Thursday, 27 September 2012

CHAPTER. 31


DAY 72. HUAJUAPAN DE LEON TO OAXACA. 180 km

And a nice relaxed day it was too. That is until we got a little lost getting to Oaxaca and again had to battle thru narrow and blind and blocked off streets with heavy traffic.

Well what a nice city! Again magnificent cathedrals, lovely stone buildings and stone paved streets. When you consider that some of the building dates from 1550 you realize that it is older than some of the European cities


Ancient Oaxaca culture on display



Again we are close to the central square or plaza where the action takes place both day and night. Oaxaca often has clashes between the people and the government and we have seen several organized protests in front of the main government building





And the government point of view-




And I think there has been some connection between Oaxaca and the ancient Maori tribes of New Zealand. Why else would Oaxaca be pronounce "Oh a Haka " ?


DAY. 73. REST DAY IN OAXACA

And a good one at that after 6 days of riding. It was a chance to explore the city a little and look down some of the back alleys

And there are foreign Caucasian looking tourists here. Not many, perhaps 50 we have seen but until now right thru Mexico we have seen virtually none. It is almost like an unwelcome intrusion seeing other gringo tourists.


Time to put the girls to bed




So it has been a good break and it is on the road again tomorrow down to the hot and steamy coast .
-


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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

CHAPTER 30

DAY. 70. MORELIA TO IXTAPAN DE LA SAL 300km


Who is the handsome fella?



And today we started the slow skirting of Mexico City. At the closest point we are within 100km of the city of 20 million plus people and we wanted to avoid be sucked into it by getting trapped in the motorway system leading there .




So we started the day by skirting the old stone aqueduct in Morelia and then it was into the hills on a lovely winding road up thru the dense bush of a national forest area. As we rode it occurred to me that Diana of on the back fame had never experienced getting of the bike in a slightly forceful and sudden manner. So at a little layby as I pulled up to a halt over Mella went obediently on her side and over went Diana and I into the dust beside her. It was a good test and there were no bruises or scratches to man,woman or machine. To my dying day I will maintain that this was a pre orchestrated little exercise and I have no doubt Diana is appreciative of my thoughtfulness in arranging this little exercise specially for her.

Exercise finished - you can stand up now!



Then in the afternoon we were bought to a halt by a police blockade and were told the road was closed ahead. It appeared that students and teachers were protesting over something and had blockaded the road in protest. After some wringing of hands it was agreed that we would be allowed thru the blockade as we were tourista Gringos. This of cause created a problem for our traveling ex teacher companion Ken as he was effectively choosing between showing solidarity for the teachers or breaking thru the blockade. Pragmatism rules OK. At the next stop I helpfully pointed out that he still had bits of broken teacher on his tyres from running the blockade !

Revolting teachers



The stone blockade




And so we arrived at the nice and tidy town of Ixtapan De La Sal so named after a salt lake close by .

On the trip thru Mexico I have been bedeviled by the fact that the Mexican Maps in my GPS have not been working. As a result I have been relying on maps, signposts, the position of the sun and any other helpers I could find. I have also followed Ken thru the cities and big towns as his is working. Well tonight it was a thousand Halleluias as Diana managed to nut out the correct download procedure on the computer and hey presto I now have Mexican maps.

And the final thought for the night. Can a Mexican do a Mexican wave by himself?


DAY. 71. IXTAPAN DE LA SAL TO HUAJUAPAN DE LEON 308 km

This was the second day of skirting around Mexico City and we are now well south of the mega mega tropolis ! It was largely a rural day today with lots of bucolic rural scenes again reminiscent of Europe.




There were families tending goat herds , farmers hand cutting in the fields and men riding Donkeys and horses. There were many Donkeys on the side of the road. Some were tethered and some were not. However because those that were tethered were tethered close to the edge of the road one had to also look out for Donkeys at the end of their tether !

I revelled in having a functioning GPS at last. However Liz's highbrow English vowels however absolutely mangled the Spanish place names and I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown. The juxtaposition of saying " turn right in 400 metres onto zizxacazzituzaoaxzoaxyixz carreterra" was too much for her .

State to State



So we are now very much in Southern Mexico and there are fields of sugarcane and other tropical plantings. Then just to finish off the reminder that we are in the tropics we saw the inside of a late afternoon tropical downpour. It was our first significant rain since that which we had in Death Valley eons ago. That is pretty good going I reckon !

Black as ..........


