Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Start - How We Got Here

Wednesday, July 29. The alarm went off as planned at 4am. 4am! We hauled ourselves out of bed and I stumbled out to the kitchen and hit the "ON" button on the coffee. Then I sat quietly at the dining room table and had my first smoke of the day while I waited my turn in the bathroom. We were being extra quiet as our house sitter was still asleep. We didn't want to wake her if not necessary.

Thankfully we had gotten our backpacks and some other stuff loaded into the trunk the night before so we really had very little to wrestle out to the car when we left. We even loaded our shirts, packed on hangers and covered with garbage bags on top of everything in the trunk. We were not sure if there would be an iron where we going so the fewer wrinkles the better. I actually thought of packing an iron at one point but considered it foolish. Unlike our friend Carlos.

We took him to Merida for a three day weekend one Christmas season so he could pick out his own Christmas present. It was the Christmas after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and he needed a lot of stuff. At any rate, he actually packed an iron in his duffel bag! He was the best pressed guy around!

Anyway, we got ourselves together, snuck quietly out of the house and were at the car ferry lot by 5:30 am. The first ferry to the mainland now leaves at 6 am. Horrible hour of the day except that is cool out and the crossing is usually smooth.

Sitting upstairs on the boat, minding our own business as usual, when a Mexican man came up and sat himself down next to B. He asked, in perfect English, why a tourist would be riding the car ferry! After his initial shock of finding out that Gringos did indeed live on the island and own cars, we had a nice chat. He was one of two truck drivers who had delivered marble to the island from Pueblo. He and his co-driver were now returning non-stop to Puebla. I did not envy him that drive!

Our first stop out of town was going to be a quicky at CostCo to pick up a beach umbrella, my contacts and some magnifying reading glasses for B. We found out from several friends on the boat with us that CostCo did not open until 9 am. Forget that then.

Our next stop was going to be at McMuffinland as we headed towards the toll road to Merida. We pulled in, my mouth all set to bite into a Sausage and Egg McMuffin, only to discover that it did not open for another 45 minutes. Ok then. No choice but to suck it up and head out towards Merida. The way the trip was starting, I should have known it was a bad sign.

At the rest stop at Valladolid, our luck changed. We each bought a couple of tacos from the stands located there and they were delicious! Energized, we headed back out for the two more hours drive to the cut off at Merida for Campeche. I've mentioned this before, but that 4 hour drive on the freeway from Cancun to Merida is the most deadly boring piece of road that I have ever driven in Mexico. After thousands and thousands of miles driving in Mexico, I feel qualified to say that.

Before I go much further, I should let you know that I did (and always do) all the driving. B was navigator this trip. He's not all that great at the job, but I had no choice but to give him that assignment. I warned him over and over and over that he better study the maps and get to know them by heart because I could not drive and navigate too.

Our first missed turn came immediately south of Merida when we missed the lane for Campeche. I never even saw the sign, but then I was busy trying to avoid massive trucks and speeding drivers running into me or cutting me off. We were to become very familiar with the Mexican road feature called retorno on this trip!

We turned around and found a sign for Campeche that ran through the town of Uman. I did not want to take this detour but it was shorter than trying to drive up and down freeways looking for the fast road to Campeche. As an aside, those of you in Merida, if you have never been to Uman and the magnificent market there, go check it out.

I'm happy to say that the rest of the journey to our first night's destination, Ciudad del Carmen on the Gulf of Mexico, was rather event less. The route is fairly easy. Just follow the MX 180 signs. I have made this drive multiple times in the past. It is the major road from Merida all the way to Texas. Easy-peasy.

We were planning on having lunch at our favorite little restaurant in Champoton. We've always gotten great food there. Of course, we were again having no luck with our planned food stops. It was closed. So we stopped at the next seafood place down the line. B had a so-so shrimp cocktail and I had Caldo de Cameron which was delicious. It was a bit troublesome to eat since the shrimp still had their heads on, but at least they had been delegged and detailed. I hate pulling the legs off shrimp. Reminds me of those grubs they eat on those survival in Africa shows.

Just before we hit the bridge that crossed the Gulf inlet onto the island of Ciudad del Carmen, we pulled over at a gas station to get some cold beverages and to stretch our legs. When I came back to the car, there was a cute little girl, maybe about 9, leaning on the car having an animated conversation with B. She was selling some kind of fruit. When B went to take his turn in the bathroom, she switched her attention to me. Once she determined that I was not going to buy any of her unidentifiable fruit, she started regaling me with questions. The funniest part was when she said to me, with wide eyes and in perfect seriousness, "I have never seen any Gringos here before. Never!" I broke up laughing and told her that now she has. She thought about that for a second and agreed with me wholeheartedly!

We crossed the dreaded, hateful bridge over to the island and continued on for 40 kilometers to the town of Ciudad del Carmen itself. Now for the pictures!

The view from our balcony out to the Gulf of Mexico with the second of the bridges in the distance. This one would have to be crossed to get off the island.

A closer look at the bridge.

To our left is the town square, with the church sticking up from the trees. Ciudad del Carmen has one of the prettiest, cleanest town squares I have ever seen.

On ground level looking at the malecon that runs along the Gulf. I love this pedestrian cross walk with the ball holding it up.

Here you see one of the many oil tankers around. This city is home to a giant PeMex refinerary and employs many offshore drilling people.

The gazebo in the square.

A look at the ornate painting on the outside of the church.

This park is immaculately manicured. All the ficus trees look like this.

Tomorrow: Ciudad del Carmen to Tuxtla Guitterez in Chiapas state.


lisa said...

What a trip so far!! The 4 a.m. would of killed me almost!! The Park is pretty amazing. I like it all the ball is pretty cool!!

IslaZina said...

The ball/overpass is very cool. I could use an adventure now. Oh well. It's Gilligan's birthday, so HiNiHa, here we come! Looks like you'll have a fabulous time. Yes, I am envious.

Croft said...

Nice route description Wayne. This is the same route we took on our way home earlier this year.

Anonymous said...

Would appreciate some feedback on prices there ....accommodations, food, etc .... lots of us have limited our Mexican experiences to Isla and it's ilk .... not that there's anything WRONG with that ...;)

O Robert

Steve Cotton said...

I always enjoy your travelogues. While reading this post, I had to remind myself that you were already at your destination. I feel as if I am still there with you on the first day of the journey.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures and blog. The streets,look peaceful & clean. Thanks for sharing.-Corrinne

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the town gazebo! What did Isla do???