Pacific Ride to the other South Border: Mexico Frontier

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Motoman66, Mar 24, 2021.

  1. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    © All text and pictures on this RR by Emmanuel H (ephw) except mentionned otherwise

    2020 : it has been 30 years since I left my home country, 30 years since I first discovered Mexico, country where I got married and lived for 20 years and grew up our children with my beloved wife.Today, we live in the United States for my professional activities. The children have left the nest and Mexico remains in my hearth and a country who adopted me.

    Flash Back: November 2020, we decide with my wife, to visit our three children in France. It has been a year since we last saw them. They are all grown up now, One is a Medic and the other two kids are in their last stretch of University. After the Christmas holidays with our children and my parents, we were planning to return to the United States at the beginning of January but Covid rules requires us, by my Visa (Investor Visa ) to stay at least 14 days in Mexico (somebody will have to explain to me one day what a Visa type has to do with a Virus Spread…).

    Our current Home is in Texas and we need to get back home. It's impossible to go straight back from France. In the end it's a good thing. My wife will take the opportunity to spend a month with her mother whose health has been declining. I currently work Home Office and remote because of Covid.

    Before going to France, a Moto plan starts to built up in my mind : why not rediscover Mexico on Motorcycle and reflect on the changes that the country has experienced during these years. Having traveled the country many times by car during my early professional experience, I have been lucky to know the 31 states of Mexico and its Capital. Nowadays, with time constraint “need for speed” life activities , Air travel has taken over leading us from one big city to another and we forget to "breathe" and "feel" the country we people are living in and know its cultures. Riding Motorcycle will be my tool for this rediscovery.

    So I travel first with my helmet and my gears to France. As my Christmas gift, I rent a Bike for a day in the South of France and have good fun on the small Roads in the middle of my Homecountry Vineyards, enjoying kids and family over Christmas and New Year before my Mexico Ride towards its South Border.

    Warm Up Ride in South of France before Mexico

    Riding the Wineyards before my Glass of Wine Reward (Sorry I am french !)
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  2. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    January 6, 2021, we are landing in Mexico City from Paris after a 12 hours flight with our Mask on. It has been a long flight. I consider that we have been lucky to be able to travel, even though with a mask, when so many people have suffered and families have lost a loved one.

    Paris Airport before boarding. A group on our plane has been taking things very seriously

    I turn on my cell phone and then surprise !: Invasion of the Senate in the United States by a pack of people who unfortunately do not realize the danger and manipulation they were subject to for several years after listening to so many hate speech or tweet. I love history and a look back at the late 1930s in Germany should have taught us dramatic consequences of propagandistic speeches by crazy guys such as Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. Their Leitmotif always : the "Other" is to blame and we the fault of our problems. What a lack of humanity! We know the consequences of such behaviors, no matter the country in which they happen. Extremism is never good, right or left.

    This look arriving in Mexico tells it all…looks like this Oaxaca art piece is judging our world

    Anyway, I'd rather disconnect a little bit from the news and follow the process from afar. I am now preparing my rediscovery journey of Mexico. My goal: Ride from Mexico City to reach the town of Tapachula on the Pacific Coast bordering Guatemala where my mother-in-law lives. I will not take the most direct road and will ride through Oaxaca and the pacific coast.

    We spend a few days with Juan Pablo and Alex, our friendship going back 30 years, who welcome us fabulously and with whom we have a lot to catch up. My first intention is to rent a bike but prices are expensive and Mexico City is in Covid Red Zone status with many shops closed this early January. I am thinking of buying a little Motorcycle (currently I have views on the Kawasaki W 175 which you can find in Mexico). Small bike will mean doing the trip at a leisure pace on small roads (I have a Kawi Ninja 1000 back home).

    As I mention my plan to my friends, they forward it to their friend Lucy whose boyfriend Gerardo is also a biker. I receive a text from him a few days later and we talk over the phone. He tells me : “forget it about renting, you can have one of my Bikes for your trip”. I am speechless. Christmas is not over yet ! Gerardo lends me his bike and in exchange, I will take care of the maintenance service and tires change. What a great friend !

    Gerardo’s Bike (Just kidding)

    My route doesn't take the most direct path. I will follow the Pacific Coast but before that I want to stop in a small town in the state of Oaxaca, Juquila. This town was visited regularly by my father-in-law who passed away in 2020 at the age of 92. It is a town of important pilgrimage for Catholics in Mexico which brings several million of people to this little town to pray the local “Virgen de Juquila”

    Riding to Juquila, I will pay tribute to my Father-inlaw, Don Hermilo ! I'm not a particular believer (I believe in a higher force) and even though I was raised as a Catholic, I'm still surprised by people's devotion to religion, whatever it may be. Too many wars in our history have started under a religious pretext. If we consider that a Religion is also a moral, ethical and philosophical teaching, then I have a very critical eye on religious institutions that are sometimes far from showing the Example. I respect religious beliefs and hope future religious leaders will find the right direction towards a more peaceful dialog.

    I don't want to plan the trip too much, I leave on January 22nd and have to be back on February 7th for a Covid test before the return flight to Houston on February 9th. I have set a general Route.

    Overall Start and End point of the ride to the South Border of Mexico

    First days in Mexico City:

    30 years ago as a young graduate, I was landing for the first time in Mexico. My first impression was of astonishment as I arrived at night with all these lights below of what was the second largest city in the world at that time. The second impression was the smell of food and especially the Tortilla. I am very sensitive to odors and have found over the year that each big metropolis great has a particular smell (so as Paris Metro on Friday night).

    The city has changed. Many neighbourhoods have been renovated. Others have been built on what was an open dump (Santa Fe) and I find that since the late 1990s, there is less Smog, probably related to the abandonment of certain types of gasoline and the Diesel Microbus that were circulating then.

    Traffic jams, on the other hand, are much worst and the time lost in transport is catastrophic. Covid is currently reducing the number of people commuting , but once the pandemic is over, it is going to be epic again.

    My wife had exactly the same car back then. Same color running through traffic !

