September 22, 2007 GMT
Mexico

Mexico has been a real blast – chaotic, historic, surprising, friendly, and often beautiful – the riding has varied from rainy days in clouds at 2,500m, (we went even higher later - to 3,200m) to wonderful windy mountain roads near Copper Canyon (bigger than Grand Canyon), to steamy coastal strip near the Caribbean, to traffic snarled towns where stony faced aggression is the riding technique to choose, and a very few freeways.

The food is consistent - HOT! (pecante) - but I love it!

All in all great riding in a country I knew little about, but have enjoyed so much - “I will return”!!!

My Spanish started poorly, and left me feeling quite inadequate – but as the days and weeks go by, it improves quickly, and I feel much more confident on the street or in the restaurants. After 3 months – I expect I will be very comfortable.

Zacatecas
We stayed in a classic Mexican town that seemed to be totally devoid of any tourist influence. We arrived to Mariachi music in the sqaure – our very swank hotel was right next to the town square – so we could open our window & watch the musicians & later drummers entertain the assembling procession crowd – it was actually the start of a procession – that wound its way round the cobbled streets, and up the hill to the church – lots of fire crackers as well – a great welcome to the town.

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Later – we wondered the crooked streets amazed at the shops of local clothing – particularly the obscenely pointed cowboy boots and matching belts. They can never be accused of subtlety.

The cathedral at night is the prominent sight.
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Our very swank hotel - in the morning before we left:
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San Miguel
We stayed here a couple of nights – a very quaint old Spanish hotel, and a really buzzing little town.

Matt & Rod hamming it up at the hotel - an abundance of ceramic tile architectural features:
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This is where I shouted the group to a tequilla evening – the best tequila we could buy, at a quaint little bar, and then waves of Ola’s!!!!! when “lip, sip, suck”, went round the bar several times. Then a great dinner – to vibrant local music.
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Followed by more tequilla's at the bar!

A late night!! At about 2.00am I remember calling a few people – sorry! Chris, this is the view I described – upto the plaza, where the Mariachi’s were still serenading evening walkers.
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Needless to say – a slow day the next day – exploring the back streets of town – seemed to have a grand church at every corner – this was the grandest.
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Amazing the social penetration the church has in these places – an overwhelming (overbearing?) presence in fact!

Lots of hot days riding in the low lands – along the Mexican Caribbean coast – HOT!!! and muggy – we had a good old thunderstorm one afternoon – no one bothered to put their rain gear on – just enjoyed the big fat rain drops & cooling down – remember those good old 4pm thunderstorms??? Seems such a long time ago. Got to the hotel thoroughly wet but refreshed – Greg didn’t wait to change – straight into the pool!
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All that padding makes for good flotation!
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Agua Acul
Some waterfalls that flood down the river – really a series of cascades – quite impressive:
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Palenque
A town next to some extensive Mayan ruins. The ruins sat covered by jungle for over 1000 years – the Spaniards missed them entirely - even now only 10% has been restored - the jungle still protects the rest. The Mayan era in this location was about 250AD to 900AD. The peak period was about 600AD when the most famous King – PacalDSC01025.JPG built his tomb,
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the palace
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and his wife’s tomb (complete with sacrifice altar)– virgins were the normal sacrifice, but so were the losers of a type of football / volleyball (heads, shoulders, elbows & foot) game – pretty serious game!!!
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The Mayans were vegetarian, not a war based culture, and had quite well developed architectural skills – the Mayan arch is evident everywhere.
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The town was serviced by aqua ducts, and working sewerage.
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The palace even included steam rooms, - Lisa in the steam room
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The steam room was used to meditate - helped with just a little piute, mescal or mushrooms!!!

TOPES
I am sure I have discovered the Mexican national sport – it is called “TOPES”.

It has:
• Adrenalin pumping action
• Testing of man & machine
• Often attracts spectators who cheer
• Requires skill and dexterity
• Has losers

It doesn’t, though, seem to have:
• Rules or rule makers
• Winners
• Referees
• A playing field of any specific definition

TOPES are ridges across the road, usually about 200mm high, and I believe initially intended to slow traffic down as you enter villages on regional roads. They are very successful at doing this, and in some instances are well placed, well marked (with upto 300m warning), in a state of good repair, and ONLY where they are needed. The problem is – rarely are they all (or even any) of these things.

There also seems to have been a transformation of the intent, to where virtually anyone who wants traffic to be slowed down, goes and harvests some bitumen (usually) from some underdeveloped pot hole, heats it up a bit, lays it outside of his home / banana stall / drink stall, quasi security checkpoint, and then sits back to watch the fun.

Also people congregate at TOPES to sell you junk, collect donations for local charities, or canvas you for the next political election.

In all of this, the sport comes in when you – see the TOPES too late, are traveling too fast, trying to overtake the truck moving at snail’s pace. A well designed TOPES is best traversed in 2nd gear at low revs.

We have traversed THOUSANDS of TOPES, and I now call myself a relative expert player at the game – but still get it wrong on occasion – and get punished with a BANG of the suspension, and an elevating heart rate.

I only hope the sport of TOPES doesn’t become international, and stays in Mexico (just as Aussie Rules footie in Australia – don’t you think?).

Well, that’s about it from Mexico – into Guatemala next – then Honduras, Nicaragua etc.

The bike is going great – done about 28,000kms on it in 6 months – no problems and such a great bike to eat up the distance on the long days, squirt through the twisties with great enthusiasm, and bump along the back roads & dirt tracks – loaded with about 50kg of luggage all up – and blissfully serenaded by my iPOD with 8,000 tracks – I never get bored!!! Have to go & work on the tan today – so adios mi amigos, catch you all soon.

Cheers

Ron & The Black Mamba

Posted by Ron Markiewicz at September 22, 2007 05:00 AM GMT
 



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