Sunday, February 08, 2009

Chiconcuac seems a million miles away. We left at 9:00 yesterday morning, knowing it would be a full day's drive to Veracruz. We used the toll road, which was expensive but, in this case, not in very good repair. Somebody had told us to avoid the city of Puebla, but somebody else had said there was a by-pass, so we decided to make use of the toll road and take our chances with Puebla.

So here's one of those traveler-to-traveler warnings: Don't go to Puebla. I mean, I'm sure it's a lovely city to live in, but for a stranger passing through, it's a little on the nightmarish side. Not that anybody was unkind to us, or tried to rob us, or any of that other stuff you hear about Mexico (and which we've never experienced, by the way). It's just that Puebla is a huge city, and coming from the south (southwest?) as we were, there doesn't appear to be a way to get onto the by-pass - or else there is, and it isn't marked, which is more than possible. So we went right through Puebla.

I say that as if it were a matter of driving in a straight line. No. We tried that, and at some point we did see a sign pointing straight ahead to Veracruz, but we seemed to go on a long time after that without seeing another sign. We saw a Pemex station, and we were low on gas, so we pulled in there, filled up, and asked directions. The attendant told us to go two blocks more and turn left. We drove two blocks, looked to the left while we waited for the light to change, and saw what looked like a very unpromising road. There was no sign. So Robin opened his passenger side window and spoke to the lady in the little black car next to us. Veracruz? Yes, she said, pointing straight ahead. So off we went, straight ahead, until the road ended at a t-junction. As the gas station attendant had told us to turn left, that is what we did, if at a different intersection. Then we pulled over to consult our maps. A little black car pulled in ahead of us and stopped. Out came the lady who had directed us. She ran back to my side of the car and said 'Follow me'. Hot damn. Okay.

There ensued half an hour of barreling around Puebla, twisting and turning and watching our lady ask people for directions. Her car, again, was quite small, and ours is a 24 foot motor home, but I managed somehow to follow her. I think I've mentioned before that in the cities here, roads are often marked as having two lanes in each direction. However, when traffic is heavy (usually, that is), the two lanes each way become three, at least. Our lady led us down one of the phantom lanes. I am so glad I was driving, because I think Robin's head would have exploded if he had tried it - he has a better imagination than I do. I had to stifle a giggle - a nervous giggle - from time to time, while I whipped that RV around as if it were a sports car. I suspect Robin closed his eyes.

I didn't hit anything!

Finally, we arrived at the place where we could get onto the Autopista, the freeway. We all pulled over beside a wrecking yard, and we all got out. The lovely lady walked up and threw her arms around me, kissed my cheek, wished me a good trip, apologized for the fact that there are no directional signs in Puebla. I asked where she lived, as she seemed to have driven awfully far to help us. Back in the city, she said. She just felt sorry for us and wanted to give us a hand. May she live long and prosper.

We got back into the RV and climbed the dirt ramp to the freeway. It was then that we discovered our next problem. There was no way to get on the freeway heading to Veracruz. We had to head back toward Cuernavaca. EEEEEEEEEEK! Never mind, I said, there's bound to be a retorno (an interesting bit of engineering that allows for u-turns). There's always a retorno. But where? How far would we have to go back? Soon, though, we saw an exit for a different, smaller highway, so I turned onto that, and from there I was able to make a u-turn through the boulevard and head back toward the Autopista, where we could see an entrance to go in the direction of Veracruz. It turns out that in Puebla, no matter where you are, and no matter where you're going, you just can't get there from here. Our lady hadn't misled us. She had given us our only possible course of action, short of wandering in Puebla until we grew really, really old.

Okay. Enough of Puebla. We proceeded. Oh, yes, Puebla is apparently at 7,100 feet, but the climb from Acapulco is gradual, so we hadn't thought much of it, except for the usual breathing problems - And oh, yes. Breathing problems. The mountains around there belch smoke. Most unsettling. Anyway, we traveled on to Cordoba, and it was after that that we came to the hill. Robin was driving. I pointed out a sign warning of a dangerous hill ahead. We rounded the bend and started down. Robin said it didn't seem very dangerous to him, and I agreed. Then we rounded another bend, and another bend, still going down, and I looked to my right. I've never looked down that far except from an airplane. On and on and on we went, ever downward. The way Robin feels about driving in Mexican cities is the way I feel about driving in the mountains. (Get me down. Please. Just get me down.) If I remember the signs correctly, the 'dangerous hill' was 10 kilometers long. It seemed longer, but it did end, and after that it was level going.

Eventually, there was Veracruz. It doesn't have much in the way of signs, either, and we were tired when we got there at around five o'clock, but we finally found our way to the water and turned right to get to the RV park, eleven kilometers out of town. Unfortunately, the park has no wi-fi - and not much in the way of water pressure, either - but we've booked in for two nights. Today I took the bus into Anton Lizardo, the little pueblo just up the road, because there was an internet cafe shown on the RV park's map. The cafe is closed, but eventually I found this place, which is a bank of computers in an air-conditioned room. That is just fine, because I don't need coffee. I also don't need lunch, because while I was wandering the main street in search of the cafe, I found a little open-air restaurant that advertised empanadas. Yum. I ordered two - one with ground beef, the other with chicken - and waited for Robin to turn up on his bicycle. I waved him down, and ordered cafe con leche for both of us, another empanada for him. After the empanadas arrived, the cook leaned over the counter and presented me with a taco on a styrofoam plate. Try this, she said. Thank you. What is it? Res (beef). Okay -and as I took my first bite, 'cabeza'. Erk. Too late now. I had already tasted it, and it was good. Spicy. I offered Robin a taste. He decided that the soft tortilla and filling were too much trouble to be bothered with, so he declined. I ate the rest.

There. I have had my first (and my last, I suspect) taco de cabeza - brain taco. I've seen them advertised all over Mexico, and I've never had any desire to try one (visions of mad cow disease will haunt me now). However, this village is full of very pleasant people who seem to be quite healthy. I'll try to remember that.

Tomorrow we will head for the Yucatan. There was a delightful man staying in the park last night. His name is Ivan, and he comes from Quebec. He has just spent a month exploring the Yucatan, and he spent an hour this morning telling us about all the things we simply must see. He also mentioned that the RV park we were heading for next is closed, so we're changing our plan. If I heard correctly, we will only travel about three hours tomorrow. I'm not sure we will have internet there, (wherever 'there' is) but I'll be back as soon as I can.

Before I go - thank you so much for the encouraging comments about this blog and about my Found Poetry. I'm having a great time.

Oh, and one more thing - I have been directed to yet another beautiful blog, this one featuring the paintings of Mónica Zúñiga. There's a link to her blog, Hands & Heart, over there on the right ---> and she's having a giveaway! I hope you'll pay her a visit.

1 comment:

Pam Swanson said...

Sis, what a travel you've had in and out of Puebla! Whew! Good job on your drive through town and I got a chuckle out of your "stifle a giggle". What a sweet lady to help out.
I can imagine the problems you had with altitude after Santa Fe. Smoke filled mtn didn't help either. The ride down the hill sounds horrid and we share the drop off the cliff white as a ghost symptom.
You're first week of Feb. travels have been very interesting. Brain taco's, was interesting! How far into the taco before you knew what it was? I'm glad the nice gentleman has given you some tips on what to see Yucatan. You maybe there longer than planned????? Remember the "s" word :)
I love all the detail you write. Great job author!!!
Love ya! P.

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