    Despite its 22 million inhabitants, Mexico City and the surrounding municipalities remains a very green urban area. Young people are becoming more sensitive to the environment and little by little the city is changing. I'm always amazed at how well it works. Like a neat of anthill or a bee hive, a giant puzzle settle up everyday and the city is running. It is an organized human nest.

    There are two types of economy (as in the rest of the country). On the one hand, large companies and small to mid size businesses that employ young graduates and those who have had the chance to study, together with government employees. On the other hand (and this accounts for almost 50% of the country's economy), an army of food vendors, repairers, housewives, craftsmen, construction workers etc…who live day to day and who are particularly affected by the Pandemic and the closure of some activities.

    Mexico City originally named as Tenochtitlán as it appeared for the first time to the Spaniards. You can see 2nd and 3rd highest volcano summits in the background

    Not everything is rosy, and while I'm staying in the city working remote, I listen to the news that the control center for several Metropolitan subway lines burned down. Some lines have been rolling with the same equipment for 50 years and the cancer of corruption has just come to light. Much has been written about corruption in Mexico. I have nothing to add and those interested in this topic will be able to refer to the many books (the best being written by mexican women journalists) on the subject.

    Be aware, however, that the vast majority of Mexicans are against corruption and are offended by the excesses of their political leaders. Sooner or later consequences are paid fortunately but in a country where a former Mexico City Mayor , Minister and member of president Cabinet came out with the famous Saying of "Un Politico Pobre es un pobre Politico", (“a politician who is Poor is a poor Politician”) it will take more than one generation to change some behaviors . The consequences: the construction of White Elephants, aging infrastructures, industrial accidents). For those who know the country, it is sometimes obvious. The solution lies above all in Education and better work ethic from leaders in public institutions monitored by independent organizations.

    National Museum of Anthropology is a Must Do to better understand the country culture and history of Mexico

    Plenty of Museums and Exhibits to enjoy in Mexico City

    The neighborhood (La Condesa) where we stay is in constant move . The city's best restaurants and food diversity are in this area. Condesa and Roma were among the most affected by the earthquakes that regularly impact Mexico City. The new building standards fortunately have improved and constructions are safe. During the day, walking in the green parks to the sound of birds and peddlers allows you to soak up the atmosphere of the city. What you find on your plate is a reflection of a country's cultural richness. No wonder then that Mexican gastronomy reflects the cultural diversity of the country. My best advice for any traveller who comes to Mexico for the first time: Avoid the usual fast food chains, eat where there are people, taste everything and adapt to the different types of Chile. Every state in Mexico has its own speciality, so : enjoy !

    Downtown Mexico City (2019 picture before Covid) and famous Casa de Los Azulejos

    After 15 days of Home Office (Friend’s office) , it's time to start the ride. Gerardo is bringing me his bike. It has just been services and except for a few details of Electronics (the speedometer is not working and some dashboard lights look like a Christmas Tree) the bike works fine and the Engine sounds smooth and runs quiet well. I set up my luggage on the Bike and sleep is slow to come on the eve of departure.

    This is the right bike : 2014 VStrom 1000 before departure. Thank You Gerardo !
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  3. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Day 1: It is already 9:00 a.m. as I start the Bike and begin the ride through Mexico City streets towards Puebla. I originally planned to go through the Paso de Cortez, a pass between the two main volcanoes showing in the distance west of Mexico City. Because of Covid, access is restricted and I will not be able to make it through the other way down of the mountain. Hopefully on the way back I may be able to ride through the Pass where Cortez Eyes discovered what was considered a beauty of mankind back in the 16th century when he saw Tenochtitlán and the lake in the valley down below.

    As I am getting closer to Mexico City Airport and the exit towards Puebla, traffic is dense and I am moving slow, sneaking between cars and Buses. I gradually get use to the Vstrom. The chain is too tight and I can hear a metal friction against the center stand. I decided because of paso de Cortez closure to take the most direct route (Pay Toll, called Cuota in Mexico) to Oaxaca, crossing Puebla first.

    I am now in Mexico City suburbs, in one of the poorest area, called Chalco which struggle with infrastructures and services. The smell of a giant Dump nearby fill my helmet and a thin layer of dust

    covers the area and impeach the view of the surrounding mountains.After a few kilometers the Vstrom begins the climb in the mountain range that will lead me to Puebla. There are nice wide curves and the Bike behave very well, firmly planted as like on a rail track. Temperature is cooling down and after reaching the main Pass, I can see Puebla.

    The two volcanoes, the Iztaccíhuatl (The Sleeping Woman) and Popocatépetl (The Smoking Mountain) appear suddenly, magnificent in their snow cap and with the smoke on the horizon that accompany the one commonly called "El Popo".épetl

    The two volcanoes, the Iztaccíhuatl (The Sleeping Woman) and Popocatépetl (The Smoking Mountain)

    Flash Back as I am riding : 30 years ago in November 1990, I climbed for the first time to the top of the Popocatépetl taking the North Face with a french friend and a Mexican mountaineer. We had to use crampon ice cleat on our mountain shoes to get to the Top. A glacier was still there. Our ascent was fast and we arrived very early at the top from the refuge, a small wood cabin at that time at over 4000 meters.

    I repeated this climb twice after that in early 1991, the last one being epic as I went up with a snowboard I had found in Mexico City together with a group of French friends. Only half of the group made it to the top that day and had to go down because of high altitude sickness. I was not the only crazy guy that day. Matthieu, went up with his Paraglide and we both started our run down the Volcano as our friends looked at us. No Movie on you tube from that Ride or GoPro but the memory keeps for ever. Thinking back, at over 5000 meters, with no modern communications that was quite a risky move. A broken leg going down or strong winds and “Adios”. Matthieu descent was very fast as the cold air sustain at this altitude is very poor.

    Climbing Popocatépetl February 1991, Pico de Orizaba in the Horizon at Sunrise

    Picture at the Popocatépetl summit from that epic day. Paso de Cortez down below and Iztaccíhuatl in background

    Riding the Popo 1991 !

    I am glad I did it as the climb is now prohibited since 1994 as the Volcano has been active since then.

