The whole country of Mexico is on the brink of a civil war and I need to drive right through where it’s already started.
The Mexican government was increasing the price of fuel by roughly %20 & from the governments prospective fuel had always been a set price, sometimes high and sometimes low and for a while now they we’re losing a lot of money. From the publics opinion the government had been lining there pockets with the peoples money for years and this was just going to add that bottomless corruption as another increase that would just add the fullness of those pockets. The Mexican minimum wage sits right around $4.25USD / day and fuel would now be about $0.80USD/L, or for a 40L tank of fuel you would now need to work an ENTIRE WEEK to fill it up. Needless to say it was more like the straw that broke the camels back from years of mismanagement and blatant corruption rather then just fuel prices.
At this time I was not to far from the city of Veracruz, a nice port town, world famous coffee, good party scene and the center for some political comings and goings. Now it was also home to some serious looting, riots, protests and a death or two. Great news as that’s where we we’re headed, we got there and sure enough grocery stores had been smashed up and looted, someone had hijacked a government fuel truck and gave away all the fuel for free, the police we’re videotaped actually retreated from the violence as they one we’re out numbered and two sort of supported it. There were rumours of the police allowing a free flow of goods untaxed across the boarder in the midst of it all as a little F-U to the gov’t. Things across the state got a little tense and back in Xalapa where my friend lived they were in a downtown pharmacy, at a nearby construction site they had set off a series of small explosions and a lady went screaming through the street they were being shot at, so the whole downtown put itself on lockdown including locking my friend, his wife and one year old inside the pharmacy. It was getting a bit dramatic. Later that day we were was watching a FaceBook video of some of the looting action and my friend began to laugh as he noticed two of the guys in the video walking out with goods we’re well paid blue collar workers that he worked with!
Here is a link to that video in case you know them to and want a laugh : https://www.facebook.com/xeunoticias/videos/10155013663274309/
I happily pen this now as I’m out of the country and am pretty sure it never made headlines outside of Mexico as not one person asked me about it & usually anything vaguely in the country that goes wrong someone asks about right away, like say the shooting and death of eight people up the road in a famous resort town near where I was staying for a week or so. Note to travelers, don’t do drugs! Either or, I changed my route and stuck to the little villages where things were tranquilo and the only excitement was a big black motorbike disturbing the siestas.
Here’s some more doom and gloom from the events if you really want to soak it up :) http://nypost.com/2017/01/06/riots-over-gas-price-hikes-in-mexico-turn-deadly/
Jump back a bit as to why I was in Xalapa in the first place.
As things wrapped up from my time in Mexico City and over to the Gulf of Mexico then down towards an eventual exit to Belize I was still on a self riotous mission to clear up my conscience of a little more then a decade or so. At twenty-four, myself, twenty one year old girlfriend and twenty-three extremely good Mexican friend all jumped into business together and tried to keep hold of our lives, friendships, business, and sanity while we navigated a steep learning curve. Needless to say friendship was the second to go right after sanity and I’d spend the next decade festering over where everything went wrong with the girl and the friend. I managed to catch up with the girl just before entering Mexico and to my complete amazement the things I had been festering on for over a decade she had completely forgotten about or gotten over years earlier, ohh man shoulda have called her nine years earlier! We had a quick catch up on life over several bottles of wine, along with some words of wisdom from the Shaman where I thought my whole arm had burst into flames as she latched onto it followed up by my whole face bursting into tears followed up by my whole stomach bursting into expulsion and all was again well in the world and I slept like I just been roofied at a night club.
This only left my friend Jorge to chat up and I knew his home town was on my route so I FaceBooked him with a couple days notice to see if he still lived there and would be free right around New Years. I figured after not speaking in over ten years the chances of this actually lining up would be zero and I could say to myself that I at least tried. After some heavy mental negotiation and a little forehead sweat I hit send on my message and in minutes we were chatting and had made plans to arrive at his place just a few hours down the road in a couple of days. Fuk, might as well jump in with both feet.
I ended up there for over a week including New Years and his friends B-Day party, which was good as it took my ego the first four days to relax as things all fell back into place and ten or so years we’re quickly caught back up on.
