21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine
: Paris/Mexico/Vera Cruz

Down south of the border…
Ray Heap
in Mexico

For now I am quite at peace with myself, sitting in a bar at the Mexico city Airport I have a beer in front of me and I have just finished a walk down the concourse with its seven or eight duty free shops complete with their little Tequila try outs.

Me to saleschica: "what is the difference between Tequila and Mescal?" (Snigger)
Saleschica: "Try this, this is Mescal, from Oaxaca, has worm; and in this glass here I have Tequila!

Ask that Question for or five times and you sleep well on the plane. This time round I was flying back across the pond with Air-France and what do you know; Air-France was having a bad hair day, the flight had an eight hour delay due to a bit of industrial action ( I like that expression) and I was really looking forward to arriving Paris in the middle of a general transport strike.

I have often watched the news and listened to stories about strikes and industrial actions and I have always spared a thought about the poor bastards having to loaf about the waiting lounge for a delayed flight, now it seems that I will experience it first hand. At the time of writing I have a half 747 load of French tourists in front of me, some wearing very tourie looking sombreros (shudder).

I have to be in south Belgium in two days, a place I despise at the best of times, my assignment is in Charleroi. The customer is as usual irate but maybe it has something to do with living in Charleroi, never have I seen a town so begging to be bombed by the Luftwaffe if only just to be put out of its misery. Even on a summers day it is grey, grotty, and gritty and it is always raining. The sort of rain that does not fall to the ground from above to down as normal, it rather wafts around in wet blobs staining the grey walls of the houses a darker shade of grey and mugging pedestrians foolish enough to threaten it with a brolly. The town planner must have shot himself out of despair in the 50s and no one has wanted the post since.
The town’s most prominent feature and major tourist attraction is a sculpture of the Marsupilami comic figure mounted in the middle of a traffic roundabout.
However that is some hours in the future and for the moment I have some time to write about Mexico.
I have fallen deeply in love with Mexico, it's weird from time to time, sometimes revolting, crazy, always different and always new. Seldom have I seen a relatively modern country with such a divide between stinking rich and literally stinking poor, incredibly filthy children sleeping naked amongst dogs on the hot and dusty pavement. I have had to kick dogs out of my way, but I always step over the kids, stray dogs and stray kids, old grannies of Indio origin trying to beg a peso or two but never actually pestering, some vestige of pride is still apparent.

I know, that a lot of fellow travellers ignore begging kids but I have found I can’t maybe I’m just too damn human. The children, some just able to walk will sell you a single stick of chewing gum taken out of a packet of ten, ten sticks at a peso each and you have 10 pesos, twenty pesos will feed you and your little sister for a day. I always some have some loose pesos for them in my pocket. "Compremende mi Meester" Some of the more adventurous will dance between the cars stopped at the traffic lights they will sometimes dress up with painted faces and all the trimmings of clowns they will dance or juggle even give a pantomime performance, breath the exhaust and collect money all in the time it takes for the lights to change.

Damn! The beer bottles are starting to pile up in front of me a bit but the beer Hecho en Mexico is a damn good brew, forget the tourie beer Corona, Sol, or San Miguel, a Spanish beer anyway. Go for the Indio or try XX, Bohemia is also good, Tecal, Negra Modelo, Negra Especial, or Pacifico you have just a handful of major breweries here, the world famous one is of course Groupo Modelo Corona SA de CV right here in Mexico City, but I like Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma Monterray SA. de CV! Even if it only for the name.
"All cattle waiting to fly Air France AF 439 to Paris will just have to wait a little longer"
Damn Tannoy, is it tannoy or annoy?

