercado de Artesanías (co-op of local artists) and had a glorious time picking out pieces of pottery. We also visited a few artist studios and purchased some very special items from the gentlemen that worked so hard to create them. The day was topped off with a mototaxi parade!

Wrapping purchases at the market.
Artisan’s work.
Did we get carried away?
A close up of one of our favorite new pieces in the boat.
We love to decorate the interior of the boat with items that we find along our way. Oaxaca is well represented.
Where shall these two fun faces go in the boat?

When we returned to the Airbnb in the mid-afternoon we noticed that Zoe was feeling a little slow. She just wasn’t herself and she wasn’t terribly interested in eating or playing fetch. We thought perhaps she was impacted by the high elevation, as afterall, she is a dog who lives at sea level. We stayed in the Airbnb village that night so that we could be with the dogs, and thought we’d reassess in the morning. At daylight we tried to interest Zoe in another walk with no happy reaction. And with that, we decided to go back to the boat a day early. On the way, we’d stop in the town of San Martin Tilcajete to see the town’s artisans hard at work on alebrijes. This way, the dogs would be with us.

San Martin Tilcajete was amazing, lined with murals that depicted the stories of the fantasy lives of the alebrijes. Alebrijes is a made-up word meaning “entangled and difficult thing of fantastic types.” Made from the wood of the copal tree, the alebrijes explore the curiosity and imagination of the artist with mythical creatures and animals with new super powers and stories coming to life with the artist’s hands. The pieces are carved and then painstakingly painted with fine patterns and colors. We purchased a flying dog (similar to Dante from the movie Coco which if you haven’t seen you should!) that was made by one of six siblings in a family that work together to create incredibly detailed and fantastical alebrijes. The flying dog relates to the story of the Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican hairless dog) who is thought to be a guide to the afterlife.

A new piece underway.


Our alebrije, Dante

When we arrived back at the boat, Zoe seemed to perk up a bit, thankful to be home. But she was unwilling to walk, didn’t really have any energy and just was not herself. By morning she was worse. We took her to a very kind vet in Huatulco who tried her best to help us. She was super knowledgeable and had a tremendous amount of equipment, and did a myriad of tests on Zoe. Zoe had an enlarged heart, and must have had this condition for some time. Her heart was impacting her kidneys and her systems were struggling. We spent the next 36 hours loving Zoe for every hour and every minute. She lay with us at night and during the day. We visited the vet again and tried to see if we could help her. Ultimately, Zoe passed away on the boat, lying next to Kevin and I, knowing that we loved her with all of our hearts. We take solace in the fact that she died at home surrounded by love. And, that she lived an incredible life. She was a dog with about 30,000 nm under her collar between all of our boats. She had been as far north as Glacier Bay Alaska and as far south as Huatulco, Mexico. She swam and played in the sand and was never alone. She was always by our side, doing whatever we were doing right there with us, whether on a hike, a dinghy ride or a restaurant outing. She was our beautiful, happy girl. We miss her terribly and our grief has been deep and wide. She was a bright light in our lives. Our first swim in the waters of Costa Rica will be dedicated to her.

Zoe fetching a stick somewhere on the west coast of the US – thank you for this photo Laura.

Throughout all of this traumatic experience we too, were surrounded by love. Our cruiser friends were there to help us, with a special thanks to Michelle and Chad and kiddos on SV Tulum V who stayed with Max while we were at the vet, and supported us with kind and soothing words. Our friends from SV Boundless brought us sunny sunflowers to brighten our day and everyone in our small traveling group of Panama Posse participants helped to ease our pain. Thank you to all of you.

We keep Zoe’s with us in the boat – when we are underway, she comes on up to the pilothouse. Beautiful flowers from Colin and Julian.

A few days after Zoe passed away, we had a weather window (a quick one, but still, a weather window) to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, well known and feared for its ferocious winds. While we were not feeling like doing much of anything (we had become crying, day drinking jigsaw puzzlers), we decided that it was time to go. Staying didn’t feel very good. Leaving didn’t either. But the next weather window wasn’t going to happen for over another week (maybe) and we told ourselves that a change of scenery might help.

