The spell of routine was cast upon us once again, we become so comfortable with our surroundings that all of a sudden we didn’t find it amusing, anymore. The rainy season: we heard about it, we talked about it, but at the end missed it slowly approaching, sneaking up on us while we were sitting in Valemont making ice out in the front yard at minus thirty degrees Celsius. It was the 28th March that the plane which brought us back home, flew from the rugged mountainous central Oaxaca to the beautiful Puerto Coast.
It made a few turns up and down Puerto giving us a little glimpse of the town and the surrounding rural area, making me for a few minutes wonder what it was that I missed so badly while sitting in Canada, rugging up, and drinking endless cups of tea. April was a busy month. We drove north and south, revisited little and big towns, enjoying every minute, realizing why it is that Mexico has such a big charm for me, we drove 12 hours, which didn’t just take us 600 KM north east but it took me five hundred years back, and there we were in Puebla de los Angeles. As bustling and modern as you expect the 4th more populous city in Mexico to be, yet holding on to the culture that made it flourish. The beautiful colonial buildings of which I never seem to get enough of, the old men selling burning laser pointer, and fairy floss, and the ones that go around playing some ancient instrument and peddling for money. The big avenues and the city traffic can get on anybody’s nerves, but to me it only adds to its identity, to the flavour of Mexico; the drivers that for no apparent reason have the hazard lights on constantly, the ones that beep half a second after the lights change, or the ones that beep you, out of the way, when clearly that is not where you, or anyone for that matter could go.
It’s that madness that makes me feel that I’m alive and living the dream of my childhood. A Dream which can just as easy become a nightmare. After 12 hours of sweating in the car, we were all ready to have something to eat, have a nice shower and just hit the sack, a wish that at this point didn’t seem unattainable. I was feeling confident, I had a map in my hand and I more or less remembered the city from our previous visit, I told the driver to just follow signs to Centro, and once we were there I will know where to go. We hit the Centro and exactly as last time, for no apparent reason few roads were closed. I saw a street name, which from the way I was holding the map seem to join the road that was going to take us to our hotel, yes follow this road; we did follow it until we realized something went wrong, because we were in a poorly lit street, which both Dale and I were convinced we had never seen before. Just keep going, something will come up that will trigger my memory. Not “lets stop, figure it out and then keep going”.
We turned the map a couple of times, checked for street names and kept driving, it still made no sense. Finally it was time for one of our back passengers to take a turn, been a male and priding himself in never getting lost he seemed a good option, and so he tried, but he will give directions and I will start interfering no no, I don’t think you can do that, Or there we go, that’s one way, they should have taped my lips, before we knew it we were back in the Centro, the same street where we started. By now the driver and the rest of the passengers were hungry and decided to go and find a taco stand. I stayed in the car, took the map out again, turned it a couple of times, analysed for a while , and then fifteen minutes later it dawned on me, the street we were on was going on the opposite direction to where we needed to go, and finally I figured out a plan on how to get to the hotel. I was quite happy with myself, although Dale still had his doubts, so off we went.
We managed to keep on track, even though there were plenty of closed roads and one ways that forced me to redesign my plan every couple of blocks. We managed to get out of the Centro and came close to our hotel, but couldn’t figure out how to get to the last street we needed. We stopped checked the map, felt a bit lost again, trying to look at the street name, the map and driving all at the same time so he missed the obvious red light in front of us, as we drove through I saw the transit police on the street to our right and heard the siren going off a second later. My heart sunk, this was the last thing we needed. Stories of briberies and police abuses in Mexico came flying to my head, which was brought to an abrupt end when the policeman appeared in our window, “Buenas Noches, what happened back there? It flashed pointer laser, it went red and you kept going.” I put my sweetest smile, ay I’m so sorry, we are so lost, we were looking at the map trying to figure out where to go and completely missed the light. “Ah where are you going?” I said “To the Pan-American on Reforma”. We had been lost for such a long time, so he started to explain to me how to get to our hotel, we were a block away, then he said, show me your driver’s license and your rego and I’ll let you off with a warning, and he did.
A few minutes later we were checking in to our hotel, which for a second felt as good as arriving in paradise. Refreshed by our beauty sleep we woke up renewed, and at least I was ready to contend with the city madness again. So I dragged the whole Cameron family on my adventure, going to the mall, we had coffee in Starbucks (which was our best option and the first one we came across in Mexico which actually had soy milk), we enjoyed our coffees until smoke came tingling under our nose, I can’t believe people here can smoke in closed spaces, so we left. The weekend went by without much excitement, until Sunday morning we slept in, woke up so late that just manage to have a shower and left in hurry for the assembly, we didn’t even manage to get coffee and
we could all feel withdrawal symptoms. We were having breakfast in the car park of the assembly hall, when a Mexican brother walked pass and said hello, and mi suegra asked: if you find coffee let us know. I refused to believe that he would find any kind of coffee in the streets of a sleepy town in the outskirts of Puebla. Ten minutes later he was back and told us he found coffee a hundred metres down the road. As desperate for caffeine as we were, we got on our way. When we came across an improvised stall at the front of someone’s house, this can’t be it, can it? It had a sign offering Cafe de Olla, and Dale confirmed, we had walked about 100 metres so that was it, we approached the stall and asked for coffee, as she poured the coffee on my cup I had my worst fears confirmed.
Mexicans like the idea of drinking coffee, but they don’t actually enjoy the taste, and with the copious amounts of sugar they consume, who needs caffeine anyway. I was pretty desperate, so I asked if it was possible to make the coffee a little stronger, sure, came the answer and she send her daughter to get the instant coffee for me. I put in a spoonful but it was still pretty hopeless… Places to Sleep Hotel Panamerican Avenida Reforma We first found this hotel in 2008, it was our first time in Puebla and we arrived in the middle of some big festival so getting a room was a bit of a mission. We found this hotel and we loved it. Why I love it: big rooms and bathroom, very clean, they had indoor parking, swimming pool, internet and close to restaurants, and cheap for puebla. Why I ‘hate’ it: its 20 min from the Centro which is a bit of a walk. The staff wasn’t overly friendly and the wifi not alway reliable. You can book it here via Trip Advisor, but they dont display the rates (which was 450pesos per night in 2010 when we were there).