Once again, I’m sitting in the sun, in winter. Shannon is learning to knit, Casey is sitting on Steve’s lap eating tortilla chips and the boys are reading comic books in the bus. We could be anywhere right now and yet we’re in Mexico. I can tell by the noise and smells. The birds are louder and have different songs. Tropical sounding songs. The trucks honking down the road are melodic, talking to eachother about which way they’re turning or stopping. The air smells like chicken and tires burning. The temperature is a lovely seventy degree something as we sit soaking in the morning rays.
We left the beaches and headed up into the mountains to get a little closer to Mexican culture and away from the leatherbacks – retired Canadians with “leather backs” from sitting in the sun. They are up and down the Mexican coast, taking over every RV park with their 5th wheelers and diesel trucks. None of them speak Spanish and they sit together for days on end eating frozen lasagnas they bought in the States and spend their evenings watching golf on satellite TV’s. It was hard to leave the beaches as the boys had so much fun in the sand but we were going a little crazy trying to find “Mexico”.
San Miguel is adorable – the Santa Fe of Mexico they call it.
The buildings are painted beautiful shades of tierra and everyone prides themselves on intricately carved doors and metal door knockers in shapes of corn, gargoyles and fireworks. It’s filled with museums, galleries, libraries and craft shops. The plaza Jardin in the main square and overlooks an incredibly beautiful church surrounded by churro and chocolate shops as well as food carts with BBQ corn on the cob, fruit cups and colorful handmade sodas.
The plan is to stay here for over a month while I take Spanish courses and Steve volunteers somewhere with the kids. We’ve come up with a list of projects the kids can do such as map out the central market, take photos of all the doors and hang out at the coolest public library I’ve ever seen. The surrounding area has villages known for things like silver smithing and wall murals that we all can take day trips to. There will be a lot to do in the next month, for sure.
The adventure to get to this village is almost undescribable. We left Teacoupan, a beach just south of Mazatlan around one o’clock in the afternoon and drove until it was dark. We spent the evening in a semi campground behind a gas station. It’s common here for trucks to sleep behind the state run gas stations. It was clean and secure and if we paid the gas station attendant 100 pesos, he would let us stay there. Ugh, I think they’re free I told him. He laughed and said no, I said 100 pesos, not 100 dollars. I told him I would be happy to discuss it with the attendant in the morning and if it was still 100 pesos, I would pay it then. He then asked us to simply fill up with gas and we’d be fine. It’s common that there are hidden charges in our daily life. Knowing ahead of time what you’re willing to pay, stand your ground and you’ll usually get to the bottom of the true price fairly quickly.
Our next day of travel was a day to never ever forget in our life of travel. We entered into a city looking for signs for a small village to the north. We turned when we found it and headed directly into the heart of a tiny cobblestone central area. We realized immediately we were in trouble but we thought there would quickly be a turnoff onto a highway towards this other village we were looking for.
We discovered instead that the road jogged to another side street which required Steve to turn to the left and immediately make another right within about ten feet. There was another bus sitting on the corner in our way. It wouldn’t move. Steve took the turn and the back of the bus swung into the sitting parked bus. The thud was noticeable. Everyone on the street started screaming for Steve to stop.
I jumped out of the bus to help Steve around the corner. The other bus driver came out and told us we would need to pay for hitting his mirror. I ignored him and helped Steve go around the jog. The bus driver stood in the way of our bus and started yelling for the police. A man walking down the street came over and asked us if we needed help. Obviously we did. He worked for the bus company and told the other bus driver to see if he could fix the mirror himself. The police showed up and asked us if we wanted an escort out of town. At this point we didn’t know how many more streets we would need to turn and figured they wanted us out of there, they would help us get out. The helpful man jumped on our bus to help guide us out of town as well. All was well with the bus we hit and off we went. By this time, I was a little shaky about our chances of getting out of this maze. The roads was getting thinner and the balconies were at about the top of our bus level.
Finally, we could see the end of the street. We would just need to pass a full size pick-up truck. Steve slowly squeeked by while I hid my head in my hands. Then another clunk and scrape sound. Oh god, we just hit the truck. I panicked and tried to figure out where we had put our Mexican insurance and my hands began to shake. Then Steve said he didn’t hit the car, only the truck’s tire and it broke off the lid to our black tank, holding our shit from the bathroom. He said there is piss and crap flowing out of the tube, onto the little cobblestone street we were traveling on. With people watching. The smell was um, kind of bad.
Steve wanted me to go outside and pick-up the pieces of tubing that had broken off. Now picture this. There’s a tiny street maybe 10 feet wide with a four foot wide patch of pee and poop flowing down it. In the middle of it, is a lid cap that needs to be retrieved by me, while people walking down the street are watching. Yes, I grabbed it and asked for a plastic bag from inside the bus. Shannon hands me a tiny ziploc bag and I yell for a bigger one. My hands are shaking so bad at this point that I couldn’t open the bag she hands me to get the parts in it. The entire moment was so ridiculous. I hop back on the bus crying from stress and fear of hitting another car or building. We had one more major turn to do that somehow Steve made look easy and we were now out of the maze.
Once out of town, we pulled over and assessed our mental and physical damage. Only the pooper cap broke off and Steve was able to instantly fix it.
What we didn’t expect to find though is the massive dent and scrape on the side of the bus. The bus we initially hit probably had a lot more damage than either we or that bus driver had seen. Steve thought he had hit it harder than just pushing a mirror but we weren’t going to argue with the bus driver anymore than we had to. We eventually took off after Shannon made me a margarita and managed to get to our destination about five hours later, a little bruised but now with a good story.
Now we rest. It’s pleasant here sitting in the sun with my family. We are more than happy to not drive anymore for awhile. We’ll take some day trips around the area on chicken buses and head back to the beach next month for more boogie boarding and sunsets with leatherbacks. For now though, it’s good to be in Mexico in January listening to birds and eating chips and salsa in the sun.