    But back to Motorcycle and Ride Report :

    I ride through Puebla, one of Mexico's main industrial cities, home to one of VW's biggest factories and where for more than 50 years the famous Beetle was produced. This car took part in the lives of many Mexican families and is now part of the local heritage.
    Puebla is also the city for crafts and ceramics of Talavera with the nearby town of Cholula and its magnificent churches. With the two volcanoes in the distance that surround it, the city is has a strange beauty where modern office buildings, ancient convents and church mix together. Puebla was a major city in the early years of modern Mexico's history and served Cortez in his conquest of the Aztec empire.

    More about Puebla here :

    Vegetation is gradually changing and temperature is warming up. An hour after riding through Puebla I can see my 3rd big Volcano of the day and highest summit of Mexico, the “Pico de Orizaba”. This one is on my bucket list with the Iztaccíhuatl and I would like to summit those 2 remaining volcanos with my children and thus have the satisfaction of having climbed the 3 emblematic peaks of Mexico including 2 with my kids.
    As the Pico de Orizaba disappears on the eastern horizon, I am riding up the highlands of the state of Oaxaca, which was the birthplace of my father-in-law.

    A stop at one of the Gas stations where I chit chat with Roberto, another Biker who is travelling from Tehuacan to Oaxaca on a 250 Italika Adventure. Italika is a local Mexican brand, made in China and assembled in Mexico. You can find the brand in most Mexican mid size and big towns in all States. Of course do not expect a Japanese quality control for those vehicles. The advantage is that there are spare parts and mechanics all over the country for this brand unlike Suzuki ...

    I ride through a beautiful Organ cactus area on a twisty road. It is a festival for the eyes. Finally after a few hours of riding begin the descent to the state capital, Oaxaca.

    I made a reservation while on the road to stay in a small and cheap hotel right in the middle of the historical center. The main road entrance to the city was blocked by a demonstration and I have to find my way through alternate dirt roads to get back to the main avenue.

    I check in rapidly and park my bike before going for a walk in the historic center. I immediately notice that tourism activity has declined because of Covid compared to my last visit in early 2019 where streets were crowded. It is a Friday night and most people I see are locals.
    Oaxaca is one of the most traditional states of Mexico that mixes its heritage of Native Culture with the main monuments built during the Spanish conquest. This city is a festival of color. The temperature at nightfall at the end of January is a delight. I stop at an Ice cream stand of La Michoacana and treat myself with a lime sorbet before dinner.

    Few people for a Friday local Appetizer !

    Covid Shopping !

    Local Alejibres Atesania. Nice looking cats

    Friday Night Zocalo

    Oaxaca Metropolitan Cathedral and Zocalo

    Translation : There is no Kings but Heroes. To our medics and nurses who despite adversities and lack of equipment risk their lives to save others. Thank You.
  4. seismic52

    seismic52 Adventurer

    Aug 21, 2017
    Emmanuel, very nice write up! I'm looking forward to your next installment.
    Motoman66 likes this.
  5. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

    Oct 12, 2005
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Hello and Kia-Ora from New Zealand :wave

    very much enjoying this!

    looking forward to more.


    Motoman66 likes this.
  6. jimbop

    jimbop Been here awhile

    May 3, 2010
    North Vancouver
    WOW! Merci! Really looking forward to this report.
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  7. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Day 2: I contacted a cousin of my wife last night and I am happy to have a typical Oaxaca breakfast with him this morning. Streets are deserted this early on Saturday and a pleasure to walk through and appreciate the local architecture. The Santo Domingo Temple is opened and I have a quick walkthrough to take pictures of this important piece of history in Mexico. On my way back I am planning to spend more time in the city…

    Santo Domingo church, typical baroque style

    Oaxaca Mountains towards the Pacific coast

    It is now later than expected to take the road towards Juquila. Once the usual traffic of the State Capital is left behind, the Oaxaca countryside opens up in front of me. Odors and scents of corn and grass fields invade my mind as I pass through small typical villages and small towns. The Bike is facing its first “Topes” and it reminds me that the “Tope”s is an integral part of Mexican road culture like fixed Speed Radar on French Roads or Bucee’s Gas Stations in Texas

    Rest Stop. Check plastics garbage on the side of the road

    I will dedicate a few lines to Topes in a further paragraph . As the Vstrom is running at a very good pace and smoothly on the curvy roads of Oaxaca once entering the Mountain, the bike suddenly shuts off and I quickly stop in front of a closed local Mom and Pop travel relay. Temperatures is now quite high today and have been steadily rising up. I am sweating rapidly under my jacket once I stopped as there is no more air circulating. I have been riding for several hours and wait for 5 minutes before the Bike starts again. I am just guessing as the Dashboard is not 100 % accurate that it might be overheat of motor and it will do. Fortunately the Bike starts again and I still have one hour ride before getting to Juquila.

    The Bike and I arrive without issue at Juquila. The Road going down to the entrance to the city is closed by a big metal chain where the municipal police has set a check-in and prohibit tourist visitors because of Covid. I tell them that I only want to get gas at the nearby station and go to the main square where the sanctuary of Virgen Milagrosa (the Miraculous Virgin), is located.

    Empty Streets of Juquila because of Covid. Normally it is full of pilgrims !

    8 years ago with my children, my wife and my father-in-law who wanted to thank the Virgen Milagrosa after making her a request, we came to this same place.

    Religious symbols are part of Mexico culture and Mexico is still a predominantly Catholic country where most people in the the countryside are very pious. The major religious festivals are celebrated with fervour and are full of colour and folklore. As an example, The “Virgen de Guadalupe” Virgin of Guadalupe is the protective virgin of Mexico and she is revered, even having her own chapel in San Peter’s cathedral in Rome.

    Giving Thanks or asking for a miracle to the Virgen Milagrosa of Juquila

    In Juquila,nearly 2 million pilgrims visit each year. I'm not a pilgrim but I am in Juquila. After a short hour of sightseeing and some shopping at the "Temple Merchants" for my suegra (mother in-law), I take the road again towards Puerto Escondido and the pacific coast

    The road to Juquila was already twisty and reminded me of Corsica Island. The one that goes from Juquila to Puerto Escondido is like Corsica exponential.

