Mexico

Chetumal and Mexico overall


We got to Chetumal and we did a round tour to see the city. Beautiful city, very nice, clean and civilized, and it looks like even economically they are doing better than many other Mexican cities. We stopped in front of a hotel to see what the prices for a room were, and we almost decided to stay there, when a guy asked us if we had a pen. We lent him the pen, and chatting about what’s nice to see in the area, he recommended us to go to Laguna Milagros, at Gringo Dave’s, about 20 km from Chetumal. Turned out he was one of the owners of the place. He also gave us a lot of tips as to what to see in our way South. We told him we will think about it and make a decision. As soon as he left, a police guy on a motorcycle showed up. We were stopped in a bus station. We were like “Oh, no, not a fine! Darn!” I jump right up and I tell him “We were just about to leave; we just stopped to make a decision as to where to go now”. And he goes “To go for good? I hope not. I hope you liked it here and you’ll be back” (the whole conversation was in Spanish, of course). And then he goes “What are you looking for, hotel, restaurants, interest points? I can give you directions.” Now this was another cool policeman we met in our trip. He did not even mention a fine; he just told us that we should not be stopped there, in case the bus comes. He was all friendly and smiley. I don’t want to talk too early, but so far the police in Mexico was totally different from what we expected. I don’t know if we’ve just been lucky, or as Dave and Al, the owners of Gringo Dave told us, it’s because of the re-elections that just took place last Sunday, and they were playing safe, but we found them very nice and friendly so far.

Vasile and I decided to go and see what that lagoon was all about, thinking that if we didn’t like it, we could always come back to the hotel.

We got to Laguna Milagros, we found Gringo Dave’s place and guess what: it was more than we expected. A beautiful green place with lots of palm trees by the green water lagoon.

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The owners were very friendly. They came and greeted us and showed us the place where we could pitch our tent, where we could swim in the perfectly clear and still water, and they told us we can use the kayaks for free! They also gave us access to wi-fi, so we can do our research about the Belizean border. What more can one desire?

We went for a kayak tour on the lake right away. It was so nice and quiet!

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The next day they made a great breakfast for us: Mexican eggs, coffee, and orange juice. Then Vasile went to Chatumal to find batteries for our Spot unit and a new light bulb for his bike, as his died. Found bulb, no batteries. It’s almost impossible to find AAA lithium here, and that’s the only kind of batteries we can use in our Spot device without ruining it.

Al, one of the owners (the one who brought us here) is a physician and we had a long chat with him about energies and the inner powers that each human being has without knowing it. He showed us a little trick that has blown us away. He wrote several 3 digits numbers on three different columns on a piece of paper; then he asked Vasile to eliminate either of those columns; then he asked me to pick one of the remaining columns; then he asked Vasile to pick a number of the column I chose. Then he turned the piece of paper over, and he had the exact same number Vasile picked written on the back of the page, in advance. It was amazing, since we could have picked any number!!!

Apparently he heals a lot of people of all kinds of illnesses through energy.

