When you envision a trip like the one I’m on and you hear all the warnings about people who do stupid shit or put themselves in dangerous situations and of course you say to yourself, “We’ll I won’t do things like that.” And yet I wasn’t really that surprised to find myself a few days before New Year’s, drunk, alone, lost; stumbling through the streets of inner city Mazatlan at 3am. No one is really certain what propels me to get into these situations but since I was little if anyone suggested that an activity might be dangerous or advised against doing something, it automatically awakens an undeniable determination to do just that. And so it was when a dark blue SUV pulled up to me as I was lazily shuffling along the malecon after dinner and two cute Mexican chicas and a guy in the back seat, stopped to ask why exactly a gringo was walking alone in this particular neighbourhood after dark. I told them I was simply trying to locate a bodega where I could purchase a few cans of cold beer and then return to my $11 a night pension to write for a while in my journal. We spoke for a bit, the girls asking questions and giggling while Jose, the dude in the back, translated. I got a good feeling from the trio and didn’t suspect them to be the murderous type at all. Once Jose discerned that I was straight and he was out of the running with me, he asked the girls in Spanish if he should invite me to join them in the evening’s festivities. This was just a formality because they acquiesced immediately and, judging them to be of authentic character, I decided it was safe to hop in and see where the night took me. We wound up grabbing some black market beers from a gated lot that appeared to exist for just this purpose. The experience was much more daunting than when we’d ring up ‘Roadside Repairs’ back home for a case of beer at 3am.
After the four of us shot the shit for a while and finished chugging our Dos Equis’, we walked back to a busy club on the malecon and danced and drank margaritas until the wee hours. The music in Mexico is definitely not my taste. The clubs play a mixture of Latin Dance, Raggaeton, and Banda, which could possibly be a money-making tactic because it definitely speeds up my alcohol intake. When we decided to call it, my new friends gave me a ride back to the place where they had picked me up. I thought I had my bearings but many hours and drinks had passed and I admit, once back on the street, my surroundings were not overtly familiar. And so began a rather harrowing expedition (most likely in circles) to locate my guesthouse in one of the dodgier areas of the city. There weren’t many people on the street and of course those that were about were of the meaner, harder-looking variety. My presence seemed to invite harassment as it probably should. ‘Let’s go find out what the matter is with this stupid gringo?’ People kept coming up to talk to me in Spanglish, ask where I was going and tell me that it was dangerous for me to be walking around at this time. More than a few times I took this as a direct threat but I remained vigilantly friendly and yet cooly unemotional.
Normally I have a pretty rad sense of direction but cities in Mexico keep screwing me up. There are so many diagonal calles and street names seem to change every few blocks that it is tremendously easy to get turned around. Add to that the fact I was pretty tilted and hadn’t properly established landmarks as I usually do, and the hunt became a real challenge. I was rapidly developing ‘the fear’. I was too shitfaced and cautious about admitting my predicament, to stop and ask any of the shady-looking night urchins for directions. When I passed the same group of chollos (one of which was actually in a wheel chair) I knew no matter how confidently I called out “Que onda” I was going to get fucked. Amazingly nothing happened. Was I too easy a mark or did my blatant helplessness just look too suspicious to act upon? I eventually stumbled across the sign which read Hotel Lerma and gratefully banged on the shutter in front of the office for the snoring watchman to open the gate. I’d like to say that I won’t put myself in this situation again, but being the type of traveler who has always put immense faith in adventure and fate, it is a foregone certainty that I will! I did take away one good lesson though. When cruising the streets of a dangerous area, don’t lose track of where you are. When you get distracted and lose focus you get lost. When you get lost you get scared. And fearing for your life definitely makes for a less enjoyable night out.