|03-10-2013, 09:00 AM||#841|
Joined: Mar 2006
Location: No Fixed Address (originally Toronto)
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/77.html
After almost three months of wandering around this amazing country, we're getting ready to leave Mexico. There's just this nasty business of recovering from a really bad stomach flu. We've discovered from our earlier travels, Neda is the Distant Early Warning for gastrointestinal problems. She always gets hit first, and then 3-4 days later, I get hit 10X harder. It happened in India and now, just as we are leaving Mexico.
Neda goes out for a supples run - bananas, crackers, Gatorade, jello and baby food
We are in Chetumal, a border town about a couple of hours south of Tulum. A day after arriving, I find myself sweating and shivering under the covers, every muscle racked with pain. I also find out why they call this the Aztec Two-Step, as I need to be exactly two steps away from a toilet boil, otherwise tragedy results, more so for the housekeeping staff...
We are holed up in Oxtankah, a nice suburb of Chetumal on the beach
Chetumal is not a very interesting place, which was perfect since I was in bed most of the time. After a slow recovery of clear liquids and soft foods, we took the opportunity while in a larger city to do some maintenance and find out what the process was to leave Mexico: insurance, currency, importation rules, etc.
So in the interests of filling up an entry, here is a little retrospective of our time in Mexico, filled with some pictures and memories of daily life that didn't make the blog the first time around:
Spain has the Three Tenors, Mexico brings us the Four Altos
Although we're used to riding in crowded, chaotic conditions, traffic in Mexico threw us some unique obstacles. Literally. Topes, or speed-bumps, totally caught us off-guard when we entered Baja California. Some of them are not very well marked and you have to predict where a tope would logically be - like when a road goes through a small town or entering a city, or just before a curve. We've both caught major air while daydreaming on the bike, and there's a lot of sparring over who will lead the ride, since the leader effectively becomes the canary in the coalmine.
In Canada and the US (and most western countries), it's normal to use your right turn signal if you want to be passed. However in Mexico, they use the *left* indicator to signal vehicles behind you to pass you. This is very confusing to non-Mexicans. The first time I tried to pass a truck, he turned on his left turn signal as I pulled beside him, and I freaked out and slammed on the brakes, thinking he was going to turn left in front of me. It turns out that the left indicator really means, "I've scanned the road in front of me, and it's safe for you to pass me". Confusing. If the vehicle in front wants to turn left, they either use their four-ways, or they will pull over to the right shoulder, wait for all traffic to pass by and then turn left when it's clear. CONFUSING!!!
We were talking to a young couple outside of our casita in Guadalajara and their little boy was fascinated with our motorcycles.
The Mexican people are so friendly and hospitable. It is normal when walking on the streets to greet total strangers with a "Buenos Dias" (or "Buenos" for short). And as you are leaving restaurants, it is customary to wish other people, "Buen Provecho" (Bon Appetit). I really like how smiles are so easily returned, whereas in the large cities of the US and Canada, a smiling face is viewed with suspicion or annoyance.
Sincronizada in Ajijic
Food is very cheap in Mexico, and we both love discovering the cuisine that never migrated north of the border. Neda loves pasole, a white corn-based soup filled with other vegetables and meat while I leaned more towards the fried and starchy foods, chilaquiles and tacos filled with all manner of fried meats, chorizo, tripe, tongue and BRAINS! The grasshoppers were not a favorite...
Much to the Neda's chagrin, for all the vegetables available in the mercados, they were never served in the restaurants. And diet sodas don't seem to be as popular as in Canada and the US.
Looking for a rug to cut in the dancing church of San Juan
Churches, markets and plazas dominate almost every town, large and small, in Mexico. We've found out that in different churches across the country, there are different ways to approach the altar. In Guadalajara, most of the attendees get down on both knees and shuffle forwards. In San Juan, just outside of Uruapan, devotees *DANCE* towards the altar! Even though there is no music played inside the church.
There's always a party in Mexico, even in church!
