The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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La Paz is the jewel of Baja California Sur. Located at the mouth of the Gulf of California, it enjoys beautiful weather year-round, a high standard of living and low crime rates. We fell in love with the city almost immediately.
The Malecon, a 5km long boardwalk along the La Paz's beachfront, is the city's focal point for tourists and residents alike
Family-time on the Malecon
We grab lunch at La Aura, the 4th story restaurant with a great view of the boardwalk and beach
Lots of local catch in that seafood soup!
Pelicans are common here, also attracted to the seafood in the waters closeby
Not seafood ice cream
Plenty of places to hang out on the beach, watch the fishing boats go out to sea
One of many aquatic themed statues on the Malecon
Neda is trying to look for what PaperBoatMan is staring at
The Malecon is chocked full of restaurants, diners and bars - all pricey!
We're staying in La Paz for the next two weeks, taking Spanish lessons at a language school called, "Se Habla... La Paz". We've also chosen the homestay option, where we live with a local family for the duration of our stay, so Alicia and Vicente are the first ones to welcome us to La Paz and into their home.
The very first night, Vicente pulls out his arsenal of guitars and we both play and sing while everyone dances around us. Is it going to be like this every day?!? COOL!
Alicia is a first-rate cook, serving us local dishes for breakfast and lunch. This is Joe (Jose) from California, he's our homestay housemate also taking Spanish lessons, but he's much more fluent than we are!
On the weekends, Vicente opens his backyard studio to the local kids and teaches them how to paint
Another one of Vicente's proteges
We are astounded at how talented and cultured our homestay family is. Alicia is master of the culinary arts, while Vicente explains all the imagery of the many paintings that decorate his house. All in Spanish, by the way. My 9th grade French education is only of little help but I get the jist. Neda does much better because she speaks Italian and is so much better in learning new languages than I am.
Lalo, Alicia and Vicente's grandson teaches and choreographs a Hip Hop class.
Because I'm so slow with the Espagnol, Lalo gets in trouble often for speaking English to me. I've hung out a lot with this talented young man, jamming on the guitar and sharing mp3s, movies, and YouTube clips. Every once in a while, Alicia yells at him, "EN ESPAGNOL!" She takes her job very seriously and I'm very glad that she pretends not to understand English. I can only nod, "Si" and "Gracias" and my goal by the end of two weeks is to actually utter a complete and intelligible sentence for her approval!
Mariana, our Spanish teacher gives a presentation on Pinatas.
"Se Habla" is one street away from the Malecon, and every morning we ride our motorcycles down the strip to school, past the salty sea breeze coming off the shores. It's been forever since I've sat in any kind of classroom and I'm a bit cowed by how fast Neda is picking up Spanish. I'm used to learning things very fast, but new languages have always been a weak point for me.
Felipe, another one of our instructors waits for me to finish my homework.
"Gene, the point of homework is that you should be doing it at home..."
Our first week in La Paz has been very taxing. Every day, we're up early to have breakfast and engage Alicia in some morning Espanol, then off to escuela for cuatro horas of intensive vocubulary enhancement and verb conjugation. When we get back in the early afternoon, we have a little break then another session of homestay language practice over lunch. Our evenings are spent in the room doing a bit of homework and massaging our aching heads, random Spanish words leaking out of our ears.
Practicing "las compras" (shopping) en Espanol in Todos Santos
So when the "fin de semana" (weekend) finally arrives, we feel rested enough to take a day-trip south to Todos Santos, a beach-side town recommended to us by Felipe, our Spanish instructor. It's about an hour's ride away from La Paz, and the road winds up and down the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. Lots of fun!
Bringing forth the Mayan Apocalypse...
Misione de Nuestra Senora de Pilar in Todos Santos
Musta forgot the rosary beads in the car...
Lobby of the Hotel California, Todos Santos
Yes, this is *THE* Hotel California, made famous by The Eagles song. I was a bit disappointed. I think I was expecting a real dive of an establishment, the kind of place a washed up, disillusioned Don Henley would check into and muse poetic about the twisted lives of the hotel's mysterious occupants. We walked through the lobby and halls, but no Mirrors on the Ceiling, no Pink Champagne on Ice. Just a very trendy, expensive hotel that steers visitors to the very large gift shop selling "Hotel California" souvenirs.
We didn't spend too much time there...
