It's always difficult leaving places where we feel comfortable and have made new friends, but if we're ever going to get to Belize we have to keep moving. We said our goodbyes to Arturo and he lead us into town for gas and out of town to the freeway entrance. We truly have a new friend and we hope he'll visit us in Belize and we'll have a chance to return to San Juan Del Lago.
Heading in so close to Mexico City we expected it to be a nightmare, but the trip was very smooth and we only had to unhook the truck twice to back up. Once at a toll booth because the truck in front of us didn't have the money for the toll and the second time after entering Tepozotlan. We arrived after about a 5 hour drive and it was full-on prime time in Tepozotlan. This was the final day of celebration of Dias de los Muertes and this town is a hub of partying.
The day after we arrived here, the grandson of the original park owner was the first one who could actually tell me how the official schedule works for this holiday. As I understood him, at midnight on November 1 the spirits of the children who have died return to be honored by and visit with their relatives. At midnight on November 2 the same happens with the spirits of the adults. On November 3 it's a big party to celebrate the entirety of the occasion and then it's all over.
We arrived about 3:30 on November 3rd. Tepozotlan has an incredible, huge old church/cathedral surrounded by a gargantuan plaza and the whole area was packed with cars and people. Think New Orleans on Mardi Gras on a smaller scale. We had to drive right through the middle of it all to get to Don Pepe's. Fortunately, everyone we asked knew where it was and they directed us, block by block.
We got within just a few blocks of the park when we encountered the bus, head on, on a narrow street. He wanted us to pull over or back up, however, when you're towing a truck, backing up is not an option. I got out and made as many hand gestures as I could, trying to tell him he had to be the one to retreat. Finally, I gave up and unhooked the truck, with traffic backed up 8 cars deep in both directions. By the time Laurie jumped in the truck to drive it, the local police had largely cleared the path in front of us and we were back on our way to complete the 6 more blocks to Don Pepe's. One of the first locals who had directed us to Don Pepe's was waiting at the entrance to make sure we made it. He arrived on foot before we did in the RV if that gives you any idea of our timeline.
Need I say it? The park to ourselves. This is an interesting place in that pretty much every square foot of floor space in the entire place is paved with cobblestone. I know it was done by hand and must have taken forever. I had to brave the traffic once more as soon as we arrived to restock a few supplies. When I got back to the park I was locked out. I parked the truck at the entrance and walked around the block to about where the RV was parked. After seeing me pathetically yelling over the fortress walls of Don Pepe's to my wife ("Stella!") a local let me in his adjacent, under construction, domicile and directed me to a ladder which I climbed to the next level. I then scaled another 5-foot wall in my flip flops and was back inside the park.
I keep forgetting to mention that we're surprisingly at altitude. At San Juan Del Lago, we were at 3,000 feet and now, we're at 7,500 feet. As ignorant rookies, we never took the time to consider this. It's cold at night (and sometimes during the day) and we're ill prepared. Sweat pants, sweat shirts and flip flops be us in 40-degree weather. Dopes. The RV, being carbureted, also doesn't like the altitude. It's not getting enough oxygen so it's constantly backfiring - loudly. Just a few more days of this and then we'll be back down the hill on the east coast of Mexico.
We had planned on leaving after night two, but plotting our course out of here was a nightmare and required an entire additional day. It's bad enough having to drive 5-8 hours when we hit the road, but having to spend hours the day before doing the virtual drive in advance makes it worse. On the other hand, doing the virtual drive makes the actual drive much easier so I'm not quite sure how to think of the whole thing. I just finished the virtual drive - can you tell I'm a bit punchy?
Thursday night, Ian and Penelope arrived in their Australian Urban Assault Vehicle. They're 18 months into their 4 year driving tour of the world. I think I said once before that our trip is pretty minimal compared to the Europeans we're meeting. These guys are balls out. Penelope and Ian are also on their way to Belize where they'll take a break to fly home for Christmas, so we're hoping to see them again. Their latest dilemma is that Costa Rica and Panama won't let them drive through their countries because their beast is right-hand drive.
We also met Michael & Achim, who arrived from Germany Friday. Again, two incredibly wonderful new friends. Being that we're all whacky, unorthadox travelers, we become friends quite quickly. Laurie made soup for our entire, new, European family. Then, we all gathered at Ian and Penelope's and chatted until the wee hours of the morning. Saturday morning - off to Puebla.
I'm wrapping up this post after our arrival in Puebla, Saturday afternoon. I never do a full blown blog posting on travel days because all I'd do is bitch, bitch, bitch, so here's a little teaser for the next post: The quickest and yet the worst, travel day yet - asshole Mexican cops shaking us down.