Shall we get out and push?

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North America » Mexico » San Luis Potosí » Xilitla
October 31st 2018
Published: November 1st 2018
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Tamasopo to Xilitla

I am awake before seven so Ian gets me a coffee and by 8am it’s time for a Skype call. Dad had a good night and is feeling a lot better - the doc has doubled his painkillers. Mum and Di are preparing lunch whilst dad relaxes. Sounds as if that is doing both of them some good.

I am rudely interrupted by a woman who wants me to end my call. Apparently I am disturbing their sleep. This is the same woman who allowed her very young toddler to stay in the pool till 10pm last night shrieking with joy. Same toddler continued with tantrum shrieking until midnight - presumably he didn’t want to leave the pool! She speaks enough English to tell me to keep quiet so I soon tell her what’s what! It’s unfortunate that there is no WiFi signal inside the room - just one of those things. We are lucky to have WiFi at all given our location.

Bags are packed and we decide to be at the bus station early as everything is quite unpredictable out in the sticks. We pick up some provisions for lunch and have arrived at the station at 10.15am. Our bus is scheduled for 11am.

We have the usual head scratching as I present my internet ticket printouts. They really are not used to advance booking here. 10.30am or 11.15am, I am informed. Perfect, we’ll take the 10.30am! And just as we agree this, the bus pulls in.

We are all set to load up but the counter guy and the driver seem to saying no. Maybe it’s not this bus? We wait.

It’s 10.30am and we have now had the signal to get onboard. Same bus, they just didn’t want us to get onboard before departure time!

Google maps say it will take 1 hour 2 minutes to our destination, Valles, by car. We therefore estimate 2 hours. Our bus looks exactly the same as the one we came on minus the TV. Instead we have loud, jolly, annoying Mexican music to entertain us. :-)

We pass the entrance to the Tamasopo Falls and then the bus wiggles through minor side roads lined with tall crops of sugar cane. We cross the main road many times and by 11.12am google is telling me our journey time has reduced by 5’s now 57 minutes to Valles. :-)

Ian’s ability to sleep anywhere and everywhere never ceases to amaze me! The bus is lurching and jolting as our driver negotiates the winding road, expertly deviating from potholes but unable to avoid the frequent ‘sleeping policemen’.

It seems like there has been quite a lot of faffing and our ‘spot’ has hardly changed on the map when, suddenly, we have hit the main road again and, this time, appear to be staying on it. From here on in we make good progress until we reach Valles.

On the outskirts of Valles we have a traffic jam, not dissimilar to rush hour on the M25! We crawl through town and arrive at a bus station where there is a mass exodus. Unfortunately it’s not the place that google recognises as the central bus station!

The driver confirms this is definitely the end of the line and points at a taxi. We confirm our price and the driver takes us some distance out of town. It’s the place that google has pinpointed and a large sign confirms that we are at the correct location.

We take our tickets to the counter and they tell us to go straight to the bus stand. Unfortunately we are two minutes too late - the bus has just left. No matter there will be another one along in an hour. It gives us time for a much needed comfort break and chance to munch our ritz crackers and cheese, tomatoes, yoghurt and fruit.

It’s pretty humid but we decide we had better go to the bus stand five minutes before departure as a large group has appeared and technically we are booked on the bus one hour later - contingency planning!

Many buses arrive and depart from our stand but we are assured that none of them is the Xilitla bus. Eventually one arrives and there is a loud shout of Xilitla and a beckoning hand gesture. I leave Ian to stow the luggage whilst I grab the seats. Ian reports that the bus luggage door is broken. It is interestingly propped up using a broom handle - we note the other end of the broom on the luggage rack opposite.

Our driver is, as usual, highly suspicious of our tickets. I stand my ground. How much did you pay, he demands? How should I know? But fortunately it is printed on the ticket. Two places , he asks? Yes, I confirm. Sit anywhere, he states. I am able to get two seats near the front and on the left side (less sun in this fierce heat). There is no TV and so far, no piped music. Looks like we might be in for a peaceful trip.

This bus driver is nowhere near as careful as the last. We speed off down the road catching every pot hole and sleeping policeman with gay abandon. Our route takes us through a valley with steep sides which are pretty much deep jungle. There are a lot of ‘garden centres’ - roadside stalls selling brightly coloured flowers. Marigolds are prominent as we are at the beginning of the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival where Mexicans honour their ancestors and decorate their doorways with these pungent smelling flowers.

Our bus branches out of the valley towards Xilitla - at last, we are almost there! We climb pretty quickly through some zigzag bends and the views of the valley are spectacular. But gradually, our bus is losing momentum - it lumbers up the steep road and then disaster strikes. Someone wants to get off. The bus stops and promptly refuses to move again. Ian says he cannot select second gear, and can only select first when stationary. After five minutes the driver has another go. The bus starts...phew. We are only 5km the crow flies!

A few more meters with some terrifying reversing, then limping forward and we are at standstill again. About a third of the passengers get off and thumb a lift. One more try and our driver gives we must all get off. Either the gearbox has totally failed, or the clutch has. Given that it was easier to fix the luggage compartment with a broom handle than fix the strut, vehicle maintenance is clearly not a strong point of this bus company.

Everyone is standing in the gutter at the roadside. One car stops but he can only take two passengers, and certainly not two with luggage! Many others, including empty minibuses, sail on by without stopping. I’m going off these Mexicans now!

Now the Tourist Police have arrived. They don’t care about us but they do direct the traffic, which is whizzing precariously past, overtaking the bus on the steep blind bend. Half of the bus load have now departed having successfully acquired lifts. Thankfully we have managed to retrieve our luggage from the broken bus and two taxis have arrived - we take one of them!

We arrive at the posada - simple, clean and a warm welcome. Now for a shower and change so that we can enjoy the local festivities.

First we go for dinner. We don’t feel like we’ve really had a proper dinner for days. Tamasopa had very thin pickings. So tonight we are going for some pasta! It’s a very nice restaurant with an open air terrace. We both go for spaghetti and are told that it will have a Mexican twist. Fine, as long as it doesn’t blow our heads off!

After dinner, we head up to the square. We wait around for some time wondering if anything official will happen. The square is buzzing with people and kids all dressed up in Halloween gear. The kids have bags bursting with the trick or treating has obviously been going well. Most people seem to have entered into the spirit so to speak. :-)

There is a decorated stage but not much happening up there. Finally there is a loud announcement over the tannoy and loud scratchy fiddling and the street procession begins...lots of floats, loud music and figures dancing down the street. Like San Miguel, the floats and followers appear to be representing local church or community groups with themes...and all using their own dance steps. There is much shouting and merriment accompanied by the sound of loud firecrackers.

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