To leave Huatulco, or any port in Mexico, you need to check out with the Port Captain. As this Port Captain had the very important role of ensuring that mariners were safe with the Tehuantepec winds, he asked to review our crossing strategy prior to providing us with our departure paperwork. A kind man, he didn’t speak any English, but he and Kevin had a good chat with a little help from Google Translate. We were cleared for departure. We wandered by the open-air seaside church in Santa Cruz, the area by the Port Captain’s office, and although we aren’t religious people (more spiritual I’d say), we said a little prayer for Zoe. And for us.

The peaceful open air church by the sea.
A place where spirits can easily come and go.

Leaving the marina at high tide (remember that skinny water!) we were early to begin our crossing. And that was all according to plan. We’ve had our boat now for almost six years. And for all of that time, the ashes of our two previous Labrador retrievers (Bean – yellow, Rio – chocolate) had been cruising with us. It was time for them to rest in the ocean, and with that all three dogs would be together in Huatulco. And so they are.

Our pups and a Dia de los Muertos flower from our friend Alexa for our little ceremony.

The Gulf of Tehuantepec is renowned for its gale force winds (called Tehuantepeckers), that funnel through the “skinny part” of Mexico, gaining speed on their journey from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Every week, or sometimes two weeks or so, it calms down for a short period of time. We left the bay and traced the shoreline for several hours as the sea was still quite lumpy and the winds were gusting. All of the sudden it just calmed down. Like fast. One minute it was lumpy oatmeal and the next it was a glassy lake. Crazy. With flat seas, we turned and throttled down. Let’s make tracks! Our night run was peaceful. And just what we needed to start to soothe our broken hearts. Time alone on the ocean at night is a healing time. The constant buzz of daily life, of social media and news, phone calls, problems and world challenges are gone. It’s just you and the boat and the ocean. I love night runs. And this one was memorable.

Good night sun, hello Tehuantepec!
Watching the sun go down into the sea


A night squall in the distance.
A flat calm, moonlit night ride
Good morning sun – in the middle of the Gulf of Tehuantepec

The 28-hour (230 nm) ride was spectacular. Early in the morning, we watched the dolphins play in our bow wake as we drank coffee sitting on the Portuguese bridge. Later, we rode on the flybridge admiring the hundreds of sea turtles basking in the sun all along our route, many, many miles from shore. Sometimes we think these creatures visit us to tell us that everything is going to be ok. Maybe it is Zoe saying hello.

The bling of the cell phone let us know that we were back in a coverage area. And another bling. And then rapid fire blings after that. Oh jeez, there was a tsunami alert. Fantastic! Our kids and my brother were having a texting conversation about this lovely event, but no one sent us a message on our sat phone. To be fair, in our grief, we hadn’t let the kids know that we were leaving Huatulco. Confirmation with N46 One Life and SV Iron Calculus, both already in the marina, let us know that indeed the marina was experiencing surges. The water level was basically changing 4-5 feet every 15 minutes. But the current was manageable and the depth was fine. It would just be a new adventure. Good times.

Amid all of this excitement, we realized that we had reached our 20,000 nm milestone! Meaning that during our ownership, we had cruised 20,000 nm on Red Rover. Wahoo! We had anticipated this happy event, and had asked PAE (Nordhavn) to send our new mileage pennant to our daughter Kirsten in LA. Kirsten brought the burgee to Zihua for Christmas and we had been waiting for just this moment to put the new green pennant on our bow. Check it out. Sporty looking, no?

Our little collection of mileage pennants
Well this moment is something to smile about!
Drumroll please.
Here we go!
Sporty gear!

I have a new saying for our travels when things are crazy, or go terribly wrong or are just frustrating and difficult: “It’s all a part of the experience!” Thankfully, our entry into Marina Chiapas went flawlessly, even with the tsunami surge. Marina Chiapas is remote from really much of everything other than an outstanding palapa restaurant. But it is beautiful, and peaceful.

The palapa restaurant
Hola Marina Chiapas!
The peaceful view from our slip
An artful marina building
Pool at the marina – with a staffed bar!
The marina wasn’t very busy when we were first there, until the next weather window when a bunch of boats came in!

