The veterinarian who represented the Agricultural Agency in Mexico said “Welcome to Mexico “as he handed back Capi’s papers. After that we paid a $400 deposit to the Banjercito to guarantee we wouldn’t leave the truck in Mexico, got our passports stamped and drove into Mexico.
We stopped at the Rancho San Nicolas, a campsite in San Cristobal, Chiapas after driving down a steep tortuous one lane road that we took to avoid the windy tortuous one lane road that went through the town. The campsite was like a small park within walking distance from the Centro.
We never got any explanation of the petrified bones decorating the boulevard outside some cabins associated with the campsite. Bill decided they were dinosaur bones.
San Cristobal is a tourist town, with handicraft stores, markets and whole food café’s in the Centro. At the café/yoga center where we had breakfast, the girl at the next table talked about finding a new cashmere sweater on sale at a stall for 90 pesos. We were inspired, but didn’t find the right stall. We gave up on shopping after encountering prices similar to what we would find at home. No bargains for us. Local handicrafts were available from street merchants but we have limited room and too many handicrafts.
Up the hill from the Centro we bought bread, meat and vegetables for dinner from some tiny shops at unbelievably low prices, and then fled back to our campsite.
Next day we drove to a busy lakeside tourist town, Catemaco. We were planning to stay at a jungle campsite and hostel outside of town, but they didn’t take truck campers. We drove back to the Tepetepan Villas and RV Park where we found a different side of Mexico. Snowbirds are no longer driving across the border. Visitors come by air. Located beside a river, the RV park has room for about 20 big RV’s, has cabins and swimming pools and a small common area. The place was deserted. The pool was murky, covered with leaves, with an algae encrusted hose floating in the center. Gene, the owner of the park, sat dejectedly in front of his computer and agreed to rent us a spot. He said he was an American from Chicago and had owned the park for 12 years. He told us that the town was full of North Americans on spring break. He didn’t give us a tour of his facilities, just waved his arms and told us to park anywhere. We were the only campers. There was a pile of garbage scattered from garbage bags, probably left by previous visitors. Nobody had bothered to carry it over to the trash cans. The washrooms were clean, but looked unused. One cabin had a tenant, an American lady who had been living in Mexico and was at the Tepetepan Villas temporarily as she waited for her condo to be finished in California so she could move home. She had chosen the place because it was on a river, but the river was behind a wire fence. She looked like she couldn’t wait to leave.
The river was beautiful, with flocks of white and brightly coloured birds flying past and local people in dug-out canoes washing their clothes and themselves upstream.
From there, we doggedly stayed on the east coast, even though it was Easter weekend and the coast was a popular place to spend a holiday weekend. There were traffic jams and traffic cops on the highways. We were driving to one place that sounded nice but at the speed we were making, we knew we would never make it before dark. Instead we opted to stop early at a pet friendly resort and campsite called Coco Aventura, near Anton Lizardo, near Veracruz. It was early, but the staff were turning people away. Bill talked them into allowing us to camp and we headed down a long windy tree lined road to the beach campsites. As we crested the hill and saw the surf and sand, we stopped. The beach stretched as far as we could see and the shoreline was a solid line of sunbathers, umbrellas and tents. There was no room to park, never mind camp. “Keep going” said Nancy. Bill was already driving for the exit. About ¼ mile up the exit road was a small clearing in a grove of coconut palms. “Stop” said Nancy. An employee of the resort came over and suggested we park in the clearing. It was breezy, cool and the perfect place to string a hammock. Best of all, there was no one else there. Later an employee came by to suggest we move to the beach when the day campers left. We assured him we were happy where we were. The coconuts occasionally fell from the palms with a thud that Capi took to be a threat. The bugs were interesting, and we never did figure out who lived in the large holes under the palms. Presumably they were made by land crabs but we never saw any.
By morning we had agreed that we were tired of sand and garbage and humidity. We headed for Brownsville, Texas. We almost relented at Veracruz. Veracruz is beautiful, but we were on a mission. By mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday, we were across the American border.
The drive to the border was not uneventful. We were surprised by the number of police and military personnel. Although we were not often questioned, there were a lot of checkpoints. At one point we saw a single car accident that had just happened; a car had rolled end over end and landed in a field off the highway. Many people had stopped and some were running towards the car carrying first aid supplies. We kept going for a short distance until we saw a police car. Bill stopped and reported the accident. The police already knew about it, but were not doing anything. Further down the highway we passed a building that appeared to have been damaged by an explosion. Although it looked like it had happened a few days before, the police and military were there.
When we arrived in Texas, we discovered a world of neat, tidy streets . Brownsville is pretty. Our GPS showed only 2 hotels in Brownsville so we elected to go to an RV site. The first place we tried didn’t allow dogs, but we were sent down the road to Paul’s RV Park. As we drove in, a couple of people arrived in a golf cart to greet us. Within minutes more had arrived and we were invited to the Easter Dinner at the rec hall. All we needed to bring was ourselves and a plate and cutlery. We were escorted to our parking spot by an older Veteran in another golf cart. Our spot was adjacent to the home of an elderly lady with an elderly poodle who told us about the violence on the Mexican side of the border and how no one ever went there anymore. Other people walking or riding past advised us not to go to Mexico and were horrified to discover we had just come across the border. The RV park was like a big subdivision and felt like a different world. We greeted people, out of habit, in Spanish. Everybody spoke English. Everybody was well dressed in coordinated outfits. All dogs were leashed and there was a designated dog walk and a butterfly garden. More people stopped by on their golf carts to tell us about the community dinner. Everybody was from somewhere else and most were retired. We used Nancy’s cold and laryngitis as an excuse to duck out of dinner as we dealt with our culture shock in our camper. Like it or not, we were almost home. We slept like babies.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge