It took 6 days to drive from Patzcuaro, Mexico
to Huehuetenago, Guatemala.
The story of Pup-ita didn’t end with Frida taking her to San Miguel de Allende. Unfortunately during her drive north she had a car accident and had to return to Patzcuaro. I picked up the puppy from her the next day and headed to San Miguel myself.
It’s a 3+ hour trip and having I arrived early afternoon made it necessary to stay the night and start my trip to Guatemala the next morning. I telephoned Jose, Pup-ita’s new owner, and told him I was in town. I was under the impression that he spoke English but actually speaks as much English as I do Spanish. I though we had managed to arrange a time to meet the next morning but either he thought I was talking about that night or he was just too excited to wait and showed up at the camper at 9pm. I told him that he’d have to come back in the morning since I needed to discuss things with him and I didn’t want Pup-ita experiencing her first night at his place without some preparation. José reluctantly left.
A quick tour of the city
The next morning I went over the instructions with José and said good-bye to my little girlie. It was bitter sweet but I must say a big relief. I’m sure I would have had problems at the Guatemalan border with a puppy unvaccinated for rabies and a rabies shot has to be given a month before crossing. According to what I’ve read and heard Guatemala is a stickler for details and can even be very picky about how things are written. In any case she’s now in her permanent home and I think it’s a good one.
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial city.
The Iconic St. Michael the Archangel Church
I felt like a child in a candy shop… every turn took me to elegant shops of all sorts with european and haute cuisine, top end artwork, artisan boutiques and cafés. It was dazzling but I already missed the more rustic simple shops of Patzcuaro and felt pretty disappointed not to find a robust and active mercado. It is truly a town for X-pats and touristas.
None the less, it is a spectacular city!
Took a northern route over Mexico City through the state of Tobasco and southeast into the state of Chiapas
There’s not much to say about the next few days since it was nose-to-the-road all the way. I made an error looking at the map which cost me an extra 4 hours of driving but the mistake took me to Paleque which has one of the largest Mayan ruins in Mexico and I was thrilled to check it out. Aside from that 3 hour stop we were on the road for 5 days.
To Puebla…. first night
I’ve heard from many people that Puebla is a beautiful city with fantastic food to eat, great ruins to see and wonderful museums to explore. Well, I stayed one night and from what I was able to see (which was next to nothing) I don’t have a story to tell. It was clear, however from the drive that Puebla is sophisticated and modern city. There are huge sculptures between the over/underpasses in the main part of town and the highway on the outskirts is lighted with solar panels. The pavement was smooth and I thought I was going to be in hog-heaven for the next few days of travel… oops… wrong…..
Villahermosa…. second night
I only saw the outskirts of Villahermosa so I can’t comment on what a lovely city it’s supposed to be. During this driving stent we stayed three nights in gas stations (PEMEXs) and this was by far the worst of them all. It was smelly and dirty and full of trash. There’s always a silver lining and here is mine from my stay. I bought two tamales from a couple who was selling them out of the back of their car and they were the most fantastic tamales I’ve ever had. I could have eaten a dozen of them.
A short visit in Palenque
The oops in planning my route took me to Palenque. It’s one of the more important Mayan sites in Mexico and I was thrilled to have a chance to finally see one of the Mayan sites. Since I needed to get to Huehuetenango, Guatemala by Sunday, I only had a few hours to look at the ruins and I decided to pay a guide to expedite things. It was about 105 degrees and 100 percent humidity so I also didn’t want to leave the dogs in the car for too long. I covered the truck with my silver netting, put on a fan and rolled down the windows. It took no time at all to find someone to watch the car (and perras) for 50 pesos and a guide for 1000 ($100.00!!). I think the heat had effected my thinking because at the moment I can’t imagine paying that kind of money. It was nice to have much of the history of the ruins explained but I could have enjoyed the quick visit just as much on my own.
