January 26, 2008 GMT
Mexico (Part 1)

Christmas is very relaxed as we stay on South Padre Island and have Xmas lunch in a nice hotel before walking back along the beach to our motel. Relaxed apart from numerous emails and fraught phone calls back to the UK to our Letting Agents.


Basically, they were being slack, resulting in us having to meet mortgage and tax costs while the property laid empty during December, if we have to absorb January or even Februarys costs then the trip could be coming to a premature end, they need to pull their fingers out..


The prep work ready for Mexico had gone well, the GPS software arrived and loaded up ok, the new tires arrived and I fitted both with less aggrevation. We re-packed the bike with what we needed from here on and beefed up our security a bit - money stashed on bike / cards hidden on person and we put the "muggers wallet" together for daily use (basically my wallet with expired cards and cash only).


Its a good feeling knowing that you are organised, we had Mexico insurance, all our documentation and copies, we had money changed, the bike ready, we were ready...


Then bam.. news from home, the one thing not in our control, lets us down, its just as well that I am on the other side of the planet from the Letting Office, I cannot begin to explain here how let down we both feel.


We will have to meet Januarys' and potentially Februarys' mortgage payments which effectively robs us of 25% of our remaining trip budget. Thats it then, we cannot afford to complete the trip as originally planned.


As mentioned before our dream is Ushuaia, to get there now will mean longer days in the saddle with few days off and basic accommodation. From here on in its a budget of $100 a day (not easy) with a time frame of getting to Ushuaia then Buenos Aires by the end of March.


It also means that we cannot ride with our Texas buddys and their friends, breaking our news to these guys was really tough, especially after meeting everyone - as it was clear then that we would all get on and enjoy each others company.


Sorry guys, maybe next time.


After saying our sad farewells we get straight on the road towards the Mexican border as it is a Friday.


The crossing over seems fine and we go over a small bridge, pay the toll fee and continue down past a grey building and a set of green lights which we get waved through.


Continuing down the road and the scene starts deteriorating rapidly, shacks have replaced buildings, stray dogs everywhere and the signs are decidly spanish. Darren says ' do you think that grey building back there was the immigration and customs office?" We aren't sure so continue along for 5 miles - nothing official looking appears in this time.


We decide to head back to the grey building and 'just check' it's not customs etc...
Yes, you guessed right it was the immigration building and we had just driven illegally into Mexico...oops. Well no-one stopped us and there were no signs...


We get parked up and into the building, not knowing what to expect and from hearing lots of horror stories about border crossings being a nightmare. I have to say that it was extremley easy and took us about half an hour in all. We get our temporary import sticker for the bike, stop to change some dollars into Mexican pesos and are on our way again- this time legally.


The first two hours are painfully slow going as we go through Matomoros and other villages on the main road down to Cuidad Victoria. This is a real eye opener as it is really rough area with shacks and rubbish strewn everywhere.


We get pulled over at a Military checkpoint 2 hours later and have our paperwork checked again.


As the guard waves us down, I have visions of having to get everything unpacked for inspection, but thankfully he gives us the once over and asks for our import sticker (I had not stuck it on the screen in case it was nicked).


He then kicks my boot and looks at me!? What the ....? He stills looks at my boot which is covered by my BMW trousers, I look down and guess at his concern - the armour in my boots looks like I might be conceling a weapon, once his mind is put at rest we are free to go - I then put the sticker on the screen to make further checkpoints easier..hopefully.


(Incidently, if you are caught bringing in a weapon or even one round of ammunition into Mexico then the penalty is simple - jail time and lots of it).


Continuing down to Cuidad Victoria we spend 30 mins driving round the town finding a hotel by 6pm. After getting sorted and dinner nearby we are both exhausted by our eventful day.


Next day sees us head over to Tampico. This takes us all day and is slow going again with villages every 10 mins or so. The topes (speed bumps in the road) are really bad before and after every village. By far the worst are the metal bumps.



topes.JPG


We stop for fuel and almost get ripped off by the petrol attendent who tries to keep our $10 change. Darren gives him a nod and we get the change back.


Eventually we get into Tampico which is a larger place than Victoria. After driving round it for nearly an hour we eventually find the hotel we had seen on the internet. It was really run down and we decide to head back into town. Finally we found a hotel and we get cleaned up then head out for some food. This goes badly as there is no where open (8pm). We head back to the hotel and raid the snack machine.


Next day we are up early and ready for breakfast. After home made waffles we head off to Pachuca. The night before we had debated the possible route for today with me compromising for Darren's route cross country and along a very wiggly looking road on the map. We agree on a bail out point at Tamazunchale as I feel it is too ambitious getting to Pachuca in one go.


As we head out onto the roads it takes us a good 2 hours to do 55 miles through village after village and tope after tope. Very tedious. I have to admit that as this point I was getting tired of it all.


The constant bumps and potholes, topes, lane changing, sudden stops and starts, lorries and trucks hammering past us with inches to spare. The stares from locals, the stray dogs running out and chasing us, the poverty everywhere you look, countless dead dogs on the road making me feel more and more queasy and the smells. Every second it seems different smells from rotten rubbish to burning rubber, burning food, dead animals, exhaust fumes, burning oil from knackered cars and trucks- the list is endless. I found it overpowering of my senses.


We soldier on and reach the wiggly road. This actually starts quite nicely and my spirits lift as we wind along down a quiet road lined with tropical palms and flowers. The villages are much smaller but still the topes.



jnglrd.JPG


Soon enough we get stuck behind countless trucks and lorries kicking out black smoke as they thrash their engines trying to negotiate the tight turns. We pick them off one by one and get a bit of a clear run for a while.


