"The big question is whether you are going to be able to
say a hearty yes to your adventure."
After sequestering ourselves in the jungle hideaway of El Ranchos, our condomininum by the sea, we aim for a short exploration of Mazatlan.
Opting to stay in the car so little ones can sleep, we do a driveby of the boardwalk and spy couples holding hands and roller bladers gliding by.
Passing the shops and staring at the tourists, we search for a restaurante for some comida.
Dining open air we feast on fabulous, flavorful food and stuff ourselves with beans, rice, shrimp and tortillas.
Our bellies are full, we lazily examine the shops within walking distance. But little legs don't last long, so we pile in the vehicle to search for a grocery store for tomorrow's meal.
Asking for directions in Spanish, my husband discovers there's a Walmart. Hurray!
We follow the instructions given as best as possible, but being born and raised in a very 'gridded' city like Salt Lake City, Utah, we're having difficulty navigating the curvy, winding roads.
At length (and after a few more inquiries), we finally find Walmart.
Travel Makes the Ordinary a New Adventure
Exploring this 'name brand' store in a foreign land is an adventure in itself. We're entertained by simply walking the aisles and
examining the novelties. Even shopping becomes a new and interesting experience while traveling.
Eggs are stacked on unrefrigerated shelves by the entry (and near the very large speakers which are blasting a variety of Mexican tunes).
In the dairy coolers, there's a very large selection of yogurt, most of which is drinkable.
The meat, seafood and bakery section are in the style of an open air market. Slabs of beef, chicken parts, whole fish, shrimp and other animal flesh exude an unmistakable smell as they lay displayed on mounds of crushed ice.
In the bakery, buyers choose a silver platter, and place their bread selections on a tray with the use of provided tongs. Then they're carried to the bakery counter to be wrapped and priced, and the purchase is completed at the checkout stand in the front of the store.
Our grocery store explorations are only interrupted by wonderful Mexican men and women who stop us to pinch our baby's cheeks, and exclaim with delight, Hermosa! Gordita!
Completing our purchases, we return to our vehicle in the guarded parking lot and tip Ferdinand.
It's now dark, and we are all tired. Thinking we have some reference to where we are compared to where our hotel is, we opt to try a new route home, rather than meandering back the way we had come, which was in the opposite direction.
Confidently setting out, we attempt to use the ocean as a reference point. Keep it on our left.
We drive, and drive, and drive, and we still haven't found anything familiar.
We turn and twist, and come to dead ends, and the ocean's now on our right. How and why?
Where is our hotel?
Asking for directions once, then twice, then three times, doesn't seem to get us any closer to our destination.
It's darker and darker by the minute, and we appear to be heading north out of town, away from Mazatlan. Trying to find a major highway or main road, we're thwarted at every turn. And becoming more frightened.
All we want is to turn around, to get back to Mazatlan, but we can't even seem to do that. Every road is one-way, every possibility dead ends.
Taking a street which we hope will lead to the highway, we're dismayed when it turns to dirt, then stops on a hill overlooking the city.
The children are oblivious, they just want to know why we're not 'home' yet. But I'm thinking, 'We are really lost! And we can't see anything. What are we going to do?'
Turning around to go back the way we came, our path is blocked by a vehicle that's shining their headlights on us. We're cornered.
What are they doing here in the middle of nowhere? Did they follow us? Are they trying to stop us?
We knew it was wiser to avoid being out at night, especially in a very large and 'American' looking SUV that could become a target.
Attempting to pass, uncertain and afraid, the moment seems to last indefinitely. Are they not going to let us by?
As if in slow motion, they start to back up, and let us proceed. Relieved, we drive on. They continue past us and down the hill, on a road that we couldn't see, into a 'shanty' village below.
Somehow we miraculously found the highway, and then the exit to our hotel. All I could think about was how scared I had been.
I don't know if we'd really been in any danger, (in fact we probably weren't), and I don't mind being lost either (it can be fun during the day) but I didn't like the situation in general - lost, unfamiliar, at night, and in unknown 'safe' areas.
It's something we would definitely avoid in the future.
Here's 5 tips to avoid getting lost at night:
- Plan to have plenty of time to get back to your lodgings before it gets dark.
- If you are going to be out at night, only travel on routes that you know, even if it's 'longer'.
- Just because you know the 'general direction' to where you want to go, doesn't mean there will be a road that goes there. Sometimes the way to get there might start out in the opposite direction.
- If you are lost at night, try to stay in well light, busy parts of town. Getting 'cornered' in some dark dead end is not a good idea.
- Even if you speak the language, directions can be very tricky. Another option is to take a cab, or pay them to show you the way. It's easier to follow them than to follow directions. (Keep the phone number and address to your hotel on hand for this reason.)
Please share any tips you have learned below.
(This post belongs to a series, "Crossing Borders"- Family Road Trip Costa Rica)
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