Posted by: lianadevine | 8 December 2007

When the Navigator gets lost

Before Raymundo escorted us to the outskirts of San Juan del Rio, he assured us our trip to Cuernavaca would take about four hours.   We had travelled this route before, only backwards, seven years ago.  At that time, we blew past Cuernavaca, having missed the off-ramp to the trailer park.  Now, with my Church and Church guidebook close at hand, I was determined to navigate us directly to Cuernavaca’s closest RV Park, in nearby Chiconcuac.

The road, according to my Guia Roji, would take us to Toluca, then we would continue south then east to avoid Mexico City.  Something has put the fear of God into me about driving near a city with more people in it than in all of Canada.  Also, there are certain days of the week that you are not allowed to drive in Mexico City, to try to decrease pollution.  And I had heard big rigs are often ticketed for driving within the city and not staying on the truck routes.  Whether these fears are rational or not, they had the effect of putting me on edge even at the beginning of the drive.  Besides, I was just getting over my stomach troubles, so was not feeling my best physically either.

All went well leaving San Juan, sandwiched among semis on a dual-lane highway.   I tried to relax and enjoy the views as we climbed higher yet toward Toluca. In the Valle de los Espejos At an altitude of about 8,000 feet, the climate and vegetation is quite temperate, despite being geographically in the tropics.  So we wound around mountain roads that looked like somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of western Canada.  Pine trees yet!

By happy accident, we found ourselves on the Libramiento – big signs told us it was the government at work for the people improving the roads – and yes, it was beautiful road, but not libre.  As we paid a nice toll for the nice road, we asked at the booth whether this new road took us to Toluca.  He showed us a map that indicated that the new road (NOT in my 2000 Guia Roji) was a shortcut that bypassed Toluca entirely and would take us to Lerma, just outside Mexico City.   Oh the dreaded Mexico City again…we were not quite “out of the woods”!

Around Lerma, I was frantically looking for signs that would point us to a destination NOT Mexico City.  Though  the Guia showed many small towns on secondary roads, the highway numbers were not marked, either in the Guia or on the mile markers on the road.  I thought we were going south toward Chalma, and was fairly convinced we were on the right track when we started to see sport-fishing camps along the road as it passed through pine-clad valleys, as the man at the toll booth had mentioned the trout.  We stopped at one resort to let Spike have a chew on the fresh green grass; I took Pepto for my cramped stomach.Sport-fishing resort

The towns we passed through failed to provide me with any evidence of where we were, and I’m usually pretty good about spotting the town name at the entrance, or on the water tower, or on the local schoolhouse, or some business along the main drag.  We passed a huge Daimler Chrysler plant in one of these towns, who knows where that was???  We stopped and asked someone what the name of the town was and could he point us toward Chalma?  Nameless Mexican townWe took his advice and still didn’t know any better where we were.  I threw my hands up in the air, map and all.

Now winding along narrow switchback roads, Calvin mentioned how it would be a bad thing to meet oncoming traffic on one of those blind curves, because of our size and length, he has to cut wide, into the opposing lane.  As he spoke it, so it happened.  Yikes, that white Lincoln is burned into my memory banks!  My stomach churned more.

Then as we wound down into a valley, where muddy sloughs on either side were heralded as the Lagos of Zempoala, I urged Calvin to pull over.  On my map, I could see the Lagos of Zempoala, and ahead on the road, a sign with the mileage to Cuernavaca.  I was so relieved to finally get my bearings I didn’t much care there was a police officer coming toward the parked bus.   I assured him we were not lost anymore, but he was more interested in our paperwork.

Yes, we had registration and insurance on the Thing, but no, we did not have a permit to tow it.  We did not go to Toluca, which is where we should have gotten the permit and where we could pay the 600 peso fine.  Could we unhook the Thing and drive separately into Cuernavaca?  Yes, but there are locos there and if we got separated in traffic, it would be worse for us.  Some small talk about the lagos and a Spanish lesson about multas later, we were forgiven and drove a few kilometers into the next state where it really didn’t matter if we were towing anything.  Or any Thing.

They had warned us the road was dangerous, and so it was, winding downhill on tight, narrow switchbacks through otherwise beautiful country.the long and winding road  Calvin had fun and the jake brakes held well.  Soon, the view of Cuernavaca in the distance sent me searching for my Church and Church to guide us through the city and to the campground.

Once inside the gates of Trailer Park Campestre, set up at #3 Calle Cancun, we were finally in the kind of paradise I imagined Mr. Bus belonged in, with palm trees on both sides.  Now I could relax and hit the Easy Button.

That was Easy



  1. […] Travel Blogs | Travel Journals | Travelogues | Travel Diaries | Since 1997 wrote an interesting post today on When the Navigator gets lostHere’s a quick excerpt…that bypassed Toluca entirely and would take us to Lerma, just outside Mexico City. Oh the dreaded Mexico City again…we were not quite… […]

  2. Don’t know who the author of this WordPress Blog about Mexico City is (see above), but he/she thought this post was good enough to quote. Thanks for the nod! Leanne

  3. I found your latest travel comments today. Very interesting adventure so far. Gill says thanks for the birthday greetings – Dec 9. We are still short of snow for skiing but more is falling today. It was minus 15 Celsius today. A cold winter from ” el Nina ” is predicted.

  4. Well, definitely I’m not adventurous! Just reading about your problems to get to Cuernavaca made me feel a little tense… Glad I can “live” this through you, anyway!

    Pity you haven’t recorded your conversation with the police officer! I’m sure I’d have laughed a lot overhearing that!

    Biiiiiig hug!

  5. Hola, L and C and S.

    Your adventures are amazing, and your running narrative is perfect: just enough detail to paint a word picture but not so much verbiage that the reader gets “blogged down.”

    I was about to write that I’m enjoying the continuing saga immensely, but I’m not sure enjoying is the right word: sometimes I share your joy, sometimes I commiserate with your frustrations, sometimes I chuckle as you make one wry comment or another about the unexpected twists and turns that life throws at us. I can say this, though: you have my undivided attention in every single post here!

    Thank goodness you were able to avoid having to deal with traffic in the D.F. Thank goodness you made it to Trailer Park Campestre!

    ¡Abraços grandes!

    Dennis in Phoenix

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