La Ruta Maya – Day 3

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Day 3: Tampico, Mexico to Veracruz, Mexico

Day three began early for us. The morning started with a hotel parking lot oil change for Camel. It had been over 3,500 miles since it’s last oil change, and if it waited until we got back to the states, this batch of oil and filter would have close to 8,000 miles on it.

Tracy woke up feeling a bit under the weather. Perhaps it was nerves, or maybe the fact that she had accidentally washed her mouth out in the shower with a bit of water the night before and was feeling nauseous when she woke up. Three tablets of Pepto and a trip to worship the porcelain god and she was right as rain.

Stuart’s sister and co-pilot parted company with us to spend the week with some friends who lived in Tampico. One of these friends, a local named Bruno, arrived at the hotel and guided us out of town. It was a good thing he led us out- the convoluted route out of the city was compounded by rush hour traffic. Without his help, we may not have been able to make it out of town as a group.

I can’t begin to express how helpful radio communication is on expeditions. Whether you use CB, FRS or Ham radios, their vital communication pervented us from leaving someone behind to wander for all eternity through Mexico. On the trail it’s helpful to keep everyone it touch and aware of what’s going on. On expedition, it’s an essential. We used it to communicate when the group got separated at lights, what turns to make and even to help synchronize fuel stops.

One of the most interesting sights of the day had to have been the bathroom at one of our fuel stops. Perhaps they took the term “hole-in-the-wall” a bit too literally, as that’s all the men’s facilities consisted of.

For lunch we stopped at Tajin, an Indian ruin (not Mayan). It was pretty much a tourist stop where the main focus was on the local performers who do a pole descent hanging upside down and spinning. As the pole spins around, it lets out more rope eventually lowering the performers to the ground. Evidentally this type of performance is somewhat popular in parts of Mexico, and most of the good pole dancers come from Tajin. There were lots of locals with booths selling all kinds of souvenirs and foods. Likewise there were hordes of kids following us around every corner holding out water bottles and vanilla for sale. The area around Tajin is reknowned for its vanilla.

After the lunch stop, we bid farewell to Antonio and Elena as they were continuing on to stay with family in Mexico. We pulled out of Tajin; the group now down to nine vehicles.

After paralleling the coastline all day, we finally had a chance to see the ocean and some stretches of beach. The scenic area, known as La Costa Esmeralda, was at one time volcanically active and the landscape is dotted with dormant volcanoes covered with dense jungle. The combination of volcanoes and tropical forest makes for truly breathtaking scenery that reminded Tracy of her home in Hawaii.
We arrived in Veracruz just before dark and somehow crammed all nine vehicles into their secure parking garage. Most fit in without too much trouble, but the two tallest vehicles, White Rover (Ben and Pat Bibb) and Camel, barely fit. In order for Camel to make it into the garage, the roof mounted jerry cans dug into the ceiling at one point leaving two deep gouge marks in the plaster facade.

Hotel Colonial is a very nice modern hotel located on the Veracruz main plaza. We walked out the front doors of the hotel to be greeted with the sight of mariachi bands seranading diners at the restaurants surrounding the plaza. Although it seemed like a hodge-podge of music with every restaraunt’s band trying to outplay the others, it was quite remarkable. Amazingly, despite all of the noise out in the plaza, the hotel rooms were completely silent and we fell right to sleep. A good thing too, tomorrow is going to be another long day on the road.

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