Tag Archives: Mexico

In the clouds

Beetle-Mountain-Town meets volcanic landscapes with a Swiss taste

You know what: We could easily write a novel here: So many beautiful natural sceneries we have seen, the gorgeous people we met, the colorful towns we saw, all the great food we had and all the little oddities and characteristics we saw which makes us sometimes wonder… We try to make it short this time and highlight only a few things.

The plan of the route is mostly unknown until we start to drive or maybe a day before. Sometimes it even changes during the day due to road or weather condition or because we follow spontaneously recommendations we get from somebody on the road. The last day at Guadalajara we had the pleasure to meet another friend of Ernesto. Alberto is a real adventurer on his motorbike. He left his bike in Venezuela and will continue his trip in about a month – so we hope to meet him again somewhere in South America.
We heard about a place south east of Guadalajara called Charly´s Restaurant. It´s run by a Swiss guy and it´s actually in the middle of nowhere. Charly is living in Mexico since 27 years. His “Restaurant” is somehow a real place to meet with fellow overlanders and as well known by locals for the great food and drinks he offers. He has a real fable for travelers and he loves to ride his motorcycle too. He bakes his own bread and has a great knowledge of the entire region. Charly helped to establish a cheese production where he took us too. YUMMI, the first time since we left Europe REAL AND GOOD CHEESE!
A Swiss couple, Erika and Ernst, who travel the world after they retired in their camper-van stayed in his place too.  It was a great time chatting, eating and drinking… ahhh, did I forget to mention the pool? and swimming of course.

Charly offered spontaneously to accompany us together with Ernst for a day trip when we leave. He had a route in mind already and therefore we changed our plans impulsively. Instead of leaving North East (and round Mexico City that way) we were know heading South West together. We enjoyed the half day ride just following Charly through villages and fields…  ;) except maybe the adventure part where he used a short cut which became a muddy water filled pothole path. Ernst flipped the bike once but nothing really happened. At the Volcán Paricutín we split. We did not go up as it was covered in clouds and was looking like we would just enter the rain. We said good bye…
We continued through mountain areas with great sceneries. Now the route changed to pass by Mexico City on the south going east. Little villages, avocado plantations along the valleys and somehow land of nowhere… abandoned villas in the most beautiful spots; canyons and valleys with beautiful views everywhere. Some people told us this is not really an area to go through we remembered… but wherever we stopped for a rest or for food the people were friendly smiling at us and dealing with our little knowledge of Spanish.
Accidentally we head into the `pueblos magicos´ wherever we stopped. Sometimes we had really good experiences and sometimes it looked too touristic to us. Usually we were lucky finding nice and reasonable places to stay. Only in one occasion after a long day ride, again and again in the rain, we were too tired. And after stopping in two three places asking for the rate (all too overrated we settled in a placed which smelled a bit muggy and cat-pi. But hey, we had a nice walk to the lake and `survived´ ;)
Mexico is a big country and comes up with many volcanic areas, archeological sites and beautiful villages wherever you go. It is never easy to detect and decide what to look at and what not. We do prefer to stay in the mountains and usually we drive on an altitude of above or around 2000m. The climate is just perfect up here, because as soon as you are below 1500m it becomes really hot. The only disadvantage is the thunderstorms which usually come in around 4pm; and sometimes if you go up to the summits even earlier. So we drove onto one when we were riding up the volcano Nevado de Toluca. First it turned dark and soon everything was covered in clouds. Then it started to rain and finally to hail. It became a little slippery and we started to freeze and suddenly at 4200m the road was closed. So we returned to the lagoon and found a shelter for a few minutes. Down at the park entrance we were happy that the guard invited us to warm up at his fire place and we shared thankfully some nuts with him. We were luckier with the weather when we rode up early morning to Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl.
We have been the only ones on the road and as soon as we arrived at the view point the morning mist cleared off completely. Fascinated we were listening to the roaring sound of Popocatépetl – an impressive reminder that it is an very active volcano indeed. First we thought the road leading direction Pueblo is closed. But that was only the road going to another viewpoint. And the dirt road crossing over was open and didn’t look too bad. Only at one point in a steep turn with big rocks and deep washouts Kerstin crashed one time and then Sascha shortly after as well.