Getting ready to hit the beach
What we're really here to see are the pretty beaches just outside of town. It's about a 10 minute ride through some gravelly and sandy roads, and I'm glad that we unloaded most of the heavy gear off the bikes. Even so, we wobble our way through heavy sand to reach the beach's parking lot. Stupid, crappy Tourance tires.
How to take pictures of the waves coming ashore
Picture of waves coming ashore
How not to take pictures of the waves coming ashore
Felipe told us that a popular attraction in Todos Santos is the Turtle Release. The beaches here are an important nesting site for sea turtles, especially the endangered Pacific Leatherback. Unfortunately, the beaches have become home to all sorts of human activity - dune buggies and other powersports, and people taking their (hungry) dogs out for a walk. All of which destroy turtle nests buried in the sands.
Checking out the incubation greenhouse
Between the nesting months of October to April, volunteers comb the beaches at night and relocate the sea turtle eggs to a protected incubation greenhouse, providing a better environment for hatching success. The sites with the round fences around them are nests that are ready to hatch soon. The fence stops the turtles from trying to instinctually head for the waters, and allows the volunteers to gather them up in the late afternoon.
This baby is seconds old! It just crawled out of the sand having broken out of its egg!
The project is aimed not only at replenishing the sea turtle population, but also to educate visitors, who are encouraged to "assist" the baby turtles to make it to the waters without being trampled on by dune buggies or joggers, or eaten by dogs or birds.
We each "adopted" one baby turtle and walked them to the edge of the shore
My baby! Feeling a bit paternal here...
Sea turtles live to about 100 years. I got a bit choked up when I realized that we were here on their Day 1, helping them increase their odds to make it to Year 100. The odds are still stacked against them, even when they make it to the waters unmolested, they'll have to face aquatic predators, but at least we're evening the imbalance that we caused in the first place.
Day 1 of 100 years
SO CUTE! These little guys know exactly which way the waters are
And they're off...!
A line was drawn in the sand so that we didn't leave deep footprints on the shore that would impede the baby turtles' progress to the waters. And also to stop us from accidentally trampling on them, as the incoming waves occasionally pushed the turtles back on shore. I wanted to walk my baby turtle all the way into the water, but we are told that it's good for them to struggle on land as it prepares them to swim in the waters.
After a week of intensive Spanish and evenings spent digesting all this information, our second week of classes is going much more smoothly and we're venturing out into La Paz often to take in the nightlife. In addition, we're making lots of friends in school and our homestay family has been taking us out often. As a result, our social life in La Paz has blossomed. So much so, that we actually took a look at some of the housing prices at a local real estate agency...
Our wanderlust is still unsatiated though, and we've merely bookmarked this wonderful city as maybe somewhere we'd like to settle down in the future.
Just off the Malecon, we wander around the market with the locals. No gringos here!
Ramping up for a Feliz Navidad
Outside this hotel, a horse made of dried palm leaves
Back on the Malecon, a concert put together by the Municipal Youth Centre: Who can TISS be?
Kids breakdancing on the Malecon
We love meeting other travellers while on the road! They're already predisposed to experiencing new cultures and there's always an excitement when sharing these experiences with each other over a and whatever the local food is. We met Karay at Spanish school, a super-cool gal from Ohio who is here picking up credits for her Spanish degree back home. We've spent a few evenings with her strolling the Malecon, gabbing over arroz y frijoles, and exploring La Paz. She's also an avid photographer and very interested in motorcycles so we have lots to talk about!
We pick up Karay on our way to church
In school, we learned about the Virgen de Guadalupe, an important figure in Mexican religious and cultural folklore. December 12th, marks the anniversary of the appearance of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Millions of people make the pilgrimage to the Basilica in Mexico City on this day for the celebrations. Thankfully, we are far away from Mexico City and don't have to contend with such a large crowd here in La Paz, but we're amazed at how many people gather at the local church in town.
Religion and commerce meet at the Santuario Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
La Paz is Spanish for "Peace"
Standing room only at the Santuario Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe - all the way outside!
Getting a lift to view the service
Outside, Neda contemplates buying super-yummy churros that this little guy is churning out
"Un churro mas restante! La quieres La quieres?"
("One more churro left! Do you want it?")
