Saturday, March 1, 2003

It was necessary to return to Tuxtla to catch a bus to Villahermosa. We took a taxi this time, to avoid the hassle of local buses and colectivos with our backpacks. The taxi ride to the Cristóbal Colón bus station was over 20 kilometers and cost only 70 pesos ($6.50). The driver put on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for our listening pleasure. I think he was trying to be cool with his American music.

We purchased our bus tickets and went to find an early lunch. Our best bet looked to be the Restaurante El Sazon Norteño. The waiter spoke a little English and highly recommended the parilla norteño (northern grill) for two, described by the menu as pork cooked with chile, beef, sausage, smoked pork, melted cheese, and ham. What a lot of meat! After we'd eaten all we could, there was enough left over for another three people. It was very good, but easily the greasiest meal we have eaten in our lives. That and two Cokes cost only 86 pesos. I hope they weren't offended by the amount of food we left. Did they really expect anyone to eat that much?

No... More... Pork

The route from the highlands to Villahermosa was along Highway 195, renowned for its spectacular scenery and hairpin turns. Just when we thought this alleged dramatic scenery was never going to appear, there it was, as we descended into the city of Rayón down a giant ridge. This part of the road is only 11 kilometers on the map, but takes close to an hour to descend. We stopped in Rayón to unload and pick up passengers, and to let the driver rest his nerves.

Out of the highlands and past Teapa is banana-plantation territory. Bananas everywhere, as far as the eye can see! We are now back in the state of Tabasco. The little girl from the seat in front of us found Tom much more fascinating than the scenery and stared at him unabashedly for hours.

Tom's little amiga

We finally arrived in Villahermosa at 6:15 p.m., a seven-hour trip in a dreadfully hot bus with an extremely ill muchacho sitting across from us ever since Rayón. I say sitting across from us, but most of the time he was right behind us in the restroom, puking up a lung. I hope we don't catch the plague or something.

At the bus station, you have to insert a coin to enter the baños. Tom put in the coin but didn't hit the turnstile just right and it wouldn't open, so he climbed over. I laughed at him only a little, because I once had to do the same thing at a train station in Germany. I did give a young man standing nearby a "I'm not with him" look, which was silly because we were the only two gringos in sight.

The line for a taxi was really long, so despite the sweltering heat, we decided to walk to centro. They have a taxi shortage around here and stick multiple fares into one cab, whether you're going the same direction or not!

After fruitlessly searching for a particular hotel, a helpful man on the street (who we were sure was trying to rip us off but didn't turn out to be) showed us to another. We ended up at the Hotel Palma de Mallorca, 265 pesos ($24) a night with A/C. One of the two beds was very comfortable, and it had a TV with five bad Spanish-language channels.

We ate supper at McDonald's tonight to take a break from the greasy local cuisine. Now that's bad when you have to go to McDonald's for a (comparatively) low-fat Quarter Pounder and fries, but it's the truth. I think I can hear our arteries hardening.

A marimba around every corner in Villahermosa

It's Carnaval in Villahermosa and the city is hopping. There are bands down every street, gymnasts, clowns, salsa dancing, rides, and a midway. The Plaza de Armas looked like our state fair, except everyone had a full set of teeth.

Party band!

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