Guess what finally showed up in San Cristobal? One of my packages!
With some of the spare time I had in San Cristobal, I decided to take photos of some of the great street art and graffiti. It’s very popular in San Cristobal, and it’s more original than most other places that I’ve seen.
I’m still waiting on another package in Mexico City with a new front brake rotor, but the package is still in limbo with Mexican customs, so I have some more time to burn until it arrives. I decided to head to the beaches of Oaxaca after hearing great things about them from everyone in San Cristobal. I don’t want to take a bus – it’s expensive, long, and uncomfortable, so I decide to hitchhike there. A couple of guys I’ve met in San Cristobal decide to join me, but the morning we are supposed to leave, they both back out, so I’m hitching solo.
I’ve never hitched before, but get some good advice from the folks at Hostel Ruca Che in San Cristobal – stay near the Cuota (toll) roads, make sure you have space in front of and behind you so people driving can see you and have enough time to stop, and a great place to grab a ride is at a toll booth. I take all of these things into consideration and head out of town to the cuota road that heads west towards the state of Oaxaca.
My first ride is with a middle aged man from Veracruz. He’s heading home to family after spending a week in Chiapas for work, and we swap stories of traveling and he tells me about his family. He also offers to drive me to his place in Veracruz, but I decline because I want to get to the beaches in Oaxaca. After a 3 hour ride, he drops me off at the intersection of some cuota roads. My next 3 rides are short – less than 15 minutes each, but every one is interesting. A car full of girls drives by, screams, slams on their brakes, and reverses back to where I’m standing. A husband and wife pick me up with their 6 year old daughter in the back seat, who is sitting there with her birthday cake on the way to their family party. The next ride is from an old Mexican couple in a huge pickup truck.
After getting dropped off by the old couple, I walk through a small Mexican town so that I can be at the edge of town heading towards Oaxaca. I’m not having any luck getting a ride, and the sun is blazing down on me as it’s the middle of the afternoon. A few taxi drivers are relaxing and hanging out in the shade near a restaurant and call me over. I chat with them for a while, smoke cigarettes, tell stories, and one of the guys offers to drive me for free to the next major town where it will be easier for me to catch a ride. Great!
The next ride I get is from a 80s American-music loving trucker, on a long distance haul from southern Mexico to northern Mexico. He’s playing songs that I haven’t heard since the easy-listening station at the orthodontist office. But, we get along well and chat as much as we can. We drive through miles and miles of wind farms, and he drops me off in the middle of them at an intersection. The sun is setting, the wind is blowing hard, and it’s starting to get cold. There’s nothing around except windmills and 1 Pemex gas station. I realize there’s no way I’m going to get a ride after dark, and I’ve got a splitting headache from sitting & standing in the sun all day long. I decide to sleep at the Pemex, next to the building and protected from the brutal wind.
It’s a long night, but I manage to sleep decently well after the security guard at the gas station tucked me in on the cement ground with his blanket. In the morning, he also offers to show me the right bus to take into the closest town of Salina Cruz. Salina Cruz is a major industrial port in Mexico, and it has bus routes to the beaches in Oaxaca. I get there early in the morning and check out my options – no busses are available until 5pm, and it’s 8am. I’m not opposed to taking a bus at this point, as I’m still tired and feeling sick from the previous day of hitching. But, not wanting to wait all day in Salina Cruz to arrive at the beaches past dark, I say “screw it” and start walking towards the edge of town to look for a ride.
A truck stops after 5 minutes and offers me a ride. There’s 3 guys in the cab, and one of them speaks English after living in LA for 3 years, so I hop into the back and settle down for a long ride. They’re heading to the beach as well and can take me most of the way. Score! But, my gut is telling me something… there’s something I don’t trust about these guys. This is confirmed at our first stop for something to drink, when they ask me to open my bag and show them what’s inside. I ask them why, and tell them I’m not carrying anything illegal like firearms or drugs. They nod their head but insist on seeing inside my bag. I open it up to show them the surface, and close it shortly thereafter. We get back into the truck and continue on the way, but now my gut is SCREAMING to me that something is not right. These guys may be small, but there’s 3 of them, and they could have a weapon, or they could call ahead to their friends and jump me whenever they want. So I take the matter into my own hands and hop out of the back of the truck at the next set of topes (speedbumps). They don’t notice, as they continued on driving without me. But I’m glad I listened to my gut, because if something did happen, I would have beaten myself up over it. On this trip, I’ve learned to listen to my stomach and follow my instincts, and I have had a pretty uneventful travel for the last 6 months (which is a good thing).
It’s not long until I’m able to hitch another ride. 3 hours in the back of another truck, and I see a sign for “Puerto Angel”, which I recall being a beach that Eric and Sabrina highly recommended to me after they spent time there. I jump out of the truck and into a shared-fare taxi with 5 other people. Rolling into Puerto Angel around noon, I find a nice hotel, negotiate the price down to something I’m comfortable with, unpack my bag, and go jump into the water. It’s the best feeling in the world after being without a place to lay my head the last 2 days, and I decide to spend a good amount of time in Puerto Angel relaxing, recuperating, and hanging out with Mexican and American expats. Puerto Angel is a small fishing village with minimal tourist infrastructure, but I’ve got a beach, a cheap place to stay, internet, and some new friends with a car
I’ve finally realized something after traveling for the last 6 months – my focus has moved from an “adventure motorcycle trip” into learning to live my life on the road, with the motorcycle now being my biggest hobby/love while I truly live abroad. I’ve been without motorcycle for the last 2 months, and the 5 weeks before that, I was living full-time in Guadalajara. So almost 3 months not making any progress on my way South, completing one of my original trip goals. And that doesn’t bother me, at all. Of course I miss my bike, Oscar. I dream of it regularly, and take every chance I can to talk about motorcycles with locals and other travelers. But at this point, the motorcycle is just my preferred method of transportation. I’ve ridden buses, hitchhiked, taken taxis, shared vans and boats, most everything. And while nothing compares to the freedom, spontaneity, and excitement of being on a motorcycle, my trip is now much less about the riding and more about the people I meet.
You can reach any restaurant in a city, see any site hundreds of miles from the city, visit anything that sparks your interest IN THE WORLD, all without the barrier of finding transportation and paying for it. And what’s more fun than making a new friend and taking them along with you? I’ve had a great time sightseeing around cities with a local sitting behind me, giving directions, pointing out the interesting things, and making the experience that much richer. You also get that experience hitchiking, albeit differently. Not so much on a long-distance bus, in my experience, which is one of the reasons I don’t like buses (in addition to not fitting on them, physically).