mad in pursuit travel notes: mexico

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Saturday, 5.8.04: Papantla, Mexico

Morning in Papantla, Mexico - from our balcony[<<< previous] A lazy morning. With a cool breeze Papantla is the perfect place. We had breakfast on the balcony of the restaurant next door. Children in school uniforms gathered to bear witness to a celebration of their school's anniversary. Some are in a drum and bugle corps, exuberantly off-key.

We discussed the "Mexican aesthetic" -- can any conclusions be drawn? They value color, texture, design. They aren't much for neatness or newness. If a large patch in a color-pained wall comes out more like peach, that seems ok. Things don't have to match up or smooth out. Different textures and colors happily abut one another. On our balcony, no one bothered to wipe up the coral paint drips from the white tile floor. Grout is applied sloppily between bathroom tiles, with little attention to clean-up -- sloppy by any definition or culturally cool?

I watch out my window. A man is cleaning up around his shoe-shine stand. Drips a green fluid around on the muddy footprints. Pushes crumpled newspaper across it with a broom -- a makeshift mop. Pushes the damp newspaper to the basura (trash can). He is a short muscular man with neat graying hair, slicked back. Tan pants and shoes. A faded red shirt, long sleeves rolled up, over a white t-shirt. Chewing gum now, looking around, ready for business. There must be a dozen shoe-shine stands in the zócalo. A standard one-piece design: slatted chairs, narrow awning, dark green or vivid blue. Now he is looking in a hand mirror, shaving.

As we hail a cab for the bus station, the voladores put on another performance. Jim manages to spurt out some good Spanish to stop the cab so he can jump out a snap a picture (see it below).Papantla, Mexico - voladores


Back in Puebla, Mexico

The bus ride was longer than expected -- nearly 7 hours. The trip took us from nearly sea level up through the eastern Sierra Madre and into the central highlands about 7000 feet high. The terrain was breathtaking -- shear green canyons plunging into bottomless arroyos. We must have traveled along fairly narrow ridges because we saw drop-offs from both sides of the bus. I was very happy we were not driving. It was not the steepness or the hairpin turns per se. It was the two lane highway and slow vehicles. Unless you want to travel forever behind a truck going 30 mph, you have to have confidence enough to pass on a hill. That kind of confidence takes experience!

We passed lovely and scruffy villages that were not on our map. They convinced me how much I love the textures of Mexico. Cows, goats, sheep. Simple, dark squat people going about their business. Concrete block houses in various stages of completion and/or deterioration.

We ate too many cookies and fried plantains with hot sauce. And we drank too little to avoid using the toilet. There was a W.C. on board, but when Jim tried to use it as the bus bounced and rocked along, the auto-flusher kept flushing and spraying him with water. He gave up.

We got a great view of the big volcano Popocatepetl as we neared Puebla. It is snow capped and mesmerizing. People are drawn to live beneath volcanoes because the volcanic soil is so rich for farming. And yet it is dangerous. Every few years Popo threatens to acts up. It its shadow there are something like 22 million people.


In Puebla, our room was at the tiny Mesón de las Capuchinas, sister to our last hotel in Puebla. It is also a restored old building with second-story rooms around an open patio. We settled in, then went out to find some real food.

We are very comfortable. [continued>>>]



5.2.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.3.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.4.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.5.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.6.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.7.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.8.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.9.04 Papantla to Puebla, Mexico