Great experiences thanks to hitchhiking
I could write pages and pages of each and every one of the people who have given me a ride and of each and every one of the adventures I have lived when I have traveled this way. They all have given us great moments and we have met very special people. My experience traveling by hitchhiking has been mostly only with my dog, although I have also hitchhiked with some pals other times, as with my brother or with some friends I have made along the way.
Here I will tell you some of my adventures. I just want you to read some of the wonderful things that you could experience traveling in this way, so that you feel encouraged to do it! However, if you are interested in listening to more crazy stories I encourage you to read my diaries, especially those of the second saga, since it has been on this last trip (Mexico, USA and Canada) when I have traveled the most by raising my thumb.
It was all very improvised. We arrived in Cancun and we did not know where to start, with that giant kennel in my power. In the airport, the workers from the bus companies were freaking out with me, because I asked them where they recommended me to go. In the end I decided that we were going to spend our first night in a fishing town called Puerto Morelos, between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. When we got off the bus it turned out that the beach was 5 km away. A guy felt sorry for us and offered to join us and give us a hand. Gregorio was a huge support with the cage! We ended up sleeping in a hotel room both, kind of weird my first night in Mexico... In the morning I bought him some tacos for breakfast (my first tacos of many!), after which he left and Cocaí and I enjoyed that turquoise Caribbean Sea. In the afternoon we headed to the madness of Playa del Carmen. Marisol, a friend of a friend of mine, was waiting for us there to welcome us for a week.
Gregorio was an angel on the road
First ride in Mexican lands, among boxes of fruits
Caribbean rhythms to start the Mexican adventure
Damn, this is life
And from there began an adventure that we will never forget, touring Coqui and I the Yucatan Peninsula and a bit of Chiapas hitchhiking. We toured the coast south from Playa del Carmen, leaving the Riviera Maya (very nice but also very touristy) to Bacalar. There, I had a big scare in which I lost Cocaí for a while that seemed to last forever (about two hours but seemed like eight). The town’s folks were rehearsing for a party, throwing firecrackers and fireworks and Cocaí fled among the crowd. Finally, I found her. I almost cried... She was at a veterinarian we had passed on our way to get to downtown from the outskirts. To commemorate we went to the Laguna de los Siete Colores (Seven Colours Lagoon).
It was time to head inland, where Calakmul was waiting for us. We made the trip in a trailer with José. No hurry and with stops. Many stops! We stopped several times and spent the whole afternoon at a meeting of truck drivers in a bar. I freaked out because they were having drinks and shots as if there was no tomorrow, just before getting back to the road... At least José was the most responsible and only had a couple of shots.
José, the most “chingón” truck driver
We made it to the entrance of the Reserve already in low light and tried to pass but it was closed. I was tempted to go inside and sleep there, but the Reserve itself is about 40 km inland. As an alternative I went to a town that was two or three kilometers away. It was a pleasant experience to be inside a community as authentic as that.
Coqui made a new friend in the community
The Reserve was amazing, the most incredible Mayan ruins I have seen without a doubt. I left Cocaí under the care of a family business in the town where we had slept and they treated her great.
Together we continued our adventure, this time with a Spaniard I met in the Reserve and who had rented a car. In addition to us, he took a nice Argentine couple. Until Escárcega, as he was heading towards Mérida and the four of us towards Palenque, Chiapas. There, we had a hard hitchhike, under a torrential rain, but we got a ride finally (in a truck/pick-up). The Argentines stayed because the truck was only going about 20 km our way, and they would rather stay in the town because in the worst case there was a bus to Palenque leaving in the evening. Coqui and I had no choice, and it is always easier to ask for a ride out of town. They left us in a truck drivers' resting place and when it seemed that we were going to spend the night there, another savior arrived at the last minute. He left us in Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco (very close to Chiapas already).
We arrived at night and everything was so expensive. We asked at a food stand if they knew of a hostel or a campsite nearby. The answer was no, but a woman who was eating some tacos told me that if we could stay at her garden if I had a tent. Awesome! We arrived at her house, where there was a shared patio with two other houses, both abandoned. A little bad omen... At first, everything was all good, very nice host that woman. Little by little she began to talk about magic and her powers with the paranormal, until things got tough. She told me that she could contact the dead and I do not know what else shit. I was so tired that I told her I needed to sleep. When I was already falling asleep I heard her yelling "Neighbor, neighbor." I opened the tent and she said something that made me shiver: “I know you. You've been here before”. I did not flee because it was too late, and we did not have anywhere else to go.
