January 26, 2008 GMT
Mexico (Part 2)

Next day our destination is Orizaba and again sticking to toll roads we have a fairly successful day. That is until the afternoon when we get on top of a mountain in freezing fog which ices on our jackets and gives Darren the constant shivers. We are so high up we are actually in the clouds and the fog is so severe we are doing 15mph. Once in the town of Orizaba we again get hassled by children begging. The hotel has a church next door and is very pretty.



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Setting out by 9.30am next day we head off for an easy day along the Toll roads. This soon turns out to be the day from hell after a missed turning takes us off towards Veracruz. No probs we can hop on the 180 road which will take us back to the toll road.
Due to crap mexican signs and an even crapper map we manage to miss that turning too. The GPS is doing it's best but it doesn't even show the road we were supposed to be on in the first place! After a frustrating half an hour we manage to get back to where we should have been and follow the very slow, very long 180 road.
Again there are trucks and lorries to overtake, potholes, dogs (dead & alive) and topes everywhere. This has to be the worst road yet for massive potholes which we can't miss. With very sore backs and behinds we get to the toll road and wind it on at 70 mph trying to get back some wasted time. Once in Minitilan we get lost around the town for a while until we hit the main drag and finally the hotel Madrid.

Mexico is certainly a tough place to be riding in and we are both exhausted.


The following day it's up early and over to Palenque to stay in the town nearby and visit the ruins.


This day has to be the easiest one yet as we get every turn right and it is a nice scenic route. There is still alot of flooding in the Tabasco area and as we pass Villahermosa you can still see the devastation such as this landslide.



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We reach the town of Palenque and relax for the rest of the day.


If I am honest, I think it has taken us until now to really get to grips with navigating in Mexico, it would seem you have to tune in a bit. As Em says the run to Palenque was easy after equal amounts of route planning and luck we managed to arrive in town early for once and have time to relax.


The next morning my routine of going out and preping the bike ready for the day ahead was made more interesting by what else was in the car park. On a trailer was a KTM 950, believe it or not this was only the second Adventure bike we had seen since crossing into Mexico.


As it happens, the owner of the KTM was watching me unlocking the GS while having his breakfast and came over for a chat. He was a local and I am ashamed to say that his English was far better than my Spanish - but at least we got to talk about bikes and trips and later that day met again at the ruins where we introduced each other to our wives.


Erwin & Gabriela it was a pleasure meeting you - (Erwin get planning that trip to South America - see you there maybe..)


We leave the hotel early to beat the crowds to the Palenque ruins. The trip takes us 10 mins down a lush tropical road. We park at the top of the hill and get great service from the guys running the car park and washing cars there. We agree on 10 pesos (50p) for him to keep his eye on the bike and keep it safe.


Palenque is a beautiful place in a clearing in the jungle, with tropical plants all around.



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We wander around climbing the buildings and taking our time to look around. From every corner there is another stunning view of the ruins.



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It is a really peaceful and tranquil place to be and we sit around under the trees for a while soaking it all in.



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Eventually heading back to the bike everything is still there so we pay our man and head off back to the hotel.


From Palenque we head south to San Christobel de las Casas, a place where Darren really wanted to visit because of it's Spanish colonial feel. The road South is pretty with lovely mountain views.



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30 miles down the road we realise we are going to need fuel, but there are no gas stations on this road. We have two choices, either turn round and do a 60 mile round trip back to Palenque or take our chances with the locals selling fuel. We opt for the locals and find a little place.



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It costs us $7 to half fill the tank and Darren pours the fuel in while I hold the make shift metal funnel lined with muslin.


Once fueled up we take a small detour to look at the Agua Azul Cascadas (Blue water Falls).


First we get stopped at 100 yards from the turn off by a rope across the road and some enterprising guys who charge us 10 pesos for entrance to the falls.


800 yards down the road and a second rope stops us. The guys there tell us it is 20 pesos for parking.


The waterfall is really pretty and we wander around it.



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As we leave back to the main road a group of 5 police trucks go past us to the falls. We think this is strange and speculate why, deciding that it is probably to do with drugs and that maybe people use the river to float drugs downstream.


Southern Mexico is certainly alot nicer than the North Eastern side. Unfortunately, my personal experience of the Mexican people in general has been unfriendly and unhelpful. This really doesn't help you much when you are having a tough time on the bike and roads too. Don't get me wrong we have met a couple of genuinely friendly people but on the whole they don't help you much when you are trying to speak their language. It may be they assume we are Americans as they seem to have a healthy resentment for the USA.


We reach San Christobel and drive round the town looking for accommodation. It is a complete rabbit warren of tiny cobbled streets all one way, so we just follow the flow of traffic and hope for the best.


Eventually we find a beautiful place to stay with a central courtyard garden and windows from the room which open out onto the courtyard. The parking is on the next block but secure.



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San Christobel's Cathedral


We get cleaned up and then head out to explore. First we find a bank and manage to get our tourist card visas paid ready for our border crossing the next day.


Then we stop for a coffee and watch the world go by for an hour. We have a nice meal later and an early night as we plan to head for the border in the morning.


What Em fails to mention is that I dragged her around the entire town looking for Mexico stickers - all you bike travellers out there will now have a knowing smile on your face, for everyone else, well for every country that we travel in, I want the sticker on the pannier to remind ourselves in years to come just what we have acheived. Em thankfully found the stickers before we grabbed the coffee, I must have looked odd sitting there clutching my prize, but I didnt care - we had bloody earnt those stickers.


The town was really stunning, with great architecture and brightly painted buidings all decidedly Spanish. There was a real mixture of people on the streets, this place seemed to be a staging post for travellers, either heading south for adventure or north for work - still no adventure bikers though.


Next day we are up at 6am. For some reason crossing the border today does not seem right, I explain to Em that maybe we should stay another day to get organised before we cross. Basically I am worried, we both are, about the house situation and we did not want to get into Central America and lose email before things are sorted. So we spend the day making decisions and writing emails and decide to take the house back, it means financial help from home for which we are so grateful and finally it feels like we are in charge of our own destiny again.


Later that day we have some very bad personal news from home which needs us to stay put for a couple of days to get ourselves straight. After more difficult decisions we head straight for Guatemala next day.


Posted by Darren Homer at January 26, 2008 04:58 PM GMT
 



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