On Eduardo's suggestion we headed up Nevado de Toluca. This is a dormant volcano that stands 4,500 meters above sea level. The dirt road from the highway winds 27kms through lovely forrested areas to the exposed alpine crater cone. Then decends into the crater to two lakes at 4,300 meters.
The Road to the Top
Once again Miss Piggy shows her virtues as we were fully loaded two up on a very rutted dusty road, with some very loose patches and others quite rocky. During the first 15 kms you often had to dodge fallen tree trunks laying across the road, and sometimes halfway around a bend. This is one time where we found ourselves both standing on the foot pegs too keep the bike stable.
Once we cleared the forrest, the view was outstanding and seemed to go on forever, and we just continued climbing with the road becoming narrow in parts and at times we crossed lava beds that had been 'cleared' for the road but were extremely rough and very narrow with steep sudden drop offs on one side.
Over the Lava Field
It was very exciting and most worth while as we decended into the crater to view the blue lakes of the Sun and the Moon.
We stayed at the crater for, perhaps, an hour. Before commencing our journey out, which was not without incident, we had to make a detour around a vehicle, that could go no further, when we dropped the bike in some badly rutted section. There was little damage to the bike and us zero, we both struggled to pick the bike up fully loaded at that altitude. Sweating and out of breath we climbed back on to the bike feeling a little shaken about the mishap.
Getting going after the fall
The ride down was uneventful, though tiring and at the intersection to the main road we stopped and enjoyed cheese, apples and dried fruit from our stores for lunch.
We circled the base of the vocano, heading for Ixtapan del Sal where we based ourselves for a few days, catching up on email, doing a day trip to Taxco and organising to meet our friends Garry and Ivonne, from Mexico City. We orignially met them at the HU meeting in Creel.
Garry, Ivonne and Jules
On Sunday the 20th November (Mexican Revolution Day) we were to meet Garry and Ivonne (on thier BMW) at the Zocalo, 10am. Grant could not get the bike out the hotel foyer due to a parked car so Julie walked to the Zocalo to meet them. In the mean time Grant managed to get the bike out only to find that the road was completely blocked off at both ends and a parade was ensuing.
Jules caught up with Garry and Ivonne as planned and returned to the Hotel to get Grant who was no longer there but had rode up the street to find a place to park, and was then enveloped in the crowd. He was replaced by school girls and boys twirling battons, waving pom poms and dancing for the whole extent of the street. After about an hour of much searching and being caught up in the festivities we all found each other and headed off to the archelogical ruins at Minalco.
The road was 'Topes-landia' (topes are speed bumps to the extreme) .... it seemed like every few meters there was another one, and the town itself was defintilely not user friendly and was a chore to manouver the fully loaded bike through, however we perservered and had a lovely lunch and a tour of the archeological site which involved a hike up a steep pathway, not too hard though.
Jules & Ivonne
Garry and Ivonne invited us to stay at thier house in Mexico City as it was probably an easier option than our original destination of Cuernavaca. Grant did not feel 'ready' for Mexico City but we decided to give it a whirl.... despite the horror stories of traffic conditions, pollution, population etc.
Garry did a marvellous job of guiding us to his home and it was not as terrifying as we imagined. Garry was to take us to Cuernevaca after work the following day.... as we had no idea how to get out of Mexico City... apparently it is quite easy when you have lived there for 20 odd years!
We spent the day with Ivonne who took us to San Angel (suburb) and we had a nice walk around the markets, streets and visited the Convento de Carmen. It was a very beautiful church and had a lovely walled garden. We did not realise it at the time but there is a museum next door that houses some mummified bodies.
Convento de Carmen
The ride out of Mexico City that afternoon was in mild traffic (according to some people) but was quite hard work. It seemed to take an age to get out of suburbs and hit the open road to Cuernevaca where we were greeted with an amazing sunset.
We arrived at Alan and Theresa's (Garry's in-laws) and stayed in their lovely house enjoying icecream, pizza and good conversation, leaving the following day for Cholula near Puebla.
Alan and Theresa with Grant and Miss Piggy
Cholula a small town some 126km south of Mexico City boasts over 70 churches and the largest pyramid of the ancient world though this is mostly in ruins and has a cathedral built on the top! It still is a remarkable site with over 8km of excavated tunnel.
Los Remedios, sits on top of the pyramid
Around the base of the pyramid are many excavations of the temples that surrounded it, with exceptional stucco and architecture.
We stayed 10 days spending our time walking about the town and finding, yet again, another church or cathederal. Some were extrodinarily ornate, the entire interior being carved and painted, others were tiled beautifully and very simple and austere inside.
There is a small free museum, on the zocalo, in Cholula with anthropoligical artifacts and history on the area from pre-hispanic times to Spanish occupation.