In the morning we could ride a combi (bus) after playing dumbs (“What? We have always traveled by bus in Mexico”). After a while, we were in Palenque. In addition to the beautiful archaeological site, we hiked a bit around the Palenque NP. Then, we headed to Mishol Ha Waterfalls thanks to a ride provided by Saul, a worker from the area with the Barça football shirt (I told him that very bad done!). The road through the mountain was an authentic wonder. We slept in a nearby town, a Zapatista one. Memorable experience, with the children playing with Cocaí and talking to the friendly villagers who came to pay us various visits at our camp site, next to the river.
Saul took us through beautiful mountains...
Until this fantastic waterfall!
Two kids from the town Ruiz Cortines petting Cocaí
We got another ride to the Agua Azul Waterfalls. Actually, we came walking from a point and, on the way, I met a woman who told me a shortcut used by the locals and that prevented me from paying the entrance fee. We went through a stream where several young ladies were bathing, naked as God brought them into the world, with their little children. They were quite surprised to see us there. I greeted them as if my presence there was as natural as their naked bodies and we kept walking. The waterfalls were very beautiful, but more than "azul" (blue), they were brown because it had been raining lately. We swam, I met up with the Argentine couple and we slept in the tent under a roof that offered us a few locals. Everything was great, except for the woman who came with her daughter and told me that she wanted to fuck, which was a bit unpleasant.
Our next destination was Campeche capital. We went back the same way to Escárcega. But it was not easy. We got stuck first at a gas station, where I met two other travelers (from Mexico itself and from France). We finally got out of there (the three of us), although we got stuck in another gas station. We ran out of light and had to camp at the gas station, at least accompanied. As an anecdote, when I was already asleep, a guy started talking to me saying that he had my dog. Half asleep half scared, I looked around. Cocaí was with me inside the tent. I told him he was wrong, but he insisted. I got angry, especially when he started trying to open my tent. I told him that I was already opening… And I came across the twin version of Cocaí, what a paranoia! It turns out that some workers had told him that this was my dog, because they should have seen me with Cocaí asking for a ride. He tried to convince me to keep that dog, but I could not do it. I asked why did not he keep him. He ended up saying he was going to do it... I wish that was the case.
The next morning, the good luck was on our side. We got several fast rides and made a lot of progress. We could also get on a bus that let us both travel in the cellar (now I understand why Coqui hates traveling down there...), then another ride from my Mexican namesake Roberto, who left us at Champotón. We walked the beach and when we were leaving the city passing a bridge another car stopped. This guy took us directly to Campeche city. All these rides, except for the crazy one in the warehouse, were in pickups/trucks. By the way, what a sensational feeling that tropical wind blowing in your face.
Ride with the Mexican and the French with whom I camped at the gas station
The best thing about Campeche was the seafood that we ate in a palapa. Oh my god! After two days in Campeche melting under the most inhuman heat I have experienced in my life (at one point it became necessary for both Coqui and me, to wallow in a sea full of rocks and stagnant because we were literally melting) came the mission “get the hell out of here”. The walk towards the exit of the city under that infernal heat almost killed us, and when we went to buy water at the last gas station in the city, we were told that there was no store there, that the next one was further back. I looked in desperation at the man who was refueling, then at the man whose car was being refueled. I did not doubt. "Please, can you give us a ride? We are heading to Mérida".
It was destiny. It all started with a ride and ended up with a holiday week with an amazing family in the Yucatan capital. Alfonso, Lourdes, Gerardo and Fer, with all their dogs (and my dear Gonzi), welcomed us in their huge house, swimming pool included, and took us everywhere to see a magnificent state. I felt like one of the family, and Cocaí too. In addition to welcoming us in the warmest possible way, giving us delicious meals (holy smoke, Yucatan cuisine is another level wey!) and Gerardo's room, we went to cenotes, the beach, partying, touring the city, villages... Until I decided It was about time to keep going, much to my regret.
