Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Day: Crossing the Isthmus

February 14, 2009 – At dinner I asked the kids what each would write about today. Kim begins recounting the tumble she took stepping out of the van this morning. By this point in we have each stepped out of the van hundreds, if not thousands, of times; yet somehow Kim took a twisting fall this morning bruising her foot. Soothing her with an overdose of maternal attention, I quietly think how fortunate we are not to have any more serious injuries. Just the day before, Will caught a forceful Pacific wave bodysurfing headon into my backside as I plunged playfully backwards in the foam. The whole ocean and slam: we collide! His neck still aches and I thank God to be spared a worse case scenerio from that incident.

Ever practical Will responds, “I would have to first catch up,” admitting he hasn’t written in his journal for four days since Mexico City. Otherwise, he notes honestly its been a long, hot drive and not much else. For seven hours we drove, mostly in blessed silence, first along the rugged, remote and extremely windy mountainous Pacific coast before turning inland for 125 miles across the Isthmus, at the narrowest part of Mexico, to the Carribbean Sea.

Our day began, as most begin, with a two steaming cups of coffee for Dave and me, the kids helping themselves to cereal. We’ve been camping for three days under the coconut palms in Fernandos campground across from the funky Zepolite Playa. For 150 pesos per night (about $11), Fernando’s offers little more than a fenced-in field with some very rudimentary of facilties: a cold outdoor shower surrounded by palm thatch for privacy and toilets flushed by pouring a bucket of water into the pot. So, you might ask, what’s the draw?

Zepolite Playa is a two mile cove of white sand beach with killer wave action tucked among the craggy jungle of the remote and nearly impenatrable Sierra Madre Sur mountain range. This beautiful beach is lined with wild and crazy thatched roof establishments, none too polished and a few bearly standing, selling cheap food, beverages and logding. For the three days we based ourselves near the hammocks and pink loung chairs at family-run Lolas Restaurant & Bar, a laid-back, joint seemingly still under construction at the far end of the playa. With cervezas for a dollar, fish dinners for four bucks and awesome sunsets it was difficult to leave.

Alas, all good things must end, and so, like clockwork after breakfast. we readied Philomena for the road, packing, piling, tucking and compressing our assortment of stuff into her various nooks and crannies. We caught a concerned glimpse from our neighbor, a kindly retired teacher from Quebec, when Philomena whined and strained as Dave attempted to start her. Eventually, the engine fired up and away we went, me in the back with Kim and Will riding “jump” up front.

The first 120 miles, winding along the steamy hot, undeveloped Pacific Coast, I feel a persistant wave of subtle nausea. Blocking the sun from the rear windows , I passed the time giving Kim a cranial massage. Eventually she suggested we listen to Mama Mia on her Ipod and soon we’re singing and swinging in the back seat to1980’s Abba tunes. The next thing we know, Dave is pulling over at a military check point as armed men motion to search the van. When they slide open the back, they say “Su, familia;” I offer them each a granola bar; and they make token gestures to poke through our homeschool box and cooler. This is the first time we’ve actually been stopped at a check-point.

After more than three months driving in Mexico many sights now feel normal to us: fires burning roadside grasses; tethered donkeys; women selling corn, tortillas, and fruit; trucks passing three abreast; men welding huge machets; truckbeds choked full of people; long-horned cows meandering solo; cracked potholes and washed-away roadbeds; cowboys on horseback.. A highlight today was a colorful tucan flying in front of the van. I’m going to miss Mexico when we are back in the United States in three weeks or so.

Across the Isthmus, we land in the unknown (to us) city of Acayuncan and find a room for $35 USD at the Hotel Aros del Parque. For another $20 we enjoy a very tasty Valentines Day meal for four, complete with red table clothes and white napkins. Across the street, locals are out in the main Plaza enjoying the warm evening and celebrating love with food, music and a huge commmunity gathering.


mwittke said...

Sue, you took me to Mexico for a minute. Now I'm back in UT, looking at the sunny, cold, white day out my window. Your view sounds hot, colorful, and risky (i.e. Kim's foot and armed soldiers at check points.) I loved visiting for a moment. Thanks, Mary

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful description of your current life in Mexico! Like Mary, I felt like I'd been taken there - I could almost smell the truckloads of fruit and see the tethered donkeys!
When I talked with Carrie this a.m., she was really sounding excited about her reunion with all of you, as I am - in April or May.
Much love, Mom/El/Grandma

Andrea said...

Great post! Thanks for reminding us frozen and totally jealous people of how much nicer it is in other places! I have been looking for an RV on eBay, but I haven't been able to afford one yet, and my husband is really not sure what to do with me! I think I have Central Americanitis!

Take care,

Anonymous said...

A toucan you say? Sigh. I'd love to see one of those in the wild. Thanks for the mini-vacation on a rather dreary Monday! --Lori O.