We fly Casablance to Madrid to Mexico City.
The señor in the breakfast room pads me on my shoulder like 'a good luck my friend'; they are spoilt my boys from 3 weeks in Morocco in the embracing of family who had not seen them for more than a year, spoilt with nothing but chocolate, all day fries, 2 biscuits and 4 Danone yoghurt a day, the Moroccan Danone variant, striking because a far fly from the French real, tastes amazingly artificial of emulsifiers, preservatives and what have you.
I had promised before coming to stay quiet, turn a blind eye on their eating habits for 3 weeks; now the regime is on on the grand voyage with daddy.
So here in Madrid they have not touched their toast and tomato spread and olive oil, their bun and jam and butter, not their croissant, not their kiwi, just 2 glasses of milk and sugar. Well they'll eat on the plane, I think, in 6 hours or so.
They do eat on the plane to Mexico, but really mostly biscuits they are being offered, stuffed with from all sides. So 11 hours later and again hardly anything eaten.
In Mexico City we find the van as Christina and I left it 1 month ago, the boys are excited about it, enthused to find children seats and we hit the road east-wards when night falls. It doesn't last long and we're stuck in a total traffic jam, a stand-still, everybody turns off engine and lights, then a thunder storm with lightning all around and hard pouring commences; it is a spooky welcome these couple of dark hours on the highway. I bed the boys in the back and wait trying not to fall asleep. By 1 in morning we have finally gotten beyond a crucial junction near Chalco de Diaz Covarrubias just 30km from where we have set out, next gas-station we stop for our 1st camp. At night I wake several times to see for the boys, whether they are still here.
Papacatepi, Puebla, Orizaba, all jet lagged.
Jet lagged the boys wake at 5, no rain and we drive east out of the Valley of Mexico till we reach a pass of 3,200 meters in elevation all before sunrise. Right are some food stalls at the summit hardly lit and we sit down, it is freezing and the boys don't like the taste of chorizo, will they ever like it? When we roll down the serpentines an orange sun lights the horizon, a promising volcano Papacatepi snow topped with smoke and all invites for a detour which I wanted to do anyway but skipped last night amidst the storm and traffic.
8 in morning a bit more than 12 hours after flying in we go for a walk, a first walk, a pick-up takes us higher, friendly indigenous people, I cannot ask where they go, what they do, the boys like the ride on the back. Where they let us off we have a great view but clouds start engulfing Papacatepi already, impressive is the amount of fume evaporation, volcanos attract. 2.5 kilometers back trekking is much for the tired boys. In Cholula at 11 we park in a shady spot and lie all down for a siesta for one hour. McDonald's food later is terrible, GM McNuggets? the boys refuse and only eat fries. While they play I can read up, get a little plan together, wifi doesn't work or I am too tired to figure out how?
In Puebla totally exhausted we go walking, Puebla is nice and weather is good. Food-wise we hit a taqueria, I try chicken enchiladas for the boys, say totally not spiced, what comes is the hottest dish I have ever been served in Mexico, cow of a server, friendly but..., but then maybe is my Spanish. I cannot blame the boys for not eating knowing the spoilt kids would not eat it totally mild either; they dig 3 hot dogs instead with cats-up, ketchup how it is spelt here. Puebla is a jewel, with its many baroque churches a world heritage site, the whole city is laid out in squares, Cinco de Mayo comes from here, for the Mexicans allegedly defeating the French in a sideshow during the American civil war, 1862.
PS. last Photo: is striking how quickly storms break loose this time of year.
Late in the day when we visit Sebastian de Aparicio church dark clouds threaten, then at Angel Custodio church the thunderstorms break loose again. 2nd camp.
Up at 5 again, nightly drive again into till very misty morning through the curvy mountains. Orizaba City is a drive through. Only later once in Fortin de las Flores when the boys sleep again Pico de Orizaba, volcano and highest mountain in Mexico shows its head above the clouds. Fortin and the road north is closed, bulldozer work some whatever; I recognize my sign. I had the idea to see El Tajín, Pyramid of the Niches but also I promised the boys a beach; there is no point really touring 500kms north when all is cloudy and we are jet-lagged.
But we are dammed; every little town is so nice in Mexico; well I knew that. Cordoba again invites for a tour, a brioche from bakery and mango fruit from a stand, a Fanta in a cafe; the hungry ones eat it all. Then it's straight to Vera Cruz on the Golf of Mexico.
Vera Cruz, Chachalacas Beach, the mosquitos.
All the way down from the mountain heights to sealevel. The heat come down on us like a sledge hammer.
35kms north is laid-back Chachalacas Beach, all the way down (north) before the dunes start I park and when the boys jump with the waves for hours I am pleased that I could get them so far. Tired I ponder what all will come our way?
Eat? They want, they don't; eggs, fries, frijoles, they eat the fries, hardly touch the eggs which are fried in oil, shy away from the beans. In the end Daniel courageously tries eggs rolled in a tortilla and says he likes it, but basically again nothing eaten.
Once sun sets and I retreat to the boys who by definition should be dead asleep, but what we find is that near the beach thousands of smallish flies bite and there is no escaping, some mosquitoes sting too. There is no breeze and we sweat and get bitten hard and often! The boys panic, want go home, afraid getting eaten alive escape to the top of the van, I have a hard and long time convincing them that there are no man eating monsters inside, they come back when I show them their space and they investigate with the flash light themselves and they keep the flash light so they can watch out while I relocate the van away some 5km. But the mosquitos remain with us and bite, so I make an effort and put up my Mauritanian mosquito net, tie it up as well as I can in the middle of the night with limited tools, no nails or screws avail I cut long strips from an old shirt. The shock still in their little bones they sleep in, but move and kick and I, I would not find sleep till 1 in morning.