One of the best experiences in my life: the Ailloud Correa family
Cocaí made four valuable dog friends
And she went from being a tramp dog who camps at gas stations to a queen who sleeps on giant beds
Huevos motuleños in their place of origin: Motul
Excursion to Progreso, where we saw this spectacular sunset
But they did not want to let me go so easily! Lourdes and Gerardo, the ones with whom I got along better in the house and with whom I established a magical and special connection, decided to join me on a trip to my next destination: Chichén Itzá and a nearby cenote. Gerardo guided me in Chichén Itzá while Lourdes stayed outside with Cocaí. One of the Seven Wonders, and it really is, but so many people. The cenote was amazing, and we had fun swimming and hanging from the lianas like Mowgly!
With Gerardo in Chichén Itzá
It was time to say goodbye. After all we had shared I felt a big sadness. But they still did not want to let me go, and came all the way with Coqui and me to Cancún. I could not believe my luck! The idea was to spend the next day enjoying the Caribbean Sea. But first we needed to find a place to stay… Lourdes remembered that a friend from the university, with whom she had not had contact for about twenty years, was living there. Then, as bold as you like, she gave her old friend a call! And she received us in her wonderful mansion, where we arrived at night. I was amused that her name was Kokis, almost Coqui's namesake. Gerardo and I made some sandwiches while they updated themselves of nothing more and nothing less than the last 20 years. It took them all night apparently. Before going to sleep I took a bath in that pool with lights and tropical plants.
It was a great day on the beach. Then, we headed to Playa del Carmen where I stayed, and they left for Merida (this time they did leave). We spent a relaxing day on the beach, before getting the kennel back and return to Cancun, from where our flight to Monterrey was going to leave. We had a couple of days more before flying. We spent them camping (with all the gear) in the only dog friendly beach in all of Cancún, at the km 32, before embarking on a new adventure. Monterrey was awaiting!
The only dog-friendly beach in Cancún, at km 32
Traveling by hitchhiking through the Peruvian jungle
Certainly, penetrating on my own in the southwestern jungle of Peru was one of the greatest adventures of my life. Cocaí was still not with me (I was about to cross paths with her actually!), so I was alone in this endeavour. It is an area where public transportation is not abundant, and from one point there is none. You must "beg" someone to take you... And many areas are accessible only by river.
I arrived from Cuzco to Paucartambo by bus. There is where the high jungle starts. At some point, specifically in Edén, the road ends and there is no other way than asking for a river ride. I made it thanks to Ángelo, whom I helped to load in his boat the cargo that he had to take to the town of Boca Manu and in exchange he did not charge me. It was quite an adventure to sail in that mini boat over there in the fucking jungle.
My idea was to try to access the Manu National Park. I did not make it because special permits are required, but I got to know an even more beautiful side of the place: its people. I was walking through the town, looking for some nearby ponds that someone had recommended me when I came across Eugenia. She invited me to stay at her place (I put my tent in her yard). It was incredible this experience. It was only three days but what three days. I still remember those jungle breakfasts: bowls of spaghetti or rice with eggs and banana full to the brim. They gave us energy to face the day. I helped in the project of the Youth Amazonian Olympics, in which all the towns I went through to reach Boca Manu were going to participate. This year the event was held in this village, and they were all very excited, actively participating in the endeavour. Children, adults and the elderly of both genders were building an Olympic track (let’s say kind of, hehe). Having contributed my bit and collaborating with them is something I will not forget.
A person I will never forget
Getting out of there was also a remarkable feat. A group of Canadian Biology students were on their way to a biological station, further on the river. They spent the night in the village before continuing the journey the next day. I talked to the professors and they agreed to give me a ride the next morning. A cook, who was the sister of one of the professors, and I got off in a coastal community, from where we could already take a combi/bus that left us in Puerto Maldonado. Back to civilization. I stayed with this woman and her family one night and they gave me a ride to the bus station the next day. I came back to Cuzco to get part of my gear back.