    As I climb into the clouds, the temperature is cooling down and a light tropical rain surrounds me. The road is being repaired with recent tar layer added and for about 5 kilometers I'm very careful on the asphalt still warm and moistened by the rain. Traces of oil tar still can be seen seeping out from the ground. Gradually I have a better pace through the turns and giving myself a real treat with the Vstrom.

    Bike Stop in high Tropical rainy Forest

    As I enter and cross every village, even sometimes even in the middle of nowhere I face the famous Topes. This road is the encyclopedia and learning material of the Topes: Big, Small, made out of dirt, sand, gravel, cement, tar or any exotic material, etc. I've got it all. A Tope (singular) upside down,is called Bado (to let water pass) and as I am getting closer to the coast, I discover an alternative to their name (which did not exist 30 years ago), The Topes is being replaced by a more fancy Reductor. Change of name, a little extra paint for signage and a nearby sign but the effect is almost identical.

    To negociate Topes I have found the best technique for me is to get at normal speed right in front, Brake hard before the Tope to have front suspension dive then use the momentum standing up on the bike and there you are controlling the Tope instead of Tope controlling you. Just make sure not to break hard on Sand Tope ! Get used to see in Mexico “Vulcanizadora y Amortiguadores ” (Tires and Shocks) repair shop right after the first Topes when entering small towns .

    Getting closer to the Coast

    Arriving in the town of Rio Grande, not far from the coast, a foul smell fills the atmosphere. After one of the last curve down the mountain, I discover a huge open-air dump across the road. Hundreds of Vultures are on a feast meal . It makes me sad to see that in the space of 30 years, nature and natural beauty has been so affected by human wastes. I understand that demographic pressure and the constant increase in the use of plastic are largely responsible as well as the lack of budgets in the poorest southern regions. No doubt there is also a large part of Puerto Escondido's waste in this landfill.

    The solution, except in the very big cities, will be difficult for small towns in Mexico as long as there is so much plastic. Small towns are unable to have a sufficient budget for treating this type of waste. Their budget can barely pay salaries of their employees. My proposal for Mexico would be a large national campaign of the "let's keep the beauty of our country" over several years with an awareness of the younger generations starting right from kindergarten and primary school to minimize the use of plastic and recycle as much as possible.

    I'm now riding along the coast. The Pacific on my right side. The scent of salt, as I see the ocean surprise me all of a sudden. The palm trees are getting more densed and a soft, subdued light surrounds me in the middle of this vegetation.

    At the turn of a curve, a sign of Puerto Escondido shows up and a strong scent of weed fills the air at the first red light. Puerto Escondido is one of the best surfing spot in the world. The Sport has evolved a lot since the 90’s. While I am m looking for the place where I made my reservation, that same weed scent will fill the air again at street intersections.

    I finally arrive as the sun sets in front of my B&B’s / Hotel just as the Bike engine shuts off spontaneously. I'm not paying too much attention to it. It was a long day and the bike restarted immediately.

    Bike Shuts down arriving. I should start to worry maybe …

    My Hotel is owned by a French woman, now elderly and it is now run by her son, Philippe, who two years ago came to help her mother and had to start learning Spanish later in life. Philippe is an Antique dealer, from the Auxerre region in center of France, very friendly guy. This small family Hotel of a few rooms is super well kept and perfectly clean ,surrounded by the local vegetation. A few hundred meters from the main street, I enjoy an excellent grilled octopus in a local restaurant with a cold beer listening to the pacific ocean waves. Today was a good day of riding, a good escape from Covid news.

    Tropical Flower of Puerto Escondido
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  8. mazembe

    mazembe Adventurer

    Jun 4, 2013
    Brentwood Bay, Southern Vancouver Island
    Great report, thanks for taking the time to put it together. Curious about the term “Bado” , is it regional as I’m familiar with the term “Vado” used in Baja.
  9. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    My mistake : it spells Vado. Mexican rule : B and V prononce the same so you have to know it it write as B from Burro (Donkey) or V from Vaca (Cow). I will leave it as is in the RR that way readers will know :D
  10. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Day 3.

    Today I will only ride for a few kilometers towards Huatulco and start late enjoying this little hotel amenities and breakfast. At the first gas station, while I have fuel (in Mexico, contrary to Europe, US or Canada, your tank will be filled by Gas Station employees. It is hard work for these guys under the sun all day long with the vapors of fuel) I ask the dispatcher to check my tire pressure. Wanting to help he tells me to move the bike to have access to the valve and at the same time he removes the kick stand as I am on the other side of the Bike. He Cannot hold the Vstom up and down it goes in slow motion. Little damage, only the clutch lever end cap broke and I note to myself to replace it once back in Mexico City. Tires checked, I finally leaves the Gas Station and as I have barely ride 50 meters across to the main road that cars are honking at me. I stop and as I turn my head back I see the left side rear case of the Vstrom in the middle of the street. While at the Gas station laying down, the case broke free of its supports. I feel like M. Bean while the dispachers from Gas station runs towards the case, pick it up before cars crash into it and brings it where I stopped. I am so thankful to them. I had not noticed when it fell-off because of the sound of traffic at that intersection.

    Once back in place, I check for a store to buy some safety straps just in case and find an Auto Zone nearby. Once there I take the opportunity to clean and lube the chain. No more metal noise of the chain against center stand.
    I ride to Potchula where I take a small road at the fork towards Mazunte. This little road runs through tropical vegetation and I arrive in this very small town, originally a village living out of Turtles fishing and consumption now converted into a place of preservation of the same animal and in ecological tourism. There are more tourist people in the streets now and I do not stay much time as it is already late and have been staying there 2 years ago. I follow my way up to Zipolite as I want to take a picture of the Pacific with the Vstrom.

    Road to Mazunte

    Pueblo Magico / Magic Town

    Mazunte church. I just noticed church clock is way behind as it was like 3 pm when I took the picture. Might explain why so few people in front of the Church. The priest is not on same time scale !

