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jeffsitka

Feb 23, 2004, 6:45 PM

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Zihuatanejo/Troncones trip report

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It was my first trip to Guerrero and my wife, Martha’s first trip to Mexico. We spent a week in country, our first night at a Zihuatanejo hotel and six nights in Troncones at a rented beach house. On such a short trip, I can’t claim any authority beyond what we saw, which was necessarily limited.



Zihuatanejo is laid back compared to other beach towns, Puerto Vallarta for example. I did not find the “party ‘til dawn” atmosphere that is evident in PV. Perhaps they make up for this “lack” in nearby Ixtapa, but we did not bother to find out. We got a good night’s sleep, as the Centro district was quiet.



We didn’t eat at many restaurants in Zihuatanejo, but the places that we tried were good and for the most part economical. My Mexican friends tell me that everything in the country has become so expensive in the five year’s since my last trip. So, I was prepared for prices to be a good deal higher than they actually were. It was a pleasant surprise. With its good beaches and reasonable prices, Zihuatanejo should be high on any budget traveler’s list of destinations.



Our first morning in Mexico found us at the supermercado immediately after breakfast. Commercial Mexicana has a fabulous selection and the prices were good, at least compared to what we’re used to in Alaska. One local told us that the prices were better at a store called Bodega, but we never had the opportunity to shop there. There is also a small mercado with most of the necessities of daily life in the Centro district.



After shopping, a half-hour cab ride found us in Troncones at Casa del Riscal, our beachfront rental. North of Zihuatanejo and well off Highway 200, Troncones would be a typical small beach village. Except that it experienced a major building boom after the ejido lands were privatized ten or twelve years ago. An approximately two-mile strip of attractive homes, B&B’s, and small inns extends along the beach, north from the village center to Manzanillo Bay. Casa del Riscal is simple, but attractive with its red tile roof, open lay-out, and large yard with lots of trees and flowers.



Our time in Troncones was quiet. Our agenda consisted mostly of swimming, reading, and playing Scrabble. We also made good use of the hammocks, barbecue grill, boogie boards, and bicycles, all thoughtfully provided by owners Mike Hedley and Nancy Blankenship. Watching the breakers crash on the beach and squadrons of pelicans fly by in formation seemed to fill out the balance of most days.



If you aren’t staying on the beach, access to the ocean is a bit of problem in Troncones. I didn’t see any obvious beach access between the village center and Manzanillo Bay. There’s a Mexican style beach restaurant at Manzanillo Bay and we had a couple of beers and a meal there, so they were happy with us coming in from the road, parking our gear, and swimming. Otherwise, we accessed the beach from the house.



Most, although not all of the Troncones accommodations that we found cost in excess of $100 per day. A budget traveler could find accommodations at Casa de la Tortuga. We ran into friends from Alaska that were staying there. They reported $45US/day with a shared bath. We stopped by for a beer one afternoon and found the place to be clean and pleasant. I would not hesitate to stay there.



There are number of eateries in Troncones. El Burro Borracho is favored by foreign tourists and the food is good. Sunday nights they put on a Mexican folk dance presentation. A group of local high school kids present dances from different regions and they do an excellent job. At intermission the hat is passed around for donations to fund further school construction and to help pay for the kids’ education. The night we were there the place was packed and Burro Borracho deserves credit for helping out the community in this way. We didn’t eat out much, preferring to cook at home, so I can’t report much about the restaurants.



We took one trip back to Zihuatanejo in order to shop and to take a trip to Isla Ixtapa. There’s a colectivo that passes along the beachfront from Tronconnes, north to Majahua and then back to Troncones and Mex. 200. The driver told me he makes the run about once an hour. He drives north on Mex. 200 as far as La Union. We caught him on the way to Majahua and climbed onboard. Majahua looked depressing. Maybe I missed something, but unlike Troncones, many of the lots were strewn with trash and I don’t find wondering pigs to be charming. Anyway, we made our way to the highway and caught the bus to Zihuatanejo. It was packed, but at 10 pesos each, the price was right.



Isla Ixtapa is a five-minute boat ride from Playa Linda, north of Ixtapa. The lancha let us off at Playa Varadero and we walked the fifty yards across the island to Playa Coral. There, a half dozen restaurants live cheek by jowl, renting snorkel gear and selling beer and seafood. The tiny reef was nice enough, although the visibility wasn’t that great. Still, we saw many beautiful fish and one stingray. I must say, however, that with twenty or thirty people in the water at any one time, it seemed crowded. I also have concerns about the number of divers disturbing the fish. They don’t get much peace with all the people passing overhead.



I’ll finish with a few impressions from my limited time in Guerrero. I chat folks up in Spanish whenever the occasion allows. I found the Guerrerense to be generally reserved, but polite. The people that make their living from tourism are much more out going with tourists. That’s probably not different than most of Mexico.



