In my travels, given my motto of experiencing everything, I have tried to, at least partially, "cleanse the doors of perception" (to borrow Blake's words)- age, skin colour, religion, gender and sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, etc. But, until the 95th day of my bike tour, I had never had the opportunity to experience a vast difference in class.

Of course, I have interacted with people from different classes in the past. But I had never had to seek help nor had I received kindness from someone whom one would describe as "poor."


...

According to Google, there were two ways of getting to Orizatlan from Axtla de Terrazas.


The gray line is the highway, i.e. a lot of traffic and no space for bicycles. I had no clue what the blue line was like, but it was far away from the main highway and, therefore, from traffic. I decided to take that route.

Before setting out, I noticed that the tyres could do with some air. However, the airpump that I have did not quite work. I set out anyway.

The blue line turned out to be mostly dirt roads such as these:






I cursed Google when Brownie crashed because of too much gravel downhill. We came out unscathed.

Thankfully, the dirt roads ended when I exited a small village called, El Cerro.


The paved road led me through these ranches. I hardly saw any people for the next few kilometers.












The humidity made it difficult to bike. I stopped at this small shop run by a lady for a snack. She offered some blueberry water for free.


The village had a bilingual school. I assumed they taught in Spanish and Nahuatl.


I turned towards Tampacan at about 3:30pm. A few kilometers later, a guy came up to me in his bike. He wanted to know what I was up to with all that load on my bike. He pointed out that the posterior tyre needed more air and offered to take me to his place where we could use his airpump. He lived just a 100 meters away. Here:


He suggested that I go back and take the highway instead if I wanted to reach Orizatlan that very day. I told him how difficult it had been to bike on that highway on my way to Axtla from Xilitla. He and his family wished me luck.

I then cycled through these landscapes:










After some tough uphills on rocky roads (Brownie tripped again), I reached a village called, La Mesa del Toro:








The main road in the village was a paved one, but not too long after crossing the river, it was once again a very long dirt track, except this steep cemented track that ran through a remote village nestled in the hills:


I thought of camping in the village. But something kept me going further.

The rest of the road ran through thick vegetation on both sides. It almost seemed as if I was biking through a forest, and I probably was. I did not see another person for a very long time. Since I was in a hurry, I did not stop to click too many pictures. All I remember is that the sun was about to set and I was still quite far from my destination.


Finally, I emerged from the forest onto a road that, according to a woodcutter, led to Chapulhuacanito or simply Chapul. The peremptory rule of travelling by bike in Mexico (and without a headlight) is that you don't pedal at night. I needed a safe place to camp. About 20 minutes later, I was at crossroads. I could continue on the blue line or take a detour to get to Chapulhuacanito or camp on the verdant pasture in front of me. Three kids passing by told me that the blue line would soon be a dirt road, the road to Chapul was a macadamised one. I could not decide which road to take. Something told me that I should just camp in the country. So I walked onto the green pasture towards the lone wooden hut on it.


There was a lot of farmland machinery under a huge tree. But I could not see any active agricultural activity; only lush green grass as far as my eyes could see. There was a trail with sparse grass that led to the hut. Clearly, somebody lived there. A dog, presumably of the owner of the hut, hesitantly barked. A man came out and then somebody behind him as well. They were both hesitant to come out, but by the time I was about five meters away from the hut, they eventually did. I smiled and began my usual spiel, "Hello beautiful people, I am from India. I am travelling by bike through Mexico. I wanted to get to Orizatlan today, but it's getting dark. You, as Mexicans, know better than me that it is unsafe to travel in the dark. I need a safe place to spend the night. I have my tent and mattress. I even have my own food. Rest assured I will not cause any trouble. All I ask for is a safe place to set up my tent and park my bike." The man nodded and said that it was not a problem, but he needed to ask his father who lived in the hut on the other side of the road. (I had seen the hut and noticed a boy was observing me, who I later got to know was his brother.)


I have been hosted by several strangers. And each time, there is a sense of fear that I need to assuage by talking, showing pictures of my travels, sharing my stories, inspiring kindness by telling a reluctant host how I had received kindness in the previous village or town. In cities, I contact people through travellers' networks that have different ways of establishing trust. In this case, they agreed to host me without asking me anything, without any attempt to verify if I was genuine, without me having to quell fear because there was none.

