What is the difference between a four wheel drive and a rental car? The rental car goes anywhere. Yup, you might have heard that one before, but todays image is the proof that sometimes life resembles fiction. My wife and I were in the Sierra Gordas of Queretaro Mexico visiting and shooting the famous painted missions and were returning to San Miguel Allende for some more R&R. Of course the rest and relaxation part had been previously and was presently in full swing, what with the Jalpan hotel bar naming a margarita after us.
The road before was switching back and forth pleasantly and the smell of “fresh rain on pine needles” permeated the air. It was then that my wife innocently noticed a small road off to the side on the cheap Mexican map that came with the rental. The rental by the way, was a wannabe Sentra, meaning it was hoping to become one when ever it grew up. The road went to some obscure mission and an even smaller little town that had escaped our research. Bucarelli. What the heck, its a nice day. Lets see whats there. What could go wrong?
And so began our REAL Mexican adventure; we just didn’t know it yet. The road was smooth enough and switchbacked down the canyon. Down and down we spiraled, passing the little farms that apparently lacked windows but were uniformly equipped with solar and sported the finest Satellite Dishes money could buy. The road was predictably (if you watch Aussie horror movies) getting worse. It became difficult to find a line through the rocks that didn’t scrape the bottom of the car. But we were getting close. After 16 miles of jolting we only had another 3 or so to go. At least according to the approximate distances on the map. Later on we analyzed the mistakes made and decided that on this day, our very first one was trusting the map – get this – that had previously, on the same trip, been grievously wrong and gotten us woefully lost.
We, (I should say “I”) finally got us stuck. Kinda high-centered between some kind of rock and a hard place. We were sitting on the trunk some 5 minutes later after discovering that the car had no jack – it had a very nice full size spare that took up half the trunk, but no jack. No tire iron either. So where was I. Thats right, we were sitting on the trunk drinking an ice cold Tecate (to be sure, the irony is not lost on me; we have no jack but we have beer.) It was at that point that I saw the first vehicle of the day, other than ourselves.
It was big and dark green and thundering down that POS road right at us in a huge cloud of dust. Still unable to identify the truck I stepped out and held up my hand, expecting military. The large truck skidded to a stop beside me, again in a massive cloud of choking dust.
Much like I had expected, the guy that stepped out was wearing a uniform all right; except it was a FED EX uniform. He informed me he would help me but only on the way back. He had an overnight delivery and he was late. And so we went back to waiting.
After a few more beers I thought, why don’t I weigh down the trunk with rocks and then recklessly rock the car while my wife steps on the gas? And guess what, it worked!. After unloading the rocks (my wife was thinking we’d just keep them there for next time, but I pointed out what it did to already exquisite ride, so she reluctantly relented.) So common sense says, cut your losses and turn around. So what did we do? Went straight ahead of course. The rationalizations never ended. What if that part of the road was the worst of it. WHAT IF THE TOWN IS JUST AROUND THE NEXT BEND?
And it turns out the town wasn’t much further. And lets just say that the FedEx driver that stopped for us on the way down helped us out of a jam on his way out. It wasn’t until he was coiling up his jerk-strap after pulling us out that he realized that we weren’t in the same spot on the road.
So we got into Bucarelli and saw the wonderful unrestored mission and its Torn Bells. At first I looked at the ripped iron of the bells and wondered what forces could rend it so – and then I suddenly remembered that they would have had to drive them down that road.
Now before you start feeling all sorry for the rental car company that I will arbitrarily call, say, “Thrifty”, I would like to point out that I fell for the exchange rate scam that cost me an extra 250 bucks. If your rental car contract (in Mexico) shows you paying in US dollars, you need to keep reading the contract. Because your credit card will pay in Pesos, and unless you have the rental cost in dollars (AmEX Travelers Cheques) or equivalent, you have to pay what they laughingly called “The Thrifty Exchange Rate”. And they laughed out loud. It was either that or miss my plane.
I uploaded an image of the painted mission at Tilaco.