Travel is a funny thing I am hot, sweaty, and sticky under my collar.
I have a eight hour flight ahead of me in a tin tube and I can’t understand the in-flight movie as it is in French and Spanish; also I am not all to sure, that I can arrange a hotel for the night after next in Paris.
Oh yes! The airport chucks you out at oh zero hundred so there is no roughing it on a bench…. I love every minute of travel, but sometimes it can be a bit trying. Some fellow travellers wither others thrive; others see it as an unavoidable evil. For my part, my blood pressure is back on track I feel healthier and calmer and more at ease with myself than ten years of marriage ever gave me, I seem to get on alright.

Another plane has landed, regurgitating it’s belly full of sweaty, cramped and jetlagged people, all kinds of people, thin people, fat people, men, woman, children, beautiful girls, ugly girls, fast walking and very important business men already talking on their phones (prats), engineers (you have to be one to spot one) and of course the eternal tourie.

A lot of people ask me if I am ever frightened to walk around Mexico City, or Sao Paulo, Jo´burg or New York, all the crime and so on. I have the theory that if you act like a victim, you will become a victim. Well ´darlin the digital camera around your neck will mark you as a target, prime meat for someone with hungry kids, one who has nothing much to lose, so hold it tight to your breast and off you run to the protection of the tourie buses'.

I love the overland buses of Mexico, the new Greyhounds, I like the ambient of the Mexican bus stations, cheerful people, smiling children with expectant faces, sage old ones, wary Indigenous people, scruffy Backpackers they are going on a trip!

Get on the Underground at let’s say Chapultepec, stay until Balderas, change to line 5 at La Raza and get off at Autobuses del Norte. A building made in the style of a fifties Airport full of life, color and movement, the marble floor absolutely spotless, slowly walk the length of the station and just read the countless destination signs, I promise you will not be disappointed.

For example:
Greyhound! The bus leaves the Districte Federale every hour, arrives 14.00 in Guadalahara, 14.50 Leon, another Greyhound takes you every hour on the hour to Acapulco.
Primera Plus! off you go to Tepic or Tijuana for 545 Pesos one way.
Transportes del Norte offering Estados Unidas, Dallas, Texas for 39 Dollars US, Nuevo York 127 Dollars US, Chicago for 105 Dollars and fifty hours journey time.
TNS running under the sign of the Chihuahuenses, the Rabbit!
Stopping off at Nogales, Ixmiquilpan, and then to Chihuahua.
Estrella Rojo, express to Puebla, or Oaxaca.
ADO: Vera Cruz, Poza Rica.
Other destinations: Tijuana, Mexicali, El Paso, Huejutla, Sonora, Alamo, Tuxpan.
Autobusses Teotihuacan gets you to the famous pyramids, all for 40 Pesos

How can you walk past and not want to grab a backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, just jump on a bus and go!

This time, with over a weekend to kill I went to Acapulco well aware, that I might be walking into a tourist trap.
Well it was, but in such a way that I didn’t mind being ripped of, I stayed at the kind of three hundred Pesos a night hotel that Steinbeck and Hemmingway would have just loved, a room with bare adobe walls a bare floor painted red, scuffed and worn where countless people had walked, an iron frame bed, a out of balance fan wobbling on the ceiling and an effigy of the virgin Mary propped up in her little corner.
Fwuup, fwuup, fwuup, the fan stirred the air as I lay on the bed with only a beer bottle and a thin sheet as a cover; I listened to the tropical night sounds. The best thing about this hotel was its proximity to the beach; until I fell asleep I heard the crash of waves, as usual, I had found digs were only locals hang out.
I was the only gringo around and quite a sight on the beach, skin colour in my particular brand of northern English white is seldom found on a Mexican beach, not alive at least.
I am told it is all in the genes.
Thanks anyway mom.
I had Mexican mommas rubbing my back in with industrial strength sun blocker.
Evenings at the beach bar found me supping beer and tequila, nice and easy, I felt peaceful, and life was good.

