The day turned into an adventure—two adventures, to be exact, and the second one isn’t over.
I get up pleased with myself. I’m happy that I have the bike situation solved. I pack carefully and take down the tent. I’m ready to leave by 8:30. I have planned my drive and estimate that I’ll reach the camping grounds on the Emerald Coast before four. I feed Lola and go up to the kitchen/bathroom area and brush my teeth. I take a refreshing shower in the swimming pool, which is now almost half full (it was getting empty because the electricity has been down).
I drive out and honk good-bye to Antonio. This has been a very pleasant two-day stay in La Jungla.
I think I know the route toward Vera Cruz. I remembered seeing a sign for Vera Cruz before the last fork to the right—the road to La Jungla. So I don’t check the map. I drive out for a few miles and take the first road to the right.
It’s a lovely road, and I’m really into driving. Soon, it becomes outrageously beautiful, climbing into high mountains I didn’t expect. We snake up and up and up. The vegetation on either side is total jungle. After about a half-hour, we snake down. I see a large lake and then high mountain ranges on either side of me. I am into this.
Soon, I enter a charming pueblo. I can see that this area is composed largely of indigenous peoples. I think they may be Tuxtlas. I remember in this area there are some wonderful, rarely visited archeological sites. I might come back here. I like this part of Mexico.
The road on the other side of town is a dirt road—this I didn’t expect. A little late in the game, I check my map. OH OH, wrong road. I am going through a huge volcanic area. It looks as if I’m in a pueblo called Monte Pia. On the map, a third of the significant detour is a road to Monte Pia. Then there is a third that looks like dirt until I get to Nueva Victoria. Then it gets paved again for another third and I’m back on 180, where I should have been.
I decide to go ahead rather than re-track and lose an hour. Besides, I love traveling through these excessively rural areas. The people are clearly poor, but they live in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I drive for about a mile and pass a young man on a motorcycle. He has a beautiful little girl sitting in front of him. A rope is attached to the motorcycle and to a horse they are pulling.
I go ahead of him and wave him to stop. He does and I ask, Es esta calle por la Nueva Victoria? He says, si, directo. I’ve got it right. But he doesn’t tell me the rest of the story.
The dirt road, with ruts and sinkholes, lasts for about five miles. Then it is paved again—some of it. The potholes in Panama were sandlot baseball to this major league stuff. The road is dangerous. And there are few cars on the road, signifying something.
It heads again into high mountains. I am crawling along from crater to crater at about 5 mph. At one point, I’m crawling up a mountain side (and the drive is beautiful, but my attention is divided) and I see three cars stopped and about twenty people standing around a truck coming down that is in apparent trouble. It doesn’t take long to see why: there is a crevasse in the road. They have jacked the truck up, trying to do something to the front end. I chat with the people, trying to figure out what the trouble is and whether I’ll ever be able to get be. “Ahorita,” one young man says.
I watch them for a while—I’m into that space where rather than worry that my trajectory didn’t go as planned (I might not make Costa Esmerelda), I’m into this other space created by others and their situations. And I need to listen.
They let a jack down and the driver tries to pull ahead. The right front wheel goes where it wants to; the left stays on track. Yes—the tie rod, if not the axel is broken. A couple of men go over to a barbed wire fence and cut off a portion of wire. They are clearly going to try to tie the tie rod with wire. This is in the middle of nowhere, which inspires creative alternatives.
The truck has moved, so some of us can get by, negotiating the crevasse that broke this truck. I have no trouble getting in, but a couple of people have to help pushing me out. And I drive on. It doesn’t escape me that my axel, which has been seriously tried, could break.
The road (if you want to call it that) has its up and downs for a while. Then comes a stretch that is seriously down. Going down a steep mountainside, the road is cobblestone. Not Philadelphia cobblestone; Mexico cobblestone, boulder to boulder. This goes on for about five miles. I think I’m in trouble.
I meet a truck coming my way. I flag the driver down and go through my questions. I like this part of traveling: getting lost and asking questions. He and his wife are eager to give me information. Essentially, I have everything wrong. I haven’t hit Monte Pia yet. But they tell me that if I think I’m going to Vera Cruz, it’s better to keep on going than turn around.
The cobblestone, thank god, stops, and soon I hit Monte Pia, where I thought I was an hour ago. There is a crossroad there, and I stop and ask some men drinking cervasa in a morning bar the route to Nueva Victoria. Si, a la izquerda, they say. They are very friendly, laughing. They don’t see many gringos here, particularly one with two bicycles atop his car. I would really like to join them for some cervesa, but I want to make Costa Esmerelda. So I take a left and drive on.
My friend had said that after Monte Pia, the road would be bad for 25 kilometers. But compared to what I had just gone through, the road was child’s play. I actually enjoy driving about 10 mph, going from crater to crater. As I have said before, you have to be completely outside yourself.
I love driving though this beautiful country and these pueblos pequenos. But at about one, I was back on highway180, where I should have been.
The day was lovely when I began my trek. But at around 3:00, when I was getting closer to Costa Esmerelda, it started drizzling. At four, it was raining.
I had my heart set on setting up my camp, letting Lola play in the surf, going out to find something to eat, and then coming back to my quiet tent to write for the night.
As I approached Nautla, the southern edge of La Costa Esmerelda, the rain became serious. But I still wanted to camp. Somewhere above Nautla, I recognized my camping plan wasn’t going to work. I began stopping into hotels, and no one would answer.
Finally, I found a hotel with someone there. Yes, they would give me a room for a high price; he negotiated downward to $50 a night.
In my hotel conversation, Heather calls to tell me that I’m the middle of a hurricane. Heather, Jesse, and I locate where I am and where it is: I’m about 50 miles south of the center of the hurricane turning counter-clockwise, a good place to be when there is a storm. Thank you, Heather and Jesse, for caring about me. There are storms.