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  #16  
Old 15 Jan 2012
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To Mexico

Mexico is dangerous! Don't go there, you will be kidnapped, held for ransom, and beheaded. The TV says so. At least that is what most of my friends and family said. My beliefs leaned toward those going to Mexico with bad intentions ended up in the news, I didn't have anything to worry about. I lied a bit to make people feel better. How I was to get from the US to Guatemala overland was never mentioned.

David, a fellow rider from Seattle, and I exchanged messages on the HUBB a few months back and decided to ride together a bit and see how it worked out. At the very least we wanted to ride through Mexico together. What better way to try it on than to ride through the Baja?

David and I leaving San Diego


Northern Baja is basically South California until some miles south of the border. Even then, it's still part of the Gringo Trail. The first day we wanted make it as far south of Tijuana as possible.

Tijuana Border Crossing


To Mexico


We crossed at about 8am on a Monday. Tijuana is a major border crossing, and even with GPS coordinates and directions written down it was chaotic. Once we found the Aduana Office, it was painless as possible. The Aduana has a huge secured parking lot and everything you need to process within the secure area. We didn't pay for helpers, in fact I didn't even notice any helpers at this border. I understand it isn't necessary to get a Vehicle Import Permit here (you an get it in La Paz), but why wait? Also, we went through Baja Bound for our Mexican Vehicle Insurance.

Ask any rider where they had the best food and the answer will always be Mexico. Unless they are lying or trying to be difficult. Now I'm no glutton, but I like food. The food in Mexico has been the highlight so far. Fresh ingredients, cooked made to order, and typically aesthetically pleasing with many different colors present.

First Tacos in Mexico


Stuffing my Face


Dinner


There were things to do on both sides of the Baja, so we planned to cross the peninsula several times. The general route for Baja Norte was Ensenada, San Felipe, Puertecitos, Bay of Gonzaga, and Coco's Corner. No one really knew what was up with Coco, but I heard so much about the place I wanted to give it a shot.

The tourist areas of Mexico were really hurting. Often times David and I would be the only visitors in town. No complaints, b/c we were able to work some pretty decent deals on accommodations. One area they kept trying to gouge us was on food. We would find a place that looked busy and then take a look at the food. If it was appealing we would ask one of the people eating how much they paid. I can't tell you how many times the person we asked would make eye contact with the proprietor, who would then give us the Gringo Price. We skipped those stands...

It was exciting to be back in a dry hot climate after following Highway 1 along the US West Coast. Some of the sandy trails leading off into the mountains just begged to be explored.





The first crossing of the Baja from the Pacific side to Sea of Cortez side was awesome. The terrain was so alien. We started down the road to the Park of 1812 and thought to camp there that night, but road soon became deep sand so we headed directly to San Felipe.





San Felipe was the first town on the Sea of Cortez side we visited. Not much was going on, again no other tourists.



The San Felipe bay was nice. I got to practice my limited Spanish on some children. They corrected me on my pronunciation and grammar.



What a fishing town be without some drunk locals? We got into a discussion as to whether Suzuki or Yamaha engines were better. I have no idea (and don't really care) but it was fun to argue.



Some beached boats.


We went south from San Felipe to the Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. The road was paved to Puertecitos and a little further past the pueblo.

To Puertecitos


Once we hit dirt/sand, the DR could really shine. At the gas station just outside the Bahia San Luis Gonzaga we met a guy from the US that was part of the Gringo community in the area. He invited us to have a few s and crash at his place if we wanted. We gladly accepted and told him we would be there after grabbing a bit to eat at Alfonso's.

Unfortunately, the Mexican fishing authority was in town and had busted the local fisherman. The atmosphere was not festive. I'm not sure how much the fines where, but the local fisherman are not wealthy and any fine is probably a huge cut into any profit they might have.

Bahia San Luis Gonzaga from the rear of Alfonso's Restaurant.


Sunset from the front of Alfonso's Restaurant.


After dinner we drove down the beach to the people's house who invited us to crash. We shot the breeze with our hosts and drank a few s. They are not happy about the paved road - "Good roads bring bad people". Before turning in for the night, we went for a swim in the bay. This was the first time I saw luminescent plankton! Whenever they are disturbed, say by me swimming or moving my hand through the water, they glow green. I hear that in some places they have these plankton and the waves will glow green because the crashing water disturbs them. So cool.