This little guy's skateboard was broken, so I got my tools out and got down to do some road-side repairs
Building a family is very important in Mexico. While in Canada and the US, the incidences of child-free couples are increasing, Neda and I are viewed as quite the oddity here for opting not to have kids. Mexico is a festive country, with bright primary colours decorating all the buildings and every other person seems to be either playing or carrying a musical instrument. The presence of lots of children running around the streets just adds to this joyful atmosphere, and you can't help but be infected with the festive spirit.
Changing out a lightbulb in Angangueo
Swapping out my battery at Garry and Ivonne's place in Mexico City
Our bikes have been holding up well so far, other than routine maintenance, the only worrying problem is the plug for my primary headlight has broken (melted and disintegrated), so the wires can't contact the base of the bulb. This is a special part that needs to be ordered and it takes a month for the part to be shipped from Germany. Since we don't stay long enough in one place, I'm going to have to figure out where we'll be in advance for a while otherwise I'll be blinding everyone with my high-beams for quite awhile.
Waiting out inclement weather in Angangueo
We've been very lucky to be travelling during dry season in Mexico, and the number of rainy days we've encountered in the last three months can be counted on 3 fingers. Mexicans don't check the weather forecasts. Dry season simply means No Rain. Every time we'd tell someone about rain in the forecast, they'd look at us like we were grossly misinformed or just being stupid. Then when it did rain, I can't even describe the look of utter confusion on their faces, as if socks were falling from the sky instead of water.
Courtyard parking in Oaxaca.
Despite the friendliness and hospitality in Mexico, there is still a wariness about petty theft everywhere we went. In most of our accommodations, there were always secured spaces for our motorcycles. In Oaxaca, we were only allowed to park in the courtyard during the night since the motorcycles were kept where the restaurant was set up. So every night when the restaurant closed, we moved our bikes off the street into the courtyard and at 7AM the next day, we had to wake up to move the bikes back outside. We missed the alarm one morning and got a very angry knock at the door. Customers were waiting to be seated as we sheepishly pushed our bikes back outside, sleep still in our eyes and BedHead worse than HelmetHair.
We are not morning people...
Beach at Todos Santos
We had no idea what to expect when entering Mexico three months ago. All I knew was what I had seen on TV or read in the news. Mexico is in the unenviable position of being caught in the middle of the largest producer of drugs and the largest consumer of drugs. This drug trade seems to remain underground and we never saw any evidence of it the entire time we were there. It's a shame that the entire country gets painted with such a broad sensationalistic brush that it scares visitors away from such a beautiful place with amazing culture, food and friendly people.
Despite this, we have run across many ex-pats who have ventured here and already know what we have just discovered: golden sandy beaches, lush forests, colonial architecture, remains of ancient civilizations, hidden underwater caves and all sorts of migratory wildlife that have travelled vasts distances to settle here (I'm referring to the ex-pats again)...
Farewell Mexico, hope to see you again soon!
|03-10-2013, 04:21 PM||#842|
No, it's not complicated
Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Here, there and everywhere
Hopefully your journeys will open up your perspective too. I see it in Gene and Neda displayed so wonderfully, you just know they are loving the journey!
Wandering the world with purpose...
'13 BMW R1200GS ADV (triple black) - it doesn't get any better... just had to get another one!, '07 BMW R1200GS ADV - sold after 73,000 wonderful miles together
'13 Ford Raptor SVT - wow, what a truck!
|03-10-2013, 10:10 PM||#843|
Joined: May 2002
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
From your direction into Belize it looks like Tikal is in your future.
|03-11-2013, 01:22 PM||#845|
Joined: Apr 2012
Location: Lansing, MI
excellent RR and pictures
really enjoy your pictures.
really enjoy your food pictures as I have started watching what and how much I eat.
You two have a place to stay in Michigan if you ever go back to Toronto. We have excellent ice cream and fudge on Mackinaw Island.
|03-11-2013, 04:36 PM||#847|
Joined: Mar 2013
Location: Upstate NY
Hello Neda & Gene
You folks are the best! You inspired me to join this forum. I was approved 2 minutes ago glad Neda is feeling better and you are in nice warm weather. We need more people like you on this planet! Best regards! Jake & Max the Dog:
|03-11-2013, 07:33 PM||#848|
Joined: Nov 2006
Location: Rochester, MN
Neda/Gene. Thanks for sharing.
