Day 4: Veracruz, Mexico to Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico
The group woke early and met up at 7am to try to get on the road as quickly as possible. The role of navigator/group leader has been rotating daily from vehicle to vehicle, and today it is Camel’s turn. We got through the morning with only 2 minor wrong turns. Wrong turns because we didn’t make them but we saw them and told the next car that was the turn they wanted to take. That’s the way you have to lead sometimes when you don’t know the area and can only understand half the signs.
Today was marked by having a huge number of miltary checkpoints and toll boths. When all was said and done we ended up spending about $35 US per vehicle for tolls. Some people in the group were a bit upset about spending such a large amount on tolls, especially since the most recent information said it would be less than $20 per vehicle. In hindsight it was probably a wise investment since we were able to safely travel at speeds in excess of 60 mph on well paved four lane highways. The alternative route was a winding two lane road where speeds sometimes slow down to 15 mph when stuck behind slow moving trucks. I’d guess we shaved at least 3 hours off the trip time by taking the toll roads.
One of the interesting things was that all of the checkpoints and toll booths are populated by armed soldiers, usually with machine guns and/or assault rifles. Also at either end of the checkpoints are tire spikes that can be pulled out across the road at a moments notice. We wondered how often they had to use that stuff.
We stopped in Minatitlan for lunch. The locals directed us to a carnitas (literally translates as: little meats) but some of us opted to go across the street to a panateria located in an air conditioned mall. Suprisingly inside the mall they had a new car for sale from a local car dealership. The suprising bit was that it was a newly made “old-style” Volkswagen Beetle. It even still had the seat plastic and new tire “nubs” on it.
After lunch we were off to our final destination for the day, Ciudad de Carmen. Carmen is located on an island on the Gulf coast near the base of the Yucatan peninsula. In order to get onto the island of Carmen, we had to drive over a large bridge, our final toll of the day. As soon as we crossed into Carmen, we stopped a police officer to ask for directions. Instead of telling us how to get to our hotel, he opted to show us. So here we were, nine Land Rovers cruising through the streets of Carmen led by a police car with lights flashing. What an unusual sight it must have made for the locals.
The hotel where we stayed was an absolute beautiful colonial style hacienda with a fountain in the courtyard. With nine vehicles and 15 people we had the run of the place. After settling into the hotel, we walked about two blocks down the street to a real Venezulean steak house restaurant for dinner at about 9 pm. I chose to eat one of their steaks and I can honestly say it was one of the tastiest steaks I’ve ever had in my life. Some in the group decided to chance it and eat salads or have their drinks with ice, all with no ill effects that we heard of.
Tomorrow, we enter the Mundo Maya.