Veracruz and Catamaco
Catemaco Travel Blog› entry 15 of 57 › view all entries
Yesterday, 11.19.08 we said goodbye to our dear friends at Yuri Albu Campground at Costa Esmeralda. Then the RV wouldn’t start. Guess I haven’t been too “energy savvy” with the cab battery being an Optima Yellow-top deep cycle starter super-duper battery and all. So I left a few things running and ran it completely dead over the 4 days of sitting there. We’re just not used to staying in one place for long and having to worry about it. Plus, I’ll bet the dying alternator did not do good things to my new battery. But once again, Mike at the campground came to the rescue and jumped it for me while Lynn and George, Roy and Dalaina said “goodbye.”
We were able to pass our barely torn 200 pesos bill (about $15
So we drove the free road Hwy 180 to
We got to the campground at 3 pm. Bad timing. Too late to take the bus into
So we drove the 5 km up to Anton Lizardo, where they didn’t seem to fancy us very much. We always feel conspicuous, but we didn’t get any warm feelings, but our timing was end of day and I think that is a busy time for most people. We drove through the town today around 1 pm and people seemed much more pleasant. While there, we tried to buy some food for dinner, but the two “grocery stores” were really just convenience store items. We made our pasta/cheese/ham and peas for dinner out of desperation.
Then last night, the nice Swiss/Paraguay couple invited the only other couple there (from
I thought it interesting that our Swiss friends were reporting “State Travel Advisories” for
Today we got up by 8 am and were at the bus stop by 9:12 am. We waved at the first bus we saw a few minutes later. A kind driver sort of explained where in
So we jumped up and got off the bus, wandering over to two ladies who appeared to be standing on a median in the road. They kindly pointed out that we should take a bus that nearly ran over us, so we backed up and got on. Well, I got on, and Lia and Jazy, and while I was trying to ask the driver how much dinero, he started driving and Charles jumped on while the bus was moving!
This was the Chicken Bus from I-don’t-know-where! A comedy unfolded as the bus lurched with crazy gear-shifting and we practically careened down the aisle of the bus. All the seats were full but when a few guys saw us falling in their direction, they quietly and quickly vacated for the back of the bus. It was a hilarious experience once we had a minute to think about it. Charles, at one point, was on his knees in the aisle by Jazy’s seat just to keep from falling over. I have NEVER been on a bus with a transmission worked quite like that! Hysterical!
So Jazy managed to make it to the front of the bus during travel to pay for us (28 pesos total) and with the help of a fellow passenger, we got off sort of near our destination of the zecalo (central square). We really exited onto the malecon (the waterfront walk), which we also wanted to see.
Three cheers for Nuvi! We brought the battery-run Nuvi GPS along with us in my purse and by programming in the Zocalo on it and occasionally pulling it out to see where we were, we found our way to there. I’m not sure we’d have ever found the Zolcalo otherwise as most streets had no signs and it was not intuitive.
We wandered off to find something to eat. A guy at a camarones (shrimp) place directed us to the tacos we wanted… through this small alleyway to a small restaurant, whose name we cannot now recall. Well! This small alleyway was actually entry into a huge market full of stalls selling shoes (some were being made onsite), beautiful children’s dresses, special lotions with Jesus’ picture on the front, juice smoothies, etc. There must have been 500-1000 different stalls throughout this huge street corner. It reminded me of markets in
So back to our lunch: We sat on counter stools around a tiny lunch stall where a cute teenage guy took our order and then stood there and watched us eat- every bite. It was hilarious. Jazy and Lia really did not like being stared at and noted that two other people were also watching us. The people were kind enough so I thought it was funny- no big deal. We didn’t realize that the pollo (chicken) tacos were quite so tiny and at first just bought one each. We ended up buying 13 tacos in all! It cost less than $7 total, so we didn’t feel too bad about eating all that. Delicious!
The next part of our field trip involved using our new Mexican phone card to call Ned. Not so easy! We tried about 20 variations for dialing and inserting the card. Finally Jazy was able to talk en Espanol to the operator, who replied in English. A few more attempts and she called Ned! I was so proud of her persistence. She wasn’t very comfortable with the whole street corner situation, and it was rather frustrating, but she did it!
It was great to talk to Ned! We have really missed calling him every day. He is getting the Spot tracking messages, which he really likes, as he can see our location on Google Earth. I have to say that Spot at least keeps him from worrying when we go several days between phone calls.
