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Across Americas - Discovering the New World on a motorcycle
Hi, we are Alex and Andreea and we are traveling to Argentina on our motorcycle Gunnar, a Suzuki DL650.
Our trip started 2 months ago in Montreal and we've been to Alaska and now are heading South.
For some reason we did not start a Ride Tale here (figuring that there are many others which are more interesting than ours). But we thought that at least we should dare post some pictures from the H.U. meeting in British Columbia.
So here it goes, as written on our blog:
For around 4 days, we wouldn’t move our motorcycle much from it’s parking lot but still we would get to reach far away places by following the stories of others.
We are not the only ones planning not to move the motorcycle for a while
Right, I will start by confessing something that probably will turn away the male have of our audience (after the female have of the audience probably fled already after reading that this post will be about a motorcyclists meeting). OK so this motorcyclists meeting didn’t had “interesting” ingredients as “almost-naked-female-passengers” or wet T-shirts contest or rock concerts with lots of booze.
So hopping that not everybody is gone, I should continue saying that Horizons Unlimited Meeting is basically a pretext for long traveling motorcyclists and other overlanders to meet and exchange ideas, stories and pictures. Hmmm still it was my first motorcycle meeting so I was quite curious how it will go…
During the day there are presentations about the journeys, places and people meet on the way.
Also there are sessions with useful information organized for the newbes (like me). For example how to change your tire. Or how to fix a flat.
One session that I was really looking for: how to pack light. Life in 12 kilos… yeah right… we are so far away from that. yet…
And beyond all the presentations the most useful part for me was that I got the chance to meet all these people who were like-minded. I could tell the guy next to me that I am planning to go to Argentina and he wouldn’t think I am crazy. If anything, probably he would even give me some advice as he was already on a similar trip. That is just awesome.
In the “parking lot’ there were all kinds of contests happening. Like “slow riding”:
The atmosphere is relaxed and you basically could talk with anyone, exchanging ideas about bike modding, camping gear, what works what does not. And you had the chance to take a lot of pictures. Which I did.
There is a monster lurking :
Past and present:
A young German and a delicate Italian lady are sharing the same camping spot.
Thanks Susan and Grant for organizing the event. Glad that we volunteered to help!
That’s it for now. From next time we will be on the road again, heading for Vancouver.
We will discover how the information from the training “Fix that flat” would come into play sooner than we expected. We will meet great friends in Vancouver area and we’ll find out if Gunnar is ready for the trip South. Stay tuned!
Written from a restaurant and functioning on coffee.
Hope you enjoyed it!
Great to hear you enjoyed it! You two were a HUGE help, very much appreciated!
Looking froward to hearing more about your travels, stay in touch, and keep posting,
all the best, Grant
The New World III.1 – Bienvenidos a México!
For some time now, our journey took us in Mexico and so the third part of our trip started. I am thinking to start posting here with regularity the episodes from now on in the hope that the words, or at least the pictures would provide some "let's go" inspiration to others as well
For those that would like to read also the first parts of the story, I arranged the posts on our website:
Part I: Getting across Canada and exploring Alaska
Part II: Going South through Canada and the United States. The above episode from H.U. Meeting in Nakusp is also from this part
For the more "online socializing inclined" of us, we can connect, like and comment on Facebook as well.
See you soon with the first posts from Mexico
Bienvenidos a México!: 1-3 Octomber
The morning cool air is hiting my face but I am not closing my visor. We are heading for Douglas and I feel like before a big exam. You learned and you feel prepared to pass the exam. But still, the teacher is quite crazy so you never know. Well, we have all the documents we should be OK and pass. But still… “the teacher”…
Douglas, the last U.S. town in our journey. We stop to fill up with gas (bad idea since “on the other side” the gas is cheaper), we buy water, some stuff to eat… hehe, as if we were getting ready to go in the desert. OK, we are ready, where do we go?
For Mexico, make a right turn. Really, that simple? We say good bye to the United States. And say “Hello Mexico!”
We stop at the first customs checkpoint, where a young lady, in a too tight uniform (by my humble opinion) is asking us something in a very crisp but rushed Spanish. Ohhh I guess it is time to see if all those hours of Spanish audio books on Alaska Highway will pay of. “Perdon seniora, no entiendo Espaniol muy bien, puede repetir?”
OK, that’s better. You want to know if we have visas. Oh yeah we have them, from Naco. And why are we here then? Well because they told us that you might help us with a motorcycle permit. OK, I park the bike in the back parking lot, leave Andreea to guard the bike and go inside while praying that when I’ll be back I would still find both the bike and wife. Inside I find 3 offices. At the first one a customs officer is working. The other two are unattended as the two ladies assigned to them are busy watching a movie on a TV. I get in line at the only desk where somebody was doing something and smile. Great, already feels much more like home.
When my turn comes, I am out of luck again. The VIN number is not recognized here neither. “Problem!” Cual problem, no problem por favor! The guy is willing to help but doesn’t know what to do. So he goes for the jefe! The boss comes, has a look over the papers and says “fill up the VIN by hand and let them go”. Once we have the green light from the jefe, it is all downhill. I am out in no time with the permit and free to roam in Mexico!
Immediately we feel that the World has changed all around us. Houses lively colored but build in a certain disorder, as the architect intended to match the chaos on the streets.
Anything with a motor here is put to good use, no mater how old. And everything with a motor can carry people. No matter the safety measures.
The streets belong to everyone
From the septic Canada and United States, where everything has a place and and order, we are thrown in this big pot of passionate but dangerous living. Parts of this new movie we are in seem familiar from back home, but still, everything seems so new.
