As with the other days, I thought today would bring nothing to write about—just a quiet drive and then the usual problem of finding someplace to sleep. Here’s how far I have come. On the way down, I thought of Mexico as a problem—language, sleep, extortion, bandits, ransom. On the way back, Mexico is the sign that the difficulties and the trip are ovcr. All I have to do is drive and find a place to sleep—and I have a complete guide to camping in Mexico. I’ve been through Mexico. Going through it again is twice as easy. And rather than worry about, I welcome chances to speak Spanish. The conversation may take a while, and I always have to tell people to slow down, but I can generally get the information I need.
I sleep late—7:30, post my blog, take Lola for a walk, and we’re out by nine. We are soon out in the country, few towns, and the drive is calm and beautiful, high mountains all around us. It takes me about an hour of driving to get inside the drive. I know I can drive forever. Neil Cassidy and I have something in common—the love of driving: but he liked to go fast and talk; I like to drive slow and hear the quiet. But I am seriously in love with driving through new country—not new towns.
I haven’t decided where I’ll sleep tonight. I just know I need to start looking for places to land around two. When I was first driving, I started looking at five. That’s how I got into trouble.
I have three things to think about: getting more pesos, where to eat, and where to land. I hit on the eating problem first. I’m looking for a nice roadside restaurant, but all I see are signs for cocina economica, dirt-floor restaurants. I know I would probably enjoy one of these and the certain conversations about Lola and my bikes, but I really want a nice morning cup of coffee and eggs.
Somewhere around one, a little before Arriga, I see the restaurant: an outdoor-indoor restaurant. A young man, very pleasant, open kind of face, brings me a menu and I ask whether Lola can lie beside me while I eat. He says of course.
I order, and he wants to talk, know about my bikes, where I’m coming from, what I do. I really wanted to settle in for a quiet breakfast and coffee at one, but he’s such an agreeable young man that I get into the conversation. I find out that he studied music in college, that he plays the guitar and loves to sing—and we’re off. In no time at all, the manager, a lovely, middle-aged woman, and several people are in the conversation and all petting Lola. After lunch, I get my guitar out and sing a few songs. Then the young man, who has a beautiful voice, sings his Marimba songs. We’re putting on quite a concert—all the workers are out to listen to us and applaud.
After an hour or two, I say I have to get moving. This is a lie: I really don’t; I just think I do. The manager and the young man want to know where I’m going tonight, and I have only vague answers, at which point, they pile in with advice. The advice I decide to take is the young man’s, camping on the beach at Arista, where I had planned on being last night.
We take pictures, exchange emails, and Lola and I take off. I don’t need to elaborate—but there’s something so pleasant about meeting new people like this, and exchanging moments in your life while you’re traveling.
I start driving northwest and soon hit the exit for Tonalá, I think a Mayan center. Since I have already ditched my plan to get to the gulf side of Mexico, I decide to detour into Tonalá to find a Banco Aztec and cambiar mas dinero.
I am pleased that I now find it so easy to drive into a town (about 70,000) and find a particular bank. With the exception of my false Samaritan, people are usually helpful and kind with my language.
This is a lovely, active Mexican town. I park, leave Lola in the car, and (passport in hand), go to get my pesos. I take so much pleasure in changing my plans, slowing down, looking more carefully at what I would have otherwise passed by.
Lola and I walk around the square; I get a few groceries for camping, and we go back to the car and head for, after asking directions, Arista. It’s about ten miles out of our way.
It’s a slow, easy drive since I have given up on making time. We drive into Arista. I ignore the directions in the camping guide for the recommended camping spot and head straight for the beach. A young man waves me in and tries to get me to do something about buying food and getting a free spot on the beach. I say I’ll eat later and just want to camp, so he points me to a cabana underneath which I can camp. There are some complicated negotiations with the owner of the restaurant, which I ignore, and drive my car down a narrow driveway and set up camp.
I set up my camp to near the edge of the cabana and realize that I am bound in a midnight pee-call to crack my head one of the low-lying beams. I try to mentally record my warning.
A few trips later from the car to our tent, I come in from the other side and seriously crack my forehead. I ignore it, thinking it’s only a bump. While I’m going back and forth from the car to the tent, I notice this man always looking at me, and I’m wondering what convention I violated. I notice I’m sweating a lot and wipe my hand across my forehead. Rather than running rivers of sweat, my forehead is running rivers of blood. I have been continuously washing my forehead in the ocean to get it to stop. Two hours later, it’s now just a leak rather than a river.
I am in front of my tent on the edge of the ocean. Lola has been endlessly playing with the free dogs on the beach. She has made one friend she loves, like Sonny. It’s 6:30, the sun is dropping into the ocean. I’m going for a swim and will plan for tomorrow.
I forgot to mention: halfway into my bleeding scene, a nice guy came around and asked for 100 pesos for camping—about $7.00. In a tent, the sound of the ocean, Lola playing, I am close to peace, although, my head is still bleeding. (Sachi, take note)
Goto Day 18: The Damn Bikes Again