Posts tagged “Mexico

¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva Guatemala!

We spent the next few days in San Cristobal de las Casas. Actually we did not do much, besides enjoying tasty mexican food in cafes and restaurants. Really great were the tasty coffee and the little cakes in San Cristobal. Carmen also spent some time to go shopping on the marketplace and buy new clothes. At last she found her ‘aladin pants’ which she had been looking for since quite some time.

In the hostel in San Cristobal we got to know the german student Eva, who spent her holidays in Mexico to learn spanish. We spent the Mexican day of independence (September, 15th) with her. We went to the street festival to get something for dinner and enjoyed the live show in the evening.

After a long time of thinking we decided to change our plan once more. Instead of driving to Belize via the hot Yucatan peninsula, we wanted to go straight to Guatemala. So we packed our clothes very early in the morning and we really appreciated that the owner of our hostel Erik got up very early just to prepare our breakfast. Erik was a very nice guy and also great at preparing the breakfast, the very best breakfast we had so far.

After 2.5 hours of driving on the official Panamericana route (Mex 190) we arrived at the border to Guatemala in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc. In order to get back our $300 deposit we first had to go through the procedure to export our motorbikes out of Mexico. So far we did not experience any corrupt state employee in Mexico, but there is a first time for everything. Tourists who spend more than seven days in Mexico have to pay 294 pesos (US $24) of fee. This fee can be paid during immigration or also when leaving Mexico. We had already paid it during immigration. However the guy at the mexican border insisted that Michael pays the 294 pesos to him. After Michael gave a 500 pesos bill to the guy, he put it into his pocket and gave Michael 200 pesos back (again out of his pocket). Michael asked for a receipt and then the guy suddenly said that he cannot give a receipt, but Michael needs to pay at the bank to get a receipt. The employee at the bank however told Michael that no additional fee is needed and that we are all set to leave Mexico. Anyway at least we immigrated to Guatemala without any issues. We did not even need to buy a insurance for our bikes.

After two hours of processing immigration, we could continue our voyage on the Panamericana through the amazing mountain landscape of Guatemala. Since the independence day in Guatemala is also on September, 15th, all villages were decorated with blue-white flags and several sports events like bicycle races and soccer tournaments were held. In the evening we arrived in Xela, the second largest city of Guatemala and it was raining heavily.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Riding through the Land of Rebels

Actually we have been told not to visit the states Oaxaca and Chiapas due to the political situation. Therefore we started to drive to there on Monday. 🙂 Our ride to Oaxaca de Juarez was quite a long odyssey. We passed the (still active) Popocatepetl, which the locals call ‘El Popo’. Then we continued on the libre road 131 which changed into a very nice twisting mountain road. Surprisingly the road is in a very good condition and there is not much traffic on it either. Hence it was really fun to follow it’s winding up and downs. Anyway when we arrived in Oaxaca de Juarez in the evening, we were quite exhausted. After we managed somehow to get the bikes through the much too small door of the hostel, we fell into our beds without any dinner. Even on the next day we were still exhausted, so that we could not do much except a short sight seeing walk through the city.

Fortunately we did not know what was waiting for us on the next day. It was one of the most exhausting legs of our journey so far. The plan was to ride the 620 km to San Cristobal de las Casas. We had been told that the bus needs about 12 hours for that tour. Therefore we got up very early at 06:30 am on the next day and left at around 8 am. Since we had already booked a hostel in San Cristobal, we were very motivated to arrive there before nightfall. We chose to ride on libre 190, which again turned out to be a nice, twisting road with lots of passes. In general the road was also in a very good condition, but one still had to pay very much attention, because huge potholes or dirt was suddenly appearing on the street or small cabs (tuk tuks) were crossing the road on high speed in kamikaze style. The best part of the journey was the road between Chiapas de Corzo and San Cristobal. The mountain countryside with it’s view on the tropical forrest in the valley was breathtaking and we followed the road through numerous little, original mexican mountain villages. However we still were really glad when we arrived at the hostel after 10.5 hours of driving without any real break. The owner of the hostel and his dog were already waiting and welcomed us very friendly.

