Saturday, May 4, 2013

Over the Bridges, Through the Woods…

It has been an interesting journey the last few days. After we passed over the isthmus, we started crossing over several juts of land and islands along the Gulf of México coast. There were miles of bridges over shallow waters. There were even dolphins swimming along near them. Apparently, they breed in the waters around here.

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I may have mentioned that I HATE bugs, especially the kinds that like to eat me. As we have been traveling south, I have slowly been accumulating bites from vicious mosquitoes and biting flies. My legs are beginning to look like I have chicken pox or something. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t using bug spray. I was, but it was in the times that it was wearing off or I just slipped out for a minute (plus I don’t think it was effective against flies), that I would get bites. While going through a Commercial Mexicana, I picked up a bug repellent lotion that last 7 hours. I thought that would be perfect, especially since Jonathan hates me spraying the stuff in the van. Turns out, it works wonderfully, and I haven’t been bit since I started using it. Hopefully there isn’t any harmful side effects from using it twice a day, every day.

While passing through the isthmus of México, we passed through the first of many police checkpoints. They are similar to the military checkpoints in Baja, but instead of stopping and inspecting everyone, they only stop the gringos (or at least that is what it seems like to me). And then instead of just doing an inspection of the car, they ask for the driver’s license and the vehicle title or registration. To make this evening more annoying, these checkpoints are offered more often than in Baja, and we passed through several in a single day. I should be entertained by these, but instead I get frustrated, a result of the combination of these factors:
  1. we are being targeted for being tourists;
  2. they speak jargon in a fast, slurred way (making it hard for me to figure out what they want);
  3. unlike the military, they are slow and inefficient (it is sunny and hot—no way you should be in any hurry);
  4. (related to point 3) when we stop, I get really sweaty because now there is no breeze;
  5. I have to dig for these documents, which I keep in safe places.

One time when we stopped, we sat there for literally 5 minutes while this guy tried to figure us out. I don’t know if he was phishing for a bribe (not likely) or if he was new and just didn’t know what to do with gringos who could barely understand what he was saying or what. Perhaps he just didn’t like our international driver permit. At the same check point on our way back from Calakmul, a lady officer addressed us. Have I told you that I love women in the male-dominated workforce positions? They are so much more efficient and polite. She quickly took care of what she needed from us. And then saw my flower on my dashboard. Apparently she shares my love for Tillandsia. That was one of the more enjoyable stops. On the border of the town of Campeche, we passed some gringo hitchhikers on the side of the road next to the checkpoint. While we were being interrogated, we decided that we would go and pick them up. So we get out of the checkpoint, pull a U-turn at the next available stop, and, as a guarantee, get stopped at that same checkpoint on the other side. Then do a U-turn, pick up the hitchhikers, and go through the checkpoint again. Do they remember that they just saw us? No, they want us to pull over again. Fortunately, they didn’t signal us until too late and Jonathan was committed to getting through without having to stop and we got passed them. The one guy looked pissed, but I think the guy that interrogated us said that we had just been through there. Either way, they didn’t go chasing after us (really no vehicles to do so).

Speaking of our hitchhikers, we found them in Campeche and they were heading to Mérida. Apparently they are like us and traveling full-time. They go to someplace, travel as they can afford, then get a job there and earn some more money. Apparently they are French-Canadian and they met Australia while they were each traveling. Of course, it was inevitable that because we had passengers, Chuck would want to act up a bit. All of a sudden when we turned towards Uxmal, Chuck didn’t want to provide any power. We made a quick stop, and Jonathan jiggled the oxygen sensor and we went on, making it safely to Uxmal just in time for a rain shower to come down heavy about the time we wanted to explore the site. I will admit though, that in that heat, you really don’t mind getting soaked. You almost want to strip (almost) naked and take your (biodegradable) shampoo and take a shower in it.

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We have talked about the heat before, but about Puerto Escondido area and farther south, it gets really humid as well. You can tell the change. Men are wearing shorts and an open shirt. Women stay in the shade of the palapa to sell their wares. When we drove through Tehuantepec, there was an irrigation canal that went through town. Grown men and women (not just children) were just sitting chest-deep in the canal, fully clothed, trying to keep cool.

And, the rainy season is commencing. It rained while we overnighted in Tehuantepec; it was our first rain this trip. A couple of days later when we stopped at Calakmul, it stormed for a little bit. Next night, the same. Today we have had a break (at least it didn’t rain on us). Should be interesting, but at least it started cooling things off for us. It actually got down to 70°F last night! It was fantastic. Our water today was below 80°F! So exciting. The morning before, it was in the 70s, but it was 100% humidity!

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As you might have inferred from the previous paragraphs, we have entered Maya territory. More on that on a later post.

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