SMr Road Trip Mississippi to Nicaragua
Day 13 - October 15th - Oaxaca, Mexico to Ixhuatán, Mexico
Eli and I got an early start with plans to make it to Mexico's southern border. We left Amanda behind because she chose to take a bus the rest of the way to Managua. She was having a hard time dealing with frustrations from the trip, and had less time to dedicate to the journey than we did. It worked out great though, because she was eager to start helping out with the SMr team in Managua. This left Eli and I a bit weakened without her fluency in Spanish, but we both had enough skill in the language to get by.
We had spent a full day exploring Oaxaca the day before. It was a beautiful city with colorful buildings, elaborate cathedrals, even the graffiti was beautiful and interesting to me. We sauntered in and out of markets observing the daily lives of the Oaxacan people. They were so ordinary, yet gloriously vibrant all at the same time.
Graffiti in Oaxaca:
I was tempted to stay in Oaxaca myself and start a new life there. But when I heard the familiar rumble of Shakira shaking her old bones, I grabbed my bags and kissed Oaxaca good-bye with the promise of future adventures on the southern horizon.
Eli and I made good time as we raced toward the Pacific coast of Mexico. We intended to find some good spots for camping, set up a few hammocks, and have some fun on the beach. As we continued south towards the coast, the smell of salt began to drift into Shakira's open windows. We were getting close; the plants were changing to large tropical varieties that I was more familiar with.
Just after passing the coastal city of Salina Cruz we stopped for fuel. Opening the hood to shut off the engine Eli noticed something horrible! The radiator fan had completely melted off its rotor and was dangling limply, providing no airflow to Shakira's delicate motor. The men working the pumps at the gas station, though all in good favor, took it upon themselves to come evaluate the problem. They began climbing into the hood, pulling wires and fidgeting with pieces and parts, moving a little too fast for it only being their first date with Shakira. With wires and parts going all which ways and each yelling their opinions and plans of action, I was having a hard time shooing them all away. We found out that there was a mechanic about 5km down the highway and I was anxious to get away from the overzealous and boisterous gas station attendants.
As we had traveled further south the American recognized view of prosperity became less and less apparent. We drifted closer to the "poorest state in Mexico," Chiapas, where we pulled off the highway looking for the mechanic. His shop was practically right underneath the highway. There were two rust covered trailers with decrepit yellow-tinged tin siding, the bigger one lopsided and sunken into the ground. In front of the trailers were several rusted out cars, a couple dogs scrounging around for food, and three men hanging out underneath a wooden dilapidated porch. They were all clad in yellowed white tanks and letting their ample bellies reflect the late afternoon sun. Noticing Shakira limp up they probably thought we were vagabonds looking for money. They laughed and pointed when they saw two clueless gringos hop out, popping the hood to turn the engine off.
Our Spanish, rustier than the cars on the lawn, was good enough to understand that the men could not help us. Though they did not have a replacement fan, they recommended that we do not continue to drive Shakira without one. Eli and I both agreed, so we decided to try and fix the fan ourselves. Eli had prepared a plethora of tools for just such a circumstance. We found a shady spot that was out of the way and removed Shakira's radiator. Although Eli was not a mechanic, having grown up in Mississippi, he was sort of a jack of all trades. We each had our own idea of how to secure the fan back on the rotor. We tried Eli's idea first, and were ecstatic when it appeared to work!
We traveled about 20km before pulling over. We were disappointed when we saw that the fan, again, was not spinning. We were out of options, the sun had gone down, and we had a partially working car. The nocturnal symphony surrounded us from the thick tropical vegetation and I felt something scamper across my toes. (I'm sure it was some sort of relative to the creature we met earlier.) We were in a dangerous area and in definite need of a SAFE place to stay. We slowly turned off the main highway to the town of Ixhuatán, which was situated on the most narrow part of Mexico's isthmus. We pulled the radiator out again and this time tried my method of fixing the fan, it worked for a bit, but then alas, the little gizmo/gadgety thingy got stripped out completely, and the fan would not spin... No more rigging, we just needed a new fan!
We found a very shabby hotel, and definitely overpaid. My bed either had rat droppings or gecko poop in the sheets and on the pillows. Luckily we had a pillow in the car making it possible for me to get a bit of sleep.
This is where we ended up today