I had done a little bit of research into my voyage to Montezuma… and when I say ‘research,’ I mean that I had inserted Samara to Montezuma into my Google Maps search bar and then had a look at the different options, the view possibilities and duration.
Now, Google Maps is not your buddy… it doesn’t tell you if the path you’ve chosen has steep terrain or rough road or deep rivers to cross. It merely gives you all the options and let’s you chose. Waze is a little bit better of a friend, because it directs you the best possible route, and is adamant about you not changing direction.
There are no alternatives with Waze.
Well, I decided to ignore both of them and make my own route.
According to Google Maps, it appeared there were three options.
The high road.
The low road.
The middle road.
The high road was Waze’s recommendation, and I had travelled some of it on my trek up to the waterfalls. Good road, nicely paved… boring. I looked at the low road - the #160 - and was slightly hesitant because of all the rivers this route had already handed me on my journey to get here.
My research on Route #160 got me this:
Mixture of dirt and paved sections. Some steep sections have loose gravel. A 4×4 is recommended for traction. The southern sections are difficult to pass without experience. Driving on the beach and several river crossings are required. This is a very remote area and there have been incidents of crime against tourists driving this route near Santa Teresa.
Ok… Route #160 was not an option. No more rivers, thank you.
What I should have done, at this point, after reading this, was to take into consideration the recommendation of both Google Maps and Waze… and taken the higher, paved, safer route.
That is what I should have done.
That is NOT what I did.
I decided to compromise with myself. I took the middle road.
I find it funny that I decided on this route, without one ounce of… shall I say ‘research,’ for lack of a better word,
I set off in my ole’ reliable 4WD Bird… into the wild unknown,
My phone was dying, of course.., but my plan was to stop along the way, at some roadside local pub or restaurant, and charge it up.
Looking back at that foolish decision now… bwahahahahaha...
Such a naive, life of privilege I lead, thinking that at every turn, there will be some kind of safe haven… just waiting to bail me out of trouble I've created.
It wasn’t long before I turned off pavement and onto the usual dirt and gravel. Soon, I began to make my ascend. At first, I considered this normal, as I had chosen the more mountainous route, right? Of course there would be some uphill. What I wasn’t prepared for was the length of the steep incline. There was no room for mistake. There was no gearing up or gearing down or stalling or stopping or pulling over for a pee. It was uncommonly steep, it was rough terrain, it was narrow… and for me, with a mere 3 weeks of four wheel driving experience, it was dangerous… and quite frightening. My hands were trembling and gripping the steering wheel for dear life, My heart was racing uncontrollably. My pedal was right to the metal… and it was all I could do to keep the little Bird in forward motion.
I kept thinking, this must be the top.
Surely, this must be the top.
Up and up and up… and up some more, I went.
The top will probably be right around this corner.
The up must end eventually?
I thought I’d done up before. I was wrong.
This was the most up I’ve ever done… and quite frankly, scared me enough to never want to attempt up again. I was regretting my route decision. Really regretting it.
Why do I always think I'm so smart?
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Eventually the road did level out… thank GOD.
The sense of relief was overwhelming and taking a breath again seemed surreal.
Had I done ANY research on Route #162 from Samara to Montezuma, I would have discovered that this road was ALSO a mixture of dirt and paved and loose gravel, very steep sections... with many areas difficult to pass, with or without experience.
I could only pray there wouldn’t be some kind of barricade up ahead, which might force me to turn around. I was more than certain I would not have the confidence, nor the skill it would take to make it back down that hill.
The only terrifying thing about leveling out... was, of course, being up so high. After having just successfully navigated mountainous terrain, the clouds now impaired my visibility tremendously. They swallowed me up whole. There were moments I was unable to see more than 5 feet in front of my vehicle, which managed to make driving even more arduous.
Once I had peaked, I began to come down the rolling hills a little bit, and I was presented with some of the most stunning and lush landscapes I have ever seen... Picturesque vistas, I am positive, few tourists have laid eyes on. Not the smart ones, anyways. It was like trespassing on Brigadoon.