    Eight years ago I had returned to Zipolite as well as two years ago and was very disappointed to see how this beautiful beach town a generation ago, wild with its palm huts and fresh fish that you could enjoy by taking your time around a beer has turned into a place where many Europeans or Americans, not always young, come to blow their heads with weed and other hallucinogenic substances. Sorry folks but that is not the way I see you can discover a country and learn his culture

    I am very open mind and tolerant regarding the use people can do of drugs but what a pity to arrive in Zipolite and not enjoy the place and its atmosphere instead of playing the "pseudo Hyppie", sometimes aggressively towards others and locals (I have seen it !).

    The beach is still as beautiful and dangerous with its waves and current. The sunsets as always are still colorfoul but I prefer to keep the memory of this magnificent beach discovered intact 30 years ago. The same thing happened to me with Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo. 30 years ago, it took 2 hours to reach Playa del Carmen from Cancun on a one lane small road. There was only one small Hotel which was a diving and windsurfing center. The wharf for the ferry boat to Cozumel Island was wooden and the village was a little paradise on Earth. Unrecognizable today ! Real estate pressure has been mounting all over the coast of Quintana Roo as well as sea pollution. Same for Cabo San Lucas.

    Fortunately, the coast of the state of Oaxaca is surrounded by very steep geology which limits the development of the Mega Hotels. The beaches are hidden, small and locals still take the time to live. It is this serine aspect that I rediscover when I arrive in Puerto Angel. This small boats fishing town has changed very little and has kept its authenticity. Little room here for hotel buildings.

    Vstrom and the Pacific at Zipolite (only nude authorized beach in Mexico for those of you folks looking to let your full body breath)

    Zipolite Front Yard

    Beginning of Zipolite Backyard (no picture of Backyard)

    Puerto Angel

    I end the ride today in Huatulco. The small hotel is empty on this Sunday night because of Covid situation and this time in the season. At the end of January there are only a few Mexican tourists and some Canadians in the city. Originally intended as a counterpart to Cancun, Huatulco never took off. Fortunately, the geography of the place and the difficult road access makes this city, even though it has expand quite a lot, a Non Cancun. There are still some very large all-inclusive hotels, perfect for those who want to get a sun tan, gain some weight and booze.

    My little hotel is perfect and having work tomorrow, I decide to stay 2 nights. As the sunset while I swim alone in the pacific ocean, I see a music DJ surrounded by 2 Mexican girls having his trip at the sound of music and blowing in a big seashell fog horn on the beach as in Osmosis with the nature. Unreal but true!

    My hotel is holding a great promo and there is a gastronomic festival with a great chef that worked at “Restaurante Pujol” one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.The revisited modern Mexican cuisine is a delight here. It's been a long time since I have eaten so well. I do not want my readers to be jealous so no picture of last night food. A pity I just had dinner by myself to the sound of the waves as this menu was for a great remembrance.

    Lets go swimming !

    Secret Spot

    Oaxaca coast sunset
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  11. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Day 4:

    I spend the morning working remote office after enjoying The Sunrise. The Bay I am staying is oriented such a way that the Sun rise over the Ocean at this location. Normally it is the Sunset on the Pacific so I appreciate this moment of meditation.

    Meditation Sunrise !

    Early afternoon, I am done with computer and work and I decide to go for a Ride and discover the surrounding beaches. They are all beautiful but I have a goal in mind : find the beach where was filmed part of the movie that launched todays’ famous actors Diego Luna and Rafael Garcia "Y tu Mama tambien" (and your Mothers’ too) which tells the adventures of two young Mexicans back in 2000 together with a foreign friend discovering and enjoying Oaxaca and Mexico City. An excellent movie to understand modern Mexico

    Vehicles are not allowed to access this location which is several kilometers from any paved road and a security check prohibits to go further. Finally , after a good hour of trials and errors from the main road, I reach the place, not forgetting to get lost several times in the surrounding jungle. A group of young fellows put me on the right track and I struggle with the bike weight avoiding to get suck by the sand in the exact same location as in the movie.

    “Y tu Mama tambien” place

    Had to turn back as bike was sinking in the sand (check right side of path where rear tire sank)

    Mountain bike trail on Vstrom

    Jungle Parking !

    Treasure Island

    I “park” the Bike a hundred meters from the beach on a path more adequate for mountain biking and after a short walk I am discovering this little virgin paradise. A lady on the beach, Maria, is taking care of her palm hut which offers food/drink/massage service! She tells me I am the 10th person to come to the beach today and is surprised that I got there by Motorcycle.

    I spend an hour enjoying the place and congratulate myself for having reach the place. Because I struggled with the Bike in the jungle and the sand, I dehydrated under the sun and my motorcycle jacket. Maria is selling cold drinks and water. It tasted so good after the effort. Once back to the Bike, I am riding to Huatulco and stop by along the way to take a few pictures.

    Road Hazard

    Oaxaca Coast



    I stop to refuel, check the bike and tire pressure and buy a lot of drinks to hydrate as it will be a long day on the road tomorrow. My goal is to reach the state of Chiapas and if possible Tapachula, the border town with Guatemala and spend the rest of the week there with my wife and in-laws.
    Animo, lvscrvs, chilejack and 3 others like this.
  12. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Dia 5:

    This morning Sunrise is magical. There is also another place on the coast where one can even enjoy from the same location both sunrise and sunset. It is my Mexican Secret Spot.

    An other Oaxaca Sunrise

    I am checking out from the Hotel and here I am on the road again. As I leave the city, I have the feeling of following a snake going curve after curve, Up and down. As it is early morning, temperature is nice and I enjoy the ride under my helmet. My first destination is to reach Salina Cruz.

    I notice that the closer I get to the “Isthmo de Tehuantepec” (Tehuantepec Isthmus), the drier the vegetation. As it occurred several time already along this trip, I am saddened to see wastes dumped alongside the road. It is not uncommon to see remnant of garbage fires along the road, which despite being a Federal Road, is not very busy on this Monday morning.

    Garbage alongside the Road

    I am riding at a very good pace, but cautiously. You cannot ride on Mexican curvy roads as in Europe with an outside / inside through mountain roads as it is common to see buses/trucks and cars overtake in corners with no visibility. You have to react quickly or better say to always anticipate if you ride here on a motorcycle as the chance of suddenly seeing your outside path invaded by a vehicle in front is high. So I adapt my ride and still take immense pleasure with the pacific ocean appearing from time to time after a hill climb or sharp curve.