The next day found me, demon walker that I am, walking to the cliff divers at Quebrada I reasoned that I could walk until my feet hurt, have a beer and rest then carry on walking, sometime just before midday I found that I had stopped sweating, I desperately needed a drink! In the back of my mind the song from Noel Coward, something about "mad dogs and Englishmen" crept into my head I reasoned that I had had enough and that the Pacific looked just soooooo inviting and cool.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen
by Noel Coward
In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of the rules that the greatest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry
And one must avoid its ultry-violet ray.
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they're obviously, definitely nuts!
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,
The Japanese don´t care to, the Chinese wouldn´t dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one
But Englishmen detest-a siesta.
...and more

The swim was good and after two hours and two beers, I felt fit again and started walking.
Silly me I still had my swimming trunks on and as you probably know as much as you try to prevent it you always have sand in your trunks, about three kilometres later I started to realize what the saying "grinding his balls" really stands for. Another kilometre on and I was walking like I had an invisible barrel between my legs. To aggravate the situation more I knew, that I had a tube of cold cream in my backpack but everything was just so open. I saw myself trying to convince the judge that jumping up and down rubbing my private parts with cold cream on a public beach was due to object agony and not to any lewd behaviour.
Washing it all out in the sea was out of the question but luckily I found a hosepipe and relief with the almost boiling water.

A gigantic cruise ship had docked in the harbour, it was filled with very Rubenesque Americans, the more adventurous leaving the Air conditioning behind, daring the heat and waddling through the park, wearing stupid looking shorts and tank tops, or brightly colored Hawaii shirts, sandals, white socks, a camera bouncing of tubby tums, big "alien eye" sunglasses both the men and the women, their necks and shoulders a bright red gorget of sunburn. Oh dear! Did we forget the dollop of sun cream, at 20 degrees north of the Equator the sun can be quite a foe, turns you into tourist ala thermidor in no time.

I reached the Quebrada one hour before the divers show up and got myself a nice view in the shade.
The Divers of Acapulco are a world-class tourist attraction period!
The show starts with a few small boys jumping from two or three meters into the water, the water itself is surging and churning into the clam. The swell is sometime two meters high, just before the surge is at its highest point the jumpers on the cliff make their move, hitting the water at exactly the right time and at exactly the right angle and place. After the five or six jumpers have finished the man at the very top of the cliff starts his jump by kneeling in front of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary or as locally known "Guadalupe". A quick glance over the cliff and another prayer the diver will get himself into a trance like state and let himself fall and he falls for; oh heck, ages before hitting the water. The clam itself is no more than five meters wide and the usable part is two by three meters. The divers have been known to loose their nerves and never jump again, I can believe it, they then have a job waiting for them in the Hotel and restaurant belonging to the diver society set up and given to the divers by Hemingway.

The plane that had landed was in fact the one supposed to take us to Paris, the shit gang had just boarded and the Annoy told us that the plane will be ready in two hours after refuelling and re stocking. A lot of eyes now turned to the bar that looked as if they wanted to close, as we started to growl and fletch our teeth the propetier decided to earn a bit more tonight.

I have had a soft spot with Mexico for many years now and the reason is as follows:
One of the first loves in my life had been a Mexican girl.
Margarita Cecilia Ruiz Solies from Quertaro.
We had met in Spain, in Malaga she on holiday with family, I as a chef onboard MS Europa the Hapag Lloyd cruise liner. We had met somewhere in the harbour and had spent the afternoon on the beach, swimming and walking, nothing that you are expecting, as I was just soooooo young and innocent in them days, (jeeeeez was I ever twenty two years old and that lanky?)

