If you think air travel sucks, what follows is reassurance that it’s still not the worst way to get someplace.
This is a contemporaneous account, scribbled on the blank parts of a guidebook and lightly edited here for readability, of a trip a girlfriend and I made in the 70s, when rural Mexico didn’t seem to be so dangerous as the media portrays it now. The account is contemporaneous because shortly into it I realized I was never going to remember all the things thwarting our attempts to get to Acapulco from the Pacific-coast beach village of Puerto Angel, about 300 miles south. But as college-age, summer-vacation Bohemians (admit it—when you were in college you were either a Bohemian or wanted to be) we took it all in the spirit of adventure. That’s certainly what it was, as you will see…
After a week in Puerto Angel we decided to make our way to Taxco by way of Acapulco. We got up early one morning to be greeted by a pouring rain (the first since our arrival). We stumbled into town from our hotel through the rain and arrived at the Blue Restaurant in plenty of time for the bus. The minutes passed… Hour and a half later we were told that the bus had left for Pochutla from another spot today instead of the customary place opposite the B.R.
We finally score a ride to Pochutla from passing young Mexicans—so we arrive within minutes of the departure time for Puerto Escondito bus (we planned to stop in Puerto Escondito for a day or two on the way).
Now since Escondito is only 57 miles away from Pochutla we had high hopes of getting there in one day, for a change. We were also excited about the fact that the road was paved all the way, an unusual situation in Mexico. This further added to our hope of arriving before dark, since we left at noon.
The driver took one little detour off the main road as part of the regular schedule. It was on this road that he got the bus stuck in mud. Two hours later after we all helped extricate the bus we took off for Escondito muddy but relieved (the rain raged on). Got to Escondito just before dark and found a room. Fifty-seven miles in six hours.
Next day… waiting on the side of the road (in the rain) for the Acapulco bus. After being told by the hotel management that buses ran there on the hour, a passing truck tells us there are no buses today because the rain washed the bridge out. They offer us a ride, which we accept.
So off we go in the back of a stake-bodied truck, in the rain, getting soaked. We’re dropped off in some little town whose name I don’t remember. We then pay a local dude to take us to the river that lies between us and our objective (Acapulco). He tells us that once we’re there we might be able to take a boat across. As it happened, when we arrived a temporary bridge was erected (I suppose it was temporary, although I didn’t see anything around that looked like a permanent bridge). At any rate we walked across this 50 yd. long rapidly disintegrating pile of railroad ties and sand (you could see the river through the holes). There was a bus on the other side of the river, which incredibly enough was going to Acapulco—all the way—we truly had it made now, we thought.
We blast off for Acapulco soaked, and, after the driver ripped us off for the tickets, with no Mexican money either. One bit of good fortune though—the driver stops in this town, which has a bank in it, long enough for us to do some more traveler’s checks. We walk into the bank [five] minutes before closing. It’s Friday.
Driver blasts off again—to make a long story short, when I began to write this we were sitting on the side of the road after the bus engine quit running. They finally got it going again but as I write this we are stopped behind a pile of other buses with word of another washed out bridge drifting back—will continue after something happens—we still aren’t there yet. The total distance from Puerto Angel to Acapulco is less than 300 miles. We’ve been on the road two days now…
Five minutes later… the bridge looked okay—we heard someone remark that the last people to try to cross didn’t come back, but I optimistically took that to mean that they made it and continued on their way—we are now under way again… later… we get to the bridge and see a couple of buses stuck in water up to the tops of their wheels, as well as one leaning over at a precarious angle. Driver and several passengers on our bus take their clothes off and walk across the road, encountering water up to their chins—we decide not to walk across.
Return to the town (Marquelia) where we are told that the bus will be there all night and we can sleep in it. We got out to have supper (taking our gear) and as we are eating noticed that the bus had disappeared, along with it the 20 pesos they owed us for not taking us all the way. So we ask another bus driver if we can spend the night in his bus, which he allows us to do.
Now, this morning we are riding another bus to Ometepec (back in the direction from which we came) in order to get to the airport there to fly out. Houses this A.M. within two blocks of where the busses were parked were flooded by the water. We are now on our way to Ometepec…
Later… we got to the town and found out that “the guy sold the airplane”… We are going to stay in Ometepec till the weather clears… Miracle! The bus station says the weather is good enough to let buses go as far as Cortez, where we can walk across a bridge and catch a bus the rest of the way to Acapulco, which is only 25 miles away. We don’t even have to spend the night in this crummy town! We are now sitting on this bus, ready to split…
A few minutes later… We see the bus that we were supposed to sleep on last night drive up in front of us. The bus that also has the money we paid to get to Acapulco that we never got back. We hassle with driver, who grudgingly agrees to take us from Marquelia to Cortez free, although we still have to pay from here (Ometepec) to Marquelia.
Once again, we are sitting on the bus, waiting to split… well, we left and began traveling an uneventful ride, until we came across the bridge that was out. The bus stopped, and we walked across this makeshift bridge made of a huge pile of dirt stacked by bulldozers on top of what remained of the bridge. Of course the dirt was mud by now and it was also dark. There was, wondrously, a bus on the other side waiting to take us the rest of the way to Acapulco. However, it was turning around, getting ready to leave, and, since I had no desire to be stranded on this road in the middle of nowhere at night for I didn’t know how long, we made a hundred yard sprint with full packs and just barely caught it. This bus, I’m happy to announce, took us the rest of the way to Acapulco (25 miles) with no problems—we made it!