Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The road less traveled

When you take the road less traveled you can't expect it to be all smooth sailing!

The day started out well. I found a good coffee shop (Cafelix) for breakfast and a decent latte.

I realize it's the low season, but apart from the touristy galleries Todos Santos seemed somewhat forlorn - empty lots and falling down buildings. Hardly the pueblo magico they advertise. Not even many historical buildings from what I saw. And it's not on the water. It does have the ritzy looking Hotel California that claims to be the inspiration for the Eagles song.

From Todos Santos I was taking the bus to Mulege, north of Loreto. I'd already traveled this stretch so I figured it would be straightforward. The bus was a half hour late and for the first time it was an older bus. Half the seats were broken. I ended up in the very back where the air conditioning didn't reach and the sun was beating on the window. Of course, I'd been prepared to freeze so I had long pants on for the first time in weeks. Oh well, a little sweating never hurt anyone.

When we got to La Paz we went to a maintenance yard instead of the terminal. We sat there for a while and then they kicked us all off the bus. We stood around for a while longer, sweating some more, until another bus came, this time one of the usual new ones. We settled into the blasting air conditioning, but a few minutes later when we reached the bus terminal, they kicked us all off the bus again.

This kind of thing can be confusing enough at the best of times, but when you don't speak the language and can't ask what's going on it's even worse. You definitely have to learn to take things as they come.

I was a little concerned that because we were late I might have missed some connection. But I took the chance to use the washroom (always good to go when you can in this kind of travel) and stood around for a while to see what would happen. Before too long a bus pulled in and there was a garbled announcement that I think included towns on my route. I double checked with the bus driver as I got on (another good idea).

It turned out to be the original aging bus! At least this time it wasn't full and I was in the middle with a functional seat. Here, the aging A/C was a good thing because it wasn't freezing. The temperature was actually just right.

After that the trip went more smoothly until we arrived at Mulege. I wasn't sure I'd recognize it so I was watching for signs. I'd just seen a sign saying "Mulege" and we pulled into a truck stop. Some of the stops are brief so I grabbed my pack and started getting off. Two girls beside me stopped me and said "no" (at least that was the only part I understood). I thought they figured I was going further like everyone else so I said "Mulege?" and they shrugged. I got off and started looking for a taxi. But the truck stop was in the middle of nowhere - I couldn't even see where town was. I asked at the store about a taxi and they said no. Hmmm. They also said something about pueblo - town. I started to wonder if I this was the right stop. Luckily, the bus was still there - it was obviously the supper stop. I garbled some Spanglish with some of the other passengers and figured out that Mulege itself was another five minutes down the road. Thank goodness the bus hadn't left already. I waited for everyone to have supper and rode the bus to town. This time I actually recognized the town. (Shelley and I had visited a few years ago.)

But ... no taxis. Originally I had planned to walk the mile to the B&B I had booked. But it was now 9:30 and dark. I asked around about taxis and got sent here and there with no luck. 9:30 doesn't sound that late but with few street lights and all the shops and restaurants closed it was a little spooky. I decided to walk but I wasn't sure which way to head out of town. I asked a young guy who was just closing up the last shop. He wasn't sure but he thought he knew which way to go and said he'd give me a ride. Accepting a ride at night from a stranger in Mexico made me a little nervous but I had approached him and he was working at a shop.

We drove down the highway and turned into one place. It didn't quite match my directions but I couldn't explain that very well. We stopped at a house and they directed us 3 miles down the road. Again, that didn't match my directions, but off we went. Of course we didn't find it. By this time I think my driver was starting to regret ever offering me a ride!

I gave up and we headed back to town. I'd have to find somewhere different to stay. But then on the way back we spotted the sign we were looking for. We drove in but couldn't find the B&B. We spotted a lady in her yard and she spoke English and gave me directions which I totally failed to translate into Spanish. Thank goodness we then ran into a security guard who jumped in the back of the truck and guided us there. He even woke up the owner to confirm I was ok. By this point no one really believed this crazy gringo knew where he was going.

It was a huge relief to get there finally. It was a nice place and a nice room with air conditioning even. Still, after all the stress it took me a while to get to sleep.

This kind of thing is both the positive and the negative of this kind of travel. It's stressful at the time but it also exposes you to people and situations you'd never otherwise experience. It doesn't hurt to leave the comfort zone occasionally.


  1. Yikes! Glad you didn't get stabbed! Damn crazy gringos!

  2. Hey, did you take a picture of the Hotel California?? That would be cool.