Sunday, 21 November 2010

Mainland Mexico at last

After two weeks at Todos Santos I was ready to move on and although I'd had a great time looking for turtles I was very keen to get back on the road. I rode the 50 miles to La Paz and then stopped off at a coffee bar to bide my time before I needed to be at the ferry. As I sat there, admiring my mean machine on the street, I wondered, what will happen today? Although I'm traveling by myself at the moment, it's actually quite hard to stay on your own when you're on a motorbike. Not only is it a good ice breaker as far as conversation goes, but whenever there's another biker around the will, inevitably, pull up and start chatting. That's just what happened. Within 15 minutes a guy pulls up on a Beemer, with Idaho plates. We start chatting, and unbelievably he's from Ketchem, Sun Valley, right up the road from where Trent lives and where I stayed a few months ago.  

Waiting for new friends - La Paz, Baja

He left and soon after two other BMW's pull up. Arthur and Brian are heading down to Panama and we're going to catch the same ferry as me. We had a chat and then agreed to meet up on the ferry. This was great news. I'd paid $200 to get myself and the bike on the ferry but only had a “reclining seat” for the 12 hour overnight trip. Now I had people to share the coast of a cabin with. Oh, yeah, and some people to discus routes, experiences etc.

We were left to tie down are one bikes.

We got on board (after having to try down our bikes with whatever we could find – no help from the crew) and booked ourselves a cabin. Later we went for a beer and sat down to discuss routes. Then we were joined by a rather large American gentlemen who proceeded to tell us how dangerous Mazatlan (port of destination) was. He went on and on about the drive-by shootings and killings and how we must get out of Mazatlan as soon as possible. He really started to annoy me, being SO negative about the place, and just not shutting up. Of course, I was too polite to say anything and just sat there for half an hour putting up with him. Arthur did the same, Brian excused himself and left later telling us he just couldn't put up with it anymore. Later I was more annoyed with myself for just sitting there, nodding my head and agreeing with the guy. I should have said something but just couldn't be bothered. But it's only because people like me are so nice to people like him that he gets away with it. I must make a concerted effort to change this. To quote Morrisey,” Why do I smile at people who I'd much rather kick in the eye.”

Ryan, the third biker I met, had opted for the smuggling option and rather than pay $100 to put his bike on the boat he paid $50 to put it in the back of a truck. He spent the whole night worrying about it but it worked.

Ryans bike fell off the back of a lorry

Four bikes fueling up

Mexican toll road

Next day I rode down the coast with my new friends all the way to Jims place. Jim (The Canadian I'd met a Tijuana and ridden down Baja with) had rented a place on the coast and offered me a bed for the night. It was great to meet up with him again (and Kathy his partner) and they had such as nice place, I stayed three nights.

Jim and Kathy riding up the cobblestones to their house

Jim, Kathy, Dom

Sunset from Jims balcony

Jim is the one responsible for planting an idea in my head which has grown over the last few weeks and may well end up with me extending my fantastic adventure (or ending it). He's suggested I ride from Venezuela, through the three Guyanas and into Brazil, rather than shipping my bike to South Africa. This is something I had looked into when planning this trip, but hadn't thought it really possible. Apparently it is; I'm thinking about it.

It was hard to leave Jim's. But I had to move on. On his advice I went down the coast to Manzanillo where, well, have a look....

Park here and walk past the bus

Can you see yet?

(Sorry-tried to load a short video of the crocs. but it won't work. I'll put it on my facebook page.)

I spent the night in Barra de Navidad (Christmas Sand Bar). A small, quaint but rather nondescript port with a huge history. In 1564 the shipyards here built the galleons used by the conquistadors who sailed west from here and claimed the Phillipines for King Felipe of Spain.

Barra de Navidad

One of the few glimpses I got of the coast

Next day I continued down the coast. Now my guide book refers to the road as “hugging the coast”. I'm not quite sure I agree. It took me all day to ride the 250 miles down the coast and I only actually got sight of the sea a handful of times. I'd hardly call that hugging. On top of that Mexico's famous TOPES (speed bumps) have raised their ugly heads. Coming out of nowhere these small, unpainted but steep little bumps play havoc with the shock absorbers (and my backside!), not to mention severely reducing my average speed. That's why it took me 7 hours to cover 250 miles. There was very little traffic along the way but that doesn't mean the road was empty. I passed several sun worshipping iguanas, and something else... I was coming up a rise and saw a large tarantula crossing the road. I doubled back to get a better look but it had gone. I suddenly had this horrible thought that it had jumped onto the bike and was crawling up my back, but I guess not.

Despite the topes it was a lovely days ride on a hot day. Mango, Coconut, Papaya and Banana plantations line to way; the azul sea on the right (when I can see it) and the lush Sierra Madre mountains on the left. In fact I was enjoying it so much I forgot to tank up and came close to running out of fuel. There was one stretch of coast with no settlement for at least a hundred miles and I was running low. With less than 30 miles of petrol left I saw a hand written sigh in the first village I passed in well over an hour.

Petrol station

All in all a good day ending with a great sunset in Playa Azul. A Mexican tourist beach resort with lots of beach and very few tourists.

Next day I rode up to Morelia. It was supposed to have been easy but when the road is blocked off to celebrate Revolution day all you can do is get off the bike, take some pictures and wait for the parade to pass.

Embarrasingly these guys got told off for not paying attention to the parade.

The Lonely Planet says Morelia it's “the coolest place you've never been” whatever that means, but it's on my way to Mexico City and about an hours ride from the famous Monarch Butterfly reserve which I shall visit tomorrow. I arrived in Morelia, parked by the Cathedral and looked at my map to see get the lay of the land.

Little did I know that only two hours later all these guys would show up.

Morelia Harley Davidson club

Three on a bike. At least they have helmets on!

Luckily by then my BMW was safely stashed away in a colonial courtyard.

Not sure if this made me feel safer?

Metal detector on left

There seemed to be a few too many Federal Police around for my liking, and mobile metal detectors, should I be worried? Saturday was Mexico Revolution Day and there were going to be festivities in the plaza that night. I later read that in 2008 grenades had been thrown during Independence day celebrations and Morelia was the home town for Mexico's President Felipe Calderon. So, perhaps the security was justified.

Morelia by night

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