The man introduced himself as Julio. Julio's father arrived. He consented but asked me to put up my tent close to the hut and not too far away in the grass for the fear of snakes. I began pitching my tent. I was almost done when the father asked me if I had cold water. "You pedalled all the way from Axtla in such heat, you must be thirsty. I will go fetch a few bottles of cold water."

Then Julio asked me to move the tent under the shed behind their hut for it could get windy. He said that he would have liked to offer a bed but they only had one- for him, his wife and his daughter.

It was dark already. I told them I was about to have dinner.

"Wouldn't you join us? We can only offer eggs and tortillas, but we would like if you joined us for dinner," said Julio's wife, Chela.

Chela made the tortillas on a wood stove while Julio went to the nearest village to buy canned chillies (I later learned that he actually tried to find chicken but at that hour could not.)


Those were the best tortillas I have had. Julio ate them like a chapati (Indian bread similar to Mexican tortilla). Chela had made quite a pile of tortillas. I was wondering why. After we finished eating, they fed their 6 dogs and 2 cats, and then I understood why.

Chela told me about the different dialects of Nahuatl. I was showing off the few words of Nahuatl that I had learned from an old man in a village called El Nacimiento. She informed me how Nahuatl is different in her village, which is about 25 Km away, and the nearest one. She told me the exact differences in how people would speak the words that I had learned in those two villages. It was fascinating to learn how that language changed within very short distances. I asked her if Nata was learning Nahuatl. Unfortunately, not. Those bilingual schools are not bilingual after all. Chela was, despite her circumstances, well informed through television. She knew about elephants and tigers in India. They were quite curious. They would tell me something about Mexico and then ask me if India was different in that regard- we mostly focused on religion and food. They asked me if we baptize kids in India. I told them that the Christians do but the Hindus don't. They have a ceremony instead where the head of a kid is shaved. I asked Nata if she had friends in school. To my surprise, she said that she did not. I asked her why. Chela reasoned, "Bulling" (Interestingly, bullying has made its way into Mexican Spanish).

In the morning, I woke up to their rooster's cockadoodledoo at 9:30. I could hear Chela trying to scare the rooster away so it would not wake me up. I thought I could catch a few minutes of sleep. But somehow the rooster found its way to the other side of the tent and woke me up yet again, almost as if someone had entrusted him with that task. I thought I would have my breakfast cereal before leaving. But Chela had already made coffee. She also offered me some sweet breads. I thought breakfast was done. But no, Julio had gone out to find cheese made from cow's milk because the previous night I had mentioned how I missed the taste of Indian cheese made from cow's milk. So, they offered cheese with tortillas and, of course, chillies.

It was time to say goodbye. To breach the awkward silence that is characteristic of difficult goodbyes, Chela said, "Pues, hasta nunca entonces!" (Well, until never again I suppose.) That hurt. I joked, "Who knows! Maybe I will find a mexican, get married and settle here." She got all excited, "Really? Will you marry a woman from the Huasteca region or some other part of Mexico?" I just laughed. Julio's eyes were turning moist. Chela remarked, "Somebody is going to miss you." As men we could not have cried in the presence of women. I asked Julio for a hug. That was it. We could not hold our tears back. Julio kept saying, "May God bless you! May you have the time of your life!" Nata, poor kid, even she started crying. Chela stood there, smiling at us. I hugged Chela and Nata. I had nothing to offer to them; I could not have offered my used clothes or cycle repair tools and extra parts. I could have offered money even though I was low on cash. But offering any amount of money felt like insulting them. I am sure they were not expecting anything in return. With a lump in my throat, I said, "No quiero salir pero tengo que ir. Hasta luego, amigos!" (I do not wish to leave, but I must go. Goodbye, my friends.)

As I walked away from them, about 100 meters away, I had to turn my head around. Nata yelled out, "Estebaaaaaaan..." and came running towards me . "Estebaaaaaan..." she repeated. I hugged her and wished her the best of life ahead. Chela was standing in the distance, smiling.

I have no qualms about admitting that I could not bike for too long at a stretch that day. I had to stop frequently to clear my tearful eyes.

...

