Travel Blog 13: Adjusting to Mexico
Everything I knew, all the comforts I’d adapted to, and simplicity of living in Blaze... it’s all about to change!
The most obvious changes; English to Spanish language, U.S. dollars to Mexico pesos, miles to kilometers, gallons to liters, pounds to kilograms, Fahrenheit to Celsius, and paved roads becoming full of potholes and speed-bumps, many of which are unmarked. I can’t decide if Blaze is unhappy with these curvy, winding, bouncy adjustments or if it feels a bit more in its natural state.
While my plan was to stay along the Gulf of Mexico coast, it was suggested that I venture inland to the mountains where the true culture exists. My number one rule (and travel tip) is to always be willing to change your plan. I agree that the inland mountains have much more inspirational culture, but people neglected to tell me that the morning temperatures would be below freezing. Coming out of the Texas sunshine, it’s an unwelcome change. Mornings were tougher and rougher each day, but afternoons provided warmer temps, cleaner roads, and pleasant villages to visit along the way.
My first sign of satisfaction came in a small ‘pueblo’ (town) called Arteaga on a Sunday afternoon. Driving through the mountains gave me a genuine smile, but discovering that the market had returned with many amazing covid-19 measures taken truly lifted my spirits. Everyone wore masks, foot-pressing sanitation stations sat on every corner of the open park, and all vendors had plastic wrapped around their booths to avoid facial contact. Each food vendor wore gloves and all attendees did their best to stay distanced from one another. I was thoroughly impressed to see the measures this community was taking to ensure they could still have their Sunday Market, a very important day to their livelihood.
The following morning was full of fog, freezing temps, and a horrible mindset as I tried to navigate the narrow bumpy roads. I entered the toll road, knowing it would be cleaner, but I didn’t expect it to cost more than any toll I’d ever seen. I handed over half of the cash I exchanged at the border. Stopping for fuel, they didn’t have a credit card machine so I handed over the other half of my cash to their ridiculously expensive gas prices. I was literally down to my last 20 pesos, which is equivalent to $1. It doesn’t matter how much U.S. cash I have in my vehicle or on my credit card when no one in the country will take it. Even certain banks wouldn’t exchange and money changers happened to be closed. I was in a situation that unfortunately I have felt in the past traveling other countries; a tricky position. I spent my last 20 pesos on two very delicious tacos before finding a small city, Matehuala that had a money exchange location in the plaza. Entering the city center provided yet another scary endeavor; finding parking. Illegally parking, the local store said I’d be fine for a few minutes while I ran to the square to exchange money. Figuring my passport would be enough, they made me run back to my car to get a second form of identification as well. Locals around the cathedral, and dogs especially, didn’t feel comfortable with this long haired gringo jogging through their sacred spaces.
Once I successfully changed dollars into pesos, I parked on a side street to look at my wad of money. It’s bizarre to go from broke to rich in local currency. I looked up to see a street vendor cooking up whole chickens with rice, potatoes, and tortillas. I sat on the curb, eating and smiling.
Being my first opportunity to reflect in three days, I thought about the border issues in Reynosa, the hilly potholed drive through Monterrey, beautiful mountains leading into Satillo, and the fantastic market in Arteaga. I sat with a smile, knowing that I’ve conquered the initial hump of crossing the border. Culture, adventure, and education are waiting around the corner... and I can’t wait!