Mexico
September 13, 2008 GMT
Tacos and Topes


mexicanhat.jpg

With our Houston deadline drawing ever closer, we were happy to have budgeted no less than a month for our ride through Mexico. Taking in spectacular colonial towns, exhilarating mountain roads, ancient Aztec sites and breathtaking coast lines, Mexico didn't disappoint. That's more than can be said for that final drive bearing!



welcomemexico.JPG
Bienvenido a Mexico!


hamedavemexicofaces.JPG

Arriving hot and sweaty at the Mexican border, it was the bikes that enjoyed a cold shower and not us. Mind you, at 5US$ a pop for a thirty second token fumigation, we thought it a tad steep.


mexicobikespray.JPG
$5 fumigation

As soon as we crossed the border, we noticed that Mexico seemed to be obsessed with sleeping policemen (or 'dead policemen', as my brother used to call them when he was little). They were everywhere. Every few hundred metres, there were these 'topes' as they are called in Mexico. Sometimes they were official ones, painted with warning stripes and with a handy sign announcing them; other times they had been homemade by the villagers and disguised as a bit of normal road, so the first thing we'd know about them was hitting them.

(Don't tell Dave but we sent him first, so we'd see him fly up in the air as he hit them unawares).


zonadetopes.jpg
Sleeping policemen...or woman?

While in Nicaragua, we'd made the exciting discovery that we were carrying a third passenger! We were both very happy about this and it was perfect timing as by the time we got home I'd be about 14 weeks pregnant - over the nasty tired stage and into the full of energy stage. Or so the books say! Actually I'd been very lucky and not had any sickness, which would have been a complete nightmare on the bike. Because of this, Hame and I decided to take it a bit more easily than we had been, avoiding the dirt roads and extra vibrations. We also planned shorter days and splashed out a dollar or two more for a room, ensuring I could get a good night's sleep.

The three of us and Dave rode to San Cristobal de Las Casas, our first experience of a Mexican Spanish colonial town, of which we were to see many. With colourful colonial buildings and lots of churches and markets to wander around, it was a pleasant place to stop.


sancristobal.jpg
San Cristobal de Las Casas

After a couple of nights we took a great twisty road through Zapatista rebel territory to Palenque, a Mayan site which was inhabited from 100 BC to AD 740.


zapatista.jpg
Territorio Zapatista!

Along the way, we stopped off for a refreshing swim in the waterfalls at Aqua Azul. Well, at least the boys did.


waterfallpalenque.jpg
Aqua Azul waterfalls

"More ruins," said Hamish. "Great."


palenque11.jpg
Palenque

These were pretty cool ruins though (unlike the weather, which was extremely hot and humid) and with Dave we had a great day exploring the old temples and buildings. Although the Spaniards knew of the ancient city, it was hidden in the jungle until 1837 when it was properly explored for the first time. Even today parts of it remain swallowed by trees. Howler monkeys roared in the distance like something from Star Trek, and toucans flew over our heads as we sat and took it all in.

Here we said farewell to Dave as he was on a mission to get to Canada for a date with some grizzly bears. We'd enjoyed riding with him and hoped to catch up in the UK, when we're all back in reality again.


emreststopmex.jpg
Em takes a roadside breather

Hame and I returned to our old slow pace, enjoying the ride to a lovely village called San Augustinillo by the Pacific coast to chill by the beach for a few days.


beachsanaugust.jpg
San Augustinillo

We settled in at Casa Azul and hung out with DeNel and Brent, two Canadians who'd been there a few months.


denelbrent.jpg
Brent and DeNel

The beach was gorgeous, and the owner of Casa Azul had thoughfully built a small swimming pool which during the day was like lying in a warm bath, and was the only place to be as it was so hot.


leavingfirsttimecasa.jpg
See you soon...very soon!

It was very hard to leave but when we did tear ourselves away, we got ten kilometres down the road until we had to turn around and come right back again....

I thought I felt a vibration from the bike's back end as we rode into San Augustinillo, but as it had been a long day's ride and the fact the roads weren't the best, I ignored my instincts. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was replace the final drive bearing for a second time. After our fairly major rebuild in Medellin, Colombia, I'd hoped we'd make it home before conducting any more repairs. I should have known better!

