Decisions for the Indecisive

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October 20th 2012
Published: October 20th 2012
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Merida, Celestun, Mayapan

The time has finally come to admit we have met our match. For those who have followed our blog, you certainly know that we have had some car problems throughout our journey. It started nearly a year ago with our steering motor (which controls the power steering) going out as we travelled the steep, twisting roads on our way from Oaxaca, Mexico to Puerto Escondido, Mexico. As we watched over the edges of the un-barricaded cliffs on the side of the road we fought the lack of power steering through the hundreds of turns until we reached the coast road. As challenging as the drive was, it was nothing compared to the challenge of getting parts for our Saturn. We ended up having the parts sent from the U.S. as they were not available anywhere in Mexico. It was then that we discovered a serious flaw with our planning for our trip. We really needed to have a type of car that had been sold at one time in Mexico.

As time went on we had a variety of problems with the car. Our windshield was cracked by a rock on a highway near Tuxtla, Mexico. The crack started small but continued to get bigger over the next few months until it began to resemble a map of the roads that we had travelled throughout Central America. We attempted to have it fixed in a couple of countries, but were again told that no parts were available. Our mechanic suggested that it probably would not come all the way out and it would probably be OK. We decided to continue on.

The roads in Mexico and Central America finally took their toll on the bushings of our front suspension. They vibrated badly as we drove around the cobblestone roads of Antigua, Guatemala and the potholed roads of Granada, Nicaragua. We had the bushings checked in Panama and the mechanic told us that while they were noisy and annoying that they would not cause too much more of a problem. As the roads became better in Panama and Costa Rica, the problem seemed not to bother us as much as it had.

The craziest thing that happened was when we were driving near Colon, Panama. We pulled in to a restaurant and found we could not turn the car off. We drove through a blinding rain and finally found an open mechanic shop who, while unable to repair the ignition, was able to find an electrical connector that we could unplug and turn the car off and on with. We have been using that method since. Inconvenient at first, but now just business as usual.

As we were driving a couple of weeks ago near Celestun, Mexico we started to hear another noise in the front end of the car. We visited a mechanic who told us our wheel bearings were going out. It would be hard for us to find bearings but perhaps possible. We decided that instead of going through the hassle, we would head to Texas and get rid of the car. We had finally met our match. He told us that the car would probably make it to Texas, but the noise has gotten progressively worse over the last couple of weeks. We decided that we wouldn’t drive the car in Merida except when necessary over the last two weeks while we planned our trip to Texas.

At first we decided that we would drive to Texas and donate the car (vs. trying to sell or repair it). We decided we would donate the car and head to South America and buy a car there and begin our travels throughout South America. Unfortunately after lots of inquiries about buying a car in Columbia or Argentina we were told that it is very difficult to buy a car on a tourist visa and then drive the car out of the country you bought it in. This wouldn’t work for us and attempting to travel throughout South America without a car for a long period of time just didn’t suit what we wanted to do right now.

We then decided that we would fly from Texas to Thailand and travel in South East Asia for 6 months or so. As we started to look into this our budget would probably mean staying in hostels and travelling by bus for months and we just didn’t think we were ready for such a big lifestyle change on such short notice.

Next choice was what we thought would be our last. We decided that we should go to Texas and replace our car with a newer, nicer car that would be serviceable in Mexico or South America. To get a late model car would probably mean an outlay of at least 13,000 dollars. While this would solve our problems with repairs, it would put us far over the budget that we find ourselves having to stick to if we are not going to cut our trip short of our eventual goals. Plus if we shipped the new car to South America that would add another few thousand to the price. What to do, what to do?

Our final decision was to head to Texas and have the Saturn repaired and then return to Mexico for 6 months while we figured out what to do next. It will probably cost a couple of thousand to get the car fixed and then in effect we hope to have a car that will be trouble free for our final 6 months in Mexico. I guess in the end our final decision was to put off our final decision!

Anyway, that’s what we have been doing for the last few weeks of our stay in Merida. We did have a chance to get out and do a couple of things before the bearings started to go. We travelled out to our last Mayan site. We went to theMayapan ruins for a visit. It is a small site located just south of Merida by about 1 hour. It is historically significant because it was one of the last inhabited sites and also one of the most important sites as it was last city to rule the Mayan world. Almost no one visits Mayapan and we had the site to ourselves for our whole visit. Unlike most of the other Mayan sites in Mexico, the pyramid is climbable. David has some fear of heights (or as he says, falling from heights) and had quite a scare after going ¾ of the way up the pyramid. The steps were almost non-existent and David couldn’t go farther and had trouble turning around to get back down. Kind of funny (or scary depending on your point of view) watching him inch his way down the steps.

We also headed out to the western coast of the Yucatan to visit the town of Celestun. Celestun is most famous for its huge flocksof flamingoes. Unfortunately it is not really the time of year to see the flamingoes and we had to settle for a nice walk on the beach. The beach was deserted except for a few local kids, but we found that there were literally thousands of beautiful, small conch and other shells to be found. We collected a nice selection of shells and headed to the small town pier. We watched some local fisherman catching large nets full of small baitfish. The pelicans were also having a field day enjoying easy picking of the fish. It made for a nice view as they dove just off the side of the pier. All in all a nice visit even without the flamingoes.

We have really enjoyed our visit to Merida and the other parts of the Yucatan that we had a chance to see. Excellent beaches, Mayan sites, nice people and good food. Lots of local culture in Merida and generally good, although hot, weather. I think we have enjoyed Merida as much as anywhere we have visited on our journey so far. We desperately needed a rest after our busy visit to Central America and Merida was a wonderful place for some rest.

We leave for Texas on Monday. We expect our trip to take about 4 or 5 days barring car problems. Wish us luck-we will need it!

Additional photos below
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20th October 2012

My Mother Always Said...
My mother always said, "Not to decide, is to decide." :)
20th October 2012

Wise mother! I was brought up with the 'Gone With the Wind' mentality - "I'll think about that tomorrow; after all, tomorrow is another day!"
20th October 2012

Wishing you the best of luck
I really enjoy your blogs, so hope this solution will keep you on the road for a long time. Have a safe trip up to Texas.
20th October 2012

Your time in Merida coming to an end...your vehicle on its last legs...decisions, decisions...oh to have the opportunity to do so...further adventures beckon. Gotta luv the Mayan ruins.
20th October 2012

Car Alternative
Would it be possible to purchase a used but reliable car in South America, and then just sell it before you leave? It doesn't seem that for a relatively short period you could lose too much money.
21st October 2012

I'm with David
My fear is falling. I've been up in hot air balloons and parasailing and been fine but get me on narrows steps where you can tumble into the abyss and I'm not at all happy. Your car troubles have been many but sounds like you made a good decisions. Hopefully, your remaining months will be trouble free. Keep those great blogs and photos coming.
22nd October 2012

Keep on truckin'
Your car problems are there to keep you on your toes! It's the uncertainty that drives the adventure. What an amazing adventure. David
28th October 2012

Carless in Laredo in a Motel 6
I know there's a country song there somewhere! Thank you for reading our blog; I hope you find it as interesting as I did yours. Nanci

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