MY TRIP THROUGH MEXICO TO BELIZE
Some of you have already heard the story about my trip through Mexico to Belize; it is too much to cover in one newsletter, so I will cover the trip in several newsletters. Let me preface this by saying that I can leave Austin early in morning and drive a car or truck to Belize in three days.
In the summer of 1987, Joseph, a friend of mine, asked Steve and I to help him move to Belize. Whenever I need a good laugh, I simply pull out the pictures of this trip (adventure). On a Monday morning in late August, we left Austin headed to Belize. We were driving two pickups: Joseph was pulling a gooseneck trailer, loaded with a large tool box, extra tires, large ice chest (food, beer and soft drinks) and a commercial barbeque pit (I am not talking about a $200 Wal-Mart special. This was custom made, about 12 feet long). Steve and I had a camper on the back of our truck filled with personal items and we were pulling a 15-foot boat with outboard motor. About 2 hours into the trip, we decided to light up the pit and cook our dinner while we were driving down the road. After the charcoal got hot, we added the wood chips, put on the chicken, sausage and pork chops and headed for Mexico. I am sure there is law against this, but no one stopped us. We stopped on the Texas side to get insurance, maps, etc. Getting into Mexico was not that easy, although we had all of our papers, the Mexican officials had to check everything twice. Steve and I were afraid that they were going to make us unload the camper. By this time, the pit was emitting wonderful odors and had become the focal point at the border. While Joseph was inside the office, Steve and I had started a conversation with the border guards and it wasnt long before all of us were drinking beer and then we started on the food. Joseph is a good negotiator, but Steve and I think the beer and food is what got us into Mexico. It was approaching sunset, and we did not want to violate one of the golden rules "DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT IN MEXICO" so we looked for a motel. Usually, Steve and I followed Joseph, but for some reason we were in the lead. A car pulled up beside us, honking, waving and yelling "Fire! Fire!" I looked at Steve and said, "Yeah, we know there is a fire in the pit" and started to tell them the same thing, but from their expressions and gestures, I knew something was amiss. I looked back to see that the trailer was on fire. The door to the firebox had come open and hot coals had ignited the wooden deck of the trailer. After quick thanks to the people for telling us, Joseph also realized the problem and pulled out of the traffic to find a place to put out the fire. In retrospect, we should have probably had an extinguisher. Where do you think Joseph went to put out the fire? A Pemex service station, full of gasoline and diesel. As he pulled in, the attendants were already waiting with water hoses and buckets. While this was happening, Steve and I noticed a young policeman (about 18) with a notebook out, writing as fast as he can. It is at this point, we were mentally preparing to argue our case to the judge, hoping jail is not an option (Golden Rule #2, "YOU DO NOT WANT TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN A MEXICAN JAIL") and praying we got one phone call. Suddenly, he stopped writing, put the notebook in his pocket and disappeared. The only logical explanation for this was that it was probably near the end of his shift and he did not want to spend the next four hours down at the police station filling out forms. For once in my lifetime, paperwork may have saved us. Little did we know that as all of this was happening, some of our friends in Austin had gathered at one of the watering holes and had started a "betting pool" on our arrival date in Belize. One person even predicted that we would not make it all the way. We checked into a motel, ate dinner and prepared for an early wakeup. End of Day one, the story continues later.
MEXICO TRIP Continued
Day 2---We were up by 5:30 am, drinking coffee and ready to go. We learned Golden Rule #3, "ALWAYS PARK YOUR VEHICLES SO YOU WILL NEVER BE BLOCKED IN". After waiting and a long period of moving a few inches back and forth, we were ready to hit the road to Tampico. Unfortunately, we had a flat tire, we pulled into a shop and had the tire repaired. South Texas and this portion of Mexico are basically the same, except that we did see some large haciendas in the distance. There was a checkpoint stop for all vehicles, fortunately, the officials looked at our papers and waved us along. We stopped at the marker for the Tropic of Cancer for a short break and some pictures. Before we made Tampico, we had another flat. Our Sanborns map did not indicate all the bypasses or loops for the larger towns. This cost us in time and also money (traffic fines). Steve was driving and I almost got us into a wreck by giving him bad instructions. Daylight was disappearing, so we checked into a motel for the night.
