Manzanillo // Overland to Nexpa

Manzanillo is about 27 miles South of Barra and the passage was into headwinds. Temps were in the high 80’s and it was hazy and muggy. I had seen photos of this spot on the cover of cruising guides and was eager to arrive. The anchorage is tucked behind the breakwater to the Las Hadas Marina which is across the Bay of Manzanillo from the commercial port.

Manzanillo Anchorage

Arcturus at anchor in the bay

Caption: A year or so before we bought Arcturus we had met up with a guy in Washington who had an Ericson 27′ for sale in Manzanillo for $6000. We called him up and had breakfast at Denny’s in Kirkland. We passed. The boat anchored in the above photo is the same boat! We checked from a photo in the old email exchange and with our new friend at the anchorage, John. Thank the glorious star filled sky that that piece-o-sh*t isn’t ours. John is currently working on replacing the head gasket on the Atomic-4 engine. Eeeeek!

A big South swell was about to arrive and we were contemplating getting a spot in the marina and bussing it to a surf spot down the coast (where there is no anchorage) for a little over-land excursion. However, after having a look at the med-mooring situation and surge in the marina at $40/night we decided after much debate to leave the boat on the hook in the anchorage where she would probably be safer. John thought it would be fine: That boat over there (he points)… has been anchored here for three years! Of all the anchorages we have been in, this one was the most like a bay inside of a bay and had more protection than we had seen yet. Since we were going to be gone a few nights and knew the weather forecast, we said hell with it, she’s staying on the hook! We packed up our backpacks, dinghed in our stuff, got a gracious ride into shore from John (our guardian cruiser) and headed to the bus station.

Overland travel. Cool! So much less to worry about! Eh, not so fast. The 6 hour bus ride through the Michocan mountains had me fearing for my life more-so than the 1500 sea miles behind us. Andrew was passed out. I was gripping the seats, wishing I had brought some sea-sickness meds. Nearing midnight the driver came to a quick stop atop a mountain pass, lit a candle in an roadside alter, said a prayer, crossed himself and got back onboard to bomb it down the mountain.

When we bought our bus tickets most of the tellers had no idea where we wanted to go… Rio Nexpa. Eh? Nooo… they said. Our bus was at 6:00pm and they told us it would be 3 or 4 hours. Ended up being 6. Most of the stops nearing our destination there were people awake in restaurants and stores – kids playing and people on and off the bus. When the driver called out Nexpa (the only one he called out the whole ride … just for the gringos) we got off the bus at 12:30am in the pitch black. Cosas aya (Stuff there)? Andrew pointed down the dark road? Noo… said the driver (who had gotten off to help get the boards out from below) Casas… he said. We marched quickly off the highway down the dark road. This would arguably be a stupid thing to be doing in Mexico. Flashback: I need to tell a quick story…

Andrew and I were traveling in Chile in 2007, we were on a bus from the South (Santiago area) headed to Northern Chile, on a surf trip of course. On the way, I believe that we got stuck in some random town where the bus had temporarily broken down and we were undergoing extended repairs. I remember when the bus finally roared back to life and everyone was packed aboard just as the driver was shifting into reverse… Andrew had still not returned from his snack run. Just as the doors where closing he appeared. Ahhh. Anyhow, we were on our way to Portofino, which is smaller than Nexpa, actually only 10 people live there and half of them are surfers. Anyhow, because of the repairs we were discarded from the bus at 2am along a cold highway in the middle of Atacama desert. Just like Nexpa the driver left us with a wrinkle on his brow and that time we marched into the desert and pitched a half-broken tent – there was not a light anywhere. All we heard and all we saw was stray dogs. So, we had had this experience before. After a quick roadside pee we hustled towards the sound of the ocean and this time there where some lights off yonder.

Fortunately while waiting at the bus station we looked up a place to stay and had called a guy who knew we were showing up late… well, not this late. We called him, he answered and came to pick us up – sweet!

