Thursday, October 18, 2007

Car Trip 4

I was nervous about the little border crossing from Quintana Roo to the Yucatan. We had friends visiting recently and we drove them in the Jeep to Merida. That crossing went fine but the one before that was a nightmare!

Even though we have the official sticker displayed in our window, and have been assured by all officialdom here that that is all we need to legally have the Jeep here and drive it anywhere, we got turned away at the border. They refused to let us cross! They said we also needed the paper from which the sticker was peeled! We had no choice but to turn around and drive the 62 miles back to Cancun, park the Jeep, take the people ferry over to the island, then a taxi home and grab the paper from our important documents stash. In retrospect, I think he only asked for the papers hoping to see some money cross his palm for letting us through. I was not going to fall for that! At any point on the road, we could have been pulled over and asked for the papers again. After all, these guys have radios and can call any other police that they may want to include in their good fortune!

A few hours later and we were back at the border crossing. I confidently approached the crossing point where there is huge sign ordering you to STOP! As I slowed down to go through this point, the same guard just lazily looked at us and waved us on through! I was incensed that he had made us go through the effort of getting this needless piece of paper and then didn’t even stop us to look at it! I was worried about nothing this time though. I had forgotten that, unlike the Jeep, our current car has Mexican plates so we did not need to show any kind of papers. Unknown to me, this border crossing was the first of fifteen we were to do on this trip, not to mention all of the military checkpoints and inspections!

The drive to Merida is not interesting at all. It is a straight, long freeway in excellent condition. However, the Yucatan scrub jungle grows right up to the edge of it and there is nothing to see but the road ahead and the green on your sides. Highway hypnoses was a problem for me that morning. Especially as I listened to the heavy, rhythmic breathing coming form the sleeper in the passenger seat! He awoke as we pulled into the rest area/gas station at the turn off for Valledolid. Just in time to use the potty, buy some snacks that we did not need and get a cold Coke. The plan was for B to take over the driving here, but, since I was no longer tired, I just kept behind the wheel.

It is very strange to me, what has happened here. In the USA, I hated to drive. Still do. I would always let B drive or whine until he did. Down here it is totally different. I love driving here and I don’t know why. I would think it is just old age or something, but when I go back to the USA to visit, I still hate driving there.

We skirted Merida but it seemed that every one of its’ 685,000 citizens were on the road at the same time as we were. No accidents and we found our way to the road leading to Campeche, our next major city. As we left Merida behind, the scenery started to change. The jungle recedes further and further away and eventually just stops being. It is replaced with large fields, lined with stone walls and filled with scrub Ash trees. And the terrain starts to change for the very flat to rolling hills. After we crossed the border from Yucatan to Campeche state, we switched drivers and I took a much needed nap. I awoke a while later as we thumped over a tope which signaled our entrance into a small village. From what I could tell, the reason for this villages’ existence was to sell crap to tourists passing by. The streets were lined with stores selling souvenirs and bright, colorful hammocks. Pretty to look at, but nothing we would even slow down for.

A few minutes after leaving town, my heart almost stopped beating! I could not see where it was coming from for sure, but straight ahead of us and still a ways off, was a great black plume of smoke! Memories of my Terror in Tabasco came flooding back. No way did I want to repeat that and drive through a burning forest fire again! It took several hills and miles, but eventually the road turned and I could see that the fire was safely burning somewhere way off to our right.

Our journey carried us further west, through sandstone cliffs on our right and rolling hills and scrubby farmland on our left. Just like in the USA, road repair was everywhere on the trip. I found it very interesting that there was a five mile stretch where men were actually painting the cement median barrier by hand! Talk about labor intensive. We eventually reached the entrance to the Campeche-Champoton freeway. We were planning our first stop for the night to be Ciudad del Carmen on the Gulf Coast. Still a lot of driving before we reached there and we were hoping to push it and get there before dark. Neither one of us wanted to drive after dark. The roads are way too dangerous and unpredictable for that. You have to see a giant pothole or animal on the road in order to avoid it!

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