Day 14: Boat, chicken bus and train

Overland miles: 1202 Tacocount: 37 Days without tea: 4

When we talked about this trip we agreed we wanted to experience as many different kinds of overland transport as we could. If we weren’t going to shell out for flights, and get to our chosen destination in a couple of hours, we figured we might as well make the most of the sights, sounds and smells of the country we were in. While overland transport isn’t as cheap here in Mexico as we’re led to believe it will be on the rest of our journey (hence why we’ve been on a pauper’s diet of tacos and tostadas), it’s been a great way to get around in the way the locals do.

Your view for the next 16 hours should approximate this one

The last few days have seen us take a ferry, a ‘chicken bus’, one of Mexico’s few passenger trains to reach Chihuahua, in the north west of the country, followed by an epic over-nighter to reach the capital. In in these thousands of miles of land and sea travel, we’ve learnt a lot about how things work in Mexico:

1. Buses rarely leave or arrive on time, regardless of whether you’re on the super flash first class express service with Internet, movies and reclining seats, or the chicken bus. Your mode of transport may arrive early and leave early – as happened to us in Santa Rosalia where we set off 15 minutes earlier than advertised – or, in the case of our already epic 19 hour bus journey from Chihuahua to Mexico City, arrive a mere two hours late.

2. Having all your worldly goods strapped to the roof of a re-furbed American school bus (aka the chicken bus) that careers down the road at breakneck speed is a perfectly normal way to travel. After all, it’s only cost you a few pesos for the privilege.

Careful with my luggage dude

3. Systems are completely ad hoc – you’ll be asked to show ID to buy a ferry ticket but when it comes to picking up your luggage when you disembark from the boat you and your fellow passengers will be left to identify your belongings from a ramshackle pile of bags and cases on the floor of the port building. It’s moments like this we’re glad we invested in decent rucksacks and not the ubiquitous black wheelie cases.

4. Trains that are advertised both online and at the station’s ticket office as not running on a particular day may well be operating despite all signs to the contrary. We travelled on the Copper Canyon train from Los Mochis to Creel (a separate post on that is coming, transport geeks) and despite all signs saying only the premier class train was operating that day, after buyung our tickets, we discovered the regular class train, for which tickets were half the price, was running too. The rule of thumb is: if you’re lucky enough to spot a sign, it’s probably not got the right information on it anyway so grab the nearest gringo-friendly local and ask what’s going on.

5. Queues are long and slow moving but generally everyone gets stuck in for a long wait and gets on with it; there’s certainly no British-style tutting and complaining. As most transport websites haven’t got a buy online function, it’s pretty difficult to avoid queues so getting to stations and ferry terminals early is essential!

Queuing for security…

Queuing to get on the ferry…

Queuing for lunch….

Two hours later…lunch!

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