Church in Cholula
Eating grasshoppers with chile and lime..... delicous
We also took a day trip to Puebla (about 20 minutes away) on the bus. The bus travelled at over 120km/hour, racing down the 'Rapida' road, fully loaded, passengers standing. It was like a rollercoaster and equally as scary!
Puebla is famous for its tiles, ceramics and Basillica. The zocalo was being prepared for Christmas with the planting of hundreds of pointsettias giving a beautiful splash of red colour to the grey flag stoned square.
It is a great place to walk around with a great many buildings, some up to 400 years old (many with thier exteriors still retaining the original tiles.
Building in Puebla
We also took a day trip to Tlaxcala, where we spent the turn of the century on a previous trip to Mexico. The town had not changed much and is still a very nice place to visit and relax.
Church in Tlaxcala
We headed to Veracruz grimly deterimed to find the Libre (free) road to the coast and were unsuccessful spending $US15.00 on the journey to Cordoba.
On the road to Veracruz
Veracruz is a large port city with outstanding old architecture and a vibrant atmosphere. It is loud, dirty, warm and fun. We found a hotel with secure parking for the bike, right near the Malecon and zocalo at $US17.00 per night.
Building in Veracruz
We stayed for 4 days and then headed for Tajin an ancient city/archeological site.
The weather turned bad on the morning we left with very strong headwinds and lots of rain all the way up the Esmeralda Coast, however, the 300km trip was worth it with the 2000 year old city being spectacular.
We stayed in Papantla which again is a very busy, noisy place. Our hotel was very cheap. You could not swing a cat in the room and you were able to hear the amorus goings on of the other hotel patrons, quite clearly! Fortunately the room had a TV with good volume. The hotel manager allowed us to cook on our door step to the amusement of many of the other guests and staff.
Woman in Papantla
Papantla has an excelent show of the Valadores at the Cathederal on most days and the zocalo hosts tradional dancing and music as well. We were there during a Vanilla festival where the Queen of Vanilla was crowned.
Flying Valadores in Papantla
We returned to Veracruz for a couple of nights to enjoy the warmth and plan where we were to head next.
Tiled building - Veracruz
We arrived on the 12th December, the day for the festival of the patron saint of Mexico 'La Virgen Guaudalupe'. The zocalo was jammed packed with people and the childeren were dressed in traditional costume, the little boys had moustaches painted on. They had their photos taken with paintings of the Virgen. A Cuban band played late into the evenings and the crowd was dancing.
Child in Zocalo
Colourful building - Veracruz
Next we headed to Xalapa, the Capital of the state of Veracruz, where they have the 2nd largest anthropoligical museum in Mexico.
On the way into Centro we were confronted with some of the worst traffic conditions of our trip and unfortunately a ute reversed and collided with us and we hit the deck. We picked ourselves and Miss Piggy up while the driver sat in his vehicle obviously not to concerned with our plight! Jules went to talk to him as he had hit us and he just yelled at her and drove off.
After clearing ourselves of the traffic we checked ourselves over, no damage, most fortunate. Miss Piggy also was fine although the left hand side pannier which took most of the impact was partly crushed and the frame bent and broken.
We commenced some minor repairs to fix the damage enough to continue on to a hotel when Andreas approached us and we explained, in Spanglish, what had happened. As he was a motorcyle rider himself (he rides a Kawasaki 800 Vulcan) he was concerned about fixing the bike and offered us the use of any tools and bolts that we needed as he had a sewing machine shop across the street. He was also very interested in the modifications that Grant had done to the bike like panniers, bash plate, top box etc. We moved the bike over and with Andreas and the guys from his shop helped Grant to bash the box back into shape and re-bolt the pannier back on. Andreas and his wife Patty offered a room in thier home for the evening, which we gratefully accepted.
After a delicous lunch Patty, Carlos (son, 14) and Karin (daughter, 10) drove us into Xalapa so we could have a look around the city. They also took us to Cuatapec, a quaint little village nearby, and we attended the local pastorela, nativity play performed by the children - it involves singing and dancing, and an exhibition of over 700 nativity scenes from all over the world.
On Friday Andreas drove us out for the morning to visit another nearby town and to see the cascades, unfortunately the weather was very foggy and overcast we could not see them at all! We could, however, hear them (better than our Creel waterfall adventure!).
We left for Perote and Puebla, accompanied by Andreas and Carlos on the Vulcan, in some of the worst fog we have seen, thicker than pea soup (sopa de chicharos). The 40km trip to Perote took over an hour and traffic was heavy.
We said goodby to our new friends and continued on as the light began to fade. We arrived in Cholula at about 9pm breaking our golden rule of never riding in the dark. We spent a day in Cholula sorting a few things out and organising for Garry and Ivonne to meet us and guide us back to Mexico City on Sunday.
We met Garry and Ivonne at the zocalo, with no parade to greet them, and headed back to Mexico City. The first part of the ride was smooth and easy, but we entered the city through some really ugly traffic (30km's taking 2 hours).
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