Fri, 2 Oct 1998
Newsletter 2 - Mexico Mainland
about a year since we sent our last newsletter! This one is about the remainder
of our travels in Mexico - the remaining 5 months.
I don’t think it will be 5 times as long as
the last one as we don’t have our diary anymore so I can’t remember half the things!
We finished off our last newsletter heading
for Creel, which surprisingly enough for us we actually did - you know how
great we are at heading in the opposite direction to which we intend!
Stani had always fancied doing the train
through the Copper Canyon but on finding out that
there was a cheap train (as opposed to the $1600 luxury one that one always
reads about in the travel magazines) we decided to go for it.
Paz we asked a Mexican friend to ring & find out if we could
take our bikes on the train. No problem - the price was 42 pesos (about $5)
& the bikes go free! Of course that was until we got there & there was
much shaking of heads & advice to speak to the train driver. In the end we
decided a bribe was required - being the tight fisted travellers that we are we
were reluctant to acquiesce to that recourse (adamant in fact) and with the
help of some Kiwi’s we’d met, we dumped the bikes on the train without
course we got consistent harassment from the conductor for the first couple of hours
but in the end he left us alone.
train ride was everything we’d hoped - spectacular scenery & each stop
provided views of traditionally clad Mayans. Quite a change from Americanized Baja. Especially fun
were the dozen or so kids who jumped on at each stop & ran up & down
the carriage selling tamales, hot chocolate, grizzly sweet coffee, crisps etc.
Stani was especially enchanted with the sign in Spanish on the train that read
"Keep the train clean - throw your rubbish out the window"!!!!!!!
ride out of Creel to Hidalgo was something else. The scenery
remained spectacular, as were the 5k sheer uphills & downhills (brakes screeching!).
Stani's chain was tried to its limits & failed miserably - breaking on
average 4 times a day. Our bike book recommended this route only for the most
toughened of bike riders - we didn’t feel hard in the end - exhausted is more appropriate!
One would have thought the rainy season had started - it POURED. Of course our
waterproofs are fab - except Stani’s were in England & she had to resort to
wearing bin liners!
then headed through the mountains to the silver cities of Durango, Zacatecas &
Aguacalientes. These all had superb scenery & gorgeous colonial
architecture. Good pacing too - each of these main cities were about 70 km
distance from each other.
were right, not too hot & not too cold. Durango is famous for its nearby locations
of Villa del Ote & Chupaderos where just about every Clint Eastwood &
John Wayne spaghetti western seemed to have been filmed. Great if you’re a
spaghetti western buff (which we’re not!) boring if you’re a cyclist. However,
it was made up by the pretty little villages selling loads of cheap fruit.
arriving in Aguacalientes, we were snapped by a local photographer &
appeared on the front page of the regional newspaper the next day. As we had
previously been interviewed for a paper in Baja, Richard had appeared on
Mexican TV; both of us had appeared in the local newspaper in Los Mochis, we were beginning to feel
like super stars in Mexico.
It’s hard after all this time to remember
details but what I remember of Zacatecus was all the restaurants shut about 7 (about
the time we started to think about eating), the streets had a crazy paving that
Stani could not cope with as she had metal cleats on her shoes & kept on
sliding everywhere, with the result that by the time we left she could hardly
walk for pulling all her muscles.
In Aguacalientes we found a superb veggie
restaurant (the only really good one on our travels to date) - divine setting
in a courtyard with fountains, plants & a Buddha. The owner took one look at
our skinny frames & starving faces & treated us to 2 breakfasts for the
price of one. We spent that night in a local park deciding we wanted to actually
see the newspaper Article as we always cycled off before the paper came out but
it was a camping night so not cheapo hotel! The next day everywhere we stopped people
would look at us, look at their paper & start smiling & waving. We were
stopped constantly by people wanting to chat. We decided to go - way too much attention!
But one good thing came out of it - we stopped in a bike shop to get a few spare
parts & the owner treated us to everything for free!
to San Miguel de Allende we headed, where we intended to stop for 2 weeks to enrol
in a Spanish course. But luckily for us we intended to stop for 2 weeks to enrol
in a Spanish course. But luckily for us we stopped in Guanajauto 1st. Here we met
a Mexican /English couple who apart from being incredibly generous, putting us up
for a couple of weeks, introducing us to their friends, showing us around,
arranging for us to house sit this fabo house over Xmas & the New Year
(including a maid!) for free - they were great fun to be with too! We spent
over a month in Guanajauto doing a Spanish course for a couple of weeks
(actually a complete waste of time but we made lots of friends & had lots
of parties!) We met some mountain bikers who kept inviting us out for rides
& Richard even got lent a bike by one of the guys so he could enter a bike
race in San Migual. We visited he mummy museum - quite quite gruesome! Both of
us agree that this was one of the highlights of our trip (- Guanajauto not the mummy
museum!) so far. We met an American couple cycling who were doing
the same trip as us but on a tandem!
before we were due to depart Stani got bitten on the knee by a German shepherd
& sat in bed for a week in great agony feeling sorry for herself. But on
the return of Doreen (the owner of the house) this was all dispensed with as
she decided all this feeling sorry for oneself was simply not on, invited her
friend Patricia over & stocked up on vodka & happily persuaded us to
drink the week away!
we had to go - SOB! We headed to Mexico City where we did risk our
lives daily by cycling around but lived to tell the tale! Anyone who says MC is
too dangerous shouldn’t be listened to. It’s a beautiful city with so much to
do & no more dangerous than any big city like London or NY.