Paintings for sale outside the church
A parade of indigenous dancers walk the streets celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe
Our homestay family has taken us out every Friday night to Stella on the Malecon. We (try to) dance to salsa music, drink lots of Negra Modelo and enjoy the company that has temporarily adopted us for our time in La Paz.
Lalo and his girlfriend Shasta go out with us for pizza
Whirl of Christmas lights and motion
Put on your dancing shoes!
After a night of salsa dancing... and again with the ex-pat daydreams...
Seems like every weekend, we're hitting the beach! Cabo Pulmo National Park is at the eastern tip of the Baja Peninsula and is recommended to us by our homestay family for its excellent snorkeling. There are only three coral reefs in North America, and the one located at Cabo Pulmo is the oldest at 20,000 years, and provides shelter to a whole host of marine wildlife.
Excellent ride from La Paz to Cabo Pulmo, last 15 kms are down a gravel and sandy road
There are many dive shops in Cabo Pulmo, which really isn't a town more than a few buildings scattered over a wide area. Unfortunately, the dive shops have suspended tourboat operations for today, because of the very strong winds. They tell us that visibility is not very good at the coral reef because the waters may be murky from the sand kicked up from the sea floor.
Beautiful beaches at Cabo Pulmo
Definitely off-season, but a few families were here swimming in the waters
We debated on whether to rent some equipment and to head down to the beach ourselves, but I chickened out (It was cold, man!) and stayed on the beach taking pictures. Neda being the braver of the two of us, rented a mask and dove into the waters from the shores.
Divemaster Neda preparing to go in
Although it's advertised as being totally waterproof, this is the first time we've taken our Nikon AW100 completely underwater. I half-expected it to return ashore as an expensive brick. We were pleasantly surprised:
Neda says this school of fish were very curious about her and followed her everywhere
Water was a bit murky, but the pictures turned out surprisingly good
Although it looks small, this fish was almost a foot long!
The Mexican government has done an excellent job preserving the reef against commercial interests that seek to develop condos, marinas and resorts in this very popular tourist area. It's now designated a protected park and the aquatic wildlife has bounced back and flourished from the over-fishing in the 1980s. The park maintains a very wilderness-like feel to it, and the rough road in and out of the park reflects this.
Only old people abstain from swimming. So I grabbed my metal detector and walked the beach with this guy
After two weeks of Spanish classes, we've graduated, and the school has thrown a party for all the students that are leaving this week!
Mariana and Felipe and the rest of the Se Habla teachers look on proudly as we are given our certificates
Our graduating class. We celebrate with chocolate cake!
We've spent 16 wonderful days in La Paz, making lots of new friends and pulling out the first tendrils of roots that we were starting to put down was difficult. We packed our once-light motorcycles with all of our traveling kit, ready to continue our wanderings. It was a sad goodbye to our homestay family but at the same time, it felt really good to hit the road again. Neda and I both agreed that we are nowhere close to settling down yet!
There is a ferry just outside of La Paz that is able to take us to the mainland. Unfortunately, our laissez-faire attitude to planning bites us in the ass, and the ferry to Mazatlan, which is just across the Gulf of California, is all booked up till January 4th, 2013! Seems a lot of Baja Californians travel to the mainland during Christmastime to see family and reservations are made weeks in advance around this time. Uh oh...
Fortunately, there is another ferry that travels to Topolabampo, about 4 hours north of Mazatlan. After having a good laugh over the funny name, we decide a 4 hour motorcycle ride from Topolabampo to Mazatlan is perferable to waiting another 3 weeks, as nice as La Paz is. Plus the Topolabampo ferry was much cheaper!
The ferry departs from Pichilingue, a great windy 10 km ride from La Paz
Along the way we pass some really nice beaches
We met some other motorcycle travelers at the ferry terminal - Jayne and Phil are a brother/sister team from Calgary (more Canadians!) - they were getting their vehicle importation papers done early for their trip to the mainland. I think they were staying in La Paz for a couple more weeks, so we suggested the Spanish school to them. We exchanged travel stories and they gave us some good roads to ride in the mainland, can't wait!
Into the belly of the California Star, capable of holding 100 cars and 900 passengers!
We were directed to park our bikes in a corner of the ferry's hold, and we searched for vain for tie-down hooks and straps. There weren't any around, so we assumed that the ferry was large and stable enough to keep our bikes upright even in the most violent of storms. We could not have been more wrong.
