2009-09-20 19 -98
- Casas GEO, a secured district in the north of Tecámac, Mexico.
Well, you know how plans are.. basically this was about my last chance to geohash in the Northern Americas for now, so I kind of had to try it. And since Mexico (the city) proved to be a lot safer than you'd think from reading the news, this village in the north seemed like a quite ideal destination. Just that I had managed to break my cellphone on day three of our travels, and wouldn't be able to use gps navigation to get there.
Plans: Hand-drawn maps, the information where to take which colectivo into which general direction, good suerte and good shoes.
The satellite pictures showed the spot to be on barren land, close to a residential district under construction.
I had asked the previous day, whether Tecámac was a safe place to go. I was assured that, yeah, our patron wouldn't know all of the place, but generally, yes, it wasn´t directly in the slums. (I had gathered that much from the satellite pictures, too) We just should be careful at the bus stations, and make sure that our colectivo wasn't going to be raided. (Well, I assumed all the Pirates did their raiding yesterday and would be quiet today)
We had breakfast and left the hostel at half past ten. Took the metro to Indios Verdes, the small bus hub in the north of the center of Mexico, D.F. (Look it up on the satellite view and you will understand that "small" refers rather to the size of the buses here than to their actual number) We managed not to buy any of the 300 newest releases on burned mp3 disks, origami folding instructions or dream interpretation handbooks (Everything for 10 pesos. Everything in Mexico is 10 pesos, actually)
At the station, we were greeted with a selection of fourteen bus platforms to choose from. A friendly policeman helped us with finding the right one for the buses to Tecámac. (It would be a trouble not to run into an idling policeman in this country. We were even frisked once on what we believed to be a remote beach in the Carribean by the night patrol) And without having to spend more than thirty seconds between the market stands selling everything (hearing aids? viagra for women? you name it. I have an idea what's the set of mind of these spammers by now) we had boarded a comfortable(!) bus in the direction of Tecámac.
As usual, the bus stops about everywhere where you want it to, so the best thing is to know where you are headed in advance. Failing that, I had a nice chat with the drivers assistant, showing him my hand drawn maps. He seemed to understand, and I trusted him to wave me out when we were close. The only thing I knew was that the hash would have to be north of some railroad tracks, and that I should watch out for those.
We passed Tecámac center, then the bus stopped at a cutout in the middle of nowhere and the assistant waved us out. I hadn't seen railroads anywhere, but we put our good faith in the man and left the bus.
We were at the entrance of what looked like a holiday park, a fair or a mall. A bystander confirmed that we would be north of the rails, and so I assumed this would be our district. We quickly realized that it would be a fenced and patrolled district. Bad luck?
Well, we put on our friendliest touristy smile, and walked up to the gates. There were cars passing all the time, and a smaller gate for pedestrians. The friendly security lady at the gate asked if we were visiting anyone inside and whether we could give her an address or call them. The maps didn't even have street names, so I was a bit of a loss there. I asked if we could just visit the place for, like, tourism.
She grew a bit cautious, and did not let us pass. But since it was obvious that we were foreigners and maybe just not explaining well, she directed us to the manager of the place who spoke English. He appeared to be real friendly, introducing himself as José, and seemed amused at the idea of tourists visiting the place. To him, I explained the game in rough and that we would really be very careful not to cause any trouble. He told us that we were good to go, and that we should just leave an ID at the entrance - and to the former lady something along these lines. Yay! Access granted!
The lady registered our ID and signature, and called for assistance using her walkie-talkie: "Falcon, please come in. Falcon. Falcon, can you hear me". We stood in the shadows, musing at what that could mean.
About ten minutes later, Falcon came riding on a bike, introduced himself as Juan-Carlos, and was assigned to accompany us on the territory. Woo, a guided geohash! While we started walking, I explained to him the idea of the game, and showed the maps I had drawn of the agglomeration. He seemed to understand, and we walked in the general direction, chatting about the place, Germany and Mexico in general.
In retrospect, I am not sure if the people were just very relaxed (they definitely were!), or if it helped that we had followed the chain of command, and the general communication failures along these lines. I had the impression that Juan did like the idea, but also that he was basically told to accompany us and help us with whatever we were about to do. We would soon realize that this helped a lot.
He explained that the village had about 2000-3000 residents, and was called (lo and behold!) Casas GEO. They were built and maintained by the same company, and sold to people looking for a secure place in the suburbs. The place included shops, a school, a "kinder" and a library. He also showed us the playgrounds, the water supply .. and then we were about close to the hash.
I had identified from the aerial view the roundabouts (glorietas), and that we would have to follow the road right after the last roundabout. From there on, we had to go by lines of sight from the edge of the houses that, on the aerials, were still under construction, and as we would see here, had been finished in the meantime.
That, however meant that the access from the roadside was closed. Also, entering another smaller street between the houses, we could see that there had been a wall erected on their rear. With the help of Juan-Carlos, we concluded that the hash would lie behind the wall, in what he called "obra negra". (I was a bit puzzled, because we use the same term black work in German for illicit employment.. turns out that black, gray and white refer to the stages of construction here.) But basically, that meant the hash was inside the construction area, behind a large construction fence. D'oh.
Testing our luck, I aked if it was possible to access the area. The answer: "Of course. There's a gate a little further up". Here's where our authorized guide came in handy... even if they had let us pass unhindered into the village, we would never have dared to enter the construction site. (Then again, it is Sunday today, and there were no works going on, black or otherwise)
We walked across the site, and soon identified the other side of the wall we had seen earlier. Now, it got a bit tricky to identify the hash itself, as I had expected barren land, and used the lines of sight from the edges of nearby houses as reference. Now we had a wall in between us and the latter.
Juan-Carlos suggested that we climb up to the railway lines so that we have a better view on the place. He led us to the tracks, and explained how they were used for goods travelling to Veracruz. He also showed us a local tree growing nearby, which had an interesting smell. So yeah, there we were, on the railroad tracks of a cargo train line, with a private security officer helping us to identify a random spot on a secured construction site. This is Mexico! :D
We were indeed able to identify the right houses from their shape and position, and scrambled back down to take a stupid grin picture at the very location. What happened to set us off track in the first place was that the wall was constructed diagonally across the place, not in parallel to the houses or streets.
After this, we basically headed back, collected my ID at the gates and thanked José and Juan-Carlos for their help, and the nice tour of the village.
|knispel and relet earned the Virgin Graticule Achievement|
| knispel and relet earned the Police Geohash Achievement
| relet earned the Ambassador achievement
- Heck, we got a d***ing guided tour from the local security!
| relet earned the Globetrotter achievement