You might call Julio, his father, and Chela gullible for not probing me before agreeing to host me. But, you, like me, are not "poor." And, therefore, accustomed to live a life of fear. You see, Julio and his family had nothing to lose. Chela, in fact, joked right before going to bed, "I hope you won't rob us, Esteban, while we are asleep." The rich, on the other hand, constantly live in fear: the fear of being robbed- robbed of their acquisitions of mindless consumption and their borrowed dreams; the fear of losing to their friends, family and neighbours who have a better car, bigger and flatter television screen, a higher income or salary. Why acquire all that if the result is a crippled, helpless, and often, contrived, compassion for others and a life full of fear?

One of the firefighters who had offered me food, shelter, and friendship in Castaños, had rightly said, “Los que menos tienen, más dan." (Only those who have little are capable of giving a lot.) I wish each one of you get to meet people like Julio and his family at least once in your life. Because these are the people worth living for. And, if necessary, worth fighting for.

...

I shared my experience of biking on those dirt tracks with my Mexican cyclist friends whom I had recently met in Aquismon. I requested one of them, Santiago, to let me know if he decided to do that route ever and if he would be willing to carry a few gifts for Julio and his family. Santi, as he is belovedly called, is extremely passionate about cycling, nature, and giving. He and Marystelita have agreed to undertake this ride already! They will be on their way to that verdant pasture almost 250 Km away from their hometown, Tampico, on May 21st and will reach Julio's hut on May 22nd.

I cannot thank them enough. But for Santi, "Todos somos uno, amigo." (We are all parts of the same whole, my friend.)
If you speak German, you would know what the title means. If you don’t, I am not trying to show off with a German title. Read on, and you’ll find out what it means and why I had to use it.

I recently met a Mexican solo traveller- Xavier. Most solo travellers have something in common: they are not scared of being alone; they are not necessarily introverts; in fact, they could make most people feel at ease in their company; and they know how to enjoy solitude. They also tend to think too much, mostly about questions that we will probably never be able to answer.

We got along well and decided to travel together for a bit. Xavier hitchhikes. So for about 250 kilometers in Central Mexico, we picked points on the map. He would get there by hitchhiking, and I would ride Brownie till that point. We mostly wildcamped, except when a restaurant owner invited us to camp in the backyard of one of his abandoned properties- lush green with a fish-pond.

Besides helping me improve my Spanish, Xavier introduced me to a lot of Latin American literature and explained to me the nuiances of Mexican cuisine like no other. I passed on to him whatever little I know about meditating.

We had way too many interesting conversations. The day we parted, he brought up Sartre and existentialism. It was a conversation we could not finish. He had also asked me to read something by Huxley. While reading that, I came across these words:
“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies–all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

Sartre and the words above remind me of a conversation that I had in Norway with a German woman. I could not share it with Xavier that day due to lack of time. I now feel like sharing it with all of you.

I was camping in a Norwegian fjord. A fjord, loosely put, is a geographical combination of ocean and mountains mostly found near the poles, I think. In the majestic beauty of that fjord, you could undergo ego death worse than an acid trip.



A few hours after I set up my tent, arrived an RV or a Wohnmobil (as the Germans call it). My cell phone battery had died so I decided to knock on its door. A white man in his 60s opened the door. I asked him in English if I could charge my phone. He didn’t speak English so he called his wife outside who spoke English a lot more than him but not too much. (As soon as he did, I figured they were German.) Before the wife came outside, I tried to construct the sentence in German in my head. When I said it out loud, Joachim and Katherina were surprised and smiled. Speaking a person's language purges most suspicions that s/he may have about you. Katherina immediately invited me inside the Wohnmobil.

Her fine wrinkles, like runes, secretly conveyed her youthful beauty. The warmth in her eyes and her gentle smile (but childish laughter) compensated for whatever little those wrinkles managed to hide. Over the next two days, we talked a lot, sometimes over some fine wine- in Germlish with Katherina and in German with Joachim (sometimes Katherina had to act as our interpreter).

In my travels through Europe, in the initial few weeks, I asked some people what they believed was the meaning of life. I stopped posing that question after this conversation.

On our third day of camping next to each other, it was raining outside. So Katherina had invited me over. She was reading one of those German thrillers that she had introduced me to. I, too, was reading something. Joachim was out fishing on his inflatable motor boat- his “new toy” as Katherina referred to it.

It was a little abrupt when I asked Katherina, “Can I ask you something?”

Was möchtest du fragen?” (What do you want to ask?)

Was ist der Sinn des Lebens?” (What is the meaning or purpose of life?)

