Mexico Days: The Road That Is, But Never Was

We flew to Mexico City with a stopover in Houston, went through passport check and customs, changed dollars for pesos and rented a car. It was the same arrival routine most times there. But once out of the airport, nothing was ever the same, since I was endlessly fascinated by Mexico and Mexico had a endless inventory of exotic places to see. Except for Mexico City, I had never been to the same place twice, but the destination this time was Zihuatanejo…a wonderful Pacific coast town southwest of Mexico City and north of Acapulco…a place I was happily returning to, for a slightly delayed honeymoon.

First time there, I flew to Ixtapa, a resort five miles from Zihuatanejo and then took a taxi there to Hotel Sol y Mar (Sun and Sea), distinguished only by a 5 a.m. wake up call from roosters in the back yard. This trip I preferred seeing Mexico from the ground, the narrow twisting roads, the topes (speed bump) towns, the barrancas, arroyos and gullies.  So we drove to Toluca, a city south of Mexico City, where we could meet up with Route 134, a thin line on the map that sloped through the mountains to the Pacific and Zihuatanejo. We had a map (GPS was not yet invented) and drove into and out of Toluca, but Route 134 did not reveal itself. We went back to Toluca flagged the first pedestrian we found, and asked the way…Route 134 to Zihuatanejo .He knew it right off and directed us with hand gestures; right, left, straight…pleased  to be able to help. Easy to follow, we found the road he described with no problem, except it led us to Route 55 and was the road to Taxco (pronounced Tahsco), a silver town…mining and crafting…not Zihuatanejo. It was three or four miles back to Toluca and now we were on the lookout for a policeman, a Lewis and Clarke of Tolucan streets and highways. We found one directing traffic…albeit a car or two every ten minutes…who told us he knew exactly the road to Zihuatanejo. Again, hand gestures, right, left, straight. We nodded and thanked him with annoyed gratitude, realizing he, too, gave us directions to Route 55. Was Taxco having a two-for-one silver sale, that everyone was directing us there? Was Toluca getting a commission on silver sales?

We’d make one last try and then have to go to a nonexistent Plan B. With great luck we found a traffic control officer…with a car…who knew the road to Zijuatanejo. We had finally found our Sacagawea whose coattails we could grab on to. Route 134, I asked again, just to make sure. Si, si, no problem.  He even put a flasher on, so we could more easily follow him. But now like Tolucan natives, we had the directions in our bones…and our bones told us this was the way to Route 55, the road they were all trying to sell us as the road to Zihuatanejo. He slowed, pointed us to the highway entrance. We waved our thanks, waited until he was out of sight. But instead of doubling back, I said, Taxco? Some power in the universe wants us in Taxco. We’ll get to Zijuatanejo, somehow, tomorrow. Besides, we had about an hour and a half of daylight left and Taxco was an hour and a half away.

In the morning, after visits to more than one silver shop, relieving them of a few trinkets (but finding no two-for-one sales), we left for the toll road going toward Acapulco and from there found the coast road north to Zihuatanejo. A couple of days later I struck up a conversation with a Danish expat, managing a gift store and told him the odd story of trying unsuccessfully to find Route 134. Oh, he said, I know that road…I drove it from Toluca to here two years ago…the most dangerous road in Mexico. I’d like to think that all three Tolucans were good-hearted souls who kept us away from Route 134 on purpose. The powers of the cosmos work in mysterious ways. Either that or the Tolucans did get a cut of all Taxcan silver sales.