Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19TH – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

In the bus station, I wait for the bus and watch the TV hanging in the corner. On the TV, they're speaking in Spanish "Frosty 'cay jana'??" to the tune of Frosty the snowman. There's a guy in a big baggy white felt suit playing Frosty the snowman. It's a kid's program. Girls with futuristic silver jumpsuits run through a candy-colored obstacle course of balloon "moonbounce"-style runways.

There's a sign, "prohibido la persona que sea sorprendida sera consignada a las autoridades". The bus is a half-hour late but I found a baggage handler and managed to communicate. He reassured me that a bus would really be coming.

With Dramamine, the bus ride back to Tuxtla was much, much more pleasant. It's a winding road with a drainage ditch. There's an occasional shrine with a blue cross, and a lei-style ring of flowers over it. The road is slightly banked for sharp turns. This is like a roller coaster ride. There's no rail on the mountain side. The soil is ruddy -- it's the clay again. The primary trees here on the mountain are pine trees.

It's impossible to sleep, because the tight turns yank my head back and forth on the headrest. From this vantage on the mountain road, I can see the valley. It's dotted with the same hothouses for growing flowers. The pine forest is interrupted by squares that have been cut out of them on the mountainside. The squares are fields: green & brown. There are cloud wisps at the same level we're at. I yawn and my ears pop.

We pass cornfields stick into niches where the slope is not so bad, but it's hardly flat! From here, we can see down into the valley and then up again to the mountains which form the horizon beyond the valley. The mountain tops are wreathed and partially obscured by clouds. I have to actively use my muscles against the turns to keep from slipping over. I can't just assume I'll stay in my seat.

We pass lots of signs saying "Superior", which seems to be a kind of beer. It's also a Coca-Cola brand I think. Some of these fields, built right onto a slope, are amazing! The mountains are like a patchwork of fields and forests. The rows of vegetables are usually oriented so that each row is horizontal. There's corn being grown right up to the edge of the highway. I take several photos, knowing they'll be blurry. We're on highway 190 by the way.

Ugh. I'm getting carsick now that we're about one hour into the two hour bus ride. It's a fuzzy, light-headed feeling.

Now we pass some Indians carrying the corn out. The corn from the mountain field right here is wrapped into a cylindrical bundle and they're carrying it on their backs, over a little trail and up to the highway where there's a car waiting. Soft pop music plays on the radio as the driver talks with his buddy in the front seat. There's a bee on the bus with me. It's yellow & black, and buzzes near the window. My drawing the curtain all the way I manage to keep it up against the window.

Two oncoming cars flash their lights at us. A warning that something's up ahead? We come to a very slow moving truck -- 10 mph maybe. It's got a red wooden frame and it's loaded all the way to the top with green sacks of hot peppers! The collective buses are minivans saying "colectivo" or "transporte colectivo".

I eat greasy fries and tex-mex at the Tuxtla airport. There are flies here. I met a guy from London, a young lawyer on a brief detour from a six-person tour group. He tells me that half the Mexican army is in Chiapas.

Our airplane is very small. Its a twin-prop "J32", all white except for the Aerocaribe logo in blue. It only has 21 seats, and only half are filled. The propellers come to life with a vacuum cleaner kind of whirr that rises in pitch. There's a rumble and vibration. The cabin is too small for me to stand upright.

Behind me are two insanely grinning parents who dote on their toddler, as he yelps loudly and babbles and makes ape-like noises. The kid also jostles my chair as I'm trying to sleep. We fly to Oaxaca. I met Amy, and we flew together to Mexico City. We were lucky enough to have a hotel right in the airport: The Marriott.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20TH, 1999 -- MEXICO CITY

We don't have any time to explore Mexico City, nor do we really want to. Our original plans were to visit here, but we decided at the last moment it was too dangerous. Lots of traveler's advisories warned us away. So we go straight to the airport, and fly out to Texas to visit with Amy's family. They are throwing us an engagement party tonight, which should be fun.

Now we're flying home on American Airlines. Finally they're speaking English! There's the time-honored tradition of showing us how seat belts work. They announce over the loudspeakers: "passengers may not use electronic devices during portions of the flight. This is because the electronic signals may interfere with the delicate equipment aboard the airplane." I think to myself, finishing the sentence: "CAUSING US ALL TO CRASH AND DIE!"

In the event of a water landing, the seat cushion becomes a floatation device. (Right, very handy for those of us still alive.) We finally fly away from Mexico City. From the air, all I can see are buildings for as far as I can see. What a city! Finally, we are going home.

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