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El transporte-Transportation

Posted Aug 02 2010 7:09pm
Reflective pictures of myself while travelling in Mexico

I watched the news tonight and heard the latest in the story of Cody LeCompte , a 19 year old Canadian who has been detained in Cuba for three months because he was the driver of a rental car which was involved in an accident. Cody was with his family on vacation and they were not aware of the power of the law to detain foreigners in this way. I have visited Mexico nine or ten times, and while I am a confident driver in Canada and the USA, I have only driven in Mexico on two occasions and never by myself. Since my first visit to the country in 1977, new toll roads have been built and travel conditions have improved. I noticed that more people stop at red lights and there is law enforcement for speeding. But any foreigner, especially one who does not speak Spanish, needs to know the "rules" and the culture of the country they are visiting before they drive there.


My daughter told me that a seat belt law is in place for people sitting in the front seat, but there are no rules for passengers in the back of pickups or limits on the number of people on a bicycle or motorcycle. I wish I could have taken a picture of the man with his wife and three children on his scooter, or the people riding bicycles with two children on the crossbar. I wasn't certain of who had the right of way at some intersections, but there was some sort of understanding between drivers at crossroads. Vehicle maintenance is an entire issue of its own. My son-in-law picked us up in a minivan (the same model I sold last year) which had all the warning lights on in the dashboard...brakes, engine light, oil, battery, cooling... plus the speedometer and the temperature gauges were broken. I was alarmed when the engine light came on in my minivan just 24 hours before I traded it in last August. People in Mexico laughed when I told them that and said they would drive a vehicle to Canada if it had just one warning light on.

Bus Terminal in Tepic, Nayarit

My daughter came south to meet me at my parent's home and we took an overnight coach to the city where she works. The inter-city bus system in Mexico is excellent and very reasonable in price. We received a sandwich and drink when we boarded and the seats were comfortable recliners. Two washrooms were in the back of the bus and no stops were made for passengers to stretch during the 15 hour trip. (We were stopped several times at security checkpoints) The bus travelled through the mountains to the coast at Mazatlan and then ascended 10,000 feet from sea level along the road to Durango known as the Devil's Spine . It was dark and foggy and for a while I watched the bus pass slower trucks on steep curves using a radar system to detect approaching vehicles. Then I took some Gravol and slept. They played three movies during the trip;- Angels and Demons, The Omen, and In Hell. It was a night to remember (or forget), but we arrived safely at our destination.

Our overnight coach on the right

The only time I was really concerned about transportation was at 5AM on the morning we left for Canada. We had a 40 minute drive in the infamous minivan and it was obvious that the alternator was on its last legs as the lights flickered on the dark ride to the airport. I really did not want to miss our 7AM flight. But once again, we arrived safely.
We have many, many rules in place in Canada to protect ourselves and others. Some would say we are over-regulated by the government. A visitor needs to be aware of our laws before they enter the country and we need to be prepared for possible risks when visiting another nation. I do hope Cody LeCompte is able to come home soon but the cost has been very high for he and his family.

Next day post script: I was reading Esther Garvi's blog this morning and interestingly, she posted this picture of a well loaded truck in Niger. This truck appears to need servicing as well.

A well-filled passenger truck - photo by Maurice Saley
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