After that kind of strain we needed to get something to eat first and went straight to the restaurant ‘Tierra Adentro’. The owners of that restaurant support the zapatista movement ( ‘Zapatista Army of National Liberation’ ), which was easy to see due to the zapatista pictures on the wall. Carmen really liked the numerous vegetarian dishes, because she became a vegetarian since her stomach problems in Baja California.

In the evening we went to the ‘Cafe Bar Revolucion’, in which two live bands are playing each day. This time the band was playing blues, but rather some kind of ‘rock blues’. The first impression of San Cristobal was so good, that we decided to stay until the mexican day of independence, which is September, 15th.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

With fake papers into the Mayan empire


After another day in Guanajuato we started our ride heading to Mexico City. Our destination of the day was the Maya city Teotihuacan. It was Michael’s turn to navigate on that day and as usual he used his Garmin GPS. However driving with the Garmin GPS and the OpenStreet Maps (which can be downloaded for free) is very difficult, because the maps are not complete (e.g. they do not know whether a street is one way or not) and the Garmin itself prefers toll roads or navigates via huge detours. So we needed about an hour just to leave Guanajuato.

The remaining drive was not much easier. At last, Michael quit to urge the Garmin GPS to avoid toll roads and just followed the way suggested by the GPS. Unfortunately we had to spend quite some amount of toll on that way. When we finally approached Mexico City, we were already quite annoyed. In the suburbs of Mexico City we had to find our way through the chaos of roads to Teotihuacan. Unfortunately then we were even stopped twice by two mexican police guys. As usual we just gave them (color) copies of our driving license and bike registration, which went very well so far. But the police in Mexico City seems to be a little bit smarter and so one of them asked us: ‘…original o copia?’. But we just pretended to not understand a word and asked: ‘Do you speak English?’ and the guy just quit asking and let us go on.


We booked the hotel ‘Villa Teotihuacan’ via hostelworld.com. The location of the hotel is great! You leave the hotel and walk a few meters and then you have a great view at the pyramids. Of course one has to pay for the good location. We paid (after a little negotiation) 19 € per person and night, which is quite expensive for mexican terms. But for the same money we slept in the cheapest Motel 6 in California or even camped in Canada (shower not included!). We spent the evening with a glass of wine and some Nachos and Guacamole at the hotel bar. There we met an italian family and a mexican couple with whom we talked a couple of hours in a kind of spanish – english mixture.

On Sundays mexican residents can visit the Maya pyramids for free. Since we arrived late on a Saturday, we wanted to visit the pyramids also on Sunday. To avoid the expected crowd of mexicans we got up very early (short after 6am) to be at the pyramids at around 7:30am. That went really well and we were almost on our own when we visited the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon. First we climbed the pyramid of the sun to take some of the usual jumping pictures. Afterwards we walked the ‘Avenue of Dead’ to the pyramid of the moon. We even visited the museum of Teotihuacan and enjoyed some cultural information (e.g. that the pyramids were built almost 2000 years ago).

At noon the mexican crowd arrived and so we left the Maya city and spent the rest of the day at the pool of the hotel.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Guanajuato – on hills, frogs, and mummies

In Mexico there are free roads and toll roads. The toll roads usually are in a very good state and connect the big cities fast and directly. The free roads, which are called ‘Libre’ roads, are most of the time in a worse state and you need to drive through all the villages. Besides you cannot drive fast because they are crowded by a huge amount of trucks. However we had much time and didn’t want to pay a toll, so we tried to use the free roads to Guanajuato. Because of the few amount of road signs (if there are ones at all), it was much more difficult to find the right roads than we thought. After a couple of detours and several hours of driving, we finally arrived in Guanajuato. We had already booked a B&B, so fortunately we did not have to look for a place to sleep. Our accomodation was located directly at the Panoramica, a panoramic road which winds through the numerous hills of Guanajuato.

Guanajuato got it’s name because of those hills. The name of the city has it’s origin in the Purépecha language and means something like ‘hilly place of frogs’. Beside the city is an Unesco World Heritage Site. After our first quick visit of the city, we can certainly agree. Everywhere in the city there are small, colorful little houses, narrow alleys, and numerous old, historical buildings. In the alleys one can find many little shops, nice restaurants, and bars. In addition to that there are lots of theatres, museums, and a university, so there is also quite a rich cultural life here.