We started in Monterrey, in the northeast of Mexico; We went down to Oaxaca, to the south of the country; Then went north again, this time to the northwest, Hermosillo and the border in the desert between Sonora and Arizona; We kept going north to Utah; We returned to Arizona completing an amazing loop (arches, canyons, forests joined us along the way); We crossed the state to California; We went up to the border with Canada, in the state of Washington leaving behind the Golden State and the green Oregon. We did all this in 100 days. It would be too much to relate all the adventures, deeds, people and landscapes that we found along the way, so here I will tell only a couple. You can find all these stories in my diaries!
Estephany and the Huasteca Potosina
After a few days touring the beautiful Huasteca of San Luis Potosí, we were on the road with our eyes almost set on Veracruz (I wanted to visit some places more before heading to the coast). Estephany came to the rescue. This nice young lady was on her way to see her boss to give him some documents, and since she worked on environmental conservation, she encouraged me to leave my resume. We told the boss that we were friends! Anecdotes like that aside, she left us in our new destination but not before we exchanged contact.
The next day we met and visit a castle that seemed to be made of candy, and a town called Axtla de Terrazas, where we ate some delicious tacos. My idea was to leave that same day the Huasteca Potosina, but since it was late she offered me to stay at her house with her family for that night. Cocaí and I so happy to sleep in a bed! And to share with a local family. The grandmother and the mother were Nahuatl. In fact, the grandmother did not speak Spanish at all, just Nahuatl. The company and the meals were wonderful.
Estephany to the rescue!
Coqui got along well with Estephany's mother. Nahuatl and Quechua together!
César and California
Death Valley, California. We were trying to leave the park by the west access and get to the route 395, from which we had heard wonders. Suddenly, a car coming from the other direction stopped and asked us where we were trying to get, and that he was going to come our direction in about 20 minutes (in case nobody stopped before). How good that nobody took us during that time!
César Gudiel was not only our savior of the day. He also became our travel companion for the next three days, offered us his home in San Francisco for a week, and we hit the road again, this time with his family, north of the Golden State. But let's go one step at a time. Instead of leaving that same day the Park, I stayed with him in the west section, visiting very cool places. We picked up another hitchhiker, Patrick from Michigan, with whom we spent the day.
My luck brings me to know so great guys like César
César's initial plan was to return to SF by a shorter but uglier and boring route. He liked my idea of going through the mountains and “signed up”. We were traveling for two days through dreamed-of places. In fact, the landscape of Alabama Hills is so beautiful that it lends itself to being used as a place to shoot movies (such as Django Unchained or Iron Man). Frozen lakes and amazing mountains accompanied us throughout the trip. The place where we camped was one of the most beautiful I have ever slept in, at the foot of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the USA without considering Alaskan territory, and other beautiful peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Oh my God, this is amazing!
There's nothing like taking a pee in a beautiful place!
We arrived at San Francisco at night after two days on highway 395 (not much but with the cold and snow we could not have done much more sincerely). César gave me a present upon arrival: a view of the city and its lights from the best lookout. Cities are not my favorite thing, but San Francisco impressed me a lot from this first sight. Then he took me to meet his little great family. In César, Melissa and the little Phoenix house we stayed for six days, discovering all the corners of the city (and I am saying all because César took us literally everywhere) and some super cool places in the surroundings.
A lovely family
Coqui and Phoenix having fun (I am not sure if Coqui agrees with me)
The famous Golden Gate Bridge!
On the weekend, Melissa did not have to work, and Phoenix was free from school. We went on a trip to the Redwoods, in northern Californian. We stayed in a very cool cabin in the middle of the forest. Besides, it was perfect for me because it was on my way to Canada. They were three wonderful days with the Gudiel and the tallest trees on the planet. They had to go back to SF and I was going north, so I asked them to leave me in the next town. But between it was pouring with rain and the fact that this couple are a such great people, they ended up bringing us closer and closer... Until we got to Oregon. That is, it took them about three hours north to leave us there (plus the three they had back to the cabin plus the other four to SF... that is, a lot). Besides, César insisted on paying me a Yurt, where Coqui and I slept like angels, not stop thinking about this family that we will always remember and adore.
With the Gudiels at the Avenue of the Giants
See you soon Phoenix, thanks for all the adventures together. Woof!