The next day we had a great breakfast and we headed to the border. We were 10 minutes away, so we got there quite early. The first stop at the border, we presented the passports and the tourist cards that we were supposed to have cancelled now and we had an argument with the border officer there, since he was asking us to pay about $25 USD each as exit fees. We have read about how at this border many times they are asking for this fee, even though it is not a legit fee. When we told him that we know there is no exit fee required, he showed us a paper in Spanish where apparently is said that we have to pay that fee. But surprise, I read Spanish, and that paper was talking about the Tourist card that you have to buy when you enter the country if you plan to stay for more than 7 days.  When I told him that I read Spanish and I understand what that is, he said that yes, that is what we  have to pay for. But we paid for that when we entered the country, as everyone does, and we showed him the receipt. Now he was trying to save it, and he was saying that he did not know we have paid it, since we did not show him the receipt. But we showed him the tourist cards, and you cannot get the tourist card unless you pay for it! They do not give it to you before you give them the money, so clearly this was just an excuse. So we didn’t pay any exit fee. Then we went to the Banjercito office, that is very conveniently located right there, before the customs. We cancelled out temporary import permit for the bikes and then we exited Mexico. On the Belizean side we stopped to get insurance for the bikes, since it is mandatory here.  When we got there, a guy came, who we thought it was an official, and took our licence plates, and explained to us that after getting the insurance we have to go to have our bikes fumigated, which apparently is a requirement in order to cross the border. We have read about this online as well. So we bought insurance for a week (15 USD per bike, liability only). When we came out, the guy who took our licence plates was waiting for us and he was asking us for money, since he said he paid for the fumigation of our bikes already, and he was showing us the receipt of 5 USD. Turned out he was just a fixer. We read online that the fumigation was only 1.5USD, so we did not trust the guy, especially that we did not ask him to do anything for us, and he did not tell us he would do this for us. When we got to the fumigation place, they told us they are out of power, so they cannot fumigate the bikes, but that we do need the receipt in order to cross the border (funny, no?).They had on their desk the receipt that we turned down from that guy, so apparently they work together:) So now we had no option but to pay for it and keep going. Then we went to immigration and customs, which was  very easy and quite fast. The temporary import permit for the vehicles did not cost us anything here. And then we crossed the border!! The whole thing (exiting Mexico and entering Belize) took us about an hour. And it was nice to see, especially for Vasile, that on the Belize side they speak English.

So overall we had an incredible experience in Mexico, more than we expected. Most people were very nice and friendly, the police was not as bad as described to us by most people; so far nothing was stolen from us, but we have to admit we never left our bikes with luggage on them unattended, except in a couple of situations where we felt extremely safe. The traffic was alright-ish: better in some, crazier in other cities. The roads were pretty good overall, we cannot complain. There were very few roads that had lots of potholes or some highways that had sections of gravel in the middle of the highway with no warning signs. But most of the times the roads were good.

When you travel through Mexico that are a few common sense rules that you have to abide by: to be very aware all the time of everything around you, do not travel at night (ok, we did that a couple of times, when we didn’t have much of a choice), stay away from busy areas, do not show signs of affluence and mind your own business, and you’ll be safe. And believe me, Mexico it’s so worth visiting, there is so much to see and explore!

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Categories: Mexico | Leave a comment

San Cristobal de las Casas y Palenque


We left Villahermosa the next day heading to San Cristobal de las Casas. The road was just as we were told: beautiful winding road, through jungle-like vegetation. It was humid, misty and very cold. By that I mean it got down to 12 C at some point, so we had to put the jackets on. Here we got to have a different definition of “cold” 🙂

The road goes winding pretty high up in Sierra Madre de Chiapas, to over 2000 m altitude, therefore the different temperatures and mist.

While stopped here to take some pics we saw a couple of military trucks that stopped and started to check out the area for marijuana grow ups. It looks like there are lots of them in the area:) And it seems like Canadian have a good reputation in this sense: every time we are offered marijuana and we turn it down, they are like “and you are from Canada???”. They can’t really belive that a Canadian can turn down something like that:)

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The only annoying thing on this road, just like in the rest of the whole mexico, were these:

These are speed bumps that you can find everywhere! I have to admit they are the only thing that’s really efficient in slowing down traffic, since everyone is ignoring the signs. We were in a construction zone, with a 20 km an hour limit, and everyone was doing 100 km. But these “vibradores” make cars slow down to 5 km an hour, since they cannot go over them faster. On the bikes we can go a lot faster, so that’s the time for us to overtake heavy traffic.

We stopped in Tapilula for the night, a beautiful little village, San Francisco number two – the streets were so steep in all directions.

We saw a “hair salon” so we decided to have a haircut:) I have to admit, for 5.5 CAD for the two of us, the lady did a great job.

The next day we left and on the road there was a block again. They were claiming that this was an “accion voluntaria” but they ended up asking us for money so they let us pass. As we saw everyone was holding bats in their hands, we figured it was not a good idea to argue with them, so we just gave them $2 worth in pesos and they let us go.

