Sunday, January 15, 2017

A new type of adventure, well maybe even two ...

As we were headed south we continued on the toll roads. The mountains roads can be steep and long, both up and down. And still people travel at high speeds. The Mexican drivers have their own norms and we were quickly learning all about them. A stop sign doesn't mean stop - you had better slow down at intersections and watch for oncoming traffic. A red stop light means stop and if there is no oncoming traffic either way, then you can go. A double yellow line on the highway doesn't mean "Do not pass" it means you pull over and straddle the outside shoulder line and the drivers behind pass you. The drivers on the oncoming side of the road also straddle the shoulder line and people will pass on both sides of the road at the same time. Trucks automatically drive on the far outside of the pavement to allow for vehicles to pass them. And .... as in the US, a driver will pass at a high speed and then immediately pull over to the side and stop or turn, sometimes cutting across two lanes of traffic. A definite learning curve for driving down here.

Leaving Dolores Hidalgo we realized when it was Danny's turn to do some driving that we couldn't find his keys. Surely they were in the car somewhere because we had both double checked and checked again the house for anything left behind. We are always leaving something behind, or so it seems. We stop, can't find them. We stop for the night in Puebla (and that is another story) and can't find them. The next day we end up heading over to the Honda dealer to get a new key. Nope, no can do. Will take 4 business days to get one in (this being a Sat), but you could always go to a locksmith and have them do one. Too hard to find one. But, as we are going in circles trying to get back to the road that will take us to the toll road, we pass a locksmith and whip in. Yes, they can make one, no problem. But wait, we have to call the technician in to do it. Wait and hurry up and wait. Finally he arrives and after lots of electronically fiddling and connecting wires and reading readouts, and redoing, we have a new electronic key. And it is already 3:30 pm.

But to get back to the Puebla story ... Puebla has a wonderful new bridge and overhead toll road. You pay your toll before you get into town and you are driving along nicely over all the traffic below you. But wait, there is our hotel and the GPS says to turn into the ramp on the right. No ramp. On we drive. GPS says turn onto ramp. No ramp. Passing many many streets below us filled with traffic, we wonder if we are ever going to get off. Finally on the other side of town, a ramp is seen so off we get. But this takes us onto another road that has no exits. Drive and drive and finally a turn off. We turn off and find ourselves heading into dusk and the resulting traffic jams of people heading out on a Friday night. Darkness descends and the traffic gets worse. The GPS can not find the hotel - it is a new one. We know approximately where it is so start off that way. One way streets! find our way through the throngs of people and cars. Wait this road is closed for repairs. Was there a sign? NO. Turn here. Wait, those are pretty huge pot holes and washed out areas. Drive carefully and bump and bounce our way to the other road. This one too is closed for repairs. Back up and turn around. The road we want is just over there. Why can't we find a road that will take us to it. Oh here is an open road. Turn onto it - why are the cars coming towards us on a narrow road. Pull over and let them pass. Oops think we are on a one way road going the wrong way. Keep going, there is our exit to cross over to the road we need. But how do we get in? The traffic is backed up for miles or so it seems. Inch by inch we get into the flow of traffic - 5 lanes of traffic on a 2 lane road. Horns blaring. Tempers flaring. People actually running up and onto the sidewalks trying to get one more car length ahead. After what seems like forever, the traffic starts to move a bit fast and hey, we are actually near our hotel. But wait, how do we cross over the freeway to the other side? There is no cross road. So on we go, mile after mile, looking for a way to get across or rather under the toll road. Finally a turn off - and the sign says FINSA which is where the hotel is. Sorry, no turn to the left, only to the right. So right we go, for miles and miles to where we finally can make a U turn and head back the way we came. This takes us over the toll road, YEAH!! and on and on then a quick left U from the far outside right lane. Yup I did that too. And miles and mile along the access road. hey we are here!!!!!! and only 2 1/2hrs after passing the hotel on the toll road. No more driving for me tonight. I don't care if you are hungry, NO MORE driving.

There is a reason that people say to NOT drive in Mexico after dark. Remember that little saying.

Puebla is a quasi-modern city that is in the turmoil of modernizing their rapid transit system. Every other street it seems, is being torn up or having overhead rails put in. Once they get it finished it will be quite something. But for now, it is nothing short of a disaster to drive in for someone who does not know the city. One's GPS is unable to keep up with the traffic issues, especially when in another country. The city is simply not geared to the sudden influx of vehicles that accompanies the rapid growth that they are experiencing. The parking is about non-existent,  which results in people parking anyways, resulting in a narrowing of the actual drivable road. The roads are sadly in major disrepair, probably because the powers to be know that they are going to be torn up soon so why bother and any and all roads are at the mercy of the heavy trucks which will tear up a road as fast as it is repaired. IMHO

After getting the new key, we decide to head out of town and get a hotel towards dusk away from the big city of Puebla. Yup and headed right into rush hour traffic jams. The toll road access is but a mere 2 driving miles a way, which takes us 2 hours to transverse. Then we have to inch our way onto the toll road which is just as congested. 3 lanes of traffic down to one in order to go through the toll booth. Glad that I don't have to do this every day!
 The overhead road is the toll road
We finally get out of the city and the flow of traffic is smooth (well as smooth as the road is smooth) and fast. Once again we are headed into the mountains. Can't find a motel anywhere either. As dusk descends up us we are heading up and up along switch backs but really good paved switchbacks. Off to the left is a fabulous vista of a solitary mountain with snow on the top. As the sun sets, and we hit the top of the pass, this snow is turned to gold with the setting sun's rays.   Beautiful and peaceful. Unbeknownst to use, we have yet another adventure coming our way.

As we start our descent down the other side of the pass, we encounter signs alluding to fog. And sure enough, we run into fog. Remember what I said about driving at night? Well could we find a hotel to stop in? NOT. Down, down we go: switch backs and poor visibility due to fog. Trucks inching their way down and traffic passing us on the left on double solid lines and in the middle of a curve. Oh boy! White knuckles for sure. What seems like forever but actually is probably only 2 hours in the dark, we inch into a small town in the valley at the bottom and find - what is this? A Holiday Inn? Take it! Take it! I do NOT care what it costs. Luckily it wasn't too high either.

And so did we learn about the NOT driving at night? I certainly hope so. And tomorrow will be another day and another adventure.