Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Logbook: Tapachula

TapachulaTapachula was a very good choice as a place to spend a few days of “recovery” -- from my excellent but very difficult and exhausting time in Mexico City -- and “preparation” -- for my transit of Central America to Costa Rica. A city of about 300,000 people, it can best be described as a “cross-roads commercial city.” Depending on how you look at it, Tapachula is either the last substantial city as you head south out of Mexico or the first as you head north from Central American. Either way, it is a place where business people meet “in the middle” and tourists stop “along the way.” There is some opportunity for cultural exploration, but I honestly haven’t done much of it. For me, it has been a pleasant and serviceable little oasis.

Here is a brief recap of the past few days: After leaving Greg at the airport in Mexico City last Thursday, Miguel and I went to his favorite place for lunch then did a little more generic sightseeing. After that, he dropped me off at the bus station where I caught my ride south. The bus left promptly at 6pm and I spent the next 18 hours in relative comfort on the “executive” bus, watching video and listening to podcasts -- Have I told you how much I love my iPods! -- and getting a reasonable amount of sleep. After rolling into the Tapachula bus station at noon on Friday morning, I went to the ticket counter to reserve my place on the famous “TICA Bus” that will take me further south. After about 20 minutes of going back and forth with the woman at the counter -- including ample pointing to my map and calendar -- she handed me a clipboard with pages that vaguely resembled the seating chart for a bus and had me write my name in a box on a page marked with the date of my desired departure. She seemed rather unfriendly and disinclined to be helpful, so I figured that was as good as it was going to get. I grabbed a cab to the Hotel Loma Real -- a pleasant “resort” on a hill overlooking the city -- and checked in. A shower and lunch later, I took a little nap then went for a brief walk around the grounds. It was hot and muggy, but at least it wasn’t polluted! I went to bed early and slept like a log.

Saturday was a very leisurely day of on-line connection and general recovery. On Sunday I was a bit more productive, editing and posting a lot of website content. In two days, I never left the Loma Real compound. Yesterday was “chore day” and I went into town to drop off my laundry, get my hair cut and shop for supplies in a pretty good sized mall. Not feeling confident about my TICA Bus situation, I had arranged with Paulina -- a nice young woman who works at the Loma Real and has excellent English -- to meet me at the bus station and negotiate on my behalf. After about 10 minutes of rapid-fire Spanish and quite a bit of what seemed like heated debate, Paulina explained to me that I was “on the list” and could just show up the morning of my departure, pay my fare and get on the bus. As we walked out, I thanked her and told her that I had found the ticket woman to be rather difficult. Paulina’s response was classic: “She is -- how do you say it -- a bitch!” We both laughed then I treated her to dinner at a nice little restaurant before parting ways.

Today I have been doing some “other work” and generally preparing to head south. Tomorrow I will collect my laundry, pack up my gear and finish getting ready for the TICA bus run -- aka “The John Galt Line” -- through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to Costa Rica. I will also take time to tell you what that is all about! Stand by!

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