After one of the quietest nights in a long time, we decided we would head back down to the town. We went in search of Tripwagen, apparently a good place to sort out our camper, agreeing to meet later a little south of Puebla.
It was clear we were in the right location, by the presence of the VW’s outside. The owner, Christian, said he could order use a new roll bar today and we needed to come back in a few hours. We also asked him about some of Ruby’s rustier parts, we had been hoping to sort our sliding door here too. He said he could definitely do it, but he was pretty busy. It was clear to see; he was working on three other campers already. We met some of the other travellers, who were all nice enough, as well as the little of kittens hiding in his workshop. Then we left to kill a few hours.
Returning at three, we hung around for a bit until Christian appeared on his moped with our new bar. We hadn’t asked before, but now we asked whether he could find us a new beam. He inspected ours before delivering the verdict, “mal.” He’s not wrong there, it was past reasonable repair. He said he could get us one in a two to three days, fantastic we thought! What a stroke of luck and for a reasonable price too! He quoted us £250 to find and refit the beam, that won’t get you far in the UK and it’s a fairly big job too. We left the anti-roll bar with him as there was no point fitting it to the old beam and left in high spirits to join the others.
We met Hanno and Kikki at a fishery, which permits campers in the garden for the reasonable price of 165pesos per night. After sorting out a space we parked up next to a tranquil lake.
We were in a pretty good mood. The same could not be said for Jaro who joined us a little while later. He wasn’t having a good week, he had now also been robbed by the police while we stayed at the volcano. We gave him dinner and plenty of tequila around a roaring campfire, but we couldn’t do anything to replace his stolen things and he soon went off to bed, followed by the rest of us a little while later.
The fishery were a little confused by having guests, we were the first ones of the year after all. We asked if it was possible for a hot shower, at first they said no, only cold, but then they said it was fine. What ensued next was a lot of questions, I assumed they would turn on the boiler but instead they heated up big pots of water for us and provided bowls for a bucket shower. It was pretty rudimentary, but hot and did the job. It was nice they went so out of their way for us.
The lake next to us was full of big fat fish. We watched several Mexican families spend a few hours fishing and come away with handfuls. Hanno decided to try his luck, with only half an hour of fishing time left he cast his line into the fishy waters. He did get a bite, but it wasn’t enough and there was to be no fish dinner for them. At least you didn’t have to pay for a permit unless you caught something.
As the sun began to set, we walked around the lake which offered some rather lovely views with not only the reflections of the trees but the smoking volcano behind.
In the morning, we had to leave as the fishery was closed for the weekend. We followed the others into the neighbouring town in search of an elusive flower market that was supposed to be worth seeing but not easy to locate; then we went our separate ways. The other two were heading to Oaxaca while we were supposed to go to a VW meet we had been invited to by Christian. The only issue was that our phone data was having problems and we had no internet. After some aimless driving around to find Wi-Fi which is hard when all of the restaurant and beaches are only offering food to go, we had managed to find somewhere. We hung around waiting for a reply from Christian before getting bored and deciding we needed to sort a place for the night. We thought we would give him the weekend to source us a beam, which meant we needed two more nights somewhere. We decided to head to Cholula.
We had thought about going here before, as it was en route to the volcano. The French couple we had met had also been there, but in the end we missed it. We didn’t fancy being in the main town anymore, so we found a big grassy car park near the base of the pyramid. We negotiated parking for the night and set off to have a wander around the town.
Normally this is probably an interesting experience, cute little bars and cafes lined the colourful streets and trucks were dotted around selling food and souvenirs. The only problem was that they were all closed. This did not add to the mood. We didn’t really want to be here, killing time at the weekend in an expensive car park. We wanted to be in Oaxaca eating lots of nice food with our friends. Still, the promise of a new front beam was worth it, it was something we desperately needed. Not only was it rotten, but it was now destroying the front tyres as the alignment was incorrect.
We wandered through the locked town before giving up and heading back to the camper. In between us and the van was the pyramid which we walked around the base of. The one side gave little away, it was just a big hill with a church on the top. From the other side you could see a little more through the gated fences, it wasn’t exactly impressive.
The nicest part was the church on the top, especially at night, to the other side was the ever present volcano.
