We were both super excited about Mexico we had heard so many good things about the place and I for one couldn't believe we would actually be eating Mexican food in Mexico! But we were now under a schedule and budget to get to the US which involved 26 planned days in Mexico, we had a schedule for the first time on the trip and we wanted to stick to it. First stop was Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello, on the way we spotted a friendly looking road side eatery and stopped in for lunch. We ordered the only things we knew being Enchiladas, Quesidillas and 500ml cokes but vowed to be more adventurous next time. They were both delicious and for a total of $8nz we were more than happy. At the myriad of Lagunas we were offered lots of tours but after a quick walk around a few small bright blue lakes we settled into our campsite next to Laguna Montebello itself with the company of another family and some backpackers. It was the nicest spot we had camped at in a while and we had plenty of swims in the clear warm water and generally mucked around enjoying the sun and scenery. In the morning we would drive to the famous Palenque ruins the only issue being which route we would take. The long way along the Guatemalan border was said to be very picturesque with more ruins we could stop in at while the other way was more direct. In the end we chose the direct route deciding that we would be seeing plenty of ruins throughout Mexico so why use the extra gas and spare days so early on. As it tuns out we wish we could turn back time and drive the long way that day….
The day started off like any other as we left the Laguna’s mid morning, back tracked along the road with the eatery so stopped in for an early lunch then continued on with I (Rochelle driving). Then not long past the city of Ocosingo and around a corner we came across a road block. Some cars we getting stopped by the ten or so men participating and there were also a lot of other men milling around the roadside. As soon as it was our turn they put a log over the road and about six lots of hands immediately thrust into my partially open window. Freaked out at this sudden hostility I asked them what they wanted and what it was for. One guy said 200pesos but already others had climbed onto the roof and stared rocking the car pulling at the tie downs on the rooftop gas. At this moment I considered gunning it over the log to get away but I look up to see a large van has come out of nowhere and blocked the road ahead. The other side of the road is blocked by a line of cars waiting to get through the blockade and nobody moves for us, also both sides of the narrow road is covered in long 2m high grassy bush that looks like it could hide any number of holes and ditches.
We pickup the truck, get a cheap room out by the ruins and start the clean up, but before long done the tourist officer turns up and says he’s found us some new windows so we must go now to look at them. We follow him to the junk yard workshop where they indeed have a scrap Dodge Durango the same as ours but with all its windows and as a bonus it still has its 4x4 front drive shaft so we take that too. We agree on a price of $750nz for all five windows and the mechanic says that they will be done by 7pm that night! I quickly say that we are happy to wait until tomorrow as we want a quality job not a rush job. At 6:30pm Will and I return to the workshop to find that they have finished but despite our earlier insistence their is still glass inside all of the doors and the air vents. They have also badly cracked the front windscreen from top to bottom when they put it in and when we ask about it they get a little hostile and say “it was secondhand what do you expect?”. Later we also notice part of the front dash down by the passenger footwell is missing but we are past caring the Dodge will never look the same now with its machete and rock marks we just want to get out of there.
On our final morning in Palenque I convince Will that we should go to the ruins that we came here for in the first place. We do and its incredibly hot and there are almost no other people there. Its nice but it makes us feel a bit jittery every time we see someone especially the locals anyone of them could have been in the cars on the road who just sat by and watched what happened to us. Back at the car we bump into Hien and his friends who we had met back in Colombia. They retell a similar story in which they had all of their things stolen including passports and laptops out of their Rav4 while it was parked in view at a gas station in Nicaragua. Will and I feel done with Mexico the image has been ruined at we just want to get to the States now. The plan for Mexico is gone replaced by at stop in Oaxaca at Overland Oasis mainly to finish the insurance claim and get the car back in order and another stop in Mexico city with some friends family to get our USA Visas. We hit the road to Oaxaca via the Caribbean coast route not wanting to backtrack through Ocosingo without gps to navigate or clothes for me to wear.
There you have it.
Rochelle & Will