She laid her book on the table, took off her reading glasses, and looked right into my eyes trying to gauge my earnestness in order to decide whether or not to respond honestly.

She smiled. And then a tear trickled down her face. (That’s not always a sign of being sad. Being honest requires courage. I think the feat of having decided to be honest to a stranger made her happy.)

She said, “Wir alle sind allein.” (We are all alone.)

That was the prelude to her lengthy response. Now it may sound dramatic, but as soon as I heard those four words, they echoed in my head. Wir. Alle. Sind. Allein. Over and over again. I was ensconced in that chair of the Wohnmobil, but my mind was a maelstrom for not knowing how to react: I conjured up the whole world, the galaxies, interspecies communication and what not. I even imagined the Big Bang and everything that must have happened until that moment. It was hard for me to focus on what else she had to say, but I know she was being brutally honest.

One thing I remember that she said was: “People change. You can spend your whole life with another person. Suddenly, one day, that person will do something that will make you wonder, ‘I thought I knew this person.’”

After a long monologue, and during which she seemed to me like an old person eagerly wanting to pass on her life lessons to a (worthy?) younger stranger, she suddenly went back to being her normal self. She took out her binoculars to look out if Joachim was on his way back. He was indeed. She excitedly went about, “Oooh, my husband’s back. It’s time for lunch!”

I looked at her and tried to communicate to her that we had just had such a deep conversation, how could she go back to being her normal self so conveniently? I had more questions: whom was she referring to when she said that people change; was she hurt; if we all are alone then why did she go through it all; why should anyone go through life at all? But the conversation was over for her. Perhaps, she was feeling vulnerable having revealed too much to a stranger whom she had just got to know. Perhaps, not. I’ll never know.

Right then, Joachim knocked on the door.

“Give me a few minutes, honey. Lunch will be ready soon. The young man and I were having a chat.”

Joachim said he will be back and shut the door.

Katherina quickly added, “I like you because you are doing what YOU wanted to do. That’s how it should be. That’s how I was.” And, once again, went back to being her normal self.

For me, those four words were too overwhelming. I wanted to leave immediately- not just the Wohnmobil but that place. I wanted to be back on the road. Alone. I didn’t care anymore about Emma, somebody I had got to know close to that place.

I packed my stuff and said goodbye to Katherina. Joachim was not around. We hugged each other. She knew I was not mad at her or anybody. I was mad that somebody else had affirmed my belief based on their experience. I didn’t turn back till I was far away from her. When I did, she was still there looking at me through her binoculars. I think she was making sure that I was all right till I was out of her line of sight.

In hindsight, perhaps it was not an extraordinarily unique revelation of a truth. After all, back in school, from age 7-9, I was dressed up as Krishna and made to recite the summary of the Bhagwad Gita on the birth anniversary of Krishna. One of the things the Bhagwad Gita says is exactly what Katherina did. That’s what Sartre said. And Huxley too.

Why not opt out of life then? Why go through it nevertheless?

I now think that when Katherina suddenly went back to being normal, what she tried to demonstrate to me was that “wir alle sind allein” is a realisation that one must constantly bear in mind as a defence mechanism, while we perform our many parts merely as players and go through our relationships, so we won’t feel hurt because of another person.

But that still does not answer the question- why go through life in the way we have organised ourselves (to avoid the Hobbesian state of nature) if wir alle sind allein? And how do we reconcile this with Christopher McCandless’s realisation that “happiness [is] only real when shared”?

PS: I am perfectly all right. I am going to deal with happiness in a series of posts to follow.
Carlos showed me around Ciudad Acuña and introduced me to his family- his wife and two adorable daughters. One of them is named after the Spanish queen-Isabella and the other after the Mexican artist- Frida. He told me how things had improved in the border town: until a few years ago one could not venture out at night because of the violence between the drug cartels.

Having received so much generosity from a stranger on the very first day in Mexico, I was feeling quite upbeat. Whatever warnings I had received from the rest of the world seemed rubbish until Carlos advised me, “No te confies en nadie!” (Do not trust anyone!)

That led me to tell myself that I was in a border town, I had not seen the real Mexico, and I should not be too cocky. Fortunately, Carlos offered a ride till the next town- Rosita. He was taking his family to meet his in-laws. I thought it would be good to see what Mexico is like for a couple of hours from the safety of a car and in the company of a Mexican family. On the way, he introduced me to the Mexican delicacy-Chicharron or fried pork skin. 



