A Mexican Bus Trip
A Second Trip To Playa Hermosa

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Renting a Bus in Mexico
If you are travelling with a group of friends in Mexico, you might want to rent a luxury bus. (More about Renting a Bus Here.)

The rates are cheaper per person and you have the flexibility to leave at any time, and stop whenever you see something that grabs your interest. For a 40 to 46 seat bus it can average about $35 per person per day, and usually includes refreshments like cokes, coffee, ice, tv, radio, stereo, and most people bring along your own food to share with the others on the trip.

Playa Hermosa
About 3 hours from Veracruz, the area around Playa Hermosa is primitive and beautiful. Just below Lake Catemaco near Montepío, crystal clean rivers coming down from the old San Martin volcano, are the clean jungles that come close to the beach.

How to Get There
Veracruz is Over Crowded
Veracruz has become over constructed and the beaches are congested.

May 15 is the Día del Maestro, or the Day of the Teacher.

Moisés does a lot of tour work for school children with his buses, and organized a trip to Playa Hermosa for the organizers of the school trips.

Since I had been before, I was invited along as "guide" for the trip.

Bad Weather the Night Before
The night before there was a tremendous "norte" bringing with it a lot of unusually heavy rains, and lots of wind. Maybe the trip would be cancelled.

A Sunny Morning
We were all up early in the morning ready to go. The weather was great. Cool and fresh for May, which is normally hot like August in the States.

At 7AM, Moises picked me up at the house, and we drove to the departure point where our driver, René, was parking our bus, Unit 101.

A Call from Faustino
Moisés got a call from his wife that Faustino had called. It was a rainy day in Playa Hermosa. Last night´s "norte" was still in force just south of us.

We could see some clouds on the horizon south of Veracruz, but figured by the time we got to Playa Hermosa, the storm would have blown itself out.

Unit 101
Taking a Chance
We tried to call Faustino back at the rural radio telephone booth in the store around the corner from his house, but we couldn´t get the call to go through.

Our trip continued as planned. The weather looked OK in Veracruz.

The families began to arrive, and soon we were off on our trip to Playa Hermosa!

A sunny day, great for a swim at the beach.

Ready to Go
Heading out

Walking in the Rain
One of the teachers introduced me as their guide for the day, and I talked a little about the area around Playa Hermosa, its remoteness and beauty.

After awhile I began to ask questions about the local history and passed the microphone to Americo.

He told us about La Mixtequilla and its first settlers from Oaxaca to work in the cotton fields.

Clouds and Rain
Around Alvarado the weather got cloudy and by the time we got to the little town of Angel R. Cabada it began to sprinkle, then to rain with short waves of tropical showers.

Road Construction Ahead
Just after Nueva Victoria the blacktop ended, and the construction began. About 17 kms. left to Playa Hermosa.

A One Armed Scoop
Reason for Concern
René, our driver was concerned about scraping the fragile bottom of the bus.

By now, we were close to the Gulf, and the nearest diesel mechanic was probably in Lerdo de Tejada, about a two hour drive.

And that was one way. We were on our own and would have to be careful. One false move, and a breakdown might have us here all night long for repairs.

It was something we didn´t want to think about.
René Takes a Look
A Temporary Bridge
At first glance it didn´t look like much. But, the look on Rene´s face was serious.

The temporary crossing had a little dip, and lots of large rocks that could easily rip through the underbelly of our aluminum bus.

René stopped the bus, and got out to survey the scene personally. I was a little apprehensive perhaps expecting a little trouble, or at least a minor inconvenience.

The kids had fun, playing games on the bus, or looking down at the swift rapids of the river.
A Shout and an "Abrazo"
One of those Miracles in Mexico
We all got out to watch as René approached the back hoe driver to ask for a special favor.

Then we heard a shout of happiness.

René began shaking the back hoe operators hand effusively, and gave him huge "abrazo" out in the middle of the bridge!

Nobody could imagine what was going on.
René telling us about his friend
An Old Friend
"Here´s my old friend. This is my old friend", René told us with normally quiet voice full of emotion.

"When we were young we worked for a company of tanker trucks as drivers, and he was one of my fellow drivers."

Now we knew we would get through the bridge in good shape.

Out in the middle of nowhere we had found friends who would help us through this obstacle which was now not as serious.
Getting off the Bus
All Traffic Stops
In Mexico, people are accustomed to delays.

There wasn´t much traffic.

A little Blue Chevy, a later a big dump truck.

It stopped, too.