The one thing I cannot wrap my head around is the sporadic paving. It just comes out of nowhere... sudden asphalt! It usually only lasts about 100 metres, and is littered with potholes... and then like a crack of the whip, it's gone and we're back to gravel or dirt or mud. But someone, somewhere, came to this particular spot in the road and chose to pave it. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.
I shouldn't even be complaining about potholes anymore. On roads like this, potholes are hardly the problem. It's the missing pieces of the road that present the biggest liability!
I drove along, still steadfast in my confidence that I'd chosen wisely. My phone was fading and the amount of times I checked my map apps to ensure I was still heading in the right direction, was draining it faster than I would have liked. Following my progress on the map, I knew I was getting closer, and knew my phone could hold out until I was safely in Montezuma.
As I drove along, I knew I was getting deeper and deeper into the jungle and the roads really started to worry me. The jungle was almost engulfing the double dirt track and all I could do was keep going forward...
I would be there soon.
Waze gave me a 40 minute time frame. I crossed a few small rivers and a couple creeks... nothing too big, but still a little bit nerve racking.
Then I came to a river. Rio Ario.
A big river. A rushing river. A deep river. A wide river.
An uncrossable without dying river.
There was no way.
I was sitting there, just staring at it, blankly... and all my wildest nightmares were materializing. I could feel the chomp of the crocodile, as I watched my rental Jimney go bobbing away in the murky gurgle...
Ok. I had to calm down and figure out Plan B.
Plan A was obviously not getting me closer to Montezuma.
I had zero cell service at my present location, so I couldn't properly locate myself, but having had looked at the map quite a few times, I knew there was another route I could possibly take. I backed away from the river, back up the little hill and turned around to try Plan B.
It was tough trying to navigate Plan B without a functioning map, but I eventually got back to where the road divided and took a right, fingers crossed and breath very much bated. Nothing helped... after another 30 minutes of driving, plan B brought me right back to the river... and this crossing looked equally as treacherous.
Ok. Calm down. Think.
My mind was going a mile a minute... and I was desperate to come up with anything in order to avoid retracing my steps. The sun had already started to go down and I knew it would be dark within a half hour. Really dark. Jungle dark. It was hard enough traversing those roads in daylight, let alone the dead of night.
I turned around at the river and just started driving, as quickly as I could... desperate to escape before darkness inundated us all. With my brain in a tizzy, I obviously missed the turnoff to where the roads divided and I suddenly found myself in very unfamiliar territory. There was nothing recognizable at any turn, and the road seemed to be concaving - as if it were pinpointing to a mere walking trail.
I was lost.
Lost in the jungle.
It was almost dark. My phone was at 13% battery power. Even my computer was dead, so I couldn't even charge it from there. I had no cell service. Not even one bar. Nothing.
This is when I started to cry... and yell a little bit.
WHY??? Why? Why? Why?
After a quick tantrum, I knew I had to take some deep breaths, calm myself down, figure out my present circumstances and do my best to rectify the situation I'd managed to get myself into.
*Where was that roadside tavern I'd been confident I would find? I could've used it now.
Calm myself down is exactly what I did.
I turned around and drove back to find familiar territory.
Everything would be ok.
Everything would be ok.
I could sleep in my vehicle... right?
On my way back, I encountered two elderly gentlemand that appeared to be working the land. I think they were beyond shocked to see me... alone... and so far off the tourist trail. I explained I was lost... needed WIFI... and was attempting to reach Montezuma. When I mentioned I couldn't cross the river, they both exclaimed "NOOOO!!!!"... which confirmed I'd make the correct decision in avoiding it.
They pointed me back in the direction of where I'd come from and told me if I followed the road, I would eventually get into cell service. That was what I needed. With coverage, I could properly locate myself on the map app... and by doing this, could make another attempt to vacate the area.
I finally got myself into cell coverage and managed to figure out where I was. I then slowly made my way along the road, which eventually led me to Route #163, which appeared to lead north, to a seaside town called Jicaral.
I hadn't done any investigation into this route before I got myself on it... and all I could do was hope and pray that it was of decent condition... and void of rivers and mountains.
Luck was on my side for this one. I managed to get out of the jungle, safe and sound... and back on asphalt... and on the proper road to Montezuma.
Sometimes it’s tough traveling on your own.
Maybe I’d feel better with a machete.
Off to Montezuma...