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37# Beware of the Portex

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

WOW !!! Thanks man, how much I owe you?

Nah this is a gift... Welcome to the Portex.

The free roads in Mexico are dangerous and poorly maintained. Besides, they are not watched by the police, which helps criminals. The toll roads are safer but extremely expensive. All heavy trucks use the toll highways. They pay for security, and so did we.

There is a flyover in the city of Puebla. We used it to avoid the city center but got stuck in traffic behind the trucks…the irony. At some point, an ambulance tried to make its way through, pushing cars to the side inch by inch. A man came out of the ambulance dragging his feet to the bridge. He looked at the traffic line, at the sky, and then collapsed in tears. His loved one was dying in that ambulance, and was helpless because of traffic. Death put things into perspective.

We arrived at night to Oaxaca city (the capital of the state) and spent the night on a gas station parking. As usual, we took advantage of the security guard and his heavy shotgun. Oaxaca is a beautiful colonial city with a rich history and a vibrant artsy scene. We toured the center and hit the road around noon, leaving us plenty of time to drive down the mountains. I was excited to get to the beach and reunite with Marco.

The only route from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido is a 250km-long serpentine road through the mountains. The sun was pounding and the drive stressful. We manoeuvred around potholes, chunks of collapsing concrete, and neverending dirt roads. Lukas didn’t want to drive anymore after the accident so I drove alone. It was worse than crossing the Baja California desert. We made it to Puerto Escondido in nine hours, exhausted and relieved.

I met Marco at the university bar in 2011, and randomly again at a party two weeks later. We had the same dark sense of humor. We laughed a lot both times and became close friends since. Marco has two opposite personalities, depending on the amount of alcohol in his blood. Corporate Marco is a thinker: cold, analytical, and quiet. Party Marco is joyful, funny, and shameless.

I spent most of my time with Party Marco; much more fun! In a -31° day in Montreal, I asked him about his expectations on the trip. He said, “I just want to walk barefoot. Here it’s so damn cold I can’t even do it in my own apartment!” A man of few desires. The perfect travel mate.

Lukas and I showed up at Marco’s hostel, dirty, hungry, and unexpected. He welcomed us with delicious vegetarian tacos and the access to his shower. Diner was light and fresh; a nice change from local street food. We ate and sneaked into the hostel’s bathroom. The shower after two days felt better than a cold beer on a hot day. Food and cleanliness made us human again.

We chilled on the hostel rooftop as the party started. The DJ was playing electro jazz and people started coming by. We met two Kiwi brothers. Matt was the older one: handsome, fit, and quick with a joke. Nick was fat, socially awkward, and funny despite himself. They told stories of their travels in the mountains, famous for their psychedelics and easy access to drugs.

Matt was sharp, ruthless, and hilarious. He took every chance to make fun of his little brother, and blamed their troubles on his poor stamina and taste for drugs.

Bullying is a psychological warfare. The survival of the fittest, a modern-day Sparta. I bully my friends. As most men are insecure about their feelings, the only way we can express love is through bullying. We all mocked Nick, and he took it like a man.

Nick bit off with more than he could chew during his mountain trip. He was so pleased by the drugs' low prices that he bought enough weed to put a full bus to sleep. His soul-crushing problem was his departure date: Nick was flying home in a week. He felt bad about wasting weed and so he shared. I was stoked.

Everything I longed for came to me in Puerto Escondido, and without lifting a finger. Marco warned me. The city is nicknamed the Portex because it tends to suck travellers in and mess up their plans. After two days of intense driving and a roller-coaster of emotions, we were happy to stay still for a while.

The Portex looked promising.


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