There was one other motorcyclist on the ferry: Rick was riding from Ensenada back to his home in Mexico City, and this was his very first motorcycle trip after getting his license late last year. Like all those that have been bitten by the touring bug, we would spend much of the 6 hour trip to the mainland talking about motorcycles, with him practicing his excellent English with us, Neda practicing her excellent Spanish with him, and me practicing talking Spanish like a 2-year old.
A couple of hours into the trip, we hear an announcement over the radio. All motorcyclists were being summoned to the cargo hold of the ferry. I looked at Neda and Rick and immediately I said, "I think the bikes have fallen over"...
A flurry of activity getting the bikes secured
Fortunately, the bikes were still upright. The staff had summoned us so that we could move our bikes to a spot where they could tie the motorcycles to the railing. The crash bars I put on at Mark's place in San Diego were to come in handy.
Excellent tie-down job by the ferry staff
The winds and waves were picking up very strongly, and I'm glad that our motorcycles were secured properly now. However, the contents of my stomach were less secure, and as the ferry undulated up and down and back and forth, my face got greener and greener until I had to rush to the closest bano. Neda alarmingly yelled after me, "Mujeres!" That mean's "Women's washroom" in Spanish...
Thankfully, even 2-year olds understand that and I stumbled out and then back into the "Bano de los hombres". Just. In. The. Nick. Of Time...
Well-rested in the morning in Los Mochis
We arrived in Topolabampo after sunset. Much like Pichilingue, it's not a very big town, just the ferry terminal and some buildings, so we rode with Rick about about 30 minutes away in darkness to Los Mochis. Rick is a biologist and used his corporate rate at a nice hotel in town and we had a really good night's rest on our first night on the mainland.
Rick is off to service his motorcycle in Los Michos.
I've never thought of Mexico as being divided up into states, but like the US and Canada, Mexico has 31 states and 1 federal district. Right now, we've crossed over by ferry into our 3rd state, Sinaloa, after riding through Baja California and Baja California Sur. In Los Mochis, we waited till noon for Rick to finish his motorcycle service and then we all rode together southwards along the coast towards Mazatlan. It's about a 6 hour ride including a break for a late lunch.
Not knowing any better, we were routed to the toll road, which has a great speed limit of 110 km/h, but it was very expensive! We estimate that we paid the same in tolls that we did in gasoline. Note for the future, stay off the Cuota (toll) roads!
Cruising the Malecon in Mazatlan
In Mazatlan, Rick showed us to one of his favorite hotels right on the Malecon. It was relatively cheap since it's off-season and it seemed like we were one of the only occupants in the hotel. Rick took off to spend the night at his friends place and we would meet up a couple of times later in the city for a bite to eat.
Beach on the Malecon
Mazatlan is very much a beach town, but unlike the more well-known seaside resorts like Cancun, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, there are more local vacationers and less foreign tourists here. We like that a lot. We got to practice our Spanish with everyone. Man, I really need the practice...
Normally I'm pretty good at seeing where things are headed, but...
We stuffed ourselves with shrimp and seafood. I think this is the biggest meal we've had in Mexico!
After lunch, I felt like this guy...
Colourful parasails punctuate the sand, sea and sky
Sea and sky blend together as birds give chase to the sailboats
Pelicans dive-bomb the waves - the waters are filled with fish!
We tried some Cuban food for a change
Here I'm having a dish called Ropa Vieja, literally translated means "Old Clothes". It's a popular dish in Cuba and it's made of shredded steak in a tomato sauce, some plantains and rice. Although the owner spoke fluent English, Neda made me talk to him in Spanish. From the look on his face, I think I may have ordered "moldy laundry"...
This is the Gringo Tourist section. Everything is done up pretty, but it's way overpriced
This senorita was celebrating her 15th birthday, these are the guys in the party, the rest of the girls were in the nightclub
Plaza Machado is one of the oldest places in Mazatlan, lots of architecture influenced by the French and Spanish. It's recently been restored by local businesses to attract tourist $$$. Very pretty area to stroll through, but it felt a bit sterile, so we didn't stay too long.
Walking around old Mazatlan
The steets around old Mazatlan have been closed to traffic, I think this happens every evening on the weekends. There are tons of people walking the street. We felt much more at home in this environment, with street vendors offering everything from tacos to toys, shoes and clothing and stages set up at every intersection playing live music, dancers and DJs. Amazing!!!