Adam told us that the road signs in Latin America are more or less for decorative purposes. Still, newbes as we are, we try to follow the speed limitation signs. Bad idea. Even dangerous idea as some trucks pass us in a swift and crazy manner. Imagine driving with 25 miles/h in a 25 miles/h zone and big trucks passing inches of you with 55 miles/h. We quickly adapt and follow the rule (and the speed) of the traffic.
Everything is different. After a long time, we travel with all our senses alert! The times when my passenger was sleeping in the back are long gone. Now, everybody with eyes on the road!
We take a short break for hydration and we notice the huge crickets that are all over the road. Oh, so these were the “things” that kept hitting us while moving.
God knows why they prefer the asphalt but the were everywhere.
And a lot of them where dying due to the traffic.
And where are dead things there are also vultures…
And these birds are very little respect or fear for humans and for cars. They take of at the very last moment and if one is not careful it might run into them.
We continue through mountain small villages. Before entering Mexico, a lot of people warned us about the potential dangers of some places especially near the borders.
We are positive thinking and optimist people. But we do not want to be foolish people so we decided to heed the warnings and stop as little as possible in the border areas. We do however observe very interesting details from the places we pass through.
Come lunch time and we turn out to be much as the vultures. The hunger wins over the fear and we decide to stop in a small restaurant. A nice old man greats us. OK, seems fine. We are happy!
We find out pretty fast that our Spanish is not yet sophisticated enough to… order anything else than tacos. The guy tries to explain what he has and since we didn’t understand much he does an amazing thing. He takes us both in the kitchen, and shows what is in the pots on the burner. Ha! Imagine that happening in the U.S. !
We order some stuff by pointing to different pots and then, while waiting for the food, we figure to go out and take a bottle of water from the motorcycle. When we came, we were the only ones there and we parked just in front of the restaurant. When I went out now I had a shock seeing a big army truck parked just near Gunnar.
Suddenly all the stories with drugs, drug gangs and the fight against them becomes very fresh in our minds. After we finish eating we leave wishing good luck to the soldiers.
The drugs and the drug cartels who produce, transport and distribute their product are a very real thing for these parts of the world. But the majority of the Mexicans are honest, hard-working and full of life people, who are trying to go on with their lives, navigating through these battles and struggling to keep a sense of normality. We hope to meet only these guys.
On the side of the road we see also a lot of horses. And it seems that here their are still used as a viable means of transportation.
We salute the other riders, with big smiles!
Our goal for the day was the small village of Banamichi, Sonora, where Tom was waiting for us. Tom is an American in love with Mexico and he decided to move with his wife here, building a hotel in the mountains. It was hard work but the place looks amazing as you will see later on. Reaching Banamichi is quite easy and the roads are by no means “secondary”. Still, Tom told us that we might have “three or four wet crossings”. Hmm I wonder what those might be?
Well, why to go through all the trouble of building a bridge when you could just let the water cross over the road? Luckily the monsoon season was over so most of the crossings were dry. But not all of them…
So we get the “chance” to get our feet wet.
We reach “Los Arcos” as the evening sets in.
The stop at Tom’s was exactly what we needed after a very intense first day in Mexico. The place is a oasis of peace and quiet and we liked it so much that we decided to stay one more day.
I get a haircut, Andreea gets a massage which proves to be a very professional one. She deserves it after 3 months on the motorcycle. We relax in the purest Latin meaning of the word.
Time goes by fast when you are not doing anything and soon we have to say good bye to Tom and Lynn.
Tom rides with us for a while to make sure that we are on the right path (in fact I think it was just a pretext to go out there and have some fun on the mountain roads, eh Tom?) Then we shake hands and we say good bye. See you somewhere, someday! Thanks for everything!
We had lots of conflicting thoughts before entering Mexico. Good friends, having the best of intentions and basing their worries on real facts, told us to think really well if we want to go there. And, especially once in Mexico, we totally understand the worries. The struggles between “good and evil” as well as between “evil and evil” are very real. In what measure they might affect a tourist visit and if it is worth the trip, this is to be decided by each and everyone who considers going.
We chose to dare and continue our journey. And we hope to stay safe and enjoy the wonderful things the Latin part of the New World has to offer.
Feliz viaje, dear traveler, where ever you might be!
Next time we are enjoying remote mountain roads but end up forced to stop unexpectedly. Stay tuned!
Roaming through Sierra Madre mountains: 4-6 September
As after 2 days spent at Tom’s hotel in Banamichi, we were feeling relaxed and somewho more accustomed with the idea that we are in Mexico now, it was time to press on and start exploring. The first major destination was Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) which, ironically, it is said to be bigger than the… “Grand Canyon”. But as that target was quite far away, we were planning to explore and enjoy the Northern part of Mexico in Sonora and Chiuhuahua.
Not to wide, not to much traveled by other cars and very winding, these rodes prove to be full of surprises. Of the first one we were warned by Tom. “be careful, the road has no bears”
Haha, no bears on the road. My my, but that is excellent. Of course, a joke made by a very persistent Mexican ( almost all the signs on route 20 were like this) based on the similarity between “SINUOSO” (winding) -> “SIN OSO” (without bear). Still, joking aside, the other part of the warning is very well founded: “extreme caution” was necessary as after almost every corner a new surprise was awaiting. Like turkey vultures flying out from the pavement in the very last minute.
Or the encounter with a veritable legend of our childhood: The Road Runner!
The real one might be small but he is as fast as the ones from the cartoons. Andreea just managed to take the above shot before he disappeared in the bushes. We smile in our helmets thinking that maybe we should also expect to see The Coyote setting a trap near by. But we see no one. Literally, we found ourselves surrounded by green and blue and no trace of humans around.
Strange feeling. The only prove that other humans have been here is the patch of tarmac and it’s yellow lines. But even the road is not in the best of conditions. First we see more and more stones on the drivable area.
The tarmac seems to fade away, and the road turning into a two track.
