I’d been getting frustrated that I wouldn’t have time to write this week’s blog with all my new volunteering responsibilities, but I ended up penning most of this on my phone this morning whilst enjoying an air-conditioned coffee in downtown Tapachula…funny how things work out. Sufficed to say, the first 10 days volunteering at Misión México have been tough, there’s no sugar-coating it; with 23 kids between the ages of 6 and 18, things get hectic that’s for sure. But I digress…
Part 1: Sayulita back to Guadalajara
I’d grown accustomed to enjoying the beach life in Sayulita with my new pals Nix and Fred, so moving on to the next stage of my adventure was bittersweet. My last night in town had obviously involved a few drinks, but local state elections in Nayarit over the weekend meant that all the bars had shut down at midnight. Waking up the next morning I considered that had probably been for the best, a 4-hour bus journey with a bad hangover is never fun. Still, I was gonna miss the Argy and the Frenchie! #sayulitacrew
The same bus company that got me to Sayulita in the first place also got me back to Guadalajara ($486 Pesos = about £20 GBP). Although word to the wise, the pick-up spot in Sayulita is not the same as the drop-off point; you need to get to the big petrol station at the edge of town, next to the main road. And some of you might groan, but after a month of tacos, tortillas, quesadillas and burritos, I was happy just to chill in the air-conditioned Subway and grab a sarnie for a change.
Having enjoyed my own apartment at the Sayulita Suites, transitioning to the Hostel Hospedarte in Guadalajara wasn’t too painful… apart from the fact that my room was right next to the social garden area…where naturally people were drinking and playing guitars.
Hammocks in the hostel garden
Luckily for me there was a Saturday night artisan fair on the main Chapultepec road, meaning I had an excuse to get out of the hostel and just wander for a bit. After a month of being super-sociable in Sayulita and making a tonne of new friends, I decided I’d earned a couple of ‘unsociable days’ to digest the first part of my trip and just chill.
Artisan fair on Chapultepec street
Artwork at the artisan fair
Anyway, most new people I meet these days seem to refer to me as ‘a writer’ once I tell them about the blog (sounds like a compliment, I’ll take it); in my mind writers fall into the ‘artist’ category and thus need time to be…introspective (i.e. moody), ha ha.
Street skater on Chapultepec street
Part 2: Guadalajara to Tapachula
An Uber from Hostel Hospedarte to Guadalajara airport is about $150 Pesos (about £6 GBP) or $250 Pesos (about £10 GBP) with a regular taxi. The hostel staff were really helpful and ordered an Uber for me.
Tapachula is a small airport so you can’t fly there directly from Guadalajara, you have to travel via Mexico City, but it’s fairly straightforward with Aero México. My flights totalled $3,485 Pesos (about £140 GBP); basically the less you pay, the longer you spend waiting in Mexico City. The flight from Guadalajara to Mexico City is less than an hour, and then from Mexico City to Tapachula it’s about 2.5 hours.
I can’t remember the last time I took a flight where I could be classed as a minority, but on the domestic flight from Mexico City to Tapachula I was one of only 3 gringos on board…people’s gaze did seem to linger on me a little longer than usual. I guess gringos don’t fly to Tapachula all that often.
Arrival at Tapachula airport (it’s pretty small)
Having been in Mexico for a month I thought I’d have acclimatised to the heat…well, I was wrong. After being on an air-conditioned aircraft you expect to be hit by the heat when you first step out, but this was a different kind of heat, and within 2 minutes I was already sweating. One word: humidity!
The taxi ride to Misión México was a bit of a mini adventure too. I hadn’t written down the address of the refuge since I thought I could just check the emails on my phone when I needed it (bad planning on my part, and more proof, as if we needed it, of our over-reliance on modern technology). So when the lady at the taxi stand nodded agreement that she knew where the refuge was, I assumed the taxi driver would know too…you’d think, right!? Wrong. The taxi driver must have asked me for directions at least 5 times, each time my reply remained unchanged, I didn’t know. But to be fair I must have asked him at least 5 times why the lady at the airport didn’t just Google it for him, he didn’t seem to register this idea.
Time for a bit of serendipity; the taxi driver seems to be out of ideas when we suddenly zip past a big white van with a Misión México sticker on the side of it! Gesticulating wildly to the taxi driver I try to explain that we need to follow that van, unfortunately the van is already behind us. Long story short, we end up signalling to Alan (Co-founder of Misión México and the guy driving the van) to pull over so I can jump in…not exactly the way I had expected to meet him, but there you go.
Arrival at Misión México
My favourite coloured VW Bug lives next door
Part 3: First impressions of Tapachula
Very hot. Very humid. Sweaty, like, just really sweaty.
Tapachula is Mexico’s most southern city nearly 400 miles further south than Guadalajara, it’s only 170 metres above sea level and is situated in one of the rainiest areas in the world. It didn’t rain for the first 72 hours I was there however, thus making my first few days feel like I was trapped in some sort of tropical oven from hell…that might sound overly dramatic, but I’m sticking to that description for now.
At the refuge, when it rains; it rains!
The oppressive weather eased a little bit after it rained, which allowed me some time to get out and about:
Backstreets of Tapachula
Random house with some very determined guard dogs
The centre of Tapachula
This first 10 days here have been a definite step change from the chilled beach vibes of Sayulita, so stay tuned for next week’s blog to find out what it’s all about!