The streets are crowded with locals enjoying their weekend!
Indoor market where the locals shop
Now *THAT'S* what I'm talking about! Keep it coming...
Open air concert in the closed off steets outside of old Mazatlan
Dancers strutting their stuff
Christmas-time outside the Catedral de la Immaculada Concepcion. How appropriate!
When we met Phil and Jayne at the ferry dock in La Paz a week earlier, they mentioned that they were planning on riding this road when they crossed into the mainland. 3000 curves? How could we pass this up?
Rick had to leave Mazatlan earlier than us, something about getting back to Mexico City and going back to wo... going back to wor... nope, can't say it. Anyway, that left us by ourselves again, heading towards the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. This meant that we were going to leave our sun-drenched beach haven for colder climates, so we had to mentally prepare ourselves for this. The Alaskan winter had scarred Neda deeply and she curses bitterly anytime she's forced to put on her jacket liner: "I thought I was done with this stupid thing!"
Stuck behind a couple of trucks, time to snap a picture!
I found out that another thing Neda curses at are the Cuota (toll) roads in Mexico. They are really expensive. Everytime we see a sign saying "Cuota", I hear a string of expletives over the intercom. So we go looking for the sign for the "Libres" roads. In this case, Carretera 40 Libres leaving Mazatlan *is* the Road of 3000 Curves, and the villainous Cuota road threatens to spoil all motorcyclists fun by smoothing the twists and turns by all manner of technology: bridges and holes through mountains.
The pavement is smooth, but the air gets colder as we slowly ascend the mountains. Every once in a while, the bushes along the side clear and we're treated to a magnificent view of the green valleys below us. Traffic is light in the middle of this weekday, but we still manage to get stuck behind a couple of trucks and have to wait for a straightaway to pass them. I'm amazed at how brazenly these large vehicles cross the median when apexing blind turns. Surprised there aren't more accidents!
There is a sign about 1/2 way through the road reading, "Espinoza Del Diablo": the "Devil's Backbone", a very apt nickname for this piece of asphalt!
A different kind of hazard on the Road of 3000 Curves
Along the way, soldiers and army vehicles have occupied all of the tiny villages. Part of the reason they are building the high-speed Cuota road through the mountains is to make it easier to mobilize troops to combat the drug traffickers who have a stronghold in this region. The soldiers barely take notice of us, and those that do give us a thumbs up on our rides.
We're told it takes between 6-8 hours to make the journey between Mazatlan and Durango. We do it in 5, with an hour break for lunch...
Riding through the streets of Durango
The city of Durango is the capital of the state of Durango, and is the most modern city we've visited in Mexico so far. We've opted to stay here for a few days because we don't want to travel during the holidays. Also, we've planned an entire Christmas day of Skype sessions with our family and friends back home, and we take the time to scope out a hotel with fast Internet.
Being on the road for this long is a curious affair. In some ways, we are closer to our family and friends, because we are making more of an effort to keep in touch, without the excuses of work. So far TelCel's mobile Internet infrastructure has been quite extensive and impressive, outclassing any provider in the US and Canada. Not sure what we're going to do once we've travelled past this luxury.
Our favorite place just around the corner from our hotel for cheap eats
Chilaquiles for me and a gordita for Neda
We find a nice hotel right downtown and for the next few days venture out enough into the strip to become very familiar with all the local eateries. On Christmas Day, we treat ourselves to a Chinese buffet, which is I think our first non-Mexican meal in Mexico. The restaurant is staffed by two Chinese women, I think the three of us represented the entire Asian population in the state of Durango! They seemed just as amused as I was to see a brotha!
Frolicking in the fountain. During the day, temperatures were beautiful, but dropped quickly in the evenings and early mornings
Fountains and churches - two mainstays in Mexico architecture
There's always someone carrying around some musical instrument in Mexico!
Neda wrestles the camera away from me...
Catedral Basilica de Durango at night
There is a markedly increased police presence in Durango compared to all other places we've been to thus far. I'm not sure if it's because this is a larger city or because it's the holiday season, but police cars and uniformed officers vigilantly patrol the downtown streets. The plaza at night is continuously lit by the Christmas ornamentation and the flashing blue and red lights of the police car permanently parked in front of the Basilica.