The last stop in Baja Norte was Coco's Corner. My hosts in Gonzaga didn't know if Coco was still alive and running Coco's Corner or not. Apparently he has been sick and spending a lot of time away.

We lucked out because Coco was still there. He is a hell of a character. The drive there was lots of loose rock and sand. People dump lots of random shit out in the desert.





Coco's Corner


Coco


Coco gave us some advice. Mostly all I remember was the advice that everyone in Santa Roselia is gay. haha. We also signed his guest book. If you get a chance, pay Coco a visit. I don't think he will be there much longer.

The Vstrom trying to keep up with the DR.


Next up, Baja South.
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Old 18 Jan 2012
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South Baja

After leaving Coco's, David and I cut across the Baja to Highway 1. Hwy 1 followed the Pacific side for a bit then crossed back to the Sea of Cortez side. We decided to forego Coco's warning about Santa Rosalia (everyone is gay - the cops, the mayor, all the residents) and found a hotel there.

Cool clouds over the Baja


Two unfortunate things happened in Santa Rosalia. First, Coco wasn't far off in his assessment. Some other dude with my name got many, many Facebook friend requests from Mexican men. Secondly, I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. This had me laid up for two days. I'm pretty sure I picked it up at a Taco Stand in Guerrero Negro. The food was great so I kept going back, but the sanitary conditions were questionable at best. Ah well, the first of many. haha.

Bahia de Concepcion.


The Bay of Conception was one of my must see spots. I've read that one can see the most beautiful sunsets it the world there. Therefore it was a camping night. We totally lucked out being the ONLY people on the beach.





We crossed the Baja again! This time to hit San Juanico.



David learned first hand the dangers of buying a used bike as we crossed the Baja on Highway 53. And by highway, I mean a rutted sand and rock track. On one of the hill climbs David's bike lost power, revving at super high RPMs but not moving. Situations like this create such a sense of dread and apprehension. Of course one always leaps to the worst case possibilities. David thought his trip was over. His bike was broke, and he was going to have to fly home.

Being the savvy mechanic I am, I told him not to worry - it was probably just the clutch plates. A helpful guy in a Jeep following us gave a David a lift to a local ranch. The ranchers had a truck and David arranged for a Truck Day.

The Ranchers gave David and his Vstrom a lift to San Isidro. Of course there were no mechanics in San Isidro...BUT there just happened to be a reputable mechanic in San Juanico. How fortuitous! We talked a Police Officer into loading the bike in a Police truck (a continuation of Truck Day) and to drive to San Juanico - AKA Scorpion Bay.



Now this is an ideal surf spot! The bay was wide and the point break was in such a location that one could ride a wave nearly parallel to the beach for...I don't know. Maybe mile? David is a master at getting free shit and managed to get a local board maker to let us 'test' his boards. I was able to stand up on the board a few times (for seconds), but I still need LOTS of time in the water to develop any type of surf skills.



The mechanic in San Juanico was able to tighten some clutch plate adjustment screw that would hopefully carry David to La Paz. After three days in Scorpion Bay we jetted south.

The adjustment needed re-adjusting.


We wandered around La Paz and got some info on the ferry to Mazatlan. The Mexican Police use Vstroms and David was able to take his bike to a shop where they could replace the clutch plates same day. The clutch was so abused that one of the metal clutch plates had broken! It was patched up soon enough.













The next ferry wasn't for a few days, so we decided to check out Cabo San Lucas since it was only a short day ride south.

On the way to Cabo is THE Hotel California. We didn't check in, so we were able to leave...



Cabo was ****ing EXPENSIVE - reminded me of any typical Mexican Spring Break spot, Cancun, Acapulco, etc. Nothing great. We did some swimming, snorkeling, and bar hopping. While on the beach, I think a guy drowned. The waves and rip tide were brutal and I think he was slammed into some rocks. The authorities kept the area quarantined, so I don't know exactly what happened.









After Cabo we went back to La Paz and boarded the ferry. For as many motorcycles as cross here, the ferry didn't have any tie down straps. The master loader tried to tell us they would be ok just resting on their kickstands.

****ing yeah right. Part of my job in the Army was Sea and Air transportation. I could envision a smashed up bike and several smashed up Mexican vehicles...along with angry Mexicans and Policia involvment. I had two straps in my luggage and rigged up a three point tie down that kept both bikes secure. Also when it comes to loading cargo it goes last on, first off. Somehow we ended up being last on and last off. I was not impressed by the cargo master loader...