Oaxaca we suddenly realized we
were on the gringo trail - way too many backpackers & although the city was
nice it was no more special than any of the other silver cities we’d visited. We’d
heard too much about how wonderful it was so we were bound to be disappointed. Especially
as the local Telmex office (Telecommunications) had no free internet service
like everywhere else & that we’d begun to consider our right!
- I forgot the Monarch Mariposa Reserve near Zitacuaro. Bloody hard work to get
to but really worth it. Before leaving England we went to France for the weekend &
visited futurescope. We saw one of those total surround movies about the
Monarch butterfly that migrates from Canada to Mexico. Guess what - we were
there actually when the butterflies were! WOW & WOW again! Sorry I’m not
particularly articulate as the sight was worthy of Keats. Envision blue skies,
white fluffy clouds & an open plain with clouds of orange / black butterflies
- each with a wing size of your palm (well Stani’s anyway!)- thousands of them
in the sky, on your head, shoulders & down your trousers (I kid you not!)
Imagine having difficulties knowing where to place your feet in fear of
treading on not 1 but 10 f them, huge pines that are not identifiable as such
because they are not green but a brilliant orange! If somebody said this to me I
still wouldn’t have an inkling of what a fantastic experience this was!
we headed into the Yucatan Peninsula to do the Mayan route. We visited
Palenque, Cuba, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tulum, Teotihucan and more
besides. At first we were overwhelmed by their majesty & splendour but then
we ended up doing too many in too short a space of time & got jaded.
Teotihucan was memorable as the 1st we visited - the Pyramid of he sun was 64m
high , 213 m sq at base - covering almost the same area as the
pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. What was fun was being
fit from cycling; we climbed to the top with relative ease. Then we sat on the top,
smoked a cigarette & sniggered between ourselves at the red faced panting tourists
who finally scaled the heights & peeked their heads over the top!
should have been awe inspiring with its white sanded, blue sea coastal setting.
Unfortunately it was a grey, showery day & this detracted considerably from
the beauty. More enticing were the Argentinian fire blowing acrobats that
entertained us in the evening.
Palenque was special for its jungle
setting and the fact that we had met up with another German cyclist - so we had
another person’s perspective. Chichen Itza was a disappointment. Not because
it didn’t live up to our expectations but the fact that we were there for the Spring
Equinox. On this day the sun hits the balustrades of El Castillo (the main
pyramid) and the image of 2 serpents are formed running down either side of the
staircase. However, along with us was what seemed like half of Mexico and we felt that we were
at a Woodstock festival instead of a sacred
actually missed several Mayan sites (thank God!) because we stopped unintentionally
in Escarcega for a few days. We had cycled into town intending to stop only for
food supplies & a beer. Whilst Stani admired (NOT!) the gun display in the
central square and sucked gratefully on a litre of Pacifico, Richard went shopping
in the market, only to find 2 other English cyclists eyeing his cycling shorts
& coming to the conclusion that with his blue eyes he was probably not
Mexican. After all meeting up in the Central square & swapping stories for
2 hours we decided we’d better book into their hotel & sample the local
rum. The next day we decided that another day of celebrating the gathering of
cyclists was in order, so Eric & Kate went to stock up on supplies at the
offy across the street & came back with 2 more cyclists! Ingrid &
Jeronimo were heading north from Tierra del Fuego so between the 6 of us we
had lots of information to trade.
I still can’t get over is how lightly packed Kate & Eric were. They’d already cycled Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, China etc & were
carrying a computer, SW radio (Kate what time & channel is the Archers on?)
and wait for it - an OVEN! But they still only had half the stuff we did! I
have deep fond regards for Kate & Eric but will never forgive them for
showing Richard that oven. He will never forget their tales of pizza, homemade
bread & chocolate brownies! I see it in his eyes every time we can’t find
any bread & have to settle for a soggy tortilla! Take note fellow cyclists
- Kate & Eric also left us with another legacy. The information that
keeping your water bottles in wet socks keeps the water cool & placing a
towel in the back of your cycling shorts stops the sweat running down your back
& prevents that sore chapped bottom at the end of the day.
things sound crazy but they WORK!
eventually left Mexico on the day our tourists expired
- 6 whole months! We loved Mexico & still regard it as
our favourite country to date but Stani was cheering as she rode across the border
into ENGLISH speaking Belize!
exploits since then will have to wait another newsletter another day.
you all our friends for your patience with our long silences & remember
although we don’t correspond regularly we think of you all often. We love
hearing from you all so don’t be shy & send us an update of what’s
happening in your lives.