It could be worse…

February 18, 2010 in Mexico, North America, Travelogue

Alanna & me in Mexico

I love our life.  It is the ultimate in romantic adventure, working from hammocks, making our way on the roads less traveled, riding camels, bartering in several languages (or none at all) camping in raspberry valleys and bathing in hot springs by moonlight.

Does it get any better than this?  Doesn’t everyone wish they were us?

Not today.  My friend Alanna complains that even the most horrible experiences end up an amusing read when I’m done with them.  She accuses me of glossing over the less glamourous side of adventure.  I argue that it always seems a better story by the time I sit down to write it than it felt at the moment.  I suppose we’re both right.  In honor of my most loving critic, I offer a reality check for those of you who read the last post from the rainforest with longing:


It has been a LONG day.  Sure, it started with laughing children splashing in a hot spring under the paternal eye of Raul, our friend who was sweeping the walk.  That was before eight a.m. and the high point of the day, by far.

Well, maybe not the high point… that was found somewhere over eight thousand feet and change on perilous switchback roads with no berm and trucks filled with animals, buses and semi-trucks barreling out of the fog to swerve at breakneck speed around our little green van and vanish, tires squealing, back into the clouds.

The drive was, by all accounts, spectacular.  To drive through mountainside rainforest, shrouded in mists as old as the stone cliffs and see a dead burro hanging by the neck from the rope he was tied with, evidently having missed his step stretching for a particularly succulent morsel is the stuff dreams are made of.  Watching a dog disembowel a week old horse carcass in the high Sierra Madres and counting cattle skulls by the roadway is as romantic as it gets.

And then, there was the vomit.

Swimming in the thermal pool

When Ezra was tiny we noticed his fatal flaw for the first time when the kids and I were driving across the flatlands of Ohio by ourselves.  I’d just fed him a hot dog and red pop.

Never feed a kid a hot dog and red pop on the road… especially if he’s prone to car sickness, which it turned out, Ezra was.

For several years after that we made him wear one of those big hard plastic scoop bibs when we drove any distance at all; he reliably puked in the Green Mountains of Vermont about half way to New York state on our pilgrimages to Grammy’s.

When he began moaning about his belly this morning I assumed it was to get out of his journalling, which he hates. It was not.  Screaming erupted from the back seat, causing Daddy to swerve the van into a flock of chickens by the side of the road as Ezra christened his journal.  God bless the makers of anti-bacterial hand wipes.

Borrowing Elisha’s knife I cut the top off of a water jug and handed it to the kid… shuffling him to the front seat where he could stick his nose out the window like a dog and sniff the fresh air to settle his belly.  Does international adventure travel get any sexier than that? At the very least we provided amusement to the girls waiting at the bus stop nearby.

The cloud forest from above... 8600 ft.

On the up side, it was a great day for geography lessons as rain forest gave way to semi-arid terrain on the back side of the mountains and the boys began identifying multiple new cactus forms and examining the erosion patterns left by water running in these valleys for millennia.  Things began to look up.

And then, there was rain.

Hannah using the "tub" next to the thermal pool

The roads may have flattened, but the rain began to fall, just as we headed into Tequisquipan, the little town where we intended to camp.  It is, incidentally, the geographical center of Mexico, which is why we wanted to visit.

There are three campgrounds in this little town, all balnearos, places where pools have been built to capture the natural spring water that wells up from the earth.  All three were similarly priced and rated by travelers who’ve come before us.

All three were closed.

There isn’t another campground, that we know of, until Mexico City.

So here we are, camping in our van in the parking lot of one of the balnearos.  Alejandro, the kindly night guard is sitting in his truck nearby, keeping watch over the water slides and us.  I think he’s more than a little puzzled as to why gringos with four little kids would WANT to free camp in his parking lot and cook their mole (chicken with a heavenly chile and chocolate sauce) on the ground in the rain, never mind what he must have thought of Hannah standing out there in the drizzle fiddling to her heart’s content while the boys ran around and burned off eight hours of car sitting at the top of their lungs.

“She has a talent for fiddling when the Titanic is sinking,” I grumbled to Tony who was hunched over one of the stoves trying to get it to light with an old lighter we purchased last year in Holland; we can’t find the twelve new ones we just bought, naturally.

I wish you could see us now, those of you who think it would be great to cut loose from life and travel free and easy.

We’re packed into our green tin can like sardines, kids laden with ear plugs and melatonin, in hope of getting SOME sleep tonight.  Wet swim suits wrapped in towels are stuffed under the guitar cases, and Ezra’s barf cup is staged carefully in the middle of the van in case there is a “pee-mergency” in the night.

“It could be worse,” one of the children cheerfully reminded everyone.

“It HAS been worse,” someone else chimed in.

“Yeah, remember the rain in Canada and the SNAKES and the wolves howling all night? Or the huge hill in Italy and Mom cried?”

Yes, it could certainly be worse, it certainly has been worse and it will certainly BE worse some other time.  We’re dry, we’re warm, we’re not cycling these mountains, and we have a gallon jug with a cut off lid.

My life is every woman’s dream!