December 13th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
The bus station

I thought + thought for ages, keeping me awake – I’ve decided to write a play, or rather a sketch, called “The Complete Works.”  A cold night, disturbed at dawn by a chorus of what seemed to be hundreds + hundreds of cocks crowing, with a couple of donkeys braying the baritone for good measure.  Still, when the sun came up, we slept.

In town, we spent some time sitting on the pavement, eating fruit, finally succumbing to a meal in the market – just beans + rice, + the whole place was fly-infested, but it was cheap + filling.  Caught the bus to the road to Yagul, another ruin.  Involved a long hot walk, tho’ we hitched as we went, + in fact got a ride, the last couple of hundred yards.

Yagul

The ruins were not especially interesting – tho’ I suppose we’ve become rather blasé after the past couple of days.  They did have an old palace which seemed to be laid out like a maze – we lost each other.  Begged some water off the gate-keeper, then started to walk back to the road, + again got a short ride.  Hitched while we were waiting for the bus, + again were lucky.  Were picked up by a couple of Brazilians, tho’ you couldn’t tell – the guy had blond hair, + their English was perfect.  They were quite interesting, + kind too, dropping us off at the bus station.  This was at about 3, + we waited till 10 for our bus.  This was foolish of us really – it made for an uncomfortable + boring few hours, but we really didn’t have the energy + inclination to move ourselves.  The time passed; we took little shopping expeditions, it took a long time to buy the tickets, + of course we read, + wrote.  Sand there really was the whole spectrum of Mexican peasant life there.  The women carrying their belongings on their heads – + not just bundles but sometimes Western shopping bags, or trays of sandwiches.  And the noise, this time taken over by the toy salesmen, selling home-made rattles, or monkey drummers, the drum being half a beer can.  The children, offering onyx figures for sale, with big pleading eyes – that’s the children, not the figures.  And the slow patience of all – not the bustling rush of its European equivalent.

The bus ride.  A short chapter entitled “The bus ride”, mainly because it is worthy of it.  First of all, we nearly missed it – it was more or less chance that I wandered round to where the buses departed, + found that the bus we were supposed to catch was just pulling out, either 10 or 40 minutes early, depending on which set of information we’d been given was correct.  At least, I thought it was our bus, the bus driver told me it was… it just had a different destination on the front to where I thought we were going.  In any case, there was no time for discussion on the matter – I ran back for Val, + we took our seats, + off.  Almost immediately, the guy in front started a conversation, tho’ since it was in Spanish, it was limited.  We covered just about every subject we could, starting first with Zipolite, + ending  with Bobby Charlton.  He was friendly, tho’ I must confess, rather strange, with big staring eyes with which he would gaze unblinking at you.  However, it was not long before our conversation was exhausted, so he turned round to sleep.  The seats were hard + uncomfortable, + close together, so sleep didn’t come easy, but eventually sheer exhaustion took over, so that we were able to sleep just propped up, or collapsed over one another.  I was dimly aware of a lot of stopping + starting, + then suddenly was jolted awake.  It was shocking + thrilling all at once.  The road was unmade, just dirt, rocks, + bumps in about equal quantities, but winding thro’ the mountains, with terrifying precipices.  And this by the bright white light of the moon, turning the mountainsides into huge relief, black elephant shapes projected onto the rock.  I woke Val up so she might see it too.  Later, with the first thrill wearing off, + dropping back to sleep, we were stopped by some soldiers, who came on looking for drugs – after all, we were on the hippy run.  And then, at about 5, we were dropped off at Pochutla, the final destination, with still 10 kms to Puerto Angel.

Not sure what to say about “The Complete Works” – no idea what it was about, and in any case it never happened, but there it was in the diary.  First mention of beans and rice, but it is a staple meal that we remember with great affection.

In case he is outside your cultural radar, Bobby Charlton was a famous English footballer of the 60s, a member of the team when England won the World Cup in 1966, and I imagine the relevance is that he scored a wonder goal against Mexico in that tournament.

The bus journey soiunds remarkable, but in its own way much the same as so many others we had taken (and were yet to take) – overcrowded, potentially life-threatening, with Val and I employing our technique of sleeping folded over one another.

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