We left the good, secondary road at San Sebastian and entered onto a third class road. I have always avoided them whenever possible. Since the secondary roads are usually a crap shoot, I could not, and did not, want to even imagine what condition the third class roads would be in!
We were headed across the mountains to the town of Huejutla de Reyes. With L’s nose glued to the atlas, we headed down the road to our shortcut turn off. Upon reaching it, with B in the driver’s seat now, we turned and were taken completely by surprise. The road was a dirt one. Or should I say rock one? Even swerving from one side of the road to the other, to avoid the larger rocks and deeper holes, it was still like driving over railroad ties that had been placed only inches apart. Could this really be the right road? We passed a few houses at the beginning and L asked a couple of people if this was the road to Huejutla de Reyes. They all assured him that it was. So we continued on. The road became worse and at one point we descended a hill where the road crossed a river bed at the bottom. Thank goodness this was the dry season or we would have found ourselves having to cross a river or turn around. Up the other side and we bumped and jostled our way very, very slowly. We were not making good time at all. We had been on this road now for 20 minutes and had gone 2.5 miles! We pulled over to the side of the road and had a little meeting to try to determine if we should go on or not. If this road was correct, and if it eventually got better (no guarantee of that!) we would cut 1.5 hours off our drive time. A considerable chunk. While hemming and hawing over the issue, we saw a pick up approaching from the direction we were headed. And it was a Coca Cola truck! Evidently this road went somewhere that they drank Coke! The driver pulled over across from us and told us that the road did go where we thought, but he could not tell us how far it continued in this condition or if it got better. His route ended only about a mile further down the road. We thanked him but his information gave us little to go on. We finally decided that we should go another 2 miles on this road and if it did not look better, we would turn around. I took over driving, mostly because I wanted to make sure we only went 2 more miles, and off we went. Just down the road, we came to a T junction. There was actually a sign for a village we found on the map so we turned right.
Have any of you ever been on those old railways that have been turned into walking and bike paths? The ones with no curves and that just go straight as far as you can see? Well we were looking at the same sort of thing, except it was miles of rocky, dusty road extending into the horizon. We drove a little further, why I do not know, before deciding that enough is enough. We back traced our route, got back to the main road and headed for the new destination, Tantoyuca. All told, this shortcut cost us 1 hour and 20 minutes of drive time from San Sebastian back to San Sebastian. I was a little concerned because we really had no way of telling how much more time we needed to get to Xilita. We could pretty much figure out the distance but there was no way we could calculate drive time. There were just too many variables to consider. Traffic and condition of the road being the biggest two.
At Tantoyuca, we decided to take the secondary road that cut across to Huejutla de Reyes instead of continuing on the principal highway to Temporal de Sanchez. It was bound to be much shorter and faster. It was another true secondary road. In places it was excellent, but when it was bad, it was very bad. Parts of it not paved and parts of it so full of potholes it was almost impossible to miss them all and speed was unheard of. Along the way we passed through some scary looking villages and I would have hated to have had to stop at any of them. For the most part, I am very comfortable here in Mexico and do not worry about my personal safety or the safety of my property at all. But once in awhile, just like anywhere on Earth, one passes through an area that just gives one the creeps and bad vibes. Such was the case with most of the villages on this route. I don’t know why, and I don’t know if B or L felt the same way, but I sure did.
We finally reached our turn off for Xilitla and felt we were almost home. Of course, we still had quite a ways to go, but the end was in sight.
The next few hours were spent winding our way up the mountain. The scenery, or what I could see of it while driving, was awesome. Great vistas opening into long valleys between the peaks. Far, far below and in the distance, one could occasionally see a village. Many times I wanted to pull over and take some pictures, but there was just no safe place to do it. Shoulders on most of these roads are non-existent. And I hardly dared take my eyes off the road anyway. Only the briefest of glances down every once in awhile. Even though it was an arduous drive, I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved being in the mountains.
Eventually the road kind of flattened and followed the outside contour of the mountain, skirting a deep valley below. In places we could see across the valley to where the road was headed. We guessed, and guessed right, that the town we could see hugging onto the side of the mountain across the valley was indeed Xilitla. We were very happy travelers as we entered the town proper. Our journey that day had been the longest, most strenuous so far. We reached Xilitla twelve hours and fifteen minutes after we had left Xalapa. And my body felt like it. We were all bone tired and anxious to get out of the car, check into our hotel and get something to eat. After all, we had a reservation to stay at the hotel, El Castillo. This was the hotel built by Sir Edward James’ friend and foreman. The hotel was supposedly as eccentric, intriguing and unconventional as Las Pozas itself. It is also listed in the Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 must stay places in Mexico. We were greatly looking forward to our stay here.