We got to San Cristobal de las Casas and we were very pleasantly surprised. It was a nice old town, with narrow streets, despite the crazy traffic at those hours. This town was built in 1528 and it was one of the first Spanish settlements on this continent. We checked in at a hotel, and then we went for a walk in town.

Church of Santa Lucia

View from the church of Guadalupe

Catedral de San Cristobal

People here are so different, you can tell there are a lot of native people leaving here (20% of the population here is native – the dominant native group is Tzotzil). In Mexico, besides Spanish, there are 62 native languages and more than 100 dialects. A lot of the people leaving here don’t even speak Spanish, they only speak their own language. I wanted to buy a fruit (something that looks like a cactus fruit) and the women was not speaking Spanish at all, but she was so nice. We understood each other just fine: apparently she asked 10 pesos for the whole pile, and I was offering her 5 pesos for just one fruit:) From here you can see how good I am at negotiating too:)

I also bought here a very tasty drink, for my Romanian friends, it something like “visinata” just made with blackberries. This one is made of corn, sugar cane and wheat, and flavoured with blackberry.

Up there it came in handy,since it was very cold, and the drink warmed us up. But I don’t think I will have any more of this until we get to Bolivia.

The next day we stopped for lunch at a loncheria on the side of the road, and we saw how they wash the grill where they make the pollo asado – grilled chicken🙂

The owner of the restaurant told us about the Waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, so we decided to go and see them.

Agua Azul was the most amazing waterfall I have ever seen.

And then the Misol-Ha waterfall:

Another little 3 m waterfall in the cave, behind the Misol-Ha waterfall.

The next day we left everything at the hotel and we went two up to the archeological site, so we don’t have to worry about the bikes and the luggage. The site was impressive:

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We spent half a day visiting the ruins and the museum, and it was half a day well spent. It is amazing to see how a village that was flourishing around 700 AD was abandoned 150 years later. It looks like Palenque had a population of about 8000 people, which means a density of 4 people per square meter!

Around noon we left Palenque with half a tank of gas, planning to do about 100 km towards Chetumal. We were used to doing very twisty roads, so 100 km would have been reasonable, considering that we left after noon, after the site seeing. But the road turned out to be very straight, so without realising we were well over the 100 km. Soon the KTM’s light came on. We sopped at a gas station, but they did not have Premium gas (our bikes are quite fussy:) ) and the guy over there told us that 7 km further there was another gas station that had premium gas. Well, we’ve done way more than 20 km, and no gas station. At some point, Vasile’s bike died. Meanwhile my light came on too, so I didn’t have many km left either. So here we are, in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how far the next gas station was, trying to stop someone to give us some gas.

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There was this truck from Us that we passed at some point, and we figured they must have some extra gas, so we were thinking to wait for them and ask them. When they passed by, we waved and they stopped. But unfortunately they had no extra gas. So now we had no other option but to stop someone to get some gas, or for me to go on my bike, and try to find a gas station, risking to run out of gas too and get stuck somewhere else by myself. I must say it was right before dark, so this option did not look like the best option.

I guess we were not good-looking enough, since for a while no one stopped. We were about to go for plan B, when one more time Mexico proved us that it has some awesome people. A guy in a Volkswagen stopped, and was willing to give us gas from his car. Now we needed a hose. We had a very short one, but we could not doo much with it. So now we had to stop someone to borrow a hose. The guy was so nice and trying so hard to help us, he was waving at cars himself, until he stopped a big truck who gave us a hose.

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And here are the guys trying to syphon some gas out of the car into our jerycan.

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As this was not working too well (they barely made to take out a few drops of gas), our new friend offered to drive me to the closest gas station, apparently about 25 km away, and back. We went to the gas station and came back with a full jerycan of Premium gas. He didn’t want to accept any kind of compensation, not even for the gas that he spent to drive me there and back. Very nice guy!