-


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Sunday, 23 September 2012

CHAPTER. 29


DAY. ? ZACATECAS TO LEON 240km

Firstly let me say how lovely our hotel has been in Zacatecas. It is a very old building tastefully done up as a hotel with old staircases, split levels and beamed ceilings.

Donde estas tu mi Juliet !

Aqui mi Romeo !




We started off the day with a circuit thru the centre of Zacatecas that was not entirely by choice. Again it was riding on old cobblestone streets which is somewhat challenging on a heavily laden bikes.





And talking of riding on cobblestones reminds me that I thought today of my relationship with my front tyre. You see when we were riding the cobblestones she , that is my front tyre , developed a mind of her own. I fought her, she fought me ! After a while I found it best to let her make the individual decisions as to which direction to go over which cobblestone. I agreed with her that she would leave the big decisions like which way to turn at corners to me. It was a functioning truce and it worked fine. You see I have no wish for me and my front tyre to be separated so we have to have a good working relationship. We have agreed she can have some leeway on the minor directional detail particularly on cobblestones and I will do the big picture stuff.


You can have your head on these too sweetie!




So today we drove down thru a picturesque landscape to a big town ( city really ) to Aguascalientes ( trans. Hot Waters ). After a another little tiki tour thru ancient cobbled street it was down to the city of Leon.

We were clearly in the high country today as the temperature was a delightful 20 deg C or so. You will be pleased if not relieved to know dear reader that it was cool enough to dispense with the newly found vent in front of my riding trousers. It's open nature had not been particularly helpful at hotel check in time!

The town square at Leon opened directly out on to the main plaza. It was a lovely late afternoon and early evening scene and let the photos do the talking -















The lions of Leon





DAY. ? LEON TO MORELIA. 200km

Today we left the highway half way to Morelia and came down the old rural road. It was just like driving thru an old Spanish landscape with old stone villages, lovely churches and cobbled streets. I half expected to see Don Quixote coming round the corner on his donkey. It was a Sunday and a market day as well and the little towns had stalls with clothing, handcrafts etc.

Some were little distracting tho. -




Enough to make a fella fall off his bike!




Interestingly enough there were certainly no foreign tourists around although there may have been local Mexican holiday makers around. Certainly there were no tourist buses

And speaking of tourists we have seen only about one other " pale face" over the last three or four days. We sort of stand out somewhat which may or not be an advantage.

So now it is Morelia which is another Unesco World Heritage site because of its old town centre and unique culture. It certainly deserves it. Again like last night it was fiesta night in the town square with lots of happy people, music and street theatre. I could never tire of seeing this.










When we checked into the hotel we were told parking was about 5 blocks away. Where? " No problem" said the helpful doorman. " I will hop on the back and show you ". So of I wobbled down the cobbled streets with the doorman on the pillion seat of the bike giving me directions in Spanish. It was all a bit incongruous!

Yours truly " taking the doorman for a ride" !




-Surprise to see the New Zealand Herald on sale in Mexico!








And finally there are riding boots-




And riding boots !





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Friday, 21 September 2012

CHAPTER 28



DAY ? MAZATLAN TO DURANGO. 340 km


Well today we rode the devils backbone or the Comb of God depending on which map you looked at. Either way it was a great day in the saddle. We left Mazatlan just on dawn to miss some of the oppressive heat and soon we were heading into the highlands with lush tropical rainforest at the lower levels .



Woops



For 200 km the road twisted and twisted and twisted some more as it seemingly tried to throw us off it's back. Oh dear, aren't I waxing eloquent. But it was that sort of day .




Soon all the twists will be gone with this road now being built




As we got higher and higher the forests all changed to the temperate variety and by the time we got to the top of the highest point we were at 9000 ft above sea level. That is quite a climb straight up from sea level

On the way we crossed the Tropic of Cancer but something did not feel right about it. Now work that one out and the answer will be revealed in the next blogpost .




And today whilst still in the lowlands I found another way of combating the heat. I found a new vent in the front of my riding trousers. Yes , you have probably guessed the nature of this vent dear reader and the blast of cooler air right there in that particular spot was, shall we say, " delicioso". Note to self. Just before a falloff remember to do up this new zip vent quickly !

Fields of wild flowers approaching Durango




Then in mid afternoon it was into the quaint town of Durango. They used to shoot American wild west movies there in the early days and John Wayne was often seen in town The town is also a huge mining center and they have a little mine right in the middle of town. It was a mine of information !