We had a calm voyage to Mazatlan, disembarked, and continued on to El Espinazo del Diablo.
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Old 30 Jan 2012
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Espinazo del Diablo

The Map


After a restless night of sleep on the ferry to Mazatlan, I was finally allowed to descend into the hold to prep my bike for disembarkation. Loading a bike is not nearly as easy as hoping into a car and driving off and the cargo master kept trying to rush us. Sorry bud! We tried to come down early, but you all wouldn't let us. I'm not going to hurry now.

There wasn't anything we really wanted to do in Mazatlan, so we gassed up and left for Espinazo del Diablo (Route 40). 170 miles of curves and beautiful vistas. It was the most beautiful road I had ridden between the Trans American Trail and southern Colombia.

It was here I crossed paths with my FIRST adventurer motorcyclist thus far on the trip. Jan from Poland, BMW 1150GSA, going from NYC to as far south as possible. His ride report is here. We stopped and had lunch together and then went our separate directions.





Along Route 40.


Here it is!


My panorama in no way does justice to the view along the Spine of the Devil.


We stopped for a picture of another great scene


...when behind us a horse was using the road to go somewhere.

C'mon man, I'm just a horse!!

...No idea where he came from or where he was going.

A truck driver on the ferry had warned us to not stop at ANY town between Mazatlan and Durango. Not even to get gas. We took him at his word, but due to the late disembarkation from the ferry we stopped before dark in a small town by the name of La Ciudad.



The hotel was 35 pesos per person and there was a gordita stand across the street with a lady making gorditas from scratch!




There is a nice camping spot near La Ciudad, but it costs SIGNIFICANTLY more than the hotel. Trucks driver's advice is usually pretty good, but this time I think he was wrong. La Ciudad had some money, there were many nice F150s driving around and the locals said there was timber and furniture crafting in the area.

The next morning was a short day to Durango, MX. This side of the mountains was much drier.




The road was just as curvy and fun. Bus and truck drivers were crazy as usual. There was a big rig behind me hauling a large piece of excavation equipment taking turns faster than me on my bike! He made me nervous so I pulled over and let him pass. Less than 20 miles up the road he had a collision with another vehicle and there was shit all over the road. I was in no way surprised.



We hit the main square and walked around to see what there was to see.

A Church


A McDonald's that delivers. How many drunk driving accidents would this save if we had a McDonald's that delivered in the US?


There is a mining museum right in the middle of the square. It was fairly well put together....but they really need a native English speaker to read the Spanish to English translations on the plaques before money is spent on crafting/engraving.


Durango was the biggest silver mining region in Mexico for a couple of hundred years.


Hotels were super expensive in Durango, so David and I drove to a park south of town to camp. On our way out of town a man and wife on a motorcycle pulled up beside us and wanted to know if we needed help. They then invited us back to their home for dinner, a hot shower, and to crash for the night.

It must have been quite an event because the entire extended family came over. Aunts, uncles, cousins, even the grandmother!


They were seriously great people. Gustavo gave us some advice about our route to Zacatecas (again, don't stop between Durango and Aguas Caliente). Then went on to tell us a story about how one of his friends was making a similar drive in a truck. Two other vehicles boxed him in and then kidnapped his friend and took the truck. His friend had not been returned yet...

The Perez family.


The daughter, Angelica, peaking around the corner as we were getting ready to leave.
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Old 18 Feb 2012
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Mines and Corona

Zacatecas is my second most favorite Mexican city. Beautiful area, hella great food, and some cool stuff to do. Many of the Mexicans we met truly went out of their way to be hospitable. To me it seemed that each individual felt it was their duty to counter the reputation that Mexico is known for.









The drive from Durango to Zacatecas was longer than expected. Our Mexican family warned us not to stop ANYWHERE along the route prior to arriving in Zacatecas. We would be kidnapped and held for ransom at best. It was a beautiful area so we couldn't pass up some of the cool photo opportunities and great food.







The old city of Zacatecas kept its Spanish heritage - it felt like being back in a city in Spain. Run down, beautiful buildings, cafes, etc. I liked it a lot. I can't remember the name of the hostel we stayed in.....but we lucked out. The guy that was working the front desk hooked us up in a number of ways.