Oh hey Red.
The palapa restaurant interior
Tableside salsa making
Super yum!
This works!
Oh there’s that salsa again
Lunch is served.
Palapa in the evening shadows

We rested, took some walks and cleaned up the boat a bit. And then we figured, we had better see some things! Our first effort involved hiring Miguel Angel of Discover Chiapas Tours who is a local guide and a recommended resource of the Panama Posse. And for a good reason! Miguel is FABULOUS. We had such a wonderful day with him learning all kinds of things as we drove around the area. For instance, I had no idea what a teak tree looks like. Or how coffee is grown, harvested, dried, transported and more! Or how cacao is made. The list goes on! Miguel is an incredible wealth of knowledge and most importantly, a super fun, kind, good human. I’m going to let the photos speak to our adventure, but a brief overview of our day included a trip up into the mountains to see the coffee growing process, a visit to two small towns in the mountains, near Chiapas’ largest volcano, a quick trip to see the border with Guatemala, an incredible stop in Tuxtla Chico aka “Chocolate Town” where we met a revered chocolate maker and had lunch in her courtyard, after which we learned how to make cacao (the raw version of cocoa). Oh, and we drank the best hot chocolate in the world. There’s that. We also visited a family that makes and sells tamales (which are also the best we’ve ever tasted) and the pre-Mayan ruins of Izapa. Miguel was also kind enough to take us to Walmart on the way back to the marina so we could pick up some provisions. And, he gave us tons of recommendations for our roadtrip to San Christobál de las Casas and Palenque. Days later he’d help us again by spending an afternoon searching for something we simply couldn’t find ourselves. A case of Controy, the Mexican version of triple sec that makes margaritas soooo much better. You have to love a man that visits 6 stores, asks stock clerks to check in the back, buys all of the Controy in town and delivers it right to the boat. Complete with gifts – because he is that kind of wonderful. Check out Kevin’s birthday disguise in the photo below.

The Mexico / Guatemala border
Coffee beans growing
The interesting almost Swiss architecture of the mountain town of Union Juarez
Views from Union Juarez
Tacana Volcano
I love Mexico’s colorful community signs
Town square in Union Juarez
Beautiful detail on a fence
More of the town square
Murals depicting the coffee harvest
All along the roadway we saw people carrying their harvest – often to over 100 lbs.
Coffee museum in a home that was built by German immigrants and coffee farmers
A stencil for coffee bags
Check out this typewriter from the museum.
Learning about coffee’s history in Chiapas
Coffee beans drying
This is a serious load
This man stopped to talk with us – 100 lbs on his back in the hot sun
Ah! Chocolate!
How our lunch was being cooked
It was delicious – and took tremendous work to prepare
I am awfully glad that this is not my daily task, but man could these ladies cook!
A spectacular mole tamale – lunch! (well part of it)
Maya whisking our hot chocolate
Kevin picking the cacao fruit
Miguel showing us the inside of the fruit – those white things house the cacao beans


The chocolate workshop – fire and hand tools
Done with custom and care
Tools of the trade
Cooking the beans
Incredible, no?
Crushing the roasted beans to create a powder
I wasn’t very good at it!
Kevin was way better – they told us a funny saying in Spanish about how if you were good at this… well it means you are good at other things too!
Miguel, having us taste test!
The master at work. She has been flown to Europe to showcase her chocolate making skills.
I look so cool.
Pre-Mayan ruins
The ball court at the ruins      
Kevin in his birthday disguise – magic dancing hat from last year, new shades and stache for year 51!

Armed with information, we rented a car and headed out for another land adventure. Our first stop was Sumidero Canyon at the edge of the town of Tuxtla Gutíerrez. As Max was along for the journey, we had strategized our trip and this first stop involved a new Tactic called “Max In a Bag.” The theory was that if Max was hanging out in a bag and we were super casual about it all, they’d let us ride the pangas up the canyon. This was working until the ticket man suddenly noticed Max’s head sticking out of the bag – “NO MASCOTAS!” Ah well. We would have more time in San Christobál.

Just a snippet of the road
Max in a Bag!