The hotel was a delightfully ancient stone building again with a internal courtyard for parking the bikes. I am now getting quite used to driving my bike through hotel lobbies. Note again to self. Must try to do this in New Zealand when I get back. Perhaps I could even take the bike up to inside our apartment !

Coming -



Coming-




Here!





DAY ? DURANGO TO ZACATECAS. 304 km

We were too quick off the mark today. We decided on an early start and got ready to leave at 7 am. Woods, a problem. It was pitch dark outside. Yesterday we changed to Mountain Central time and dawn just started to break at 7.30 am. After the delayed start it was straight into a rising southeast sun which made riding somewhat difficult

Then we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. Again ! Then the Peso dropped! We crossed it going south in the ferry, north yesterday on the way to Durango and again heading South today. If we cross it tomorrow I will be a worried chappie!

We stopped for breakfast at a town called Sombrerete. Around the sides of the central town square were local gentlemen, all wearing sombreros ( as you would do I guess in Sombrerete !). They were all lounging against various walls and I had a feeling of being watched with interest whilst at the same time no interest was being showed if you follow my drift. It was like being at O.K. Corral with out the OK bit. I was waiting for one of them to spit some tobacco, pull out some six shooters and have a little shootup !

Then just to finish it all off the army suddenly arrived in the form of a truck with about 20 soldiers all armed to the teeth and two big manned machine guns facing the front. I looked to see if there's we're any bullet ho,es in the stonework. There were none and that was reassuring. Nevertheless I suddenly was quite keen to get on the road again

Now it is Zacatecas. I have to pinch myself that I am not somewhere in s
Ancient Spain. It is beautiful and just like a old European city complete with lovely stone buildings and a Cathedral that is awesome in its grandeur All the streets are cobbled ( which is interesting to day the least on a motorbike !)

The whole town has a joyous feel to it. There are locals dressed up in medieval costumes and there is street theatre. The temperature is perfect and the sky is clear. I could stay here very easily. Thank you Aaron from Hubbards for suggesting we come here !


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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

CHAPTER



DAY. ? REST DAY IN LA PAZ


Well,it was a sort of a rest day but not a restful day. Far from it. Let's back the bus up to the previous afternoon. We thought it a good idea to go out to the ferry terminal and buy the tickets for the ferry to Matazlan. So far so good. Then we went to get a permit for the bike to go to the mainland of Mexico.

The nice customs lady explained that to do that you need a tourist permit first before you can get a bike permit .And where do you get those? Well only from Tijuana she said sweetly and you have to go back there. Well dear reader we have just spent 4 days and travelled 1500km from Tijuana to La Paz so that was not welcome news. No, not at all ! I do believe profoundities were uttered!




Then a solution. The immigration office in town said they would give us a special 30 day tourist permit and this would enable us to get a bike permit. Six hours and many signed forms later we had our permit. As part of this process I was required to write a story in Spanish on why we did not already have this permit and why we needed one Wow ! I did an impassioned story in my very best Spanish The customs officer clearly saw it for what it was as as a work of literary genius. I think I will enter it in a short story competition when I get home ( in the fiction section that is !)

Then after a long long wait we got our cherished 30 day special exemption permits for stupid foreigners! Elation both reigned and rained ! . Back to port customs for the bike permit. "Oh no" said the customs officer. Not so easy gringos ! This 30 day permit is unacceptable for the purposes of allowing the bike on the boat It has to be the 180 day permit ( TPP) issued only by the Tijuana office of immigration. You must go back to Tijuana !

Dear reader, I will not bore you with the next set of events. Suffice to say that several hours later we met a gentleman lawyer in the hotel lobby, money was paid over and the permits were given to us in exchange on the spot. Oh so easy ! But would these permits work? Watch the next days thrilling installment !


DAY. THE FERRYMAN COMETH ,

And he did! We fronted up to port customs for the third time in three days The customs officer looked at our brand new permits and all the other papers. she hesitated. Would she or would she not? Having convinced herself she could not find fault with our paperwork we duly paid our $US 400 bond and lo and behold we had our vehicle permit. We were now allowed to board the ferry !!! Halleluia five fold!




So at 4pm we rode onto the ferry, tied the bikes down in the bottom level of the ferry and got ready for the 18 hour overnight ferry to Matazlan.




















