Friday, March 28, 2014

Centro Conservation de la Vida Silvestre

It's hard to understand this place, even after being here for months there are still plenty of things that are just beyond any sense or logic. Part of the problem is that Mexico doesn't seem to be one country, but just a random collection of states and every state seems to live by their own rules and have their own way of doing things. We've just entered another state in Mexico and everything seems to have changed again. The friendly faces of the mid-west coast have gradually made way for stern Maya faces. Looking around me I get the impression that there doesn't seem to be much to laugh about here. Most of the faces are so grim that I wonder if some of them even know what laughing is. 

The landscape is certainly nothing to get excited about. It's flat, it's bush, it's boring. The killer is the humidity, which is at dripping levels. It drains the energy out of us. We still try to ride with our protective gear on but that makes life even more difficult. We are well aware that in this part of Mexico they drive as dangerous as they do in northern Baja. The main use for our intercoms now is to warn about another ridiculously dangerous overtaking manoeuvre being performed. Looking around in the towns, if you can call them that, I can't help but noticing that the average intelligence level has dropped considerably too. It sort of explains the driving behaviour but doesn't make it less worrying. 

The way of driving and total disregard for human life makes us wear our protective gear, yet the temperature and humidity make it almost impossible to do so. The plastic so called 4-season jackets fail miserably now. We feel shrink-wrapped inside them, our sweat sticking the supposedly non-stick lining to our arms. Pretty soon we will have to choose between wearing them or being able to respond quickly and ride in T-shirt like the Mexicans do.

The day started with a game of Russian Roulette with our bank card. The only type of ATM to be found anywhere was the HSBC, which have the dumb card-swallow system that caused us so much problems in the past (see side column on HSBC Mexico Bank Warning). We have, obviously, avoided them as the plague but today had no other option. Somewhat nervously I inserted the card which disappeared into the ATM machine. Thinking I might never see it back again, I performed the whole procedure, received the cash, got the printout and then prayed for the card to return out of the slot… it did! Pfhew! 
The faces in Palenque, where the ATM was, are grim. Not just tired or unhappy but seriously unfriendly. It's not hard to imagine that there are serious troubles here between government and locals. It made me realise we hadn't seen such hard and grim faces since southern California. The other thing we had noticed before, and was further emphasised today, is the massive police and army presence. Blue on the street might be seen as a deterrent, but here it's almost at war-strenght. They are seriously equipped too with big machine guns and lots of ammunition. 

Looking at the faces again, I wondered how much of the old Mayan rituals are still being performed… and who they sacrifice these days? Along the road we saw groups of men with giant machetes cutting the grass. They seriously looked like savages… perhaps not such a good place to stop for a photo I thought. Mind you between the machete-men and the drivers here, the machete-men might still be your safer bet.

Electrifying switch
We stopped at a Pemex fuel station and found a little shade under a couple of trees. Time to re-fill the body with the fluid that was dripping out of us from every part of it. A Mexican was banging on something under his truck with a hammer. I wondered how he could work at all under these conditions and then realised he's used to it and probably doesn't even sweat. When he rolled from under his truck, I was almost relieved to see his shirt soaking wet too. 

Some of the things we see along the way are too hard to accept. Like the nest of kittens we saw at a petrol station. Petrol stations in this part of Mexico are a bit like roadhouses in Australia. The people that own or operate them live there as well. The kittens looked very skinny already, but when we saw mum we couldn't believe our eyes. She was so skinny and exhausted that she could hardly walk anymore. The Vet in Tasmania told us that feeding a cat cheese is like feeding it big hamburgers, so guess what we did :-) We gave her the biggest 'hamburguesas' she had ever seen and were rewarded with the happiest look we had seen all day. When I walked inside to get her some water, I noticed that the two ladies operating the cafeteria were looking at us through the reflective windows. There was no-one in the cafeteria and yet they still didn't do a damn thing to save mum and her kittens. They are living animals and probably there to keep the vermin at bay, yet when it comes time to do something back they don't care. Outside it's sticky hot, inside is air-conditioning, yet they leave the poor cats steaming outside… I would have given them a snarl but unfortunately my Spanish isn't up to it, instead I gave them the same look as I got from the machete men...

The shower… and yes that is horse poo!
As the day had been long enough we decided to camp just a little further up the road. According to a camping book there should be a campground called Centro Conservation de la Vida Silvestre just down the road. It's a kind of nature reserve, we think. There is certainly lots of wildlife roaming around there, plenty of which we have no real idea what it was! The toilets and showers are somewhat basic, especially the shower as you can see in the photo. Yes that green/brown stuff on the floor is horse-poo… I guess the horse was in effect the lawnmower but the by-products caused us to give the shower a miss! The electrical wiring for the lights is also somewhat dodgy… At a conservative guess it's a 50/50 chance if you energise the lightbulb or yourself when you touch the light switch… 

The Howler monkeys kept us awake at night as they slowly worked their way past our tents making more noise than a Jumbo Jet. What twist of fate gave them a voice box like that remains a mystery. Click on the video to hear the frightening sound they make. Like I said this place is hard to understand at times :-)