In the meantime, it looks like 2 minutes after I left, the US guys in the truck came back with 2 l of gas. They did not have any extra gas when we stopped them, but without saying anything they drove to the gas station and came back with some gas. More and more awesome people we meet in this trip. They did not want to accept any compensation either.

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This helped us to get to the gas station and to fill up. We stopped for the night at a hotel in the next village, and then next day we made it to Chetumal.

Categories: Mexico | 3 Comments

To Ventanilla y Villahermosa


Things are not always coming along the way we plan them. We left Puerto Escondido to go to Playa Escobilla the next day. And on the way we see these cool guys going surfing. They were awesome!

Nice support for the surf boards:)

We barely made about 5 km when the traffic stopped. We asked people what was going on, and we found out there was a road block due to some demonstrations of the teachers and teachers’ union. We got different answers as to how long it would last: till 6pm, 4pm, 2 hours, whole day. We decided that we did not want to stay in that heat not even for 2 hours, so we went back to our hotel in Puerto Escondido, and jumped in the pool. And now people are telling us that it could actually take the whole week if they don’t get what they want. We will have to make a phone call tomorrow and see if it cleared, hopefully we can move on.

The next day we left Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido again, heading towards Playa Escobilla, just about 20 min away, where apparently it is the sanctuary of the sea turtles. The road block was cleared so we could go through. We got to Escobilla, but the guy at the Eco Centre told us there were no turtles nesting at this time of the month, because it was full moon, and they don’t like the light.

So we decided to keep going to  Mazunte where there is a Turtles Aquarium. When we got close to Mazunte we saw a sign for Ventanilla, where we heard they had a tour to see crocodiles. We decided to go there first so we have enough time to do the tour, and to go to Mazunte after. We got to Ventanilla, a beautiful little village, and we stopped at the tour centre.

The tour was starting in 15 min, so we changed quickly and got ready. Our guide was Sergio, a really cool, smart guy from Mexico City, who has studied Psychology, but ended up in Ventanilla as a volunteer guide, since he loves nature and wants to help preserve it. Vasile and I were impressed with his knowledge of animal species and plants, and all the details about them that he gave us. He explained to us how they are trying to preserve and protect the endangered species of turtles and crocodiles, as well as some species of plants. They do not get any funds from the government, and their only funding is tourists. The whole village has been destroyed by hurricane Carlotta in June this year, and now they are trying to recover from it.

They went through very tough times, since the road to the village has been completely destroyed, so there were no tourists coming to the village for a while, not to mention no help from anyone could get there, so they have been completely on their own for a good while, struggling to survive.

The tour started with a walk on the beach to see the rock like a window (ventanilla) that gave the name to the village.

Then we got to the swamp, where we were told not to get too close to the water under any circumstances. And I was like “c’mon, it’s not like we’re really going to see any crocodiles in the wild”. Five seconds later, Sergio goes “there it is!” OMG, a huge crocodile just stuck his head out of the water watching us. Needless to say, going forward I took Sergio’s advice very seriously.

When we got into the boat to float through the swamp, Sergio told me that the safety vest was not mandatory, but “it would help us find the remaining of your body faster in case you fall, since you would have no chance of surviving in this water full of crocodiles”. That sounded very encouraging. So you can imagine how put I stayed all the way in the boat:)

We floated through the forest of mangroves. Sergio explained us that 70% of the mangroves were destroyed by the hurricane, and now it will take a long time for them to regrow.

Then he told us the story of the “flor del amor” (flower of love). This is a flower that is yellow during the day, and it turns orange or red at night, and it grows in the waters of the swamp.

The tradition is for men to swim in the water and get the flower for the women they love (I’d rather stay bachelor for the rest of my life!). They give the flower to their women before they make love for the first time. And if the flower is still yellow the next day, that means she’s the one. If it turns red, they separate. And then he added that last year they somehow did a count of the crocodiles in the swamp and they counted 350 on a 2km stretch! And there is 16 km of swamp.