We checked into our Airbnb in San Christobál (dogs allowed) and went out to explore the town. San Christobál is a town with a very high percentage of indigenous Mexican residents who are incredible craftspeople. The villages that surround the larger town are also primarily comprised of indigenous families and each village has a unique artisan focus – from weaving to embroidery to other types of textiles. Their work is detailed and beautiful, and the people themselves are stunning. Women wear the signature work of their community and in one village that we visited, the men too had beautifully embroidered shirts and pants. Of the 4.8 million people who live in the state of Chiapas, about ¼ are indigenous and the people living in and around San Christobál’s town and villages are Tzotzil and Tzeital, descended from the Mayans.

We were excited to learn all about these artisans and visit the town, but we were a little hangry. First stop, lunch! We found another delicious Chiapas treat to love – huaraches! OMG. Another version of a flat, open, but fat tortilla with all kinds of fantastic things on it. Over the next two days we wandered through this charming town, walking into art galleries, drinking hot chocolate and coffee on the sidewalks, visiting the city’s incredible markets and cathedrals and eating our way through town. Max was welcomed everywhere (no bag required) and we fell in love with this mountain town with its diverse people and its absolutely beautiful light. Seriously, the light in this town in the morning and in the evenings is simply stunning. Perhaps it is the elevation (around 7,000 feet)? Or the crisp air (it got down to 42 degrees Fahrenheit!!)? Or the light of the people? We’re not sure, but whatever it is, San Christobál won our hearts. I’ll let these photos speak for themselves too.

The lobby area of our condo/hotel Airbnb
Kevin and Max walking down the very steep hill from our unit
Oh yes, sun, wine and lunch!
A huarache!
Chillin on the pedestrian street
Simply beautiful
I love this town
I couldn’t get over the light
A town of detail
Cute, eh?
Murals abounded in town
Another street view
The view from our Airbnb
Another view
At night the area village artisans come to sell in front of the cathedral
So many shopping opportunities
We cool.
Courtyard love
Gorgeous colors and doorways are throughout the town
Pox (pronounced posh) is a local liquor made from sugar cane.
Cute cafes were available at every turn!
Now that’s a neat sign
My man and my little man
And another day


Making lunch outside the front door
We in fact did climb all of those stairs
The view was worth it!
Another beautiful cathedral
He really is happy that he climbed the stairs. 🙂
Well I was happy!
Downtown architecture
We didn’t see a lot of Americans – more European and Mexican national tourists
Funny one
Such detail
Now that’s one doorway!
The cathedral at magic hour
Downtown by the square
Sidewalk coffee!
I love pom poms!
Pedestrian pathway with vendors
Pom poms and a cathedral!
Wandering the artisan market.
I wanted it all.
A better view of the cathedral
Such detailed work – walking the market
Bananas on a bike!
A truck full of oranges!
A young indigenous woman in her village’s signature furry skirt – so cool. Trying not to take people’s photos…but this one can’t hurt.
Greens in the market
Resting after bringing everything to the market!
I could eat this whole display.
Like everything in this town – colorful and artistic
Inside the market – wow!
Pig heads anyone? Inside the market.
While smaller, this market was rich with ingredients.
Cha cha cha…. chicken!
Rooftop doggo keeping watch
Another cathedral!
And more coffee!
Visiting a very modern, interesting gallery.
Kevin shopping at this truck!
Hot! And delicious – Caldero soup kind of like a Mexican pho
The elements of caldero

I will digress for a moment about why we feel so comfortable leaving the boat in marinas that can have power issues. This is Mexico afterall, and power can come and go. Before we left Seattle, we installed a second, smaller (6kw) generator that has an auto start feature. If the power goes out and the battery level declines to a preset level, the generator will start up and charge the batteries. It will then turn off, and turn on again if it needs to do so to keep the boat in happy electrical shape. In other words, all will be well. Our solar does help as well, but the key to leaving the boat with confidence is that little Northern Lights generator. Sure are glad we did that.

