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Day Three: San Fernando, Mexico – Papantla, Mexico

Submitted by on Thursday, 19 February 2009No Comment

Day Three
San Fernando, Mexico – Papantla, Mexico
395 miles

After a nice night of rest, we woke up cold. The bed had worn paper-thin sheets and no blankets. I was rolled up like a big taco. When I took a shower I found 4 huge wool blankets in the closet.
The schedule showed that we were to ride to Tampico. It was a gorgeous day. Getting out of the city was easy, our bellies were full and the feeling of being on the road was great.
Within minutes we had good riding rhythm going at a nice cruising speed. Tampico was getting closer and about thirty minutes from the city the highway shut to a stand still.
“Un toque” someone said. What’s that? I replied. “A crash”. It was hot and humid and I could see perspiration through my enduro jacket.  We weren’t there for too long when a cop said we needed to turn around. No one was going to pass.
“Is there any other way to Tampico?” The cop gave me directions on how to get to a road to bypass the mess. The cop looked at the bike and he only said, yes you can go. It’s a dirt road.
The problem was that the number of semi’s waiting on the highway was blocking the side road. When I turn around we couldn’t see it so I kept passing it. I had to ask for directions again.
A guy drew a map and I turned around again to try to find it only to be behind the line of trucks obstructing the road. The locals started to point out the road and we had to squeeze the bikes between the trucks and cars.
There it was. The infamous dirt road, one of those you don’t want to even look at it because the whole thing will fall into pieces. The more we followed it the worst it got. Deep crevasse dried up and caked up mud.
Every time the bike crested in between the mud holes, my thoughts were oh shit, my feet are about two feet from the ground. Eight miles later we had done it. The feeling of accomplishment was huge. If we were looking for adventure we surely found it.
Everything looked like it was going to be fine. We were on the other side of the road and I could see a pile of cars, buses and semis just waiting to move. When we got out high school students were cheering us and giving us thumbs up.
Tampico was in sight and the traffic was horrendous. It was rush hour and got lost again but this time during the day. I asked for directions: take the bridge after the light and cross the boulevard the cop said.
Did he say a light or two? Did he mean a working light? I didn’t see a bridge. Shit! Ask directions again. Everybody tried to help but they assume you know where you are. To make it better most of the times the streets are not marked.
A big structure was ahead of us: the Tampico Alto Bridge; another landmark in our long journey. We were hungry and stopped in the next town. I ordered the specialty of the house: an enchilada platter. Do you want a full or half the lady said. “Half is ok”. There were fifteen enchiladas on the tray and it cost us five dollars. We ate while Pinky the spider monkey was looking at us from the cage.
Because it wasn’t dark yet, I decided we could push it a bit further and spend the night in Tuxpan. The thing is it gets dark fairly quick in Mexico and we were soon riding in the dark again.
The quality of the roads was variable. Some areas were ok, but others sucked; some stretches were pothole galore. About an hour from Tuxpan I checked my GPS and noticed it was out of the way. I made the decision to drive an extra hour to Poza Rica.
Semis were driving like crazy and regular folks too. I saw a truck driving on the wrong side of the road on a blind hill and turning on a blind curve. At some point I made a turn following the traffic signs and we ended up on the wrong way with upcoming traffic heading towards us.
There were trucks hauling oranges that were so packed they could hardly move up the hills. Fruit stands by the side of the road were the norm. They had papayas, oranges and bananas.
Focusing on the car in front of me made me loose sight of the road for a minute and I hit a rock the size of two fists which made my handlebar bobble side to side in the scariest way.
When we got to Poza Rica, we stopped to hydrate. I told Lloyd I didn’t research that town but a guy from the internet had recommended the stay in the next town (Papantla). In an exchange of email he had told me the town was worth a stop.
Hitting the road again for the next 20 miles we found Papantla and managed to get lost trying to find the hotel. The town was packed with vehicles on narrow and hilly streets reminiscent of Europe. While at a stop light I shouted to a taxi driver where I could find the hotel. Somehow he saw my frustration and just said: Follow me.

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