Mexico. What? Yes, Mexico...
Sitting at the bar last night with another overland traveller we find out about a border crossing that (he thinks) leads to mexico without having to go all the way to the pacific and just like that our plans change again.
We have been antagonizing about whether to travel the main highways all the way to southern Guatemala or backtrack to mexico and this was our tipping point. We have always felt uneasy about leaving mexico before our visa expired and about not visiting the beaches of Oaxaca and Chiapas states...but the rally end has us so far over that it simply made since to dive down into Belize. Now we sit in Guatemala with possibly a 4 day drive to the pacific...oddly, about the same time it will take us to go back north and see those beaches we've heard so much about.
Tried to get online this morning to confirm the border crossing existed (doesn't appear on any map we have) but the connection was slow so we just took off hoping for the best. One turn in the direction we think the border is and we hit a dirt road. Not a good sign since we anticipate being 3-4 hours from the border already. We continue on for a while with no sign of towns of life other than the occasional machete-toting guy on the side of the road. We discuss turning back, stop to ask one of the guys if indeed mexico is up ahead and he simply waves on in the direction we are going...enough proof for us to continue.
Luckily the dirt road does change back into paved and pretty soon becomes one of the best roads we've seen in days. Sadly, as we continue getting closer to mexico the number of topes seems to be increasing as well. This disease (tope-itis?) clearly is contagious. Through the border (nothing more than a trailer parked on the side of the road) we continue north on one of the only “sketchy” roads we’ve driven in mexico. We say that only because of groups of guys we kept passing who were aggressively hitchhiking (would line up across the road to try and prevent you from passing) and appear to have just snuck across the border. We of course adapt to the situation by running out of gas on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Not exactly our shining moment, but the same gas gauge that has told us we are on empty with a 1/4 tank left since buying the bus is now suddenly working (empty=empty)...how convenient.
An hour or so ahead it’s getting dark so we decide to stop in Tenozique for the night. As we pull into the centro we don’t see a town square or any desirable place to pull over and the policia are out if force, so we backtrack to the pemex just outside of town and pull in along the grassy area for the night. Karma hung out in the grass like a lion and jen grilled dinner. “Is grilling at a gas station a good idea” she asks as she flips the steaks. We have a peaceful night and realize in the morning that we didn’t even shut the cargo doors...probably couldn’t have pulled that off at the local station back home. We did have an early morning visit from the policia and a local government official...just making sure we weren't up to no good we think.
As we drive north we marvel at the landscape in this part of Guatemala/Mexico. We are constantly winding through rolling landscape features. They are too big to be hills but are too small to be mountains. Feels like were in a claymation video and the guy who sculpted the hills had a fascination with camel humps... hmm, note to self. Next time i’m bored i should try my hand at claymation, making a tiny bus and a bunch of camel humps sounds like fun.
We discuss the fact that Kent and Lynn were headed for Paleneque a few days ago and try to calculate the odds of them still being there, much less of actually finding them since we haven’t been in contact for a few days and don’t know where they’re staying. We decide we’ll give it one shot and Jen navigates us to what we understand to be the most popular (or at least most publicized) rv park near the ruins. A complete shot in the dark but we’re driving by anyway so certainly worth a try. Half an hour later and were parked next to a big rv with colorado plates...either Kent and Lynn are here or we are going to make some new friends form colorado whether they like it or not.
Later in the day we spot a couple walking into the park and were in luck! We exchange some hugs and catch up on travel stories, hardly able to believe they navigated the giant rig through roads that we wrote about being among our worst. Months ago when we met on cerritos beach they were simply on a week vacation in baja. They were only discussing the possibility of hitting the road or touring mexico. Now they can look back and know they made the leap, are following their dreams and are figuring the rest out as they go. So cool to have met them and watch the transition that’s so familiar to us now.
They set us up in lounge chairs, start feeding up ice cold beverages and discussing their a/c. Were we still in baja we probably would have moved in and towed the bus for a few months. Kent also pulls out his stockpile of tools and we take a crack at fixing our mirrors before dark...we might even be able to see behind us again (just in time for some highway driving)! We also get our mayan horoscope read to us by one of the more animated hippies, and Kent and i learn we have even more in common than we thought.
Our party turns into dinner, then more drinks, then looking at photos in the rv/rolling mansion. We had almost forgotten how giving these two are and how much fun we have when together. So happy we swung by palenque to give it a try!! Two days ago we were headed for southern Guatemala, then fate has us drive within reach of friends and we somehow pick the right town/campground during the only 2 days they are here...awesome.