Mexico is blessed with a fleet of reasonably-high quality coaches that travel around the major tourist spots filled with Europeans and backpacks (I am one of those) (...Europeans. IM NOT A BACKPACK. hahaha just a little joke to break the ice). They have strong air conditioning and are named ADO.
As any TRUE BACKPACKER (like myself!!!) knows, however, the best way to get involved with the locals is intrude on their own public transport system. I had already given this a go when I went to visit Chichen Itza (which is one of the six or seven or eight MODERN wonders of the world. Not very modern though REALLY when you think about it!!!!!!!!!) and I hopped onto a ´COLECTIVO´ taxi. A colectivo taxi is a private minibus that goes around a specific route, picking people up and dropping them off. It is VERY similar to the maquina system in Cuba, except Mexican Colectivos mostle seem to have been made post-1959 and a considerable number of them have suspension and power steering. On this first delve into the colectivo system, nobody sat next to me, but everybody nodded and smiled at me a lot. I am relatively certain I was overcharged for these luxuries.
I was forced to used a colectivo once again three days ago as I was trying to escape PALENQUE. I went to the ruins in Palenque with Fran and Bro. and they are very cool because they are inside the jungle! That evening I stayed in the city itself, which reminded me vaguely of Bilston (not a good thing) so I was eager to leave. However, due to levels of confused disorganisation which were impressive even by my standards (NOTE: both I and the bus service ADO were disorganised in this instance), there were no seats available on the bus to San Cristobal (my destination of choice!). Thankfully, at the point I was heartlessly turned away from the bus terminal, I managed to befriend not one, not two, but an entire family of Mexicans! They were trying to get to San Cristobal too, and told me I could go with them on one of the colectivos.
As I arrived at the colectivo station, I took the advice University of Manchester gave me over one year ago, and did a quick risk assessment. The van looked in fine shape, though after 5 months in Cuba I HAVE TO ADMIT my standards in vehicle quality have taken a nose dive. The driver looked cheerful and he wasn´t drunk (always a plus). It did cross my mind that Chiapas has a vaguely revolutionary reputation, but finally I decided it must be safe based on the fact the mother of the Mexican family was impeccably dressed, and she deemed the situation secure. So in a got, with my backpack on my lap and a smile on my face.
The journey was nice and bumpy, and nice and cheap too. The other passengers mainly ignored me, except for an elderly indigenous woman sitting in front of me, who kept turning round to eyeball me and swear at me with her fingers.
Yesterday I entered another minivan full of Mexicans, but this wasn`t a colectivo: it was an ORGANISED TOUR to a big waterfall and the Logos de Mirabella. The waterfull was really beautiful, and as a treat ended on an exciting dramatic interlude. Once of the mexican families on the tour was almost an hour late in returning to the bus. At first I thought nobody would mind because we were running on ´latin american time`, but I realised everyone was getting quite testy when the other passengers began to demand that the driver leave without the family. He was most indecisive and a bit lame. One member of the family arrived, and rang the others. When they answered the phone she screamed at them: "TE FALTAS MUCHO, VERONICA!!! YOURE PISSING EVERYONE OFF! GET HERE RIGHT NOW!". Veronica arrived about thirty minutes later, cool as a cucumber, and as we left the carpark all hell broke loose in the bus as everyone began ganging up on her. It was great to watch, just like a telenovela. "YOU HAVE TO THINK OF USSS!! THINK OF THE PEOPLE WAITING!!!" one woman kept screaming from the back seat, as everyone else nodded in justified agreement.
Tonight, after four days in San Cristobal, I`m back on the road, but this time (unfortunately) on the ADO tourist buses again.
til nex t timeeee kisses from central america xoxoxoxo