After what seems like hours and hours we see the sign for Tamazunchale and turn off. This turns out to be very confusing as there are two places called the same name (one with a CC in front and one without). The detour sends us off on a tiny road which soon deteriorates into mud and broken concrete, everywhere there are 4wd trucks with people hanging out of the back. A dog chases us for half the length of the road until we finally manage a U turn and get back on the main road. Phew.


Finally reaching Tamazunchale just before last light we roll up to the only hotel in the town and get checked in. It is basic but clean, we must be the only guests here as it is very quiet. Darren gets harrassed by a local begging as he unpacks the bike.


We get cleaned up ready for dinner only to find the Restaurant is closed. No supper now for two nights in a row - this is depressing.



tzchale.JPG


Em did not give me too hard a time over my choice of road, I agree with her it was hard work, painfully slow and an eye-opener. But for me, thats what its all about, we got to see and interact with real people going about real life and the views were stunning. We were far off the beaten track and no longer heard the usual American accents, no tourists venture this way - I am glad we chose the road less travelled.



vista.JPG


As a rider Mexico is demanding but not difficult, the roads in general are ok you just have to stay alert for potholes, damaged roads, the speed bumps (topes) that have to be experienced to be believed and of course there's the animals...


All manner of animal is tethered to the side of the road to graze on the fresh grass, at least you hope they are tethered as you aproach - its not guaranteed. But the big issue are the dogs - running out from everywhere, so many dogs that you lose count of how many you see each day, any one of them could bring you down - dead or alive.



goats.JPG


You read a lot about Mexican drivers, on the whole I would say they are good but agressive wth it, everyone knows the width of their vehicle - as proved on numerous occasions by the inches that were to spare as they overtook us and they have a healthy respect for each other - flashing and beeping to make sure the other drivers aware that they are about to do a manouver.


By far my worse experience so far of riding in Mexico is the cities, its utter chaos with everyone vying for position and battling with the buses and taxis while searching for road signs that may lead you out of the nightmare - your eyes sting from the exhaust pollution and you tire quickly from the effort of stop starts, topes, lane switching and keeping alert to what the guy next to you is doing..did I mention the topes?


So far on this trip I have rode the big Beemer through many a city, Calgary, San Fran, Vegas, LA to name a few, all can't hold a candle to the Mexico experience.


From Tamazunchale the next day we set out early with no breakfast hoping to make it to Pachuca by lunchtime. The only way to describe this road is a nightmare. Really really twisty- 2nd gear switchbacks which make me feel sick, really high elevation the road climbs over several mountains and villages every 10mins or so with dogs running out and topes. The views are amazing however.



folds.JPG


Well at least we can say we have seen the real Mexico.


It takes us 7 hours to complete the 120 miles and with very sore bottoms we reach Pachuca. As it is New Years Eve we get settled in to our hotel and have an early dinner at 4pm as we are both starving hungry. Then it is back to the room to relax after a really hard couple of days.


After a rest we head off to just outside of Mexico City to visit our first Mayan ruins at Teotihuacan. This day is supposed to be easy as after the nightmare couple we have just had we decide to stick to the toll roads as much as possible as they are quicker and smoother etc. Unfortunately this doesn't go to plan and we get lost completely for a while around the town of Ectapec. Mexican signs are such that if the road you want exits from the other side of the road they won't sign it on your side so you don't know it's there. After travelling along the same section of the road we get third time lucky and onto the right road to Teotihuacan.


Once there we get a great hotel nearby for a good deal and then head off to see the ruins.



empy.JPG
Pyramid of the Sun


Once parked we head off to take a walk around the ruins, from the road in you can see two large pyramids so I was really looking forward to our day out. The main pyramid is the Sun Pyramid and I explain to Em that I really wanted to climb to the top, Em feels unsteady on her feet in her biker gear and does not want to climb, so I resolve myself to the fact that its not to be.


You see, the last time Em and I were at a pyramid we were in Giza, Egypt and had queued for ages to get into the main pyramid. On reaching the entrance, which was tiny, Em said she could not go in, in a split second I had to make a decision as the coach left in 20mins. Do I go back to the coach with Em or take a once in a lifetime look in one of the wonders of the World? I went in...a desicion that was to effect the rest of our holiday as it left Em at the mercy of the Egyptian touts for 20 mins until I came out. I wasnt going to make that mistake again..


We walk around the site, up the road of the dead to the Moon Pyramid which is as impressive as the sun pyramid just on a smaller scale.



teo.JPG
Avenue of the Dead


After a good look around we head back toward the sun pyramid and seeing me gazing up at it Em tells me to climb and that she is happy to wait at the bottom. I was made up, but equally worried that she would be waiting on her own, Em reminded me that she had her 'shit kicker' boots on so should be fine.


Its worth mentioning at this point that these Mayan ruins are at altitude and even walking around had you breathing hard. It also meant that the temperature was on the chilly side with high winds stirring up the sand. I decided that I would take it easy climbing the Sun Pyramid, but suprisingly I reached the top in around 15minutes - I must be fitter than I thought.


The views from the top are worth the climb, you get a real sense of how these people had laid out the city and of how they must have lived.



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Don't look down...


After climbing back down - which is actually harder to do because of the fear of falling - I rejoin Em and we take a look around the museum before we head back to the hotel. The museum was excellent, many great sculptures and works of art were on display alongside a model replica of the city.

Posted by Darren Homer at January 26, 2008 04:09 PM GMT
 



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