We started our big month-long Yukatan trip on December 10th, a few days later than originally planned. Ella´s school changed their exam dates, and we decided to roll with it instead of insisting on them giving them to her as scheduled. You win some-you lose some.
The first day we drove just east of Puebla. There is a LOT to see in Puebla, and we simply couldn´t even begin to fit that in on this trip. Another trip! As soon as we hit the Puebla area, we noticed an absurd amount of people riding bikes on the busy highway passing the outskirts of town. These weren’t normal biker dudes…
These were young men on a religoius pilgramage. They were riding bikes with Lady Guadalupe figurines, crosses, and other large religious symbols tied to their backs, and trailing behind a work truck also full of people, and decorated with more of the (usually gaudy) religious memorabilia. Kind of like a moving shrine.
We thought the first two or three groups we passed were quite a sight. Little did we know we’d be seeing groups like these for the next 3 days. We later learned/remembered that the weekend marked an important Catholic holiday, “Dia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” (Day of Our Lady Guadalupe), which is usually celebrated with a week or more of festivities leading up the the holiday on December 12th.
Three years ago while living in Chapala, we saw an amazing pyrotechnics show off of the local chapel in celebration of this holiday (see the wild video here…can you even imagine this happening in the US? No!). This holiday celebrates the Catholic’s belief that this particular Virgin appeared to an indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, in 1531…and now that virgin is Mexico’s religous patron. I don’t entirely understand what “religious patron” is supposed to mean…and I will naively admit that images of Lady Guadalupe looks like the Catholic Virgin Mary, to me. They are awfully confusing.
Where to eat on a Mexican road trip
Finding places to eat on big trips through unknown territory in Mexico can sometimes be a little discouraging. They don’t have McDonalds and other fast-food places roadside (not that we like those…but you have to admit it is convenient and nice to at least have a predictable menu and an idea of how long a meal will take to cook). Toll roads generally have little convenience shops next to the toll booths, if you’re happy with junk food like chips, pop, etc. Oxxo is another type of convenience store that pops up next to nearly every gas station…and they might have popcorn, instant soup, nachos, hot dogs, and other stuff I consider crap (which sometimes has to work).
We were so fortunate on this first day to discover that some great little “fast-food” restaurants were located along the toll roads between Guadalajara and Puebla…and we were therefore very well fed! At one particular stop they had many different taco toppings available, besides the typical beef-only that you find at taco stands: beans, nopales (catcus in pico-de-gallo), potatoes, rice, etc. We simply picked our 3 sides each, and they handed us a stack of corn tortillas to eat them with. Perfect!
If you wanted your mouth to burn, they even had a great little salsa table set up with cilantro and onions, as well.
Beans+Rice=Happy Kids=Happy Parents
As is typical, Ethan was stolen away by the staff at the restaurant. People always want to hold him (it’s the red hair–he makes them swoon)! He has still not warmed up to the idea of strangers holding him. That’s okay!
Back on the road, we discovered there were other opportunities for roadside food. We saw these vendors everywhere, selling little baskets of fresh strawberries. We would have been tempted to get some, but we’d have to worry about how and where to wash them! Their sign says “fresas” flipped, announcing to drivers looking in their rearview mirrors that they missed the strawberries. I don’t know why they would care more about drivers having passed the other way, than those that are oncoming. Maybe it was a mistake?
After passing through a freakishly fogged-in mountain pass very late at night, we finally made it out of the high mountains past Puebla and spent the night in Orizaba. First, we stopped at another little roadside diner, where we all ordered some eggs and rice, and Jared ordered a hamburger. Just more evidence that you never know what you’re going to get here….
His burger was super thin, flattened out, had cilantro cooked into it, and didn’t taste like hamburger as we know it (I’m convinced there’s pork in some of the burgers I’ve tasted…it is NOT normal!). The girls and I ordered eggs for dinner. One thing we’ve learned is that it is hard to mess up eggs.
It was long past dark when we arrived to our first hotel in Orizaba, a picturesque little mountain town nestled in a valley. Our guidebook described it as ” More industrial than urbane, Orizaba does a heck of a job making you forget that you’re in the middle of gorgeous mountain country.” We found it to be perfectly pleasant and beautiful when we woke up in the morning!
We waited in the hotel restaurant, hoping that someone would pay us some attention and take our order. However, there was only one staff member busily preparing breakfast for 3 hungry looking men, and after 20 minutes of being ignored, we decided to get on the road and try our chances somewhere else. That somewhere else was another little restaurant tucked away on the toll road.
I’ve mentioned before that at home we eat a plant-based diet. We do not eat eggs, dairy, or meat. However, road trekking can sometimes be much more enjoyable with a little flexibility. So-eggs, beans and rice became a staple on this trip!
A typical restaurant menu offers “huevos al gusto” which essentially means “eggs as you like them”. This time we decided to try divorced eggs, or “huevos divorciados”–and boy, were we glad we did! Two sunny-side-up eggs are prepared, one on each side, with two tomato-based sauces (red, sometimes-spicy, sauce on the left, and green tomatillo sauce with a kick of lime on the right). DELICIOUS. We’ve since learned that every restaurant’s version of huevos divorciados can be different…but this one was definitely a winner!
The second day was filled with more street-side vendors standing at any topes (speed bumps) they could find. Sometimes vendors even make their own speed bumps, to have a higher probability of traffic slowing long enough to consider their products. This guy was selling pre-peeled oranges and some other fresh produce that was put in plastic bags that were then strung on a bent wire for easy holding.
Rains had been fairly frequent recently, opening up a lot of potholes (baches). Some of these would definitely be a death-sentence for your tires, so traffic steered all over the road to avoid them!
The second day landed us at the Comalcalco Pyramids. See and read all about them in the next post!