While the Rene´s friend worked on smoothing out the dips, local people walked by on their errands around the nearby hamlet of Paso del Toro.
Watching from a Distance
People Walking By
Very Close Tolerance
Slowly Up the Hill
Looking Back
Paralelling The Beach
Close Enough
When it came time to cross the bridge, we got out and watched to signal René if things got tight.

It was close but we made it!

Temporary Relief
Everybody heaved a sigh of relief as the last major hurdle was now past. We were on the home stretch to Playa Hermosa.

As we approached the Gulf coast, the weather hadn´t improved. Tropical showers and rain were intermittent.
Almost There
We knew Faustino and his family were waiting for us and had been up since early in the morning preparing a fish stew.

We were also starving.

We were very close and the food was going to be good.
The Picnic
The Picnic
Fried Fish and Fish Stew
A Quick Picnic
Faustino, his wife Patty and his 3 kids were waiting for us.

The stew was ready and the fire was hot. Patty started serving the stew and Faustino started cooking tortillas

There were soft drinks for the kids and hard drinks for the adults that wanted them.

When people finished the stew, Faustino began to serve fried fish filets to those who were still hungry.

Later we explored the river which was running a foot higher than normal.

The weather was on the cool side, so a swim in the quiet pond didn´t look good.
Flor de Nanche
The Weather Closes In Again
Then the weather closed in again and we headed for cover.

Even though it was only about 2PM and it was still early, just about everybody thought it was best to head back towards Veracruz.

In the back of our minds was the rough stretch of road and perhaps rising water.

We gave our thanks and regrets to Faustino and Patty, and they understood. Perhaps we could come back another day.

Watermelon Field
Fresh Watermelon
Along the road we had seen many fields full of watermelons, and next to the road were little piles of watermelons waiting for the trailer truck and a crew to pick them up.

Up ahead we saw a trailer and a crew loading watermelons and asked René if we could please stop and buy some watermelons.

We talked to the main man who said they were 5 pesos each. About .$45 cents in dollars. He was friendly and invited us to taste some samples.

People start grabbing watermelon slices.
More Samples
Time to Move On
It seemed like everybody bought 3 watermelons each to take home.

And it was time to go.

A couple of minutes later we were back on the blacktop.

It was early, and we still had a couple of hours before nightfall.

Let´s go to Paraiso Escondido, just before the Veracruz highway. So, off we went.

We left the watermelon loading crews behind, looking forward to the park with 3 swimming pools, and picnic tables.

Most of all, we hoped it wouldn´t be raining.
Watermelon Tossing Looks Easy
Sometimes You Miss
Time to Go
A Hidden Paradise
We were at Paraiso Escondido in another 45 minutes.

It wasn´t raining and the kids trooped off to explore the park, and the swimming pools.

René looked like he needed a rest, and said he wanted to take a "coyote" which is like "forty winks."

I needed a rest, too. So, with the engine running, and some music by "Los Temerarios" on the stereo we sat in the front row seats and closed our eyes. I was tired, too.

Rain Again
When I woke up, I felt completely rested. Outside the rain began again.

A real tropical downpour. It was about 5 PM, and time to start working our way back to Veracruz.

I went to the back of the bus and fixed a Nescafe with the hot water, and came back up front to where René was waking up, too.

"Did you hear me snoring?", René asked me. I hadn´t heard a thing.

Some of families began drifting back to the bus.

The Trip Back to Veracruz
The rest of the trip back to Veracruz was pleasant.

The rain stopped around the Papaloapan River brige in Alvarado, and although it was cloudy, it hadn´t rained all the way to Veracruz. It was a normal Sunday!

Faustino said it stops raining for a couple of weeks in June. There´s always the "Canícula", or dry spell in the middle of the rainy season in late July and August.

I want to watch the fishermen and their nets, take a boat trip to Boca Partida, and there were some monuments on the point I wanted to explore. There is also an abandoned hacienda in nearby Montepío.

The last 17 km. of the highway to Playa Hermosa will be finished this summer and more people will be coming in. There will be many changes. I want to get back to Playa Hermosa before the builders take over.

When we got back to the offices, everybody shook my hand and thanked me for going along with them.

Leaving the Green Hills Behind
Back to Reality
I thought it should be the other way around. I wanted to thank them for inviting me along on their trip. Local tourists are so polite!

Later René dropped me by my house in the large bus.

One of my neighbors gave me a look of awe that I was so fortunate to spend a day travelling around in luxury.

Little did he know that we had spent the day dodging the rain. Playa Hermosa is so close but yet so far away.

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