Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Salina Cruz to Coatzacoalcos

Glad to get out of Salina Cruz, we headed out discussing how there are just some places that are not good for us and Salina Cruz was one of them.

We headed up Mex 185 and stopped at a Pemex station in Juchiton (not that we needed gas as we are still getting an average of 50 mpg) for a bathroom break and this was the cleanest (and cheapest) restroom that we have come across.  It cost only 3 pesos and you put the money in a machine which unlocks a turnstile - the toilets were incredibly clean and smelled nice and they even had a seat on the toilet.  Outside was an armed guard and he had a shotgun which is also unusual because they usually have assault rifles.

Just outside of the town we saw a wind farm with over 1,000 wind turbines - this is the first time that we have seen a wind farm since arriving in Mexico - Some of the turbines were older models so there has been a lot of expansion on this wind farm.  In town, the street lights on the main road were all solar powered.

As always, there are different forms of delivery vehicles, transportation and statues in every town that we pass through.  Though swarms of taxis are the most prevalent form of transportation in all towns.
It is usually not worth the cost of owning a car when you can grab a taxi for a couple of dollars whenever you need - they are everywhere and waiting for to take you wherever you need to go.

After Juchinto, when we got onto Mex 185, it is a good, wide road climbing up into mountains.  There was some rock quarries up at around 175 meters elevation.  After about 10 miles, the road suddenly stops (no warning, again a good reason not to drive at night), takes a right turn, is very rough for a couple of hundred meters then becomes the good new road again for about 500 meters - there were a couple of other places like this but most of the way it was a good road.  We topped out the climb around 220 meters.

This one is for Chelsea - how do you like this Veterinary clinic next to "Cheese and More" and the Veterinary Pharmacy?

Or do you prefer this Vet Stop with transportation out front?

You know that you are probably not on the best of roads when you are up in the hills at about 220 meters elevation and your GPS, for no apparent reason, suddenly tells you to "continue 29 km on trail" - as it turns out this is one of the good new sections of the road, I can only imagine what it was like before the modernization and am surprised that there are no tolls.  In fact, we have not paid any tolls since Puerto Vallarta.

In Donaji we saw roadside stalls for haircuts (25 pesos) and also saw a bicycle repair stall.

When you are selling or moving a truckload of mangos in the back of an open door truck, how do you stop them all rolling out?  Necessity is the mother of invention and we are always seeing 'clever' solutions, thinking outside of the box in this country.  In this case, stack a couple of sacks of mangos in the doorway to stop the loose ones rolling out.

Another very clever idea - when you place fence posts, you don't want to keep replacing them when they rotted off right?  So why not plant posts that are branches from good trees.  In this climate they grow and your fence posts will not only stay fresh and healthy but often produce a beautiful flower row of trees to border the property.

 Becomes this:
 Then you end up with this type of living row of fence posts. But you do have to prune your fence posts every few years!

I had to include this because it is the only 'harvester' that we have seen in all of our travels in Mexico - although it looks automated, there is actually a man running alongside the tractor manually feeding the silage chopper stalks of corn.

We are getting to some nicer looking towns now, though I am thinking maybe we could afford this place and do it up to be as nice as the others here?

In fact this town was improving itself so much that there were pretty new bus stops all along the road.

In places we saw double fences, one at the property edge and then another electric fence at the edge of the road so they could graze it.  In other areas the road right of way was used for growing corn and bananas.

Since the USDA does not have it's hands in the mix here, we often see interesting delivery methods for food products - today we saw plastic barrels on the back of a pickup and this was milk delivery, customers would come up to the pickup with a container and the milk would be dispensed out of the barrels.

At Sayula de Aleman, the middle of the road is well used.  There is everything from truck parking and repairs to pineapple sales or tire sales.  

Truck Parking in center of road

Truck Repairs in center of road
Tire Sales in center of road.

From here on, the landscape became more lush and there were no longer coconuts and papayas but pineapples and dairy farms instead.  The roads here are very bad with many huge potholes and unmarked lane changes for about 4 kilometers after the town.  Once again we experienced roads that alternate between sections of terrible road and sections of good road  Some people suddenly change lanes and start to drive on the new section alongside the old section, while some stay on the old road - eventually the 2 combine again but all the way through this area is bad (even the new road) and very confusing.

The traditional hammocks that we used to see people hanging out in, have now been replaced by openwork rocking chairs made out of a type of plastic cord strung on metal frames.

We kept looking for somewhere reasonable to have lunch but ended up in Coatzacoalcos before we found anything so we headed off to our hotel (Fairfield Inn paid for with accumulated points and includes breakfast) and they happily let us check in early.  This is a very nice hotel in the middle of the Malecon where we see some really shabby buildings interspersed with a couple of good hotels.  

