House For Rent
From The Air
Getting To Puerto
Riding a Bike in Puerto
Tomzap Visitor Comments
Tomzap Puerto Escondido
El Sol de la Costa "Puerto's Paper"
Barbara Schaffer Spanish Classes & Articles About Puerto
Money Exchange Rates
Surf Forcast 1
Surf Forcast 2
House For Rent
Home Puerto From The Air Getting To Puerto Zicatela Restaurants
Market El Centro Monte Adoquin House For Rent Warren Sharpe
Big Waves Damage The Beach Riding A Bike In Puerto BOOKS
In those days the only place you could fly to and from was Oaxaca. At one time there was an airport in Pochutla and the plane stopped there sometimes but that was pretty long time ago. The flight to Oaxaca City was only about 45 minutes (it still is) and it was always fun. Flying over the mountains to Oaxaca is a bit serious because the weather can and does change quickly and dramatically. And because the mountains are so close to the coast and the altitude is relatively high the plane had to climb pretty fast. Having said all this, the fight is a beautiful experience most of the time. The mountains of Oaxaca are as green as emeralds. You can see farms and dirt roads all the way to and from the city. You can see where landslides have scared the hillsides. You have to wonder how some of the people who live in the mountains got there. It seems that some of the farm houses were parachuted into where they are located because there doesnít seem to be a road anyplace nearby. One thing that has not changed over time is that the flight to and from Oaxaca is always a fun and exciting adventure.
In the early 80s they built the new airport in Puerto Escondido. It made Puerto accessible from Mexico City and thus from anywhere in the world. That is not to say it is any easier to get to Puerto, it just made it accessible. Apparently when they built the new airport (Puerto Escondido International) they didnít make the runway long enough to call it an international airport. A couple years after they built it they closed it down so that they could extend the runways and make it usable for larger jets from around the world. Today, jets come into Puerto Escondido from Mexico City once a day but only five or six times a week. This changes all the time though. There still are small planes that fly to Oaxaca but the DC3 developed engine trouble one time and had to return to the airport. The plane never took off again and is still sitting in the weeds.
Another way to get to and from Puerto is by bus. Mexico has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. A person or a chicken can get to anyplace from anyplace in Mexico fairly easily and very cheaply. People can also travel almost anytime they want because buses come and go at any time of the day or night. I used to fly into Oaxaca from California in the old days. I then had to jump on a bus for what was usually an eleven hour bus ride over the mountains on a dirt road. It took eight to eleven hours if the bus had no problems. I never had any serious problems but catastrophe was always right around the corner. There was always a tire to fix or a fan belt breaking or a radiator springing a leak or something else going wrong. One time I was going over the mountains and the road was just beginning to be paved. I was with a friend who had never been to Puerto Escondido. He had never been to Mexico. He had never been to the tropics. He didnít know what to expect and he was terrified. The bus got stuck on the road where they were paving it and everybody had to get out. Every person on the bus had to push it to get it over the mound of dirt where it was stuck. For my friend it was an introduction to Mexico that he had not anticipated and he has never forgotten. On that same trip over the mountains the bus was crowded as it always is. People were standing in the isles. As on most buses at that time there was a luggage rack on top and the rack was loaded with baskets filled with everything. Fruit, veggies, clothes and anything anybody would carry with them from one town to another. There were chickens and turkeys and even a pig.
When the bus started heading down to the ocean the weather started to heat up and get pretty humid as the coast of Oaxaca is apt to do. I had a brainstorm and when the bus made one of what seemed like hundreds of stops we jumped up on top with the livestock and packages. Going down that mountain on top of the bus was a trip that never will be forgotten. Around the hairpin turns we would roll back and forth hanging on for dear life. We knew if we were to fall off the driver would never stop. The chickens and turkeys thought we were nuts. The people inside thought we were stupid gringos. We didnít care because we had our surfboards and we were heading to Puerto Escondido to go surfing. The bus ride across the mountains could be pretty dangerous. The reality was that the ride was always dangerous because you never knew if the driver was drunk or a tire would blow out or come off around a sharp curve. Other drivers on the road were as crazy as any driver who is in a hurry can be. There are no lanes on the mountain road so most of the drivers assume the whole road is theirs. It often rains in the mountains of Oaxaca and when the dirt road was wet the bus would slip and slide all over. At that time it was not unusual for buses to slide over the side of the road and down cliffs.
You could go to the junk yard and see damaged buses anytime you wanted. There always seemed to be at least one bus there that had had a horrendous accident. That is still true to this day but when the road was dirt it happened much more often. At night it is scarier because you canít see anything. You never know when the next hairpin turn is going to be. You might think you are going to sleep but itís imposable. Going to and from Oaxaca you think the trip wonít be that long because it is only 170 miles. About five hours into the trip you start wondering what is taking so long. At ten hours your mind has almost slipped over the edge. When you finally get to where youíre going you feel so worn out and dirty and sticky all you want is a shower and a bed. At least that is the way it use to be. Now it is a little better because the road is better and the buses are better. There are even vans that make the trip a few times a day. The eleven hour trip is now 6-9 hours or shorter. Compared to the old days going and coming to Oaxaca is a walk in the park. Donít tell that to the guy who is getting off the bus with a filled barf bag, though.