We exchanged addresses and for quite some time we wrote to each other, until I lost her address a few years later.
Soon after that I wedded the dragon as the breeding program had already started.
In short we lost contact…..
In one of my last letters, I had promised that I would be standing on her doorstep one fine day.
About a week into the assignment I had told Gabriel my college here in Mexico about Margarita Cecilia Ruiz Solies from Quertaro.
He asked me if I had her number and do I want it?
I turns out, that his brother -in-law is with some kind of police agency and twenty minutes later I had her telephone number amazingly she still lives in Quertaro and retains her maiden name.
"Ring, ring"
Ahh! Excuse me, but do you speak English?"
"Yees a leetle"
"Are you Margarita Cecilia Ruiz Solies?"
"Do you by any chance remember being in Spain, in Malaga to be exact? About twenty-odd years ago?"
"And do you remember meeting a handsome, good looking young man called Raymond?"
"Oh! Hallo Margarita how are you"
The sound of someone gobsmacked sitting down heavily!
We arranged to meet the very next weekend.

Saturday morning I took the first bus on the service Cuidad de Mexico to Quertaro from Autobuses del Norte.
Arriving at the terminus in Quertaro I was picked up by Margarita, much older than my memories would have had her.
(How strange eh?)
She told me that her husband Aurillio was very jealous and that his Sangre was on the boil ever since knowing that I was under way. I couldn’t come to their house but her sister was having a birthday celebration for one of her sons and that I was invited to go there instead.
Sisters hubby was a politician and had the means to show it.

We arrived at a well; mansion is the right word, guards armed with shotguns and machine pistols at the gate and a five-meter high wall around the complex. Inside a hundred and fifty people, a banquet table filled with every Mexican delicacy you can imagine and then some. A Mariachi band playing lively Mexican music, the huge garden decorated with colourful garlands paper flowers and beautiful coloured lanterns.
I was introduced to everyone and drank a lot of the finest Don Julio blue Agave.
Suddenly the band went out of tune and the talk quietened down to a whisper, without turning my head I knew, that Aurillio had arrived. Aurillio, a stereotype Hollywood Mexican if I have ever seen one.
Stocky, nut-brown complexion a handlebar moustache. All what was missing was the white peon suit, sombrero and crossed cartridge belt, of course mustn’t forget the machete for the removal of Raymond’s body parts. He walked around, saying hello to everyone, but without letting me out of his sight for a second, finally he came to me and said hallo and that his blood was boiling.
"Great" I think, "I’m fucking dead!"
He went on to say that he thinks that I am an honest person and that he that he likes me.
We ended up sitting together drinking tequila in the Mexican way that is first with a glass of spiced up tomato juice, then the tequila.

I stayed the night at their place and on the next day we went sightseeing in Quertaro, I saw the amazing aqueduct built in the sixteenth centaury, and still in use today, the Olmec pyramid with a Spanish fort built on the top, the pyramid still unexcavated, overgrown but pristine.

I spent a wonderful hot summer’s day with an old friend and a lot of new ones leaving for Mexico City by dusk. I have been offered a job here in Mexico with a European style contract, German wages and Swiss benefits, it is a fight but I think that I like the travelling more, for the moment at least, who knows what the future may bring!

I can not recall much of the flight back to Paris but we arrived just in time for the airport to close and four and a half hours to go until my flight back to Copenhagen, I spent them dozing on a bench outside watching the sunrise.

I was not even through the door in the company before I was intercepted by the boss with a ticket and a shit eating grin for a trip to? Yup! Mexico City

Six hours later I was on a flight back across the pond shaking my head at Danish organisation.
Our Mexican dealership was of course in shambles, a law of nature in itself.
Vargas Impressiores one of the customers had bought a system at DRUPA in April the machine had been delivered and was promptly forgotten.
Of course Senior Vargas was slightly miffed.
Most businesses have armed guards on patrol; even MC Donald’s has shotgun toting security officiales almost invisible between Roland MC Donald and the weird walking Hamburger.
I was half expecting Vargas to line me as the Esko-Graphics Rep up against the wall with a blindfold, Tequila and a cigar. As I dug deeper and deeper into the shambles I found that another Customer had had a fibre optic cable break almost one year ago.

When in doubt I start with an Inventory, it always makes a good impression and gives one time to mull ones next move over. After three weeks of hard work I things were starting to get under control.
So I was looking forward to the local bank holiday of the Dias des los Muertos or the days of the dead.
I had three days to all to myself.

