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Published: October 14th 2010
Updating the blog less then three weeks after my last entry, get in there!!!
Before I get started I want to wish my dad a happy 75th birthday & say thank you for being you & so very good at what you do - being our dad. I know Bernadette & Stephen feel exactly the same. We, especially I don't say it enough & I know you don't realise how amazing you are. I couldn't have wished for better. Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry but this way he is sure to get the message.
I'm currently up in the Mexican highlands enjoying a climate much more suited to a man with my Irish blood. The 40C degree heat (google has just told me that's 104F) with heavy humidity can get a little tiresome & very smelly. Last night was actually chilly despite sharing the bed with another man, I'll explain later.
After so long looking forward to Baja I'm sad to say I was a little disappointed. I'd expected a pristine tropical paradise but found the top two thirds a litter strewn desert & yes I know deserts can be beautiful, but it's hard to appreciate the beauty when
you're dodging all the old truck tyres & other debris. Southern Baja was cleaner & therefore nicer, possibly due to all the tourist dollars.
After I was told I wouldn't be able to get my visa & bike documents sorted in La Paz until the Monday I headed to the southern tip of Baja for a little rest & relaxation which consisted of many hard hours spent reading by the pool, reading/sleeping in hammocks, chatting on Skype (thanks to those that have added me, I'll be sure to say hello when we're online) or sitting talking to the to the owner who is selling up & returning to Holland. $2 Million US dollars & the place could be mine.
Come the Monday morning I returned the 100 or so miles back to La Paz firstly to clear immigration & then sort the documentation for the bike, only a week after entering the country. Unfortunately for those I had to deal with, I relied on my truly brutal grasp of the Spanish language to accomplish both.
I spoke to the man at immigration & asked for a visa for as long as possible & he offered six months,
I misunderstood & managed to barter him down to two. After about 30 minutes of negotiation we eventually got back to where we started. He was grumpy when we began so I'm sure you can guess what kind of mood he was in when I left.
Oddly the visa doesn't involve a stamp in my passport only a slip of paper I present with my passport when requested. Not sure who they expect to request it as I've been through over 15 Military & Police checkpoints so far & they're never interested in my paperwork or passport.
After clearing immigration it was time to annoy the good souls working at the vehicle importation office. My Spanish doesn't encompassvery much & the phrases required in the vehicle importation process were a little beyond me. I do however know how to ask a donkey the time. Luckily the people at the port office were patient & really kind. Turns out both of the clerks I dealt with spoke excellent English even though neither has been to an English speaking country. If you're a biker on route behind me, go there!
I even managed to book the 14 hour overnight
ferry to Mazatlan on the Mexican mainland. I've booked such things before & ended up in a completely different country to the one I had intended so I was pleased when the ticket was issued & it actually had where I wanted to go on it. Go Brian!
The hotel I stayed in in La Paz whilst I waited for the ferry insisted I bring the bike in through reception & park it at the front desk. I did try & tell them I thought it looked a little tight but they wouldn't listen & to cut a long story short they now have to repair their (proir to my arrival) really rather nice ornamental fish pond. I had to get up a few steps to get into the reception & with a bike as heavy as mine that requires momentum, a little less momentum then I thought as it turns out. I wanted to take a couple of pictures but the phrase insult to injury came to mind.
I spent the next day strolling around the streets of La Paz which is a sweet little city on the Sea of Cortez & come 6pm headed to the
The ferry to the Mexican mainland
With thanks to Armagan for the tie downs.
ferry port. On route I met up with another two bikers, Stephen & Ben from America. Stephen is planning on going all the way to the bottom of Argentina over the course of the next year or so if he can keep his hands off the local women long enough & Ben is touring Mexico filming a documentary after completing the Pan American Highway last year.
They'd booked a room on the ferry & as I'd only booked a seat they offered me a bed. The pictures show where I was meant to be, in the seat beside the old dear who is looking forlorn & clearly awaiting my arrival, and where I ended up, my very own bed. I did have to witness a lesson in home dentistry using pliers but it was a small price to pay.
My original plan after the ferry was to head up into the mountains & valleys of the Mexican interior as I'd heard it was beautiful & more importantly so, so much cooler. I wouldn't have cared if it was a stronghold of one of the drug cartels I was going, day after day of 40 degree & heavy humidity
Where I should have been...
the seat with the blanket...
was tough. I can only equate it to being in a sauna with a huge fan to blast the scorching heat at you whilst you sit there in clothes suitable for a trip to Norway in December.
However, Ben & Stephen suggested a day in Mazatlan & so we found a hotel & were all in the pool within an hour of getting off the ferry. Never do today what you can put off til' tomorrow!
The next day I headed up into the cooler mountain climate where there was less chance of me melting.
The road up towards Durango crosses the Sierra Madre mountains & about 20 miles out of Mazatlan it starts to climb & twist & doesn't stop for the next 70 odd miles. Superb piece of biking road if not a little scary. It's actually officially named the 'Devil's Backbone' & after a few close calls with trucks, donkeys & gravel on tight hairpin bends I could see why. The views were exceptional but the best thing about that ride was the temperature, it dropped from 37C degrees at 9am down to 13C by about 10am & I loved it.
