Catemaco to Villahermosa

Catemaco Travel Blog

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11.20.08  Happy Mexican Independence Day!  The fiestas were forming, the flags were flying!


At the Catematco Lake, we paid 300 pesos to take an hour boat trip around the lake.  While we enjoyed seeing the ecotourism hotel with kayaking opportunities, etc, and the many interesting birds on the lagoon island trees, the real highlights included the witches hut with vines on the inside of the cave and the Isla del Mojos (Island of the Monkeys).  See, Catemaco is known throughout Mexico as the place where witches and their mystical powers gather- you can get potions for all sorts of ailments including love sickness. 


As for the monkeys, the University of Veracruz apparently imported baboons for research.  Some boat operators, like the one there when we arrived, take food to encourage close-ups (against the pleas of the researchers), so that the baboons were literally climbing on their boat to get the bananas and mangos.  The couple on the other boat, with a Dallas jacket on, looked a little scared.  We did not have food, so we sat within about 10 feet of the monkeys and watched six of them eat their stash.  Very entertaining!


After the boat tour we emptied our tanks at another gravity-challenged sani-hole at El Ceiba and then crossed the mountains on a curvy road in the rain.  It wasn’t bad but I took it slowly just in case.  The landscape was very tropical and lovely


Today I learned a “toll road” lesson, that is remarkable similar to the “carpool lane” lesson:  If the opportunity presents itself, take it!  We lost an hour or more in traffic on the 180 free road when 185 or 180D toll road was a U.S. standards tollway.  Ah well, that’s how we learn and we did get to go through small towns as they were preparing for a fiesta for today’s holiday. 


We filled propane and gas and jumped on the tollroad to Villahermosa, with a speed limit of about 70 mph (technically 110 kph) We only paid 31 pesos and then 102 pesos for the “very expensive” tollroad. That’s $10 for a huge time and energy savings- worth every penny!  We flew through Veracruz State to Tabasco State where we just drove through the state border while the guys there, who were probably supposed to be checking agriculture or papers or something just yakked to each other.  (We are really grateful that we learned the 31 states of Mexico before we left!  It is important to know in which states certain cities are located).


The right lane of the toll road did have considerable potholes and bumpy road repairs, which I wouldn’t have expected.  But, it was about 3 times as fast as the free road that traverses small towns every few kilometers, which are filled with numerous topes (speed bumps).  However, the free roads are an excellent way to see Mexico and the character of the people and places.  Still, I needed to make Villahermosa by nightfall to stay at a campground.  And nightfall is by 6 pm now.


Campground is a loose word for the Rectivo (Recreation) place here, but we really like it.  I see one other rig here (Michel from Ontario) and a big grass field.  We are parked beside a concrete building and backed up to a fence with barbed wire on top.  Behind the fence is a gorgeous pool that was “open until 9pm.”  There were no lights until I asked a few kids playing video games (who are adorable and we gave Hershey’s to when we arrived) and a few minutes later the low-light globe lights around the pool area came on.  This did nothing to light the pool though and my high-powered flashlight allowed the kids to swim and climb on the rope ladder that crosses the pool.  The night security guys came by and said it was fine for us to be there. 

The restaurant had closed at 6 pm!  Wow- so early! 


We couldn’t find the hot showers as none of the stalls hade showers.  The kids were going to shower after the pool.  Maybe we’ll see in them in the daylight, but I have to say how much we love hot showers in our RV.  Not once have I used banos or showers in campgrounds in Mexico (or probably since we began our trip in June!)  There is just something to be said for carrying your house with you!


So we’re off schedule a little bit.  We should drive in the morning, arrive in time to explore, then be ready to head out in the morning.  Exploring in the morning and driving in the afternoon is fine for Alaska when you have 24 hours of sun, but when you absolutely cannot drive in the dark on Mexican roads, then the race before darkness is stressful.  We are using real campgrounds while we acclimate, knowing that there are few in Central America and we’ll have to be resourceful in finding guarded places in which to overnight.


