Buses: Austin & Mexican Gulf Coast to El Salvador

Jul 2nd, 2019, 01:02 PM
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Buses: Austin & Mexican Gulf Coast to El Salvador

Hi

As some of you know, awhile ago, I discovered I liked doing loco trips such as these. When I take advantage of my 2 months as a teacher and do these long road-rail journeys pushing south of the Rio Grande. In the past, it’s been over-land trips into Mexico, visiting places like Monterrey, Mexico City and Puebla, cities in the Bajío like Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Querétaro and even one year going as far as Antigua, Guatemala. Or last year to Belize, discovering Zacatecas and Villahermosa on the way. I wonder if this year’s will be the last of this variety?

This year, crossing the border at Nuevo Laredo, I stopped for two nights in Monterrey (a perennial favourite) and then explored from there on some new places: Tampico, (Heroica)Veracruz, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and the Cañón del Sumidero, the Mayan site Izapa near Tapachula and from Tapachula to my present location of San Salvador, my first time ever to the country of El Salvador. With more to come. It’s been eye-opening and pre-conceived notions are getting thrown out the window, which is great.

Happy travels! Will report back when the moments are propitious. Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2019, 01:35 PM
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Looking forward to the reports! You always have a unique perspective.
baldone is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2019, 02:20 PM
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Yay, more! Great!
MmePerdu is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 05:24 AM
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Oh good. And timely for me.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 08:14 PM
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*Austin to Monterrey to Tampico*.
Trying to find the Turimex Internacional bus line in Austin via Uber was fun, as the address that came up first in Uber was incorrect. After the Uber driver seemed as confused as I that we ended up in an area of warehouses, I called and learned I needed to go to the Airport Boulevard location, surprisingly not obvious from Internet research. I’m always amazed how arriving at the Turimex station, whether in Austin or San Antonio, makes one feel already transported to Mexico, with business done in Spanish and passengers almost entirely seem to be Latin American.

The ride to Monterrey went smoothly, with a spanking new Customs & Immigration building when crossing into Mexico. In Monterrey, as usual I enjoyed the energy of the city staying by the Macroplaza, this time visiting the Museo del Obispado, next to the handsome Obispado; the museum gives a nice overview of Nuevo León and Monterrey history and I learned things I did not know, such as that the US under Zachary Taylor took the Obispado in the 1840s.
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Jul 8th, 2019, 06:01 AM
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*My first time to Tampico*

Despite having numerous trips to a variety of places in Mexico under my belt, travelling by Transportes del Norte bus from Monterrey to Tampico left me a bit doubting myself as I would be entering a zone (Tamaulipas State) that the US State Department says “Do Not Travel”. Anyway, the ride passed through some lovely mountainous scenery (one mountain was striking, looked like a thumb!) and the surprisingly pleasant look of the Ciudad Victoria bus station was reassuring.

Well, Tampico was a treat. Arriving on a Saturday night, people were out enjoying life, watching traditional dancers in one corner of the Plaza de Armas and breakdancers in another. The delightful path along the Laguna del Carpintero had couples strolling, joggers jogging and kids playing in playgrounds and jumping up and down in bouncy castles. Pedestrian-only streets abounded with those enjoying a night out on the townz. The architecture of the Plaza de Armas and the Plaza de la Libertad surprised me in how New Orleans-like it was, especially due to all wrought-iron railings, which were apparently all in vogue during the Porfirio Diaz reign.

The next day, I went on a free tour of the stately Aduana Maritima building along the Río Pánuco, built in an English style. Taking a detour from there to my hotel, I enjoyed watching the lanchas (passenger motorboats) ply along the Canal de la Cortadura. After trying a local specialty bocolitos (reminiscent a bit of a Venezuelan arepa), I decided I wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico, so caught a cab to the Playa Miramar. The Playa Miramar had wall-to-wall palapas out with many families sitting in the shade and numerous carts selling all ilk of food and beverages. I went straight to the beautiful water, dipping my feet up to my knees in the refreshing waters of the Gulf of Mexico for the second time ever, as I enjoyed watching friends & families playing in the surf. Funny that my first time was near Tampa and second time near Tampico. Very different places, same body of water. Possibly needless to say but given the heat and humidity of Tampico, being in the Gulf breezes and the cool water really felt so delightful!

