Leaving Puebla we were feeling awesome! Mexico has been amazing so far. Great roads, nice cities, good people and beautiful weather. Sure there's a little soreness from sitting still and driving so often, plus a little discomfort adjusting to the altitude but overall, MUY BUENO!
We got on the road out of Puebla and headed east on HW 150d. We’d been warned that this would be our most dangerous drive yet, which makes sense being that it was definitely the most mountainous one.
It’s important to note that up to this point (from northern central Mexico, down past Mexico City), the toll road conditions have been GREAT. And leaving Puebla was no different. In fact, it was probably the most beautiful drive we’d taken thus far. There was no rain (making it perfectly safe), and the views of the mountains were incredible.
We knew this would be one of our longer drives and that at the end, we would be hopping on our first “non toll road”. You know all those terrible things you’ve heard or read about driving in Mexico (especially on back roads)? Well we read them too and let me tell you, they aren’t good for your nerves. But this is what we signed up for right babe? And this is the first of MANY MANY non-toll roads. AND it’s the last leg of this wonderful drive, how hard can it be? So dirt road here we come!
After taking another great road into Veracruz, we exit HW 145d onto the dreaded back road number 179. It’s just barely after 1pm (we’ve made good time thanks to the good driving conditions) and because we ate a really big breakfast and are supposed to arrive in Catemaco before 2:30/3pm, we think “no problem”. Less than 100 miles to go and then LUNCH.
Now off-roading is fun don't get me wrong… especially on an ATV, dirt bike, or an old beater you’ve had for a while. But this 4Runner of ours is quite literally our home for the next 8 months… And the sizes of these potholes were no joke. And they were EVERYWHERE.
So now we are on one of those “terribly dangerous back roads”, still 75 miles from our destination (it has taken us almost 20 minutes to go less than 5-7 miles), it’s slowly turning into late afternoon, and there are very few other travelers around. We’d speed up, but stopping to change a tire wouldn't really help with the daylight situation. So we take it slow and toward the end, we see two guys holding up a rope with a bright orange vest attached to it, blocking the road. With no one else around...
You know all those REALLY terrible things you’ve heard or read about Mexico. Again, we read them too. So needless to say, Meg’s heart rate began to rise a little (okay maybe a lot). This is the only way out, unless we want to drive ALL the way back and take a 2-hour detour, which would push our arrival time well into the evening. STOP Tyler, STOP. What do we do?
Wait for another car and follow them through, of course! And sure enough, within seconds two taxis come down the road and we get in line. Nearing the men holding the dreadful “rope tope” that we’d so often been warned about, can you guess what happened?
They dropped it, and courteously directed us around a set of even larger potholes than the 1,500 we’d just driven over.
You see… the ropes are also a way for farmers and villagers to tell drivers to slow down so that their family members aren’t injured or killed while trying to repair the streets they live on.
The truth? We were embarrassed. We were also a little upset with ourselves for getting worked up over nothing. All it did was create an elevated stress level that lasted for HOURS after we exited the dirt road and arrived in Catemaco.
So take from this what you wish, but we felt a little ridiculous. Not that we want to discredit the value of caution, of course. Staying safe is still a priority of ours. But enjoying ourselves is another one – and this little (UNEVENTFUL) experience was anything but enjoyable.
Catemaco was really great, so were the beers we had with dinner ;) But I would be lying if I said our experience of Catemcao wasn't affected at least a little bit by the tumultuous drive. One more example of what too little food/water, a long drive and a lot of pot holes can do for your spirit (and your nervous system).
Time to shake of the jitters, learn to laugh at ourselves for getting so worked up, and get back on the road to explore our last stop in this amazing country.
Highways: 150d, 145d, 179, 180d
Miles Driven: 252
Time to Destination: 6.5 hours
Cost in Tolls: 445 pesos/ $25.43 (using a 17.5/$1 conversion rate)
Road Conditions: from really easy to definitely the worst so far ;)