A Tale of Terrible Tacos and Wonderful Hosts: Tuxtla Gutierrez
We were putting fuel into the bikes at one of the ubiquitous state owned “Pemex” gas stations after a couple very gusty, windy hours on the road. A kindly Mexican man came up to chat to us and started suggesting places for us to visit along our path. I reached for my iPhone to note down his suggestions. It wasn’t in my pocket. It wasn’t in my other pockets. It wasn’t in my tank bag.
There is a special kind of panic that I feel was unknown to previous generations. I call it “Phone Attachment Disorder” (PAD for short). We are the first generation who have grown up with cell phones our whole adult lives, and we are the first to know the sinking feeling of not knowing EXACTLY where our technology is at all times.
In this case, I had left my phone in Jorge’s kitchen. I’ve managed seven and a half months of travelling without losing anything, and then the first thing I lose? One of the most expensive items I have with me. I am an idiot.
Luckily for me, Jorge is a wonderful person. He had seen that I had left my phone and jumped in his car to chase us down. Unfortunately we were too fast for him to catch, so he returned home and waited for our call. When we called him he explained his plan to courier the phone to our next stop in Tuxtla Gutierrez. Perfect.
Still kicking myself for being so forgetful, we made our way to Tuxtla, the capital city of the Mexican state of Chiapas. First impressions weren’t great. Big city, lots of big corporate brands (Walmart, Dominos, Little Caesars etc). Even my trusty guidebook called it “a busy, shabby city with a couple of points of interest to the tourist”.
We stopped to buy some oil (Cricket seems to be developing a drinking problem. I’ve needed to add nearly a litre of oil in the past 5000km. May need to do something about this worrying symptom) and some new flip-flops to replace my trusty and much beloved, yet warn and broken, duct-taped Havaianas.
We also gave Hugo, our Couchsurfing host a call to let him know we’d arrived. He answered the phone and told us he was currently in a calculus exam and would meet us that evening in the Zocalo (town square). We’re not sure how it is that he managed to answer his phone during an exam, but we set out to find the Zocalo.
On the way we passed a Yamaha shop and decided to try to buy a new rear tire tube, as all of ours now have small holes in them. Luckily they had one in stock, not so luckily they tried to charge us 300 pesos for it. We talked them down to 250, but it was still more than we would have liked to pay.
I’ve noticed us becoming very cheap. I try to keep in mind that a few dollars here and there isn’t a big deal, but with no money coming in (except from our wonderful donors, thank you VERY much) we do tend to penny pinch and negotiate for everything possible. We know we’ve got some big expenses coming up (notably crossing from Panama to Columbia) and we also know that our only limiting factor on this voyage is money. We’ve beenÂ stickingÂ prettyÂ rigidlyÂ to our budget, and we are told that Guatemala will be even cheaper. Yay!
We found the Zocalo and a local taco place, so parked the bikes and had a light meal. This turned out to be a very bad idea, but we didn’t know it yet.
Phil has been hankering to get his motorcycle boots polished by a shoe shiner for weeks. Since we were still waiting for the agreed time to meet Hugo, now was his opportunity.
After the boot shining and a quick wander through the stalls selling artisan souvenirs (more stuff we can’t buy as we have no room for it) we met up with Hugo.
Hugo lives with his family in a lovely house. His father is American and mother is Mexican, but they grew up in Panama. We love an international family! He’s studying engineering – hence the calculus exam!
Hugo’s mother told us to make their home our home as soon as we met her. We parked the bikes in the handy motorcycle parking area (well that’s what we made it) and moved right in.
It was not long after we arrived that Phil realised something was wrong. Very wrong. In fact the moment was when I handed him a beer, and he said he didn’t want it. This rare event made him realise that his stomach was not feeling right.
He spent the next couple of hours quite sure that nasty things were going to happen. He was right. While Hugo and I chatted for hours about travelling and music, poor Phil was making repeated trips to the bathroom, emptying his body in all ways humanly possible.
My friend Teri gave me a travel towel to bring with me on this trip, onto which she had had embroidered the timeless instruction “Don’t Panic”. This appealed to me both as a practical reminder as well as being a beautiful reminder of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“. Perfect that it wasÂ inscribedÂ on a towel as well (all intergalactic travellers should have a towel with them at all times).
On that fateful day, I had hung it in the bathroom folded in half, with only the word “Panic” showing. Phil tells me that it was very appropriate, as he read it just as he realised that he was about to empty out of both ends at once, and there was only one toilet.
Phil had a rough night, and didn’t feel so great the next day either. Hugo jumped on the back of Cricket (brave boy) and we went to pick up my iPhone from the courier depot. When we got there, the doors were closed and the shutters down. It was Saturday – had they closed early??? It appeared to be so, until we peered into the window and there were still people in there. Phew. They passed me my package through the grate and all was well with the world.
That evening we had a bit of a fiesta in the front yard. Some of Hugo’s brother Carlos’ friends came over and brought some beer and whiskey with them. These kind of situations are excellent for learning Spanish, especially with such patient people as these ones.
After the party Phil was shattered, but it was Mexican going out time, so I went with Hugo to the road with all the bars. We met his friends at an Irish bar with live music. I liked the bar, but the music was so loud I couldn’t really talk to anyone, or even hear myself think. I really don’t enjoy music that loud. Phil and I have discussed this several times this trip – we must be getting old! On the way home Hugo showed me the monument that marks the transition of Chiapas from Guatemala to Mexico. I hadn’t even known that it had moved…
The next day Phil was slightly recovered, so we decided to head on towards the mountains. We were so fortunate to find such wonderful hosts in Tuxtla! Thank you so much Hugo, Carlos and all the family!