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Old 06-17-2012, 10:02 PM   #61
Malindi OP
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June 16, 2012 - When cow horns and motorcycle handlebars come within six feet of each other, something didn't go according to plan. I scared up two cows zooming through a corner and Jan had to get acquainted with his brakes real fast to ensure the drama was kept to a minimum. It was one of the few exciting times in an otherwise truck-dodging game towards our next destination.

We arrived in San Blas hours later than planned as the ferry was two hours late arriving in Mazatlan, although it did leave well before schedule the previous night. The one thing San Blas will forever be remembered by is the mosquitoes. Small, numerous and furious, they had clearly never read the fine print on our cans of Deet or Autan. "100% protection guaranteed".

By the end of the day we'd each collected ten to twenty bites and our love for San Blas evaporated. Even the locals had their own towel-swatting routine as they walked down the street. Apparently it was not that bad in November and December. Really. After abandoning our Soviet-era hotel, where even the bedside tables were cast in solid concrete, we decided to bail on the Mexican coast altogether due to the oppressing heat and humidity.

Turning inland, the temperature and humidity dropped by the mile. The ride was pleasant, with the odd stretch of truck-dodging required. We rolled through a small town called Amatitan, right after Tequila, a tourist trap, and decided to ride through the old town to see what was there. We liked what we saw and after asking a few people, we were directed to one of only two hotels in town. Clearly they were not used to tourists as no one could point us to a restaurant, although the next morning we found a small market place where we had sandwiches for breakfast among the locals. We ended up eating at a taco place which catered to passing trucks in the evening.

In the early evening we strolled through the center of town, which turned out to be a photographer's Mecca.



Remember these from when you were a kid?



Even the local Gaucho was hiding from the rain. Yes, we had our first rain since California.



The light after the rain storm was amazing.





Tomorrow we head for Morelia.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:24 PM   #62
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Thumb Great RR

Loving your pictures and the RR

It looks like you're having a great time, I've just been through your home town where the wetaher was just as rainy
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:50 PM   #63
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Loving your pictures and the RR

It looks like you're having a great time, I've just been through your home town where the wetaher was just as rainy
Greetings! What a coincidence! I just spent some time looking at your RR thread. Love the way you wash your leathers

Are you heading south too? I saw on email list for the Vancouver Hubb Community that you were in attendance. I heard we're having the worst weather EVER for spring, so it was the right year to not be there..
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Old 06-18-2012, 05:40 AM   #64
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Yeah, great photos in this series. Odd that nobody could tell you about a restaurant in town. I'd think that just common and hardly something only tourists would be interested in.
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:27 AM   #65
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Yeah, great photos in this series. Odd that nobody could tell you about a restaurant in town. I'd think that just common and hardly something only tourists would be interested in.
There ended up being a pizza joint/pub near the square we found out later. Everyone knew where the hotel was, just no restaurants. Weird indeed.
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Old 06-18-2012, 09:55 AM   #66
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I am in! looking foward to all the stories from this RR.
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Old 06-20-2012, 04:06 AM   #67
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There ended up being a pizza joint/pub near the square we found out later. Everyone knew where the hotel was, just no restaurants. Weird indeed.
Could be cultural. Would restaurant be considered more formal dining?
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Old 06-21-2012, 04:36 PM   #68
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### NSFW art picture included ###

June 19, 2012 - Morelia is a fabulous stop. It reminded us in some ways of Arequipa, in Peru, a town that sticks in your mind. The more we walked around, the more we found. In a few square blocks from the main cathedral, we must have hit five or six small parks, occupied by young and old with lots of couples being friendly with each other.

Our hotel was just outside of town so we had a short ride in. There was a student protest going on right outside of the cathedral grounds, spilling along the sidewalks where close to a hundred tents were set up all over the sidewalks. The protest was around student reforms and pending legislation.



The upside for us from all this was that it created lots of parking spaces to squeeze the bikes into, so we basically parked in the shadow of the cathedral when we rode into town. Following local custom, we didn't even bother to lock the bikes up. For all the negative news about Mexico, we're finding the people, police, army check posts etc. to be more cordial than say, US customs, or any Canadian or European interaction with police authorities.

Morelia is jam-packed with stunningly appointed restaurants in a variety of styles. Here are a few shots of our favorite hangout.