From San Christobál we took a little 7-hour drive to the town and Mayan ruins of Palenque. We had been warned by both Miguel and several residents of San Christobál that the more direct route was dangerous. San Christobál is the site of the Zapatista rebellion and movement in 1994. The Zapatistas, feeling that they were treated as second class citizens in Mexico, chose the day that NAFTA was implemented to occupy San Christobál and other area towns. They were known as a leftist guerilla army. While the Zapatistas are no longer a guerilla army, they are a political party and they do still exist to support indigenous rights. They feel that the indigenous people are not treated fairly by the Mexican government. The area still experiences some level of unrest. Some of the villages surrounding the town see themselves as autonomous and separate from the Mexican government. At times, there are issues. Our friends Doug and Mary (N46 One Life) had followed Google Maps and found themselves on this road with trees chopped down in front of them. They obviously turned around. A week prior to our trip the protesting Zapatistas had again blocked this road, but this time they took some tourists hostage for a bit. As we weren’t digging the idea of spending our time as hostages, we opted for the higher mileage route.

That said, as we drove down the mountain road (which is amazing) from San Christobál and approached the toll booth at the bottom of the incline, we saw that something was amiss. A double tractor trailer was parked askew in front of all but one booth and people were pulling over and not approaching the toll booth. Being oblivious and busy listening to the Monday Panama Posse Line call, we kept going up to the toll booth. Kevin took $200 pesos out of his wallet to pay the $85 peso toll, when we noticed that the toll booth was swarming with young people (who we later read are mostly college kids) shouting, jumping on the booths and the cross bars and generally creating a ruckus. They had taken over the toll booth with the support of a more mature group of Zapatistas (or sympathizers). Ok, interesting. They were all chanting “cincuenta pesos!” (50 pesos – about $2.50 and less than the actual toll?) Kevin rolled down the window and gave them the $200 peso note which created mass confusion. All of the young rebels were busily searching their pockets for change! They were going to give us change? Crazy. Finally, they decided that no one had change, they gave the $200 pesos back and they opened the gate and let us go. We drove through the gate to see literally hundreds of Mexican police in riot gear and every type of police and military vehicle they could find stacked up on the downhill side of the toll booth. So here we had a bunch of young people that took control of a toll booth, were honest about giving change to two gringos even though they were in the midst of an illegal action for which it appeared they were all going to be arrested, and a mass military/police presence ready to deal with the protestors. It’s all a part of the experience!

Shaking our heads, we pointed the car toward Palenque. The long, but I should add, simply beautiful route. Now Palenque is a National Park and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It obviously does not welcome dogs, not even those in bags. As such, we rented another Airbnb for Max to hang out in while we visited the ruins. We checked in, had a lovely dinner in the leafy “Canada” section of town and got some sleep. We had read that it was best to arrive at Palenque when the site opened, both to see the mist rising around the ruins and to avoid the tour buses. Check and check. Palenque is an archaeological site of Mayan ruins. It was first occupied around 100 BC and was at its pinnacle between AD 640 to about 740. After the city was abandoned, the jungle took over and Palenque was hidden until 1746 when it was discovered again. It was an amazing part of the Chiapas experience. I’ll let the images tell the story. They aren’t in any particular order!







The next morning, we were up and ready for what should have been an 11-hour trip back to the boat with a few planned stops. Our first planned stop was in the town of Villahermosa to go to Sam’s Club, searching for the elusive Controy noted above. We created a bit of a scene as it seemed that blonde Americans are an unusual sight in town. One very friendly gentleman came over to speak English to us and kept asking us, “how did you get here? Why are you here?” Another lovely lady watched us excitedly dancing around as we stacked booze in our cart and warned us in Spanish that we might want to ask about our ability to purchase this treasure trove of alcohol – Controy and tequila! Uh oh. We MUST buy this Controy! There appears to be a country-wide shortage of Controy and it was sold out everywhere. But Sam’s Club had CASES of it! We were golden. Until we weren’t. COVID restrictions prohibited the sale of alcohol before 10 am. It was barely 8 am. With sad faces we put the booze back on the shelves and left, empty handed once again.

The drive was going well until suddenly two police cars sat in the middle of the toll road pointing for us to exit the highway. What? More vigorous pointing. OFF. It appeared that the highway was closed. And of course, there weren’t handy “detour this way” signs. We tried a few runs through small towns to get back on the toll road, only to be turned away. A kind toll booth operator tried his best to explain. It appeared that our buddies, the Zapatista protestors, had taken over this road as well. Or something like that. He was full of big arm gestures and rapid Spanish that we struggled to completely understand. Whatever the case, he assured us that there were lots of police and military on the road and that we would not be getting on it. After a few hours of rumbling through small towns, which was pretty cool, we found our way back onto the toll road and back on track to Marina Chiapas. We smiled at each other. It’s all a part of the experience, right?

