Mexico City is inhabited by more people than live in the entire country of Australia!
So we could not imagine what it was going to be like to visit there. You dont just visit Mexico city, you experience it!
We are so grateful to know Garry who lead us in and out of the city on his BMW 1100GS or the Honda CBR 1000 and Ivonne, who has the most amazing driving skills, took us every where in the van!
On the way into Mexico City and ominous sound began eminating from the rear wheel of the Suzuki. We stopped as soon as possible to inspect and found the chain guard had broken off and was caught up in the wheel. Grant suspects it was damaged from the accident in Xalapa. We pulled it out of the way (with trusty cable ties) and Grant, in true Mexican fashion, repaired it.
Chain Guard Before
Chain Guard After
The first evening in Mexico City we were driven to Down Town and the Zocalo to see the Christmas Lights that decorated the buildings surrounding the square. At a snails pace Ivonne negotiated the traffic which was unusually heavy, allowing us plenty of time to see the scenery and the amazing light show on display.
Trades People for hire at Zocalo
There were alot of people out in the square and even in the side streets. We were surprised to see so many people and families walking about. You always hear about how dangerous Mexico City is, and for the most part, most places in Mexico City are no more dangerous than our experiences in other big cities.
That evening we visited Coyacan, a very arty and trendy suburb of Mexico City, wandering the evening markets, eating icecreams and corn on the cob.
It was a very pleasant introduction to one of the biggest cities in the world.
We made a plan for the weeks activities, scheduling time in for bike work (as we still needed to finish fixing the pannier) and a roast lamb! Something we had been craving for weeks and weeks.
Men at Work
We spent our time in Mexico City visting some of its most famous places such as:
Templo de Mayor - The remains of the greatest Aztec city in Meso-America. Most of it is now under Mexico City, which incidentally is built on an ancient lake.
Snake Head at Templo de Mayor
Cathederal - A beautiful grand church with a huge pipe organ. The whole building is sinking in to the above mentioned ancient lake and tilts. in the middle of the building there is a huge plumb bob that hangs at a very noticable angle as the building moves. While we were there the plumb bob was actually swaying, which meant that the building is moving (sinking actually!).
Zocalo - Traditonal Indian dancers were performing and there were a lot of people milling about (probably trying to steal Grants hands - inside joke).
Dancing Indians in Zocalo
Murals & Buildings - There were lots of them. The huge Diego Riviera mural of the history of Mexico is a truly amazing work or art! The post office is spectacular. The Old Government House is very interesting. Just DON'T touch the hand rails!! (inside joke - sorry if you dont get it!).
Basillica de Virgen Guadalupe - We attended mass and recieved a blessing on our Saint Christopher and Guadalupe medals. There are two Basillica's on the site, the old and the new (as well as a number of smaller chapels). The old is a deteriorating (and also sinking), restoration is underway to repair this beautiful austere hispanic building. The new Basillica is very modern and functional and was a source of great constenation due to its modern design amoungst the Catholic communities. It is estimated that some 7 million christians attended the 12th of December festival for the Virgin at this site. This is the area where the Virgin appeared before an Indian man and told him to tell the church to build a temple here on this site. The Virgin Guadalupe is a unifying force in all of Mexico.
Old and New together
Frida Kahlo museum - Very Cool. The Blue House (Casa Azul) is Frida Kahlos familiy home. Her studio and house is open to visitors and there are her and Diego Riveras paintings on display as well as other displays. Her work is testiment to her talent as a modern artist in Mexico. Grant was disappionted Salma Hyak was not in attendance. Diego Rivera`s collection of pre-hispanic art is on display in the garden too.
Garden of Casa Azul
All extremely interesting. We also had the opportunitiy to visit the Tiangues. Wall to wall street markets and shops where you can buy anything and everything you could imagine, even latches for panniers. There is a section of town called Garibaldi where you can buy Marriachi's! Well hire thier services at least! They all sit around the square in full costume and you can pay them to play a song or hire them for a function or party.
We spent a whole day at Teotihuacan. An ancient city some 50 kms from down town. It was a very intense and enjoyable experience. The Pyramid of the Sun seems to emit an amazing energy when you stand in the centre at the top. The view of the whole site from there is quite breath taking. The museum, dwarfed by the Pyramid of the Sun, is full of interesting information and artifacts from the site. It also contains a model of the whole site as it would have been during its epoch (takes up a whole room!).
Avenue of the Dead
At the stair way to Pyramid of the Sun
Mural in the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl
Afterwards we enjoyed 'almost' authentic Cornish Pasties from Pachuca (not too far from the site). They were delicous and very cheap! Pachuca was an old silver mining town that at one time in the 19th Century was settled and mined by immigrants from Cornwall, hence the legacy of the pasty!
Jules and a Pasty
Garry and Ivonne invited us to spend Christmas with them and their family in Zacatecas, so we all piled into the van and drove north to Ivonnes brother Carolos' house.
We arrived and were greeted by a house full with approximately 40 people. Christmas in Mexico is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Buena Noche). Families gather together and festivities kick off at midnight. We enjoyed a lovely meal of roast meats and vegies.
