Follow the Telephone Poles

~ aka The Route from Hell

“Just follow the telephone poles and you will be fine.” With that advice I set off on the day’s grand adventure, a beautiful 49 mile back road trip that followed the ocean from Bahia Asuncion to Punta Abreojos, and beyond that to Campo Rene at Estuario El Coyote. I was told the road was completely passable.

What I neglected to ask, “how is the road for an RV?”

The turn-off was just out of town and the day began smoothly enough. The dirt had some washboard sections, but it wasn’t so bad. Not so bad until things started crashing to the floor. First it was just foodstuffs and clothing, no big deal. Then it escalated to the wall clock (what fool would put a wall clock in a caravan?). Next to fall were my glass votive candleholders. Who knew what was happening behind the door of the cabinet holding all my glass and ceramic dining essentials. I just could not look.

There were more intersections than I was expecting. The first intersection I went the wrong way, I backed up a quarter mile and got back on track. I had to repeatedly remind myself, “follow the telephone poles.” I discovered that certain spur roads were actually smoother alternatives to the main route, but without guidance I was afraid to learn that that particular intersection I chose was not a smooth detour but a road to nowhere.

I learned a healthy respect for arroyos, which were numerous and deep. The tops of the valleys were always steep and rutted, the bottoms sandy. Thank goodness for my years riding skinny tires off-road. The ascents and descents were complete white-knuckle rides, but the sandy bits were fun and squirmy.

Once I realized that my absolute maximum speed would be 15 miles per hour, with the average being closer to eight, I tried to kick back and relax as I had done on the road to Laguna Ojo de Liebres. This proved challenging, especially after three hours of having myself, and every item in mi casita, jostled and tumbled like an amusement park ride. I came to enjoy sliding around the sandy sections, at least there were free of washboards.

I hit the salt flat just as Nick (Cave and the Bad Seeds) was singing “Hallelujah”. I was having a “Praise the Lord” moment of my own, even with the firm admonition to, “stay in the tracks on the salt flats.” It was smooth sailing, finally. Well, smooth for less than the time it took Nick to sing his song. Then it was back to the same old bump and grind.

As a testament to just how grueling it was, I was ecstatic to see the sign for the town dump. It was a sign of a civilization I had yet to lay my eyes upon. Presumably, it was also the end of this road. I hit the paved main street, a little ribbon of heaven, after 55 miles of hell. It was a short-lived celebration. Once I did a round of the town and headed out the other end, I realized I was in La Bocana and I had another 11 miles of dirt road before I actually reached the town of Punta Abreojos.

A few moments after hitting the last section of dirt, and six hours after leaving Bahia Asuncion, I decided to borrow a page from my friend’s playbook. I stopped my vehicle in the middle of the road, tiptoed through the carnage in mi Casita, relieved my bladder in my own personal shitower, grabbed a cold cerveza from the frig, returned to the drivers seat, and continued down the road.

A short time later I hit the actual salt flats that my friend had mentioned. I now understood why he said, “stay in the tracks.” The salt flats open up and you can zoom around like a rally car driver. But there are no signs, it isn’t clear which track to follow, and if you do drive off the tracks the flats will suck you in and never let you go.

Somehow I survived the ordeal, but of course there was one final test. The last three miles to Campo Rene were down a gravel road. I was so done with off-roading that I nearly continued on to San Ignacio. I was praying that this whole “adventure” would be worth it and the treat at the end, Estero El Coyote, would be spectacular.

A satisfied looking Punta Abreojos tortuga.  This was not a reflection of my state of mind.

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