Two towns we really enjoyed visiting. The first one was Taxco. A beautiful mountain city situated on nearly 1800m. It is famous for its silver mines and shops which we did not know before at all. Much more impressive to us was the location. Riding the Mexican Highlands is really great with gorgeous landscapes and villages. But the view at Taxco from below was just stunning and for Kerstin a bit petrifying. The white houses with complex narrow curvy steep copper stone roads are climbing up the hill and there is a statue of Jesus at the very top of the town, called “Cristo”.
We looked up a hotel before and I was definitely afraid if Kerstin will make it through this narrow labyrinth without crashing somewhere. The town is full of white racing taxi beetles speeding up the curvy steep streets and crossing in from all directions. Completely sweated and full of adrenaline we finally managed to find the hotel. We parked our motorcycles in the lobby – from time to time we do like this kind of comfort – and checked in for two days. A `funny´ thing was that we found out that the Hotel is located just next to the main road and we could have easily avoid this `adventure ride´… but nevertheless we decided to let enjoy the bikes their lobby-parking for our stay.  Sometimes we have the feeling our GPS is looking for more adventure then we do!
We really enjoyed the stay, walking around in this labyrinth and the market lanes, visiting the more than 200-year-old baroque-style church, the Santa Prisca Cathedral and the cultural centre Casa Borda. We were eating delicious and incredible cheap food in the non-touristic areas and last but not least driving up in one of these racing-beetles to the Christo Monument.
The other town we visited for two days was Cholula in Puebla just east of Popocatépetl on an altitude of 2150m. It is considered to be the oldest city in North America, inhabited without interruption since its origins. We found a nice AirBnB for just 300pesos a night with view to the Pirámide Tepanapa, the world largest pyramid (volume wise) and world’s largest monument. Because the site was fully covered with earth and looked just like a hill the Spanish build la Iglesia de los Remedios on the top (a church).

Our room was located above a little panaderia (bakery). We could not resist the smell. They did the best bread and the most delicious cheese pies and we had them several times… ;)

You may wonder if there is anything we do not like here?! YES! The topez!!! Tope is the Spanish word for speed bump. Topes are pervasive on Mexican roads, and they come in varying heights, from minuscule to mountainous. Sometimes they are marked in color or with signs BUT sometimes not and sometimes there is just a sign but no topes…?. But if you overlook them you risk taking off for a short but intensive flight. But the most evil ones are the ones with a little gap in the middle. If you do not see that you can easily get stuck with your tire or rather you are out of control direction wise. It happened to Sascha and he squeezed his foot and nearly drove into a shop-window.

As mentioned before we have September and it is the “Month of Mexico”. The streets are decorated across the country with flags and colorful garlands, which is locally called “papel picado”. On each corner there are vendors with a colorful assortment of flags, balloons, hats and pinwheels, in white, red and green, the National colors. There are flags on the houses, cars, Motorcycles (ours too!!!) and all government buildings and town squares. The highlight is the Grito de Dolores (better known as El Grito, the Cry for independence) It is celebrated every year on the night between September 15th and 16th is a Mexican holiday par excellence. It is the night when all citizens of Mexico celebrate their independence from the Spanish conquerors.

We planned to spend this big Fiesta in Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca Overlander Oasis. We met a bunch of really nice overlanders here and we are curious how the night will turn out… But this we will tell you next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video: The road to Popocatepetl and Cholula, Puebla

Country of friendly singing and dancing people everywhere – ¡Chinchín!

What a Birthday!Thank you all so much for your lovely wishes!!! I really had a great birthday. Sascha woke me up at sunrise with a kiss and a coffee. A big plate of fresh mango was waiting for me already and later on he prepared a delicious breakfast with bacon and eggs. From Pam I received a wonderful shirt out of her great shop-collection.It is not naturally having all that happen on a journey so I really appreciated the location and Sascha’s effort – I love you my dear! For the dinner we prepared a delicious fresh fish together and enjoyed the sunset view on Pam´s terrace with a glass of wine.
The lovely time with Pam in Todos Santos ended with a great day swimming, packing and a dinner in a place with Cuban live music – it was time to say good bye…
On Monday the 27th August we left Todos Santos and drove to La Paz to take the ferry which should bring us to the mainland of Mexico. We reserved the trip via telephone and were curious if  everything will turn out right. The Ferry (TMC) guys were all very professional, spoke fluent English and were extremely friendly. Very quick all the required documents were done. We had to go on an scale and WOW we were surprised how heavy we are: Sascha and the bike 430kg and Kerstin and the bike 330kg! Holy sh…!!!