I’m not sure what the people of Troncones think of all of the gringos in their midst. Clearly, it has brought opportunity to many, but then every economy has its winners and losers. I asked a Troncones cab driver what he thought about the development in his town. He was very positive in his response. In his words, “now we have jobs where before we had none.” However, when I asked him about wages, he suggested that many people don’t make much more than the minimum wage. He thought that many people working in the homes and inns earn something like 70 pesos a day. I hope that I misunderstood him, because that’s only about $2,000 US per year. That's something for all of us to keep in mind while enjoying Mexico's "bargains."



I remember passing by the electrical power station on the highway north of Zihuatanejo. It’s walled and ringed with razor wire. There are lighted guard towers, so that at first I mistook it for a prison. It makes one wonder about whom the authorities are keeping out.



Drugs are a big deal in Guerrero. Twice in the course of discussion, different people referred to narcos operating in the Sierra Madre and even closer to town. One cabbie told me that most of the young people in Zihuatanejo were into drugs. I took his comment to mean that he thought many of the kids were smoking pot. I hope that's all that he meant.



Many people like to refer to their favorite part of Mexico as “paradise”. I don’t know that Zihuatanejo and Troncones are paradise, but I liked the area and the people. In fact, we had a great time and we will probably visit again. Our trip was a good introduction to Mexico for Martha and I recommend the area to anyone looking for nice beaches and a quieter scene than the perpetual party that exists in places like Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas.



PeggyS

Feb 27, 2004, 12:50 AM

Post #2 of 4 (3885 views)

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Re: [jeffsitka] Zihuatanejo/Troncones trip report

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Thank you for a lovely "trip report" on Zihuatanejo which I'm sure everyone enjoyed. I've been to Ixtapa which to me seemed to be a series of expensive hotels, each with its own swimming pool, beachfront, and restaurant - boring unless you like that sort of thing.

I read some years ago that Zihuatanejo is a very old fishing village whose inhabitants did business with visiting ships, including some from China, for many centuries. It is a very old coastal trading center.

Also that a Viking ship crashed on the beach near there, also centuries ago, and the Nordic sailors became part of the indigenous community, and the people there became blond and blue-eyed. This is one of the facts of the area and not a rumor, we went through the village driving somewhere. And actually saw the blond village folks.

I remember when the airport was a tiny strip at the foot of the village hill, quite small and acary. When they built the new airport on the plain south of town, I was one of the first to land there (with prior permission of course) before it was open to airlines and other airplanes. Only three decades ago.

Anybody know about the roads to Zihuatanejo from Ajijic area? Might be fun to drive back for a visit.


Ed and Fran

Feb 27, 2004, 3:28 PM

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Re: [jeffsitka] Zihuatanejo/Troncones trip report

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Nice report Jeff. Good information, well presented. Thanks.

You said "I remember passing by the electrical power station on the highway north of Zihuatanejo. It’s walled and ringed with razor wire. There are lighted guard towers, so that at first I mistook it for a prison. It makes one wonder about whom the authorities are keeping out."

I think you'll find that virtually all CFE (electric generation) and Pemex (refining and petrochemical) installations country wide will be walled and usually have barbed wire. All the Pemex installations I have been in also had small permanent detachments of army or marines stationed alongside them. This is a basic anti-terrorist measure in these times (even though the walls date back to before we started being so aware of terrorism). Mexico still has areas (like Guerrero and Chiapas) where organized anti-government guerrilla bands operate. The precautions make sense. We may need to start installing some of this up north.

Regards

E&F


MG Rabon


Sep 1, 2005, 2:45 PM

Post #4 of 4 (3747 views)

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Re: [jeffsitka] Zihuatanejo/Troncones trip report

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Very nice trip report, thank you for sharing it with us.

We loved the few nights we've spent in Zuhuatanejo. The people were very nice to us there, but I must add that people are usually very nice to us everywhere we go in Mexico. The first time we stayed, we were told the hotel was right on the beach. Well it WAS right on the beach, with a lovely view to boot. However, as we found out after a short time there, while the hotel might be right on the beach, that didn't mean you could actually get to it from there. I know, never assume anything, especially in Mexico. Access to the beach was down the road, and down the steep hill. We drove the car down and parked closer, I'm sure the hotel clerk must have thought we were odd for that after telling us which direction we had to hike. The walk down to the beach might have been easy, the walk back up, probably not so easy. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the kids are all just into the weed, we were approached with it several times during our visit to Zuhuatenejo.

Compórtate bien, y si no puedes, invítame!
MG Rabon

(This post was edited by MG Rabon on Sep 1, 2005, 2:52 PM)
 
 
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