Today was more than 14 hours on the road to travel what would normally take 5 hours. Anywhere else but Mexico, and this would have been a hellish day.
It all started in Barra Vieja, a small beach community on the southern edge of Acapulco. The plan was to make it to Puerto Escondido to see the “Mexican Pipeline,” one of the world’s most famous waves, and continue south the following day to explore Mexico‘s best right-hand points just in time for a big swell.
The drive started out too easy, great road conditions and just flying through lush Mexican countryside only to be slowed down by a small town every so often.
If you’ve ever driven the 200 along Mexico's Pacific coast, you know the small towns seem to come every few kilometers, and with each town having ten or so speed bumps it honestly feels like you are driving over speed bumps all day. No two speed bumps are the same, so you have to approach each one with eagle eyes and enough caution to be ready to carefully creep over the bad ones. It makes for an exhausting 300 km on the road.
Sidetracked by speed bumps…where was I? So I make it to the halfway point after some of the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had, only to find people pulled over on the side of the road for what seems like at least two k’s. But I’d been following a taxi driver for an hour who knew the roads well and the speed limit not so well, so rather than pulling over and asking what was happening, I continued on the taxi’s tail in the left lane as this giant line of people stopped in the right lane just gets more and more dense.
Finally we slow and eventually stop as traffic jams and the left lane fills as well. So now both lanes of this narrow two-lane highway are filled with people heading south. This can’t be good.
People look like they’ve been there a long time, so I leave the car and walk down the road to see the cause of the jam. Expecting a major accident, instead I come upon a car parked perpendicular in the road blocking both directions of traffic with no way around. Draped over the car was writing demanding the release of some Professor Cruz, who obviously in someone’s mind has been wrongly imprisoned. But rather than people (we’re talking around 400, to get perspective) getting upset and lifting this car up and throwing it over the side as would happen in the U.S., instead it’s a midday fiesta complete with all the Mexican food and drink you could want.
People are upset, but rather than getting angry they meet their neighbor and eat enchiladas. The enchiladas were amazing too and only 15 pesos (I became hungry again after about three hours of sitting there waiting for the protest to end).
I ended up meeting a guy from Santa Ana, California (he was Mexican but grew up right down the road – yes, I was the only white boy in the mob of 400), and he told me all we need is a hard rain to move this protest. I thought that shouldn’t be too difficult, considering a major squall had occurred about every few hours since I arrived in Mexico a two days ago.
Sure enough, about an hour later the sky opened up to dump buckets, the protest moved, and the major chaos of a jam slowly figured itself out. I was insanely lucky to drive that left lane for the few k’s behind the taxi as I was one of the first through to the other side (although I did feel like the impatient American, not the confused punk following a heavy-footed taxi).
Now I’m only about an hour north of Puerto Escondido and it looked like I’d make it before the sun went down. I pass a sign for Roca Blanca, which stirs a faint memory of reading about good surf there, but I continue on because the swell isn‘t showing until about 2 a.m.
To my amazement, another damn line of cars in the right lane… And with nobody to follow blindly in the left lane, I decide to pull over, stop the car and walk to see what it is this time.
As much fun as I had hanging out on the side of the road eating enchiladas and meeting locals earlier, I really didn’t want another roadside fiesta and only wanted to get to the hotel before it got dark. I really had no clue if I’d have to walk miles or feet, but people were sitting in their car so my instincts were telling me whatever it was was only a few minutes away.
Well, “it” turned out to be a giant fucking river covering about a half mile of the highway.
Watching a tractor drive across carrying eight people from one side to the next, it looked a solid four feet deep at its deepest point – far too deep for anything but a tractor, and especially too deep for my economy-sized rental.
Apparently this river spilled over only 30 minutes before I showed up (thank you, midday fiesta/protest), and according to the guy carrying a truckload of chickens, two more hours and it’d be gone again.
Yeah right, guy with chickens – you see how much water that is?! I was thinking more like two days, but then I look closely and I see coconuts all floating away from the road. Maybe this guy does know what he's talking about, so I wait patiently and meet the neighbors again and watch the tractor do its rounds.
Eventually someone gets the balls to take on the road with their pick-up. May have been smarter to put it in neutral and push the thing with the engine off, but he just goes for it and fails miserably. The truck dies in the middle and lucky for him about twenty kids run out and help him push his waterlogged truck to the other side, where it will probably sit for a much longer time than it’d take for the water to recede.