Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Day 2 Of Travel

Day 1 had been a long day. Almost 10 hours of driving. Day 2 held the promise of being another long one. By the time we went to bed, we had travelled from the state of Quintana Roo, through the Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco and finally to Chiapas.

We left Ciudad del Carmen a bit behind schedule. Just enough to throw me off kilter all day. I knew we had a long way to go, some of it through the mountains and I worried that we would not make it to our night's destination, Tuxtla Guieterrez, before nightfall. And we almost didn't.

Having made this portion of the drive several times before, I knew we had the dreaded bridge at Frontera to cross. Here we are approaching it.

At the top. Looking down on one of the estuary rivers that flows into the Gulf.

And finally, thankfully, going back down. I hate this bridge.

By the time we crossed over the bridge, we were well into the state of Tabasco. I swear, Tabasco is one of the hottest states in Mexico. And one of the smokiest. I swear there is always something burning somewhere in Tabasco. Little grass fires, smoldering forest fires, who know all what is on fire. But the smoke is everywhere. On the horizon, next to the road and always smelly.

Our plan was to skirt the exterior of Villahermosa and head south towards TG. No way did I want to go through Villahermosa. Again with the warnings to B to memorize that #^$% route! I had even written down for him the names of towns that we would be heading to after Villahermosa so he could look for those in case the route was numbered. Fat lot of good it did me. We have been lost in the bowels of V before and not with a friendly ending. When we passed under the overpass where we usually turn to head towards Cordoba, Veracruz, I knew we had missed our turn somewhere far behind us. To say I was mad is an understatement. I will not go into detail regarding the ensuing conversation...if you can call it a conversation. I refused to travel in circles looking for a way out of town. I pulled over and stated that we were going to sit there, in the hot car, sweating beyond belief until he figured out where we were and how to get us back on track. Never happened. He did threaten to figure out where the bus station was and walk to it and go home though. I almost let him.

Finally calmer heads pervailed (and looked at all the maps we had with us to figure out how to get back on track) and we pulled out. With only two more false turns, we found our way to the correct route and were heading south. Another delay to already pushed schedule for the day.

Along the way further south, we passed a lot of these:

Banana plantations were the rule of the day. No, they are not blue bananas. They are bags they cover with them. Not sure if it is to help ripening or to keep off bugs.

Chiapas is a beautiful state. A place of breathtaking scenery and abject poverty. And garbage. Lots of garbage everywhere. I did not photograph any of it. Better to think that Mexico is a land of unspoiled vistas.

But driving through the mountains of Chiapas, besides being exhausting, is fraught with dangers. Like this:

We rounded a corner, thankfully only in third gear, to discover a washout on a very steep hill. They had set up a temporary pass over the washout. While I was taking these pictures, I watched trucks, big trucks, and buses full of passengers gingerly pick their way across these slippery metal pipes. I was glad to be over it.
Some of the beauty of the hills of Chiapas.

Chipas has its' own share of wildfires. It appears that nobody worries about these things but me. Of course, it may not be a wildfire. It may have been purposely set by the military to force mountain people from their homes and valuable land. Another story there.

I'm always pleased to see something like this in Mexico. Wind power.
So, after only 9 hours of twisting, grueling mountain driving, we pulled into Tuxtla Guitterez. We had a horrible time finding a hotel that included parking. It is never a good idea to leave your car on the street overnight while travelling.
Mission finally accomplished, although not in our first choice hotel, or our second, or even our third. When the seventh hotel we tried in over an hour had a room, we grabbed it.
And I was ready for a beer and bed!


lisa said...

I think I would have had more than just a beer!! You are more adventurous than I!!!! Good luck tomorrow! Or is it today?

john said...

The bags are for bug protection.

And Chiapas is soooo beautiful! Lucky you.

Life's a Beach! said...

What an adventure! I'm sure you'll look back at that fork in the road (in Villahermosa) one of these days and laugh. Been there, done that many times when under duress. Chiapas looks beautiful! By the way, I don't think I posted a comment yesterday, but I'm loving all your reports.

Babs said...

We saw lots of the wind power windmills in West Texas too. Luckily we didn't have the navigation problems you did......I once traveled with someone who could NOT read a map. It was aggravating, to put it mildly. In Mexico I don't use maps, I use the names of the next town on the other side of somewhere - I find it easier to watch, sometimes in vain, for the sign for that town.

Chiapas is one of my favorite places on earth......Oh, and by the way, if you use you can find, in advance, places that have parking etc. It's a great website.

Anonymous said...

I have traveled in Mexico for many years. Not all road maps and signs
match.When your partners and driving
both people pay attention not just one person. You need to lighten up
on your partner. If if was me you would of been both driver and map
man. I would of been on the bus
rapido..Lighten up and enjoy your trip.

Jamqueen said...

Am enjoying your reports! I hate driving over bridges----I think it all goes back to my 1st car--a Camaro convertible--driving over the bridge into Maine & feeling like the wind was going to pick me up & fly away!

