I was on a mission to reclaim the life of free-camping I had while motoring the Trans-American Trail and since beach camping in Mexico is legal, I decided to skip the RV pay site and find a stunning spot on the beach in San Carlos, Sonora – a stunning but touristy town full of yachts and vacant vacation mansions. And fortunately for the all-night-long police beach patrol, the teenie-boppers blaring the Ranchera music for their Friday night playa party was cut short and I caught a few Z’s in between Cart-her checks.

San Carlos, Sonora - Yachts and Cart-her

We continued down the 15 cuota autopista (the peso-only toll road down the west coast) and veered off the path to venture to Huatabampito in the southwestern part of Sonora. According to Malcolm, who found the Huatabampito RV site online, it was quite an amazing looking spot that would be worth the extra hour roundtrip.

We arrived to an empty town; no markets, no restaurants and scarcely a person. I started laughing. We rolled down the sandy road through town past vacation mansion next to farmer shack and came to the end where Señor Castro came out and offered us a fenced in area for our motos, a bathroom and a place on the beach in front of one of the vacation homes he was looking after for a “regalo” aka a small monetary present. We almost took him up on his offer before we scoped out the RV park, El Mirador, that had hot water showers and the avocado and tomato I wanted for dinner, saving me a trip back to the nearest town. El Mirador was occupied with about four American-owned RVs inhabited by people looking for an economical beach front escape; and they found it … at least until the hoards would return for Semana Santa; Latin America’s big vacation beach-get-away week in April. We paid $120 pesos, about the equivalent of $10 USD for the tent site, showers and the use of WiFi.

El Mirador, Huatabampito, Sonora

The next morning, after a lovely beach run and cup of coffee made on our portable stoves with our canvas coffee strainers brought from Colombia, we were on our merry way again. We crossed the “Hassle Free Zone” for U.S. plated vehicles into the state of Sinaloa. Just before another 15 cuota pay point we stopped for lunch at a roadside open-air restaurant run by momma in the kitchen, her hijo as the stock boy and her roller skating hija bringing us napkins and smiles. When we asked her about possible pueblos for good beach camping, she explained that Sinaloa was one of the most dangerous states and that we should get a hotel for the night and leave in the morning. She continued, adding that they’ll kill you to get money for drugs as she swiped her finger across her neck. And thus, we were off to Culiacán, the nearest stopping point to find a hotel before the sunset.

Our GPS’s led us to a few pricey places, including the Fiesta Inn that was situated in the midst of a mega-mall parking lot and a block down from a Starbucks. I walked in with my Scorpion Trans-Former modular flipped open, looked at the posted price of $1,300 pesos ($110 USD) and said, “Estoy buscando para algo que es más economico.” And to my delight, I was given directions to the Flamingo Inn across town. There was safe gated parking, affordable rates at $300 pesos ($25 USD) and a market down the street … but then came the Latin American midnight music blast. Where does it come from; a house, a hidden disco? And why does it start so late on weeknights and why is it at full volume?

I whine because I suffered through many trumpet-thumping nights when I was teaching English in Colombia and haven’t yet uncovered the driving force behind this cultural musical disturbance. My assumption is that there is some social power or machismo glory by proving that one’s ‘speakers’ are bigger.

I digress…

The next morning we hopped on the Mazatlan 15 cuota rode instead of the 15 libre (free) way in order for a faster Sinaloa escape and were charged a ridiculous $103 pesos each. As I rationalized it by convincing myself that we might have avoided something awful on the 15 libre we were stopped again for another $89 pesos each; in total, $16 USD each! Needless to say, toll roads are now an “enabled avoidance” on our GPSs!

Main Street, Payas Novillero

Once out of Sinaloa, we headed back to the beach for some free soft sand camping in Playas Novillero in the state of Nayarit. We vibrated down the main cobblestone road through the dinky fishing village and stopped to discuss camping plans when the road narrowed to wheel tracks. Señora Catalina, the owner of a little hovel of a home and seasonal restaurant, called Su Amigo Manuel came out to offer the same safe parking/sleeping exchange for the same “regalo” that Señor Castro did in Huatabampito. We looked at the dried palm canopy covering plastic tables and chairs on the wide sandy beach as the sun set over the soft blue wave and stayed for two nights.

If you turn around from this picture of my tent in front of Su Amigo Manuel, it's even more beautiful.

The second of which we devoured one of the greatest camping meals ever; grandisimo prawns caught by Señora Catalina’s son that we gutted and cooked with our pocket knives and portable stoves; garlic, butter and fresh tortillas.

I think they're called "prawns" because "big shrimp" is just so cryptic.

We left the lovely little pueblo of Playas Novillero heading toward Guatemala, but stopped for a night in Tepic to spare our motos and sit-bones another full-day of riding. After we passed through the “Modelo de la Corrupción” police checkpoint, we found the Hotel Humberto for a comfortable $230 pesos. Although, it is currently 10:00 pm and the music continues …

Malcolm and I conversing at a beach-front Playas Novillero lunch spot.