Monday, August 31, 2009

Leaving Mexico City to Veracruz State/Cordoba Aug 30

Melissa Wrote: The Mexicans have a saying “dejaste huella en mi vida” which literally means “You left a mark on my life” but in essence sums up the effect that some people and some experiences have on our lives. This trip has given me a heightened awareness of the reasons why you meet some people, and the effects that their simple kindness and openness can have on you…if you let them. It also has shown both of us the richness that we have in friends made over the years, and how fortunate we all are to be able to pick up those friendships after a long time apart and feel immediate closeness.
We left Mexico City yesterday, nervous about driving out of the city, especially since the GPS was on the fritz and we would have to rely on a map. All good; we got onto the highway and started to cruise. All of a sudden traffic came to a complete stop. Cars ahead were pulled over, hoods up, engines overheated… a mess. I asked a car next to us what the problem was, and he told me that the rains of the past few days had caused a lot of flooding of the highway and the adjacent towns.

 As we inched along, we saw cars leaving the highway via the “on” ramp, exiting into water that was halfway up to the doors. The highway started to show signs of flooding, the bike started to overheat from the stops and starts, and we were getting low on gas. Finally, we decided to exit, also from the next ‘on’ ramp. Some industrious locals were standing on the highway directing traffic and blocking traffic trying to enter so that all of the stranded cars could get off. Best 20 pesos we ever spent!
When we finally exited the road, we drove through a little town that was very flooded, all of the exited cars following each other. You could not see what was under the water, so when we hit a big gully, the bike almost went over. I could just picture us ending up in that dirty, god-knows-what water! Chris, however, did a great job and got us out of there. We got some gas, cooled the bike off, and went through surface roads until we could get back onto the highway. This had set us back a bit, so instead of traveling all the way east to San Cristobal de las Casas, we decided to head for a town called Cordoba, about a 6-hour ride by now, and spend the night.

What a silver lining!! Cordoba, located in the state of Veracruz, is a colonial town where the contract for Mexico’s independence from Spain was signed in 1821. It has a very Spanish feel, with portales, or restaurants and hotels built around the central square, The Plaza de Armas. There is a large, beautiful cathedral right in the middle of the square. We pulled into Cordoba at about 5pm, and since it was Sunday, the church bells were ringing and all of the locals were dressed up to head to Mass. We found a great little hotel, Hotel Bello, dropped off our bags and set out to have a coffee in the square. There was a brass band setting up in front of the City Hall, and lots of well-dressed elderly residents, men in white guayaberas and pants (along with the requisite white shoes) were standing with their well-dressed wives, milling about waiting for the music to start. As soon as Mass let out the party began! The band started playing old classics and the couples started to dance “El Bailon” which is the local dance of Veracruz. It looks like a slower, more formal style of Salsa. We hurried over to watch it. I began to take photos and video, and must have been smiling and clapping and obviously enjoying it, because an elderly man got up from his chair and asked if he could teach me to dance. He looked expectantly at Chris as if to ask permission. So here I was, in my flip flops and shorts, fresh off the motorcycle, doing this local, formal dance with an 82-year old gentleman named Benito. I felt like I had stepped into the Buena Vista Social Club. It was one of those magical moments that only travel and an open heart can bring. When we finished 2 dances, it was time to go. He bowed and shook my hand, and I told him in Spanish “Benito, dejaste huella en mi vida.” The smile on his wizened, sweet face told me he understood!

The night didn’t end there. We had some dinner, and when walking back to the hotel, met 4 guys on motorcycles, 2 GS 1200s, 1 GS800 and a KTM 950 Adventurer. They were from Guanajuato, and had just arrived from San Cristobal de las Casas, en route to home. We began chatting with them and they were friendly, wonderful people, and we had a very enjoyable night with them, having a drink on the square and talking politics, adventure and….of course…motorcycles!