Psst! Hombre! Wat Jou Looking For: Mujeres, Marijuana, Colonoscopia?
I stop. “Wha’dya’ got? Is it good?”
“Is it good? Hell, yes, it’s good. D’you think I’m gonna’ get you some Mexican carnicero to snake the drain that’s gotta’ process all those hamburguesas, man? It’s the real thing, hombre…
“Are you a gringo?
“Claro que no, soy chilango, nada mas vivo al otro lado para ganarme plata.”
“Entonces, I can get you a special price, only seiscientos dolares, mas o menos. You got any complications?”
“Not that I know of. Full service?”
“Claro que si. It even includes a video so you and the little mujerecita can relive the highlights in the privacy of your home with your little chamacos.”
“Sold. When do we start?”
It sounds like a Cheech and Chong routine, doesn’t it? But in reality it’s not far from the truth. And if ‘Obamacare’ actually accomplishes what it is intended to accomplish, then such episodes may become a thing of the past, like having to leave the country to get good and reasonably priced health care. If so then an entire industry of ‘medical tourism’ will not survive, though it remains to be seen if US hospitals will cooperate. So far they haven’t, doubling and tripling their prices overnight apparently in order to lock them in before the Communist takeover. They won’t cop to that, of course, insisting that “no one pays those prices,” as if that explains everything and absolves them of any wrongdoing. It explains a lot, for sure, but absolves them of nothing IMHO.
So I start off on my trip to Mexico with two simultaneous goals: one, to go celebrate Holy Week in the little beach town of Puerto Lobos, Sonora, one of my safe havens and second homes; and two, to get a colonoscopy done, after some complications from my previous one in Chiang Mai, Thailand two years ago. Colonoscopies in Mexico cost $500-1000, same in Thailand mas o menos; in the US they cost $3-6000, but insist on a referral from a ‘primary-care physician’ so no guarantee I’d beat the Mexican price even if my ‘pre-existing condition’ insurance actually ponies up 85% like they’re supposed to.
Well the fastest bus route to Sonora goes through Tijuana anyway, so I stop over and make some inquiries. It seems like it may not be the in-and-out (pun) job that I’d hoped for so I have to make a decision: do I go party on the beach with a bunch of Mexicans or lie on my side while an apparatus clambers through my own private nether lands while I’m unconscious? C U on the beach. Should be simple from this point on, right? Just get the buses’ timing right so I arrive before the festivities, right? But it’s not always easy getting to remote places on public transportation, and this one is no different. This village is so remote that it only got on the electric grid last year, a year after getting a paved road.
The chronology is torturous: check out of the hotel; negotiate with the taxistas; blow off the taxistas; get public transport to the Central de Autobuses; buy a ticket for the 20:45 bus, should get me in to Caborca by daybreak, plenty of time for the 14:00 bus; wait; take a piss; wait; take a nap; wait; go to the platform to catch the 20:45 bus; there is no 20:45 bus; exchange tickets to get on the 20:30 bus; we take off into the darkness; video is blaring, score one for technology; I try to block it out, pretending it’s white noise, refusing to listen; I sleep; the sound finally stops; I wake up; we blast through the landscape like a rocket through time. Right outside the window is the Gran Desierto del Pinacate, bleak and desolate, volcanic and forbidding.
Soon we will be in the familiar Sonoran Desert, and the relative lushness of saguaros, cholla, ocotillo; palo verde, palo fierro, mesquite; alamos, nogales, and organ pipe cactus, some of the most beautiful desert that exists in the world, a veritable botanical zoo. Then all of a sudden the silence is broken by ker-chunk ker-chunk ker-chunk and all bets are off. The bus pulls over to the side of the road, and the driver does a quick survey. We take off again, slower than before. Soon we’re back up to almost full speed when once again ker-chunk ker-chunk ker-chunk. Now the bus limps along, 20mph/32kph, all the way into Sonoita, on the Arizona border, gateway to their oceanfront property at Rocky Point/Puerto Penasco, stopping in at every tire store and junk yard along the way. Finally we make it to the bus terminal, such as it is.
They’ll have to change the tire. It’ll take a while. They let me get on another bus. We take off toward the desert again. We reach the edge of town. The bus stops. It turns around. We go back. The air compressor is not working. That means no brakes. We wait. I chat with other passengers. We wait. Some of the passengers on the second bus get on a third bus. Others get on the first bus, when it finally comes back, tire changed. So do I, back in my original seat. We stop and file through for inspection at Checkpoint Charlie. The driver says he won’t make an official stop at Caborca, just a quick drop-off. So I’ll have to stand, all the way through a Kevin James movie, he talking with animals and acting like an ass. We finally get to Caborca. The bus stops on the side of the road. I walk into the center. The shuttle to Caborca will leave in a couple hours. I made it in plenty of time.
There are stands set up around the Caborca square for Holy Week. There are black people in town. They speak Spanish. It’s warm. I buy an ice cream. We wait. And wait. And wait. The bus finally leaves. We go to Desemboque first. It’s funky. The driver stops for a snack. He weighs about 300 pounds. We finally set off again, next stop Puerto Lobos. He’ll only stop on the side of the road, though. It’s several miles into town. Several pickup trucks race out to meet us. I hop into the back with two other Mexicans. One loses his hat to the wind. The truck behind us stops to pick it up. They get off, paying nothing in the process. I ride in farther. The truck finally stops, and I get off, paying nothing. The town is getting ready for the big fiesta. Now I walk, a kilometer or so, right up into my friend’s back yard. There he is, same as the last time I saw him. Welcome to Mexico.
To be continued…
Hardie Karges is the author of Hypertravel: 100 Countries in 2 Years, Backpackers & Flashpackers in Western Europe, and Backpackers & Flashpackers in Eastern Europe. His new book is titled 500 Hostels in the USA (& Canada & Mexico).