From Autobuses del Norte I took an ADO liner to Vera Cruz.
And before you tell me, as all Chilangos try to tell me, that ADO leaves from "Oriente," yes I know!
But a few ADO busses leave from ‘Norte every day.
The journey to Vera Cruz took just under seven hours and it is a drive through the most amazing countryside you can imagine: Halfway on the road leading from Mexico City to Pueblo you go over the Paso des Cortez, the pass of Cortez, winding your way through a landscape created by volcanoes the two most famous of course being Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.
Both peaks rise over five and a half thousand meters above sea level. Closest to the Motorway stands Iztaccihuatl. The lady lying down.
A volcano weathered and broken her top half in snow, further back the classical cone shape of Popocatepetl at five thousand five hundred and eighty meters quite an intimidating sight, Popo is rather active at the moment and at yellow alert meaning caution and no closer then seven kilometres, every quarter hour of so she will send off a puff of pure white smoke, a cloud the kind seen on summers days, very pretty and picturesque to watch.
Pretty, but tinged with warning.

After Pueblo a town dominated by the Volkswagenwerke Mexico the desert plateau of the Mexican highlands begins in Ernest, it is a light brown landscape, yellow rocks, black rocks red rock it is very dusty, occasional cacti and Maize as the only vegetation apart from a spiny grass, in the distance the faint blue shimmering promise of high mountains.

Suddenly the bus tips over the edge of the plateau and winds its way down a serpentine road to the plains two and a half thousand metes below. We drove for hours passing through lush jungle vegetation with abundant running water, quite a sight to see after the parched plateau of the higher regions.
It was starting to look hot and humid outside.

Some touries wander around in light clothes, shorts, sandals and such looking cool and comfortable, on the other hand I have my jeans on and a shirt as soon as the bus door opened I took a step backwards, the damp heat hitting me right between the eyes.

One, two steps out of the bus and my shirt were sticking to my back; I hoisted my pack and set foot for the beach. After a diet of high gloss brochures proclaiming "Vera Cruz the beautiful" showing clear blue water, golden sands, skimpily clad beach babes with a "you can have me" promise in their eyes, stylish people lounging at a beach bar under lush palm trees with drinks in their hands.
The reality was disappointing.
The beach alone looked actively infectious!
No way would I walk barefooted on the sands, let alone swim in the gunk there.
Restaurants and beach bars had installed tables and sunshades right down into the water, every last inch of beach was covered by cheap tables and rickety rusty chairs, anyone wanting to sunbathe would have to lie below one of the tables.
I walked along the promenade glaring a "fuck off" (get lost) at the pushy waiters lining up ready to drag me into their Restaurant; most of them got the message.

A mile further on down the road I found a tourist information office and got some maps and advice from an airbrushed Mexican beauty.
She was busy selling tourist brochures and guided tours; obviously she had also been programmed to sell hotel bookings and was having some difficulty understanding that all I wanted was a campsite and not a hotel room.
"Camping si, Costa Esmeralda, Norte, no camping in Vera Cruz"!
What she didn’t say was that Costa Esmeralda was another two hundred kilometres to the north.
Outside I bought myself a fresh coconut from a street vendor.
Straight out of an ice box, cut open with a machete, topped off with white rum and lime juice, just stick straw in."Coco Loco!"
I sat down on the seawall and contemplated my options.
One! Hotel for the duration?
Two! Walk south, in the direction of Antonio Lizardo, saw the name on a map, has a nice ring to it.
Let’s trod off to Antonio Lizardo!
As it was getting late I decided to start in the morning.
My decision was then sealed with another Coco Loco, this one with fresh mint and brown sugar.
I went searching for a hotel.