Speaking of guards, about half an hour ago at 10:30 pm I heard a gunshot rather closeby (30 yards maybe?).  I looked around and could see the security guard with his high-powered search light monitoring the area.  I suspect, as I’ve read, that Mr. Security Guy fired the gun to scare of any would-be trouble.  Let’s hope!  I’ve secured the RV, the guard is there, the doors are locked, the outside light is on, and some seatbelts are rigged between the doors holding them closed should anyone try to unlock the cab doors in the night.  After that, all I can do is wonder how some people sleep in incredibly violent neighborhoods in the U.S., not to mention other places- wow.  This Recreation Center is down a small, straight dirt road lined by many friendly people.  I really do not think it is a dangerous location at all.  (Note: the noises were firecrackers- they laughed the next morning when I thought it was gunshots.  That´s good!)


3 cheers for Nuvi again!  Without having the capacity to put in the GPS Coordinates, there is NO WAY we would have found this place.  When Nuvi said, “Turn Right!”  I did and we made it!  Of course we arrived during rush hour and traffic was harried.  I was so grateful for the GPS!  The Mexico City Navigator card makes a terrific difference.  Without it, Veracruz was just a dot off the map.  With it, we had exact streets within the city- huge help when driving through or around the towns.


We started our Malaria pills tonight.  Even with bug spray, the skeeters are rabid and we have a tough time keeping them out from under clothing too.  Hopefully hallucinations, ringing ears, and blurred vision will not occur.  Dengue fever, found in daytime urban mosquitos is a worry we cannot protect against and so we will still protect from them as much as possible.


We’re all still healthy thanks to the Nature’s Pure water filter.  Three cheers for that!  We go through so much water with our water bottles that we’ve had since June- we’re very attached to them now.  And we keep a filled water bottle in the bathroom for teeth brushing and nighttime use.  With the Nature’s Pure, we can fill very quickly- much faster than the Brita filter, and it removes down to the micro-size of viruses.  Jonna and Mimi, who live in Merida now, recommended it, as well as U.S. Lazy Daze friends.  We also use it to rinse the dishes after washing, etc.  


Also, I add bleach to our holding tank.  Wish we’d have brought another basic water filter as our Camco one is getting filled.  That or the water pressure is so low that it can’t pump it through the filter.  I have heard of travelers going south buying a pump to assist water flow.  We however, just fill the tanks, then use our awesome RV water pump.  With the water-saving, Oxygenics shower head, our nightly showers really don’t use much water and we can go several days between dumps, although we have found a dumping location every night in the “campground.” 


We also pop Pepto tablets a few times a day to coat our stomach as we enjoy the new foods.  The kids are wild over the tortillas that are freshly patted out and cooked in a griddle.  I forgot to tell you the other day on the way to Veracruz we stopped at a roadside stand and bought some pollo tacos and queso tacos.  Delicioso!  So pepto will help us keep the buggers away.  And a beer a day keeps the buggers away (but only for me, not the kids).  While I don’t really like beer, it is a tried and true travelers’ trick for protecting from food and water-related ailments.


The water tonight, for example, was obtained from the women’s bathroom outdoor sink.  We fed the hose through the chain link fence to get it there.  For electric, we had some trouble with the dangling socket by the electrical panel (also on the other side of the fence- to be fair, it may be a problem with our circuit tester).  So he unplugged one of the video game consoles and we plugged in there.  The surge protector noted reverse polarity, but nobody could figure out how to switch it and so we just plugged in and all seems fine.  I think the current is too low to do any harm and the surge protector is in the loop.  I won’t leave the laptop plugged in though.  J I’m glad I grabbed the long, high-quality power cord that is not 30 amps.  It has to go long distances and our only power options to date have been 15 amp.  But that powers the fridge, lights, hairdryer, sometimes microwave, and everything except AC.  It also allows for battery charging without using the inverters.  Very convenient for 210 pesos tonight (about $16).


The nice guys helping us out here also offered the internet to us, so we may hang around here another night, enjoy Villahermosa and the pool and stay a second night.  We’ll see!  It is delightful having flexibility.




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photo by: nellita