We took a leisurely two days to travel from Durango to Guadalajara, opting to bypass the Cuota roads to take the non-toll highways instead. The roads are flat and boring, skirting the far eastern side of the mountains and nothing eventful happens, save for my Sena communicator, which stopped transmitting just as we arrived into town. The problem with constantly being on the move is that if we do need parts shipped to us, where do we send them to? And how long will it take? The logistics involved are annoying. So for the time being, I was in listen-only mode, which suited Neda just fine!
Guadalajara is Mexico's 2nd largest city. Our bikes are due for regular service (again, so soon?!?!) and we had originally thought to schedule an appointment in Mexico City, but after some research, we found a dealership just less than 10 kms away from our hotel! The only spot they had open was next Friday, so I guess we're here for a while! We took the opportunity to get acquainted with the city!
Main streets are really busy, so we took to the side streets
A lot of Mexican life centres around three things: the church, the market and the plaza. Every neighbourhood has a local version of this triumvirate. We rode to the center of town to the Marcado Libertad, which is the largest and most popular market in the city, right beside the Catedral de la Asuncion de Maria Santisima, which also happens to be the largest cathedral in Guadalajara.
Snack-time: Watermelons drenched with lime, seasalt and chilli! *delicious!*
Limes are Mexico's beloved condiment, they use them like Americans use ketchup. You can put them in , on tacos, watermelons, etc! We met a local girl the other day who just got married to a Belgian and had moved overseas to be with him. She told us that in Belgium the limes are so small and expensive, and this is one of the things she really misses about Mexico!
The moment the camera came out, this guy started doing tricks with his knife, flipping and tossing it up in the air. Very entertaining!
Mercado Libertad is huge; sprawling through indoor buildings and spilling outside into the open-air stalls. The air was alive with the sounds and scents of vendors selling fast food, groceries, toys, clothing. We had a great day snapping pictures and interacting with the locals, with Neda honing her ever-increasing Spanish skills. As for me, I was skilled enough not to need a knife to butcher their language...
Grabbing some lunch, over-the-counter-style, inside the Mercado
There are so many places to buy food, so we've developed two criteria for deciding where to eat: 1) no gringos! 2) it has to be busy. If there's nobody eating there, there must be a reason! I've fallen in love with the taco asada (shredded beef) and chorizo (sausage), but one item on the menu intrigued me - Brain Tacos! Walking Dead Style? It sounds much more appetizing in Spanish: tacos de sesos. Mmmmm! I've made up my mind to try this the next time.
Mercado is alive with bursts of colour everywhere!
Fruits and vegetables here are so much more juicier and flavourful than back home
Ice skating? In Mexico?
Outside the Catedral, there was a long lineup and when we investigated, we found that a large outdoor skating rink had been built, complete with skate rentals. Everyone wanted to try ice-skating, which I assume is a novelty in Guadalajara. It's 28C outside! Ice-skating skills must be a rarity here, because this girl target-fixated on my camera and I barely got out of the way as she careened towards me, arms flailing.
Also, no zamboni, so the ice got pretty funky after a while...
A different kind of taxi around town
Pedestrian traffic is heavy on this beautiful, sunny weekend. Catedral on Neda's left
Inside of the Catedral de la Asuncion de Maria Santisima
The inside the catedral is so beautiful and ornate, however there was a pre-recorded mass playing over the speakers, and the record kept skipping over and over again in the same spot. So we had to leave because it was a little bit annoying and slightly creepy A friend of mine told me that this catedral is a popular place to shoot TV shows, a lot of Spanish soap operas are filmed here!
A family is surprised by a toy bird flying overhead, set aflight by one of the vendors in the plaza
Boys playing by the fountain
Pensive? Or slow day for shoe-shining? I love the look on his face, so lost in thought!
Church spires compete to reach the sky
Catedral de la Asuncion de Maria Santisima, the centre of Guadalajara
Selling beads and other religious trinkets outside the catedral
I know that sounds like something you drunkenly slur out aloud after 8 or 9 shots, but the town of Tequila, about 60 kms outside of Guadalajara, has been designated a Pueblo Magico by the Tourism Board of Mexico:
A 'Magical Village' is a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, day-to-day life - in other words, 'magic' in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism
The town of Tequila is famous for birthing the liquor of the same name. I had reservations about visiting this Magic Village, because of my bad experiences with the drink. The last shot of Tequila I ever had was in 2005, after a bender of a night in the Dominican Republic with a couple of friends. The morning-after-dry-heaving-head-pounding-walls-moving-around-you-hangover was the worst I've ever had in my life, and I swore off To-Kill-Ya forever.