    I finally reach the surroundings of Salina Cruz and decides to avoid the city to advance towards Chiapas. I will stop there on the way back. It is an Industrial Port mostly driven by the National Oil and Gas company Pemex activities.

    Dune close to Salina Cruz (check on Ed flyingdutchman177 last RR for a view from the Top and his Edventures in Chiapas and Oaxaca)

    I ride over the Isthmus and soon arrive in the area famously known area of “La Ventosa” (The windy Place) feared by Truck and Motorcycle drivers. Only a little breeze today that feeds the thousands of wind turbines that have been installed in the area during the last fifteen years (30 years ago, it was an immaculate area, and climate in this area is rude)

    I am just questioning myself what is the Real Carbon Balance of all these Onshore Wind farms so far away from very populous area. Where were the Turbines made, with which energy supply ? cost of Installation, maintenance ? so many questions which makes one wonder is this project is really friendly for the environment ? What has been the real impact with local villagers ? Do people in the area are living a better life now than 30 years ago ?

    Environmental friendly ?

    I am getting closer to the border state. The road from Huatulco to Salina Cruz was in excellent condition (be aware that is not always the case after a heavy rainy season) but once I drove through the city of Tehuantepec pavement start to degrade and potholes are more frequent in this ending part of Oaxaca. I guess State government is not interested to pay for facilitating more infrastructure to neighboring Chiapas

    Finally I am in Chiapas. I have driven this route several times and the State roads go from worst to best depending of several factors :whether it is after the rainy and hurricane season, at the end or beginning of the country President's or the Governor's term (the co-relationship between the election period and new infrastructure put in place should be the subject of a PhD thesis from PhD students in sociology or political science in Mexico)

    State Border

    Fifty kilometers riding Chiapas on a Road half rebuilt or under lane new construction with gravels , I am overtaking a truck when the Vstrom suddenly stops running and shuts off like my 2nd day in the mountain of Oaxaca. I make wild gesture toward the truck and luckily find a spot on the right side of the road under a tree. I figure the Bike is suffering the same problem as before and I can start back in a few minutes. I take the opportunity to take a technical break and feed the tree (typical French !) when suddenly a bee comes down on me and my neck is the subject of a booster sting. I feel the pain that is gradually raising but luckily I know I am not allergic. I look up and realize that a bee nest is on top of my head in the tree. I make a fast strategic retreat leaving bees in peace as it is their place and looks like they did dot like a French rider making a technical pit stop there.

    The landscape had just changed around Tonala from the dry climate of the Ventosa to the gradual transformation into a luxurious green with all possible and imaginable varieties of color pallet spectrum from the darkest green to lemon green.

    The Vstrom started back and the road is a delight to ride when after making around ten kilometers, since my last stop the Bike suddenly stops again. . Now I am starting to get worried. I still have more than 150 km to go before Tapachula. I suck as a mechanic and think of the issue being an electronics problem or a gas pump issue which I have no way to fix here. No Internet range here either. As we say in France when you are not in a comfortable situation and defeated , I have “the tail between my legs”. The bike start again and the same Stop and Go situation will be repeated at least twenty times until Tapachula.

    As I ride suddenly a shaggy person appears in the distance along the road. Special feature: he is nude. Definitely a man very high on drug or maybe the local "loco" who can't afford psychiatric treatment. I can still see his face and eyes as I pass alongside him. A Surreal vision on this Mexican road.

    As I am getting closer to Tapachula when accelerating and passing another vehicle, the bike shuts down frequently, putting me in an unsafe situation . Because the road is under construction in places there is parts where I cannot stop. Finally I realize that below 4000 Rpm’s, I manage to regulate the bike shuts-off which will allow me to get to Tapachula. The last 75 kilometers, I started to relax as I got Cellular coverage back and family can come to the rescue if needed.

    I'm glad to be back with my wife. The road has been long (almost 8 hours including more than 7 driving) and the heat of the afternoon has been quite overwhelming together with a little stress due to the Bike failure. I can enjoy a rest for a few days now and have to plan on fixing the Bike. I cannot ride back to Mexico city like that. For the time being, let’s enjoy Chiapas the next few days.

    Stop and Go Vstrom arriving in Tapachula
    msahern5, knight, Animo and 8 others like this.
  13. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

    Jan 26, 2012
    GTA, ON, CDA
    Good ride and good luck!

    Vacuum in tank causing fuel flow problems maybe?
    Gas cap vent plugged?
    knight and Motoman66 like this.
  14. lukasteam

    lukasteam Life is beautiful !!! Supporter

    Apr 6, 2009
    Really enjoying your ride report . Never been to Mexico , actually was on my way 2 years ago on my cruiser , but had an accident before I got to the border . Oaxaca always been the state that I wanted to visit the most for culture and food of course :D
  15. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Thank You. So sorry for your accident but it is never too late to do it. Chiapas State is a blast too. Best Season there is November through mid march.
    lukasteam likes this.
  16. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Day 6 and following days in Tapachula and fixing the Bike :

    I have my company work to attend for the following days and will take a rest day from motorcycle tomorrow. Only 2 days day after my arrival in Tapachula, I begin searching the Internet for a possible known failures of the VStrom. I am thinking of a problem with gas evaporation, a problem known on older BMW models, I also see that there have been a recalls of the Vstrom due to electrical problems. Thanks to my brother-in-law and his circle of friends, I get in touch with one of the local service center of Italika motorcycles, run here by a Motorcycle enthusiast: Ricardo. After exchange of messages through WhattsApp, we agree to meet at the opening of his mechanic shop this Friday morning.

    I arrive the next day as the shop open , and meet the two employees Rafa in charge of customers and Neto the mechanic who tell me to drop the Bike and come back later as Ricardo is not in yet and he is the only one working on big bikes. I decide to wait until I meet Ricardo in person and take the time to chit chat with Rafa and Neto and discover the workshop.

