So I find myself with my only son on the cusp of turning eighteen and about to enjoy the last Spring Break of his High School career. Hey, the odds against him wanting to spend Spring Breaks with his old Dad during his university career range somewhere between "slim" and "none", so I figure this is a good opportunity to teach him a few tricks about traveling on a budget. So we're off on a whirlwind trip to Huatulco!
No plan of battle ever survives first contact with the enemy. My battle planning included a call to the Laredo Chamber of Commerce about a secure parking facility. I was advised that the city owned facility "El Metro" in the bus station allowed 'round the clock access and was capped at $40.00 a month. Thus began a saga that would cost me over a hundred and fifty extra bucks as well as half a day of an already too short trip.
When we got to Laredo at 9:00 pm, it was to find that "El Metro" was under a new contract and had been closed for two hours, not to open until 8:00 am the following morning. No other secure parking facility could be located, and I have grown careful about where I leave my 2001 Mitsubishi GTZ. Especially in a town with as much of a car-theft problem as Laredo. So it's pay $60usd for a hotel room worth at least a third that much! We checked the sign and spotted the $40.00 monthly fare. We'll revisit this later. The garage opened too late to allow us to take the bus from the Laredo station to the Nuevo Laredo station, so we're out another $40.00 for a cab. Sheesh!
First bus out of Nuevo Laredo for Mexico City was an Ejecutivo class. Now, had we been able to get out the night before, one of these extremely comfortable busses would have been perfect. The extra room with two seats on one side of the aisle and a single on the other with far greater spacing between the rows is PERFECT for sleeping. But we were getting an early morning start, so the $961 peso fare per person was a bit of an extravagance; the primera classe runs $711 pesos over the same route.
Of course, by not getting on the road until morning, we got to Mexico City too late to take the direct bus to Huatulco - or the one to Pochutla, for that matter. But we had less than half an hour before the departure of the next Primera Classe to Acapulco. Cost? $245.00 pesos each. Thirty-five pesos got us both from one Acapulco station to the other. We had a little over two hours to wait for the first Primera Classe of the day from Acapulco to Huatulco. We used the time taking a quick taxi tour, seeing the bars and discos closing down at 5:00am, watching the local gigolos trying to hustle the last of the drunken gringas as they staggered towards their hotels, and seeing the sun rise on Acapulco Bay.
The 7:45 from Acapulco to Bahias Huatulco set us back another $236.00 pesos each. So far, we had gotten only good busses (though the Ejecutivo out of Nuevo Laredo was a little long in the tooth). In a way, the ease with which the bus travel fell into place was a little unfortunate. Had we been forced to grab an Ordinario class somewhere along the way, Ben might have seen a more realistic set of connections. Also, the need to ride with the windows open seems to make the passengers a little more gregarious, and you certainly get more of a feel for the countryside through which you are passing. Oh, well, at least he has the oral tradition to fall back on should his future travel plans suffer such a break-down!
Which brings us to the micros. Somehow, the taxi-drivers coperativo put pressure where it would do the most good, and has eliminated the Santa Cruz-Tangolunda-La Crucecita route. Supposedly, greater availability of collectivo taxis supposed to ameliorate the extra expense. Maybe it works that way for the locals, but as a visitor, don't expect to gain full accessibility to the colectivos.
There are still micros from La Crucecita to Santa Maria Huatulco and to Pochutla. The Pochutla run costs $12.00 pesos per person, a bit of a jump from the last time I took one. But the REAL shocker comes on learning that the micros from Pochutla to Puerto Angel to Zipolite to San Augustinillo to Mazunte have ALSO been eliminated! And you're looking at $40.00 pesos from Pochutla to Puerto Angel by cab. And expect at least another $10.00 pesos to each of the little towns beyond. While this is little skin off the nose for us, the traveling public, just imagine what this is doing to the poor folks who live there, on a daily wage rarely exceeding $50.00 pesos!
So after a tortuously brief visit to paradise, Friday night at 8:20 we found ourselves back on the road. Huatulco to Mexico Norte ran us $420.00 pesos each. This was probably the worst bus of the entire trip. Make a note: always try to get seats near the front of the bus, well away from the stench! We hit Mexico Norte at noon, and were on another bus for Nuevo Laredo in ten minutes! OK, I blew the call on that one. I should've grabbed the 4:00 pm and spent four hours on the subway, seeing some DF sights. The we wouldn't have hit Laredo at 4:30 am, requiring a four-and-a-half hour wait for the parking garage to open!
Taxi between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo bus stations was only $25.00usd this time. But after the interminable wait for the parking garage to open, we had yet another ugly surprise waiting for us. We learned that under the new contractors, the $40.00 monthly rate no longer existed - never mind what I had been told by the Chamber of Commerce; never mind what the signs at the entrance said. Instead, we were assessed a fee of $80.75 for the eight days the car was parked. No credit cards accepted. Dah-yum!
Lessons? Take the Conejos bus from Austin to the border. Or play on line 'til I find a private driveway to leave my car in. Or best yet, grab a cheap charter into Acapulco and bus from there!
Results? I went WAY over budget. But the joy of having a great trip with my most excellent son was well worth increasing the old debt-load. Plus a bit of fuel for the gloat machine - how many parents can spend eight uninterrupted days in continual contact with their own teen-ager and actually enjoy every minute of it?
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See also Oaxacan Bus Adventure