The ferry is a cargo line; only people with a vehicle are allowed. Therefore it was packed with truck drivers and we were the only foreigners. The ferry left at 6pm and we knew the trip would take about 16 hours. Everybody was nice and super super friendly. They even provided us cool drinks and introduced us to the cantina (dinner and breakfast is included in the trip). The weather looked calm and the sea flat – perfect as we would need to find a spot on deck to sleep. With the sunset we saw some dolphins playing around and a big turtle before it turned dark. We found a spot in the wind shade which looked perfect to us to set camp and sleep. So we settled, had one or two sips Tequila and watched the stars. We dozed when we recognized dark silhouettes of some sea birds floating in the sky above us and we thought: wow how wonderful is that!!! But I needed a last pi before real sleep and when I went up I recognized that the whole platform and of course as well us, our mattresses and sleeping bags were full of bird shit!!! Sascha went to research if there is maybe a better place and so we moved everything in the middle of the night. At least we had some sleep. We woke up with the sunrise and could see dark clouds and lightning at the horizon above the mainland but luckily it stayed dry where we were. We went up to pick a coffee and breakfast, pack our “shitty” stuff together and having a shower (yes they do have warm showers!) when we recognized all the dolphins jumping around and diving under the boat. All in all we had a very good time on the ferry. Everything was clean and in a good condition and all the people has been friendly and helpful. As scheduled we arrived in Mazatlán at 10am. We packed the bikes and were sweated in a second and we left the ferry while gesturing `adios´ to everybody as quickly as possible.
We left Mazatlán towards east into the mountains driving the old Ruta 40d. What a difference! Suddenly everything was sooo green and mellow. The road was in a good condition and was climbing up the mountains passing little pueblos, villages, with friendly smiling and waving people. The air became more and more fresh and it was the first time since a looong time that we were not sweating anymore while driving and even not when we were stopping – how pleasant for a change. The Ruta 40d is called as well `El Espinaco Del Diablo´ (The Devils Backbone) and is a real pleasure for motorcyclist cause it is providing awesome views and the 2000 turns are magnificent. The road lies almost entirely over 2.000 meters above the sea level and goes eventually above 3000m. And the best we were driving it nearly entirely alone!Somewhere in the middle at about 3pm we crossed once more one of the several police or military checkpoints. So far we cannot say anything negative about them. They always have been friendly often even smiling and were waving us through. From time to time they are asking where we are coming from and where we are going to but not much more. Usually I am driving in front with Pepe as a pillion (you remember the Teddy bear we found in Canada) with open helmet and saying `!Hola! Buenas Dias/Tardes!´ with a big smile! It seems to work J and if they start to ask more I am just saying `no intendo – hablo un pocito espaniol solo´ with a bigger smile (if possible).

Now the sky became dark and suddenly it started to rain. It seems every day at around this time thunderstorms are coming up here in the mountains. Brrrr… the first time since a long time we started freezing and had to search for additional cloth. In a little village called `La Ciudad´ (the city!) we stopped with lightning and thundering all around us. We found a place renting out cabanas and negotiated a price for the night. When the rain stopped we had a look around for food but have been unlucky – maybe it was too early or just the wrong day of the week, who knows we dint find anything…. Anyhow the next hard rain was coming in and we bought some beers and went back to our cabana. There we cooked delicious pasta with chili tomato sauce and parmesan. Sitting under the shelter of our terrace we enjoyed our food and beer while watching the lightning. Knowing we will sleep dry and warm under heavy wool blankets was a big advantage… what a change! Early morning we woke up to continue. The clouds were still hanging low in the mountains but after having coffee the sun came out.

After a nice ride through the mountains at around 3 to 4pm thick clouds came up and rain hit us again; so we skipped the plan to camp in El Parque Nacional Sierra de Órganos. A little bit further on the `Pueblo Magico´ Sombrerete is located. We checked in a Motel and spend the rest of the day exploring this beautiful place. We walked around, found a real good foot place and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere until sunset; just when the next thunderstorm came in we were back and had a good and DRY sleep.

The next morning we were not really sure how to continue. We used the possibility of an fast internet connection and booked a Airbnb in Zacatecas. Not so far away and made a contact for Couchsurfing in Guadalajara. In Zacatecas we negotiated a good price for two people in an old amazing villa. When we entered the building we could smell the history… and we moved into the suite with a gigantic balcony overlooking the whole town… WOW! We enjoyed the rest of the day walking around and visiting as well a beautiful church `Temple of Fatima´ where the priest welcomed and invited us hearty to visit it.