After dinner the family sang the Posada (the story of Mary and Joseph asking the inn keepers for a room for the night and being turned away and eventually finding someone who let them stay in their barn). The Baby Jesus is placed in his crib in the Nativity scene and then presents are opened. Gifts are usually clothing. Children recieve presents of toys on the 5th of January (the day of the Three Kings).
Grant and Jules bought a piñata (for the kids - of course) and filled it with sweets and peanuts. Carlos strung up a line and the smashing began! Everyone has a go at swinging a stick at the piñata while the onlookers sing a song. You start with the smallest people and work up to the bigger people. Aunty Laila at 85 was very good at it.
Bruce battling the Piñata
Whilst in Zacatecas it was really nice to catch up with our friends Federico and Ernesto. Grant also had the opportunity to meet Trevor from North Korea (Trevor is not his real name - just easier) riding a BMW650 to Tierra del Fuego at around about the same pace as us. Hopefully we will meet up with him along the way.
After three days it was time to head back to the city and make preparations to continue on our journey.
Bikes at Tres Marias - Near Cuernevaca
So we leave Mexico City and ride with Garry on the Honda, Michael and Alan on the Kawasaki for a hundred or so kilometres before Garry turned around and headed back home. Michael and Alan escorted us to Taxco where the Christmas traffic and many detours through narrow and steep winding streets proved a little difficult on the loaded Miss Piggy. At one stage we were climbing one of the many steep and slippery laneways when a car stopped in front of us suddenly. Poor Miss Piggy stalled and started sliding back until Grant could halt the descent with the gears.
Sweating considerably we arrived in the Zocalo, stayed briefly, said our goodbye´s too our Mexican friends and headed out of town. Taxco is a lovely town, filled with lots of silver crafts tiendas (shops), but not at Christmas/New Years on a heavily loaded bike!
Zocalo in Taxco
The ride from Taxco to Iguala is a very exciting road, by motorcycle, with lots of fast tight corners and a good road surface, however Grant started getting a migraine head ache and we decided to stop in Iguala for a couple of days. Our little hotel had a tranquil garden and very comfortable rooms for $US15.00 per night including cable TV and hot water! You can even rent a room at 'Siesta Rates' for $US5.00 per hour. Hmmmm
Are we lost? - Road to Acapulco
We spent New Years Eve near Acapulco at Pie de la Questa where camping is very expensive. After celebrating the coming of the new year with a nice fish dinner we did our "normal" New Years Eve trick and were in bed asleep by 10:30!
Whilst Acapulco may be a pleasant stay in the resort zone, the rest of the city is noisy and dirty with heavily congested traffic and we were pleased to head out along the coast.
New Years Day - view from our tent
The 200 km road between Acapulco and Pinetepa Nacional follows the 'Rule of Fives'. It is littered with small towns each seeming to be 5 kms apart and posses at least 5 topes each. When you do your sums it adds up to lots and lots of bumps and a very slow day!
At Puerto Angel we turned inland and headed towards Oaxaca City. 220kms of steep winding and broken road surface which took us over 8 hours. Much of it was in first and second gear. None the less, the scenery was spectacular and made for a very exciting days ride. It is very interesting to see the small villages perched on steep precipices and ridge tops. Homes are very simple and consist of four walls and a bed. Most living is done outside, with this region being very poor many people live from day to day.
Lunch on the road to Oaxaca
Oaxaca City is very quaint but touristy and the hotel prices reflect this, it is very difficult to find cheap accommodation with parking for the bike. We stayed briefly and headed to Mitla 40kms away.
Balloon Seller - Oaxaca City
We spent two days in Mitla a very interesting small town built around an extensive ancient Zapotec ruin with excellent examples of stucco, stone carving and murals. The church and its grounds have been built by dismantiling some of the pyramids and temples and has utilised some of the walls of the existing buildings as its own.
Zapotec Ruins at Mitla
Another view of Mitla
We were sentenced to two nights in a cheap hotel that was much like staying in a dungeon or jail and had the most "unusual" bathroom we have come across so far! To shower you needed to stand over the toilet and lean on the basin. It was hillarious, to give it credit though the water was hot, the pressure good and the room was clean!
We were dissapointed to find that the hotel managers children had decided to use our pannier as an advertisment for thier hotel and scrawled on the address with a black marker. We did not mind so much but the parents seemed to show little to no concern or even offer an apology.
The ride back to the coast was uneventful and in Tehuantepec we fully serviced the bike and met up with a local motorcyclist. Ruben and his son Daniel showed a great deal of interest in Miss Piggy and us. Ruben had ridden his Dynamo 250 Custom (Chinese imported bikes in Mexico - very popular and inexpensive) from Tehuntepec to Panama City and return!
Markets in Tehuantepec - Yes the rail line is in service!
We made Tehuntepec our home for a few days thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere of the town and its people. We spent a great deal of time wandering the amazing street markets that were set up each morning on the rail way lines selling everything from plates to pineapples. Each night they would clear the tracks for the night freight trains to come through.
Moto-Carro - Tehuantepec public transport
The southern coast of the Istmus is renowned for its very strong winds and the next day ride to Tuxtla Guitierrez proved to us to be no exception. At times we were blown all over the road and at one point when we stopped to ask for directions Grant had to move the bike in fear of it being blown over. Grant could barely hold the bike in an upright position whilst stationery. It was quite scary and we were glad to head inland for Tuxtla about half way through the journey.
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