Friday, May 15, 2009

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses...

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. And it’s not because I’ve been laid up in a hospital somewhere with the swine flu, contrary to what the media might have you believe. Nope, I’m actually quite healthy and H1N1-free, thankyouverymuch.

My excuse for the nearly-three-week hiatus since my last post does have to do with the flu, though. Or rather, the fabulous -- albeit surprise -- 10-day vacation we teachers got after the Mexican government closed all schools in response to the virus. My excuse has to do with the camping trip that I took down to the Oaxacan coast during those “flu” days. (I simply HAD to get out of Huajuapan. The panic in the eyes of the face mask-clad locals in the street, coupled with the oh-my-God-this-is-unbelievable-we’re-all-gonna-die news reports would be enough to bring anyone to hysterics.)

But really, I’m going to blame the delayed post on the topes. Yup, that's my excuse. Topes.

Avid GringaCulichi readers will realize that this is not the first time that topes (speed bumps, a.k.a reductores, as pictured above) have been the bane of my existence. Nor will it be the last. But I digress…

There is about 500 kilometers (300 miles) highway between Huajuapan and the Pacific coast. Back where I come from, the drive should take about 4.5 hours, assuming you’re cruising the highway at a not-likely-to-get-you-pulled-over speed of 70 mph.

But here in Oaxaca, that 300 miles of highway (that's winding, mountainous highway, mind you) is riddled with topes. And when you’re riding in a car weighed down with two Mexicans, two gringas, a small dog, two tents, lawn chairs, an umbrella, a cooler, a grill, charcoal, enough food for four days, enough booze for four weeks, and assorted trashy paperback novels for beach reading, those topes are darn hard to drive over. The bottom of your car hits the cement and makes an awful scraping sound.

So, all passengers (including the dog, sometimes) had to get out of the car and walk at every tope -- every single PINCHE tope -- while the driver creeped across. I lost count of the number of topes we crossed somewhere after about 114. So, what should’ve been a 5-hour journey, tops, actually took us about 12. Boo.

But we didn’t mind. We were on a surprise vacation, man! We were on a road trip, man! And despite government-issued public service announcements to avoid all contact with the outside word for fear of the deadly flu virus, we were going to the beach, man!

(Out of respect for the international health emergency, we did, however, choose as our destination Las Lagunas de Chacahua, a semi-virgin bit of paradise where a fresh-water lagoon meets the salt-water Pacific. The way we justified it, no people = no germs = no flu virus.)

After 10 hours in the car, we pulled off the tope-ridden highway onto a palm tree-lined dirt road that would take us to the beach (see above). The air was salty. The sky was cloud-free. We were almost there!

But the road was rough. Our average cruising speed was about 15 kmph. (No lies. Check the picture, folks.) That last bit of road – the only thing standing between us and reading trashy paperbacks on the Pacific coast – took an agonizing two hours.

But we got there. We drank our four weeks’ worth of booze in four days. We read trashy paperback novels. We soaked up the sun. And we didn’t hear anything about the damn pig flu, save for a static-filled nightly news report brought to us courtesy of the aluminum-foil-clad antenna of our Chacahuaqueña host’s television. (We were camping under a palapa just outside of her kitchen.)

Despite the fact that we ate all the food and drank all the booze and that I mysteriously managed to lose not only my swimsuit but also one of the trashy paperbacks – despite the fact that our car should have been much lighter on the return trip – it still took us 10 hours to get back to Huajuapan.

So that’s my excuse for the delayed post, folks. I’ve been recovering from tope trouble. I haven’t had time to write. So, please accept my apologies from swine flu-ridden Mexico. As you can see from the envy-inducing sunset and beer-enjoying pictures (Indio should pay us royalties for the latter) above, we’re suffering a lot down here. Special thanks goes to everyone who panicked and cancelled their beach trips and freed up the sand and surf for us in Chacahua!

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