My tour guide seemed eager to show me every stone carving where the Mayan ruler or slave had some type of deformity. Apparently there was a lot of inbreeding which caused multiple fingers and toes, strange limb length and other abnormalities. It actually reminded me of the tour of a Hindu temple Phil and I took in India many years ago. The guide took great pride in showing us every erotic carving or painting in the temple and explained by saying, “Here woman gives head to the man.” TMI !!! I guess the tour guides think we tourists want to see the ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Nots’ of their cultures. In any case the ruins were quite impressive and apparently only a small fraction have been excavated.
To San Cristobal…. 3rd night
The first 2/3rds of our road trip was on highway through some major cities and many smaller pueblos so the driving was hit or miss when it came to speed. The longest and most tiring day was through the mountains from Tobasco to Chiapas. Not only were the roads dilapidated, steep and winding, it was necessary to watch for livestock, trucks coming from the other direction (in your lane), children and worst of all, TOPES. OH TOPES. I’ve talked about topes before. They’re bumps in the road to slow traffic and are usually made of cement or pavement. You usually can’t see a tope because it’s made of the same material as road and given this area’s strong sun and canopy of trees the chance of seeing an unidentified tope is nearly impossible unless you’re scanning for them. Since the camper is so heavy I have to come to a complete stop before driving over a tope which means if I am traveling at 40 miles an hour and I see a tope just in time to slam on the breaks I’m really not going slow enough to stop before hitting the bump. On this part of the trip I actually broke a bolt holding the camper to the truck. I’ll let you do the math to figure out the average speed necessary to drive 100 miles in 8 hours….all I can tell you is the worst thing you can do is watch the time and the miles because it makes you feel like you’re in a time warp.
One of the Many many shrines along the road in mexico
The other major speed constraint are the huge trucks filled with logs or cement or rocks or… what ever trying to climb hills at an altitude of about 9000 feet with inclines of ridiculous grades. The only way to make sure your average speed isn’t 10 miles hour the entire way is to pass them. Passing another car (or truck) is a science in Mexico and I dare say I’m starting to get the hang of it. Now mind you most of these highways are twisty and turny so if you wait for a straight-o-way you’ll never get around so at some point you have to grit your teeth and go with the flow. One way to do this is to watch to see if the truck in front of you to puts on its turning signal. The left hand signal means (as far as the driver is concerned) it’s safe for you to pass. Of course you still have to take their advice with a grain of salt because their idea of ‘safe’ may be different from yours. The other absolute skill to develop is knowing how close you can tail-gate the car/truck in front of you. You need just enough clearance to see oncoming traffic from behind the wide end of the truck ahead of you, if you’re too close you have to completely rely on their signaling you. Of course the other reason you need to tail-gate is because you’re almost always passing during a solid yellow line. Why? Because that’s what’s expected and if you wait for a dash you’ll never get around. It can be gut wrenching at first and I dread the day I start driving in the US with my newly developed driving habits.
Guatemalan Border 4th and final night before Guatemala
What can I say? It was a border town.
I stayed my first night in a ‘hotel’ only because the owner wouldn’t let me park the truck at the hotel unless I paid for a room. Then she told me that I needed to pay 100 pesos to park the truck. Later that evening I went in and gave her a pineapple (that had been given to me as a gift by a very sweet young man at a road side stop along the highway when I bought some pineapple juice) to try to get a smile out of her. She repaid me by visiting me later in the evening to tell me that the truck was too big and I needed to pay her another 100 pesos. Oh well, the truck, poodles and I were safe for the night and best of all Mexico immigrations was across the street.
The next morning all I had to do was walk across to take care of all my exit papers. It wasn’t a bad evening in any case. The ‘room’ was a concrete chamber with a metal door, no windows and only a bed. As it happened, there was a group of Mexican and Guatemalan young folk traveling on vacation and we all had a great time talking through the evening. The guys got a kick out of taking pictures with the poodles and they weren’t too disappointed (although for some reason surprised) when I told them I wasn’t interested in joining them at the local Discotheque.
So the morning of the 5 day of our kick-butt-drive-till-you-drop trip we were crossing the border into Guatemala. My only worry was getting the papers for the poodles approved since I’d heard it could be a problem.