And on the side of the road, we see the marks of time, passing over that which was once alive.
We stop further away, near a gorge, from where our eyes can roam far away.
Around us is complete silence. It is hot. The feeling that we are very alone in a desolated place settles in. We are in Mexico, we are on a remote place in the mountains and we have no idea where the road will take us and where the evening will find us. Strangely enough, these thoughts do not trouble us. Rather they just make us very aware and we realize that this journey is really happening. This day is real!
I turn the key and Gunnar’s engine starts to hum, it’s sound like a redemption. We leave that place, leaving our thoughts behind. I feel Andreea in the back and I am glad that I’m not doing this trip alone. Sharing this with someone is so much better. The curves come one after the other and soon enough, we find the first sign of “civilization” afte a long time. And what a “sign”, a big semi-truck. On this road!!
I had no idea what was the driving doing with that big thing on such a bad and remote road. But sure enough it was quite hard to pass him. We manage with some help from the truck’s driver and we are “free” again.
And speaking of help, while back in the U.S. Adam told me that most of the mexican truck drivers are nice enough to let you know when you can pass them. “Oh they do the same in Romania” I tell Adam. “Really, in Romania the drivers signal left when you can pass them?” hmmm that doesn’t sound right. “No, they signal RIGHT when it is safe to pass”. Turn out, that the “system” in Mexico is totally inverted from the one in Europe.
Sure, one might wonder, how could you distinguish a left signal meaning “you can pass me” from a left signal meaning “I will pass something”. Well, you are right, it is not easy and it is confusing. But fear not, the Mexicans have came up with an efficient solution: most of the times, they do not signal when they want to pass. In this way you avoid the above confusion. Hmmm…
We leave behind the truck but we go in some traffic. A traffic of a different kind than the one from big city.
A sight very similar to what we were used to find on Romanian roads. So we are not very surprised. But on the other hand, we were not at all used to this:
In the small mountain village there were some games going on and horse racing. So everybody was coming out with what he had best in the… uhmm stables.
And the ones who were not racing were out for a relaxing ride with their girls.
We don’t stay too long in that place as we thought to cover some more ground. So, onwards on National Route 16 which connects Hermasillo to Chihuahua, we meet the real Mexican traffic. Lots of trucks crawling with 5 miles per hour uphill. And then… probably trying to recuperate downhill as they were speeding way too much and taking corners using both lanes of the road. That must bee the reason for this kind of signs:
For your security keep the right of the road. Yeah cool, I am trying to do that but it would be nice if the trucks would do the same. Otherwise, a pity as the roud would be such a nice ride. Way better scenery and curves than ruta 20 from earlier, and better pavement that allows some speed. But the incoming traffic does not allow much fun and demands great care. Just in a few days we had the opportunity to find out that what was happening on Ruta 16 was just “kid’s play”. Bat that is for another story. For now we make progress as god as possible.
And we are happy when we turn right out of Ruta 16 and take another mountain road that would get us to San Juanito and then Creel. This one is in very good condition, paved, no rocks and even better, no traffic. So we start to have fun. And then everything changes. I feel that something is wrong in the back so we stop only to discover a flat tire. Hmmm, and this time is in the middle of nowhere. I would better be able to fix this. I drive a little more trying to find at least a resemblance of flat and straight road so I will not be a hazard for the traffic. Take out the flat repair kit and… what I find in the wheel is not too positive news.
Ohooo that doesn’t look good. I was “hopping” for a nail but instead… a quite big piece of metal from some sort of gear was stuck in our tire. And the hole left behind is more like a knife cut. One patch string is not covering it. I am trying with two of them.
Patching as good as I can, starting the compressor and watching as the pressure needle is slowly moving to the 20 PSI area. I stop the air compressor and a dreaded “sssshhhh” sounds feels the space. The air is escaping from the tire. This is not good… In the mean time we stop a passing car and we ask the mexican where would be the nearest tire repair shop. Well San Juanito is the closest and it is some 30 miles away. He was just going up the mountain to take a phone call (there is no cell reception where we are) and offers to take Andreea with him, to make some calls and maybe find something. We agree to that and as was trying to repair the tire again, a troubling thought comes to mind: I just let Andreea leave with a mexican stranger, in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t even remembered the car’s license plate. Arghhh one problem is more than enough, I do not need other dark thoughts. I am sure the guy is OK and nothing else bad will happen. And indeed they return and the guy proves to be very nice and helpful. They couldn’t reach anybody in San Juanito, but he offers to put the bike in his truck and drive us to the town. Unfortunately this is not possible as the truck is too small (ah where are the huge American trucks when you need one? ) and also we couldn’t possible lift the bike in just 3 people.
So we say thank you to our nice Mexican friend and let him go take his phone calls. I just finished trying a new patch and this times there is no “sssssshhhh” sound. We quickly gather all our things and head for the town. We soon pass our Mexican friend who was on the phone and he waves us for good luck.
The miles are passing by so slowly and soon, much too soon, I feel again the back is smooshy. The tire is not holding air. We stop again and assess our situation. If I would not be able to fix the tire we will need a car to take us to the next town. We are prepared to stop the very next car that will pass by (as they are not so many anyway) and ask them to take Andreea to go in San Juanito. There she would try to find a ride for the bike and also, stay at a motel over night (as it was getting late) while I will stay with the bike and if no help would come in good time, I would camp on the side of the road. Not a very pleasant thought. In the mean time I have nothing else to do than try again to repair the tire.