He just happened to be friends with the head of public relations at the local Corona brewery. Corona isn't my favorite , but who in the hell is going to pass up an opportunity to see one of the largest breweries in the world and to drink all one wants?

All we had to do was find our own way there.



I've been to several other breweries, but never one this massive. It produces two billion (yes, with a B) liters of per year. The land it covered was on the scale of an airport. Not just the brewery, but also the distribution center (with rail ops) and a guest hotel for when the higher ups come and visit.

Roman, the PR guide, mentioned the each bottle would be used a dozen or so times before they were crushed and discarded. When a local bar owner or store owner wanted to begin selling Modelo products, the brewery would give them a sort of microloan. The local vender would receive 50 cases of and then once sold render payment.



Personally, I wish the US would begin reusing bottles. It's not a difficult process (works well in Germany) and it would cut down on refuse.

I was quite impressed at how well kept the facility was and how clean everything was. I mean spotless, there were dozens of workers who all they did was clean.









They even let us in the master control room where the entire process was automated. I didn't catch how everything worked, but the brew master works in this room and can control all aspects of the brewing process.





After messing around there and then being shown where the actual ingredients are stored, we visited the bottling/distribution center. They were bottling the big boy Corona Originals today.











Learning the process is all find and great...but now the important part begins. Free !





That same night, the hostel guy put David and I in contact with Fredrico, a fellow motorcyclist and Horizon's Unlimited member. Fredrico was kind enough to meet us and we all went and had diner together. Fredrico, if you are reading this - Thanks! Mexico was great and with zero problems.



Colorful Burritos. I can't remember the name of this restuarant, but it's a local icon. I think most people eat there because of the brightly colored burritos and not the gourmet cooking. They had a bit of a chalky taste.



The attraction in Zacatecas is the Silver Mine, so of course we visited. A train takes one into the mine.







We were thrown in with a group of high schoolers from somewhere in Mexico and the tour was in Spanish...so I didn't catch much, too busy staring at the jailbait.

I think this is the patron Saint of the mine.



They tried to sell us rocks.



These rocks glow in the dark.



I also highly recommend Los Dorados de Villa. Probably the best food I had in Mexico. The cafe looks closed and in fact may even be locked and have a 'Closed' sign on the door. You must ring the bell and someone will let you in. Go with a group and have everyone order something different and then share. You won't be disappointed.

From Zacatecas we routed to Guanajuato.
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Old 29 Feb 2012
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Guanajuato and Tequila

Guanajuato is a city of artists. Artisans, actors, poets...the city is gorgeous. I believe that the city was designed by artists. Shit just doesn't make sense here.

Trying to navigate in Guanajuato is like trying to navigate the painting Relativity.


The city was once one of most important mining centers in Mexico - at one time the mines here churned out 2/3rds of the world's silver. It is surrounded on all sides by mountains and the many old mining tunnels through mountains are now used as roads.

Guanajuato is watched over by Juan José de los Reyes Martínez 'El Pípila'. He was a miner turned rebel that strapped a big ass stone on his back to deflect gunfire as he covered a barricaded wooden door with tar and set it alight - thereby allowing the rebels to win on of the first battles for Mexican Independence.

One way tunnels with multiple signless exits - where the GPS would loose signal.


One way narrowing roads that end in an alley.


Through fairs on differing levels.


'You can't get there from here'.


It was a nightmare...but easily the coolest city in Mexico.

Eventually we found a nice local girl that held our hands and walked us to the hostel - right in the middle of giving a guided tour to another group of gringos.

We happened to arrive during Cervantino, an international film festival held in Guanajuato. Every night there were multiple free movies, shows, and performances. One could wander from plaza to plaza and catch silent comedy acts from Germany, save the dolphin movies by the actors from Flipper, crazy impressionist dancing/wire work from Europe, and random local mimes trying to make a buck. It would have been easy to stay here for the entire month...but damn near every hostel was full!

Thankfully we found a B&B ran by a retired couple from the US.


Their B&B just happened to be located about two blocks above the Mummy Museum.



The street food during Cervantino was being served up hot and fast.


The food may look like a case of food poisoning waiting to happen, but Mexico provides. Just around the corner was -



Yes, the Pepto Bismol Mariachi Bus!