*Next: First time in Veracruz*


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Jul 8th, 2019, 06:08 AM
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Tampico Pictures

Playa Miramar

Kiosko Monumental, Plaza de Armas

Plaza de la Libertad

Plaza de la Libertad
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Jul 8th, 2019, 04:29 PM
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The ADO bus ride from Tampico to Veracruz has you crossing the Río*Pánuco right away, bringing one immediately into Veracruz state, whose enormity only dawned on me as I realized that for the next 8 hours I was not even crossing the entire state.*Stops included Tuxpan and Poza Rica, with the former looking more interesting by the water than the latter, but the absolute highlight for me was how from Poza Rica south, one was spoiled with pretty long stretches of road with unspoiled views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Staying at the Hotel Veracruz, what immediately struck me was the grandeur of Veracruz (the city). *The streets immediately surrounding the Zocalo were wide and the stately*architecture left no doubt of being*somewhere significant. *Outdoor dining with music and dancers in the central*plaza*provided a festive
ambience.* I knew Veracruz was a port city, but seeing the enormous Maersk and other cargo ships arriving carrying hundreds upon hundreds of crates left me with more of an impression of being in a powerful Rotterdam-like port city than I expected. *

I essentially had two full days and sadly as I was recovering from a bit of a stomach bug from something I ate in Tampico (I don’t think it was*the bocolitos), I had to be a bit circumspect with food and couldn’t really consider longer*day trips, a pity since the city is known for both its gastronomical excellence and terrific outings within a few hours. *

Nevertheless, I decided to do a short day trip,*to San Juan Ulúa, located on an island just located off the Port of Veracruz. *The naming of the island itself is interesting, since it was named by Grijalva before Cortés had arrived at Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) and due to a misunderstanding of the local language.

Although the fortress which later became a prison known as San Juan de Ulúa is in present terms almost Medieval castle-like in terms of its imposing beauty surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this captivating structure holds a nasty and particularly inhumane*story of human cruelty. *During its time as a jail, the guide described how prisoners (often political prisoners) were held with a metal clamp around their neck attached to the wall by a chain, forced to remain standing. *At one point in the early 20th century, US eyewitnesses*present in San Juan de Ulúa were horrified to witness the disease and smell of excrement in the prison, hearing men howling, many who had seemed to have become completely mad. *Seeing the cells*with your own eyes brought to vivid life the horrific conditions. *

Chucho del Roto, known as Mexico’s Robin Hood, was one of San Juan de Ulúa’s more famous prisoners. *Curiously enough, important*figures in Mexico history such as Benito Juarez and Venustiano Carranza used another part of the island as a Presidential Palace at times.

My last full day, I again played it safe, going to the Aquarium in Veracruz, said to be the largest in Latin America. *Plenty*of sharks, beautiful fish, otters, dolphins*and penguins are found here, but what I found most interesting was the research being done there on the life cycle of the jellyfish, showing the various stages of their life in different containers.

After, I took one of the YoAmoVeracruz City bus tours, which had a recording of a two energetic young Mexicans, one male one female describing all the sites as you passed them. *It was a good way to get an overview of the Centro’s historic buildings.

While I was mostly extremely careful with what I ate, my last day I did enjoy going to the famous original*Cafe de*la Parroquia, where I had their famous cafe con leche with breakfast my last day*where the servers pour the milk from a kettle at great height. *The consommé de pollo con arroz y aguacate at Cafe de la Parroquia I found very soothing, and I always appreciated this establishment for the musical entertainment, often with some combination of harp, guitar-like instrument and xylophone. *I did also
go to famous Güero-Güero for their famous nieves; similarly, I found this quite gentle.

All in all, seems an interesting city. *I think it might be enjoyable to visit again when my stomach is sturdier and possibly to see the weekend ambience (I was there Monday through Wednesday). *

*First time to*Tuxtla Gutiérrez and the Cañón Sumidero next*
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Jul 8th, 2019, 06:55 PM
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Well done. Love Veracruz. So much history.
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Jul 8th, 2019, 07:46 PM
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Pictures of Veracruz