Islagringo said...

lisa: actually, I had two!

john: thanks for the info and great to see you up and about!

lab: i seriously doubt that I will look back on it and laugh. The first time he navigated us through V, we ended up at the bottom of a hill on a dead end street with 2" to turn around. My car was new then and I backed into a post. If I ever pass through there again, I am going to pull over and pay a taxi to lead us where I want to go.

babs: thanks for the link! I use a combination of route number AND the names of cities beyond where I am. I usually have no problems. Except for unmarked forks in the road!

anon: and I probably would have let you! I try to pay attention and outside of big cities I have no problem. However, V has a history for us of creating problems with navigation, thus the emphasis on my part to pay attention. B has a tendancy to let his thoughts drift and then misses a sign. As a driver in Mexico, you know how hard it is to watch for signs, potholes, pedestrians, illegally merging traffic and people just stepping into the street. I don't think it is too much to ask for his assistance once in awhile.

jamqueen: i can't trace my dread of bridges but glad you understand how nervewracking they can be!

Billie said...

Wayne, I agree that drive between Villahermosa and Tuxtla is terrible. We were in a dense fog/cloud most of the way through the mountains. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and I wasn't the one doing the driving. Glad you made it safe and sound.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea how lovely Chiapas is! I sort of thought of all of Mexico as what I've seen in the Yucatan & Baha CA areas - just scrub brush & desert!

P.S. I'm ALWAYS the navigator (usually also driver) because hubby couldn't find himself out of a paper bag!


Islagringo said...

billie: most of the driving on that stretch is above the clouds but getting through them is a nighmare! It doesn't help when a car comes around the corner directly in front of you! I was so glad to descend to lower levels!

Linda: Mexico is a land of intense beauty, mixed with terrible poverty. There are so many beautiful places here, I could not even begin to name all of them. There is a spot on the road as you leave Palenque where you can look out over the Yucatan Peninsula before descending onto it. It really shows how flat and huge the area is.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Enjoying the ride, thanks! Am very interested in pics of the scenery and the roads in Chiapas as I hope to do that state soon.

The blue bags are impregnated with insecticide. Just south of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, we explored a large banana plantation and processing plant. Per the locals: the bags are removed from the bananas when they cut the stalk and discarded into a pile alongside the river. Which, when it rains, carries the bags and basura into the ocean. Dios mio. Causing the rapid demise of the once glorious and healthy reef and bountiful eco system of the Caribbean Sea in that area. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

Lovin your reports ! We also got hopelessy lost in V. Somehow, someway a Mexican angel slowed his car near us ( got a little nervous about that) and asked us in perfect English if we needed help. He then proceeded to lead us to our exit several miles away). He would not accept anything other than "mil gracias". I think this was God's way of preventing us from killing each other. I was screaming at my hubby and he yelling back,etc.etc. All that being said we loved the trip.

Remember while in the passenger seat it is so easy to get lost in the beautiful views.

Half the fun of a road trips are the tifs and how the 2 of you can solved them. Road trips can be the glue that keep a relationship alive(maybe, haha if you don't kill each other first) But there is no one else I would not want to adventure road trip with anyone else than my partner.

Have fun!!!

jeanie said...

Wayne, Doesn't Google work in Mexico? When I Google a map and directions it practically tells me how to get to my own driveway and from there exactly how many Kms to each turn no matter how far. Just sayin' a monkey could follow it. No offense B LOL

Nancy said...

I love the pictures and the blow by blow reports...just glad you didn't come to blows on the way, ha ha-.

Next time I think you get to navigate and he gets to drive, right?

Keep it coming, I am loving your posts!

Anonymous said...

BTW, the correct term for your companion is "nagavator", not "navigator".

O Robert

Croft said...

Chiapas is a beautiful state, arguably the most beautiful! On your way home do yourself a favor and buy a couple pounds of Chiapas coffee!

We have gotten lost in Villahermosa as well. I am very happy that it was in the car and not in the motorhome! Passing through there last time we just stayed on the cuota even though it is illegal to have a motorhome towing a car on the highway through town.

Jackie said...

Thanks for taking me with you on the beginning of your journey.
That makeshift bridge was scary. Yikes and I say that coming from a city full of bridges some of which I won’t cross.

Islagringo said...

Mexican Trailrunner: the scenery in Chiapas is gorgeous. No other word to describe it. The roads, at times, can leave a bit to be desired though. Just keep your wits about you at all times in the mountains. And NEVER drive at night!

anon: what is it about V that makes it so hard to negotiate? Everybody has troubles with it. But your least sentence, no matter what goes on, sums it up perfectly.

jeanie: i must be doing something wrong. i can't find a site on google for road maps for monkeys!

nancy: wrong! i'm not comfortable riding with anybody else driving my car. stupid, i know. i am tense the entire time. and somebody else driving in the mountains? ain't gonna happen. so i shouldn't complain, right?

o robert: that is hilarious! except i am the nagavator. look at the map! etc.

croft: we will be taking back oaxacan and chiapan coffee. and when driving in Mexico, do like the Mexican drivers do...consider road signs (including ALTO) just a suggestion.

jackie: you bet it was scary! there was a sign just before that said "washout ahead" in Spanish. I forget the word right now. I had just asked B to look the word up in our travel dictionary when I discovered the meaning in person!