Grackles sing with absolute dedication. If animals could boast, I would not be surprised to learn that they are proud of their voices to a fault, as their entire bodies sing with a single note and they do so when no other bird is around to hear. Sometimes I think they sing simply because they can, and for that I adore them. Woken by the serenade, all I could hear was his gracious voice beckoning from the top of a tree across the highway. The grackle’s voice bested even the sound of the cars that passed… he had lungs! And I blinked stupidly, blissfully sedated by the warmth of the sun.
A lazy stretch woke us fully to continue driving, and we merged with traffic in a flash. Ahead, a field’s irrigation sprayed onto the road, soaking both lanes. Even though Jason’s back faced me, I could still feel his smirk as he drove directly for the sprinkler. I howled as the water hit us with much greater force than expected: thank goodness for waterproof clothes. I guess it was time to wake up my gills anyways: the river town of Jalco was less then 100 miles away.
A few more wrong turns, one last moderate city by the name of Xalapa, and eventually we found ourselves on a quiet country road. Posters emerged, begging rescue of the river for the future and promoting local rafting businesses. Around that time, the inevitable excitement set in. It was a goal of mine to kayak in Veracruz, and I was on the verge of achieving it.
Sugar cane fields filled spaces where wild mango and banana groves once grew, engulfing either side of the road at times with their lofty, reaching stalks. We dodged potholes deep enough to cause disaster if hit on the bike, and within time, an archway welcomed us to Jalcomulco, Veracruz. Out of nowhere, a tiny village popped out of the hills and people wandered the streets in happy simplicity, passing gazes at the gringos coming to town. My eyes could pinpoint brightly colored Dagger Nomads and ancient WaveSports beside the equally flamboyant walls of cement housing, and I beat Jason’s arm out of pure, unbridled giddiness. I glanced back at the cardboard sign we had tied to the back of the bike: “will kayak for food” was still proudly displayed.
Fernando had hooked us up with a friend of his, granting us access to the glorious minds of local guides and a place to stay. Lacking an ability to steadily communicate without a Mexican phone, we hadn’t confirmed details with Raul, owner of the rafting company, Viajes de Aventura Expediciones, where we would be staying, so we entered the town without any guarantees and waited on the hopes of what little communication we had had before. We spent the day on the street, patiently waiting, until the sun set and we were forced to figure out a backup plan, at least for the night, before the biting midges devoured us alive.
I recalled a sign for a hotel when we entered the town, and Jason and I wandered through the center street and followed the arrows to the small, locally owned hotel and restaurant near the church (something-ita II). An older gentleman greeted us, and after awkward attempts at communication (I fully doubted my ability to speak Spanish at this point), we gratefully handed him 250 pesos and he gave us a key. He asked about Jason’s bike, opened the double front doors, and gestured that we park it in his kitchen next to the Christmas tree: it was impossible not the love this older man’s heart and smile, and if the rest of the town was anything like him, we had found heaven (spoiler: it was).