My Cousin is an ex-pat from Ann Arbor living in Ottawa
My brothers and I are heading to the northeast soon. Here is the story:
|03-11-2013, 08:24 PM||#849|
Joined: Jan 2013
Location: Spokane, Washington, USA
The picture of Gene fixing the little boy's skateboard is the best! That's what life is all about...the human connection. Gene & Neda, you are kick-ass individuals. I like your style!
|03-11-2013, 09:03 PM||#850|
Joined: Oct 2010
Location: Banámichi, Sonora, Mexico
Gene, thanks for your great descriptions of your time in Mexico. I'm one of the one million expats living here and loving every minute.
Looking forward to your continued adventures as you head south.
Mexico - Dream, Discover, Ride
Hotel Los Arcos, Northern Sonora's Motorcycle Haven
Turkeycreek screwed with this post 03-13-2013 at 09:25 PM
|03-13-2013, 01:05 AM||#851|
Joined: Mar 2006
Location: No Fixed Address (originally Toronto)
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/78.html
This is a very exciting day for us! We're leaving Mexico and heading into the 4th country of our trip. And it only took us 8 months! Yes, we are setting quite the blistering pace...
It was a fine day to cross the border: sunny skies, hot weather. The exit procedure from Mexico was pretty straightforward, we just had to do the reverse of what we did when we came in: discharge the vehicle importation permit, then the tourist visa, and then get our passports stamped to exit the country. Then we had to do it all over again to enter Belize!
And then we were welcomed into Belize
We didn't really know much about Belize before crossing the border, having done no research at all. It was surprising to us that English is the official language of Belize! Yay! I can communicate like a grown-up again! The other surprise was that although we had officially crossed into Central America, Belize is part of the Caribbean! Its British colonial heritage explains the English language, and it was once called the British Honduras. Also, there was a very breezy feel to all the officials we met; a laid-back attitude coupled with that easy island accent: "Everyting's gonna be alrite, mon!"
A new wrinkle to border crossing: fumigation!
We purchased the mandatory vehicle insurance just past the border and started riding towards the largest marked city on our GPS. Central America is not as well-documented as other regions, and there were two free GPS maps available on the Internet. So, we split the difference, and Neda had one copy on her GPS and I had the other. Right away, we realized we were in trouble when our GPSs pointed to two different directions... It took a bit of zooming out to figure out that there were differences in routing and streets on both maps, so we had to be a bit smart about deciding which direction to take. In the end, I'm glad we are using two different maps, because neither was totally complete and accurate and we were able to deduce which was the "better" route by comparing zoomed-out maps.
Stopping for a snack break
Riding through Belize was quite a contrast to Mexico. The roads were not very well-maintained and the signage was not very helpful. Perhaps we were too used to the "Mexican way" and needed to adjust to a new country. The scenery was so lush with tall un-maintained grass surrounding us as we rode through Northern Belize. We passed several small villages and noticed a lot more multi-culturism here than in Mexico: Caribbean, Mayan, Chinese and lots of Mennonites all over the place! What was up with that?
A couple of Mennonite kids were a bit shy when they saw us approaching
But these schoolkids were not shy at all
Neda handed out pens to all the kids, but she ran out and this little guy got a small toy instead.
He didn't seem too happy. I think he really wanted a pen...
I did some reading up on the Mennonites in Belize. They originated in Prussia, but fled to other parts of the world in the 1870s when mandatory conscription conflicted with their pacifist beliefs. The Prussian Mennonites that settled in Canada moved further south in 1918 after WWI, when we introduced mandatory conscription as well. They ended up in Mexico, and AGAIN had to leave when in the 1950s, the government insisted that they enroll in the social security programs. The Mennonites finally settled in Belize where they've been since 1958. They've invigorated the agriculture industry here, turning huge tracts of tropical jungles into farmland.
