14. Mexico, 1 Tequila 2 Tequila 3 Tequila FLOOR !
On the advice of Brit bikers John & Annette I took the option of the Mesilla border between Guatemala and Mexico, apparently there would be less traffic and less hassles. It was so easy in fact, I passed through immigration and customs with doing anything, told instead to handle the paperwork at the next place 4km's down the road...
So there it was, I'd just entered Mexico without a trace.....
As it turned out, I wouldn't have got far anyways. Not long after completing the neccessary papers I was stopped by a Mexican army control, the first of several which I would encounter in Mexico. As usual they took great interest in the bike, and made only a cursory search of my stuff.
The problem was yet another control only 15 minutes down the road, and here I had to strip everything.... . It was a complete pain in the butt in the heat of the day, especially considering the layered way I pack the bike.
The second control looked ominous...
I asked how many controls were in front of me and the officer just laughed and said 'plenty' - I could have strangled him.
During the days ride to Palenque the bike started developing a kind of flu. Once I stopped to confirm my direction, and the bike just refused flatly to start again. Eventually with a bit of throttle it started, but whenever I needed to idle I had to keep the gas on to prevent stalling.
At this point I began to wonder about the fuel filter, which should have been replaced at 20,000 kms, and mine was still going at 30,000. With Saint Christophers blessing the problem dissapeared....
While in Palenque I spent a few sweaty hours replacing the fuel filter with the used unit so kindly given to me by Christian in Costa Rica. When I poured it's contents out this black muck fell out, and I counted myself lucky to have had the spare. I took the chance to check my spark plug while I had the covers off, and man was I surprised to see the electrode almost gone !
Old versus new plugs - surprised the bike was even idling...
While in Palenque I did the 11USD tour of Misol Ha falls, Agua Clara, and Agua Azul. Could have done it on the bike but it was far too hot for all the gear. It all felt a bit touristy however, with some locals showing scorn which left me the distinct impression I wasn't really that welcome. At the suspension bridge I was checking out this amazing ant trail going across the track, when one of these 'friendly' locals simply scuffed the ants all over the place with his feet as I tried to get a photo. The guide books had warned about doing this bridge alone, and I could understand that all too clearly as I found myself left behind with some dubious looking guys on the worng side of the bridge. I smiled and returned thinking - you ain't getting my camera today fellas.
At the beautiful Misol Ha falls I had to loose the hang up of being a tourist and just take it all in , what a place. Waterfalls, swimming pools, and crystal clear water made for a great afternoon. Others in the past however have not been so lucky, falling victim to the 'Liquidizer', a notorious pool under a waterfall which despite the warning signs, still claims victims.
Nice place for a dip ?
At the Palenque ruins I faced the challenge of taking photo's without those dammed tourists spoiling the shots. The bitter pill of course being the realisation that I'm just a tourist too...
Nevertheless, it was still a fascinating place....
The ruins of Palenque
One of the hardest decisions that day in Palenque was choosing between a Corona or the Negro Model, a darker beer. Glancing across the street I began to wonder if someone was trying to send me a message...
The day I left Palenque I was on a mission to start as early as possible to make the long haul of reaching Toluca, just north of Mexico city. As a last adjustment I wanted to srew the pre-load back up on my rear shock absorber, but as I was doing so , the mounting bracket simply snapped. I was completely bummed, as I had all my gear on, ready to go, and it was repair time again. I resorted to New Zealand farmer tactics and tied up the adjustment knob with some electric wire to the inside surface of the fuel tank. it looked pretty butch, but at least it would hold.
Towards Toluca I was stopped by two military checkpoints, one of which used a sniffer dog. The soldier played a game of hide and seek with some sort of package, pretending to hide it on my bike, and then let the dog try and find it. He pawed through everything, finding nothing of course. I resigned myself to the fact I should just remain good humoured, and the change in my attitude had fairly quick effects with the control guys.
I attempted to bypass Mexico city, but missed the periphery road and landed smack bang in the city in the dark, apparently not the thing to do for foreign drivers such as myself. Chaos reigned supreme.
