Monday, September 07, 2009

Getting Home Was Not Easy

Finally made it back to the island, safe and sound, last Friday afternoon. It was not easy though.

I managed to get sick on Sunday night and was not up to driving on Monday so we delayed our departure until Tuesday. We regretted that decision many times, but it was to be helped.

Our original plan had us going north out of Oaxaca and into Veracruz at Acayucan. From there we would grab the freeway portion of MX 180 to Villahermosa. We had decided to stop fighting that city and spend a night there.

Things were going ok until we discovered that we had missed our turn off north to Matias Romero, which is on the road leading up to Acayucan. We were sailing along until the navigator announces that he thinks we are on the wrong road. I pulled over immediately and consulted the map myself. Yup. We had just driven 45 minutes out of our way along the wrong road. Hot, angry and disgusted, I did a U-turn and we headed back the way we had come.

We had passed a Federal Police check point earlier and I decided to show them the map when we got to them and ask for directions. I stopped where two officers were standing, showed them the map and where I wanted to go and asked for help. One of the officers gladly gave us instructions, in Spanish so rapid that I only caught a few words. The other officer must have read my face because he asked, in perfect English, "Did you understand that?" I admitted that I had not caught all of it. Whereupon he repeated the directions and we were off.

Fifteen minutes down the road and we spotted the sign for Matias Romero. It was one of the hand lettered signs that are easy to miss. I still don't know if there was a sign on the opposite side of the road for the exit or not.

Back on track, we breathed a sigh of relief and pressed on. Things went fine for the next 1.5 hours. As I topped a small hill, we could see that there was a whole line of vehicles ahead of us at a dead stop. I approached and stopped behind the last vehicle. Thinking that there must be an accident or something ahead blocking the road, we just sat there, sweltering in the hot, breezeless air. There was no oncoming traffic in the other lane at all. After several cars behind me pulled out and drove up that lane, I decided to follow them and check it out. Since we were stopped at the base of a hill with a curve at the top, it was impossible to see what was going on without approaching the front of the line. (Believe me, if I could have line jumped, I would have!) We ended up passing 2 kilometers of totally stopped vehicles of every description. Double semi trucks, cars, pickup trucks, even buses full of people.

I finally got to the top of the line and found a space to pull over so we could get out and try to see what was going on. What I saw at first was a group of people all standing in the middle of the road in what was the town of Matias Romero. I thought there must have been an accident and they were gawkers. Wrong, I was oh so wrong.

What we had stumbled upon was day 1 of a 3 day road closure protest. It was organized by the teachers of Oaxaca. Still protesting low pay and unfair treatment of Mexico's poor. Since this was the only road north out of Oaxaca, this blockade was having a tremendous impact. The citizens of the town were all armed with baseball bats and clubs. They were letting no one through. Not even an ambulance with lights flashing and siren blaring! I found it incredible that they would not let an emergency vehicle through because of their selfish interests.

As we were standing there, trying to get all the facts from various people and trying to make a decision as to what we should do, several people came up to us. Without fail, they all kindly but firmly suggested that we should turn our vehicle around and leave the area immediately. They said that the peacefulness of this protest was sure to violent as more and more people were denied access through. They were also afraid that we would get seriously hurt, as foreigners, in the midst of any ensuing violence. We took their advice and left the area. It was scary since as we were leaving several people approached towards us with baseball bats held high.

A couple of miles back down the road we stopped at a PeMex gas station to fill up and consult the map. All of the attendants came over to the car and said the only road we needed was the one we arrived on. We should leave the area immediately. All of this insistence was scaring us and we heeded their advice. Not happily, but we left the area.

So almost 2 hours later, we passed the same spot where we had discovered we were on the wrong road and turned around before. I just can't express how pissed off I was. Stupid teachers. They could have just as easily made signs and banners and stood on the side of the road, letting passersby read their demands. Or something. But to inconvenience so many people, for so many days, I found totally selfish. I was especially upset that they had refused passage for that ambulance.

We finally made it to Tuxtla Guiterrez a little before nightfall and spent the night. I had not wanted to go this way because instead of a few hours of driving the foothills, we were going to be subjected to 2 days of heavy mountain driving. Oh well, nothing to do but continue on that route all the way home.

Tomorrow I am going to take you back to Huatulco and finish up or escapades there. No fear, I will eventually return to posting about the island and some of the changes that have occurred while I was gone.


Coby said...

Wow, that is intense. I probably would've been a nervous wreck in the same situation. Glad to hear you made it back safe and sound though!

KfromMichigan said...

Glad you are home safe! Can't wait to hear what has happened on Isla!

Life's a Beach! said...

Wow, that area around Oaxaca still seems to be having its problems with protests. I haven't read much about it lately in the world press. Glad you got out of there and back to Isla safely! Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like quite an adventure.
Glad you made it home in one piece.


Jackie said...

Off to a rocky start but we know the story ends well since you are back on Isla.

Calypso said...

Mexico travel is almost always an adventure - and you surely had one amigo. Glad to read you made it home safely.

john said...

A teachers' strike, to be sure. But it's unlikely the guys with the baseball bats were teachers.

Steve Cotton said...

I await te next installment. And sometime soon we need to chat.

lisa said...

Sounds like the trip back was worse than the trip tooo!!!!

lagovistajenn said...

Wow! Scary stuff! I cannot believe they woudn't let the ambulance through. That is just crazy! Glad to hear you are back on the island safe and sound.

Sue said...

What an ordeal, I think this teacher deal is at least 4 years running now. Such a shame. Glad you made it out safely!

Anonymous said...

This is why I don't go to Oaxaca any longer, the teachers do this every year!