Into the Yucatan [Not So S.O.F.T.]

This is the next instalment of Champagne Dame’s time in Mexico. To view the previous post, click here

And then the dreaded sicknesses began. One month on the road and I have an infected ear and can’t talk or swallow. Even worse, the Panama has the unmentionables and vertigo. We spent our time in the gorgeous colonial town of Tlactopalan in the local hospital to rest our bodies. As it was a national holiday, all the doctors were eating tacos and listening to mariachi bands. Obviously the gringos were the last to be seen by the one doctor that was on duty.

Disturbingly, there was blood on the floor and blood on the doctor as he typed his diagnosis on a 1950s style typewriter. No sign of modern technology here. I was so glad he decided not amputate! No Aztec sacrifices or mutilations had to be made, and we caught a third class bus out of there because there were no other options. We had decided on the non-tourist route down the mountains, to avoid the ’vomit’ bus that follows the regular route.

hospital

Tlactopalan is described in Lonely Planet as one of the finest UNESCO World Heritage towns that no-one has ever heard of. It is on the Rio Papaloapan and was an important Spanish trading port. It was full of amazing colonial mansions in pastel hued tones, in a rainbow of soft colours. It was unfortunate we could not appreciate it due to our illnesses.

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Onto Cordoba, now feeling very sick. The zocalo was beautiful and very reminiscent of Paris in the rain. The quiet hotel written up in TripAdvisor, Hotel RS, was possibly the noisiest we had stayed in. All night karaoke, disco thumping, and mariachi band practice kept us awake. We started to think that the the vomit bus might have been a better option. I believe it is called this because of the long and windy road down the mountains from Oaxaca. Even if you are not prone to travel sickness, you soon will be once everyone else becomes sick!

Finally we get into a more tropical climate in Catemaco, a sleepy little town for Mexican tourists. No gringos here, although we did meet up with a lovely lady from England. I hope we did not infect her with our diseases. Bewitching is the term to describe Catemaco, as it hosts the yearly witches and wizards convention of Mexico, the brujas and brujos, which is a sort of Latin American Harry Potter town. I did note that it also had quite a few creepy crawlies, but I now know how to eat them with chilli and salt.

zocala

I was hanging out to see the brujas and get a reading, but we only had one dodgy offer, for a ’price’. The location beside a large lake, the Laguna Catemaco, which was in a volcanic valley was also enchanting.

We had lunch in a town we never meant to go to. We had left the witchy town of Catemaco to catch a first class bus to Villahermosa. However when we got there the bus only left at midnight. So we had to take a third class bus back into Catemaco, and onto this town to make a connection. Of course this information is not available on the internet as that would have been helpful. We became convinced we were dealing with escapees from a lunatic asylum.

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The Panama speaks reasonable Spanish, and lived in South America for some years, but no one he speaks to seems to vaguely comprehend his requests. In one town we tried to buy a bus ticket to Tlactopalan and the ticket seller said it was not in Mexico! Her brow furrowed, and she had to call her supervisor to confirm the town was actually in Mexico! When we tried to buy a bus ticket to Villehermosa we got another blank confused look and were told the only bus was at midnight. Thankfully a more informed worker was able to tell us how to make a connection, on a third class bus held together with sticky tape and bubble gum. Bumpity bumpity, for three hours until we arrived at the flea ridden town at a large bus depot. By this time we had decided to bite the bullet and take the overnight bus to Campeche…which means more zombie movies and NO sleep.

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On the plus side we sat next to the local Godfather of the Cartel at lunch. He sat there with his leather briefcase and many mobile phones, gold teeth flashing as the townsfolk queued to genuflect before him (I was too scared to take a photo). Then my daughter rang me on my iPad. I pulled it out and he left! We are expecting the boys to be sent around to grab it tonight. No-one has a bigger phone than ‘the boss’!

The other really hilarious observation was that we saw a lot of clowns! Sitting in cantina and dirty roadside cafes was the local clown. And we are the ones that are stared at, as if we are the clowns. We have detected a serious undertone of madness in this culture. There by the grace of God, I am not a toilet lady in some dusty Mexican town, measuring toilet paper and charging four pesos. Maybe their life circumstances cause the madness?

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Speaking of Mexican toilets, I never have the right money, and they never have any change. I do the mad Gringa dash, as I always forget to take in the loo paper, before entering.

The toilet scene here reminds me of an earlier life, living on the Greek Islands in the 70s. Holly and I (who I know is reading this blog) had brief riveting careers as chambermaids at a half completed hotel. The dictatorship had fallen and so they hadn’t the money to complete the resort. But that didn’t stop them opening for business and employing tourists girls to clean. Big mistake! We were crap at cleaning but our first job every morning was to empty the ‘poo’ bins, as the loo paper could not go in the toilets. We were crap at that too. Now the same problem happens here and I always forget. I must have been blocking drains all over Mexico! It was probably enough to start another revolution.

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