The ferry was a tattier version of the Interislander ferry between the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand The passenger list seemed to be about 100 soldiers , 100 truck drivers and about 10 tourists. However we had a nice cabin and a good nights sleep on calm waters. It was sort of comforting to know there was an armed soldier on guard just down our corridor all night but I think he was more interested in protecting his fellow soldiers than us. In the event of a little gunfight I guess we would have been just. "Collateral Damage" as they say in soldier speak!


DAY. AND INTO MATZALAN




What a lovely seaside city oozing old buildings and colonial charm from every corner or from every esquina as I would now say. Actually the language often does become a tale of two languages intermingling a little as we speak. I kind of like it .




We have booked into a lovely old hotel. This was a Lonely Planet recommendation and a good one at that. Lonely Planet is becoming very useful although even they did not explain the customs rigmarole very carefully




Tomorrow it is up to Durango in the highlands so there should be some respite from the oppressive heat. Here is hoping - it sure is hot here!


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Sunday, 16 September 2012

CHAPTER. 26


DAY 60. GUERRERO NEGRO TO LORETO. 460k
Leaving the hotel down the front steps. ( as you do!)




Today we headed over to the other side of the Baja peninsular on the Gulf of California side. We crossed to the nice looking sea side town of San Rosario where we had a long languid lunch. Unfortunately it could not be followed by a siesta - there was work in the office to do !
Impending military roadblock with cardboard cost saving measure!




So it was back in ( or on ! ) the offices and it was a joyful run down the coast to the very affluent town of Loreto. Like its name Loreto is very pretty. We stayed in a lovely traditional hotel in the heart of the city complete with courtyard where we could park our bikes.
Mid afternoon break on the way down the coast




On the way I was practicing my reading of road signs. Then suddenly I was stumped. According to my rudimentary Spanish the road sign read -
" Microwave the Angels "
Now there were times when the children were young when I could have easily taken this advice ! However even then it was not the sort of advice you would expect from a roading authority ! Sigh, back to the Spanish lessons it seems!
As we meandered down the coastal route there were now beach resorts appearing. Some were closed and derelict and obviously victim to tough times. Some of them looked idyllic with white sandy beaches, coconut trees and thatched "bures" on the beach. Obviously the American tourists have been scared away or are victims of their own recession.
Parking the bike in the hotel courtyard. Note panniers had to come off !




DAY 61. LORETO TO LA PAZ. 360 km
No we are not in Bolivia yet. La Paz is the biggest city of the lower Baja with a population of up towards 100,000 souls.
We are sort of zigzagging across the Baja as we wet from the east coast to the west side and then back to the east coast again. The scenery was hugely varied and a bit like New Zealand with the variations from high rugged mountains to flat desert plains to rich agricultural land all within short distances. And of course there are still plenty of cacti! The thought did cross my mind that if one left the road somewhat suddenly it would not be particularly pleasant to ride at high speed smack into a big cactus bush !




And talking of roads the roads here are big on speed bumps! They are even there to slow you down on tight corners. I found an unexpected benefit from these. In the middle of the afternoon when lady passenger on the back is getting a little sleepy a slightly too fast trip over a speed bump totally solves this little problem. Ditto also for the chauffeur up the front ! It does seem that some momentary air space between ones backside and the bike seat is very good for ones concentration ! And to make matters more interesting some speed bumps are not real ones but just yellow paint. Tease,tease I hear the road engineers say!
Then suddenly it is La Paz in mid afternoon and what an attractive city it is too. Tomorrow is Mexico Independance day and we were told they take it very seriously. As we rode into town you could sense an impending festive air and all the flags and bunting was up. So in order to see it all happening we booked into a waterfront hotel right in the middle of the CBD. Tomorrow was to be a rest day as we were going to watch the Independance day celebrations. We were looking forward to a fun rest day .
DAY 62 LA PAZ HOTEL ROOM TO STREET FRONTAGE. 10 METRES!
VIVA LA INDEPENDENCIA !
VIVA MEXICO !
And what a day. There was a huge big parade on the waterfront right outside our hotel. It started at 10.00am and went on for an hour. It was fantastico! Let the photos do the talking. -




Even soldiers have hearts -




Spot the difference!




The VIPs




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The police, the soldiers , the sailors, the firemen, the nurses, they were all on parade. Not a good morning to be sick in the hospital me thinks - there would be no one there and it would be self help. Ditto with most other services.












Very pretty-












Vivir mejor!!




And now dear reader it is time to stop the photos and it is time for a siesta before the fireworks and more celebrations start tonight !