A new try. With lots of hopes and prays we turn on the air compressor and again the needle is slowly crawling to 34 PSI. I stop the compressor and this time there is no “ssssshhhh”. The tire seems to hold. I doulbe check with whatter and there are no bubbles. Full of hopes we start our ride again. One eye on the road and one eye on the odometer which was much too slowly turning mile after mile. 20 miles left, 15 miles left. I stop to check the pressure and it reads 37 PSI. That means there is too little air in the tire to begin with (but I already knew that) but it also means that we are not dropping air. This is good. We continue and finally we reach San Juanito just as the last sun light was fading away for the day. It is too late to find a repair shop now. We just look for a motel with secure parking and internet to settle in before the night comes.
We write an update on advrider and there as well, a lot of friends come with very good advice, list of tire shops in Chihuahua and encouragements. We feel better as we don’t feel alone. Also I talk with some Mexicans who were staying at the same hotel and ask them about good Desponchadas that I could go to in the morning and they are so helpful as well. One of them takes me in his car and drives to the nearest one just to show me the way.
In the morning we split up. I am going to the tire repair shop trying to have a more permanent fix to the hole in the tire. And Andreea stays at the model and tries to find a suitable replacement tire in Chihuahua. And she is in for another excellent experience as when the owner of the model finds out about the problem not only he lets her use the phone with no charge, but he and his sun take turns making the calls themselves speaking in Spanish, helping Andreea communicating with the motorcycle shops.
In the mean time Cesar, an advrider from Chihuahua is doing the same from his home and also sends us a message that we could stay at him if we come to Chihuahua. Unfortunately it seems there is not even one single tire in our dimensions in Chihuahua. We would have to go there and wait for one to come.
In the mean time I manage to have a guy applying a patch from the interior of the tire. And he said to me that I could go on riding like this. Nevertheless, I feel a little bit uneasy as we do have a lot of weight on the bike.
I return at the model and talk with Andreea about what we should do next. Despite all the troubles in the last 24 hours we had in fact every reason to be optimistic and grateful. Yes we were stranded on some remote road in the mountains but then… the Mexican driver who stopped and tried to help, being able to reach San Juanito, all the friends who responded online, Cesar from Chihuahua who was so nice to offer his home to us, the Mexican workers who took me with their car and showed me where the tire repair shop was, the motel owners helping Andreea with the phone calls, all of these were such clear examples of human goodness, and these is the feeling that we want and we chose to take away from this experience. Mexico proved to be harder then expected in our first days here. But we like it and we hope to be able to go on.
Next time we find out how the story of the flat tire will end and we meet a crazy guy in a crazy place. Stay tuned!
The map of the route covered by this story:
80 kilometers. That’s all we had to go to get to Creel the day before when we had the flat tire. We managed to ride with my patch work for 50 km to San Juanito. Now that the tire was patched “professionally” on the inside we were at the crossroads and didn’t know which way to go from here. 1. We go 200 km NE to Chihuahua where we called but couldn’t manage to get the tire we need. 2. We continue our planned route with the patched tire and reach Durango at one point, also a big city, 500 km South from here.
We choose the second option. If the patch would last 200 km, it would last also 500 and going South we had more chances to find a new tire. And this way we get also to see Barranca del Cobre. We look once more at the sky and the clouds. The snickers were quietly watching us. We did the right thing.
So we leave San Juanito and…. 30 kilometres later we are in Creel.
Creel is a “Pueblo Magico” which means that it has been selected by the Mexican government to promote traditional values and tourism.
There are a lot of Indians in the village.
And the stores are ready to offer their customers the latest in fashion.
But as you get away from the 2 or 3 “main” streets you find the other side of the place: dust, trash and people who love to party…. no matter where.
There is a mix of old and new, of Mexicans and Indians, of “almost clean” and “not so clean”, narrow streets, shops with everything you can think of, everything is colored.
We are looking for a place to stay, trying to find our way through all this. But first we find a…. Canadian named Blake. He is on his way to Argentina also. Also by motorcycle, a Kawasaki KLR650. And he just got to Creel and was looking for a place to stay. We join forces to find the cheapest place. Blake is negotiating with the owner of a “villa” trying to find a safe place for our motorcycles. We want to congratulate him for his Spanish when he confesses he was born in Guatemala and Spanish is his main language. That explains it!
We park our bikes under some arches and we go together to explore the village.
We see the statue of Christ up on a hill, silently watching over the community and decide to get closer.
We are looking at Him in complete silence. A year ago all this wasn’t even a thought. Now we are here watching the white clouds waltzing their way. I sometimes think that it’s a wonder that we are here. I wonder what will be next?
Blake turns his gaze towards the village.
This guy likes to climb. He did it before on really tall structures. He is a very nice guy and we get along well. We decide to go see the canyon together tomorrow. The short ride without luggage to the park’s entrance is most enjoyable. Blake is also having fun.
We get to the entrance and we are surprised to see that there is no one there, no other tourists, just us. A small pay booth and a guard giving us the entrance ticket that is around 2 dollars. It’s ironic but we think it’s a lot. It’s not fair to think this way, we remembered how much was the entrance at the Grand Canyon.
As compared to US where the attraction points are well highlighted here there are very few signs. And the map is only drawn on a wall. That’s all.
As we were enjoying the views we passed by the road that was supposed to take us to the view point. We turn around and we are amazed. The Grand Canyon is… small!
Grand Canyon might be more imposing because it’s red and there is no vegetation. But standing on the rim of the Copper Canyon…. everything else seems insignificant.
Probably in US there would have been many fences preventing you to get on the cliff. Here it was just a sign…..
You pass at your own risk and there is nobody stopping you.
There is even a cable cart taking you to an edge of the canyon. Blake’s Spanish proves helpful again as he negotiates a free ride with the owner of the cable cart.
We can see the houses of Tarahumara Indians hanging from the cliffs. se vad casele indienilur tarahumara, agatate de stanci.
