Days 12 & 13 | Felíz Navidad Desdé Mexico!
Date: Dec 23rd, 2013
Overview: Brownsville, TX >> La Pesca y Tampico
Mileage since leaving Denver: 3,494
Total mileage on bike: 6,595
Well here it is, post number one from the LatAm portion of the trip. I can't believe I'm actually here in Mexico writing this. I woke up early yesterday (if you could even call it waking up - I could hardly sleep) to get through the border with plenty of time to spare for the ride south. I wanted to pass the border town of Matamoros as quickly as possible and make it to La Pesca to find a place to set up camp. I had heard you could just plop a tent anywhere on the beach, but also read that it fills up during the Christmas season.
The crossing itself was relatively painless and I was in and out within 45 minutes. I'm assuming there weren't that many people due to the holiday and my early arrival. Both aduana (immigration) and the banjercito (TVIP - temporary vehicle import permit acquisition) are in the same building. I crossed at the 'new' bridge, which is a straight shot via highway to the border. I would highly recommend this outlet if you are doing a similar trip. There are actually three ways to get across in/near Brownsville (four if you like to swim). I entered the building and went right to the banjercito. They checked my title, registration, and credit card (to ensure I had funds to cover the TVIP - temp vehicle import permit). They did not check for Mexican vehicle insurance. From there they sent me 20 feet across the lobby to aduana. I chatted with the guy for a bit and he stamped me into Mexico for 30 days. He sent me over to make copies of my paperwork, which cost $2 USD, and was then sent back to banjercito where I was processed and given all necessary documentation and vehicle stickers. And that was that! I promised I would be much more fluent the next time I came through and with a load of smiles and waves, they sent me on my way to enjoy their beautiful country.
I left the border crossing with a huge feeling of satisfaction and relief. Not only was I in Mexico, but my Garmin GPS was working like it should! It had moved over to the 'other' map that was stored on my SD card and was routing me along my way perfectly. I purchased the BiciMapas Mexico/Central America kit (link here). So far so good. I'll continue to review and post my thoughts on this product along the way. I have really nice waterproof paper maps as backup, but I'm hoping I can rely on the Garmin as my main source of direction. Directly across the border I stopped at an ATM and took out some cash, which was easy and painless, except being bent over by Wells Fargo for $5. Then I pointed the nose of my bike south and headed for La Pesca.
Let me note two things that happened along the way briefly before continuing. First, topes SUCK!!! For those who don't know, topes are essentially speed bumps, but in Mexico and elsewhere in LatAm, they are more like parking blocks sitting in the middle of the road unannounced. I had heard horror stories, but didn't expect them to be that bad, that frequent, or that hidden. Second, about halfway to La Pesca as I was cruising down the road with great music blasting in my helmet, I felt a little something crawling on my neck. As I went to remove it, I felt an incredible burning sensation building on my neck. I smashed whatever was there and immediately pulled over on the side of a busy highway. Cars are buzzing by as I'm stripping down on the side of the road (I did hear one lady whistle - $hit, I hope it was a lady!). It turned out to be a bee... a dead bee at that point. I pulled the pulsating stinger out of my neck and examined the area. It was red and slightly swollen, but I decided it was fine and didn't need any ointment or Benadryl. The redness and swelling have both receded at this point, but damn does it itch! I hope that doesn't happen again along the way.
I arrived to La Pesca and immediately drove through town to the beach. The town and beach aren't paradise, but there was absolutely no one to be found. A few locals scattered about in town as I passed through, but the beach was deserted. I picked out an area to set up camp and did just that. Oh, forgot to add that I dumped the bike for the first time in the loose sand. I was so tired after getting everything unloaded and the bike back up that I forgot to take a picture of my first crash across the border. Doh! Anyway, after I got everything set up I headed back into town to grab some provisions for the evening and morning (i.e. cerveza, cans of tuna, and crackers - gourmet living!). After my first debacle in the sand, I decided to use an abandoned baño/shower to park the bike in, which worked perfectly as a garage of sorts. Not the best smelling, but worked just fine.
After all the work riding, then unloading, setting up, and preparing dinner, I was tired to say the least. I decided to turn in fairly early. As I was about to call it a night, a truck came storming up onto the beach from nowhere with four dudes in the back armed with machine guns. I though to myself 'really, I'm gonna get kidnapped for ransom the first freaking night of my trip?!?!' Well, it turned out to be some military guys from the local naval base just checking things out. They were shocked that I was out there all alone and we all chatted and laughed for awhile. They loved the motorcycle (it has been a celebrity of sorts along the way) and took a bunch of pictures on it. I offered them the cerveza that I was too tired to drink and they politely declined. I know, probably pretty dumb to offer booze to on-duty military. Regardless, I guess they appreciated the gesture and told me they would patrol the area all night for me to make sure I wasn't bothered during my Christmas night on the beach. After that I went to sleep under the stars for what felt like the first 'real' night of my adventure.
This morning I thought I would wake up to rain due to the forecast. Surprisingly, there was none. With that, I decided to make some quick breakfast and then pack up for a ride to Tampico. I was going to head to Xilitla, but figured that might be a bit too much riding. After packing everything up I was sweating like a dog and thinking how difficult this whole experience actually is. It has been epic, amazing, surreal, all-things-good, but at times it is really, really hard. And I'm sure I haven't even gotten to the 'hard' parts yet. I guess when you dream about doing this, you think about all of the grand parts of trip. Things like visiting foreign lands and cultures, experiencing life as you've never before, enjoying a sense of freedom, etc. However, there are parts not quite as grand. Things like packing and unpacking your entire life out of a backpack and duffel every day, crashing, getting stung on the fukking neck by a fukking bee, etc, etc, etc... Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is I've realized that this type of travel is equal parts insanity and bliss. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world at the moment, which is a great feeling. :)
I rode to Tampico today and really enjoyed the road. It was overcast and cool, and for the most part the pavement was smooth and flowing. The funny part was, the parts that were under construction I actually enjoyed moreas it gave me stretches of fun gravel and packed dirt for miles at a time. I really enjoyed ripping along and throwing up a trail of dust in my wake. I did get stopped twice at police roadblocks today and pestered, but everyone just keeps admiring the bike and asking me all kinds of questions (how much? how fast? where the hell are you going? solo??? are you crazy? can I come?). I was sent off with waves and smiles both times. Upon arrival in Tampico, I was surprised to see a sprawling city with roads that snaked into other roads. Add to that a bunch of closures due to Christmas and it was annoying as all hell trying to find a hotel to stay at. I finally did and they have great wifi, which is what I'm enjoying as we speak over a couple of Tecate cervezas. I'm not sure if I'll luck out again tomorrow with the weather, but if so I'll try to head to Xilitla, which will begin the small colonial town portion of the trip here in Mexico.
Until then... enjoy a few pics of Tampico AND Feliz Navidad!