Last month, we finished exploring Baja California, shipped our van to mainland Mexico, and finished the month as we arrived into La Huasteca Potosina in eastern Mexico. Wow, was this area an amazing surprise!
We arrived in Tamasopo to find aqua-blue rivers full of rope swings and waterfalls just about everywhere we turned. We realized that the whole area was more or less the same – an exciting adventure waiting around every corner.
There must have been at least 50 waterfalls in the area, all of different sizes, all equally amazing, and much to our surprise… all equally empty!
We ended up exploring this area for almost 3 weeks and saw very few other tourists, maybe about 2-3 other people at each place.
As if that wasn’t enough, every place was incredibly cheap. On average, we paid about $30 Mexican pesos (about $1.50 USD) per person for each place and that included the entrance fee for as long as we wanted to stay plus free camping outside in their large, gated parking lots. This was the ideal setup for us to stay in our custom built camper van since we don’t really need any facilities other than a flat, secure place to park.
La Huasteca Potosina is not a very big area, which was great because it meant much less driving to get to the next breathtaking waterfall. That also meant spending much less on fuel during this time.
The drone incident
We tried to capture as much as we could of this area, and this lead to our drone incident.
While trying to film Laura standing in front of an awesome waterfall, we hit a tree branch with the drone as it flew backwards and it fell down… into the murky waters of the river right below it. We instantly dove in, trying to find the drone in the 8 feet deep water with no visibility but we came out empty handed. 10 minutes passed and it was starting to get dark since this happened during sunset. Things were looking grim for our beloved drone.
Suddenly, a local came out of nowhere and said he had been fishing up the river when he saw it happen and had seen exactly where the drone fell into the water. He dove in and after a few attempts, he surfaced with the drone which still had full power and still had blinking lights.
We gave him $400 pesos ($20 USD) for this help and rushed to the store to get rice to cover the drone with in an attempt to dry it out. We weren’t sure the poor drone would survive.
After 4 days of drying, we cleaned it off with some electronics cleaner and compressed air and held our breath as we powered it on.
It worked flawlessly! We couldn’t believe it. However, the battery seems to have shorted out and would need to be replaced.
The show must go on
The beautiful scenery, lack of crowds, and cheap fees added up to us not wanting to leave. But we knew there was much more to see in Mexico and, with much hesitation, we decided to move on and keep covering some ground south.
It’s still so difficult to believe that we hadn’t heard much (or anything, really) about this area until a few weeks before when a local mentioned it might be worth checking out. We are looking forward to spending more time in this area in the future.
From La Huasteca Potosina, we drove south to the Grutas Tolantongo, stopping in Xilitla where we visited the incredible Surrealist Garden of Edward James. These places were – for a lack of better terms – surreal, but also very developed, well visited, and pricey, a huge contrast to everything we had seen in the last few weeks.
We continued south just east of Mexico City and visited a few cities along the way. We stopped by Pachuca, Cholula, and Puebla where we finally got reliable internet and got some work done, as well as enjoyed being back in civilization for a few days.
In Puebla, we splurged on things like dinner and drinks, a new drone battery, even got haircuts. It was during this time that we made the mistake of letting our guard down.
Where’s our mirror?
We returned to the car from a day in town to find that our Promaster’s side mirror had been stolen. Not the whole assembly, just the mirror itself. Ok, not the end of the world, let’s just go buy another one.
Except we get to the dealer and they tell us it’s on backorder from the US and we should instead go to a street in Puebla called 46 Pte where they have many car parts. It’s here, they tell us, where stolen car parts also get bought and resold, and we are assured that we would be able to find our very own mirror and buy it back from them.
We refused to support this market in any way, and instead chose to spend $100 pesos on a temporary plastic mirror, then found a glass cutter to make us a custom mirror for only $60 pesos. Good as new.
We finished the month of February as we arrived in Oaxaca, a beautifully restored colonial city in the southern part of Mexico.
We hadn’t covered much ground while visiting La Huasteca Potosina, but we made up for it by driving a good amount the last 10 days.
As we continue to drive, we’re finding that cities are very stressful. Finding secure parking and a quiet place to sleep for a reasonable price usually takes hours and driving in large Mexican cities is usually a white-knuckle experience that leaves us drained. For these reasons we are spending less and less time exploring the cities and seeking out nature as much as possible.
We spent a total of $1645 in the month of February, which was a little more than last month’s expenses. Some of this had to do with some additional expenses on electronics, while some of it had to do with the exchange rate. Last month, we averaged 19.5 pesos per dollar, whereas this month was around 18.5 pesos per dollar.
|Gas & Car Stuff||$ 340.26|
|Restaurants & Coffee||$ 298.90|
|Cell phone||$ 70.00|
|Visas, Permits, Ferry||$ 6.81|
In February, we had a good balance of spending very little during our time in La Huasteca Potosina – where we drove very little and spend virtually nothing on camping – and spending a bit more during the second half where we drove much more and had to pay for camping in larger cities.
Also, our Promaster campervan’s fuel efficiency dropped from about 18 mpg last month to about 15 mpg this month. We think this is due to driving more in the mountains, dirt roads, and stop-and-go traffic in cities compared to last month when we drove mostly on the open highways.
While we spent a little more than we thought we would spend this month, it would have been much lower had we not bought a few unexpected items such as a drone battery ($115 USD) and a Gopro ($210 USD). Without these costs, we would have been way under budget at only $1320.
These unexpected expenses are just part of life on the road. One month it’s a ferry, another it’s electronics, next month could be an unexpected car expense or splurging on adventures. Either way, we’re having a great time traveling on a reasonable budget.