Sometimes I find myself being the only foreigner late at night at the city bus terminal. This might sound like a frightening prospect but in actuality the majority of the time I almost feel like royalty, well either royalty or a tiny mentally challenged child that can’t fend for herself.
As soon as I walk into the station the people that work there, from desk clerk to janitor, form an unspoken village and their soul responsibility is to make sure that my bags and I make it onto the correct bus without dying.
Ensenada bus station was small, a cement fortress with wire seating and psychedelic florescents giving it the feel of a tongue in cheek horror film. I was catching the 11pm from Ensenada to Mulege, a 13 hour bus ride south. I was leaving so late so I could save money on a hostel for the night, as well as arrive at my destination at decent hour and, there’s nothing quite unpleasant as wandering around in the dark in a town you don’t know and in a country you don’t speak the language
I had left the comfort of the fun and friendly Ensenada Backpacker Hostel and was feeling the mix drink of sadness and excitement, leaving friends is so difficult but it was beyond time to move on. So here I find myself, fumbling with my 2 year olds grasp of Spanish and playing a rousing game of charades with the adorable woman behind the counter. After several minutes of laughing uncontrollably I got my ticket for Mulege and I now had an hour to kill in the 20×20 cement fortress.
After bouncing from concession stand, to bathroom turn style to wire bench and back I decided to take my restless body out to the bus yard to wait.
The door guard, who had been watching me ( I was the only client currently in the station) asked for my ticket as I approached the bus yard, he was kind and grandfatherly and made some simple small talk about Mulege and seemed concern that I wanted to go wait in the big dark bus yard all alone.
I was hoping the night outside would have a coolness to it, but sadly there is no coolness to be found in Mexico during August so I contented myself with the fact that there were fewer fluorescents over head and no TV was blasting.
While waiting I meet a lovely baggage handler, we spent about 40 mins piecing together some sort of conversation…who even knows what I was really saying in Spanish but it seemed to work. The kindly old guard and the lovely desk clerk kept poking their heads out the door to make sure I hadn’t wandered off or done myself a harm, at one point the night janitor even came over to see how I was. No words, just a close slow drive by looking me in the eye to see if I needed anything.
Several buses came and went and then before I knew it my baggage friend was grabbing my great brute of a sack and hefting under the boot of the bus next to a make shift dog crate full of puppies! I was taken aback by the puppies in two milk crates sandwiched together and then bungie chorded but was quickly shuffled onto the bus.
The bus thermostat was set to blizzard and I began to cool of and get comfy, people wandered on and off, potty break, snack break, but within 10 mins everyone was shuffling back on. There was a small commotion at the front between the bus drivers with their pressed and starched white collared shirts and one started towards the back asking “Mulege?”
I raised my hand “Si, Mulege”
“No Mulege!” the driver said and escorted me off.
My baggage friend was scrambling for my bag, the door guard came out to grab me and even the janitor huddled nearby as the whole gang settles me back down on a bench to wait.
The right bus finally.
The AC set to cryogenically freeze.
The bus is plushy and empty, I try and settle in for a sleep.
I flip, flop, twist and turn, I try to sleep strewn across several chairs and an empty isle but I just can’t seem to get comfortable. I sleep and wake, wake and sleep each in turn, opening my eyes at lonely ghostly stops randomly strewn down highway One.
When the sky is bright and I manage to pull myself into a full sit I am rewarded with an other worldly landscape.
Twisted trees with topknots and mohawks, little bristling brambles and savagely spiked tumble weeds. I’ve heard this landscape described as Dr. Suess-esq and I couldn’t agree more. I waited eagerly for some fantastical creature to pop out from behind a bus but all I got was butterflies. Lot’s and lot’s of butterflies. They just looked like little bits of yellow fluff tumbled across the road, I thought that they were leaves being the size and color of ginkgo leaves when they turn and fall but on closer inspection it was butterflies, by the 20-50s cascading up in a great swirl of yellow as the bus rolls though them.
The ride was mostly uneventful, some flash flooding during this time of year had washed out some roads, one place was flooded so deep that cars were hitching a ride back and forth on a flat bed tow truck. When we reached the deep crossing we watched the truck in front of us struggle to make it through water up past the door, tires catching and churning and falling off hidden rocks, at one point it looked stuck but managed through. The woman in front of me crossed herself and said a prayer as we crossed, I think God listened to her prayers because we had calm waters all the way.
This is what I could see from my window as we made our crossing.
I made it to Mulege in good time and spirits. It’s a very small town, not so much hot as humid, very, very humid, bleh. I found a small hovel of a place to stay and plan to visit cave paintings and get out of here….
South south south ! go!