But no harm in visiting the town, right?
Panhandlers compete for pesos by performing tricks between red lights. Currently this is the bar: Guy with a mohawk, juggling flaming torches, while on a stepladdder, covered head-to-toe in silver paint...
It's a beautiful, sunny day for a day-trip. As we leave Guadalajara, we make sure we plot a route with no Cuota roads. It turns out the free highways have a few entertaining twists and curves as it leaves the city and heads up into the hills. Still need to be careful around the blind corners because of this:
In the off-season, Alonso drives an 18-wheeler through Mexico
Riding through the streets of Tequila, Neda has her eyes set on the prize straight ahead - CuervoLand! Or Mundo Cuervo in Spanish.
The Tourism Board has really pulled out all the stops, and when we arrive into the city centre, we're greeted by music and a troupe of dancers dressed in indigenous costumes performing ritualistic dances.
Performer dressed in Aztec costume
Depicting an Aztec ritualistic dance
The captain of the dance crew calls it: "Una vez mas!"
Bells and bubbles
Tourism machine is even putting the kids to work
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which is found here in abundance, because of the fertile red volcanic soil in the region. However, the distilled liquor can only be rightly called "Tequila" if it is brewed only in this town. Throughout the city, there are several pieces of art, paintings and statues dedicated to the process of making Tequila and the farming of the agave plant.
Hector and Manuel's latest practical joke on Juan may have gone a little too far this time...
The Mariachi - an ever-present Mexican tradition
Neda booked us on a tour of the Jose Cuervo factory, which is headquartered in town. This is quite a popular tour, and there is a special train that runs to and from Guadalajara called the "Tequila Express", that is very popular and allows people to get liquored up here without having to drive back drunk. I had no idea that Neda booked us on the Tasting Tour of Mundo Cuervo... UGH!
Disclaimer: These bikes stayed parked until we were 100% sober again
It all starts off with a little shot
More performers in Cuervo Land
To help fund this trip, I am now shooting magazine ads for Jose Cuervo
Our assigned tour guide describes the process involved in creating Tequila, all the way from harvesting the agave plant, baking it, sticking it in huge steel vats, then into wooden barrels and finally pouring it down people's throats. Neda was only interested in the last step, so we really didn't pay a lot of attention to those in-between steps...
Agave plants. Cuervo is Spanish for "Crow".
Our tour guide looked exactly like Dani Pedrosa. Except he was normal-sized and knew a heck of a lot about tequila. After the "basic" tour had ended, because Neda had booked us on the extended "Tasting Tour", we were led to the basement of Mundo Cuervo, into the special secret cellar where 250-year old, 30,000 peso bottles of Tequila were being stockpiled for the next Baktun.
We were offered a taste of Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, $150/bottle, only sold in Mexico
By now, we were more than a couple of shots into the tour and I was dreading the impending after-effects. I was assured by our tour guide that the infamous Tequila Hangover is caused by other sugars added to the tequila and that the 100% Agave alcohol with no added sugars shouldn't cause any ill-effects. OhReeeeeaally...?
Tequila tasting class? Or Cascade commercial?
After the secret cellar tour, we were taken upstairs to the tasting room where we were given three tequilas, blanco, annilo and geez, I can't remember... the rest is kind of hazy... I think at one point, I put our guide in a headlock and then I gave him a little noogie while screaming, "Who's your daddy, Dani! That's right, Jorge's your daddy!", then we were kicked out of the tasting room...
So after the Tasting Room debacle, this was the only tequila offered to us. Here, Neda is a bit more sober than I am...
We spent the rest of the evening sobering up while munching on cheap tacos in an eatery just outside of the main plaza. I was not feeling too good. One of the folks in our tour group recommended that we take the Cuota road back home because there were a lot of drunk people driving on the way back to Guadalajara. So we dished out the pesos begrudgingly, even though it did thankfully get us back to our hotel much quicker.
I crawled into bed with a really bad tequila headache that didn't go away when the sun rose the next day.
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