Sunday, March 8

Puerto Escondido

For my last official weekend in Mexico, I went to Puerto Escondido with 6 students. Me and 2 others took the first class bus, while the rest took the second class bus, which is much cheaper and faster because it takes an alternate route, but also stops to pick up travelers on the side of the road. All this stopping and starting on windy mountain roads is too much for my motion sickness, so I always take first class, load up on dramamine, and sleep the whole way.

At 3:30 in the morning, when we should have been a little over halfway there, the bus stopped. And stayed stopped. At 4, the bus driver made the announcement that there had been an accident, traffic was blocked going both ways on the highway, and it would be hours before we could move again. A few people got off the bus and stood and chatted on the side of the road with the passengers from the other 20 or so buses that were in the same situation. Eventually they got back on the bus and dozed until it started to get light around 6:30 am.

In the light, we could see masses of people walking, or in the backs of trucks, riding to work in Tehuantepec, the nearest town down the road. We also began to see bus passengers hauling their luggage down the road, climbing in collective taxis when possible. After some discussion, P, A and I decided to try our luck walking down the road, since the driver thought it would be at least 5 or 6 hours before we'd be moving. Two German girls on our bus who spoke no Spanish requested to go along with us. So the 5 of us set off down the road, much to the surprise of the bus drivers and other Mexicans we passed, who obviously thought us 5 gueros would never make it.

After about 15 minutes of walking we happened upon the accident. The gas tanker was on its side spanning the entire road, and the gas was being pumped out. Surprisingly, there was only one ambulance, two tanker trucks waiting to receive the gas, and a few officials standing around. In the US there would have been about 3 fire trucks, 5 ambulances, and a troop of police officers. There was no sign that the wreck would be cleared away any time soon.

On the other side of the tanker, we could see cars taking a dirt road detour through the mountains (it was too narrow for buses). We luckily caught the first taxi we saw, and endured the 20 minute, 5 people crammed into an economy-car-ride to Tehuantepec. The driver, who spoke so quickly and mumbled so badly we could barely understand him, dropped us off on the side of the road on the outskirts of town with the instructions to catch the bus to Salina Cruz. We felt kind of lost, but the bus came right away, and we hopped on and rode it to the end of the line. The fare collector was nice enough to point us in the direction of the bus station, where we bought bus tickets from Salina to Puerto Escondido. And luckily, the bus was just leaving. We finally arrived in Puerto at 2 pm, only 7 hours behind schedule!

It was an interesting adventure. At the time we weren't scared that we were walking through the middle of nowhere, had no idea exactly where we were going or how to get there. We were just annoyed at losing time on the beach. But I feel like now that I've experienced that, I can pretty much survive anything in Mexico.

The beach was totally worth it. It was beautiful, the water was warm and clear, the waves were perfect for body boarding, the food was delicious, the weather was warm and sunny. Puerto was great because, at least at Playa Zicatela where we were, the coastline hasn't been overtaken by giant resorts. Instead, it's lined by cute little hotels, shops and restaurants. You can lie on the beach or on deck chairs (provided you buy food and drinks from the restaurants that own the chairs), and be served margaritas all day. And since it is off-season, it wasn't crowded, just pleasantly populated.

Our ride back, thankfully, was unevenful.

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