By now I should know better to look for a room on the days of the dead.
Memo to me: book hotel in advance or give chick in tourist office money!
Three hours plodding from hotel to hotel found me digs in a cheap hospice, a very cheap hospice but nice enough, a lot of care had been taken to make it as comfortable as possible.
In the end what more do you want: a clean bed. Clean floors, working toilet and shower, no rats.
The people were friendly and obviously not used to catering for gringos, however being the cheap bum that I am I found it just fine.

I went for a walk and a meal in the old town, thanks to the festivities all the streets were decorated with garlands, most in the green, white and orange of the Mexican tricolour. Orange flowers, a kind of chrysanthemum, grown especially for the days of the dead lay strewn on the streets, little paper male and female skeletons hung in the windows and on doors, merry skulls with the names of the beloved deceased written on the forehead. I bought myself a delicious pan de muerte, a bread of the dead, for later munchies.
I just can’t put my finger on it but there is something so very pagan in the whole business of the days of the dead, something very Indian.

But I expect it to be the same as with the Celtic and shamanistic rites that the early Church took over in the seventh and eighth centaury after the stroke of genius that said "If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!" With that one revelation Christmas, Easter, Whitsun etc. became Christian festivities and most of the Pagans became Christians, those who said "hang on," or "nice try" got put to the sword in an early bout of "religious cleansing."

There was something wrong with the weather here: no wind and very humid, if I stood still sweat would run in a rivulet from my middle fingers and my shirt was literally soaking wet, as the evening wore on a nice cooling effect came from my shirt as my sweat evaporated in the heat.
I told myself that if I was back in Bavaria the symptoms would tell me a thunder storm is under way but the forecast was for sun and light winds. It was just that the humidity was just more then I have ever experienced, I told myself that "that is just the way it is here in Vera Cruz"!
Early on the next day I started walking to Rio del Boca to the south of the city.
The sun was high in the sky and the humidity was rising again.
It was very hot.

I had walked for about an hour and a half when the stench hit me, causing me to retch instantly
The tide was coming in and let me describe it as a, as a brown tide.
A turdelwave engulfing the beach, the syrupy water flecked with bits of white and yellow I turned tail and gave my gag-systems a work out for the next half hour.
Yup! Well oiled and working fine.
Even more amazing was that children were swimming and having fun in the sea.
I for my part have enough on my mind trying to dodge dogturds on the pavement, but to dive headlong into a sea full of doughnuts.

By now I was really wanted to move on, I was having mixed feelings from what I had seen, because Vera Cruz really is a beautiful city, the streets clean and the buildings well maintained a lot of them in the Spanish colonial style, beautifully restored and colourful to look at.

I took a bus to Rio del Boca and started to walk along the beach, here at last the coast started to look like the brochures only a lot wilder and full of well, nature. Dead wood and fallen palm trees, brought down by many a hurricane lay on the beach, washed up coconuts and other flotsam and jetsam littered the sand.
Someone had lost half of their boat, the bow in perfect condition the rest a mess of tangled beams and spars; it had been beached there for a long, long time.
Every now and then I would come across a group of people, families having a picnic.
Must be nice, load food, booze, awning, onto the 4X4 and don’t forget granny.

Every few kilometres a small gated village of maybe six to ten villas with manicured lawns, high walls and armed guards.

A few kilometres on and it was time to get the tent up, it was only five in the afternoon but the sun sets very fast here and I wasn’t going to start looking for a place in the dark.
For some reason the beach didn’t appeal to be a good place to pitch a tent so I walked a hundred meters into the jungle, there in a clearing in the middle of a rabbits warren I found a perfect flat space, I had heard that more people get killed by falling coconuts than with snakes or other animals when out in the wilds so I was pretty grateful for the open space.

My tent, a three season, two person, very expensive Vango was up in minutes I went in and was instantly wet I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it was fucking raining inside my tent and I really mean rain.
I backed out shaking my head in disbelief.
Well heavy rain doesn’t last for long.
Anyhow! Now it was time for a swim.
Stripped naked with only my shoes on I ran to the water, much like the hermit in "Life of Brian"
The water was just sooooooo warm but it only went up to the calf of my leg

Four hundred meters on and it was up to my waist!
"Ah well splashed enough, lets just relax.

