Yesterday was our first day in Guatemala so, before the journey progresses too far I thought I should write a trip report (ahem, short essay!) for Mexico.
First, and most important, is that I let you know that we had an excellent time in Mexico. Mexico is a big country; rich in geographic and cultural diversity which can’t help but provide something for everyone, I think.
Our trip started in Ensenada, living with Roberto and Diana – our Mexican family – and attending Spanish language school
. Ensenada itself has very little to offer in terms of sight-seeing but, the school was excellent,our hosts were warm and helpful, the people we friendly and happy to help and we even found some yoga classes! The yoga certainly helped with our body-parts vocabulary as well as up, down, left, right and deep. Profundo is equally useful when being reminded to breathe deeply as it is when being warned of a deep hole in the road!
The Baja Peninsula was hot, beautiful but obviously missing visits from its neighbours in the US. In some part this was due to our visiting in the off season but in many places there were clear signs that buildings have been abandoned.
Jalisco provided beautiful scenery to drive through and a much gentler climate! Much greener than Baja with large fields of Agave. Jalisco is the birth place of Tequilla so Agave plants – used to make it – are everywhere. Guadalajara appears to be a buzzing, thriving, city which would definitely be a ‘weekend city break’ destination were it in Europe. Chopala – where we stayed – was a romantic little lakeside town with boutique hotels and tasty food; a lovely little break!
One blot on the landscape of our stay in Chopala was the American ex-pat who wandered past as we were loading the bike in the morning. As soon as we told him what we were doing he proceeded to tell us how awful driving through Mexico is, how there are fake road-blocks, murders, kidnappings and all those non-holiday activity type things. I walked away and left Nick to talk to him. Nick is much better than I am at asking innocent questions like: “Oh, have you seen a fake road-block? How do you know one if you see it? Have you been kidnapped?” To which the answers are predictably: “they tell us these things”. I don’t have the energy. I am old enough to have cultivated a solid set of fears of my own and I really don’t appreciate people bringing me theirs. Not in life and not on this trip. We do everything we can to be informed – we spent time with a Mexican truck driver, our map and a pen to cross out everywhere he thought we shouldn’t go, we read horizons unlimited, talk to other bikers and read the British foreign office information. I will happily listen to facts, however scary, facts are very useful but negativity grounded in fear and not much else just makes me cross. Be informative or be fun – be both! – or **** off!
Our next stop was Guanajuato, Guanajuato which is not the capital of Guanajuato, Leon is.
This is a very beautiful and vibrant town. A UNESCO world-heritage site and well-deserving of that position. Lots of young people, lots of muisc and art and I loved it. Next time I go to Mexico I will stay there at least a month!
Then to Teotihuacan for some pyramids. We stayed in San Juan Teotihuacan which has nothing to recommend it but, the pyramids are impressive and Nick practiced his Jedi mind tricks to stop hawkers approaching us. The most successful was pointing at the ground a little way off and then, as they looked, walking past them. I had to laugh but I made him stop for fear of a beating. It’s an upgrade to the “what’s that on your t-shirt” trick but it worked! I won’t wax-lyrical on the pyramids. I am still visiting Maya archaeological sites so I will save commentary for another post, when I have decided what I think.
If you are travelling in the area by car or motorcycle please remember that Mexico City and state have a traffic reducing policy that prohibits certain number plates travelling on particular days. We learnt this because we were stopped by the traffic police as we were in violation of the rules (though I am still not sure if we were actually in the affected area.) If you have 04 or 03 in your number plate you cannot drive on a Wednesday! More information here: Hoy No Circula - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Oaxaca, Oaxaca was another beautiful and vibrant place which we enjoyed but the best part of our stay in Oaxaca was being invited to the beach with Uli, Ivan and Ajonjoli the cat. In summary, sea, sun, fresh food and very very few other people make for a great few days at the beach. While we were in Chipehua we sent a note to Mark and Maggie (via a 3G kindle we told them to check out our spot location!) who with Swiss Andre joined us on the same day as four other people on three motorbikes. A little impromptu adventure motorcycle gathering ensued much to the delight of Dona Natalia and Don Tereso who had been our hosts and who proceeded to feed everyone else too for a couple of days.
Last stops in Mexico were Tuxtla where the Grupa Escala provided us with excellent lodgings, camping on the climbing room floor, San Cristobal de Las Casas which was cold, colourful and perfect for pottering about and last, but not least, Palenque with easy access to the Mayan ruins with the same name and a couple of days with Andre, the Swiss biker, his friend David, the Swiss doctor, cheap lodgings, cheap food, cheap
, lots of tropical jungle rain and some Internet. Not the most beautiful spot in the world but a great place for a rest, read, chat and to put more flickr photos in order!
Those of you on motorcycles may be interested to know that we left via El Ceibo to Flores, Guatemala. The border crossing was straightforward, there is a banjercito to stamp out your bike and the Guatemala side is perfectly prepared for your visit. Don’t forget to keep the receipt for your tourist visa or you will have to go back to Tenocique (great coffee at Palms Cafe on the way out of town, on the righ, next to the second Pemex!) to pay your 262 pesos (each) and, for Guatemala you will need: passport, drivers license, bike owners papers and a single copy of each. The Guatemala permit costs 160 Quitzal but you can pay in Pesos and there is a bank at the border. For some reason, not many maps show the road but it is there and it does work.
Visit Mexico, it’s not all bad and a lot of it is amazing.
Our full post with photos is featured on this link