We get on the edge and admire the views. Some army guys are enjoying the views also. We realized that we got used to seeing army men in different places in Mexico. They went with the same cable cart as we did but I didn’t even noticed them.
We are somehow in the heart of the canyon surrounded by steep edges.
An Indian young woman sells hand made baskets in a “corner”.
I ask permission to take a photo and surprisingly she agrees.
This picture demonstrates that there are people meant to be in certain places. Or places meant for certain people.
We will find our place someday. Or the place will find us. Until then, the road is ours!
The route map for this post:
View Larger Map
Next time we venture in our first large city in Mexico. Then we ride to the ocean on a very dangerous road . Stay tuned!
Of people, cars and cities: 8-10 Octomber
We say “goodbye” to Blake after 2 days spent near Barranca del Cobre. He wanted to go to the bottom of the canyon and visit one of the Tarahumara Indian villages down there and we had to move on. The plan was to reach the ocean, the Pacific Ocean. But we were still in the mountains so we still had a ling way to go. So for now we are enjoying the mountain views on one of the routes recommended by Cesar.
The views remind us of Utah and Arizona. But things are different. People here don’t always go by car. Some of them are walking great distances.
And if they do use a car, they don’t really obey the maximum number of passengers allowed by design…
It’s nothing like Phoenix, for instance, where the special lane for cars with more than 2 passengers was almost empty while the other 3-4 lanes were jammed with cars having just a single person in them. To joke a little, Mexicans seem to be paying more attention to the environment as they try to use the cars to their full potential, and then some. The sad part is that they don’t do this out of environment responsibility but for necessity. If they could, they would all have a car of their own. We all would.
We notice that people here are proud. Proud to be Chihuahuans. And, talking about “media”, we’ve seen many hand-painted advertisements here on different walls (instead of huge printed posters). We would see them painting later on.
But what would be life with just work and no fun? Let’s not forget to relax. Mexicans know how to party. Road signs showing the directions for certain destinations may not be that present where you would need them but we found a sign for “fiesta”. Should we take a left?
Eh… the day is still young, it is not even noon and we only know how to party at night. So we don’t take a left, we continue our ride.
And we get another surprise. A very old memory seem to come all the way back from the Romanian Communist era…
This is a very old type of Renault and it was the “grandfather” of a car produced in Romania before the 1990s, “Dacia 1310″. Back then it was one of the only 3 types of cars you could have in the country. But they slow but sturdy cars. And this one, which is running after more than 20 years of life demonstrates this in fullness. We wave and I am sure the driver doesn’t know why. But he waves back. People are friendly here.
Talking about cars, things are strange here. For instance you see a Renault Clio Symbol. You could swear it’s the car you know from back home but when you look closer you notice it’s not a Clio but a Platina, not a Renault but Nissan. You see an Opel Vectra and it’s actually a Chevrolet. We even saw Dacia Logan but was under Renault logo here. It all makes sense though when you think of all the alliances in the automotive world.
Some things are still unchanged though. Jeep is still Jeep. Hmmm, but it looks a little bit… strange? What gets your attention in this picture?
We don’t judge the owner’s color preferences, of course. We stop for the day in a small town called Parral, once a mining town, now more of a touristic one. We find a cheap place to stay and go out for a walk.
There is a lot of people in the plazas and on the streets. Everyone is outside doing something…
… or getting ready for a “caliente” date…
And the milady arrives… riding!
We only stay one night in Parral and the next day we leave for Durango, capital city of the state of… hmm Durango. The road is atraight but doesn’t go below 1500 m.
We follow the gray tarmac through yellow flowers. Sometimes they are so tall that they become a yellow wall closer and closer to the road. Perfect stop place for drinking some water.
We can tell that Durango is a state capital. It’s hard to find a decent accommodation at decent price. Finally we manage to find something and quickly change and go for a walk in the central plaza. We find ourselves in the middle of a cultural festival. We don’t really know what’s happening but there is a stage, there is music and there are Mexican dances. Ole!
It doesn’t take long for us to get into the party spirit and try to learn some dancing steps. We first take pictures!
Everybody is having fun! And we are too!
The map of trip covered by this post:
View Larger Map
Next time we are riding on a crazy road and we are crossing a line. Stay tuned!
Crossing the line: October 11
I find a Suzuki moto shop the next day. Talk to the owner and manage to negotiate for the new tire for the old one and some extra money. We are now ready for some kilometers. From Durango we want to go to the ocean, at Mazatlan. There are not so many kilometers but we have to cross the mountains through a place called “Espinazo del diablo”. We were told it’s one of the most spectacular but also dangerous roads in the world. We start in the morning, prepared for a long day. Sun rise guiding our way on the curves.
We have breakfast in a small kitchen by the side of the road. I only wanted to warm up. Our limbs were kind of frozen.
The federal government is building a new road from Durango to Mazatlan, a payed shorter highway that will go straight through the mountains, with lots of bridges and tunnels. It is not ready yet. So far everyone has to use the old road although at times they go in parallel. The funny thing is that the new “highway” it’s only a two-lane road.
Instead of having one road with 4 lanes where you can easily pass the slower vehicles, you get 2 roads, a paid one, partially finished and a “libre” one where sometimes you get this:
It’s really really hard to pass other cars. And sometimes you can also have surprises, like trucks breaking down in the middle of the curve, uphill.
The road is spectacular. Hanging from the cliffs, going up to 2400 meters and the views are impressive.
But it’s also very dangerous. It happened not only once that I had to hit on the breaks hard to barely avoid the trucks that were entirely on our lane.
There is no picture that can express what we felt when we saw a few tones truck coming our way, in our lane, speeding and having nowhere to pull over on right side. I got used to hitting the breaks before every left curve, just in case, without seeing if there is something coming from behind the cliff but always expecting to see a truck. And if there was a truck , there was a good chance it wasn’t on his lane.