935 kilometres since the beginning of the day, and some 14 hours later I was sharing a welcome tequila with Yadira and Andreas, friends of mine from Munich now living in Mexico. What a ride...
It was great to see Yadira and Andreas ( Sport Billy ), they were the first faces I recognised in since leaving Peru. They opened up thier home to me and introduced to me Yadira's parents and Andreas's workmates, spoiling me with true Mexican hospitality.
Yadira giving me a personal tour of the pyramids near Toluca
Yadira and Sport Billy ( I mean Andreas )
A toast to our former comrades in Agfa Munich - good luck with Photokina 2002 !
During my time in Toluca Yadira gave me a guided tour of Mexico city, and together with Yadira's parents we spent a great weekend in Valle de Bravo relaxing in thier holiday house. Truly relaxing. Yadira's parents spared no efforts in making me welcome, and I'd have to give a big thanks to Yadira's mum for sewing all those patches on my Jacket. (There will a teaspoon arriving by DHL shortly)
The last supper with Yadira's parents, Yadira and would you beleive, - Andreas
Next stop was the infamous little township of Tequila. Responsible for many a hangover and tall story, this is indeed the city where magic liquid is produced. It was practically devoid of tourists, and the locals were super friendly. I indulged with a meal at "El Meson del Mezcal", dining on double distilled Fajitas Tequileras. washed down with a Tequila based mixer called a Kikorouju. No trouble getting to sleep that night I can tell you.
Next morning I made a tour of the Jose Cuervo plant, the first producer in Tequila. Myself and a french guy were given what felt like a private tour of the place with our Guide Carla, who took great pride in explaining the whole process.
As yet uncooked Agave hearts waiting for the ovens at Jose Cuervo
I knew I was in the right place somehow....
Carla - "So what'll it be ? "
Half way to Culiacan I was stopped for two hours by a protest blocked bridge, something to do with increased power prices. Most of the waiting drivers including myself were none too impressed, and I learnt some very choice expressions in Spanish which Yadira had omitted to teach me. The upshot of this delay was me arriving very late, having to ride through the evening migration of beetles which seemed tractor beemed towards my visor and the narrow part of my neck not protected by the jacket - youch ! My jacket looked like something from a Peter Jackson splatter movie.
In Culiacan I had the pleasure of being hosted by Yadira's cousin and aunt, Rosario and Rosario - what a pair. No sooner had I got my boots off than they were feeding me, and Rosario senior cracked a bottle of Polish vodka ! Was I really in Mexico ?
Tired as I was, Rosario dragged me around to a friends place for a few beers. Next thing I knew it was 2.30 AM and I was in zombie land.
During that evening I learn't that Culiacan was not exactly the safest city to be travelling in. That very day Rosario's sister in law had her car stolen during a test drive, the real problem being that her friend was still in the car. Luckily enough the thieves let her out of the car unharmed. The very next day Rosarios's brother Hector spotted the car , and within minutes the occupants were arrested.
The other enlightening story was that of a freind of who had been kidnapped and later murdered only last year, the perpetrator even known to Rosario and her friends. It certainly had me thinking as I saw the billboards advertising the Police prowess at dealing with kidnapping all along the highways.
With Rosario and her friend Dehlia we journeyed to a lakeside restaurant the next day, and as the first can of beer was thrust into my hand at 10.30am , I wondered who exactly was more dangerous than these two ladies...
"Dehlia and Rosario, the outrageous duo of mayhem
The last night in Culiacan Rosario and her brother treated me to a Sushi dinner where my excellent spanish got me double the normal serving - real smart. The last act was a friends going away party where would you beleive, we were rocking to Ramstein on the street at 2AM. Ramstein in Mexico ?
A big big thankyou to Rosario and her mum, brother and friends for a great time in Culiacan, thanks too for those sunglasses Dehlia !
Next report will be a little faster I promise...
Currently in Vancouver, Canada - 30,000 Km's travelled to date.
Me : I think I have a cold coming on...
Yadira : Yeah yeah, one tequila says you'll forget it !
Posted by Jeremy Andrews at 05:52 PM