So when we set off from San Augustinillo, my fears were confirmed. Even Em could feel a vibration through her foot-pegs, indicating a final drive bearing on its way out. However, unlike myself, Em wasn't too disappointed as it meant another day by the beach!

After our big farewell, it was hello once again to DeNel and Brent before I set to work, catching the local collectivo to town in search of a press to remove the failed bearing. Upon my return I used our trusty camping stove to heat the new bearing, before 'persuading' it into place.


hameworkbikecasa.jpg
Not again...


fuckedbearing.jpg
...yep...


heatingbearing.jpg
...oh, well...


hamefixingbearingpool.jpg
...there you go...


testrunboxers.jpg
...voila!

Note: Although not recommended in the BMW handbook, better results are achieved when only wearing boxer shorts during unscheduled maintenance.


syliviabiker.jpg
Crazy Canadian, Sylvia

The following day we really did leave, vibration-free this time. We rode along the coast to a small beach town called Playa Ventura. It had been really hot all the way so a swim was most welcome. Just before we jumped in, I saw dolphins swimming by, just metres from the shore.


bikeparksand.jpg
Who needs a stand, just get it stuck in the sand!


viewfromroommexicosea.jpg
Room with a view


PacificSunset.jpg
Pacific sunset

We said farewell to the Pacific until who knows when, and headed inland to the very lovely Taxco, an old silver mining town which still sells silver in every other shop.


taxcobynight.jpg
Taxco

Taxco's markets were built along its steep, narrow streets and covered with tarps - so it was easy to get lost. It was a wonderful place to explore.


lotsofbeetles.jpg
More Beetles than a VW factory!

All the way through South America we'd been in touch with Eduardo and Margarita, friends of Jules and Grant. We'd met them when they visited Jules and Grant in San Rafael. They live in Mexico City and had asked us to call in on the way through.


raintaxco.jpg
You can't get your clothes wet if you don't wear any

As we left Taxco it started raining and the wet stayed with us all the way to Mexico City. We'd been running ahead of the rainy season but it felt like it'd caught us up. By the time we met Eduardo, we were very cold and wet, but he made us so welcome - food and hot showers were waiting for us so within minutes we were comfortable and grateful for the fantastic welcome into their beautiful home.

Mexico City is home to 23 million people. Hame and I are not great city people, so we found the traffic and general busyness quite draining, but the sights of the city were excellent.

Even the local Police were a sight, jetting around on their little electric buggies...


policemexicocity.jpg
Hola, Hola

...but not a patch on the Traffic Cops in their cool V8 Dodge Chargers!


policemexico.jpg
Mexican Mad Max

By coincidence, my stepbrother Adam and his wife Yvonne (who live in Houston) were on holiday in Mexico City the weekend we were there, so we met up and explored the city and surrounding area together.


aztecmural.jpg
One of Diego Rivera's fantastic murals depicting scenes from Aztec life


aztecdancers.jpg
Aztec dancers in the Zocalo - Grand Plaza


zocalo.jpg
Part of the Zocalo - one of the biggest plazas in the world

While teaching, I'd taught the kids about the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan, the beautiful ancient Aztec city which was ransacked by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Reciting all sorts of nerdy facts, I bored poor Yvonne; Hamish and Adam finding it more interesting to talk to each other (about beer and engines).


sunstoneaztec.jpg
The Aztec sunstone, discovered when excavating for a new building


tenochtitlan.jpg
Part of the main temple in Tenochtitlan, right in the middle of the city

Em was disappointed not have made it to Veracruz, on the Gulf Coast, to see the famous Voladores, therefore it was a bonus when we stumbled across a visiting troupe in down-town Mexico City.


voladores.jpg
Voladores

Attaching a length of rope to their ankles, the men 'float' down in circles from a high pole, to the sound of pipes played by one of the flyers - it was an amazing sight indeed.


eduardomargarita.jpg
Saying farewell to Eduardo and Margarita, our kind hosts.


adamyvonneteotihuacan.jpg
With Adam and Yvonne on top of the Great Pyramid at Teotihuacan, ancient site North of the city.