Guanajuato is like a different world within Mexico and was one of my highlights.






From Guanajuato we decided to head to Guadalajara, so why not visit Tequila, Mexico (birthplace of Tequila) as well?!


David has a press pass and managed to use that to finagle a free tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery and La Familia's personal cellar. Long story short, Jose Cuervo is still owned and ran by the original family (the Beckmanns). It's too bad that most people for the US only know the Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila. Try the Tradicional and you won't be disappointed.


The distillery offers a great tour. There is a huge amount of distillery history here.



The original method of baking and juicing the blue agave.



Local farmers used to truck in their blue agave and sell it by the kilo.


Rather than weight every agave, they used a weight averaging method. The farmers choose six of their largest agaves...and Cuervo would choose the six smallest agaves.


Now they just weight the truck.

Back in the 80's Tequila took off in the global market. The demand far outstripped the supply of raw blue agave. The local farmers were able to make a premium on their agave and so naturally expanded. There has been a blue agave glut the last few years, so farmers are not making much money.

The final part of the tour took us down to the family's personal cellar for a tasting - Reserva Familia. A limited number of bottles are produced each year and the boxes the bottle comes in are highly sought after due to being designed/painted by Mexican artists.


These are the original glass jugs for use of storage and transportation. Some are over 200 years old and very valuable.



It was some good Tequila.


The bar here made the best Margarita's I've ever had.
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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The End of Mexico

It was only mid October, but I was starting to feel rushed to make it to Panama City to board the Stahlratte. There were several things I wanted to do in Central America - Spanish language school, Tikal, Sumec Champey, Boquete...not to mention crossing the borders and dealing with any mechanical problems that might pop up.

Before chewing up miles south, David and I had some trip plans in Mexico...

Guadalajara. David and I took turns arranging lodging as we traveled. Guadalajara was my turn and rather than use hostelworld, AirBnB, or whatever else I went with couchsurfing.

Enter Jose.


Jose was a professor at the local university and was a phenomenal host. Can't say enough good things about our experience there - due to Jose taking the time to show us around and arrange plans. Thus far, all my couch surfing experiences have been very positive.

Back to Guadalajara...up to this point our timing had been a little off. Every time we arrived at a city, a festival, race, concert had just ended or was a few days from beginning. That changed in Guanajuato with Cervintino and then again in Guadalajara with the Pan-American Games. Every night there was something going on in the center of the city.


Craftsmen cutting stone.


I believe this was a re-enactment of the Virgin of Zapopan converting the locals to Christianity and fighting off the bad spirits. Could be wrong on this one...


The masks were incredibly detailed.


Jose then took us to visit some family and visit the city where the masks are hand crafted,Tonalá.

Queen Cihuapilli Tzapapotzinco


Works in progress


There were many other craft shops with stuff for sale.



...the mug is ok, but who in the hell would want penises as their salt & pepper shakers?


Jose's aunt did Mexican cuisine proud. She mad goat stew, which we could not get enough of.


David and I decided to climb a volcano after Guadalajara. Onward to Uruapan!
Volcan Paricutin suddenly appeared in a farmer's field in 1943. Dionisio was out tending his field when he noticed a small smoking fissure. Naturally he pushed a big rock into the hole to try and plug it up. A week later the fissure had grown into a 5 story cinder cone volcano that erupted intermittently for about 9 years before going inactive in 1952. The volcano completely wiped out surrounding towns and buried them under 40 meters of ash and lava.

The only building left standing at the end of the year...


From the church it is about a three hour hike to the actual volcano. There are helpful Ents along the way pointing out the route.


Volcan Paricutin


There are two ways up/down the volcano. One is a path on the right that meanders up and the other is straight up the sand chute on the right hand side of the mountain. We choose to climb up and go down the chute.

Going down was much more fun than climbing up. Moon jumps and sand skiing.


The Uruapan region is also part of the Avocado region in Mexico. There are several US FDA officials stationed here to keep an eye on how the Avocado's are farmed. The big plantations have 9ft chain-link fence surrounding their orchards.

Here is an orchard that has not started producing yet.


It was a great trek, but this motorcycle riding thing doesn't give one enough physical exercise. It decreases the mobility in one's hips (being cramped up on the bike) which leads to knee pain. At least for me...

Outside of Uruapan are the La Tzararacua Waterfalls. We had enough of that walking hit yesterday and decide to ride a horse down.