    Ricardo rebuilt 2009 GS somewhere hidden in his shop

    Ricardo finally arrives and we start chatting Bikes. He completely rebuilt from A to Z a 2009 BMW 1200 GS, one of the last model to come on the market before the Electronic Dashboard invaded the brand. His Bike is pristine. His dream is to discover the world with it when he will make time available. He is a Motorcycle Sports enthusiast, but he is riding much conservatively now . Originally from Mexico City, he settled in the border town that is Tapachula. At one time he mentions riding straight from Tapachula to Querretaro (2 ½ hours North of Mexico City) on Sport Bike in 1 day. That is a crazy long ride on Mexican Highways.

    I will not go through all the details of the repair but by now living in the United States, the Empire of Consumption where everything is quickly available in a few clicks makes us forget that Mexico, especially Chiapas is also very far from the US and so close at the same time.

    The diagnosis of the bike failure is quickly established: Fuel pump, the fuel cannot run continuously. I contact my frien Gerardo, the owner of the Vstrom who tells me after inquiring that the kit is not available in Mexico and Suzuki dealership can receiveit it in 25 days from Japan! (Ooops !)
    Plan B, C, D start to take place in my head : I am spending the day making calls. It is possible to change only part of the Fuel Pump and not all of it. Finding the part is a detective game. I find through a Biker friend in Honduras (Manuel met during my last trip to Grand Canyon - RR here : -) the part in Panama which can be brought to the Guatemala border with Mexico in 3 days. Finally I do find the part on the Internet in Mexico City. I contact Alejandro in Mexico City which in less than 2 hours picks it up and sends it to me by DHL which shows arrival by Wednesday at the latest. It is now Saturday.

    In the meantime, we take time with Maria Esther my spouse to do some short car rides around Tapachula. My original plan to ride all Chiapas State with the Bike is now over. The good thing when planning light is that it does not bother me. It is better to adapt than trying to stick to original planning which will only create frustrations. Lets enjoy Tapachula.

    Like many frontier cities in the world, it cannot be said that the city is immerged in a big cultural scene or history or the beauty of its monuments but if you look for it you can find some interesting topics. Here, trade predominates with nearby Guatemala. The main street is full of medical, orthopedic, opticians, etc. shops. The large number of pharmacies might suggest that everybody get sick here but there is a simple explanation. A lot of people come from Central America to purchase these goods in Tapachula as medicines and everything related to health is cheaper here.

    The city's main market is crowded. Open 7/7 the market is the economic heart of Tapachula. Thousands of people walk through every day. A bakery, "El Pan Nuestro", (“Our bread”) catches my eyes. There is only one type of bread for sale but it looks like the all city gets its supply from here. Business looks good. Ditto for every merchant who specializes only in a few item like that orange wholesaler right across the street.

    No seat Belt / No Brake !

    This Sunday we decide to drive to the foothills of the Tacana Volcano up to Union Juarez in the mountains nearby. Tacana is a funny name for a Mexican Volcano that sounds more like a Samurai sword. The road to the small town of Union Juarez quickly becomes twisty and the tropical temperature drops rapidly as well as the humidity. There are great scenic views but the clouds are quickly hiding the horizon today.

    The road ends and as we stop, 1 locals carrying goods on top of his 2 horses cross our path. After a chit chat, he confirms us that he is going to the next Guatemalan village through the Mountain path with the goods he just bought in Mexico which is a 30 minutes walk.

    Solitary Worker (in the background)

    Towards Tacana

    Mountain Border Trade

    Tapachula and its region (called Soconusco) are the nerve center between North and Central America. Likewise, Chiapas voluntarily became attached to the rest of Mexico through referendum while its geography and climate are closer to its neighboring South border.

    A few years ago, legal immigration to the city was very important and thousands of people from Guatemala came every year for the coffee harvest season to the Soconusco. Today there is still this temporary work immigration but also a more important transit immigration of people passing through with the dream of reaching the United States for better life conditions.Those who make it through are in their immense majority hard working people paying their taxes in the US and sending money back (known as remesas) to their country of origin to their family left behind . Interestingly Labor statistics show that a large number of the economic activity relies on immigration from Latin America (Construction workers, restaurant staff, gardeners, hotels, welders, …).

    My wife takes care of her mother while I work remotely with the US and my clients. Time flies. Yesterday we went to the Coffee plantations area. It is in one of these plantations that we got married in the local chapel. It is a beautiful property with the view over the Tacana. Back then we came down from “the Finca de café” after the celebration in a Jeep, all covered by dust after a 2 hour's drive. To say the least that was not a typical wedding and a cultural shock for the few members of my family who had come from France to the ceremony.

    Towards the Fincas

    Coffee has long been the economic pulse of this region of Chiapas. Today, under pressure from international prices, activity has fallen significantly and has been struggling to adapt to new customers tastes and trends as well as new agricultural environmental technologies.

    The other major activity along Soconusco is the raise of cattle as well as palm oil, mango and other exotic fruits along the Coastal areas. Everything grows here but the climate requires constant maintenance work. This is also noticeable in the city of Tapachula where the streets are a mess and buildings deteriorate very quickly because of the humidity and the constant rains from July to September.

    Tacana under the clouds from a coffee Finca

    Fincas Vegetation

    Our wedding Chapel somewhere in Chiapas

    My Fuel Pump finally arrived at DHL warehouse on Tuesday morning. Yet it will take DHL 36 hours to make the 3 km between the warehouse and the location I am staying at. Impossible to pick it up directly because this will make for a change in the system that will take 24 hours to be validated ! Ah this famous "system" set up and managed by humans ! Patient by nature, I take a deep breath at the DHL counter and finally have the part delivered on Wednesday night at 21:30 pm.

    Thursday the Vstrom is fixed by Ricardo and I test the Bike in the afternoon . Everything is running fine and I am getting ready for the way up to Mexico City. Riding Chiapas unknown paths will be on an other occasion (actually I am thinking next time to buy a local Italika, ride around and sell it before departure).