However since we had not eaten anything the whole day, we just could think about food in the evening. On our search for a nice restaurant, we found a ‘Heladeria’ (ice cream parlor), in which they made the ice fresh right in front of us. They used only fresh fruits and soy milk. The ice was made by hand using a kind of putty knife and a cold plate. It was really tasty and creamy. The guy at the parlor gave us a tip to eat at Habibi, an arabic restaurant, which we did. It was a little strange, though, to eat arabic food in Mexico in a restaurant led by a german woman, but who cares? It was really yummy!

We spent the next day with sight-essing. Our first destination was the famous mummy museum ‘Museo de las Momias’. This museum is not for the faint-hearted. They show more than 200 corpses – including babies and fetuses. The corpses had been found in the local cemetery and are in a really good shape. They had been mummified by accident because of the optimal climate and conditions of the soil.

 

On our way back we used the opportunity to drive to the top of a mountain using a kind of cable car. We had a great view on the city. A remarkable thing in the city of Guanajuato is the vast number of old VW Beetles, which drive around in the city. The vehicles are still in a very good shape – no wonder, they had been made in Mexico until 2003.

But you cannot find only vehicles of german origin here in the city, but even german culinary highlights. We were astonished as we came across a small booth selling german ‘Currywurst’ (german sausage with tomatoe sauce and lots of curry). The shop is called ‘Lecka’ which comes from the german word for ‘tasty’ (lecker). In addition to Currywurst they also have other german meals like Bratwurstbrötchen (roll with a german bratwurst) and for some reason even Sushi.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Mexican Wrestling in Guadalajara

In order to go easy on our travel budget, we moved into a cheaper hostel, the hostel ‘Tequila’, on the next day. To our surprise, the price did include breakfast and even a small bottle of Corona beer each day. The hostel had quite some charme, a swimming pool and several little lounge areas for relaxing.

We decided to stay another two days in Guadalajara, because we really like the city. Guadalajara has got a beautiful, old, historic center with lots of cathedrals, old churches and a huge market. On the market you can buy anything from fruits to living pets.

On our last evening in Guadalajara we bought tickets for the very popular mexican wrestling. They told us that we were picked up by a bus in the evening. However we did not know, that this bus is a kind of party bus. In the bus there was a little bar with a bar keeper and a DJ playing salsa music in spanish. Later in the evening the party was really starting and finally nobody was able to resist the desire to dance.

As the american version, mexican wrestling as well is just a show fight. Usually the fights are not real and the result is arranged. In the fights two teams fight against each other. One team weared special wrestling masks, whereas the other one fought without masks. Even the audience was divided in two teams: The ‘poor’ ones and the ‘rich’ ones (the tickets of the ‘rich’ ones were twice as expensive as those of the ‘poor’ ones). One team of the audience supported one team inside the ring, i.e. either the masked ones or the fighters without masks. While the fighters were performing their show, the two groups in the audience sweared at the other group using different kinds of spanish cuss words. That was a good opportunity to improve our spanish skills. 😉 But even for the audience this was just a show. The mood was very good and the people laughed heartily about the trys to insult them by the other team. The only downside of the event was that we were not allowed to bring our cameras. So unfortunately we had to use our cellphones to take pictures.

Mexican wrestling was a great way to say good-bye to Guadalajara. On the next morning we started our ride to Guanajuata, a smaller city between Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Music Festival in Guadalajara

The climate in Mazatlan during this season is unbearable. It’s only 35 degrees Celsius, but more than 70% humidity. After a few minutes, we are soaked by our own sweat. Therefore we stayed in our air-conditioned hotel room and just left in the evening, in order to eat the best dinner so far (fresh fish and shrimps) and enjoy the sunset at the beach.

Because we do not really like to spend the whole day in the hotel, we left Mazatlan the next morning and rode to Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. We did not know that there is a large open air music festival right now. Therefore most of the hotels were already full. Fortunately we finally found a room in a hotel right at the center near the festival.

After taking a short shower, we went straight to the party zone. There are a number of live stages on which bands of various styles play, from mexican rock to techno – everything. The crowd was partying like mad and the street appeared a little bit like Love Parade in Berlin. Everywhere they have little snack booths, nice bars, live performances and the smell of joints was in the air. We had a quite nice first impression of the city. 😉

Right at the side of our hotel there is a small villa which is now used as a techno club. The open terrace at the top of the building is used as dance floor. Carmen used that opportunity for some work-out and spent some hours dancing.