We finally got to the little island where they have a few species of animals that they rescued in different situations, and they are helping them to get better, so they can return to their natural habitat. Every year on June 5th, the international day of the animals (I just found out from Sergio) they release them all into the wild.

Here is a Spider Monkey that they have rescued when he was a baby, and they cannot release here, since this is not his natural habitat, therefore he does not know how to defend himself from the crocs, and he would be an easy prey. They are trying to get the funds to send him back to the state of Chiapas, where he is from. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get funds.

He is so funny: since he was raised among humans, he walks just like a human.

We also saw a male iguana, which apparently is rare to see.

At some point Vasile got very close to the water to take a picture of a Jesus lizard running on the water. Two minutes later, this is what came out of the water in the exact same place.

They are incredibly fast when they are coming out of the water, it only takes them a couple of seconds. Now I totally understand why they warned us to stay away from the water.

The guides had to chase it back to the water, so we can be safe. Apparently the only vulnerable point that the crocs have is their nose. It’s the only part of their body that is not covered and protected by bones or hard structures. So if you hit them on the nose with a stick, they will back off. In this village all the kids know how to defend themselves against crocs, since there are high chances to run into them on a daily basis.

Here are some little baby crocs that they raise here:

And then we saw (thank god not alive!) a few species of venomous snakes, among which the deadliest snake in the world, scorpions, and a venomous huge centipede. When I asked “Are these guys living here?” I was told “Hell yeah, they could be right above you” (the scorpion or the centipede).

Then we returned to the village, and in the boat, Sergio told us a story of one of his tourists, a lady from US who fell off the boat, and he had to jump in and rescue her. And while he was pushing her to the boat he saw the croc leaving the opposite shore to swim towards them. Meanwhile the husband was killing himself laughing (I guess she had good life insurance:) )

Once back to the village, we decided to go Mazunte to see the turtle aquarium. It was an unbelievable experience to see all the different species of giant sea turtles, most of them endangered species.

When we came back, we asked Sergio if he knew any economic motels or camp sites in the area. But he actually offered us something better: to camp on his land, right next to his kitchen. We gladly accepted, and we had an awesome time. Elisa, Sergio’s wife cooked dinner for us, and we had candlelight dinner (since they had no electricity). Very romantic!

One of the kids in the neighborhood caught a scorpion, and apparently if you put the scorpion in mezcate (the very traditional Mexican drink, even more so than the tequila) it make is stronger. So Sergio did that, and we all tried it (a sip, of course). We didn’t really see the difference, but we didn’t drink enough.

And here’s another catch of the kids: a baby Jesus lizard. But they tore its tail:(

Around 10pm we decided to go for a walk on the beach and see if we are lucky enough to see any sea turtles nesting. Well, we did see four nests, but the turtles were gone already. One of the guys in the village told us the next day that one of the nests was of a leatherback turtles, the biggest turtle in the world, and the most rare. It was about 700 kg! I cannot believe I just missed that! It would have been an unforgettable experience, since this is not something you see every day. Oh well, next time.

So they rescued the eggs (from other people who want to either sell them, or eat them). They create a nest very similar to the one that the turtle leaves them in, wait for 45 to 60 days, and when the eggs hatch, they release the baby turtles in the water.

On the way back to the village in the dark, we stopped by the swamp, to see the crocs’ red eyes in our headlights light. We could not believe how many of them there were! Tens and tens, one next to the other!

Once back to our tent, we prepared to slip. But it was hard to forget all the stories that I heard earlier about the neighbour’s baby pig that got eaten by a croc in their front yard the day before, or another neighbour’s son who told us how that morning, when he woke up, he found a croc in front of their house. I thought they were not going far from the water!! Obviously I was wrong. But once Sergio assured me the place was fenced (the next day I realised it was the kind of fence that would totally allow a croc to pass under), I slept like a baby. I just woke up once in a while to watch the stars above me and realize how fortunate I was to live this experience.

Next day in the morning, we had coffee, and we said goodbye to our friends.

