Is not to be recommended
06.12.2012 - 10.12.2012
Yes, I know I have already said that bus travel in Mexico is sooper-dooper. It is, the only issue is that you shouldn't travel after dark. The statistics on hold ups and the like rise exponentially after 6pm, especially on certain infamous stretches of road. So before this story begins I need to tell you that, outside Europe, Mexico has probably been the easiest, most hassle free country I have ever travelled in. This leads to Nora feeling confident about her meanderings there. So when a 5 hour journey from Taxco to Acapulco lay ahead, Nora hobbled around Taxco till late morning with her inflated ankle, rather than getting a nice early morning bus. When she arrived at the bus station she found there wasn't another bus till 5 that evening, meaning travelling and arriving in the dark. That would never do. So, she jumped on a battered aul local bus which took her rather too slowly to the next biggest town. She found the first class bus station, that is the posh one, and went to book her ticket to Acupulco. The next few buses were booked up, the next available one leaving a few hours later. That would mean arriving in the dark, at about seven, but that would have to do. To cut a long story short, the bus departed two hours late, stopped along the side of the road for an hour and didn't manage to roll into Acapulcco till 10.30pm.
During its heyday Acapulco, dubbed the pearl of the Pacific, was the playground of the rich and famous. Nowadays its reputation is for violence. Although I knew much of this violence was related to the ongoing drug wars and hence unlikely to happen to me, I nonetheless was feeling pretty nervous. And did I say I had no accommodation booked for the night? I thought not. Hence feeling tired and jaded, with an ankle the size of a grapefruit I jumped into a taxi and pointed to the driver at a place in the guidebook. Take me there Senor. A few minutes later the driver told me the hotel had closed down but that, if I would like, he could take me to an economical room. Now I have experienced this trick in a number of countries. The driver pretends to be your friend. He suggests he brings you to his cousin's place which is clean and cheap. Generally it will be a flea pit with a huge price tag, but the driver gets commission for bringing you there. What I normally do is loose my rag and demand they take me to the original place. Nine times out of ten, the hotel is in fact still open. But I didn't know what to make of this guy at all, generally Mexicans are ever so helpful and accommodating. And I was exhausted and a bag of nerves. I calmly asked him why he hadn't told me the information before I got in the taxi but with head bowed, I told him to take me to the 'habitation economical' he had suggested.
We turned off the flyover, drove down a dark alley way, then a darker one . I almost made a sign of the cross as I was surely being driven to my death. Then we pulled up outside Hotel Paradiso. Paradise it was not. For thirty quid I got a clean room with a lock on the door, but no hot water or towels (or prostitutes thank God). But I was really thankful for having a place to lay my head.
Next I had to find sustenance. I asked the girl on reception if their was any food locally. She said no. I would have to go to bed hungry. Feck that. Two dark alleys and a flyover or not, I needed grub. Like a petrified wee thing I tiptoed down the alley and the other one, there was a couple snogging at the next corner, that was a good sign, so I went left there. Joy of joys, a few metres away were a variety of simple late night eateries bubbling away with people and music. Ten minutes later I had a beer in my hand and fish tacos on my plate. After my second beer I thought I might get up to dance to the Madonna track they were playing. Then I thought better of it. Thank God.
Next day I had an eight hour bus journey to Puerto Escondido, a relaxed beach town and port on the Pacific Coast. Having learnt my lesson from the day before, I was at the bus station at 7am and booked on the first bus at 7.45. That meant I would be there roughly at four, leaving me time to check into my upmarket BnB and have a swim and a beer before sundown. Perfecto. All was going well until the bus ground to a halt behind a queue of other vehicles and didn't move for at least an hour. That was at 1pm. At 3pm we still hadn't moved and I had no idea why. At the front of the bus were a couple of Americans, both in their seventies. I approached them and was duly informed that the road had been blocked as part of a protest and would not be unblocked until 7pm. I nearly lost my life. I tell you, it was a long wait, but at least I had the reassurance of a lovely room to go to at the end of it all.
At 7.15pm the road was opened, we trundled off and reached the next bus station within twenty minutes. And then we didn't move again for another hour. Then we were told the bus had broken down and that we would need to transfer to another bus. As we were leaving the bus the elderly American gentleman was robbed by one of the passengers. Stupidly he had all his cards and his passport in his wallet. God love him. It was nearly nine when we hit the road again. This time I was at the back of the bus, very close to the by now smelly loo, sitting next to a little spindly guy who coughed and spat like he had consumption. Behind me was a girl who was listening to her MP3 player and singing very loudly. The final member of the trio was on my left, he was sitting in a very unusual manner indeed, with a very wide uncomfortable pose. A pose which suggested to me that he might have a sub machine gun hiding in his bomber jacket. Oh the joys of tiredness and paranoid thinking. And Yes, I was very able to laugh at the situation and at myself, but I was goddamn fed up. When was this feckin journey going to end.
It was twenty past twelve when we pulled into Puerto Escondido, a mere eight hours late. But as I said before, at least I had the reassurance of a lovely place to go for the evening. So as I crawled into the taxi I knew the end was nigh. First of all the driver couldn't find the place and then when he eventually did, no one answered the bell. I rang it some more and then some more. I called the phone. No one answered. After twenty minutes and with a huge wail of frustration I gave up. I asked the taxi driver to take me to a 'habitacion economical', had my cold shower and collapsed. My ankle was now larger than my head. Sorry, that's an exaggeration. I am just looking for the sympathy vote.
I was spitting tacks the next morning, but within twenty minutes of arriving in my upmarket room I was cured. My room was lovely, the owners were helpful but low key and it was only a few minutes walk to the beautiful golden sands of the Pacific beach. This was going to be good. Sadly the idyll was quickly shattered by my first dose of the Dehli Belly. Because I needed a toilet at very close range, the longest I could safely stay on the beach was an hour. As Dick Dastardly would say, Drat and double drat. Three days later their was no improvement, I remained a prisoner to the toilet. But it was time for me to head up into the mountains, to Oaxaca City, as I had booked myself into Spanish school for a fortnight. I had a choice; a 13 coach ride (which obviously, based on recent experience, could morph into a much longer one) on a coach with a loo, or a 5 hour minivan adventure, where my bowel evacuations would have to take place on the side of a road. I decided to walk on the wild side; I opted for the minivan, pumped myself full of nasty bowel blockers and sat with my legs crossed at all times. The end point of my last two journeys had been stressful and I was determined to arrive in Oaxaca with the minimum of drama and annoyance.