They dropped me off in the parking lot of a supermarket in Rosita- a miners’ town.


See the mines in the distance?


I pedalled on, still feeling a little anxious. I did not have a destination in mind. I did not know where I was going to stay. 

I reached the next town- Agujita, where I stopped to buy Gatorade and something to nibble from an Oxxo. I bought these- the weirdest-looking cookies ever.


The guy at the counter asked me the usual questions. He then wanted to click a picture of me and Brownie. I asked him why. He wanted to share it on Facebook.

The Church in Agujita
A few kilometers later on the outskirts of Agujita but very close to the district of Sabinas, I spotted a stall selling coconut water and fruit salad. I could do with some coconut water in the heat. The kid running the stall quoted 25 pesos for 1 litre. We settled for 20. I struck a conversation with the kid. He said he did go to school but helped his father, who also worked in the mine, at the stall whenever he could. A few more customers arrived. I tried to observe how much he was charging the locals but couldn’t determine conclusively if I was fleeced. One of the new customers was a family in a red SUV. They asked me what I was doing with all that stuff on my bike, where I was from, etc. I told them. Before they could ask for a picture, I sought their permission to leave.

However, a few minutes later the red SUV overtook me and stopped. I had to stop as well. They wanted to click pictures with me. It was a full on photo shoot.


When we were about to part ways, I could not contain my curiosity. I asked them how much the coconut water cost in that stall. They said 20 pesos. Hah, the Mexican kid was trying to fleece an Indian!

Sabinas River
Too many roadside memorials at one spot
The Cowboy Statue on the outskirts of Sabina
About 20 kilometers later, I was on a downhill. I could see a car had stopped on the side of the road about a kilometer away. I was on guard. But as I got closer, I could see it was a family. They started waving at me so I stopped. They said they had seen my picture on facebook. I was taken aback. Facebook made me famous instantaneously in and around Sabinas! Another photo shoot followed. Apparently that family in the red SUV, while uploading my pics, had asked people to help me in whichever way they could. So these guys offered me a portion of coconut cake that they had. I don’t say no to free food. We had a chat for a few minutes.


When they were about to leave, the youngest member of the family, Abel, offered me 50 pesos. He said he wanted to offer cold beverages but since they did not have any I could buy some with that money. In a split second I had to decide: he really wanted me to accept it purely out of kindness/love/friendship. I didn’t want to say no. But where I come from, accepting money is not okay. You don’t just accept money like that, regardless of the amount. But then I thought, “I am a traveller and I should get used to relying on other people’s kindness to cover the long journey ahead. I can’t do it on my own. Besides, I can always pay the kindness forward.” So, I accepted the 50 pesos. I could see it made Abel happy. They left but kept waving goodbye and wishing me luck with their thumbs up, especially Abel.

That happened at about 5pm in the middle of a highway. I ate the coconut cake as quickly as I could. I needed a place to sleep. Moreover, I had been advised not to cycle in the dark in Mexico. Thankfully, a few kilometers later there was a restaurant. I decided to ask the owner if I could camp in the children’s playground next to the restaurant. The owner was not present. But I was not shunned away (Remember what happened to me in Texas? If not, click here.) One of the several female employees telephoned the owner. As I waited anxiously, avoiding the curious stares of the restaurant's customers, I was told that the owner agreed. This is Mexico, after all!

Campground for the night
Later, the night-guard even let me into the facilities meant for the employees so I could take a warm shower. I took a nice, long one. This guard was an old man. When I told him my homecountry, he remembered the Taj Mahal and Indira Gandhi! But he was mostly busy. I ended up talking to another old man who lived behind the restaurant in a shelter provided by the restaurant owner. This old man was homeless. I guess my journey fascinated him because we talked a lot. The next morning when I was ready to leave, he was concerned about my safety. He suggested that I hitch a ride to get to Monclova. I asked him not to worry.

Before leaving, it struck me that I could pay Abel’s kindness forward already. So I extended the 50 pesos to the homeless old man. I don’t think he told me his name. But I do have a picture of him:




No pude dormir mucho anoche. Estaba en una alfombra mágica volando por todos los lugares de Latinoamérica en que podía pensar. No, no estaba alucinando bajo de efecto de tomar lo que César me dio. ¡Neta sin mamadas! De hecho tenía demasiada emoción.