greatpyramid.jpg
The Great Pyramid at Teotihuacan


roadsidebrekky.jpg
Roadside breakfast


berthastreet.jpg
Queretaro

We weren't sad to leave the big city and ride North to quieter areas. We stopped off in Guanajuato, a fantastic town which was once an important mining town. Many of the original tunnels are still there, now occupying the town's roads, thereby saving the town from congestion. The town itself seemed to be built on many levels, with tunnels giving way to high walls and houses perched on steep hills.


guanajuato1.jpg
Guanajuato


guanjuatobynight.jpg
Mariaches serenading a couple in the plaza

By night Guanjuato had a warm atmosphere, both in temperature and friendliness. We wandered around the streets where people of all ages sat and chilled in cafes, on steps and on benches in the plaza, enjoying the evening air. Musicians were everywhere, playing requests for passers by. In one hotel I even got the impression musicians were a kind of pest, as one of the instructions on the door said - "Do not introduce musicians to your room"!


mariachi.jpg
Pests or players?!

As well as the mariaches, one evening we discovered a man playing bagpipes near our hostel. The man playing them had built them himself. Both Hamish the Scot and Hamish the engineer were intrigued.


mexicanbagpipes.jpg
Mexican Pipes!


Guanuatocolourfulbuildings.jpg
Colourful buildings in Guanajuato


hotelguanajuato.jpg
Guanajuato hostel

Again, Guanajuato was a place we could have stayed for far longer but after a couple of days we had to manouever Bertha out from her space by our room, and get back on the road.


CatherdralZacatecas.jpg
Zacatecas Cathedral

Stopping off further north in Zacatecas, we took in the colonial architecture whilst wandering the streets in search of a clinic. Em had been pregnant for ten weeks now and was therefore due a scan, as we'd not be able to get one easily in the States and it would be a few more weeks before we were home. Stepping into what we would later learn to be the oldest hospital in Mexico, we were treated extremely well, both overjoyed to learn all was well with junior to be. (Although perhaps we'll have to play recordings of motorcycle engines to get him or her to sleep! - Em)

Leaving the Central Highlands behind us, we headed North-East towards Monterrey across the plains and some pretty straight roads!


loooongroadmexico.jpg

As if to break the monotony, we found ourselves once again crossing the Tropic of Cancer - the last time being two years previously in Western Australia. Come to think of it, the roads weren't so different there!


tropiccapricorn.jpg
Tropic of Cancer

However, soon enough we turned off and found a 28km stretch of cobbles, which led us to a 2km long tunnel, which in turn took us to Real de Catorce - a coming-to-life ghost town which was a busy, rich mining town 100 years ago. The town was used as a backdrop for the film "The Mexican" and it was like stepping back in time. We found an adobe house to stay in which looked like it hadn't changed in years.


cobblesrealde.jpg
28km of cobbles - I shudder to think how long it took to build!


tunnelrealdecatorce.jpg
And then a 2km tunnel


lodgingrealdecatorce.jpg
Home for the night


OrientalRealdeCatorce.jpg
A place lost in time - Real de Catorce

Back through the tunnel, and soon we were back into the present day where we pointed Bertha to the North and headed off into the heat.

Not long before Monterrey, we suddenly came upon a traffic jam. Winding our way to the front and to the source of the bottle-neck, we found a damaged beer truck on its side, passers-by swarming around, helping themselves to the booty. If only the panniers weren't full...


villagarcia.jpg
Garcia

Wishing to avoid Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, we instead sought out Villa de Garcia, a small village to the West of the city. It was famous for the nearby Grutas de Garcia, apparently the country's largest and most beautiful cave systems. We weren't disappointed. After a fashion (understatement), we found a wonderful hotel for the night, a former colonial mansion, complete with courtyards and fountains. Furthermore, we were the only guests! Result!

With our Houston departure a matter of weeks away, we headed for the border and the Land of Plenty. After after a fantastic 18 months, it was adios Latin America.


map2222.jpg
The Last Bit....

Hamish and Emma


tequilamenu.jpg
A rather substantial tequila menu


coloufulads.jpg
Colourful ads

Posted by Hamish Oag at 09:33 PM GMT
 


HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.


Renedian Adventures


Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!