Florida to Nicaragua Road Trip #5: Ajijic to Coatzacoalcos, Mexico

Dear Reader,

We bid our friends goodbye after quietly seeing the New Year in with them the night before and got back on the road.

Our main focus is to get to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, as quickly and safely as possible, with our sea kayaks and gear intact.

The guests currently staying in our home though are there until January 7th, so it doesn’t do us any good to arrive before then. But any time after that is fair game.

What I have not yet mentioned here is that we not only are road tripping from Florida to Nicaragua but once we get to Nicaragua and use up our 30-day vehicle permit there, we are turning around and driving the truck back to our son in Durango, Colorado.

So, yes, we have a long, long way to go. We are saving our sightseeing time to the drive back up when our truck is empty and our sea kayaks are safely tucked away at home.

The fastest and safest way through Mexico consists of driving on good roads, and good roads means toll roads. From the United States to the Guatemala border, we can virtually take good toll roads the entire way.

We of course pay for them.

From the U.S. border in Laredo, Texas, to our friends’ house in Ajijic, we paid a total of $68 U.S. for tolls over those two days. Our gasoline costs during that same period were $138, so toll fees were basically half again our gasoline costs.

After we left Ajijic and drove around the northeast outskirts of Mexico City (such that we never even saw signs of the city besides its ever-present air pollution) our toll expenditures increased considerably.

One beautiful toll stretch alone cost $23. Over our two-day trip from Ajijic to Coatzacoalcos, in total we spent $110 (versus $68) in Tolls and $146 (versus $138) in Gas.

Are the toll roads worth the cost?

Heck yes! In wear and tear of the vehicle alone.

As well as personal sanity.

And safety, because even on these better maintained and less-traveled roads, it’s still hazardous dealing with other drivers and vehicles (speed limits do not seem to be enforced, and we’ve passed semi trucks running on shredded tires).

We spent our first night on the outskirts of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, in a very fancy Holiday Inn.

We tend to use Trip Advisor.com to find hotels and then we book them through Hotels.com because after 10 bookings we get our eleventh night for free. Important to us in our choices is a hotel with convenient access, secure parking, a well-reviewed restaurant with complimentary breakfast and wifi.

Our room, with its fancy lighting and beautiful sheets, had great views of two 17,000+ foot snow-covered volcanos, along with an amazing breakfast buffet which was included in the yes-we-splurged $72 price of the room.

Beyond Puebla, the road first climbed from a respectable 6000 ft in elevation to almost a lofty 9000 ft before rapidly dropping down to sea level at the dingy Gulf of Mexico town of Coatzacoalcos.

Once there at the Gulf, we figured we had to drive to the coast – just because it was there, and how could we not since we were so close?

The street traffic was so chaotic with only two street lights for all their major intersections, that we no sooner drove within sight of the sea, and quickly looked out past the water to the line up of ships anchored along the horizon, than we turned back around. We were ready to get off the road. We headed past potholes, topes, aggressive taxi drivers, a national police checkpoint, and took a wrong turn over a bridge before finding our way to our quiet, peaceful $27 hotel room along the Rio Coatzacoalcos. There, our waiter poured my Modelo Especial into a salt-rimmed and lime-juice spiked glass.

We are alive.

We are healthy.

We are adventurers.

Cheers,

Susana

Comments

  1. Joann Pelletier says:

    Take care you two. Happy New Year!

  2. Sara Torruella says:

    Grateful there are good roads to travel, even though the tolls are steep. Also that you’re finding nice places to rest at night. Continued safe travels.

    1. susanafield says:

      Thanks Sara. We have been very fortunate.

  3. John says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. You mentioned the national police checkpoint. What was that? I’ve heard about police or people dressed as police stopping vehicles for money.

    As I read the post, I was imagining the stress of the driving (the topes, the aggressive drivers, etc.) and loved the way you compared it to the pleasant image and photo of your cerveza at the end of it all. Ahhhhhh…

    1. susanafield says:

      The police checkpoints seemed to be near borders and ports. Coatzacoales is a port town. In all cases, they just waved us through (thankfully).

      Yes, our beer, or in yesterday’s case a margarita after surviving our first day in Guatemala and defiantly our hardest day on the road so far, have been well enjoyed!

      I also brought along a lavender spray which I spray on our pillows before bed. It really helps us relax into sleep. 🙂

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