Me levanté y duché. Mi anfitrión de couchsurfing había preparado hot cakes para el desayuno. Pensé que probablemente fuera la ultima vez que los comí. No sabía que comen los mexicanos. ¡Estubieron Chidos! Me despedí de mis anfitriones y alejé hacia la frontera. Estuve un poco nervioso porque casi todo el mundo me había dicho que la frontera está peligroso.

Mis anfitriones increíbles

¿Puede usted ver México en la distancia?
Había una tienda de Dollar General en el camino. Decidí probar mi suerte y comprobar si se vendían la cámara “Re” de HTC que quería. No la tenían. Pero compré pilas recargables por $10- una decisión prudente. El chico en el mostrador era muy considerado. Me preguntó si yo tenía la cantidad justa de cambio para el puente de peaje fronterizo y me dio el cambio exacto que yo iba a necesitar.

Pedaleé hacia la frontera. En mi camino, vi un cartel informando que llevar armas o drogas es una ofensa en el lado mexicano de la frontera. (Cosa de Cesar! Mis pantalones se estaban mojado por el pipi metaforico.)

Después de cierta confusión en la oficina de inmigración de Estados Unidos (quería un sello de salida en mi pasaporte. Yo sabía que EE.UU. no provee un sello de salida cuando alguien sale en un avión debido a que la compañía aérea proporciona los datos de que salen del país a las autoridades de inmigración. Pero yo estaba dejando por tierra. Yo quería el sello de salida. Pero no, los pendejos gringos no iban a proporcionar uno. Finalmente, crucé el río Bravo, es decir, la frontera! Yo quería que alguien saque una foto de mí y mi bici, Brownie, de entrar en la frontera con el letrero de "México", solo unos metros lejos. Pero no era posible con todos los enormes camiones alineados en el puente y todos los coches que estaban pasando al lado de mí.

Río Bravo - la carretera a los EE.UU. para muchos inmigrantes latinoamericanos
El puente sobre el río tenía una valla de alambre en ambos lados. "México" en el edificio en el extremo del puente en que están las oficiales de inmigración y de seguridad de fronteras fue oscurecido por algunos bloques de cemento y parte de la valla. Entré en la puerta de México. Por desgracia, no podía hacer clic de imagen de "México" en letras grandes tampoco.

Al verme toda perplejidad, un agente de seguridad hembra se acercó a mí y me preguntó qué todo lo que llevaba en la bici. Señalé a alimentos, agua, ropa, carpa, mochila, bolsa de dormir, ciclo de piezas de repuesto, etc. Mientras hablaba, el perro rastreador en el cesto canina unos 10 pies de distancia empezó a ladrar. Sin cesar! Me las arreglé para controlar pis metafórico. Pidió a los otros agentes de calmar al perro. Que estaban haciendo ya. Ella me pidió que aparcar la bici y obtener la autorización del agente de inmigración. Ella dijo que iba a inspeccionar mis chivas después de eso.

Fui dentro del despacho de inmigración. El oficial me pidió que llenar un formulario y pagar la cuota en un banco ubicado fuera. Así que, curiosamente, podría entrar en el territorio mexicano para pagar el costo de la visa en un banco sin mi pasaporte (no tenía ni la moneda mexicana, así que tuve que usar mi tarjeta.). Nadie me acompañó. Una de las agentes de seguridad me mandó "¡Vuelva después de pagar!" Jaja. Volví a la oficina de inmigración. Sin ningún problema recibí mi visa. En conjunto, no fue nada complicada. Pero fijase, el agente de inmigración estampado mi pasaporte con la fecha el 11 de febrero de 2016. Le recordé que era de hecho el 12 de febrero. ¡Que pendejo!

¿Ve? ¡No estoy mamando!
Salí. El agente de policía que inicialmente me había instruido ya no estaba allí. Parecía que el cambio del anterior grupo de oficiales había terminado. No podía ver la canasta canina tampoco. Había una nueva agente femenina. Ella me preguntó de dónde era. Le dije que la India. Pude ver sus ojos se abren con asombro. Ella me pidió que abriera la mochila. Miró a su alrededor. Creo que ella estaba comprobando si alguno de sus supervisores estuvo alrededor. Creo que no. Porque me preguntó la siguientes preguntas mientras ella lánguidamente inspeccionó el compartimento principal de mi mochila:
1. ¿Trae armas?
2. Alcohol?
Hmm...
3. Drogas? *guiño*

Obviamente dije que no. "Andale, pasele."