Sun wakes and they're up at 7, we are back walking on beach soon after, they're back in the water by 8 and stay all morning with only a little breakfast interruption where out of pure hunger again they try my ranchera style eggs, eggs in tortilla in tomato sauce and they find that they actually like them.
After all morning jumping the waves they fall into coma while we drive to Vera Cruz. There ain't no sleep for daddy. Vera Cruz is cruelly hot, milanesa de pollo and fries is not received enthusiastically, we still walk Vera Cruz, have a Coke and a beer very central in the historic district, see the harbor later. We leave for Baco del Rio beach just near-by, and more jumping in the waves. We leave Vera Cruz/Baco del Rio and sometime later we find ourselves in Alvarada, rusty fish cutters anchor in the lagoon and it is hard to believe but they still go out fishing. The boys fall over barbacoa (wiki) style Tacos, sheep slowly cooked, David has 4! I knew it all the way they'd like them.
On the other 'war-front', I am being warned of loads of mosquitos in Alvarada, so we drive on and reach Lerdo by night. The boys want to go home so afraid are they of just another attack while I search for a place to park. In a back street I ask a shop keeper about security. Aquí pasa nada. I put up the net and we sleep. The shop keeper hands them a yoghurt drink in the morning, what a start of a day. Soon later we find a lonely beach on the Costa del Oro, no one else here on a Sunday morning, white beach with a bit of an under current. Sun and jumping the waves for hours, a banana and sleep and I drive. Where we stop somewhere in Tuxla bio-reserve they again dislike the food, is hard, I understand.
Campeche Bay coast.
Coatzacoalcos at night to Subway so at least the get a sandwich. The Malecon is full of jubilating football fans, cars blow horns, Mexico just beat Uruguay 2:0 and here are no mosquitos. I have a couple of beers while they play on the adjacent playground till late, till it rains.
Coatzacoalcos in morning is a bit in ruins, the boys dislike their milk, I hate my coffee. We leave the state of Vera Cruz and enter Tabasco. La Venta is on the way; replicas of colossal heads of rulers, ball players or warriors from the Olmec civilization (wiki) are planted where they had been found, we climb the pyramid and run away from the swarms of mosquitos. (I think it is here where I receive loads of coins as change and I would need them all so soon...)
Heading on we stick close to the coast of the Campeche Bay. From Sanchez Magallanes on things get interesting because on stretches the road had been swamped away by waves and floods, the ocean has been eating into the mosquito invested coco-nut jungle. Again and again I have to pay toll to locals who 'own' the land and keep the provisional roads working. (Thanks God I received all the coins...) On every photo stop mosquitos strike aggressively. Almost running out of gas, certainly out of coins we reach Paraiso while a thunderstorm roars through. While it pours we head for a cocina económica and the lady serves my boys chicken soup with rice and quesadillas, they eat it all, a full meal! Night in Ignacio Allende.
Early morning we enter Ciudad Carmen in Campeche state, a bank and fresh cash, a juice out of a plastic bag for the boys, an expresso doble for me, chocolate water ice for the boys, a Corona for me, we leave. Playa del Norte, beautiful miles long white beach with nobody on is just - north. The beach goes in deeper quicker here; just how can I teach them to swim, or just stay above the water? That'll take a while... While the dark clouds cram up the skies above and the boys still jump the waves I seek out the only other van parked on the beach; it sells the delicious sea-food (mariscos) cocktails and I spice it up with all the habanero stuff, some 16 bottles, small and large, some bang hard, some more sour and obscure acidly, all fire hellish chili Havana style. Then the ocean turns green, it rains and we leave.
PS.: Still clean shorts.
Campeche, Ahk'ìin Pech.
Night and we reach Campeche or San Francisco de Campeche, in Campeche (wiki) and straight to Mc Donald's so the monsters can have their Chicken McNuggets. Next morning we check into a hotel and I realize how exhausted we all are, me too, not just the boys. I pushed quickly to the coast, then further East, the Yucatan Peninsula is where I wanted to go.
Hotel Colonial is our refugio after the long hours of driving, a week and 1,600kms on the road, the onslaught of mosquitos at night, the 3 hours in the waves daily, the bravery and cowardice with which my boys embrace Mexican food, depending on the hour of the day.
So we sweat, carry salt and sand with us, put sun screen and at night mosquitos repellant on, what a cocktail for our skin. A shower is most welcome, or three a day for two days in a row and a clean bed with a 5 meter high baroque wooden ceiling.
The boys are tough, they go a long way with me, sun is cruel and they'd be jumping waves all day, I need make sure they get enough and not too much, make sure they eat the food they need, bananas, mangoes, melons all go well, with the Mexican cocina though they have a love and hate relationship, they'd be still happier stuffing chocolate and biscuits in all day, but this has been only a week...
PS. after a month in the trip in Belize: They have not been giving a chance and now they eat everything and eat everything up. Beans and eggs in a taco, till nothing is left, fish tacos with cabbage and tomatoes, rice and rice and chicken, all meats in tacos, no hot dishes yet but am working on this.
Campeche deserves a little stay, was found 1540 by Spanish conquistadores atop the pre-existing Maya city, its layout is completely regular, there is a city wall (1686), to better fend off pirates. It is las calles that deserve many strolls, Campeche has feel but also feels touristy and provincial with not much going on. While weather changes swiftly, one wave of storms and pouring is followed by another round of squashing heat we take a lot of siestas and the boys eat a lot of pizza slices, I am happy they've found something the really like. At any time of the day and till late they play with all the other (Maya) children on the main square in front of the cathedral, there is public free wifi, the empty cafe sells expensive unidentifiable beer by the glass. We don't extend a little stay...