Orizaba to Cholula
Traffic jams and shipping containers...We stop in Orizaba for the night and sleep at the Grand Hotel de France. Makes sense in the middle of mexico, so we made sure to eat a few slices of the italian pizza in the courtyard. The hotel is beautiful and was built in the 1800s. Truly magestic.
As we pull out of Orizaba we look up to see a wall of mountains directly in front of us. A gorgeous view, but not one you hope to see when driving a 48year old vehicle. We get a couple of kilometers out of town and pull over on the highway to do a bit of tuning up - we can see we're going to need it. I grab the right tools and assume the position behind E, to reset our timing and trying to adjust the carbs to give us the best shot at the altitude crawl ahead. A car pulls over almost immediately and asks if we need help.
I explain that i'm still a rookie at the vw but think were just having an issue with timing and calibrating the carbs. Turns out he's a mechanic (perfect!), returns to his truck to grab tools and takes off his clean shirt. Im stoked. As much as i feel like i've been coming up the curve in term of my ability to keep us on the road, i'm still calibrating to ear and could use a few more lessons from pros, especially as we change altitudes and everything shifts.
I have jen start the car, thinking he can help me fine tune things... but as soon as i look back up the car is pulling away. Hmm. Mental note. When on the side of the highway in mexico and a professional comes by - act even more stupid than you actually are. A poorly running vehicle does not require help. It's still running.
We get back on the road and i'm almost impressed by the strength E is showing as we tackle the first set of switchbacks. Sadly, a few more turns into the climb and we are halted. On the upside, we have a fantastic vista out to the Pico de Orizaba (mexico's highest peak), on the downside, traffic is completely stopped and we are sitting at a 10-15 degree angle among a row of semis as far as we can see. Almost immediately several drivers get out of their trucks to pee, buy goods from the vendors walking up and down the highway (clearly construction has been going on for a while). Not a great sign for us.
Our brakes work okay (we upgraded to discs on the front before our trip) but our emergency brake leaves a bit to be desired. It simply won't hold us on the incline we're currently sitting on and based on yesterdays issues we're afraid to turn the engine off sitting here on the side of a mountain. Instead, we take turns swapping out whose foot is on the brake and holding us on the hill while the other stretches out and regains blood flow... Just your average everyday highway drive before the invention of power brakes..or power anything else!
Apparently the two roads here overlap and share lanes, a true engineering masterpiece. Add to that what looked like a collapsed portion of our road and you end up with miles and miles of construction and slow misery. By the end, we sat on that hill for 50minutes, then slowly meandered along stuck behind semis trying to climb a mountain on a single lane road without pullouts or passing lanes. Now i know how other vehicles feel when they get stuck behind us! We topped out at about 2700m/9000ft, and what should have been an hour and a half drive took us almost 5 tedious hours, and we pull into Cholula (just on the outskirts of Puebla) completely spent.
Lucky for us, cholula turned out to be well worth the drive. A simple, beautiful city with brightly colored shops and restaurants as far as we could see. The centro had a giant square with at least 5 gourmet coffee shops, each one packed with people. We could have just as easily been walking around a piazza in Rome. Last time we passed by Puebla during the maya rally, and left with the impression of a big city and a thick blanket of smog, but as i look back at the blog it was also the day after probably the most touching story of our trip as we stayed the night before with Senora Mariposa. This time around, we pulled off towards cholula, drawn in by stories of a shipping container city.
Those who know me likely know of my fascination with shipping containers. My overlapping obsession for design, small space living and green building all fit together nicely as shipping containers seem to be the perfect key to each. The fact that these perfect building blocks (think giant steel legos) are waste material discarded after only a few trips at sea... and they truly are the perfect building material. Sadly, Portland doesn't yet allow containers as residential structures, or else we would likely be living in one and I'd be pushing all our clients to use them... this needs to be a future zenbox design project!
Since we got in fairly late due to our drive, we left our hotel at a brisk pace stopped only for the smell of mole a few blocks away. We stopped for some enchiladas to go and may have ended up with the best meal of our trip to date (which is no small feat). We walked along the shops trying to resist the urge to go in and trying to beat the setting sun to the container city.
The "city" here is really more of a block full of restaurants, bars and shops all constructed of containers...but we were here more for the architecture than the offerings (although we did manage to find a bottle of tequila in the container-turned-liquor store). For me this was as fun visually as walking around a marina full of sailboats and dreaming about which one to sail away in.
The only downfall of spending a few hours walking around the creatively stacked containers is that it reawakened my desire to build with them... i guess now i have to go home and picket in front of the portland building code office.