Back at Marina Chiapas we prepared to leave Mexico, a sad moment as we love this country and its generous, friendly people. The marina staff supports the entire process and Memo, the harbormaster took us around to all of the different agencies to check out and get our paperwork. We were planning to leave at 2:30 in the morning in order to arrive in El Salvador at high slack tide. The Port Captain and the military would need to come inspect the boat just prior to our departure and watch us untie our lines and leave Mexico. While they are willing to come out at any time of the day or night, they decided that we were trustworthy and that they would come inspect us at 8 pm and let us leave in the middle of the night on our own. I’m pretty sure this had a lot to do with our arrival where we showered them with cookies and sodas, where Max licked the head Navy guy’s hand and where Kevin showed off our fancy Red Rover stamp after they stamped all of our paperwork. I think honestly it was the cookies. Kevin’s pretty sure it was his stamping action. We were fortunate that the drug sniffing dog didn’t come with them. Generally, the dog sniffs around the interiors of all boats arriving AND departing, but it didn’t seem consistent. We had watched the dog in action and the poor thing didn’t seem very happy. We don’t have anything to hide, but having a big shepherd on the boat with Max didn’t seem like it would be a recipe for success. Our same friends came to see us at 8 pm and more cookies, cokes and stamps ensued. Photos were taken with us, and one gentleman went on a tour of the boat, we think mostly because he was curious! All good, and all checked out. We were free to leave the country. Time for a bit of rest before we began the next chapter – a passage followed by a bar crossing arrival into El Salvador! We’ll leave that for the next blog post though. For now, we’ll finish up with a bit of a photo tribute to our girl Zoe. Her spirit is always with us.

19 thoughts on “Cruising Southern Mexico, Inland Road Trips and Crossing the Tehuantepec

  1. Wonderful blog, Alison. My heart went out to the both of you when telling of Zoes passing and that she and Bean and Rio were laid to rest together. Stay safe. We love you both.

    1. Thanks Sue – they were all good dogs, all in dog heaven but on earth in Huatulco. We love you too.

  2. I don’t usually comment, but your pictures are simply outstanding, artistic and descriptive. You conveyed how captivating this part of Mexico is. Thank you, I feel like I was able to travel with you there.

    All my sympathy for the passing of Zoe.

    1. Richard, thank you for commenting! I am so glad you did. You made my day. 😁 I too read blogs and don’t often comment. But I should! Because I know how much it means to me when someone takes the time to do so, as you did. I am glad I could take you on a trip! And thank you. Zoe was our best girl.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing all the beauty of your trip – even the sad parts. Zoe will be with us all forever, as will the wonderful contribution you make when you create this loving history of your trip. We are all blessed, by Zoe and by you.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and sad adventure with us. The pictures and descriptions are amazing. Zoe had such a wonderful experience and was so loved. She will be in your hearts forever.❤️

    1. Thank you so much Barbra, I know you understand the feelings. ❤ And thank you for the kind words about the blog and Zoe too.

  5. I always look forward to your journals and the wonderful pictures. I am so sorry to hear about Zoe, it is never easy to lose a part of your heart and a member of the family. RIP girl.

    1. Thank you for the kind comment JB. We really appreciate both the thoughts on the blog and Zoe too.

  6. Fabulous post and a HUGE one as well! Love the adventures, especially the road trips into the interior of Mexico. We explored Oaxaca, Mt Alban and surrounding area 20 years ago, love the area and the people. Though you should have tried the chapalines (grasshoppers), they are delicioso!
    So sorry about Zoe, dogs don’t live nearly long enough as they have so much to teach is about life.💕🐾💕
    Looking forward to following your wake late this year!

    1. Thank you Alan ❤ they are such special creatures in our lives. And thank you for always reading and commenting! I so appreciate it!! Can’t wait to hear your stories next year.

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