And so the ride was a constant fun. If there was no truck, there could still be animals. A cute veal for instance….
It probably felt threatened and trapped between the pavement and the cliff therefore decided in the last second to run on the other side of the road.
Therefore, low speed, eyes wide open and increased attention. And even so…. you can still get extra surprises. Parts of the road were under construction and traffic from both sides was using one lane. There were floggers directing the traffic. We got to one of those working areas and we weren’t stopped by any flagger. So we went on slowly.
As we advanced we saw cars coming from the other direction on the same lane, the only lane!! Obviously either us or them were supposed to be stopped by the flaggers but they somehow misscomunicate. In this kind of situation you follow the “big guy goes first” rule. So we had to pull over fast on the lane under construction and sit this one out.
You cannot get bored on this road. Yes, it’a a spectacular road but I wouldn’t do it again unless I really had to. Therefore we are very happy when we begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean. Once we are on the West side of the mountains the climate changes completely. We are in tropical climate for the first time.
Lush forests, big colored butterflies and…. damp. Very damp. We get wet instantly.
The side of the road is very interesting, we see all sort of flowers hanging from the trees. We hear crickets and birds from behind the green canopy.
We didn’t do our research before leaving for Mazatlan so we didn’t realize that we were to cross a very important line. We reached the tropics. Actually just one: Tropic of Cancer!
Right there, in the heart of the forest, by the small sign “Tropico de Cancer” I realized how far away from home we are. A thought that came out of nowhere. I’ve never been so far South before on Planet Earth. We stop. Romanian traditional costumes also reached the tropics.
I didn’t realize how much change a simple mountain crossing would bring. We don’t really care about traffic anymore, we are busy looking around and admiring. We follow a car that was carrying fruits (what else?) and here we are in Mazatlan.
We get lost in the city and end up in a plaza where people were staying in a huge line. We didn’t find out what it was for but my attemp to mengle with Gunnar between the 125 and 180 cc motorcycles failed completely.
We find a place to regroup under palm trees with cold lemonade. Only now we realize how tiring the road was. We left early in the morning, rode the crazy road with infamous name and now we couldn’t find enough energy to look for accommodation. I stall a little bit longer in the shadows.
We search for hotels on the internet but don’t find anything cheap. Mazatlan is a touristic place, where lots of Americans spend their vacation. That’s a good thing for the local businesses but not so good for two travellers coming a long way and going far away, looking for cheaper places to stay. I finally realize there is a solution. Mazatlan is a pretty large resort so there is a big change to find here one of the hotels from ICH or Hilton chain. If there is one, then it’s probably very expensive. But on the other hand I used to work for more than one year away from home. And back in the corporate days those hotels were my hone away from home. I still have some fidelity points left from that period. Yes, it’s been a long and complicated day, so let’s spoil ourselves. We find Crowne Plaza hotel. It’s not in the city but it’s right on the beach. Excellent! We reboot instantly thinking that we could soon be on the beach. We book a room using fidelity points and head there. Geting on the boulevard by the beach we end up in the middle of the party.
Many pick-ups, driving slowly with high volume speakers, balloons and people dancing and cheering. We don’t understand what they are celebrating and what is going on. But, does it matter? We join them, it’s fiesta time, let’s party!
We don’t usually drink Coca-Cola…. but we apreciate the… refreshing… presentation! Same thing with the TelCel truck!
Disclaimer: the pictures above are taken by the wife. I am completely innocent, paying attention to the… traffic only! Ahem…
We pass the party parade and reach our destination. This long day started at 1900 meters on a mountain plateau, continued up to 2400 meters, finding our way through insanely driven trucks, animals jumping in front of us, dust, construction works, then we changed the climate completely passing into the tropical zone and ended up on a beach by the Pacific Ocean. What a day!
Route map of this post:Harta traseului din aceast episod:
View Larger Map
Next time we are heading to Mexico City. This city’s population is bigger than the whole Romania. Stay tunned!
Hello Im kevin from montevideo uruguay me and my father we travelled all across southamerica many times also we have a workshop I if want to visit there is no problem also we are offering bike storage in uruguay customs give you one year to leave the bike anything contact at firstname.lastname@example.org ride safely
Hey kevin, thank you for posting! In fact we might go into Uruguay when we will go Norgh from Argentinga. So let's keep in touch, I will write you a PM once getting close the S.A.
Right now we are in Guatemala and managed to find some quite time and some stable internet for the next post. Hope you will enjoy it.
Mexico City and beyond: 12 – 17 of October
When you are traveling for such a long time with a limited budget, like we are, you come to appreciate the simple things: having clean sheets on the bed (oh… having a bed is also a good start), having hot(ish) water and so on. The hotel where we were staying for 2 nights, thanks to the fidelity points, was way above our basic needs, being probably a destination for more luxuriant vacations. For example it has a very nice jacuzzi, set up just in front of the window, with a nice view to the ocean. Being the travelers that we are… we put the thing to some good, albeit rather questionable, use…
I know, probably the designers of the place had in mind a rather more romantic use of the jacuzzi involving soft music, bubble bath and some sipped champagne while viewing the sunset. But hey, we had to adapt to a more stringent reality of acute lack of clean t-shirts…
After 2 days spent there, we felt it was time to move on. While most of the guys who are doing a similar trip with us chose to go by the coast from there on, we decided to go inland in order to avoid the Acapulco area and also because we had an invitation in Mexico City. So we turn towards Guadalajara and we see on the side of the road a lot of places where you could buy “camarones” (shrimp)
A little further away we also see how the camarones are being dried. Dumped from a big truck on a thin fabric, directly on the side of the road.
We are getting close to Guadalajara, a big city and that it shows. On the road panels we see the sign of “western capitalism” right up there, side by side with directions and distances to different cities.