We started riding towards Villahermosa, to pick up Vasile’s tire. The temperatures cooled down a bit during the day, so it was more bearable. The whole day we rode in a terrible wind. Many times I thought I would be pushed off the road. I could hardly keep my bike on the road. There were times where I was riding at a 70 degree angle, but I was going straight, that’s how bad the winds were. When we were riding towards Ventosa, we were wondering if the winds have anything to do with the name of the village (in Spanish “ventoso” means windy). When we got there and we saw the hundreds of wind mills, we knew they did. We stopped in Piedra Blanca at a motel on the side of the road for the night,  and we celebrated Vasile’s birthday with some pollo asado and Corona.

The next day we rode all the way to Villahermosa and we managed to find the KTM dealership. A real one!!!

It was so well worth it to ride all the way there. We were more than impressed with how friendly and helpful the people at the dealership were. Vasile found his tire, got some oil for his bike (this guys had everything in the store!), a filter and chain lube. Then they showed us all the KTM bikes they had, and they let me test drive a KTM Duke 200. This bike was incredibly easy to handle and extremely light! This will be my next bike, it will just need a bit more power.

And when we were almost ready to leave, one of the owners/partners, Juan Jose, came to ask us if we found everything we needed, and he offered us a coffee and to look for a hotel for us online. We chatted about the things we could see in the area, and he recommended us an awesome ride from here to San Cristobal de las Casas, so I think this is what we are going to do tomorrow. And then he offered Vasile to test drive a Ducati Multistrada 1200. Vasile was happy as a kid, and he came back even more excited. It looks like it’s a great bike: very light but with a lot of power!

 

Then they sent a guy from the dealership to show us the way to the hotel. A big thanks to all the KTM team!

We went to the hotel, changed and then we went for a walk in town and to get some dinner (we realized we only had some eggs for breakfast in the whole day). The town is really nice and clean and the people seem very relaxed and friendly. Overall, we had a great experience here in Villahermosa.

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Puerto Escondido


It seems like finding a tire for a KTM here is not easy. Vasile looked online to find a KTM dealer, and we found one in Villahermosa, which is not too close to us, but they did not have the tire he needed. They were supposed to email us with an answer whether they can order it for us or not, and a price. In the meantime, our friend Matt put a lot of effort in finding a way to ship us a tire, using the discount he gets as a pilot. Thanks Matt!

So while waiting for the email from the KTM dealership, we headed towards Puerto Escondido, since we heard a lot of good things about it.

We stopped for lunch at a really cool place, right passed the National Park Lagunas de Chacahua.

The food was incredible and the people really friendly. And here I am waiting for the food:

And the food comes:

Pescado al ajo (Garlic Fish)

Camaron a la diabla (Spicy Shrimp)

The owner showed us an add for some eco tours in the area. The one that caught our attention was the one to the Lagunas where they had lagartos (alligators). That would have been interesting to see. But as we passed it, we decided not to turn back. I am sure we will have plenty of other occasions to see them, as we saw plenty of swamps in Mexico.

We kept riding in 36 C plus humidity, and we got to Puerto Escondido. And we were most impressed with it!

Funny enough, I’ve never heard of it before:) The prices are very decent for a resort (not if you book it online though, but if you just come here and get a room), and it is incredibly beautiful. It looks like it is a surfer’s resort, and I can understand why. I’ve seen the biggest waves here.

In the evening we went for a walk on the beach and we stopped to have some drinks very romantically on the beach, at candlelight:)

The next day we called again the KTM dealership and we managed to order the tire we needed. So after Puerto Escondido, we will head towards Villahermosa to pick up the tire. It will probably take us about 4 days to get there, since we are planning to stop by Playa Escobillo as well, since apparently that’s the place where most sea turtles come to lay their eggs. Maybe we will be lucky enough to see one.

