Published May 08
Hi Carl & Lorena,
After spending some four years living and traveling up and down the rugged and beautiful coast of Michoacan I have formed some opinions about travel and camping safety. The first thing to keep in mind is the length of the coastline in this state is longer than two hundred miles.
Even today, a few campers have reported to authorities that they have been hassled by armed gunmen---mostly in the middle of the night---and mostly on completely deserted sections of beaches. It seems like the more deserted the beach the more likely it would be that someone would come around and knock on your window with the butt of a revolver. Gossip, rumors nor newspapers have not reported any actual attacks or injuries, however.
Many law-enforcement types that I have queried state that drug growers come down out of the mountains with drugs sometimes tied onto pack animals in order to link up with drug runners operating large fiberglass 'pangas' or ocean-going skiffs. The drugs are offloaded from the animals and then transferred to the boats---some of which have multiple outboard motors with hundreds of horsepower.
If the grower's and runner's carefully laid-out plans are fouled by encountering a camper snoring on a deserted beach things can get tense, until the camper is "encouraged" to leave.
My advice is to not camp alone on a seemingly deserted beach. There are enough Mexican families living on alternative beaches that can be consulted about safety (and permission) to camp. It is possible that you may encounter someone who is in cahoots with drug runners in which case they would vigorously deny permission to camp -- keep looking and you will soon find your piece of paradise.
Insider Tip: Save your whim to go boondocking inland for some other area of Mexico. It seems like drug growers like to move their cargo out of the mountains (sometimes for up to seventy miles) incrementally. You could conceivably stumble upon a load of dope just a few miles from the main coastal highway.
Overall perception: Since coastal dwellers seldom venture inland for any distance, the presence of 'marijuanos' is hardly felt. In fact few villagers even lock their doors.
Note: It takes about six hours to traverse the area from Tecoman to Lazaro Cardenas by automobile. If a camper were to use basic common sense, this area is one of the most rewarding in all Mexico. The scenery is top notch (lush tropical) the beaches are wide and fantastically long. And out among the crags and pinnacles jutting out of the blue Pacific, are dish size oysters, kilogram lobster, and Mexico's largest reserve of red sea bass (huauchinango).
Ecology: Our local sea turtle hatchery gathered, hatched and released fourteen thousand turtles last year. Of particular note is the fact that from December to April, large pods of humpback whales frolic just off-shore. For some reason these whales like to breach (jump clear out of the water). Perch atop one of the many headlands along this coast with a pair of binoculars and you will be rewarded with one of nature's more spectacular displays.