We plan to go around the city (second largest in Mexico) and avoid the 5 o’clock trafic and find a place to sleep on the outskirts. Even since Canada we’ve been hearing from other travelers about these auto motels (or love motels) that exist South of the border where you can get a safe place for you and your motorcycle and a nice sleep. We happen to see one and decide to get in.
Everything looks clean and very… discrete. With difficulty we manage to find someone that works there and is able to tell us a price for a room. We are asked if we want a room with a jacuzzi. Aaa. no thank you, we just washed our t-shirts, we won’t be needing another jacuzzi any time soon.
We find out the price of a normal room and it seemed resonable. I almost decide to stop but I have the inspiration to ask another question “The price is for the hole night, right?”. The lady makes some big eyes and says “Oooo senior toda la noche? entonces el precio es el doble”. Yeah, that figures. It seems in these places the room prices are for only hours. Hmmm… I still can not figure why… a good healthy sleep should be at least 7 hours. Could these places be for something else… mmm
We move on as the “double” price was too high for us and we end up reaching Lake Chapala and find a nice small hotel where I park the bike, for the first time in this trip, in the hallway of the interior courtyard.
We go out for a walk and we find the lake promenade full of people, music and noise. Everybody is trying to sell something (or to buy something) and if not that then it singing and dancing time. It is a nice atmosphere and we realize is the start of the weekend and people are out having fun. Somehow we feel a little bit outside all this. For us it is not weekend. For us it was just another traveling day, with new places to discover, with surprises and with a desire to relax at the end of the day, in a quiet place. Are we getting old?
There are quite a lot of motorcycles in Mexico. A lot of them are of small size. 125, 150, 180 and maybe 250 and people that travel on them usually do not wear any protection gear. Or at the most a helmet. For them these motorcycles are just a transportation means. And if your family is of 3 or 4, and you need to go somewhere then well, you put everybody on the motorcycle and just go. That’s why we are a little surprised when we notice the next day a shiny new BMW GS1200 on the road. Oh, and there are (only) 2 people on it. And they wear full gear.
We find each other in traffic and start talking. Then decide if we stop on the side of the road and talk without riding in the same time. That is how we get to meet Uli, a German living in Mexico and Alejandra. They were out, testing their brand new GS1200. We are happy that we’ve met. We shake hands and exchange stories.Photo credit to Alejandra and Uli
We share email addresses and hope to stay in contact. Uli and Alejandra are great guys and they plan to go on a big trip as well, rather soon. We start our engines and ride together for a while. Thanks to them, we have an idea of how 2 Romanians traveling on a V-Strom in Mexico look like.Photo credit to Alejandra and Uli
Photo courtesy of Alejandra and Uli
This day is mixed. We have very nice meetings like the one with Uli and Alejandra and then we end up totally missing the historic center of Morelia (UNESCO heritage) and due to our hotel’s wrongfully advertised location, we have a nice view of town’s periphery
Little boxes, little boxes… A view that will repeat itself on a much grater scale in Mexico City where we are heading today. There Alex and Dagmar are expecting us. Luckily for us, they are not expecting us in the city but some 100 kilometers outside the metropolis, in a nice and natural spot. Then they guide us through the madness of the traffic.
I remember with nostalgia the lane splitting in California, with Doug in Monterey. At least there, there were some actual lanes that you could “split”. This is another level. Here there are no lanes and if they are, there are 3 in a space for 2. Everybody is driving following some rules that are not always the known ones and it is a madness for an outsider. Dagmar and Alex have lots of patience with us and thanks to them we manage to arrive safely and easily to their home.
Then we have 3 days of the bike, just relaxing and “being a tourist” in Mexico City, which is a great and diverse place to visit. We even take for the first time in our lives the bus tour as it was the cheapest way to move around the city. A great and complex puzzle, with modern and spacy buildings
but also small and cramped houses
We’ve seen elegant office guys (even tough some of them were talking on the phone sitting outside of windows…)
and also people dressed in (Aztec?) national costumes dancing in the plaza for money
We also get to visit our Embassy and have a meeting with the Romanian ambassador in Mexico. Turns out that there are around 400 Romanians living in Mexico – not such a great number. The meeting is quite informal and actually we get a lot of good advice from Ms. Ana Voicu. She wishes us best of luck for the remaining of our trip.
After that we end up at the German Embassy (no pictures from there ) where a friend of Dagmar’s and Alex helps us fix our photo camera. Hmm a Japanese camera, fixed with German tools, by 2 Romanians, in Mexico. Things cannot go wrong!
But soon enough it is time to leave and we say good bye to Alex and Dagmar who have been excellent hosts for us. We wish them all the best in their Mexican adventure.
A morning which seemed to be an easy get out of the city turns out into a veritable struggle with the streets and the traffic. We had very clear directions from Alex. We had a GPS with a functional map of the city. So navigating the maze should have been easy.
And yet we manage to miss the right exit and then everything turned into a funny story which included some quasi-legal maneuvers on the green areas…
… and culminated with a 2 hour detour on some parts of the town which are quite far (in space and looks) from the central parts of the city and which I don’t think are visited so often by tourists.
Well that is not so bad. We get to experience this part of life here as well. And we get to see some extreme ways of using your car. For example this guy probably tried to see if he can move the hole planet with his truck. And each time he was deciding to change lanes it was an adventure for everybody around him. The picture is correctly aligned vertically. And you can see that the left rear wheel is off the ground…
Finally we find the way to Oaxaca. But it is quite late and we have a lot of miles to go. So we only admire the Popocateptl vulcan from a distance. Maybe it was better this way as it seemed to be with a mood…
The open road is good for us. No more traffic and the mountains are here again.
