Mexico has 31 States and one Federal District. Many of them are named the same as the capital city. Leaving the city of Puebla and driving through the state of Puebla we crossed into the state of Veracruz on our way to the city of Veracruz. In Estado Veracruz we had our first encounters with police since we arrived 4 months ago. We found it unusual to have come this far before speaking to a policeman.
Our first stop was on the forested hillsides of a small volcano. As soon as we turned off the truck at this mountain campsite a police truck pulled up. Two policemen in full gear approached. We had done our research and knew other travelers had used this campsite, but no one mentioned a police presence. And by looking at the few pieces of trash on the ground, the locals clearly used the site also. So we felt that this was just a check-in. We climbed out of the truck as they approached. Then in stumbling Spanish (and zero English) we communicated that we wished to spend one or two nights there. They replied (essentially) that it was okay and they would be checking back on us. We asked if it was a safe place to camp. They said yes. Then they asked if they could take a photo of the camper! As they were leaving I offered that if they came back in the morning, we would have coffee for them.
They did not return in the morning for coffee. Mike and the dogs took their walks. Mango found a grassy hole to take her morning sunshine nap in. Then we packed up and left. There was no cell service at this location, and we needed get some blogs uploaded.
Along the highway, we stopped for lunch at a dirt floor, tin shack restaurant run by three generations of women with a few kids running around. If you follow our Instagram account you saw the photo of the improvised “child-restraint-system”. (Link to Instagram photo) At this same café we snapped this photo of the corrugated metal walls. If you look closely you will see that the pattern is yellow and blue circles. The roof is made partially of sheets of unstamped bottle caps. These are likely “seconds” due to a printing error, and now recycled for a practical purpose!
While browsing social media a while ago we saw a photo of an incredible, blue lake that we wanted to try to find. Lago Alchichica looked as if there would be camping areas around the edge and easy access to the water. We spotted it quickly when we got close. The lake was much closer to the highway than we expected. It was located just behind several truck repair shops in a very industrial looking area. We headed down the dirt road to look at camping possibilities. As soon as we pulled over we had our second encounter with police. This time they asked what we were doing. We said we hoped to camp there. One of the officers said we should go to the other side, near some palapa buildings. The other office interrupted and said it was not safe. They looked at each other for a moment and then at us. I asked if it was safe for us to spend the night on the other side near the picnic area and the first one replied “No”. We felt frustrated at the situation. What seemed to be a disagreement between the men left us questioning the language barrier. The beauty of the lake was quite inviting and we had hoped to put up the paddleboard. But the visibility from the highway would make us a spectacle if not a target. And the seedy truck stop scene nearby could certainly harbor trouble. We begrudgingly drove away. We didn’t have a Plan B and we weren’t sure where we would park when night fell. We don’t typically travel that way, to avoid getting ourselves in a bind. But we trusted that it would all work out this time. And we heeded the advice of the local police to move along.
With at least six hours until dark (when we needed to be settled for the night), we went to see a waterfall. This had to be better than the last waterfall (Link to post about dirty waterfall) we wrote about. Fortunately it was much better! The Cascada Texolo was near a tiny, quiet village. In the center of the village was a small park or plaza with several concrete structures. These are an interesting and well-preserved, relic from the past. Do you know what this is?
The light blue, long concrete structure is a communal laundry tub. The water enters in the center and Is diverted to the individual wash stations. The bottom of each has a corrugated pattern for scrubbing clothes. The bright blue concrete structure in the background is the rinse station. There are multiple water outlets for rinsing clothes under. Laundry day was likely a community social event in a past era. We saw something like this taking place in Baja a few years ago (Link to post about laundry place in Baja) and included a few photos.
We walked the dogs down the path and into the canyon with the falls. The waterfalls were clean and attractive. But due to the growth of the trees and the mist, the waterfall was very difficult to photograph. Sorry!
The next town, Cuatepec, was abuzz with activity. The streets were brightly decorated with flags to celebrate their patron saint. This seemed to be the commerce center for the entire area. The Zocolo was packed with vendors and food stands. The Mercado was in full swing and the shops were all open. We found a parking place on a side street and decided we would spend the night there. Not all of our campsites are glamorous or beautiful. But we find a way to make them comfortable.
We spent our evening walking around the streets, looking in the shops and eating food from the street vendors. We had coffee from the region and delicious crepes. We watched a well-decorated shoe shine man work his craft. We were elated to find hot dogs, which were wrapped in bacon and served with pineapple pieces, mayo, mustard and mushrooms! While walking around we noticed a collection of protest banners hanging on display. These are long sheets of white fabric that have been spray-painted with the message of government corruption in Veracruz. The dogs enjoyed the new sights and smells and of course, the tidbits of food dropped on the sidewalks. It was a fun evening that ended with another reality of life on the road….. toilet trouble. In this photo we see Mike trying to fix the toilet holding tank while inside the camper. Because we were parked on a street, he couldn’t really go outside to make adjustments- so inside comes the poop tank!
Meeting up again with our friends, The Slow Dutchman was next our agenda. We found them in a suburb of Veracruz (the city) and parked in front of their rental for a few days. Of course, Volkswagen van repairs ensued!
After leaving Veracruz city, we made one beach stop. This is the first time we have touched the Gulf of Mexico since we were in Florida a few years ago. The dogs had a chance to chat with some locals but the winds were rough and the seas were rougher so we drove on to find Catemaco.
Catemaco, Veracruz is a small, lakeside village. We found a carnival on the city plaza. One of the carny-booths was giving away hamsters as a prize for tossing rings on bottles! The town has a nice waterfront, and we enjoyed a good meal there. We also took a taxi ride to the nearby waterfall. This one was also clean and enjoyable.
Catemaco is a quiet, jungly village with good services, and a particularly pleasant campsite. The one and only RV park had a large, grassy, walled-in parking area with full hook ups. And the added bonus of in-season mango trees dropping their fruit for us to enjoy. Here is a link to the Facebook page for “It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house” and a photo of Geneva at our campsite (Facebook page photo) Click there to open a new window.
As we were leaving the area we had our third encounter with police. One officer waved us over and approached the truck window. As you can see in the photo, the other one continued doing what most Mexico police officers do. The first officer asked where we were going and where we had been. Then he asked for our documents. I could tell that the “lunch-money shakedown” was about to begin. Just as I was reaching for our passport copies, the second officer approached. He assessed the situation and intervened. He asked again where we were going (we replied “Oaxaca”) and he waved us on. They both stepped back and we drove away. ((link to Facebook photo) Somewhere along that rough, bumpy roadway we crossed out of the state of Veracruz and into the state of Oaxaca. After 3,800+/- miles in Mexico our first, second and third police encounter had occurred in the state of Veracruz. All three ended without trouble and better prepared for the next encounters, wherever they may occur!
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