The falls



It's been years since I've ridden, but after a bit I had her at a nice little canter on the way up.

At the top was a little cafe with the youngest Chef and Sous-Chef that has ever cooked my food.


The Sous-Chef bringing us a cold one


David had a family friend in Mexico City where we could crash for a few days. Very nice guy - a musician that let us have the run of his apartment.

The Teotihuacan ruins were massive, but suffered from a reoccurring theme I saw throughout Mexico, Central & South America. Horrendous restorations of archeological sites. Using modern cement, iron rebar, etc to make it look nice - but totally destroying the authenticity of the sites.



Supposedly if the Mayans did some crazy astrological calculations and found this to be a point of power. If you touch it, it makes you more powerful.

FYFF!


One last thing to do before leaving Mexico City. Go see a soccer game.
We ended up in the rowdy section.


So rowdy they had to put up chain link and barbwire fencing to prevent soccer hooligans from jumping off of the third tier onto the fans below...


We had to wait until the rest of the stadium cleared out before they let us leave.


And then we were met by a battalion of Mexican Policia to keep things under control.


David and I parted ways in Mexico City. He still had some places he wanted to go in Mexico while I wanted to start going south to do a Spanish language immersion program and to catch the Stahlratte. So long David, maybe we will meet up again in South America.

I pulled some long days through the rest of southern Mexico to the Guatemalan border. Didn't take many pictures, but I was fascinated by these cactuses.


Next up, my first border crossing on my own.
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Central America



Mexico to Guatemala was my first 'real' border crossing on my own. I aimed for the Tapachula crossing (against everyone's advice), but about mile before the border there was a river. The bridge was out. Why in the hell is the main bridge along Highway One from Mexico to Guatemala out with no detour, I just don't know...

The next closest crossing was to the south at Talisman. I had my first experience with 'helpers' here, they were very pushy. In my experience, anyone that pushy is trying to cheat you, so I ignored them on the Mexican side.

I screwed up three times at this border.

The Tapachula border crossing has a banjercito at the border. One has to visit a banjercito in order to get the $300 US vehicle deposit refunded. Talisman didn't have a banjercito, though everyone at the border said it did. I didn't find this out until AFTER I exited Mexico. Damned if I was going to let them have $300. I had to re-enter Mexico and drive about 60k back to Viva Mexico where the aduana banjercito is located. Mistake 1.

On the Guatemalan side I ignored the helpers that rushed me. I didn't research the entry requirements prior to hitting the border. Mistake #2. While in line a well-spoken Guatemalan guy started helping me out. When I started to negotiate a price, he said not to worry - pay what I think his help is worth at the end. I agreed. Mistake 3.

The process is easy and in no way did I need a helper. On the other side of the Guatemalan border the helper handed me a bill. I was prepared to pay $5US (~35 Qs). More than fair in my mind. The bill was $50US!

Meanwhile, my helper and 5 or 6 other Guatemalan guys had come over to stand around me. I didn't really feel threatened - but I think that was their intention. I laughed, crumpled up the bill, and made it clear I wasn't paying $50US. The negotiation started...

He started to make some vague threats about calling the police over and I told him to do it. Then he said that if I didn't pay he would call his friends up ahead and I would have trouble with bandits or road blocks. More bullshit because there ain't no one willing to block highway 1 to make a few bucks from a border crossing helper.

Eventually I paid about $14US to get him and his fat friends to stop surrounding me - but I was pissed off and beating myself up for both using a helper and not agreeing upon a price in the beginning. Ah well, I chalked this up to a learning experience.

Do your research!! I've ran across motorcyclists paying upwards of $300US at border crossings.

My goal was to hit Quetzaltenango - I was scheduled to begin a week long Spanish immersion class. I got a late start after correcting my screw-ups at the border, but the drive to Xela was gorgeous.

Many rich Guatemalans and foreigners have villas along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. The permanent staff live in the villas and keep them in a nice state of repair and keep squatters away.






Chicken Bus. This isn't your typical yellow chicken bus - I suppose the driver of this bus wanted to stand out.

These buses take curvy mountain roads faster than me on a motorcycle. Unfortunately if you look over the edge of the road you can see chicken buses at the bottom...

The Spanish Immersion class was great. I enrolled in the week long, one on one, 6 hr per day class - and a homestay with a local family.

