Just when we thought we were out… Fresh rains, fresh mud, fresh surge brought fresh hell to the town of San Pancho today. Just over two weeks ago, our vehicle bridge — the only way in and out of town — was carried away on the river, swollen by non-stop downpours. Almost immediately, the townsfolk got to work on a footbridge. Overnight, that followed our vehicle bridge down the river. Not to be deterred, the locals put up yet another footbridge. That held. Supplies were carried across on strong backs.
Meanwhile, some farmer up the road was capitalizing on the disaster by bilking people with 4×4’s out of 200 pesos for the privilege of using his land to cross at a low point in the river. Turns out it wasn’t even his land. But it was his road that gave access, so when officials ordered a cease and desist on the shake-downs, he simply closed his gates. Talk about a low point.
Fortunately, a few days without rain lowered the river to a level where supply trucks could navigate across just below the former bridge. Shortly after that, pick-ups and SUVs were fording the river. We began to hope. And plan. We would wait two more days and take the chance ourselves (we have all-wheel drive, but low clearance). And then it rained. And rained. Close to four inches overnight. The river rose up, the access road went down. Pick-ups and SUVs are beached; supply trucks are idle. We are screwed.
We need to be on the other side of that river, with our car, in exactly 10 days if we’re going to make it to our next house-sit around Lake Patzcuaro. General consensus is that any kind of vehicle bridge will not be erected within that time. Rumors are flying that a hundred thousand pesos is needed to begin construction on a temporary crossing, and the municipal government isn’t particularly interested in bucking up. They will reportedly pay for the permanent bridge (a timeline that has gone from six weeks to three months to four months to, now, six months — potentially devastating a much-needed tourist season), but cost of a temporary structure will fall to the locals. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about. Now word on the street is that the street is out. Hwy 200 was once again briefly closed due to mud slides. And the long-range forecast calls for rain.
As we consider our options (the bus is the most likely), the blame game has started. Some people are pointing fingers at indiscriminate developers who, during excavation, diverted a part of the riverbed and essentially clear-cut a large area of land. When the rains came, the ensuing floods took a new direction, overflowed and carried enormous amounts of debris downstream, which helped to take out our bridge.
And it gets worse. There are reports that at least two vehicles on the other side of the bridge were stolen, and many others vandalized. These are vehicles of people who took a chance and crossed the river out of necessity, vehicles of people returning home, vehicles of tourists, vehicles of workers and volunteers.
That kind of hell, unfortunately, is not so fresh. Just didn’t think I’d see it here, and now.