Okay, so we paid 200 pesos ($15) to zip back to the campground in a taxi, vs the 56 total pesos ($4) via buses. But we were ready to get down the road and not sure where or which buses to catch. It was so much easier! Besides, our cabbie really enjoyed seeing Nuvi, as he’d never seen a GPS before. Fun! I’d put the campground in as a point yesterday, so it was fun showing him the route (which he knew).
We were back by the 1pm check out time at the campground. Zip-zip- we took care of business, got road advice from Eddie there, and headed for Catemaco! We went back through Anton Lizardo as a shortcut to Hwy 180 east along the coast. The
Hwy 180 was a terrific road. We took a 14 km detour to see our 2nd UNESCO World Heritage Site: Tlacotalpan. Here’s what makes it special:
N18 36 30 W95 39 30
Tlacotalpan, a Spanish colonial river port on the Gulf coast of
We drove the toll road through town as far as we could. There seemed to be so much poverty in the slums along the road to the town. Standing water was in front of their houses, along with pigs, dogs, horses, chickens, etc. It was an interesting environment leading up to the colonial town of
Then at the end of town, it looked like a one lane road around a sharp turn. Since I didn’t know if we could turn around, we turned around just before it. Well, we tried, except a bus behind us blocked our returno. Then a truck got behind us as we were backing up. And the parking guard came over to look at the loco Americano to determine what I was doing. It was exciting! Everyone was patient and helpful and afterward I found myself waving thanks to everyone, including the guys nearby who were also watching. Brother! There is no dignity in international travel!
On the way back to Hwy 180, we came upon a cattle drive in the middle of the road, which was just like in
People have been very friendly to us today. They seemed pleased to see us, if not a little shocked by a gringa driving a motorhome. They spontaneously wave and yell friendly greetings out to us. We had a good time smiling and waving to everyone, reminiscent possibly of the penguins in
We made it to Catemaco just after 5pm! To get here, we drove 4 hours through some lush and lovely mountains, a little rainstorm, and numerous small towns with people selling delightful foods and wooden statues at the topes. We’ve not been brave enough to buy more at the topes, but the people respond warmly to my smile, head shake, and “No Gracias,” as Bob in
The El Ceiba Restaurant and Trailer Park is right on the lake in Catemaco. The boats tied near the palm tree are the identical scene as in a picture in the Church’s book. A kind person working at El Ceiba spent 2 years working in
Out front at El Ceiba, near the street by the water, are trees all in a row in the grassy area. In the trees are hundreds of LOUD birds. Deafening birds! Like, I had to put my hands over my ears when I got near! So we parked as far away from them as we could in a nice level spot. With electricity plug in would be 150 pesos, but since the birds are near the electric, we are without it tonight, so we got a night here for 100 pesos ($7). The birds are very exotic sounding right now- I wonder what kind they are. For safety, a night watchman is here until 8 am in the morning (there’s only one other rig and it is in the back). I offered to tip him, but our new amigo said it was unnecessary as the he’s paid by the owner.
El Ceiba Restaurant is a lovely, bright yellow, open-air Mexican restaurant with exquisite blue tile floors. We were the only ones there. Lunch is the main meal of the day and after we left, the place closed by 7pm. Did they just stay open for us? Not sure, but we loved our dinners of chicken soup (most delicious ever!), steak strip with fries, shrimp salad, and shrimp spaghetti. We couldn’t get over the number of shrimp served and we have yummy leftovers now.
Dinner wasn’t particularly inexpensive at 400 pesos ($30) with nice tip, but we sure enjoyed ourselves. Besides, there’s no food in the RV since we can’t seem to get into a real grocery store. We did see a Soriana (like the huge store in CV) both in
We enjoyed seeing
We’ve been in
While our guard is not down, at least we are not terrified to drive on the roads or visit a restaurant any more. I share this because I want others to know that 1. We are not “fearless” and 2. Fear is not in itself a reason to stop doing something. If the fear is because something is different or uncomfortable, then just allow yourself time to familiarize. Slow down, feel the fear, and do it anyway. Perhaps feeling a wee bit scared or uncomfortable helps us grow as a person, live in the moment, and remember that we can rely on our ability to solve problems when needed- that all is not lost if things go a bit askew. This is also what I want the kids to learn.