|We were unable to capture images while in Orizaba, but this photo is borrowed from Wikipedia, and attributed to David Tuggy.|
We decided that driving past Puebla and into Veracruz would save us time and put us even closer to Palenque, which we planned to visit before the final leg of our journey to Mérida. The autopista past Puebla stretched on and on, but the mountain views in the distance were incredible. As we got closer to Veracruz, suddenly we were in the mountains and quite impressive ones at that. We had decided on one of two cities to spend the night - Orizaba or Cordoba. If the first did not appear suitable, we would head for the next. It was the middle of the afternoon when we began getting closer to Orizaba and the mountains were simply spectacular. We climbed and climbed as large 18-wheel trucks zoomed past us, oblivious to the steep inclines and even more fearless on the declines. There were emergency lanes to enter in the event of failing brakes! All of a sudden we appeared to be in light fog. As we looked out at the openings between the mountains, we realized that we were not in fog but driving through clouds. We soon saw a large sign over the highway announcing that we were in the "Zona Nebula" (cloud zone). It is safe to say that this was the most harrowing drive of my life. I've driven in dense fog before, and there is usually a place to pull off the road to steel the nerves. On these mountain passages there is absolutely nowhere to stop and the large trucks that frequent this route have no issue with impatiently passing more cautious drivers. I got behind one of the trucks and vowed to stay behind it no matter what. The cloud mist was so thick that I could barely see his tail lights. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally descended enough to emerge from the cloud. As we entered the exit road to take us into Orizaba, the view took our breath away. We were in a lush valley surrounded by green mountains. Entering the town (city) we were not overly impressed, but it was late afternoon and traveling after dark on these roads was out of the question. We kept driving deeper into the city and were pleasantly surprised to see a lovely historical center. We spied yet another brand new Holiday Inn Express (seems as though they are popping up all over Mexico) and pulled into the small and narrow parking area. The young desk clerk, Enrique, was friendly and helpful and he spoke perfect English. It appears that this hotel chain is making sure that at least one employee speaks English, which is most helpful for those of us still learning Spanish.
After helping us park the monstrosity of a van, Enrique recommended the hotel dining room for dinner. The meal was mediocre but the room was nice, with modern decor and wood floors. I awoke before daylight and went out to the van to walk the dogs. When I brought them back to the van I heard a cat meowing. It came from outside the van and I knew that Mr. Jules had escaped once again. The parking attendant also heard him and was trying to coax him out from under a truck. I sat on the curb and waited, and after half an hour he cautiously walked over to me and I grabbed the little devil. His nine lives are still intact. My one - a little shaky...
Orizaba, Veracruz is a place to visit a second time.