The water was even warmer then I had first thought, far in the distance I could just make out the lights of Vera Cruz. Up and down the beach an occasional wood fire beaconed into the dusk and I heard a snatch of laughter and the chink of a bottle. I lay on my back and tried to recognize a star or a constellation. Late autumn at 22 degrees over the equator and just under the tropic of cancer, Sagittarius, my patron star sign, and the other winter constellations of the northern hemisphere should be visible, although low on the horizon, heading north, creeping up over the elliptic to join the circumpolar stars at their apogee at mid winter solstice, December 21st!
As it was a light haze blotted all but the brightest stars out and I couldn’t get my bearings.
It was getting dark by now and I had a hard time to keep my orientation for the tent.
The Cycads had started to chirp loudly and in the distance, far out to sea, weather lights flashed illuminating distant clouds.
I thought to myself "wouldn’t it be ironic if some bastard shark came and bit my Willy off eh?"
Scarcely had I finished chuckling to myself then, I swear it, believe me, no shit a triangular fin broke the surface of the water not ten meters in front of me.

Now Jesus is credited with the ability to walk over water but sure as hell he didn’t run as fast as I did.
Ululating in fear and clutching my dick with both hands I bolted for the shore. It was probably just a cuddly little cat shark, a harmless creature just wanting to say "hello" it might also have been my imagination but believe me I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

Later, on the shore with my heart running like a diesel engine I looked if I could see anything but apart from the weather lights the sea of Cortez was again quiet, dark and calm.

Covered by a towel I sat on a fallen palm tree and took a drink, a flash of light made me blink and turn around to another amazing sight: millions and millions of fireflies in the jungle and on the dunes, natures neon lights but not the eerie green of the European firefly but the screaming white flashes of, of Lightning bugs.
This was truly a marvel to watch.
The flies dancing up and down and weaving in and out, they made me dizzy and my mind was overwhelmed trying to comprehend all this movement. It was time to get back to the tent; on reaching my campsite I saw one of the inhabitants of the "rabbit warren"!
A set of Badgers, a den of Foxes, a warren of Rabbits but what does one call a village of Skunks?
A classical comedy situation, the skunk was the black and white animal that we all know, handsome head, bushy black and white tail, a beautiful creature about a foot long.
In Germany we call them Stinktier or Stink animal.
Piss one off and you will regret it for weeks and weeks, you will need new clothes and a daily bath in vinegar at least.

Very slowly! Oh so very, very slowly I gently bunged my possessions into the tent and singing a gentle and soft song, "Oh don’t spritz me, oh, pleeeease don’t spritz me" I pulled the tent pegs, slung the tent over my shoulder and slowly walked towards the beach.
By now four of the skunks were watching me.
I am convinced that I can understand what animals are saying, a snake in Kansas, rats in Brazil, or the thing with the big spider in Dakar.
The skunks were telling me that they had let me off this time but do not to trespass here again!

A 4X4 full of drunken Mexicans bombing along the beach passed me, almost loosing control of their vehicle at the sight of a naked gringo dragging a tent on his back and trudging alone in the dark.
I found a spot under a coconut palm, first giving it a hearty kick to check for loose coconuts.
Satisfied I pitched the tent again.
The air was still, wet and heavy.
Inside the tent I was immediately drenched with sweat, sleep was impossible, the tent walls were dripping and a half hour later I was lying in a puddle of water, there is something to be said for a hotel room with A/C!
I managed to doze for a bit, at around four in the morning a wind came in from the sea blowing cool air through the mosquito netting bringing relief and sleep.