A pesar de que me había ido temprano a las 8:30, finalmente podía entrar a México a las 11:30.

No tenía ni idea de por dónde ir después. En mi emoción, se me olvidó buscar unos anfitriones o lugares para alojarse en Ciudad Acuña o dónde iría después de Ciudad Acuña. Me decidí dar una vuelta de la ciudad por primera vez. Dos agentes de los federales (la policía federal) situados justo fuera del puesto fronterizo me llamaron. Me preguntaron las preguntas habituales. !Los apendeje con mi explicacion con la razon de mi viaje! También me preguntaron como esta la India. Creo que preguntaban de desarrollo / economía de la India. Les dije que esta casi como Mexico. Me dijeron la manera de salir de la ciudad y algunas otras cosas útiles. Y me fui.

La primera vista de Ciudad Acuña:



Yo acababa de cruzar un río, pero el mundo a mi alrededor había cambiado. En las calles había más color, más personas, y un poco de caos también- un caos que indicó que viven humanos en vez de maquinas.

Había vendedores de calles que venden helados y otras cosas.

Oxxo que se ve en el fondo? Es el 7-11 mexicana.

Había puestos de zapatero.

Así es como debería ser. El cliente debe recibir para sentarse. Zapateros de la India, presten atención!

Al final había transporte público! Después de Nueva York había visto autobuses en Dallas y Austin. Uno podía caminar más rápido que ellos! Pero no hubo ningun sistema de transporte público en las ciudades que eran del tamaño de Ciudad Acuña.

Mi primera reacción? Esta podría ser la India ... en español!

Dentro de la primera hora, esto es lo que sucedió. Un muchacho que iba en la misma dirección que yo redujo su coche para preguntarme lo que estaba haciendo con todas chivas en mi bicicleta. Le conté mis razones. De inmediato me articuló algunas obscenidades en español. Estaba bromeando, por supuesto. El medidor de miedo estaba corriendo un poco alto por eso finjí falta de interés y seguí adelante. (En serio, el parecía un poco sospechoso.)

Acabé para sacar una foto de esta iglesia:



Un ratito más tarde, otro hombre se desaceleró su coche. Le dije que hasta donde tenía la esperanza de llegar. Exclamó, "Órale!" Esa es una de usos múltiples del argot español mexicano. En este contexto se refiere "Holy Fuck!" Luego se detuvo su coche y se bajó. El miedo de calibre estaba bajo control y por eso yo también me detuvo. Después de una conversación introductoria, me invitó a comer! Pensé que me llevaría para un aperitivo o algo. No. Él me trató de una comida de cuatro platos- sopa de lentejas, tortas de camaron, filete pescado y capirotada! ¡Bienvenido a México!

La comida típica durante la Cuaresma

Él me ayudó a planear mi ruta para las próximas dos semanas más o menos. Me dijo los lugares turísticos y los restaurantes de revisar en los pueblos que iba a pasar. Me ofreció a conectarme con sus amigos y conocidos en esas ciudades si necesitaría algo.


¡Y luego él me invitó a su casa!

No podía creer mi suerte.

Varios amigos y admiradores, entre ellos algunos de mis anfitriones y amigos que había conocido en mis viajes, me preguntaron varias veces si yo había planeado mi ruta y mi viaje después de los EE.UU.. No lo hubiera hecho. Sé que la mayoría de ellos pensaron que estaba un pendejo por no hacerlo. Tal vez estaba. Pero tal vez, tengo un ángel de la guarda. Tal vez todos tenemos uno. Tal vez innecesariamente intentamos controlar el futuro en nombre de la planificación.

También me ha obligado pensar en esto: este hombre no podía ganar nada por ayudarme. ¿Por qué hizo todo eso por mí? Asi son los mexicanos al contrario de la opinion de resto del mundo

Nunca lo entenderé. Pues para los próximos 1000 km más o menos tenía un nuevo amigo que mira hacia fuera para mí. Su nombre es Carlos. No sé cómo pagarle toda su bondad.

Carlos y yo