Between the past and the present: 19-22 October
We are still far away from the border but we feel we are getting closer. The easiest (fastest) way would have been to continue on the Pacific coast to Guatemala. As we weren’t in a hurry we decided to head north first, entering the old Mayan empire territory.
We still have to ride for a while to get there. On some paved roads…
…and on others less paved
And the only constant is the temperature…. a high temperature. No wonder everyone is trying to cool off the best they can. And at noon, it is siesta time…
We manage to refrain ourselves from turning right on one of those small roads that seem to lead on a deserted beach. Maybe we should have done it, we weren’t in a hurry. We get on top of a hill and we can see in the distance endless beaches tucked in between thick vegetation and the blue waters of the ocean.
We admire the ocean one last time (in Mexico) and head to the green mountains. We are developing a new traveling rhythm but we still have to learn how to properly relax. This time we avoided the beaches because we had no cash and decided to look for an ATM first. Ah, what a “pragmatic” excuse. We have no time to regret the beaches left behind though as we get to enjoy the beauty ahead.
And the road wants to keep up with the scenery as well. Good pavement, well marked, going up in the mountains. Sometimes having a tall vegetation green wall on both sides and sometimes steep cliffs on one side.
We are then reminded that human footprint on the lands is not always a positive one.
Garbage has a strong impact in these places where nature has so much to offer. But who is to blame? People from here who produce trash and throw it in the nature or maybe the companies that commercially invaded their lives, selling them things they didn’t need, without offering them an efficient method to get rid of the trash? It’s an endless debate but a real problem that should be looked into from both sides.
And ironic enough, just a few meters down the road, we see the government solution for the situation: “Let’s scare them with big fines”!
So if you throw away trash you get fined, a 90 minimum salaries fee. That’s great, but I seriously doubt that this is really enforced or that it could be enforced for that matter (who would have here the actual money to pay such a fine?) And if they are not affected by it, they don’t really care about it.
These people live a harsh life, from another time, somehow forgotten by the new “always on the run” society living in the “civilized” cities. So it might be easy to judge but it might be rush and even useless.
There are no supermarkets here. There are no malls or other useful places where you can buy the “strict necessities” in life. But you can buy boiled or fried corn, right from the side of the road.
And how about walking all day long carrying with your head a load sometimes equal with your own weight? Would you still be willing to go to the next trash bin to throw our garbage?
Oh… and I forgot to mention, the nearest trash bin is… uhmm probably miles away!
We reach the village, more than 2600 meters altitude and we have a look around.
There are no big commercial establishments but this doesn’t mean that there is no capitalist life of unstoppable consumerism. Of course this Mayan descendants need Coca Cola on a daily basis as well as many other plastic wrapped products. Plastic that ends up on the streets where ironically puddles mirror the beautiful traditional costumes worn by girls and ladies.
And even here, in the isolated village, one can connect to the wonders of internet. We wouldn’t want a day to pass without Facebook (and yes, that’s self irony).
But people adapt to always changing reality, combining -sometimes in a pleasant, sometimes in a weird manner- the traditional past with present of jeans and printed T-shirts.
Most of the people wave back as we wave them. But some are not shy to show their despise towards (what they think) we represent. If only it would be just that -a calculated and conscious response- and not just a lack of good education and lots of stupidity…
But who knows? We continue onwards through people animals and corn fields.
Bare feet on a roll of barbwire. When us, the grownups, forget, children can remind us, even just symbolically, that we can and we should overcome artificial barriers. We don’t know who this girl is but we will take this image with us…
The last place in Mexico we wanted to stop for a while was Palenque, an old Mayan city, now an archaeological site that can be visited. The narrow road winds its way restlessly, descending from the mountains and getting deeper and deeper into the jungle. Vegetation changes again.
And as we were riding and enjoying the views we were forced to sudden stop. In front of us a group of people was blocking the road. Some people were skillfully manipulating 2 wooden boards with nails that they were putting in the middle of the street. You had to stop, and then other gentlemen were approaching you and telling things and asking for money. I evaluate the situation and realize that the good thing is we are not alone on the road. There is a full bus in front of us, also stopped. And on the other side two cars are greeted the same way.
Still…. I don’t feel at ease. This is not right… Andreea becomes all quiet in the back. One of the “gentlemen” approaches us. He is holding a jar and asking for money. He is speaking pretty fast so I don’t really understand what he is asking money for. But I decide I don’t want to give him anything and I tell him that in Romanian. He doesn’t hear neither Spanish nor English so he gets confused but repeats his request one more time but less convinced. I repeat in Romanian that I don’t understand what he is saying, I am from Romania, I don’t know Spanish nor English and I don’t want to give him any money. Of course the man only hears some nonsense words and decides we are good to go. He leaves puzzled. The bus in front is allowed to pass and I try to take this opportunity when there is no board with nails on the road to cross also. It’s not working. The wooden board is pushed back on the road and I have to break fast. The guy manipulating the board seems starts to talk with your guy and luckily they decide that we are nice guys and we should be allowed to pass. We speed up and few meters away everything seems to go back to normal.
We are quiet, thinking about what happened. Definitely these people weren’t the “bad guys” from Mexico we were warned about. They were probably some people in the village in big trouble and needing some help. The wooden board with nails was just a brutal way of convincing the people always in a hurry to stop and listen to their problems. And help them with some money, of course. Maybe we got scared and we weren’t supposed to. These kind of actions are not rare in Mexico. Something similar happened to us in Oaxaca. Just that there were no nails on the road over there, just a human shield. The feeling of insecurity stays with us for a while. I guess you cannot feel otherwise when you are stopped by men with macetas, using boards with nails. A brand new VW Golf 5 driven by the man in a suit passed us. For sure he was stopped just like us. Now he was talking on the phone, relaxed. Nothing out of ordinary for him. What a difference. I keep thinking what would have been the reaction if something like this would have happened in Europe. Call the police, hand out fines, tv news crew, everything. Here, just another day. It was OK that we weren’t alone. We thank God we are alive and continue our journey to Palenque. We avoid the city and find a place to sleep in the jungle, in a bungalow, close to the Mayan ruins. There is an unbelievable noise outside, there are lots of birds and animals hidden in the dense vegetation. Like in a movies I was watching as a kid.
I park the motorcycle in the howling of the monkeys and call an end to a too long day.
We go to bed after Andreea gets rid of a big spider hanging above our bed. Hmmm I thought we are sleeping in a bungalow and not in a hammock so that we could avoid such “creatures”. Never mind, all is good! The sleep comes with the the rain drops and a question: Will we exit Mexico tomorrow?
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Next time we try to exit Mexico and we find out that it is not that easy. Stay tuned!