On the morrow, Just before midday I packed the tent and moved on, yes I went swimming again, this time just not too far out.
I arrived in Antonio Lizardo a few hours later, a small fishing village without a harbour the boats being launched directly from the beach. I was eyed suspiciously by the locals, more than once a door opened and was slammed shut as I walked past.
It was time to get back to Mexico City

The bus ride back to Vera Cruz was an adventure all by itself.
Most busses are privately owned and operated, all have a name, I know through bitter experience not to ride busses with names like "black Mamba," "Terminator" or "Metallica." The younger drivers of the green and off white busses in Mexico City can be somewhat liberal in their definition of the Highway Code.
This bus incidentally was called "Mr. Boombastic" painted with green, red, blue and yellow stripes it had a very Rastafarian look to it I almost expected it to be running on grass fumes and rum.
The driver however was a very small bloke in his late fifties, he was almost unable to look over the bonnet of the bus but he wore the biggest white ten gallon hat I have ever seen.
Cracked windows, wooden floorboards, tatty seats, this bus had character; we wound our creaking way over narrow roads bordered with lush jungle vegetation.

We passed through hillside villages picking passengers up or letting others off. Incredibly plump women dressed in colourful costumes stowed huge bundles on the roof rack with the help from local youngsters who received a few pesos for their efforts, an ancient Mexican with Indian features, toothless and wrinkled like a walnut brought two geese with him for a trip to the next village. I was delighted, I had found a window to Mexico that I hadn’t considered before, I slid the window open and enjoyed the breeze.

Two hours later the bus terminated at the main bus station, I hoisted my pack and made my way through the teeming crowd.

Mexicans do love to accompany every venture with a lot of noise, the bus station fairly rang to the sound of hundreds of people, some running for busses, or complete families sitting on big bundles, others standing around having heated discussions with their neighbours, giggling children running around peoples legs, crying babies, vendors hawking their wares, taco stalls, juice sellers, others carts selling a local delicacy, crispy fried pigskin.
One vendor was selling Pulque out of a plastic bucket.
Hmmmmm! I like Pulque.
The food chain for fermented Cactus is as follows:
Tequila, from the blue Agave, a nice smooth tasting drink, clear if young, turning amber with age.
On the same level is Mescal also made from blue Agave but from the region around Oaxaca, this is the one with the worm and has a slightly smoky taste.
Compare it if you will with Scotch and Irish Whisky/Whiskey.

Then you get the Tequilas and Mescals made from the normal Agave, this is the cheap stuff sold in two litre plastic bottles. Somewhere after that you find Pulque, home brewed and made from the other Cacti growing in Mexico, rarely found in bars and pubs. It is sold on the side of the road and will be ladled to you out of above mentioned buckets into plastic cups or even recycled jam jars, a good hearty but rough tequila taste with the constancy of a raw egg, believe me it does the job.

On the other hand if you really want liver damage try Charanda, I do not know how it is made or what it is made from and I don’t think that I want to know, my Mexican colleagues blanch at the very mention of Charanda. People who drink Charanda also look at turpentine as a white spirit, suitable for drinking with todays road kill.

I finished my beaker of Pulque, it went down my gullet like an oyster, but it hit the spot.
Now I was ready for the seven hours trip back to Mexico City.
The next day I told the shark story to the colleagues, much to their amusement.
One of the guys told me that the shark was most likely harmless; the real danger is from young male Barracudas. They come close to shore and as they are very short-sighted they will generally go for anything.
Especially if it is small, off-white and wiggling, he says looking at me with a cheeky grin.
That really curbs my desire to go skinny-dipping in the tropics.
And Oh yes! Vera Cruz got plastered by a Hurricane on the evening that I left!

© Ray Heap
yar999 at

G'Day Cobber
Ray Heap down-under
Checked in last night curtains still closed, pitch black, had a few beers at the bar went to bed, time for breakfast…look at clock… Sod it, it's only two thirty, five hours until I can get lifegiving coffee into the plumbing

 More World Destinations


© Hackwriters 1999-2007 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.