Here get to be to be stopped by some gathering of people which were demonstrating for something (or against something) and were asking for something. And they were just sitting on the road, blocking it and stopping everyone. I have to admit that I was happy that we were not the only vehicle around as the feeling was not an easy one. Fortunately we are let to move one quite fast. They were very organized. At the command of one guy, half of the human blockade moved to the side, letting us go and then immediately moved back on the road, blocking the next car behind us.
We get to think a little bit of what just happened and how this would have been such a crazy thing for Europe. Everyone would have beenoutraged that they stopped the road traffic and probably would follow up with a Police call and some very harsh complaints. Here, it seemed a normal thing and nobody seemed to care much.
In Oaxaca, we start again the dance of finding a safe, cheap and clean accommodation (the 3 Morganas of accommodation) and then we go out in the historic center of the town ( also a UNESCO heritage)
Again we end up well, meaning we end up in the middle of a fiesta. Some sort of employees day as everybody had the day off, there was music, there were candies thrown at bystanders (much better than tomatoes, eh?) and everybody was singing and having a good time.
Seeing this, we take our national costumes as well and join the party on the streets.
We are stopped and a gentleman is offering some drinks. He drinks with us as well. There might have been some alcohol involved in the drinks found in the bamboo glasses but I guess we would never know. What it can be known for sure is that we had a great time with the people from Oaxaca!
The map for this post:
View Larger Map
Next time we are, literally, in the jungle. And we find out how much Andreea likes the monkeys. Stay tuned!
High in the mountains and back to the ocean: October 18
I know I promised you a story about jungle and monkeys but to get there we have to make another stop at the ocean. We leave Oaxaca dreaming about the beaches while others go to school dreaming about… vacation. School is almost ending here, soon the kids will be on…. summer vacation.
We crossed many military checkpoints since we travel in Mexico. Most of the time they didn’t stop us and once the soldiers were more curious about my motorcycle’s power than our documents or luggage. We see a military checkpoint and this time we can feel it that we are in an area with more foreigners. There is a sign explaining in English what these checkpoints are all about.
By the time we were admiring their concern for foreign travelers were are pulled over. And they find us a “parking” spot behind a truck that was carrying cows, also stopped for checkout.
Oh, what a scent! But we hope they let us go fast.I prepare the documents but the military guy ask me to get off the motorcycle ’cause it might take a while, they have to check our luggage. Great! I answer his quwstions patiently: where I am from, what I am doing here, what about the motorcycle. Keeping an eye on his colleague that started looking through our stuff. He opens the tank-bag, sidecases… Oh, please, don’t make me open these white bags also, it takes me forever to put them back on. The guy checks me out and eventually decides that I am not a drug dealer so he gives me back my documents and wishes us a “safe journey”. I get back on the saddle and (just in my mind) wish him good luck with checking the cows.
As we continue our route the road gets curvy, we got used to having to cross the mountains before reaching the ocean. This time there is not a lot of traffic. The road winds through green mountain tops from which you can see from time to time villages trying to hang on to the rocks.
Mexicans are Latin people. And Latinos have music passing through their veins. I don’t think there is a village without a band. And they learn this very young. We see kids coming back from school carrying different musical instruments. The future Mariachis.
And when there is a band, there is live music. The location is not that important as long as people are having fun. And passion!
We go higher and higher and life people have here seems very harsh.
It seems like nature is trying to make up for it by displaying luxuriant vegetation and great scenery. We share the ride with the white clouds. We stop for a while to contemplate the views.
As we get on the west side we can feel we are closer to ocean, we enter the tropical forest and thick clouds. We can barely see anything.
Through the heavy clouds we can spot unfamiliar trees and plants. Everything that’s more than a few meters away has an indefinite color, like in an old movie seen at neighborhood cinema teahter.
The only difference is that this is not a movie. It’s reality. And in real life you have to always watch the road.
We reach a village surrounded by clouds that looks like a ghost. But it’s real and so are the people living there.
Many of the places I’ve passed made me think of how grateful we should be for living the way we do and where we do. But this is another story… that maybe will be told once we finish our journey.
Now we have to think of less complicated things such as reaching Puerto Angel, our destination, before dark. Meanwhile we get out from the clouds and we are only surrounded by the forest and it’s fresh colors.
We get to the ocean and it’s hot and humid. We sweat instantly and don’t waste too much time looking for a hotel. We stop at the first “semi-hotel-b&b”. There is no secured parking but there is store at the ground floor and thw owner offers me a spot inside. I have to wait though, until 9 pm when the store closes. No problem, meanwhile we can change and go for a walk on the beach.
Hmm, I wonder if the owner has to girls? One is Mari and the other Juana. Sure…
Taking a better look I admit that God works in mysterious ways.
We don’t get too much into details. We have another earthly problem. We get hungry and we meet a guy satisfied with his capture. We would convince him that it would look great on our plate.
Our day has a peaceful ending, enjoying a fish diner right there on the sand.
The places seen only a few hours ago in the mountains seem a forgotten dream. But they are very real for those living there. The ocean waves seem to wash everything away and sun sets peacwfully taking with it all the worries of the day. Everything is quiet.
Route map for this episode: Harta traseului din acest episod:View Larger Map
Next we make to the jungle and closer to Guatemala border!ata viitoare reusim sa ajungem in jungla si ne apropiem de granita cu Guatemala!
Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Really enjoying your tale. Do you have a blog? The links that seem to indicate that you do, don't go to a website. Travel safely!
My travelbike is a yellow BMW R1100GS
My wifes bike, that I use a lot, is a 1978 Honda CB400T
http://jkrijt.home.xs4all.nl/ (my personal homepage with trip reports)
http://www.krijtenburg.nl/HU_BoZ/ (The HU Motorcycle Travellers Community in my area)
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