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Monday, September 21, 2009

life with public transit

Finally at Yaxchilan
Some days I space out over dinner and can't remember where I am or what the hell I did all day. Here's an example from a few days ago:

Reforma Agraria to highway junction (5 minutes)
From the village of Reforma Agraria, a rickety lodge truck drops us back on the border highway. I stand up in the back next to the luggage, watching the ground through holes  in the wooden floorboards. The van we're trying to catch passes 15 minutes earlier than usual, but our driver can't get the horn to work and signal for it to stop. We sit down in a cement shelter with a piece of lumber propped up as a makeshift bench, and notice a small cemetery behind us. Waiting across the street is a weathered man wearing tall rubber boots and holding a machete, and we exchange pleasantries. Your van just went past, he says, why didn't you stop it?

Highway junction to Pico de Oro (40 minutes)
We leave a piece of luggage by the side of the highway to make sure we get the attention of the next colectivo, which also comes by early. We're the only passengers, and after a while the driver tries to persuade us to head back the other direction. I worry that we're going south instead of north, but then realize that he just doesn't want to go to the end of his route. This section of road is paved now, but sports huge rain-filled potholes and the occasional landslide chipping away at the asphalt.

Pico de Oro to Benemerito Las Americas (30 minutes)
A few taxi drivers are playing cards under a tree, and look surprised to see foreign travelers. We arrange a private taxi to Benemerito Las Americas. An older man in a cowboy hat is sitting by the road the outskirts of town, and hails the taxi to share the ride. He falls asleep next to me in the back seat almost immediately. The driver tells the Teen that drug violence along the border has decreased in the past year or so, though he alludes to a recent local "massacre."

Benemerito Las Americas to Crucero Corozal (1 hour)
We switch to another waiting van, and the driver putters around town picking up his lunch before he finally leaves this dusty desperado-style town. A mile out, the driver stops again and idles in the middle of highway, making a phone call. Another van finally comes up behind and unloads more passengers for us. At the turnoff for Yaxchilan, a military checkpoint makes our whole carload get out for a bag check. We start negotiating with a taxi driver and didn't bother showing the soldiers anything.

Crucero Corozal to Frontera Corozal (15 minutes)
Whizzing down a road surrounded by high grass, our taxi stops to pick up a man standing by the side of the road. No houses or buildings are in sight. The driver continues along, dodging dogs trotting along the pavement.

Embarcadero into town (30 minutes)
On a shadeless street, I walk a mile round-trip to buy a tacky new hat, replacing the practically new one I lost somewhere earlier that day. Sweat pools on my knees, making puddles erupt though my pants. As I try on baseball caps, the vendor woman tries to convince me to buy a pink straw boater that looks like a giant Easter egg. It's layered with cobwebs - she must have been trying to get rid of this one for a while.

Lancha (long motorboat) to Yaxchilan ruins (40 minutes)
These boats now have thatched roofs, so you don't even need to wear a hat. The Teen takes a nap on the seats, jolting up when I spot a ceiba canopy with a half dozen howler monkeys.

Walk through Yaxchilan (1 hour)
We hear the intermittent rumble of howler monkeys, but a high tree comes alive with a crew of noisy spider monkeys. A cloud of mosquitoes start snacking on the Teen. She retreats back to the boat.

Lancha back to Frontera Corozal (40 minutes)
The breeze is the closest we've come to air conditioning all day. We retreat to our room and lie down for a bit under the ceiling fan.

Time for dinner again.

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