If she had to take the eight or nine hour round trip bus ride to Mexico City yet again, a sane person, like Jim, would say, "The best part is when it's over." But I continue to find it captivating. I am stepping into another existence. Some of the strange appeal is the sensation of being in yet not in the landscape. All the outside sounds are mute on the bus. Instead there are the movies: usually silly comedies or cartoons or infomercials or strange documentaries. You can turn the sound over your seat off so that a blur of Spanish from a bit of distance sinks into a monotonous hum, a kind of white noise. The bus starts out on route 140 going through the clutter of Xalapa highway life, and then it seems as if the bus magically lifts itself onto the new cuota, or toll highway, an impossibly smooth ribbon of road gliding up along sweeping curves that pass through densely green evergreen forests crowding steep hillsides.
You can mark the trip's segments by the tollbooths: there are five of them. After the first one, the land flattens and becomes distinctly dryer. You go through true badlands, Joshua trees growing out of broken-up lava flows that have not yet turned to soil. The trees have been badly burned on one side of the road. Last time we passed by, their blackened arms and trunks, had twisted grotesquely, their spiky leaves sad scorched crowns topping them. Jim thought they were all dead. I noticed some green shoots and thought maybe a few had survived.
There isn´t always an unhappy ending. This trip, Jim and I saw that many had survived, that strong green shoots had pushed through the tops of most of the plants.
You can also see the snow-capped peak of Pico de Orizaba off to the south during this segment of the trip. Pyramid-shaped, snow-covered, it seems small.
Closer to us and a little further on, the mountain the Spaniards named Malinche or Malintzin rises into view. She was named after Cortés´s Mexican translator and consort who came from the current state of Tabasco which Veracruz neighbors on the north. Indigenous people, the Tlaxcaltecs called (and still call) the mountaain Matlalcuéyet. According to a good article in Wikipedia, she is a "a goddess of rain and song." It is located mostly in the state of Tlaxcala and a bit in the state of Puebla. Its brown and rocky mass takes a long time to pass.I think we come at it from the northeast, the road from xalapa veering southwest at the edge of Tlaxcala, or maybe a little further east. When the rains come, the slopes will turn greener, I think. Tlaxcala is the smallest state in Mexico and is surrounded on north, east and south by Puebla and on the West by the state of Mexico. Somewhere it is also edge by a tiny bit of Hidalgo.
The new cuota crosses Tlaxcala, bypassing to the north (I'm pretty sure) the city of Puebla that the old route traversed. On our first trip to Mexico perhaps 26 or 27 years ago, there was very little fancy road once we left Mexico City. The bus bumped its way into the downtown Puebla bus station and then made its way on small roads, old ones, sometimes not paved, to Xalapa. More recently, the bus bypassed downtown Puebla but went past the Puebla airport which we don't do now. If I sound confused,it is because I am. New cuotas are everywhere and are now linking with each other. At one place, you have to cross over the unfinished road to get on another. Thus I am not really sure of how it all fits together.
The scenery changes before Tlaxcala. You see irrigated fields now starting to show their crops, more and more buildings, more traffic. In Tlaxcala, the bus goes through what I think are the edges of the town of Huamantla and, later, the capital city also called Tlaxcala. Although the smallest state, it is rich in history, both mesoamerican and post-Cortés and is a relatively prosperous state. We had a friend who did his year of community service in Tlaxcala after finishing med school. Much more recently, one of the physical therapists who treated me after I had injured my shoulder was from Tlaxcala. When she told me where she was from, I said, "Oh, that's the smallest state in Mexico." It was not a tactful thing to have said, and from then on she was somewhat chilly towards me.
If you are interested in learning more about Tlaxcala, here and here are a couple of sites in English. This is the google.com.mx site for pictures. I'd start with it. Now that Jim's trips west to see the ophthalmologist are less frequent, we really would like to explore this area to DF's east.