In Durango I'd
arranged to Couch Surf with an American who was living in the city working as a teacher. Jake was an excellent host & told me to help myself to what was in the fridge. The following day Ben & Stephen turned up (Stephen reckons he'd had 4 near death experiences on the Devil's Backbone) & Jake was gracious enough to allow them to stay too.
I enjoyed my time in Durango & we even had a couple of nights on the town. In one bar Stephen & I introduced ourselves to an obvious biker. This chap was a member of the 'Black Eagles' & definitely had the air & appearence of someone who knows how to dispose of a body. His girlfriend was a true gangsters moll & the attached picture of her kissing my cheek is pure gold! Her fella clearly thought Stephen & I were true bikers too & thus entitled to a kiss.
After a few days spent enjoying our time on the streets of Durango Ben, Stephen & I headed south to Zacatacas which as it turns out is a gorgeous colonial city that looks like it has been lifted from Europe lock, stock
& barrel. Walking the streets at night this place looks a like Dubrovnik in Croatia. Perhaps I've watched too many Westerns but this isn't how I expected Mexico to be.
On arrival in Zacatecas we got a little lost. After parking up & literally walking to where we needed to be we then returned to the bikes & as we only knew the route we had walked, we rode across pedestrian zones, through city squares & bounced down kerbs. It reminded me of a scene from the original Italian Job. Good fun, urban off road could be the start of a new craze.
We booked into a place recommended by all number of bikers & took a room with only two small double beds. As Stephen is huge Ben & I end up sharing which is no big deal as Greg, Micheal, Pat & all number of other men can attest to. The only issue being when Stephen gets out of bed early in the morning Ben & I feel obliged to do the same as two men sharing a bed when there's an empty double beside us is a little uncomfortable, & tricky to explain to the
The Sea of Cortez
cleaner. Ben got back on the road this morning & so tonight I get a bed all to myself, the luxury!
Walking around town that evening Stephen fell for a Mexican girl & walked over to say hello, after only minimal cajoling. That then led to an impromtu tour led by a friend of Rocio (the girl Stephen fell for) telling us about the history & folklore of the city whilst Rocio translated & acted the stories out like a game of charades. A nice introduction to Zacatecas.
Stephen & I signed up for a week of Spanish lessons & after one day spent learning the name for eyelashes, knees & such, today we tailored the course more to Spanish we might actually use. Directions, breakdowns, borders etc. Being back in a classroom & laughing a lot has reminded me of my days spent in St James' & that inturn makes me smile even more. The only problem being the explanation of the words & phrases I don't understand comes in Spanish???
There's three English girls staying here too & not only was it nice to hear the accents one of them told me you don't need
to know the Spanish for anything you can point at. Genius!
We hit the town last night & I suffered one of the most embarassing nights I've ever had to endure & as I had to suffer through it, so do you.
Even though it was a school night & I had homework to do (rebel without a cause, I know) Ben, Stephen & I had arranged to meet a biker contact in town for dinner & afterwards (whilst Stephen was walking the 3 Mexican girls he brought with him home) Fedrico took us to the most traditional Mexican bar in Mexico, or so all the regulars told me. Kate an Irish girl & Ian a Liverpudlian came too, as did the three English girls. Basically we ended up looking like something from the TV show Coach Trip, minus Brendan.
All was going well until some of the locals bought a girl up to introduce to me which was just a little embarassing as the entire pub stopped drinking & started cheering. I was as polite as possible & luckily her English was as good as my Spanish so thankfully the conversation was short. I tried to
On the Mexican mainland!
A long way from where the bike last got off a ferry.
rely on Stephen to help me out so I told them I was married, but Stephen assisted by the Brit girls assured them I wasn't.
My God it was awkward & so very painfully embarassing. I told her I couldn't stay as Stephen REALLY WANTED TO GO HOME but true to form, he assured her he was fine & would happily stay all night. I even cracked out the 'I've got homework to do' line but it was of no use. Then Helen, one of the English girls volunteered to translate which kept the locals happy... & me less so.
Trust me, it was horrible although oddly everyone else seemed to find it amusing.
I did my best to ignore the stares & cheers of locals & the fact everything I said had to go through Helen (who was loving it by the way) & chatted as best I could. She said she was an architect & after a while told Helen she didn't care if I was married, as my wife wasn't with me one night would do & only me, her, Helen & the 50 or so other people in the bar would ever know.
All this on a Tuesday.
The one silver lining of the whole painful episode was Helen's embarassment at having to translate the offer. I eventually managed to escape (no thanks to Stephen) & happily chose to spend another night in a small double bed with Ben. Although he did look a little scared as I climbed in with a huge smile on my face.
I'll put it down to experience & today in class I asked the teacher for all number of phrases I can use if I ever find myself in a pub where everyone of the regulars thinks their Cilla Black again.
So now you know what I'm upto whilst you all do what you do. The joys of travel eh? Take care & thanks as ever to those who have sent emails saying hello. Much appreciated!
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