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Trip Report Epic Montreal-Monterrey Trip #5 (Autobuses Americanos: Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey: Fear Gets the Better of Me)

(This is a continuation from US Forum Epic Monterrey Trip #4 entry)

After the enormous contrast in wealth between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, I was not sure what to expect going from Tamaulipas into Nuevo Leon. I'd read that Monterrey was relatively wealthy, but I really had no idea what to expect.

While the first hour south of Nuevo Laredo was mostly scrubland and relatively unscenic, it was interesting for me to observe what appeared to be native people on a number of occasions just walking with a sack or food in what appeared to be the middle-of-nowhere scrub in the middle-of-nowhere in the state of Nuevo Leon.

Once we got on the toll road a bit out of Nuevo Laredo, the used car/muffler sellers seemed to be fewer and further between and peetered out. Approximately 20 miles (?) south of Nuevo Laredo, one passes through a second border crossing (after the Zona Libre), where soldiers might check documentation (one needs a tourist card to go past the Zona Libre, which can picked up at Immigracion at the border).

The mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental appeared about halfway to the horizon about an hour past Nuevo Laredo, at first almost like a lump that one might have in one's bed, but then gradually growing larger and larger. The mountainscapes really were quite lovely in this part of the journey.

I'd read in my guidebook that the outskirts of Monterrey was unprepossessing. I'll be honest and take it one step further: I was really scared! I was beginning to wonder what I was getting myself into! There were mud roads leading to roofless windowless homes in makeshift shanty-like communities as one approached the city, fires were blazing in places on the side of the road, spewing smoke that I could even smell from inside the bus. We made a few industries on the way in, passing dusty-looking, concrete, close-together, iron-bar-windowed businesses with hand-painted signs (TAQUERIA, TIENDA ANITA, ABARROTES, etc...). While there were some modern cars, there also seemed to be some ricketier-looking buses, trucks and a preponderance of green VW beetles. I generally think of myself as liking vibrant places like Montreal and NYC, but I wondered to myself if this city, which certainly seemed teeming with life, was it more dense and unfamiliar than I could handle? I felt unsure and my palms were sweating as we approached the Central Camionera in Monterrey. By my accounting, I was the lightest person I could see amongst the throngs of people meandering about the Amado Nervo (neighborhood near bus station) in Monterrey. I feared this would make me a target...

I got off the bus and collect my luggage. My Basque Spanish fellow passenger ask me what brings me to Monterrey (which makes me wonder if this is a place I should not be). I find out that I can't take my luggage on the Metro system, so I need to take a taxi. I'd heard about taxi kidnappings in Mexico City D.F., and had been told that this was not the case in Monterrey. Funny, while there were signs saying "Taxis Seguros", it made me wonder were some taxis not "seguro" (safe)? Anyhow, I went to a stand and gave directions to my hotel to the driver (en espanol); he tells me it'll cost 40 pesos. I'm glad I changed some money in Canada.

Arriving at Hotel Fundador, on the edge of the Barrio Antiguo, I give the driver a $20 tip. The lobby appears nice and I pay for my 5 nights. Once I get to the room though, there's a smell that bothers me, kind of like a perfume covering over urine. I feel like I want to nap, but the bed is very firm; despite being deaf in one ear, I can't tune out the noise of the mufflerless cars and trucks that seem to endlessly pass by on the intersection. I can't nap.

Here I am, a grown man, and I almost wanted to cry. I wonder, will I feel safe to go to an ATM machine? I need more pesos soon, I know. I'm hungry too. Where will I find food? All the rumours about stomach problems enter my mind. I start asking myself what insanity possessed me to come to such an unorthodox destination and consider briefly calling my cousin in Houston and tell him I'd like to come stay with him 4-5 days early. I find out that I cannot make outgoing calls from my phone (only receive) to call my friend and have to make calls from the reception for a 10 peso charge per minute to call a cell phone line. The line is busy the first time I try my friend. I go to my uriny perfumed hotel room and wallow in self-pity for about 20 minutes, feeling angry at what I perceive as my own stupidity as I lie on my bed, listening to the cacophony of cars, trucks and occasional voices from the busy street below as I ponder my tiredness, thirst and hunger combined.

I feel shy about bothering the reception again to try my friend, but what choice do I have? This time I get through; one piece of good news! We plan to meet for dinner.

At this point I feel I must explore despite my fears; I know the Barrio Antiguo is close. Maybe I'll find something to drink/eat.

Stay tuned for Epic Montreal-Monterrey Trip #6 (Monterrey: I fall in love)

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