Where's My Donkey?

We have returned from our ten day excursion to Mexico, not that much the worse for wear, a little tanner, a little more fluent in Spanish, a lot more respect for the country, its citizens, and the landscape itself is often breathtakingly beautiful. Two animal observations: (1). In the more rural areas, you will often stumble upon donkeys/burros standing alone on a long stretch of otherwise uncultivated land, munching grass and braying, seeming to belong to no one. Shawn wondered aloud if the donkeys are public property. Like, no one official owns them, but if you need one, you just hop on, kick, and go. I counter guessed that they do belong to individual family's, but that they're maybe not that easy to track. So, one title for our trip is, Where's my Donkey? (2). The competing title for our trip is "Dog Teats for Everyone," because every single female dog we saw in the wild had teats for their puppies (Don't worry about eating chickens or hogs or cattle from Mexico, by the way. The livestock run all over the place and can be found in kitchens, backyards, and hammocks). The dog teats phenomenon depressed me. There are already so many gnarly, starving dogs that it sucks to think that the girl dogs get pregnant every single time they can as there's not much in the way of nuetering going on. In fact, any time two dogs were together, it was only a matter of time before one was humping the other one. Mexico City, in particular, had tons of free range mongrels, including poodles, German Shepherds, a golden retriever pup and one very skinny Cocker Spaniel. I knew this aspect of the trip would bother me and it did, though admittedly, the dogs were pretty friendly and not all of them looked to be dying, even as they limped, toothless across the Palazzo to nose at the garbage scattered on the tiles.

What else did we learn on our journey? Well, Lonely Planet only goes so far. For instance, very few of the LP entries include dire warnings of where not to eat, sleep, or drive as we discovered when we (and by "we" I clearly mean "Shawn") decided to rent a car and drive from Mexico City to Taxco to Zihuentenjo. Not a huge problem to get from MC to Taxco, except what you may not know about this little colonial silver town is that the streets are 4 feet wide, filled with people with baskets on their heads and young children, and the cobbled roads all go straight up a very steep hill at about a 180 degree incline which makes for awesome driving when you have a Nissan automatic rented from the aeropuerto. Shawn did the best screech around the main fountain...The kind of lurch and scream of the car that makes fighting teenagers stop punching each other to look at you dumb white americans as your car jerks across the pavement in stops and starts that make you hit your head on the dashboard. He did so so so so well, for real, until the very last turn into our hotel when the car rolled quickly backward instead of forward and hit the wall behind us making a small dent and peeling off car paint. Okay, but that's fine. We just parked the mother for the rest of our stay and chugged up the streets ourselves, unaware that the very worst was yet to come.

This would be Tuesday on the drive from Taxco to Zihuantenjo down 95. On the map, 95 looks like a normal road. It doesn't disappear occassionally into the trees or turn into a dotted line or get crossed by a river or anything. Until you get on it. 95 S. runs up and down several mountains. It seemed as though I, as the passenger, was always on the side that was nearest a huge plunge down the mountain without a guardrail. We saw this sign about 1,590 times: It lost its pertinence after the 100th time. Okay,we get it. The roads are very, very curvy. Every 20-40 minutes, we would crash through a rural town that had its own set of dangers, namely, the burros mentioned above, or the dogs, or the speed bumps, or the children who don't mind meandering across the road. Worse, there were no other signs to tell us how far we'd come or how far we had to go to get to the next town. There was also nowhere to turn off if we did decide to stop. And the sun was setting. And then we hit road construction; pot holes that were ten inches deep and just as wide. Luckily, no one else was on the road (because the road was almost undrivable). We thought it might be bad for a few kms or so. It was bad for the next four hours. At one point in our journey, we found ourselves inching down the road next to a herd of horned cattle, with the cattleherd guy running alongside to shoo the cows off to the left so we could get through. And the light was fading. Just before that, we had to pull off to have our car searched by the Federales with their automatic weapons. I tried to use my cleavage to distract the Captain. I don't know if it worked, but they didn't find anything of note. The Captain warned us not to push on but to find a hotel in this small town he circled on the map. He said the roads were very bad and it would be dark soon. An hour later, we reached the town. The sun was just above the treetops and fading fast. Shawn said, I want to press on. We passed yet another "peligroso!" road sign with rusty bullet holes in it. I said, For the record, I think this is a bad idea. I imagined my phrase would echo in our ears when we were hijacked by the Zapitistas and I would be right though also dead. But still right though. It got dark. Shawn swears he saw a tarantula cross the road. We cut across a small river. Finally, finally, finally, we saw the lights of the Pemex gas station. We had made it. It was already becoming mythology, the story we would tell about the trip. I was telling the story even in the middle of it, even as we entered a short section of the mountains that numerous signs and the Captain had warned about, both sign and man repeating, Nieblas, nieblas, while we nodded, oh, okay, the pebbles are bad there? Actually, nieblas are big white foglike clouds that distort and cover your vision. Still, I knew if we made it, that part of the vacation would be the main story we would tell, at least I had to keep reminding myself we would get to repeat the tale so that I wouldn't think about flying off the cliff into the nieblas and tumbling down the side of the beautiful, beautiful mountain.


Antonio Hicks said…
I was just browsing various blogs as I was doing a search on the word halloween, and I just wanted to say that I really like what you've done with your blog, even though it wasn't particularly related to what I searched for. I appreciate your postings, and your blog is a good example of how a blog should be done. I've only just recently started a Posters website - feel free to visit it when you get a chance if you wish. Much success, antonio.
Karin said…
Welcome back, Aimee! It sounds like you had many wild adventures that will linger in your memory for years to come. Mexico sounds like a really interesting place to visit. I'd love to go there. I'd love to go to India, too. I'm not sure why I equate the two places in my mind.

Your crazy driving story reminded me of my summer semester in Italy just before my senior year of college. We had taken a train to a western coastal town and planned to head onto Cinque Terre, which means 5 Earths, I guess, so named because there were 5 towns nestled in the valleys of mountains. After we got off the train, we figured we could skip the bus trip to the first town and hike through the mountains instead. It was still early enough, and we were adventurous.

Well, there were no real paths, so needless to say, we got lost. We walked for hours, and couldn't find our way down the mountain before dark. We scooted on our butts down ravines quite a bit. I fell and scraped my elbow badly.

During light hours, our view had been obscured by 'nieblas", too, which contributed to our confusion, no doubt. So once it got dark, it was pitch black.

Eventually we found a road, which had been illuminated by fireflies lit up all around us. They guided us well enough to keep us moving.

After about 7 hours of hiking on that damn mountain -- 7 hours of listening to these two prima donnas complaining -- we suddenly heard reggae music. We made it! There was some tacky karaoke bar on the beach where American girls were singing "We're Jammin'". We went to the bar, filthy, had a few drinks, went swimming in the ocean, and passed out on the beach until dawn.

It was awesome.