Skip to present day and the girl has a successful business, the friend has a successful family and well I dunno what the hell I’m doing thou I really like my life :) Wonder how it would have all turned out if we’d spent the last ten years still as a team…
While in Jorges home town of Xalapa and he showed me some local treasures including on restaurant that had started off as a little food stand cooking everything with wood fire and smoke, flame roasting the vegetables and spices with wood from the hills, hand grinding the salsa just before it hit the table still hot from the flames, hand pressed tortillas and other bits of culinary magic that had grown into a massive roadside restaurant. The setting and the food felt like I was in some magical fairytale where happy Mexican Elves were churning out your every culinary desire. I ate like it was my last meal before prison until they rolled me back into the streets. |
By now KLaiR needed some love as I had dropped her on the Pelican cases many many times down the Baja and a couple time on the main roads that had eventually lead to a broken luggage frame, some lost bolts and a very dirty bike. Jorge had an Amigo an hour or two away that could weld her up so we took the bikes and on the way hit up some natural fresh water pools that flowed out of the mountainside through lush green jungle. The next day we hit up the hot pools in this little town that came bubbling up from under the earth, the locals had built cement pools and piped the water into them and for about $2 you could sit and soak away your problems. Ice cold Corona and 100oF water across my body, I had no problems.
En route to this little town he asked if I wanted to take the faster yet usually more boring toll road that is nice and squeaky clean and everyone drives 300MPH and you see nothing or the side roads that are free, sometimes filled with pot holes, always filled with speed bumps and usually more exciting as they pass through all the small towns and real life Mexico. Naturally I choose the adventure route, which seemed like a good idea when we left. Well once we hit the second small town he pulled up his helmet and yelled at me “If anyone tries to get us to stop or make you slow down, don't it's really dangerous around here". Twenty minutes, some more back country roads & a few flooded road crossings later and Jorge is asking directions. Being as he grew up around here & the sun is setting, I'm getting a bit concerned. Why the hell would he need directions?
We end up backtracking through the flooded roads and turning down a dirt and rarely used trail through a farmers field. I'm a little more excited as this is a neat short cut he must have took all the time as a kid. We meet a guy on a push bike on the trail and he explains we missed a turn and need to go back a bit then across a bridge into a field. Shit, it's clearer now that my fearless leader is as lost as me.
Now it's dark and were going x-country through what I learn are taro root fields to find the road. KLaiR has a bald rear tyre and is slipping like a French kiss in the muddy dark as the adventure unfolds and I try to avoid laying her down or getting stuck. A kilometre or two and we land in someone’s back yard. The guy on the push bike had caught up to us again, last time he caught us he’d surprised me and heard me swear in English, figured out I wasn't Mexican and gave me the directions in Spanish & English as to how to get out of the farmers back yard and onto the town.
Twenty-five minutes in pitch black going faster then I do in daylight & we reach Jorge's, he then laughs that he’s never actually taken that route and clearly missed a turn or two. Ohh man glad the trip started off with a stern warning about possible danger!
Friendship patched, conscience cleared, bike repaired and I’m headed to meet my now Aunt (previously my friends Aunt that I’ve now adopted) for a couple nights near Tulum in the very south of Mexico. During my countryside back roads tour on the way there I end up camping for a couple nights at a Cenote. What’s a Cenote you ask? Basically the most amazing thing in the world; under the ground is a labyrinth of mystical fresh water caves and rivers that the Maya believed was a link to the underworld. At random locations in what is thick jungle a hole will open up revealing a calcified stalagmite roof encasing a pool of fresh temperate water. This one was massive, a couple hundred feet across on the inside where a staircase had been built down the waters edge. The water was so clear I had to toss a pebble from the top to see where I would expect to land as me and my new eleven year old French friend dove from the top of the staircase.
A couple days of revisiting my Mayan routes and I eventually land just outside of Tulum with my friends Aunt, in a sort of mixed community of North American retirees, some locals and a sprinkling of weekly tourists. Ellen, the aunt who’s comfortably into retirement took me and her visiting friend Kathy who is also in Ellen’s similar age category to a neighbourhood party within hours of me arriving in town. I was easily the youngest person at the party by roughly thirty years and I was also the one who danced the least, including on the bar. Hell even heading back to the car we stopped in the street so Ellen, Kathy and I could tear up a little concrete before heading home. These birds can dance!
As my two night stay happily melted into six I finally head for the boarder and the last night in Mexico I slept at beautiful Lake Bacalar right on the boarders edge with Belize. In the morning I awoke to 7:45am drum session from the local hippies. Forgetting my hippie roots I was quietly complaining to myself as to why we needed a 7fukin45AM drum session... ahh silly me forgot that hippies have an allergy to clothes & that drum woke up all the hippie girls who processed to go topless bathing across from my camp to start their days. Suddenly I enjoyed the soothing sounds of the morning drum as I packed for Belize keeping an eye that the girls we’re safe without a lifeguard at the waters edge.
On a softer note I’d like to mention that after nearly a week of dancing, block parties, snorkelling and the likes with Aunt Ellen and her wonderful friend Kathy. The day after I left Kathy would lie down for one final sleep in Ellen’s spare bed room saying a peaceful goodbye to the world in tranquil Mexico.