Days 3&4---At the rate we were going, we might run out of money before we made it to Belize. I was the last one up that morning. Steve and Joseph came back to the room with a story about a van pulling up alongside our vehicles and commandos jumping out with automatic weapons. After a short inspection of the barbeque pit, they got back in the van and sped off. Joseph and Steve said that in the early morning hours, the barbeque pit might have looked like a small tank or some kind of weapon. The road out of Tampico was under construction, it was very hilly with steep grades, and it was a slow drive. At the very peak, there was a beautiful fresh water lake and village. It was a place we would all like to see again. Our goal was to make Vera Cruz, no such luck. When we reached the costal town of Tuxpan, the springs on the boat trailer broke. We found a shop where a young man said he could fix the springs. Stranded, we checked into a motel, and went to dinner. The restaurant was originally a bank building, and the food was outstanding. Steve ordered some prawns or shrimp, which were grilled in garlic butter. This became our favorite dish. We went to a junkyard and purchased an old car spring, which he remade to fit the boat trailer. The next day was spent exploring Tuxpan or watching the guy work on the springs. We saw a lot of light complexioned people, even some blue eyes, probably a lot of Spaniards settled in this area. The springs got fixed and we opted to stay the night and get ready for another early start.
Day 5---Our goal today was to reach Villahermosa. This was a scenic drive and along the way we went through a town that made chocolate and passed through the petroleum capital of Mexico. Naturally, we had the usual flat tire drill and we also encountered a roadblock in the middle of nowhere by the Mexican Federales. We all got an uneasy feeling from this experience. They were looking for drugs and guns. We were worried that we would have to unpack and pack the camper, and that Joseph always had some type of gun. The officer in charge waved us on after a 10 to 15 minute discussion. We were happy to be on our way. We stopped on the other side of Vera Cruz for a late lunch (Grilled shrimp with garlic butter, beans, rice and cerveza). These shrimp are different than the ones you get in Texas; they have small pinchers and are bigger. No wonder Mexican gunboats patrol the waters in order to keep Texas shrimp boats away. It was late in the afternoon, and we decided to drive on to Villahermosa. We encountered a heavy rainstorm and had to drive some at night (A violation of Golden Rule #1). I gave Steve some bad instructions and we wound up in the central business district. Steve cut a corner too sharp and knocked the wheel of the trailer loose (just another repair job). For some reason which none of us can remember, Joseph spent the night with the vehicles. Steve and I checked into a nice hotel, went to the club for while and then retired for the night.
Day 6---We were all excited because we should make Chetumal and Belize today. The drive was really boring, long straight good highways in the middle of the jungle. The only noteworthy incident was some people along the highway waving a white towel. I was in the lead and something did not seem right, 5 people standing beside a motorcycle in the middle of nowhere. We waved, but didnt stop. We crossed into Belize at Santa Elena and made the short drive to Corozal and checked into Tonys Inn. We called Austin to let some people know that we had arrived. I will give you a quick synopsis of our Belize stay in a later newsletter.
People ask me if I would make the trip again, and my answer is and always has been "Yes", except, I do not want to be pulling trailers of any kind and I would want to go during the late Fall to early Spring. My memory is not as good as it use to be, but we all "cussed" the numerous "topes" (Speed Bumps) that we encountered along the way, and one morning during our "flat tire routine", a young boy offered us some berries to eat and even though he probably had the dirtiest hands we had ever seen, we ate them with no side effects. We truly had an adventure to remember. Some pictures of the trip haves been posted in the picture galleries on our website.
Till next time!