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Acapulco and not only


The ride from Puerto Vallarta south was more than we could have ever imagined. Amazingly beautiful views, incredible switchbacks through really high, rich, green vegetation! It was even better than the ride in California. The difference here was that there were no signs to warn you about the turns, especially no recommended speed, so we had to be way more alert and rely on our good judgement to make the right decisions before the turns. But anyway, there must be very few other roads out there that can bit this one! From far the best riding we’ve done so far! Too bad we could not take pictures, since the roads here don’t have shoulders, so you have to stop in the middle of the road if you want to take pictures, which would have been very unsafe in this situation.

We stopped to have lunch at a very nice restaurant in the middle of the jungle.

The food was delicious, as usual. We had chorizo and grilled chicken. I loved the plates the food came in.

We stopped for the night in San Juan de Alima, a gorgeous little village on the beach. Of course Vasile had to play in the sand a bit, as soon as we got there:)

We found a very inexpensive motel right on the beach, with really friendly people. We jumped in the ocean right away to cool down, and we were surprised how warm the water was, considering it was the Pacific. This is the view from our room:

The owner had a funny parrot, that he was talking to. The bird was so funny responding and flirting back with the owner, when he was saying “give me a besito” (give me a kiss).

We left in the morning and we stopped by Ixtapilla beach, where we were told there would be giant turtles hatching on the beach. We could see the traces in the sand, as well as lots of egg pieces (sign that most of them have hatched already), but no turtles. Apparently they only come out at night. So we kept going, planning to stop on another beach that would have the giant turtles.

We left the next day and rode through a tunel of vegetation again.

As we were riding, we noticed along the way that there were lots of motorcycles in every village we passed. As we needed to gas up, we were looking for a gas station. Vasile stopped and bought a gallon of regular from a local, just as a temporary solution. We kept riding, until we saw this guy, in the middle of the road, next to a gas station, diverting all the motorcycles into the gas station. So we followed. We pulled the bikes closed to the pump waiting for the guy in front of us to move the bike so we can fill up. As nobody was moving the bikes, we realised there was actually no gas there, it was just an abandoned gas station, and we were in the middle of a “Mexican Hell’s Angels” meeting. So we decided that was no place for us, and we left.

Next stop for the night was at Pina Beach. We camped on the beach, between palm trees.

And here is dinner….before

…and after

Then on the road again. We went through Acapulco. Incredibly beautiful location, on the cliffs, right by the sea. I can totally understand where its fame comes from.

The touristic area is very beautiful, but the residential area for locals was the worst I’ve seen in Mexico so far. Also, the traffic was more than crazy. We had done a long day, since 9:30 am untill 6:30 PM, with only one 20 min break to drink some water, use the washroom, gas up and have an ice cream. We were tired, exhausted from the heat, dehydrated, and the traffic topped it off. I could hardly wait to get out of the city and stop somewhere. I wanted to get to Barra Vieja, since everybody told me that there was a beach there where the giant sea turtles come and hatch, and I wanted to see them.

We got to Barra Vieja, and I could not believe the prices! All hotels/ motels were asking Whistler prices – over $100 a night. We finally found a place at 600 pesos a night (around $50) and it was the worst place I’ve stayed in so far, except that it had a pool, so I could refresh a bit . Barely had a bed to sleep in, and that’s it. Oh, and they claimed they had air conditioning, but they forgot to mention that at 11 pm they would cut off the electricity, therefore no air conditioning.

But it was still worth it, since I had an experience that I don’t think I would have again any time soon. When we got there, the owner of the motel was just releasing some baby turtles that just hatched in the sea. It was the most amazing feeling to hold those little creatures in my hand!

At 7 pm we realised that everyone had left, so we could not even have a bottle of water anymore, and we were running out of water. We went for a walk on the beach, but we did not see any of the giant turtles unfortunately. We probably didn’t know the exact place, and where we were it was too much traffic, so I doubt the turtles would come where there are too many humans around.

