Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Canada eh?
observations on my mexico trip
Well, I am home again, arrived a couple days ago. I was happy to be home, of course. I was gone a month and amassed 12,000 kilometers in that time. I tried to learn as much Spanish as possible before hand, but I had no one to practice with, and, I am a poor student.
It took a looong time of highway riding to get to the mx/us border. I found it much more tiring on the bmw as opposed to my Hayabusa . I generally don't mind lots of highway riding, I can always amuse myself somehow, I find what gets hauled on the back of transports always interesting...lol....and the highway is a necessary evil.
Crossing the border was a little confusing, as no one spoke English and didn't attempt to. But eventually, everything was in order. We were warned to not take the route to China from a employee at the mcallen bike shop, but we took it anyway, albeit quickly and with no stops.
Reynosawas was my first exposure to mx driving and I actually found it pretty fun. The rules seemed to go out the Window. Chaos but I enjoyed it. Later on riding through the busy cities, I realized that everyone was avoiding me, not the other way around. I found it a challenge to navigate, get lost, watch for hotel signs, topes, people, animals, traffic, street signs and various other diversions at the end of a day of riding when you are at your most hot and tired.
You curse and sweat and breathe fumes and go around the block yet again, but then you are finally stopped , bags off and showered and ready to see the town. I found I intensely disliked the bigger cities, Rio Verde, cuidad Valles, even Linares. I decided if I would go somewhere depending on the size and color of the dot on my map. Small and colorless was what I was looking for. A square with a solid dot...not so much.
I rode with a partner part of the way. We both decided we did not enjoy the cities. Galeana and Dr. Arroyo was just about the right speed. Small and friendly, with a smaller community spirit. The zocalos were always lovely and we'll tended no matter where we were.
Big rattlesnake sunning itself on the road in the mountains towards Galeana! Exciting stuff! I found the hotels to be a mixed bag of unexpected-Ness. One place might be a dive for 350 pesos and the next,terrific for 250. Where are all the toilet seats in mexico? My quads now look like Tom plat z!
I found it unsufferably hot. I was drinking, but my klim didn't vent enough to battle the heat, but apparently there was a bit of a heat wave going on, even the locals commented on how hot it was. Between the heat and the fumes from the cars and traffic, I found I was quite nauseous a fair amount.
I ran into a problem with my bank card, it wouldn't work in most of the bank machines, even if it had the plus symbol on it...and I was almost out of money. That was an issue I hadn't expected, as my bank assured me it would work " everywhere" in mx, not the case. The were always long lineups at atms I found, another unexpected thing.
Or the atm would be out of money, otherwise just technical difficulties. When I finally was able to secure a working atm, I took out the maximum.
I enjoyed oaxaca, it was bigger than I had expected, but I found the constant cacophony overwhelming for this gal from a very small Ontario hamlet. Where I live there are practically no ethnic people. Just a whole lot of white folks.
The various squares were lovely, of course, but again, the constant presence and pressure from the street sellers soured it somewhat. I WAS fascinated by the "shoeshiners". They all had their own method, all incredibly efficient, a ballet of brushes, cloths, shoe strings , and softly murmured words between client and proprietor. Always with the days paper in hand, shaken out, slightly crumpled pages rhythmically turning, then folded with a light snap and placed gently on the ground for the next client to skim through. I was enthralled.
The same for the fruit cup vendors. The slicing and dicing, the placement of the fruit just so, into the cup, then when a customer choose one, it was enhanced with various colors and flavors and perhaps, squirms of this or that, then in one smooth move, the cup is handed over, with a napkin that always seemed to appear as if by magic, where did that spoon come from? and without missing a beat, onto the next request. Pure theatre's, at least for me.
Always children running happily, mostly unsupervised, sometimes falling, but no one seemed wound up over "srangers" or helicopter parenting thier little ones that is so prevalent here. I didn't see anything other than happy relaxed families enjoying a night out in the square, sharing some stories and laughs, usually with a band playing on the bandstand.
I found that was lacking in the bigger cities, the squares lacked that community feel that last likes. I spent a few hours walking around Santana Anna? In the mountains on 85, a wonderful mountain road. Such a mix of rural and village right there. Pigs in yards, horses tethered to the front door, goats being herded along, small narrow winding streets leading to another mystery, it was great!
The toll road to oaxaca was a surprise, well worth the ride. So high up!
I found I didn't like the food very much, or maybe I was to cautious about what to eat, but I was hungry a lot. I did eat some street food, of course, and we ate at an excellent restaurant in Rio Verde, very good. When ever I had eggs, they were delicious. I also got a touch of tourist a from eating at a "nice" restaurant. I just would go into my grab bag and take 2 pepto bismol,2 gravel, and 2 immodium, lay down for a couple hours, drink some water and I was good to go.
I found on my map, not the guia roji, but my international traveller's map, what was on the street sign and what was on my map were very different which led to a few wrong ways. The numbers were different, by a lot, actually.
Oh, I found in Texas, that my poly cotton clothes were soaked with sweat and I bought some wiki type, easy wash, quick dry clothes, which I washed a night and wore the next day. The poly cotton stuff was so unsuitable, I found anyway. Which meant I hardly touched most of my clothes.
Yes..... I way over packed but I was going from very cold Canada to very hot mexico back to cold Canada. Having never ridden that far south, I didn't know what I was going to run into, and I had brought some nicer clothes to walk around in at night so I wouldn't look like shlumpy tourist.
When home, I took my 40 litre dry bag and filled it with everything I hadn't used or had used a max of 3 times, I overfilled that 40 litre bag and it must have weighed at leat 10 lbs. At least.
I was always soooo saddened to see the stray dogs, always looking for a kind touch a a scrap of food. So, so sad, they were always so gentle and grateful for some gentle attention. I was puzzled by the thousands of unfinished buildings everywhere. Why? Just thousands of them and piles of rubble.
I enjoyed my trip to mexico but I think if I go again, I would have an entirely different experience. I would learn more Spanish, take more cash with me, or be prepared and not leave it so late, and I would pack waaaaay less. I may even consider taking the bus a, with some modifications as I THINK, if I chose my roads carefully, it might be doable. MIGHT be doable....
The thumper was tiring, not my steed of choice. The only thing that would hinder my returning would be the long ride from 2 hours east of Toronto to mexico itself. It eats up soooo much time. I was gone a month and it wasn't enough time. I would also not worry so much about leaving my bike on the street, there are some towns and villages where I did leave it out and I wasn't concerned at all. I don't ride with the presumption that people are just waiting to steal from me as soon as my back is turned. I prefer to believe in the goodness of people, everywhere, and treat my environment in a suspicious manner. Which doesn't mean I am foolhardy or foolish though.
Oh my.....before I forget, on my way back to my room after following yet AONOTHER parade and band in oaxaca, I passed a Latin dance studio where class was in session. I watched for a few minutes and then impulsively joined in. For the next hour, I danced with a young handsome Mexican with lots of fun, missed dance steps, and much laughter,