- Look! An octopus, let’s cook it!
- Dude, we don’t even have a proper kitchen.
- Come on! We got nothing better to do anyway.
Early on Monday, we left Playa San Diego to get medication and rest. My head was still aching, so facing that dreadful dirt road sober was not an option. Marco rolled a rocket-shaped spliff, and we baptized it to the beat of Instant Crush. And just like that, a long and boring drive turned into a holistic sensorial experience… Aaaaah marijuana.
A rusty white pickup carrying people was coming the opposite way. We joked about them being the police. “No police would recklessly carry fifteen people on the back of a truck”, I said. Marco squeezed La Chichona to the right and halted. As the pickup slowly approached, Marco found himself face to face with the driver. In a smooth move, he hid the spliff inside his palm and discretely blew the smoke my way. It was the police. They saluted us.
Salina Cruz was brutal, even more after three days into the wild. The thermometer showed 41°C at 10 am. We had to pick up the part, fix the suspension, and get away, far from that ugly, concrete jungle.
Salazar Suspension did not receive the part or knew when it would arrive. Obviously! Knowing how lazy they were, I had to harass them every other hour. So to make sure of that, we booked a room with the hotel right next to them. Marco got me pills from the pharmacy and electrolytes. Then we locked the room, set the AC to 20° C and slept, waking up only to bother the employees at Salazar Suspension. While I recovered, Marco was researching our next destination: the city of San Cristobal in the mountains of Chiapas.
Chiapas is a beautiful state with a bloody history. It has the second highest Indigenous population in the country. Chiapas is also famous for its opposition to the federal government via the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas are a political movement found by Emiliano Zapata. Their goal is to protect Indigenous rights against private economic interests.
Marco educated me on Emiliano Zapata. Behind his iconic moustache and large sombrero, Zapata was a revolutionary, a populist leader who protected Indigenous communities in Mexico. Zapata was the voice of the oppressed. He played a crucial role in the defence of Indigenous rights. The federal government, corrupt by private interests, didn’t give two fucks about the Indigenous. They expropriated their lands (and still do) and sold them to large corporations for profit. Like many who stood for justice, Zapata was assassinated. To this day, his words resonate with his followers.
The heat in Salina Cruz was unbearable. Stepping out of the room felt like opening a burning oven, even the 50 m walk to Salazar Suspension required serious consideration. They still had not received the part and there was nothing we could do about it. After four months on the coast, one gets tired of the constant tropical heat. We were looking forward to Chiapas and its misty mountains’ cold.
Time is slow when you are waiting for something, especially in a closed room. Marco and I played chess, read, exercised, smoked weed, and swiped right. We noticed an interesting correlation. If there were no girls on Tinder, the city wouldn’t have many tourist attractions. There were only a handful of profiles in a 20 km radius and indeed, Salina Cruz had nothing to offer. It makes sense if you think about it.
On Wednesday, boredom reached new heights. We ventured outside and walked to the market, which reflected the city. The stands were depleted. Vegetables were overripe, eaten by the flies, and the fish alley was shabby for a city with an industrial port. Luckily, we found fresh octopus. I never cooked an octopus but Marco insisted. He is a good cook from Lyon, the gourmet capital of the world. The Frenchman knew what he was doing.
On the way back, we stopped at Salazar again. Hallelujah! They had received the part. But only one of the two I ordered… pendejos! I was too tired to argue and just walked away with it, in search of a mechanic. A few hours later, we fixed the suspension and were free to move; free from the heat, the noise and the smoke. Free to leave the one of the ugliest cities in Mexico. Time to celebrate!
We got a bottle of red wine and cooked the octopus in the van, right on the parking lot. Marinated bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions were our side dishes. We stirred them with zucchinis, mushrooms and coriander, then added fettuccine. To the mix we added a succulent home-made tomato sauce.
Diner was delicious; by far the best seafood pasta we ever had. It was so good we ate it cold for breakfast, and it still tasted great. That dinner was the highlight of Salina Cruz and planted the seed of an entrepreuneurial venture. If we can cook seafood in a van, what can we not do?
You can make a lot out of boredom… if you’re in good company.