OR READ IT BELOW
From my experience propane tanks can be filled on the outskirts of select towns across Mexico, Central America, and most places we’ve been. It seems logical that these filling stations are not actually in the towns, because If an accidental explosion was to occur, only the employes and current patrons would be the unfortunate individuals to be taken down, instead of the surrounding bystanders in a crowded pueblo. We have a 5 liter tank that can fuel our stove for well over a few weeks, depending on how much we cook. The tank will cost between $2 and $5 to fill, dependent on the country and who happens to be working the register that day.
We are somewhere on the central coast of Mexico on the hunt for propane. We are caravanning with George and Rachel (southtonowhere.com), following their vanagon through crowded Mexican streets. They also need a fill. We find a station, the van gets filled, but we do not. Our tank adapter does not match with the stations hose. While this seems odd to me, we are still relatively new to the South of the border vagabond lifestyle and our Espanol is no bueno, so perhaps something is getting lost in translation. Either way, we shrug our shoulders and start problem-solving.
The chubby Mexican man perched on a small motorcycle with a plastic bag full of canned beer witnesses our current dilemma. He watches and crushes a couple empty cans. He wants to help. He is communicating a strong desire to guide us to another filling station across town. He assures us through hand motions, that he knows the way. We accept his offer with hesitation. Sometimes locals see gringos in a pickle and they want to help, but they also want money. This has been our experience in a couple different situations. We need propane, and navigating unfamiliar cities in Mexico is a feat not for the meek. So, we take the easy road, deciding to follow this complete stranger through winding back streets, wrong ways, down one ways, cutting off busses, all in an attempt to keep up with this intoxicated hooligan. Where are we going? is this legit? is this dude alright?
We get to the station and fill the tank for a couple bucks. This means hot meals for the next few weeks, beachside under the stars. We strike a conversation with our new amigo, the beer drinking Juan G. He asked for nothing, but we handed him some beer, observing his love of the beverage. He refused the suds explaining that riding the moto with a bottle is more difficult than riding with a can. We then reveal to him our surfing paradise destination, Saladita. He knows it well, has family there, and says that it is close by. Cool. After thanking this man for his help, a few high fives and posing for a couple photos, he now insists that we follow him to the beach. Once again we accept his offer with hesitation. I mean, this is our new friend after all.
The Taco (our Tacoma) and the van follow this motorcycle madman down the Mexican highway at generous speeds. As he rides helmet-less drinking beer swiftly, he tosses his empties like a bean bag at a town fair into the green roadside brush. One, two, three beers down on this 30-minute caravan. Yikes. Should we be concerned? As we tailgate this swerving rascal, he makes a variety of hand gestures. He points to a smoke stacked factory on the horizon, removes both hands from the handle bars, makes a typing gesture, and then points to himself. He is trying to communicate that he works there (or so we think). The message is not completely clear. He points to the sea, makes gestures of fishing, and makes a motion to convey that this fish is BIG. No hands on the bars, beers in a plastic bag swinging from his handlebars like a pendulum. Caught up in this moving game of charades, we missed the turn. No problem. Juan G illegally U-turns on the uncrowded highway, gesturing for us to follow suit. More than a few times during this trip we have been put in odd and, at times, uncomfortable situations. Although this was more odd than uncomfortable, sometimes you need to trust your gut. My gut was telling me to follow Juan until the bitter end. So this is what we did, and we made that illegal U-turn.
We arrive at the beach. It is a dead-end dirt road with no one in sight. It is beautiful. A rocky coast with a perfect spit of sand, perfect for relaxation. The late afternoon sun was hitting the sea with a dramatic orange glow. We began to envision the hammock hanging. Juan stops his bike, pops kickstand down, stands up, and raises his arms in such a way that a referee might during a field goal kick. He is a proud man and he has shown us the way. He smiles with an aura of satisfaction and accomplishment. He looks to us, perhaps gauging our reaction to the arrival at this small paradise. We exit our vehicles and take a look around with a bit of confusion.
Our destination of Salidita, from what we read, is a popular surf-spot littered with traveling surfers, as well as accommodations and campsites. This beach was a nice one, but had none of the above. We look at each other because we know we are not at our desired destination. We consult the map. We show our new navigator where we are trying to go. He says “Salidita? I thought you said Saydita, this is Saydita.” Several beers deep this could have happened to anyone. We all have a good laugh,share a few brews while Juan G tells stories of his time spent in the states. He shows us photos of his life, exchange Facebook info, hug, and wish each other well. Juan rides off into the Mexican sunset like the outlaw he was.
Juan G did not want anything for his favors, he merely wanted to help some gringos in a jam. It turns out Juan loves the United States. Juan used to work in the states and managed to make enough money to go back to Mexico and build a fantastic home for his family. Most people we have met on our southbound journey have been warm and generous. There are a ton of Juan G’s out there.