SMr Road Trip Mississippi to Nicaragua
Day 14 - October 16th - Ixhuatán, Mexico to Pijijiapan, Mexico
We woke up early... Ixhuatán was a very interesting place geographically, and although I had never seen pictures, nor knew anything about the town I had always wanted to go there, based solely on it’s position on a map. Ixhuatán was located on the Pacific side of the isthmus of Mexico, the thinnest section of the country. We left the hotel in search of yet another mechanic.
The sidewalks downtown were crowded with women in long skirts and tight black buns, and men in jeans and long-sleeves shirts despite the heat. They were very busy hauling their goods to and fro. I heard more than a few people say not too quietly “Mira, gringos,” (Look, white people) since we were the only tourists in sight, but we were used to this by now. We strolled into a roadside cafe, took a seat, and enjoyed the local specialty, our choice of an assortment of marinated and spiced meats served on small but thick, homemade corn tortillas. It was cheap and delicious!
We paid and were soon asking people where we could locate a good mechanic. We found out that there was only one in the whole town and it was not an easy feat to get there. Just then, we noticed a large group of people coming towards us in the middle of the street. It appeared to be a parade. As they got closer we noticed that they were almost all women and were carrying large washing bins. “It must be a baby shower," Eli suggested. The women in the parade all had bright smiles on their faces and were greatly enjoying their demonstration. As they walked by they tried to convince us to join the procession which was going down to the river. We asked a few men watching from the sides of the street what was going on. They told us that the women were celebrating their devotion to one of the saints by going down to wash clothes in the river. I saw plenty of wash bins but none of the women had clothes, I wondered what clothes they were planning on washing. As a few more women tried to get us to come along I looked down at what I was wearing. I did need a good washing. We started to follow along... but then we were torn. Shakira needed us, and we needed to get back on the road. So we headed back to find the mechanic.
We fired Shakira up and soon turned down a narrow driveway. We parked the car before pulling in too far, and I peeked my head around the corner peering into an open air kitchen enclosed by black bars from floor to ceiling. I timidly said “Hola” as I poked my head in, and got a glimpse of a woman who was not completely clothed. Blushing, I retreated back into the driveway saying “Discúlpeme,” (Excuse me) as she skimmpered deeper into the house. Soon a man came out wiping his hands on an oil covered cloth, “Estamos buscando para un mecánico” (We are looking for a mechanic.) He smiled and gave us a warm welcome. He chatted away boisterously, Eli and I only catching about 50 percent of what he was saying, but we could tell it was a very funny and enjoyable conversation. He decided to pull the radiator fan out of a Mitsubishi, Montero from the 80s, and before we knew it, had crafted it to fit into our radiator, attaching it snuggly with bailing wire.
Clearly the mechanic enjoyed our company for he invited us for a walk around his property. He led us down to the river to show us how high it had gotten during the recent rainy season. On the walk back, the mechanic asked us to stay with him and his wife as long as we were in Ixhuatán. We declined the offer, thankfully, as we were anxious to get back on the road. Attempting to prolong our stay, he took out his special baseball bat, swinging, and shooting the breeze about his favorite sport. Eli, loving sports and baseball, stepped forward and took a couple swings himself. We finally assured him that we really must go, paid him $25 bucks, and were on our way.
We left Ixhuatán and were making great time. Until we came to a giant line of backed-up traffic. It was a teacher protest. After talking to some fellow drivers, we found out that it was the only route you could possibly take, and we would be stuck for several hours. We dug in our heels, bought some sheep meat tacos for lunch sold to us by a lovely roller skate wearing young woman, killed Shakira's engine, and kicked back on her hood. The "bell rang," so to speak, and the teachers finally let us out a mere 4 hours later.
We were still in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There were tropical plants lining the streets, and quite a bit of trash mixed into the vegetation. Roosters were pecking along the sides of the highway and smiling, skinny dogs were scrounging for anything even slightly edible. We were flying down the highway, when a jarring groan erupted from Shakira’s motor. We had only made it about 70 miles, and coasted into a town called Pijijiapan. The buildings had questionable architecture and many were made from scraps of tin that had been nailed onto skinny wooden frames.
We pulled into yet another mechanic. This time there was a high tin roof with brick walls going three-quarters of the way to the top of the building. The floor was dirt packed with oil, and there were cars in various states of repair filling the space. The mechanic was about 16 and pulled a screw from between the motor and timing belt. He changed our oil and sent us on our way.
We stayed in a really bad hotel in Pijijiapan with only one bed, and a moldy shower that would only spout water when you pulled on a long chain attached to the valve. It would dump an obscene amount of cold water on you until you just couldn't take it, and released the chain. We could pay either 15 bucks for the whole night or $8 for three hours. We chose to stay the night. They brought us a third of a roll of toilet paper and a very rough, ripped up towel, that I'm assuming was more popular with the three hour residents... All in all, I slept surprisingly well. : )