Today would be a ‘driving day’ after a good ‘full English’ breakfast at the Airport hotel and a shuttle bus to take us to the Europcar yard and office to pick up our rental car.
We needed to cover 465 km (289 miles) mostly on toll road motorways, once we had fought our way out of the Mexico City traffic, but with daylight until 18:30 I thought that we could afford a small detour.
I had not allowed for two unforeseen factors:
1) we were given a brand new Jeep Patriot with only 32 km on the clock. In fact it was so new that it did not have any number plates. Instead it had bits of paper with the information, but these temporary plates would not be valid until 11:00 a.m. so our departure was delayed by two hours.
2) a brandnew car with temporary plates, claiming to come from Chihuahua is bound to attract some attention. We were hardly half an hour’s drive from the airport, just getting settled in to our travelling positions, Alain behind the steering wheel, me next to him as navigator and Chris and Jonathan in the back seat or there was a blockage in the road – a police check point.
We were pulled over and ‘robbed’ by some six policemen! The claim was that Alain had not indicated to move to the left carriage way and so we had to pay a fine. Alain looked baffled, sure that he had indicated but realistic enough to know that it was their words against hours and they had all the odds stacked in their favour. So what is the fine for such a minor traffic offence? – there had been no near misses or damaged vehicles or personal injuries. 1,000 Euros!!! The amount was not given in Mexican Pesos, US Dollars or British pounds but in a nice round number of Euros! There was a strong smell of rats in the air. We have no Euros, just pesos. So their mobile phone calculators came out and an amount of 22,000 pesos was demanded in cash. Can we go the the police station and pay by credit card? No, cash here and now or the amount would increase! We were asked to move the car forward so that it was in line with a mobile office where the money had to be paid. This shielded the scene of the crime from any onlookers. Again, we realised the futility of protesting so coughed up the notes, which now leaves us short for the rest of the trip, but ‘plastic’ will cover that. We went off as fast as we could. My muscles tense each time that we see a police car!
And so we lost quite a few hours. Shall we carry on with our plan, to visit the remnants of a pre-columbian temple? Yes, as with other terrorists you don’t let the bastards win by ruining the rest of your holiday!
On the internet, the Los Atlantes de Tula in the State of Hidalgo, was said to be much less crowded than the larger monument in the Yucatan. No wonder, the direction signs were so poor that it was almost impossible to find. SatNavs have their uses but I’m sure that there is a better route to cover the distance from the MEX57 highway to the site.
This is where I took the first pictures of the trip, including those of the cacti that were planted out on the way to the actual monuments. As usual, our time budget does not allow me to include pictures at this time, I’ll add some once I’m back in England.
As a result we did not get as far as Nueva Italia de Ruiz, but found very comfortable lodgings at the Best Western in Patzcuaro. in 76 km we’ll have caught up and if we have to, our itinerary is elastic enough to stay another night in Nueva Italia and explore for some more details on Ferocactus lindsayi. We already have GPS coordinates collected by Ian & Cliff who started their Mexican adventures a week before us, so we need not use time to look at places where the plants no longer exist.