 

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

¡Adios Baja California!

Our stay in Baja California was finally drawing to a close. We bought ferry tickets for Thursday to go to Mexico main land. So we drove to La Paz on Wednesday. In order to avoid driving the same route twice, we chose the western road along the coast via Todos Santos this time.

In the afternoon we arrived in La Paz and needed quite some time to find an appropriate hotel. Even the local police supported us in our search, gave us some hints and a map of La Paz. They even weren’t bothered by our standing in a no stopping area in the middle of a crossway. Finally we checked into ‘Dos Missionares’ in the center of La Paz for only 8 € per person and night. Besides we started to think a little bit more about the security of our motorcycles. Therefore we were pleased as we were allowed to drive our bikes through the door into the entry area of the hotel, in order to park them there.

While we were visiting the city, a thunderstorm was approaching. Just in time we arrived at the hotel, shortly before it started to rain cats and dogs. In a short time, the roads were flooded and changed into rivers. Now we realized why the sidewalks are knee high. After it stopped raining, we went to a little restaurant directly at the beach for dinner.

On the next morning we went on to the ferry harbor Pichilingue. We arrived much too early and hence had to spend some time in a nearby beach restaurant. The waiter was very nice and told us how typical mexican dishes are made. So in spite of our current stomach issues we took the risk to taste the typical dish ‘Ceviche’. Ceviche is made out of raw fish which is marinated in lime juice. After this process the fish feels almost like cooked. It is mixed with tomatoes, onions, and herbs and served with tacos and a collection of salsas. We both liked the Ceviche very much and even had no additional problems with our stomach. 😉

At last we could drive to the ferry and arrived there just as they started to load it. However what we did not know is, that motorcycles are the very last vehicles to be loaded. So we spent another two hours waiting at the harbor. Then they told us to put our motorcycles into the bottom deck right at the bow. After we asked, how they intend to fix our motorcycles to the deck, they were a little bit astonished and asked us whether we do not have any lashing straps of our own. Actually we really thought, that everything which is needed for the transportation of our bikes is set by the transportation company itself. Anyway as usual in Mexico they started to improvise and one of the workers came with really heavy steel chains which he used to attach our bikes to the deck. It really was very painful for us to watch as they used those heavy, old, rusty steel chains on our bikes.

Overall the ferry crossing was quite uneventful. Carmen spent some time with a mexican family and tried to use her new spanish skills (with little success). In order to save some money, we just booked two seats in a large hall. The amount of people in this hall and the loudly played hollywood comic movies (in spanish of course) made it hard to get some real sleep.

We were quite knocked out when we arrived in Mazatlan. The weather was awful, extremely hot and humid, but still we had to drive around in all our gear to find a hotel. It’s hard for both of us to stand that kind of weather. So most probably we will change our current plan and not drive to Puerto Vallarte and head to Guadalajara instead. We hope that the heat and humidity is less intense there.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Cabo San Lucas – Touristtown at Land’s End

Yesterday evening we arrived in Cabo San Lucas, the southernmost town in Baja California. The area here is also called ‘Land’s End’, because if you imagine a line from here going South, it won’t reach land before Antarctica. The hotels in the town are quite noble, so it was not easy for us to get a rather cheap accommodation. Eventually we got a room for 17 € per person.

When we went out to go through the town, we were approached by a mexican guy at the next street bar. He was sitting there and enjoying a beer with his mate. Since he seemed very friendly to us and besides spoke perfect english, we joined his table. Later he guided us through the party area of the town and we went dancing. Although he had to get up at 7am on the next morning, he did not even want to stop to party and so we were the soft guys when we said goodbye to him at around midnight.

We were really delighted when we saw that this town even has a Starbucks. So we could get some good breakfast on the next morning at last. 😉 The mexican food is actually very tasty, but they always serve Tacos or Burritos, as breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner.