Belize City was not so nice
Belize City is a port town only a couple of hours ride from the border. The entire country is tiny, with a population of only 300,000 people, and almost a quarter of the population lives in this city. It used to be the capital until a huge hurricane almost decimated it over 50 years ago. The capital was then moved further inland to Belmopan. As we rode around, we found that the city doesn't seem to have a tourist district, just the port area was done up to cater to the cruise ships docking here on their way to the islands. We decided not to spend too much time here, the city was not very nice and personally, I didn't feel too safe there. We booked into a hotel at the outskirts of town and figured out where to go from here.
When in Belize, do as the tourists do: leaving the port of Belize City
We've decided to take a mini-vacation! Parking the bikes at our Belize City hotel, we book a trip on a water-taxi that travels a couple of hours out to San Pedro, on the islands just off the coast. All of our reading say that the beaches there are *the* place to hang out while in Belize.
Beaches be jealous and all!
Belize is expensive. With their currency pegged 2-to-1 to the US dollar, after conversion everything costs exactly the same as the US. And it's even worse on the island, where we pay US tourist prices for food and accommodations. Neda finds the cheapest hotel on the beach, and we still pay a princely sum for a slice of sunny paradise.
Walking the streets of San Pedro
The entire strip of San Pedro from north to south is maybe a mile long, but there are golf-carts everywhere shuttling lazy tourists from shop to restaurant to souvenir store. SMH... Actually, aren't I the one that hates hiking? I think maybe Neda is finally rubbing off on me. We walked to the very north end of the island to our hotel and the manager there is surprised that we didn't take a golf cart or taxi...
This is our hotel! We really loved it here, but didn't stay longer because it was so expensive!
We spent 4 days on San Pedro being typical tourists, wandering up and down the beach, soaking up the sun and drinking beer on the patios. It was a very relaxing break from our motorcycles - after 8 months of travel, we are beginning to feel a bit fatigued from the constant motion. I think we might be due for a month-long break soon. Somewhere less expensive though...
Red Stripe! Irie, Mon! I used to drink this when I was younger, brought back memories!
White sandy beaches, azure sky and crystal clear waters - a Caribbean Paradise
Swimming out by the docks
I searched high and low for a Jamaican restaurant and found one at the south end of the island.
There, we were serenaded with gospel music while we ate jerk chicken with rice and peas!
Fry Jacks for breakfast - a Belizean specialty. Fried, golden dough stuffed with whatever you want inside!
Relaxing in hammocks at our hotel...
...Spending the day lounging around, watching all sorts of traffic pass by. Heaven!
|03-13-2013, 01:09 AM||#852|
Joined: Mar 2006
Location: No Fixed Address (originally Toronto)
Thanks for all for your encouragement, guys! Neda and I love reading all the comments and we really appreciate it!
|03-13-2013, 06:56 AM||#853|
Joined: Aug 2010
I would suggest heading inland into the rainforest if you can. It's completely different from the Caribbean "vibe" you get at the coast.
I'd highly suggest http://www.chaacreek.com/accomodations/casitas/ I believe its ~$50/night with great food included.
|03-13-2013, 08:29 AM||#854|
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Toronto, Canada
Great photos and stories guys... love following along!
Europe 2013 - 13 day loop through the Dolomites, Alps and Vercors
Europe 2012 - 9 Countries in 10 Days (From England to the Alps and Back)
|03-13-2013, 10:32 AM||#855|
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Kamloops, BC
Gene and Neda,
Sounds like your world just changed .....
Central America is a whole different show than Mexico. Honduras has some islands sharing the same reef system as Belize and the snorkeling there is A-1.....but the crime rate in CA needs to be paid attention to.
Placencia is a destination in Belize, but prices all over have gone up over the years.
Make sure you keep the mosquitoes at bay....Malaria and yellow fever make Montezuma's revenge seem like a party.
Good luck with your transition and don't let it bum you out....
Ironically, years ago when I traveled north to Mexico from CA, I was bummed by the excess of tourists in San Cristobal and the higher Mexican prices....as I was liking the "third world" aspect of Guatemala.
Belize has beaches and a few ruin-temple sites....not much else. The highlands and culture of Guatemala might brighten your views.
Viajar con buena salud, amigos !
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