Friday, October 1, 2010

The Long Drive

No rain for a few days now. The clouds parted from the summit of snow capped Pico de Orizaba this morning. The first time I have seen this dormant volcano in four trips past it.

We exited the freeway in the direction of Veracruz, to make our way to Laguna Catemaco. We noticed there were a lot of commercial trucks along the side of the road, not being able to proceed further east due to several rivers flooding the expressways.

About 90 minutes out of Fortin de las Flores, and we came to our exit with a toll booth. The woman informed us we could not go to Catemaco, because the highway was flooded. I spoke with a man who works for the agency who runs all of the toll highways and bridges in Mexico and he said it could be four or five days before the route to the east opens up.

With his help, we picked out a route that would take us south through Veracruz and Oaxaca, almost to the Pacific Ocean, in order to be able to head east, then north into the Yucatan Peninsula. He said, “It is far, but it is passable.”

He was right, barely. We backtracked for an hour, got off the freeway to a two-lane and passed literally hundreds of trucks lining the sides of the road. About twenty miles of mostly good road (not too many potholes and a shoulder) brought us to the Rio Papaloapan, which was high and wide. But, not over the road or bridge.

With the help of a policeman looking at our map, and our sometimes-accurate GPS “Consuela”, we took about six miles of back roads (she was right this time) which led us to a highway heading south to Oaxaca city and an intersection with the highway that would take us southeast to Chiapas.

Scenic 147 follows rolling hills, filled with pasture and sugar cane. For nearly six hours we followed this road: dodging potholes, landslides, big trucks, washed-away highway, with the rest of the nation that was heading east. Bumper-to-bumper, sometimes 5 mph, sometimes 50 mph, often sitting still. It took five hours to cover 90 miles.

We pulled into a small town as it was getting dark. Luckily there was a few motels available. We found one that had a clean room, mirrors on the orange walls, a private carport with a curtain that you pulled to hide the vehicle and cost $16 for four hours, or $24 for all night. We splurged and went for the all nighter. Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink.

We were not shocked to discover there was no Wi-Fi in the room. There was, however, an intercom in the room to order drinks from reception (which consisted of a woman sitting in her kitchen watching TV), a private opening in the wall to place the money and then receive your beverage. In other words, very private.

As soon as it was light, we hit the road, pulling into the lovely town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas after six more hours of driving. This time, the room has WiFi, although it does cost a bit more than $24.

Our plan is to head over the mountains north to Palenque, then east to Chetumal. Finally, north to Cozumel on Sunday or Monday. That is barring any landslides or other unfortunate natural occurrences.

It is a bit odd that we can travel through the mountains where the most rain from Matthew fell, while the wet lands to the north remain flooded. Guess it is easier to clean up a landslide than it is to make the water level go down.

Thanks for checking in.

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