After having our breakfast we looked for a water taxi for $7 per person to get to the ‘El Arco de Carbo San Lucas’. The ‘El Arco’ is a natural rock island which acts as the border between the pacific ocean and the Gulf of California. We spent the remaining day to go through the city and enjoy life. 😉

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Hot Days in Loreto

Loreto is a small, nice town at the Gulf of California offering numerous restaurants, little shops and beautiful beaches. However it is not really a party city, but rather the kind of town to relax. That’s exactly what we did the three days which we spent there. Actually it is not even possible to really do something during the day, because of the climate. It’s extremely hot and humid. Between noon and 5 pm we could practically not leave the hotel at all without getting a sunstroke.

But the town had nice restaurants with tasty, mexican food. Although our stomachs are still trying to get used to the food here, we still like to enjoy tasty fish tacos and breakfast burritos. 😉 Besides eating we used the time here to learn spanish at the beach and relax.

We decided to leave Loreto on Monday. In order not to drive in the heat, we got up early in the morning at 6:30 am, so that we could drive the 350km to La Paz before it starts to get really hot at noon. In La Paz we bought ferry tickets for our bikes and ourselves. On Thursday we want to cross the Gulf of California and enter mexican main land in Matzatlan. It’s astonishing in what an ‘easy-going’ kind of way the mexicans do their jobs. Two guys needed more than half an hour to sell three passengers simple ferry tickets. Eventually even we got our tickets and could drive on to Cabo San Lucas.

We took the road across the mountains via San Jose de Cabo to Cabo San Lucas. The road was winding and we enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately we came into a thunderstorm with heavy rain. At that kind of heat, the rain may still be comfortable, but the lightning all around us was quite scary. At least the road did not have many of the usual speed bumps. Everywhere else in Mexico there are many speed bumps at the entry and exit of every town, at curves and dangerous areas. They even have little speed bumps to warn the drivers that huge speed bumps are coming next. That may make sense for truck drivers who are falling asleep, but for motorcycle drivers it’s rather annoying.

Another interesting thing are the speed limits in Mexico. On a very straight highway sometimes one is not allowed to drive faster than 60 km/h ( roughly 35 mph ). At quite easy curves there can be limits of 40 km/h ( 25 mph ). So it’s not a surprise that everybody is driving faster than allowed. In the beginning we were a little bit afraid of speeding tickets and just drove around 20 km/h faster than allowed. But when we were overtaken even by the police ( in the no-passing zone! ), we decided just to ignore all signs from now on.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

On board the Sonrisa

On the next morning we started as usual looking for a cafe for breakfast. Unfortunately there was neither a Starbucks anywhere 😉 nor anything else, which we could accept as a Cafe. But at least we found a panaderia ( bakery ), which offered tasty doughnuts and apple pie. We bought our coffee at a nearby gas station, but unfortunately had to find out, that the coffee was really inedible.

Because there are not that many gas stations in Baja California, we filled both our tanks and jerry cans and started to ride heading to Guerrero Negro, which is about 350km south. After a few hours drive, we spontaneously decided to drive to Bahia de Los Angeles at the Gulf of California instead. The road led us through a fascinating landscape full of huge cactuses and rock sceneries. Every now and then we passed military controls, who most of the time simply waved us through.

After we arrived at Bahia de Los Angeles, we checked into a small hotel room right at the beach and went to the beach bar to drink a cool Corona beer. There we got to know Melissa and Nick, a couple from Australia, who have been sailing the world for 5 years now on their catamaran (www.sailsonrisa.com). After a nice conversation, they invited us to dinner on board of their boat. Time passed quickly. It was already after midnight when Nick brought us back to the shore on his dinghy. A really great evening!

We continued our conversation with them on the next morning while having breakfast at the beach bar. The breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruits was really yummy, but quite expensive for mexican terms. Besides it should have quite a bad “aftertaste” for Michael. After a few hours he had already a bad feeling in his stomach and we needed to stop every now and then due to his sickness. Continuing to drive did not make any sense under these circumstances. So we looked for a hotel at the next town in which Michael could cure his illness.

Fortunately he was already better the next morning and we could continue slowly along the Gulf of California heading South. On our way we drove along the Bahia Concepcion, an amazingly beautiful bay with great sand beaches. We would really liked to camp on those marvelous beaches, but since Michael was not 100% fit yet, we continued to Loreto to take another hotel room at the beach.

In Loreto Carmen had some tasty mexican dinner in one of the many restaurants here while Michael was still on a Coke and zwieback diet to be on the safe side.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road