    Ricardo, Rafa, a french guy and Neto. Best Mechanics in town !
    msahern5, garfey, knight and 8 others like this.
  17. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    Thank You. Fuel pump failure
    roadcapDen likes this.
  18. motorchi

    motorchi Adventurer

    Sep 18, 2016
    Washington, DC
    Glad to hear you’re back on the road. The cultural background you mix into your report is great, thanks for taking the time to share it!
    Motoman66 likes this.
  19. lukasteam

    lukasteam Life is beautiful !!! Supporter

    Apr 6, 2009
    Trip to MX is in the works . As soon as this damn' covid will loosen it's grip on humanity I'll be heading down South from Chicago . Next spring most likely .
    Thank you for the tip about Chiapas , once I'm there I'll sure swing by and visit it as well .
    Good to hear your moto is fixed and you back on two wheels again .
    Safe and happy adventuring !!!
    Motoman66 likes this.
  20. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    May 2, 2016
    The Way Up …

    Going back up from Tapachula to Mexico City, I intend to avoid the Toll Roads along Veracruz State and crossing the Isthmus to the Atlantic side. I will stay on the Pacific Ridge. My plan is to sleep tonight in Salina Cruz then arrive in Oaxaca on Saturday night and take tons of picture and leave early on Sunday to be in Mexico City before my wife’a plane arrival and pick her up at the Airport. At least that is the plan …I will find out that No Plan is the best Plan

    What a pleasure to get back on the Bike ride out of the city along the green road that runs along the Pacific coast. I am making a good pace and suddenly a shaggy person pops up in the distance along the road. He is the same Loco I crossed over on my way down to the border. He has not changed clothes as he is still without any walking on the roadside. Out of respect I do not take a picture but this scene is definitely surreal.

    “El Loco” 250 meters ahead as indicated by road sign

    As I focus back on the Road a few kilometers afterwards, the Bike has a strange feel, like if there was a sudden blow of wind but there is no wind at all now ! Approaching a Military checkpoint, I have the explanation. The strap secured with the side case has been cut off by the friction of the chain and the side case is wide open. All my clothing is still there and fortunately for the Vstrom the Strap has not been caught in the chain which will could meant a potential fall.

    I put everything back in place with another strap at the Check Point under the Soldiers’ look after Chit Chatting a few minutes with some of them. I quietly continue on my way.

    Military Checkpoint. All good !

    I am now leaving Chiapas and the vegetation is changing again once I passed la Ventosa. I see that I will arrive earlier than expected to Salinas Cruz and decide on the moment to continue until Oaxaca where I should arrive before nightfall. I think to myself that that way I can spend Saturday walking around town and meet 2 other American bikers who should be in Oaxaca and have traveled the world in Moto: Ed and Rad, both well known in the world of adventurer motorcycles. I will be glad to exchange impressions of Oaxaca and Chiapas with them.

    Entering Back in Oaxaca State

    Lets spend the night in Oaxaca City

    After La Ventosa, which is very cloudy today, a biker's amusement park is waiting for me. The road is gradually more twisty as it rise in the mountain, the sky is a beautiful blue. After about fifty kilometers enjoying the ride and natural landscape I am in complete Mototation (correct spell. Mototation is meditating as you ride), I tell to myself what a chance that the Bike is running and tunned so well. I have been driving for over six hours. I just had this thought when the Bike stops. Ohh Ohh, this is even better than Mr. Bean in his comedies. It cannot be but yes it can. The Bike is failing again there in the middle of nowhere. It is already late and there are very few vehicles today. I wave to a pick-up truck about to overpass me in the distance and the driver stops. I explain to Jose, the driver and his crew of workers my situation. Luckily he is going to Oaxaca . We agree that if they see me further stopped on the side of the road they will wait for me and in the worst case if the Bike definitely stops running ,we will put it on the pick up cargo bed. The solidarity of the Road.

    So I start the ride again and go faster than their vehicle on this mountain road but regularly every 10 minutes the Bike stops. At a gas station, we chat some more while we fill our tanks. Jose and his crew work for a local communication company and are returning from Salina Cruz where they extended some new lines.

    On this mountain road where I thought I would take picture of beautiful landscapes of canyons and cacti my goal has changed. Arrive safely in Oaxaca before dark and reconsider my options to finish the trip to Mexico City. This Bike motor is excellent but that damned gas pump may fail again tomorrow. I suspect that after several hours of operation, it heats up which makes the bike shut down. Even if I can make it with the Bike to Mexico City that way, as soon as I enter the town, I cannot afford to have the Bike stop on the main highway connecting to the neighborhood I have to go. I do not trust the reliability of the Fuel Pump anymore and will not have time to do a repair in Oaxaca.

    Long story short, I arrive at night at my hotel under the protection of my new road companions. Thank you again Jose and your team. Dinner is quickly swallowed in a restaurant in front of the hotel as it close at 8:00 pm now because of Covid (that was not the case 2 weeks back) A cold good beer after today’s bike failure feels so good. I start inquiring at that late hour how to manage and get back to Mexico City with the Bike and give several phone calls with no success to find a Pick Up rental and bring the Bike. Nobody in the Steet because of Covid to start inquiring face to face. Tomorrow looks like a long day...

    Jose and his crew arriving at sunset in oaxaca

    Oaxaca artisana Beer. Check the beer name !

    No food picture was meant to be on this RR but could not take picture of the Oaxaca landscapes today. So imagine : White cheese clouds on the front, beautiful green guacamole jungle in the back with salvage animals (Chapulines). Luxurious vegetation of colours. Dry Tortilla mountains on the left side and Beer water cascading under hot sauce weather .

    Finally luck is on my side thanks to Biker’s Karma : The hotel's night watchman is a motorcycle enthusiast. He has a Suzuki 150. We Chit Chat Bikes and talk Moto Grand Prix. I ask him if he would have any friends or how to find a way to get me and the Vstrom to Mexico City. One of his friends is also a passionnate Rider and driver for a local tourist company traveling by mini bus. In less than five minutes speaking over WhattsApp, we agree on the price to take me with the Bike tomorrow to Mexico City. Departure at 11:30 am. I finally sleep peacefully after more than 10 hours in the saddle today.
    Oldmanx, Saso, msahern5 and 9 others like this.