Friday, May 20, 2016

Topes – the speed bumps of life in paradise

Traffic police and raised tope on Rueda Medina in centro
Topes, the ever-present driving hazards in Mexico, are actually speedbumps designed to modify the Formula-1 habits of local drivers.  Topes come in many shapes and sizes, and in our opinion they are all annoying.  Necessary but annoying.
There are the raised yellow-and-white striped crosswalks, one of the few places in Mexico where the pedestrians have the right-of-way.  These are usually near schools, or busy areas such as the original exit from the passenger ferry terminal on Isla Mujeres.  Usually these topes are controlled by traffic police using hand gestures and several sharp notes of a whistle to snag the attention of drivers distracted by Smartphones, selfie-sticks, or bikini-clad tourists.  Afternoons on Rueda Medina can be bedlam with visitors disgorging from tour boats and passenger ferries.  The combination of well-marked crosswalks and traffic police reduce the number of close encounters of the painful kind, between people and vehicles.

Topes slow down the speeders - a little
Then there are the normal topes, the narrow, recycled-rubber contraptions that are bolted to the pavement.  These hard bits of latex can give drivers a nice back-shaking jolt when crossing.  The good thing about this style of tope is they are visible even on rainy nights as their distinctive yellow and black stripes are part of the rubber compound, not just painted on the surface. 

Hand-made tope sign on right
A nasty unpainted bump is located on the south-western side of the island, near the horse coral, and across the street from the construction site for a new house.  Rubber-necking the progress of the new-build is guaranteed to give you a sharp thump of surprise when driving on this stretch of road.  I’ve done it so many times the construction crew cheers when I actually remember to slow down and traverse the tope at a crawl.  Driving past the crew this morning they pointed at a recently installed hand-made tope warning sign.  That was good for a chuckle, and a photo.

Moto pathway through tope
In that same stretch of road near the never-completed Unik Hotel (Unique) is a series of half-sphere metal bumps.  There is no easy way to cross these teeth-rattling orbs, unless you happen to be riding a moto.  Someone has thoughtfully removed a bump, one each side of the road, creating a pathway for a narrow wheel.  Experienced moto-drivers give a little hip waggle, dodging to the right and then left, whizzing away.

Doesn't look that bad - but our Mini scrapes on this one
There are two extra high topes on the island that cause our low-slung Mini Cooper a bit of navigational difficulty.  One is the muffler-scraping lump in centro on Matamores just west of Olivia’s Restaurante.  With two people and one small dog in the car it’s a slow crawl for us, taken at a forty-five degree angle to get over the steep-sided speedbump.  When we have friends with us in the car we don’t drive on that block of Matamores.   The other problem tope for our car is near the bakery in the Salinas Grande neighbourhood.  It’s a slow, and noisy scrap over that one as well.

Moto slowing for unmarked and unpainted tope
But our absolute least favourite type of tope is the raised bump in the pavement: black and invisible.  The sharp bump will rattle your back teeth if you don’t have all the topes mapped out in your head.  These are the sneaky gotchas, where the original yellow cautionary paint has been worn away by vehicle tires and rainstorms.  The once visible metal warning signs are typically a victim of rust and corrosion, either laying on the ground or missing entirely.  The southbound lane of the double-wide Passeo de Aves, near the YZA Farmica has one of these invisible lumps.  No sign.  No paint.  You have to rely on your memory: or not!
Snoozing in paradise
And finally, there are the warm and fuzzy topes: sleeping dogs.  Snoozing on a warm street is a favourite pastime for local pooches.  
Keep your eyes peeled for these guys.  They are just enjoying a nap on their little piece of island paradise. 
Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

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