If you want/need to do a Spanish class, Xela is a great place to do it. Cool city, safe, with everything you could need...even a Wal-mart! As far as the class, I would recommend taking maybe 4 hours per day for two weeks rather than 6 hours per day for one week. My brain was fried at the end of each session. Additionally, the homestay was average. It was cheap for a place to sleep with food included - but I didn't get anything out of it. Luck of the draw I suppose.

I was in Xela during their week long day of the dead celebration. Church youth groups creating murals of sawdust in the main square.





The town cementerio is cleaned and decorated.



****in' Dogs...


One resident, apparently with lots of money, was fascinated by anything Egyptian.



Grave robbers left the recently deceased alone...the marble heads on the statues were much more valuable.


It's a celebration biatches!


I just barely caught this bike with my camera. You over packers will probably get a boner over this guys's rear/top case. It's what...200 liters?


From Xela the road took me north to Tikal. The scenery was gorgeous!


The largest landslide thus far...

It was like the ENTIRE mountain had just collapsed. I can't imagine the volume of mud, dirt, and rocks displaced.

I was stopped by the police several times on my way north, but not once was I asked for a bribe or harassed. They were all very cool and interested in my trip - where I had come from, where I was going, what I thought of Guatemala.

It was about this time that the rain started. Early November 2011. It has rained damn near every day since then...it is now 11 March 2012. Five months of rain.

Anyway, Guatemalans on motorcycles (and everywhere else in Latin America) HATE when another motorcyclist passes them. Hate it! I can't tell you how many guys on 250s would try to keep up or pass me. In this particular instance on my way north to Tikal, I came across a particularly slick segment of pavement. With rain, it was like ice. I was pissed off at my tires because I was sliding so much.

Behind me, two guys two up on a 250 Honda were trying to keep up (and pass). We went around a pretty sharp turn and I heard a loud crash and metal scraping on pavement. I look in my mirror and see them sliding to a stop. It's another biker, so even though they were being assholes I stop to help. SHIT! It's not the tires - I can barely stand up in my boots. I couldn't believe how slick the pavement was.

The guys were not wearing any helmets or gear, but were already up cradling hand, knees, and elbows (not dead at least). I picked their bike up and moved it off the road - but wasn't much else I could do. They didn't want to call anyone, but I'm sure the one guy had a broken arm and the other had a broken leg. Onward north.

In Tikal an odd phenomenon began. No matter where I went, I was the ONLY person there. In Tikal, the hotels and campgrounds were empty, no buses or vehicles where in the parking lots, even the restaurants would close early. I suppose it's a good thing...


I woke up early to view the 'awakening' of the jungle. I didn't want a guide, so I paid the normal entrance fee (and didn't get a ticket stub) to be let in 3 hours earl. I walked in to the Great Plaza and sat on Temple II to experience the Awakening of the Jungle.








Truly, the Awakening of the Jungle was far cooler than walking around the Tikal ruins. The ruins didn't speak to me, but the awakening - with the monkeys howling, birds screeching, and the sunrise was something else. One of the coolest things I experienced on the trip. After it was light, I wandered around the rest of the park but didn't see the point in spending all day there and left around 11am.

Next up - Semuc Champey.
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  #23  
Old 20 Mar 2012
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Enjoyed reading your RR this morning and was surprised when I saw David... he was just here in Antigua a few weeks ago hanging out with us. Helped him find a rear tire and wished him well Southbound. If/when you come through Antigua, come by the shop and share some stories with fellow motorcyclists, join us for a ride, or just have a !

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Antigua, Guatemala
14°33'19.50"N
90°43'52.43"W
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Originally Posted by cgwinner View Post
Enjoyed reading your RR this morning and was surprised when I saw David... he was just here in Antigua a few weeks ago hanging out with us. Helped him find a rear tire and wished him well Southbound. If/when you come through Antigua, come by the shop and share some stories with fellow motorcyclists, join us for a ride, or just have a !

Moto Cafe
6a Calle Oriente #14
Antigua, Guatemala
14°33'19.50"N
90°43'52.43"W
Thanks man, good stuff. David and I had a great time riding together. We separated in Mexico and I moved south a bit faster. I'll swing by next trip though Central America. I'm in Punta Arenas, Chile now - waiting for parts.
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Loving the great report. Live the good life!
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