In the morning, we were still having problems with our phones so we headed off to find Wi-Fi again. With little else to do, we parked outside in the road as the café was closed and spent a few hours using the internet. We still had no response from Christian as to whether he had located any parts, so we decided to drive off and try and find a nice spot to spend the afternoon. We attempted to park on the large lake to the south of Puebla, but it was blocked off by officials.
We then decided to try another free spot near the volcano to the east. The road took us out of the town through some very un-touristy and agricultural villages. There seems to be two types of rural village in Mexico. Both start the same way, the locals stare at you deadpan as you drive past, unsure of what this weird kombi is doing in their village. The first type of village is the one where you wave and suddenly they’re all smiles. The second type is when they continue to stare at you unmoving, straight faced as you wave at them and feel like a moron. This village was the latter.
There was supposed to be a camping spot another 14km down the dirt road we turned off, but after doing only a few kilometres we decided this was not to be. The road was in incredibly bad condition, and even if we could make get there it would take hours. We found a spot to turn around in that actually looked like it would make a great spot to stay. I asked permission from the local lad who was at the lake filling up water buckets, he said it was fine. We were pretty happy to have a free spot with a nice view not that far from the town.
Despite it’s quiet looking rural location, the night was full of barking dogs and loud chickens. The trucks who advertise their goods via a loudspeakers mounted on the roof started particularly early in this area. With still no word from Christian, despite messaging him several times we set off to his shop.
When we had arrived, one of the other people we had spoken to before, who was also there working on their bay, explained on his behalf. She spoke some English and told us that he couldn’t find a part, he avoided looking us in the eye and I think he was pretty embarrassed after making such a sweeping promise and delivering nothing. We weren’t surprised, the lack of communication had been an indicator, we took our anti roll bar and left. We had wasted enough time waiting for nothing and wanted to get going, if we left now we could make it to Oaxaca that night still. As ever, it was frustrating to be let down and while we understood that these parts are not always easy to find, we wished he had kept us in the loop a little more. We decided we would have a look again in Oaxaca and we could easily swap the anti-roll bar ourselves.
It was just over a four-hour drive that now lay in front of us. Thanks to Hanno and Kikki we already knew a safe spot to stay in the city so we put Puebla in the rear view mirror and put our foot down. We had driven around two hours when one of the rear tyres blew out at about 70mph. We definitely needed a proper set of tyres that cost more than a bottle of tequila. It’s not pleasant to pull over at the side of the road at the best of times, but this was a busy single lane highway. In Mexico, the hard shoulder is effectively used as a lane. Slow trucks and traffic straddle the white line, pulling over to let traffic past by using the hard shoulder despite the many signs forbidding overtaking. This means that the hard shoulder is an even less safe than normal to pull over as it’s full of trucks. After the last blowout we knew the jack wouldn’t get the wheel high enough and after driving up onto a suitable rock we had the tyre swapped over in around half an hour and were on our way again.
With this slight delay, and the fact that the road from the state line of Oaxaca to city itself is very hilly, we were behind schedule. At least we knew where we were going. Despite the fact that we had lost a tyre, we were not the unlucky ones. Another car appeared ahead of us, going slowly. Lee overtook him. He sped up and tailgated us before overtaking again. Not overly uncommon, some people really can’t handle being overtaken by an old vehicle and seem to take it as a personal insult to their own vehicles capabilities. Fair enough, we don’t really care. Then he slowed down again so much so that we needed to overtake again. We weren’t really in the mood for whatever he was playing at and Lee was getting pretty annoyed with the stupid cat and mouse game. Then, we started to climb another big hill. The guy decided this was the time to show the prowess of his engine over Ruby and pulled out to overtake. As he merged back in front of us the rear of his car disappeared in a cloud of blue and white smoke and he had to immediately pull off the road. We couldn’t help but laugh as Ruby continued to chug up the hill, her engine for once was intact. I don’t know what was broken in his engine, apart from that fact that it was something important, internal, expensive. Sometimes that’s what you get for acting like an idiot.
Crossing through a small checkpoint operated by the happiest person I’ve met in a long time, we continued on to the city. As we entered the outskirts, night fell and we drove the last half an hour towards the secured parking in the dark. We were headed for a 24hour car park where the owner Ciro welcomed overlanders. Located right in the city centre it was not the cheapest, but after the robbery in Puebla we didn’t want to have to worry about the camper while exploring the city. We were waved in by a member of his family when we arrived and set up in the corner before leaving in search of food and a bar. It had been a long day.