The armed policeman was searching through our boot at the side of the highway with the demeanour of the Terminator. “Give me your passports.” He droned. “Show me your driving permit.” G and I rummaged through our documents frantically to give the android what it wanted. It examined each number on the permit so thoroughly it began to look like there might be trouble. Catriona and Ellen were perched nervously in the back. The longer the robot examined our papers, the more unbearable the tension became. “What are your jobs?” G, pointed at himself first, “Farmer.” Then Catriona. “Marketing.” Then Ellen. “Pharmacist.” Finally me. “Recruitment.” The android flinched slightly with misunderstanding. I realised my job title needed some clarification. Leaning across the driver’s seat I yelled out the window frantically, “Oil and Goose!”
I don’t know why I said it like that but I’ve been getting pelters from the gang ever since. Needless to say we were waved on our way by the confused replicant and Gina was free to continue her merry jaunt east through central Mexico. Apart from infrequent police checks it’s been smooth going, her ‘Check Engine’ light reassuringly off and her motor purring after a well-needed oil change back in Mazaltan.
Ah, Mazaltan. The ferry took it’s time to get there. Due in at 11 am we coasted in at 5pm and much to our surprise, Catriona (Treens) and Ellen were waving at us from the docks. They’d chosen quite a bad spot to wait for us actually, right next to the lorry bay, so a lot of the drivers coming off the boat thought they were exotic prostitutes, but we salvaged them and got to the hostel they’d booked us in. Mazatlan was so well-heeled, especially along the coast, you’d easily mistake it for a resort in Spain. We spent our time there catching up over cheap beers and mucking about on the beach. We ended up playing volleyball with some rich Americans, – a sport I’ve realised isn’t for me, as A) I’m a midget and B) I’m really crap.
It had been a good few years since we’d seen the girls and Treens had spent the intervening period being a global nomad. She’d also picked up a handy dose of Spanish, which means we have a new surrogate Spanish speaking mother to help us not starve and go the right way. Our new team of four broke east to Durango, along the new toll road, which is a true engineering marvel. It coasted up (and through) 2000 metres of mountains via tilted suspension bridges, rock hewn tunnels and switchbacks so perilous Gina almost needed a climbing harness. Zacatecas was next, an old silver mining town with more cathedrals than you can shake a crucifix at and a good line in public displays of affection. Everyone seemed to be snogging – on benches, on walls, on the grass – they’re an amorous bunch. There was also free ice skating and a public dancing competition hosted by a cross-dressing clown.
The undoubted highlight was the nightclub we went to, which was located about 1km into the 500 year-old silver mine. We had to jump on a wee train to get down there. Upon reaching the dance floor I was greeted with a dancing dwarf, who it turns out was a university lecturer from up north and was out partying with her students. I felt like drunk Gimli. The students bought us all drinks, showed us how to dance properly and joined us in sing-songs on the train back to the surface. Splendid!
From Zacatecas it was onward to Guanajuata, which upped the ante even further in the aesthetically pleasing stakes. This town has so many winding, tiny streets they were forced to build a network of tunnels under the city for traffic to drive through. The tunnels had junctions and parking bays, while up above the city teemed with more traffic, squeezed between churches and theatres decadently built on the cash flow from the nearby gold and silver mines. The mines in question dip way below the subterranean traffic tunnels, up to 580 metres deep in places and the site of proper Spanish brutality back in the 16th – 19th centuries, as locals were forced into five years of employment underground – five years being the average time it took to die working down there. Guanajuata is properly gorgeous though, almost like someone took every Spanish town ever built and concentrated them into one settlement on top of an ant hill. Amazing what a bit of slavery will get you. Still, it goes to prove that gold and silver will buy you a fair bit more than oil and goose ever will.
Next up! Gina’s engine light makes a haunting return! I get us amazingly lost! We all get fat on tacos!