It looks as though the place has really gone out of fashion and has become unpopular and neglected but there are some small signs of recovery with a few new hotels being built - there is nothing going on on the Malecon, not even any vendors so tourism must be almost non-existent here right now.  There is so much sand blowing across the Malecon that we saw workers shoveling sand from behind the sea wall and either throwing back across the wall or piling it up for a front end loader to come along and load it into a truck.  We also saw a tractor raking the beach, cleaning up garbage and smoothing out the sand.

We went to a place called Mr. Pampas for supper - it is  slightly upscale place that has a huge salad buffet and they come to the table with cuts of meat on skewers.  They have 30 different cuts of meat, mostly beef and chicken but also octopus and shrimp, roasted garlic bread and grilled pineapple.  No, we did not manage to try them all, nor did we manage to try everything in the salad buffet but we had a really nice meal and a fun time.

We have a nice room at the hotel, there are not many people here and the staff are incredibly friendly. After a morning walk along the Malecon, we had an interesting local style breakfast in the hotel and great conversation with Jesus, an incredible server who brought us coffee and toast and whatever we wanted even though this is a self-service buffet type breakfast.  Nothing was too much for him and he chatted (all in Spanish) about his home in Oaxaca (which is our favorite state so far), even asking us to call him and give him work if we settle in that area and need to employ someone.  When I asked about the brand of coffee that was used in the hotel (it was really good and was even better without milk than with) he rushed off and got the pack to show us the name, then filled a cup of ground beans for us to take with us to use in our room or wherever.

After breakfast we headed out to explore and didn't find much in the vicinity except for the Pyramid Museum (10 pesos per person, US$0.50 admission) at the end of the Malecon - this is a very interesting little museum inside a pyramid style building.  The reviews are not at all good because it has fallen into a state of disrepair caused by the effects of the salt, sand and wind.  However when we got there we saw a little army of workers making repairs and were impressed with the detail given to their workmanship.  Admittedly, inside the museum there is not a lot of exhibits/artifacts but we were fascinated by the little statues of people and how strong the Asian influence was and how the style changed over the years to include turbans and looked to be more Tibetan or Mongol.  Some of the artifacts were dated between 1945 and 2050 yrs old and its amazing to see Asian influence on Mayan/Incans during the time of Christ.  How did they cross the pacific ocean? 

The museum has a double headed serpent on it's top and the serpent theme is strong throughout the town.  According to legend, the Olmec god Quetzalcoatl was aboard a raft made of a serpent skin and navigated until getting lost into the horizon. Ever since, the river that the town sits on (and the town of the same name) has been known as Coatzacoalcos, which means “the place where the serpent hides”.  And if you are wondering how to pronounce that, its Co-atza-cwal-cos!  At first we were getting cramps in our tongues, but after some lessons from Jesus (the waiter) we can actually say it now.  The locals sometimes abbreviate it to Coatza.

We took a drive around town and took a detour through a very colorful little fraccionario (think suburb) which is mostly in much better condition that the places along the Malecon.  As everywhere else in Mexico, entrepreneurship is very apparent - from the furniture made in the fraccionario and being pulled into town on a cart by foot to sell, to the fresh produce stalls on street corners.

New houses being built

Somehow we ended up at a mall while looking for a Farmacia to see if we could get some cough drops (very difficult to find here).  While walking around, we passed a beauty college that used one of the shops for haircuts - I took them up on their offer of a free haircut since my hair was way overdue for a cut and I figured that it wouldn't hurt to let one of the students use me to practice and learn, after all it is not as if I need to look good to go to work or be seen by anyone that I know ;)   The haircut took a very long time and a lot of training took place but the end result was not as bad as I had feared - judge for yourself.

After that we hit the beach.  It is not a very beautiful beach at all, kind of dirty and there are some very questionable areas that make us wonder if there is a bit of a sewage leak or if it is garbage rotting - but we took the plunge because the sea looked clean enough, in fact it was really clear and we could see our feet clearly through chest deep water.  Some playing in the waves finished a fun day and we got back to the hotel with lots of sand on our feet and shoes - now how do we get to our room without making a mess, leaving sand on the floors and keeping the sand out of our room too?  No problem, Gerald asked someone in the hotel to bring us some water to wash off the sand in the parking lot and they quickly brought a little container of water for us and then another one.  Not only did they happily bring us what we needed but then they brought us towels as well because (as they explained), it is colder in the hotel and we will be more comfortable with towels.  Amazing friendly, helpful people here!

After some wonderful Mexican burgers and beers at the so called "Irish" pub across the street from the hotel, we are ready to call it a night and are looking forward to more adventures tomorrow on the 588 km (7.5 to 9 hour) trip from Coatzacoalcos to Campeche.  More adventures and more topes (speed bumps) to drag the poor Prius over!

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