Many times I was asked wether I already encountered a dangerous situation during my travels. And a o far I had been lucky – until yesterday. I was on an dirt-road and close to get back on highway MEX199 which leads to Palenque when I got stopped by a guy with a walky-talky. He was obviously drunk and asked me to join him to a house nearby. When I declined and wanted go my way he blocked me and called his “amigos” via his walky-talky. I was shortly thinking of pushing him out of the way and escape the situation but since I didn’t know wether he was armed and if his friends would actually appear and chase me I thought that it’s better to accompany him to this building. I was hoping I could clarify the situation with someone who is sober or at least less drunk.
The building was next to something which looked like a school. Inside were three other men all aged around 50 years and a woman of similar age. I was asked to sit on a chair which was placed in the middle of the room. It felt like a tribunal with the four guys starting to interview me about my trip an where I’m from. They offered me a glas of pouche, the local drink here in Chiapas and then the inquiry went on. They kept repeating similar questions and the guy who was leading in the beginning was obviously drunk as well. After this went on for almost more than an hour I told them that I had enough and want to leave to continue my journey. One guy was blocking me and tried to reach for my handlebar-bag which I was carrying with me. While I was trying to hold him away from my bag another guy grabbed my arm. After a round of shouting they said they want 5000 Pesos from me to pass. I told them that I was not carrying that much and offered them 500 instead. This wasn’t really improving the situation. I asked them for what reason they were asking so much money and they said something like “you’re a gringo and you don’t properly speak our language so you have to pay”. Despite the fact that I’m not American and I told them several times that I’m from Germany it was a stupid argument but I didn’t dare to discuss it with them with my little Spanish skills. I simply wanted to get out of this situation quickly now and opened my wallet to show them what I have and told them they could have everything (roughly 1300 Pesos) if they let me go. They were not pleased yet and insisted on 5000 still and threatened my to lock me up for a few days if I didn’t give them what they asked for.
I told them that I have a few dollars still with me which they could have as well but that was absolutely everything. These were in one of my panniers on the bike and I thought it’s anyhow better to get outside to come to a solution. Some school kids were observing the situation from the basketball court. It seemed to be a normal situation for them.
I finally found the additional 12 Dollars I still had and also offered them my Bluetooth speaker which I was anyhow not using a lot anymore and told them it was worth 5000 Pesos itself – actually I payed less than 20 Dollars (360 Pesos) for it. That somehow was the breakthrough and they finally accepted. Maybe they were also tired like me after almost two hours or arguing and shouting.
I quickly packed my stuff and then cycled away from the scene as fast as possible. I felt how the adrenaline was rushing through my body. It was already 6pm when I escaped and till the next big town with an ATM it where more than 50km. Luckily it was mainly downhill and the adrenaline kick also pushed me over the little ramps on the road. I was cycling like in a tunnel and was fully focused to reach Ocosingo before darkness. In the little villages along the road little kids were chasing me and reaching out their hands for “monetas”. Anger rose in me but I tried to setup a happy face and answered – half shouting, half singing – “no tengo dineros” and cycled past quickly.
When I arrived in Ocosingo it just started getting dark. I found an ATM and after I was equipped with fresh money I decided to stay in an hotel this night. The adrenaline level was still high and I had difficulties finding rest but finally fell asleep around 1am.
I’m sure this situation will keep me busy for the next few days and I hope that cycling is the best cure to get over it. Cycling always helped me to clear my thoughts and refresh my mind. Mexico has been an amazing experience so far and I’m not letting it get spoiled from this one bad one.