Rio Nexpa

The waves were epic. Andrew got worked but had an awesome time. I walked on the beach and found lots of miniature urchin shells while trying worthlessly to soak up being on land. I mostly just stared at the ocean thinking about the miles ahead and how it looks much scarier from the shore than it does from the sea. We both were scanning the horizon and analyzing the wind direction. I saw three large tankers that were not too far offshore and imagined Arcturus as she sailed by dodging them.

Nexpa is a little community based around the left-hand point break. The swell direction was not ideal for pure pumpage… it had a little too much west in it making the wave a little sectiony and wonky and hard to surf. Folks come from around the world come to surf this spot. We heard it becomes much better with a pure south swell.

We had a little cabana with a solid floor that was cemented into the ground, but it didn’t seem to relieve of us of the worry of Arcy a nauseating 6 hour bus ride away. It was a quiet, beautiful spot and we were happy to have made the trip. There was one restaurant where we ate three meals and drank 6 liquados since we didn’t bring anything with us to cook with.

To catch the bus headed North back to Manzanillo we walked back up to the main highway. A donkey and some cows were hanging out there with us. A bus should go by every 4 hours at 50 mph, we had heard. I jumped and waved to flag it down after a 45 minute wait and we enjoyed the daytime views of the cliffs of insanity back to Manzanillo with a more conservative driver at the wheel.

Donkey parking on the main highway

A view from the bus along the Michocan coast

Michocan is a sparsely populated state in Mexico. The mountains are huge and come right down to the sea. The small villages along the route are generally settled in sheltered coves for fishing activity. I was stretching my neck at the stops trying to see what sort of anchorages we had ahead. The vendors that come on the bus are the best. We were shamelessly buying fruit, chips, ceviche, coconut juice, etc. from all of them.

The joy of seeing Arcy bobbing peacefully at anchor made us screetch and jump enough to scare the cab driver. We threw on swimsuits and paddled the boards out to the boat to inflate the dinghy, row back and grab all of our stuff that we had stashed in the hotel bushes. The following day we paid the $9 for dingy parking (where the dinghy was undergoing a quick repair with 5200) and swam in the hotel pool. We bought only one beer at the bar and then brought in some cans and kept refilling and sharing the same glass – worked out great. Later we provisioned in town at Walmart which was surprisingly awesome compared to US Walmarts featuring a huge bakery with amazing breads and fresh tortillas. John showed up out of nowhere and we got a ride back to the boat then we headed over to have burgers and beer at John’s bar, the only char-broiled burgers in town!

The Las Hadas Pool

The Las Hadas taxi waiting area

Baby humpback getting jumping lessons from mamma

8 Responses to “Manzanillo // Overland to Nexpa”
  1. Jenny Shade says:

    Gee wiz! This one freaked me out! You are two very brave souls. Thanks for the whale pic. Keep on truckin”


  2. Chris says:

    epic post, love reading about these places, that left point looks like serious business, this mission/blog is in many ways how a number of great novels came to be…

  3. Bradford says:

    How much did the anxiety of leaving the arcy behind diminish the overland trip? Or did it make it more fun to do.

    • followthearc says:

      In the end, it was totally worth it. I don’t know if it made the trip more fun… but it was a really good experience. Thanks for not mentioning bunny slayings Bradford – you know those comments get canned.

  4. Huirazo says:




    • Huirazo says:

      So stoked to read about your Atacama desert experience! supposed to be the driest desert in the world and from my experience and andrews probably also, crossing the desert is no joke. Now, having to camp there…. wow, you two go hard !!!

  5. At the line-up in Ch**, waves going off, asking where this little sailboat was from, I never imagined it’d be a neighbor from the Santa Barbara Channel… and a friend of a friend. What coincidence. Great to meet you two adventurers, and paddle out to the Arcturus, before you raised sail for Huatulco. Fair travels and hope to rendezvous yet again.

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