The downtown area is dominated by the cathedral and its square. The Spanish colonialists did their job right and planted an impressive cathedral on one of the higher points of the city, the dark and doom of Catholicism seeping out from the catacombs of long-dead priests. Believers shuffle along cautiously to receive dubious blessings from a guy in a pointy white hat.



On the other side of the spectrum, Morelia has a fair bit of art hidden in various nooks and crannies. We went to the Alfredo Zalce Museum of Contemporary Art, mostly containing works by Alfredo Zalce.



The collection turned out to be quite varied.



A number of official institutions have occupied some of the older buildings in town and have struck a very fine balance between part operational purpose and public heritage, with all of them being accessible to the public free of charge. We visited the legislature and mingled with guys in suits, TV interviews being conducted as we strolled past. A keen security guard, armed to the teeth, explained a few of the depictions to us in one of the rooms.



Another feature not to miss in Morelia is the aqueduct.



The "collectivos" are everywhere and their modus operandi seems to consist of swerving to the curb to pick up a straggler and then to pull right back into traffic without looking.



We saw next to no tourists in Morelia, which surprised us. In fact, we have seen next to no tourists at all on this trip, let alone other motorcycle riders. Our next stop is Puebla. But first we have to battle Mexico City's traffic.
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Old 06-21-2012, 08:03 PM   #69
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If you are not stopping in Mexico City take the Arco Vial Norte to Puebla. Its is a massive shortcut without the Mexico City traffic fight. You'll thank me later.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:09 PM   #70
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If you are not stopping in Mexico City take the Arco Vial Norte to Puebla. Its is a massive shortcut without the Mexico City traffic fight. You'll thank me later.
Too late... we're in Puebla. Dug through Mexico traffic. Wasn't too bad. But the cuota was expensive... ($30 or so)
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Old 06-25-2012, 02:32 PM   #71
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June 24, 2012 - We left Morelia direction Puebla, with the hurdle of Mexico City to get around. Instead of battling the ever present "topez" speed bumps, we decided the toll road (cuota) really could not be that expensive. How wrong we were.

The price of riding from Morelia to Puebla was around $30, equivalent to tolls in France. In the end, even that didn't get us through Mexico City without some minor issues. Our GPSs conflict at times and depending on the situation, either one can be off. It made for some extra markets to struggle the bikes through as we got detoured and a few U turns, but in the end we got to Puebla.

In Puebla, we managed to find a hotel a lot closer to town, walking distance from the center.



At first blush, Puebla looked somewhat similar to Morelia, but we soon found out there were distinct differences.



Puebla is a lot more closely aligned with the pre-colonial inhabitants versus the distinctly Spanish character of Morelia. It also lacks the abundance of local squares where people just hang out. It had a different, harsher feel. We hit a few art galleries and museums but were sorely disappointed as to what was exhibited.

We did find a very interesting concert hall where a lone violin player was dreamily practicing a few strokes.



The outside of the cathedral in Puebla was nothing to look at, but the inside was all the more spectacular.



All in all, we didn't warm up to Puebla as we did to Morelia and after a few days we moved on.



Our next stop is Oaxaca.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:19 PM   #72
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July 1, 2012 - The end of Mexico is nigh. Tomorrow we cross over into Guatemala and start on the third country of our trip. The last few days we spent in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Leaving Oaxaca, we escaped the rain only briefly. A few hours into the ride, we were engulfed and decided to bail and wait out the weather. We ended up in a small town called Santiago Niltepec. Aside from the truck traffic, nobody seemed to stop here and a ride into town revealed some of the most run down infrastructure we'd come across so far. A dilapidated central square with streets broken up and inches deep in water and mud. We did find a hotel where we peeled off our wet layers and hung our gear on racks to dry overnight. Before we were unpacked, the clouds broke and the sun came out. Better luck next time.



The next day we had some excellent riding (finally!) into San Cristobal de las Casas and before long we had found a place to stay right in the center of town.



A typical street scene. Although there are no great "must-see" sites in San Cristobal, the general ambiance sucks you in and makes you explore every nook and cranny of the place.



As everywhere in Mexico, there are countless churches.



Walking around with a camera was a lot of fun here.



Part of the charm of this place is that nothing is actually "finished". It's all pretty much in order but everything shows wear and tear.



