-How are you going to Mazunte?
-Driving. I have a van.
-WOW THAT'S SOOO COOL!!! So... how does it work?
It is always a pleasure to drive to San Cristobal de las Casas. The cool breeze, the mist, the wooden scents, the colorful houses on the side of the hills. San Cristobal has a mystical vibe where unexpected things happen. It feels familiar in a strange way, a déjà vu of a déjà vu. I walked up and down its uneven pavements, ready for its magic.
I had planned to go to the beach once la Chichona was ready. Karleen and Penelope were both in Mazunte, a hippie village on the Pacific coast, in the state of Oaxaca. The coast meant waves, hot weather, and good company. Mazunte was the place to be.
The priority was again la Chichona. She needed major repairs before she could take me to the beach. Word of mouth led me to Gerardo's garage. He was the third generation of mechanics and seemed experienced with diesel engines. Even though he had more doubts than certainties, I trusted his diagnosis. It would take him two weeks to get la Chichona ready for the road. I had two weeks to find a travel partner.
Lukas, Marco, Jackie and Sophia were amazing travel partners. I knew them all before we decided to travel together, even if only for a short time. This time was different. I had to find someone to share a trip, my home and probably a few misadventures. I wanted somebody interesting, clean, and calm under pressure. How would you find someone like that?
I started with Facebook, several posts on several groups for several days… nothing. Then I went door to door, hoping to meet travelers in hostels. The hostels were empty during the day and closed their doors at night. Knocking on doors was time-consuming and uncomfortable, a recipe for frustration. A whole week went by and the only thing I managed was to feel like a beggar. It must really suck to be a beggar.
Neediness never attracted anybody. I had to convey my message in an appealing way. I found a piece of cardboard, wrote a catchy message and tied a rope to it. The plan was to walk around town with the sign hanging on my side. I tried that for three days. Few people saw the sign and even fewer read it. Another failed attempt. This was harder than I thought.
Ten days of constant rejections had left me bitter. To interest and attract people, I had to look interesting and attractive myself. So, I took my time to craft a good adventure sign, put on cologne, my best clothes and headed for the busiest street in town. I ordered a coffee, laid the sign down and spread myself out on a bench. My hat low, I put on shades and opened a book. It was fun to scan people’s reaction. Everybody noticed the sign, most of them looked at me and many smiled. It was working.
It did not take long before the first person stopped, then another, then another. The sign was doing all the work. I just sat there with my book and looked cool. A tall and slim man approached me. His name was Leonard, a Canadian in his forties on vacation. Leonard heard good things about Mazunte and was up for an adventure. He asked if he could bring a guitar. I told him about la Chichona’s travel rules, the itinerary and the budget. We agreed to leave in two days, once I got the green light from Gerardo.
Being three would make the trip cheaper and safer so I repeated the same tactic. A Mexican woman sat next to me, we chatted for a bit and exchanged contact information. On my last day, I received a message from Jade, a backpacker. Jade had overheard the Mexican lady and took my number. We met to set expectations and feel the vibe. Jade was Dutch, in her late twenties, outspoken, and funny. I told her about la Chichona’s travel rules, about Leonard, the itinerary and the budget. She was super excited. We set to leave at dawn the next day.
A shitty adventure was about to start.