You can get to Puerto Escondido by going through Mexico City as well. The first class bus from Mexico (as the locals call Mexico City) takes 12 hours. It is air conditioned and has videos. The seats are big and they fold way back. There is more leg room than anybody needs. The ride on the first class bus is pretty comfortable even though it is long. As you can imagine it wasnít always that way. In the not so distant past there were no first class buses as we know them. The old buses were just newer buses that had no leg room and stopped at every palm tree. It felt like Chinese water torture. Sitting on a bus with no leg room and a lot of people is an experience a person never forgets for all the wrong reasons. When you are trying to save money it doesnít matter though, because when you get to Puerto you are instantly in a good mood.
Some people go to Acapulco first and spend a day or two to break up the trip and it is a good thing to do if you have the time. The main thing to remember is if you go to Acapulco you have to be sure to take the first class bus to Puerto Escondido and not think that ĒPuerto is not that far so maybe Iíll just take the second class bus and save a couple pesos.Ē I did that once and it was a big mistake. As far as the travel time difference is concerned, the second class buses take much longer. I took a 2nd class bus from Acapulco because it left four hours earlier. I should have known better because I had just taken four First Class buses over the previous 3 days and was totally impressed. Buses left on time and the air conditioning worked. They even had videos. The second class bus packed the people in as if there were enough seats for everybody even though there were not. I was pretty burned out because it was hot and the seats were very uncomfortable. I was starting to lose consciousness when about 1/2 hour outside of Puerto here comes the first class bus flying by us with all the passengers holding filled frosted beer mugs, laughing and looking like they just had a massage after watching videos of the beach experience they were about to have in Puerto and telling each other about the different restaurants they were going to try, and laughing at all the second class buses they were passing, while I was sweaty, stinky, dirty, totally exhausted and was wondering why I didn't go to the Zocolo in Acapulco and have some cheap delicious local specialties with an ice cold Negra Modelo and wait for the First Class bus.
After traveling in Mexico for over 30 years by every possible mode of transportation I truly think the relatively new first class bus system is the best way to go unless there are other special factors involved. Having said that, the second class bus is an experience that you will remember for years to come. They stop everywhere and at most stops in towns there are people selling food that for the most part is really good. Of course ignorance is bliss in this regard because you have no idea how it is prepared but I donít remember ever getting sick from it. You get to smell sweaty people that are as hot, stinky and as uncomfortable as you. It is a good idea to think about buying a few cold ones for the ride. You can watch the driver up close and personal and even hand him fresh cold beers when he runs dry. If you speak enough Spanish you can discuss with the driver and his assistant the different brands of beer available on the coast of Oaxaca. You can help the driverís helper add oil to the engine and put air in the tires that you notice are low and are ready to wear out at various stops along the way. I donít think they have roof racks anymore so you canít ride on top and you will just have to make friends with that nice big fat lady with the two kids in the seat next to you. Hand her a beer and Iím sure she will give you a pull on her tequila bottle. It will put you in the right mood to change the tire when it blows out.
Not many people travel the whole distance from Acapulco to Puerto on the second class bus so people are constantly getting on and off the bus. It is a good way to meet many people. The second class bus is kinda fun in its own way but you will probably find a different way to travel on your way back if you take it. Now if I have to go to Acapulco I try to get my friend with a plane to fly me. I bring the beers. Now that the new airport in Puerto Escondido is big enough to handle large jets you can travel to Puerto in relative comfort. It will cost you plenty of pesos but if you can afford it, it is well worth it. At least one way. The bus is a special experience that a person who goes to Puerto should have but the return airplane trip can easily be justified. Driving a private auto to Puerto is probably the best way to go if you have the time. Driving through Mexico is a great experience. From the cattle in the road to the one or two chickens that you run over to the kids jumping out of the way as you fly by at speeds you know are way too fast for the road to the slow Corona trucks that are impossible to pass to the thousands of topes (speed bumps) that you will encounter to the town after town that are so small you wonder why they are there.
You see cars and trucks that are in such bad shape you wonder how they can be rolling. The change in landscape is as dramatic as your brain can comprehend. You will drive through desert and mountains and lush jungle. There are forests that you would never expect. Dirt roads that you think you will never be able to navigate. There are highways that are as good as any in the world (well maybe not) and there are always the buses that you have to pass. Driving in Mexico can be very stressful but the reward is well worth it. Getting to and from Puerto Escondido is half the experience that is the little Hidden Port. Everybody you talk to has something to say about how they got here. Everybody wears on their shirtsleeve their worry about how they will get home. After being in Puerto for a period of time, whether it is a week or a month or a season, the trip home and the wonder of how it might go is always in the back of their mind. It is because the trip TO Puerto was so extraordinary.