San Juan de Ulúa

Veracruz public beach

Zocalo, Veracruz

Wide pedestrian-only streets near Zocalo
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Jul 8th, 2019, 07:49 PM
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Don’t know why there are so many stars in that last post! I didn’t put them there. I’ve also noticed disappearing punctuation at times.
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Jul 8th, 2019, 09:44 PM
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That's funny, was trying to figure out the significance of the stars as I read. Saved.
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Jul 9th, 2019, 04:42 AM
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Mmeperdu—Haha. I know; those stars give the impression that I’m trying to give importance to certain words. I was wondering if it happened when I toggle between language keyboards on my IPhone but doesn’t appear to be. And thank you, mmeperdu, Baldone and fradiavolo for reading!
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Jul 9th, 2019, 04:58 AM
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Sorry you weren't feeling well in Veracruz. Seems like you got around pretty well anyway. I.m hoping to visit the area next winter. Looking forward to the rest of the story.
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Jul 9th, 2019, 05:31 AM
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*First time to Tuxtla Gutiérrez*

Moving south from Veracruz, I again was curious what I was getting myself itself into. My last time in Chiapas in 2016, there had been teacher roadblocks everywhere, which made travel extremely difficult. On my ADO bus ride from Veracruz, I was soon reminded though that the mountain vistas of Chiapas are absolutely stunning.

Arriving at Tuxtla Gutiérrez’s Plaza de las Americas, I soon realized I was in a fairly large city sitting in a sort of bowl surrounded by some not unattractive mountains. The bus station was quite modern, as was the neighbourhood around the Parque de la Marimba, which is very near the Holiday Inn Express where I stayed. The Parque Marimba was delightfully festive the Thursday night I arrived, with a Marimba band playing in the kiosko, couples dancing and probably a hundred or so spectators sitting in chairs, appreciating the show.

One reason I decided to spend two nights in Tuxtla Gutiérrez was I was curious to see the Cañón del Sumidero, a place I heard people visited near the city. I quickly called Jaguar Tours upon arrival and there was a tour the next day that I could join.

I had no idea that it would be one of those incredible life experiences! So, the tour bus brought the passengers to a launch point and safety vests were donned before we step into a lancha, a maybe 20-passenger motorboat. And off we went into the Río Grijalva.

At first, we went under a bridge and the canyon appeared low-lying but pleasant. As we proceeded though, the walls of the canyon that surrounded the river became progressively higher and higher, and I grew awe-stricken by my surroundings. Completely yellow butterflies flitted around in bursts of colour as ibis watched from the shoreline. At one point, we saw a crocodile resting on a rock and later two spider monkeys swung from branches along the river’s shores. The Cascada de la Navidad on the river shore was beautiful even though the water that fell from the overhangs did so in only a mild spray.

Then, after lunch in Chiapa de Corzo, a pleasant looking colonial pueblo mágico with a distinct style of white with red trim, we proceeded to see three miradores (lookouts) in the Parque del Sumidero, which gave views of the canyon from a high vantage point.

The views from above, especially from the highest mirador, were almost from a dizzying height. Breathtaking indeed, but I feel I need to express the feeling in stronger terms. Let’s put it this way; the vista left me as awe-struck as I was seeing the Grand Canyon many years ago as a teenager. No, indeed, while the canyon is big, it’s not as big as the Grand Canyon and the colours are verdant. But as a human being, while standing and looking, you can only behold one vista at a given time and the vista here left me similarly bedazzled.

I was expecting nice and ended up with one of the most memorable and impactful days of my life.

*Next: on to Tapachula, transition point to Central America*

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Jul 9th, 2019, 06:09 AM
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Pictures of the Cañón del Sumidero



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Jul 9th, 2019, 06:29 AM
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I never made it to the Mirador above the canyon, nice.
Regarding the stars/asterisks, I've noticed them on some of my posts.
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Jul 9th, 2019, 01:52 PM
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Thanks, Baldone. If you ever make it back to that part of the world, I would recommend going to a mirador; while the boat ride was incredible, viewing the canyon from a staggering height above is interesting.

*Tuxtla Gutiérrez to Tapachula*

The ADO ride highlights the gorgeous mountainous Chiapaneco scenery. One passes through it until you get to the Pacific Coast highway and then the mountains are visible close by to the north from Tonalá to Tapachula. This visit to Tapachula, I planned two nights so I could get some quetzales (for the transit through Guatemala) and do a tour to Izapa before moving on to my next destination, San Salvador.

