The last 10 days are definitely not what we had in mind when we set out to ‘Overland the Americas’. The point of the trip was always about taking our time, if we ever found somewhere we liked stopping for however long we wanted. We didn’t want to be jealous of those people who’d fallen in love with a place and so stayed there for days or weeks – we wanted that freedom.
Unfortunately the reality of money and time had caught up with us. We very much enjoyed that freedom in the USA and Baja – spending 3 weeks learning to Windsurf in Hood River, Oregon being a highlight of our trip which we never planned on. And it’s easy for other overlanders we meet to tell us to take our time through Mexico, make sure we see all the sights. After all our visas are 6 months right? Our visas may be 6 months but our wallets certainly don’t accommodate for that much time travelling! We always had planned to return to the UK in Summer 2019, and had budgeted accordingly. With that in mind we booked our flights to see Mikey’s family in Cuba in October and now the time was fast approaching.
It’s hard to say exactly where the days have gone, and it certainly hasn’t been the glamorous #Vanlife at times so often plastered over instagram. They mostly consisted of getting up early, driving for the bulk of the day, finding somewhere safe & preferably free to camp for the night and then rinse and repeat. The somewhere often ended up being a petrol station! That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed our time – somehow we still haven’t run out of conversation in the car yet! Also we have managed to make time for a few stops along the way: here are some of our highs & lows of the driving;
Getting Spooked on Night 1
Our sights were on higher ground as we docked into the main land of Mexico, and so we quickly drove for 5 hours to get to a campsite we’d found. Although it wasn’t exactly a campsite – it was a small architectural site where the family lived on sight. We settled in, met the father who was also a local police officer. After cooking he liked to ask a lot of questions, especially around the van. How much was it? What did you spend on it? Who’s phone is that? They sound innocent enough in hindsight but we both agreed we’d follow our gut on this trip, and when Annie caught him staring at us multiple times from the shadows we were uncomfortable enough to run away! We drove to the nearest Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos – the nationalised petrol company) and asked to camp for the night. We’d been officially spooked!
Making Time for a Pueblo Magico
On our second day we visited the small, magical town of Tequila. It was one we felt we had to go to, as we’ve been enjoying the drink since we were introduced to the real stuff by Raul! It’s one of a few Pueblo Magicos – Magical Towns which receive funding to enhance tourism. It certainly lived up to expectations – we did a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery which is the oldest in Mexico and realised they in fact do make some nice tequila! Unfortunately they admitted to making the rubbish we drink in the UK, but hastened to tell us none of the locals touch the stuff! We also were lucky enough to see the flying men, although we wish we could offer a greater description & history of why they do what hey do but… well… we can’t. It looked good though!
The Biggest Pyramid in the World
Forget the Pyramids of Egypt – if you’re looking for the biggest pyramids look no further than Mexico! What looks like a simple hill from far away turns out to be a huge ancient structure, with underground tunnels and a few jutting out features.The Great Pyramid of Cholula isn’t quite as grand to look at as others around the world, but we still thought the fact it was the largest warranted us a stop there to see it for ourselves. We wandered through the tunnels which were impressive – however without a guide lacked a little context! We’re hoping to see some more complete ones along our way in the state of Yucatan.
Being Shaken Down by a Crooked Cop
Well it was bound to happen right? It was actually a pretty funny experience, luckily we weren’t caught off guard and so could handle it relatively well. The big acting sequence went a little like this; we were pulled over by a Federal Police Officer standing by his car. He came to the window, shook Mikey’s hand (who was driving) and asked if we spoke any Spanish. We lied and basically said we spoke none, as we’d heard the best way out of these situations is to play dumb and burn the officers patience. So he told us we’d been doing 100 in a 60 zone (all in Spanish) while we pretended not to understand a word he was saying. Truthfully, the temptation to admit we could understand him and argue was so big, as there was a 90kph sign about 100m down the road and we know we were doing 80. Regardless he took our documents and then went to his car for ages.
He then beckoned Mikey over and said we can either pay now or later at the bank (suddenly switching to English). Mikey went on about how the dash cam records the speed and we’d pay the fine in the bank so we could argue it all in English. The officer double checked we wanted a ticket and we’d go to the bank so Mikey agreed. He then started writing the ticket – by filling in only the date. At which point he handed Mikey back his license and vehicle documents and said we should be on our way – not before shaking his hand! It was like some kind of drama school exercise, where each party knew what the other was doing but neither could say it out loud. Either way we carried on with our pride intact and our wallets full.
Hitting Breaking Point and Booking a Hotel
This was actually the same day as the police incident – we headed to a lovely beach we’d found to camp on but upon opening the doors about 6 mosquitos entered the van. Fine, we thought, we’d head to the next petrol station and set up camp there. We arrived, filled up and asked to camp and were granted permission so began to cook. By now dusk was just starting, and while the food was simmering away the light disappeared. Then within about 4 to 5 minutes about 50 mosquitos entered the van like a cloud descending to where we were. We realised there would be no sleeping in this so ran around each other like headless chickens trying to put the cooking equipment away. We temporarily gave everything a home, and drove through the night to a hotel with secure parking and relatively cheap rooms (£20). When we arrived we assessed the damage and Annie did not fare well. We have no regrets or shame about staying in a hotel that night!
So where are we now? We’re writing this at mile marker 1,628. Having done an extra 2 hours almost every day With only c.400 miles to go we feel like we’ve achieved a lot in the last 10 days and are (touch wood) eternally grateful for no breakdowns. We decided to take an extra day in the hotel to rest up before the last leg of our journey – only 8 hours left to go! We plan on going through Valladolid to see some famous ruins and take a dip in the Cenotes – underground swimming holes. Then on to Cuba and a family Reunion!