We're getting closer to Central America and it is clearly reflected in the features of the people. Even between Morelia and Puebla we noticed distinct differences but here there is a clear Mayan influence.



On our third day here, we suddenly saw a few motorcycles lumbering up the steps and into the same courtyard we were parked in.



It was the first time we'd seen any hint of other motorcycle riders who were touring mainland Mexico. We thought we'd run into a lot of others, but only one or two crossed our path in Baja a few few weeks earlier. We ended up chatting for a few hours with the newcomers, one of whom was Mexican and the other Swiss. The Swiss guy had no motorcycle license and was riding a rented BMW F800GS (he'd been on a motorcycle for about 2 hours back home) and the Mexican guy was riding a 1200GS with all the farkles one could want. The conversations ranged all over the map. At one point we asked what sort of work they did. The Swiss guy was an architect and the Mexican guy was cagey as to what he did. It seemed a bit of a mix and currently he was selling silica blasting material to the army. I quipped: "Oh, so you are selling white powder to the government". They were on a punishing schedule and were gone the next day. The Swiss guy had to fly back home on the 7th from Mexico City and they were still on their way to Yucatan. I guess it takes all kinds.



Looking back over the last month, we've come to the conclusion that there are a number of places to visit in Mexico that are certainly worth it, but it's not a country to enjoy by motorcycle. The roads are generally not very interesting from a riding perspective due to poor maintenance and the endless "topes", "vibradores" and "reductors de velocidad" (all sorts of speed bumps) make it a positively evil place for two-wheeled fun. Add to that a sparse landscape and there is not much left. Between Jan and I we've covered roughly fifty countries which we're ridden through, and aside from Kosovo, Mexico ranks last. Maybe Baja is the exception from a riding perspective.

Guatemala awaits.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:30 AM   #73
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Curious to hear about Guat, but I am surprised at your Mexican conclusions. I thought it was a tourist by motorcycle paradise. Well, I got info here.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:04 AM   #74
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Curious to hear about Guat, but I am surprised at your Mexican conclusions. I thought it was a tourist by motorcycle paradise. Well, I got info here.
Mexico has a lot of great stuff to see, no doubt, but it's not a great place to ride. Baja is the exception and probably things like copper canyon. The vast majority of the mainland is uninteresting. It's a comparative thing of course... riding in the US was stunning, with great swaths of natural beauty. We found none of that in Mexico. We had maybe 2 decent riding afternoons in a month.
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Old 07-04-2012, 01:54 PM   #75
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July 4, 2012 - The ride out of Mexico was splendid. The roads were good and the landscape appreciably greener and more diverse versus earlier in Mexico. Only in the last few days in Chiapas did we really enjoy the riding. It got dramatically better the closer we got to Guatemala.

Leaving Mexico was very smooth. We cashed in our temporary vehicle import papers and got stamped out of Mexico in a matter of twenty minutes. A little further, we were stopped for "fumigation" of our motorcycles before we went to customs and immigration on the Guatemalan side. The fumigation didn't amount to much more than sprinkling our tires with some water-based solution as far as we could tell. Any street dog could have done better, free of charge.

We changed some money at the border and started the rest of the process after customs returned from their lengthy lunch break.



Getting into Guatemala was a twenty minute affair as well. We were a little nervous as the lineup at the bank where you needed to pay the various entry fees for the bike was getting longer by the minute, an hour prior to opening. It turned out that tourist fees were collected outside of opening hours, to the visible dismay of people in line.

The border wasn't a watertight affair, as Jan walked across to get some snacks as we waited.



Right away we were carving through the curves in deep canyons on smooth tarmac. What a difference from Mexico!



Our first stop was Huehuetenango, on the way to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan. People are friendlier here, with shouts of "hello" from the backs of scooters zooming by and people on the street eager to start a conversation. The next day we set out to Panajachel. We stayed off the main road and enjoyed more twisties. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Chichicastenango.






We didn't escape all the landslides and this one threatened to hold us up "por una hora" but fifteen minutes later we were back on the road.



Lake Atitlan came in sight a good half hour before we arrived in Panajachel.



A lazy dinner at the lakeside the same evening.



The next few days we're planning on some excursions by motorcycle to neighboring towns before we head for Antigua.
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