Tapachula is interesting in that I’d never seen so many people with African heritage anywhere else in my travels in Mexico or Central America (and even some from the Indian subcontinent). Turns out, speaking to some cab drivers, this is a blockage point, where migrants, who have flown from Africa to some point further south, get stuck. A few miles away is the border with Guatemala and those that make it across the border apparently can’t make it in further, so are busy trying to deal with paperwork to get permission to travel further into Mexico. Immigration checks are common in this area—I even had my papers examined just going to the archaeological site Izapa; thank goodness I had the foresight to bring my passport & FMM.

The Parque Central and blocks surrounding have some pleasant enough colonial buildings and pedestrian-only walkways. Not my favourite vibe as I think there’s a certain amount of angst among migrants stuck there. Hotel Casona Maya where I stayed nearby however was delightful, with hummingbirds in the greenery above as I swam in their small pool. Mostly, I was glad for a bit of rest before proceeding to the Central American leg of this year’s adventure.

Sadly, I failed in changing money (so got to deal with the money changers at the border yippee) since the bureaus de change were closed on Sunday in Tapachula. I also failed in going on a tour to Izapa since I was travelling solo—they needed more people for a tour!

So, I ended up going by cab on my own to Izapa for 200 pesos. The site was overgrown with grass, with one fellow sitting with a book at a table in the grass where you wrote your name, giving a donation if you chose to do so. I was sad to see I was one of two visitors at the moment there. Although small, I appreciated nevertheless going to the site, as it is one of the earlier Mayan sites, speculated to date from 1500 BC, with its apogee between 800 and 200 BC and lasting until 1200 AD. The volcano Tacaná is visible in the distance. I had to wait a bit for an available cab to return to Tapachula but thankfully was able to share a ride back to the Parque Central for 100 pesos.

*Next up: Tica Bus to San Salvador; First Time in El
Salvador!*



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Jul 9th, 2019, 04:06 PM
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Tapachula area pictures



Izapa, with volcano Tacaná in background

Loved the Hotel Casona Maya, Tapachula

Parque Central Tapachula

Parque Central Tapachula
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Jul 10th, 2019, 10:54 AM
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*Tapachula to San Salvador*

Tica Bus is a bus line that provides transport between the Central American country capitals (except Belmopan) from Guatemala City to Panama City and has one bus daily that connects with the Mexican bus system at Tapachula in Mexico. (There are some other routes, such as a shuttle from Guatemala City to Antigua, Guatemala.). I prefer Tica Bus over say Greyhound but it’s not one of these luxury buses like one finds in Mexico such as ETN. There are other bus lines in the region like TransGalgos, Pullmantur and King Quality, which I’d like to investigate more.

So, my day (July 1st) had me boarding in Tapachula at 7am, with an expected arrival time in San Salvador of 8pm. Probably the day which was the biggest slog I had.

The Mexico-Guatemala border was pretty straightforward. First, I got off the bus & paid the 558 pesos to leave Mexico at the Inmigración building on the Mexico side, got my passport stamped (Salida México) then walked across to the Guatemala side and got stamped again (Entrada Guatemala). To my surprise Guatemala at present has no entrance fee! I then got scammed by money changers buying quetzals with my pesos (got 285 quetzals for 1000 pesos) and reboarded the bus. Went quite quickly.

The ride into Guatemala is remarkable for its beauty, passing by volcanoes, going over undeveloped rivers and past Guatemala City, has some quite spectacular mountain views. The difference in wealth between some communities in southwest Guatemala, where people are living under tin rooves and the glittering capital, with its modern high rises, four-lane highways and mega malls which would not look out of place in Florida is stark!!

One has about 90-120 minutes in Tica Bus’s Guatemala City station before continuing to San Salvador. One delight was how good the food was at the bus station, with home-cooked roast chicken, beans and tortilla on offer for lunch for 45 quetzales.

The border with El Salvador was mayhem, with three buses arriving simultaneously at the Guatemala departure building. Although kind of modern-looking, it was hot in the building and quite the crush to get on line, with some late teenage looking, severe-seeming uniformed guys with hats monitoring the door to the building. So, getting my exit stamp for Guatemala took much longer than the previous border and I was thinking “oh dear, now what’s El Salvador entry going to be like?”

To my surprise, after we crossed the river into El Salvador the driver told us to wait in the bus and the border officials get on the bus to do checks. To my surprise, again there’s no fee to enter El Salvador *and* they don’t stamp your passport, which worried me at first until I realized that this was how things are done!

*I had just entered what is commonly referred to as the most dangerous country in Central America. What would be my thoughts on it? To be continued...*
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