Close by is La Quemada an archeological site situated and we took the chance to leave all our valuables at the AirBnB and went there the early morning. We were the only visitors at arrival. The site is made up of numerous different sized platforms built onto the hill and it is one of the places visited by the Aztecs in their migration to the basin of Mexico, where they left their elderly and children. We spent about 3 hours climbing the mountain and the hundreds of steps and adoring the views and the peace of this place. For that day we caught enough sun and we used the afternoon to clean our mattresses and sleeping bags from the bird shit which we got on the ferry ride. The evening we walked around downtown and found a Mexican restaurant full of oddities. Later on we joined the musician groups on the streets – funny smiling singing dancing people all around!
The road going south to Guadalajara is a big straight red line on our map. We only have a map with a very big scale and we had no idea how the road would be like. We expected these 370km will be pretty boring but pretty soon it turned into a beautiful winding road through the mountains and we really enjoyed the ride. Just before we reached the Guadalajara a gorgeous view on the `Salto del Nogal´, a 105m high waterfall welcomed us.

We stay with Ernesto, a Couchsurfing place. He is a fabulous guy and living with his German shepherd dog in a little flat at a spectacular place. Such a Buena Vista, outlook!!! One evening we explored the city and we can tell you with the sunset the whole city becomes a `theater´; everywhere artists, dancing groups, musicians and smiling and laughing faces – a fantastic atmosphere! Ernesto and his friend Eva took us to a Mexican breakfast. It had a breathtaking view to the valley with the Rio Santiago. They introduced us all the traditional Mexican breakfast specialties. We learned a lot and that is actually the reason why we love Couchsurfing from time to time. You are with the locals and you learn so much about tradition, culture, food, language, the location, fauna and flora… Today we will meet another friend of Ernesto, a motorcyclist who travels a lot as well. We are curious to hear about his experiences. He can give us maybe good advice and suggestions where to go and what to see… Once again we do not have a clue yet where we go next J sooo many beautiful places around…
Until then we are `working´ on the update in our office with this unique breathtaking view surrounded by all kind of birds, many hummingbirds, butterflies and iguanas

VIVA MeXico – Baja California in the heat

If you are on a long-term journey you are not able to be in all places at the best season of the year. That’s how it is and you have to make the best out of it. So far we crossed the Baja North and entered Baja Sur already and we stranded in an real oasis in this desert terrain: San Ignacio. It is a large grove of lush green date palms by the river and village next to an eighteenth-century Jesuit mission. We stay at `Ignacio Springs Bed & Breakfast´ (https://www.ignaciosprings.com/) run by the Canadian couple Bonny and Paul. They just took over this place in May this year and looking after it very well. The yurts are airy, clean and cozy and the breakfast is one of the bests we ever had on our journeys. We do feel like in paradise here in this big palm-garden, kayaking with the sunrise and jumping into the river for a swim. The village has a charming plaza with huge shady trees, little cozy restaurants, bars and cafes. This is definitely a place to settle back; especially after riding in the summer heat through the desert of Baja California.

When we left San Diego and said good bye to Randy & Doc we reached the border at Tecate in the late morning. (By the way – if you do love travel, dogs and or motorbikes please support Rad ‘n Doc Travel the World´ and like their Facebook page so they might get a sponsor for dog-food on their future travels). We almost entered Mexico, when we recognized we haven’t done the checkout of the US and we turned the bikes. This action was not really liked by the border police of the US and they seriously censured us. We had a little dispute that we were looking for the US border and that they do not have any sign there where or when you are leaving the country and as well that we would need an exit stamp that we left their country with our bikes. In the end we left the States without any proof by them and we crossed over to Mexico. There they just waved us through and suddenly we were in the middle of the town…??? Nobody wants to see our passport? Nobody wants to know who we are and what we are doing here? A little bit confused we turned back once more and parked in front of a little shop. While Sascha was walking to the customs with our papers I stayed with the bikes and started a chat with the family who runs the shop. I bridged the time refreshing my memories of Spanish with the kids and the family invited me to stay inside the shop to escape the heat while waiting. After about 1 1/2 hours Sascha was done and I had to go to finish the import of my motorcycle. Everybody was friendly and polite but it took a pretty loooong time; all together it took nearly 3.5 hours and we were completely sweaty.

The scenery of Baja is rough. The desert, the sand dunes, the cactus and the beaches are having its own spirit; but at this time of the year it is incredible HOT and unfortunately not the right time to see any whales. We mostly remained on the coastal roads if possible. As well we do not go on long sandy off road trails with this heat. We will need to come back one day to explore the Baja more intensely for sure. Inland of Baja had quite a lot of rain within the last days and we had some flooded roads to cross as the dried earth cannot absorb the water quickly.

The Mexican foot is just after our fancy as we do love spicy food and our first Margaritas cooled our dusty throats. We try to work on our Spanish and we are curious to see more of this big country rich in history and culture…