Next day we rode back to Acapulco and we stopped at a McDonalds, since we needed internet, so Vasile could look for some tires for his KTM. We spent some time there, so we decided it would be a short day ride. We stopped in Copala, at Piccolino hotel, where we were  lucky enough for 250 pesos to have internet and air conditioning. On top of that, we got to chat for a couple of hours with Cristina, a very friendly and funny receptionist here, who told us how good the oysters are, not just because they are tasty, but they are good Viagra too:)

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Puerto Vallarta


We left from Tepic this morning heading south towards Puerto Vallarta. The road was unbelievable! Switchbacks on the mountains with great luscious vegetation.

It made us feel like in Nepal, just with way better roads:). By the way, the road was unexpectedly good – nice and smooth asphalt. Just the traffic changed. In Baja we have been spoiled, the traffic was pretty good. Busy in the bigger cities, but still decent. As soon as we hit Mazatlan, we got to know the real Mexican traffic: impatient people, honking at you for wasting a second, not letting you change lanes in front of them, cutting you off etc. We have to be way more alert here. But we are getting used to it, we’re from Eastern Europe:)

The only downside of this road was that is was quite busy, with lots of commercial trucks that were slowing down the traffic (since it was a one lane road), so we had to keep overtaking them.

We got to Puerto Vallarta and we were planning to spend maybe an hour driving around to see what’s all about, thinking that it was just another gringos’ resort. Well, we got to love it even just from the bikes’ seats, so we decided to stay at least for the night, if not for another day. A nice policeman started chatting with us and he kind of discouraged us telling us that all accomodation in Vallarta is quite expensive, and we won’t be able to find something affordable. We were almost on our way out of town, when we stopped to gas up, and I asked the guy there if he knows of any decent economic motel or something. There was one, just one minute walk from us:) And they even let us bring the bikes in the interior patio. When Vasile was trying to bring his bike in, he had to ride on the sidewalk for about 5 meters. And here’s a police agent stopping him to give him a ticket for that. After a long discussion around it, we got away with buying him a bottle of water and giving him a pack of Canadian Spearmint gum:)

The hotel here is nice (Hotel Hacienda de Vallarta) and biker friendly, and it is right in the center of the Old Vallarta. I have a feeling I will spend some time around the pool tomorrow. The air is so hot and humid here.

After we took a shower we went for a walk in town, and we just got to like it even more. I have to admit, I’ve been very nicely surprised by this resort.

La Corona de Nuestra Senora Church

And then passing  by these guys, we were looking at them and we were thinking “Hey, what’s it called what they are doing? Oh yeah, work. We almost forgot”:)

And then in the plaza by the seawall there was an art exhibition of chalk painting:

Then we went and had a couple of beers at a bar on the seawall (the Old Vallarta), called Day Off Bar. Nice atmosphere, good beer.

The next day, we went for a walk in the residential area of the Old Vallarta. Amazingly beautiful, loved it!!! We even saw Elizabeth Taylor’s house, but unfortunately we have no pics of it, since we ran out of battery:(

Very interesting trees around here:)

I wouldn’t mind renting one of those little Mexican houses and spend a whole vacation there.

Here is a beautiful traditional Mexican costume:

And this is how you make tortillas:

We just found out that the time is different here, so our clocks were one hour behind. Which means, tomorrow morning we will have to wake up even earlier and hit the road.

On another note, a friend of ours from Romania, has an Irish Pub in our home town, Erin’s Pub. It was my favourite place to go out each night: great atmosphere, very good food. And when he heard we were doing this trip, he put a map on the wall and he tracks our trip, along with a bunch of other bikers and clients of the place, which I like to call friends. Here’s a picture of it:

Hugs to all of you from Puerta Valarta, Titus! Maybe you’ll jump on the bike and catch up with us soon:)

Categories: Mexico | 6 Comments

Last days in Baja


We left Bahia de los Angeles at 7:30 am heading south. We rode through desertic canions until Mulege, where it seemed as though we entered a different world. It was like a little oasis in the middle of the desert: luxuriant vegetation and crossing rivers. I realized now how much I have missed the green!

We decided to stop and camp at Playa Santispac Best decision! The beach was really beautiful, the water very nice and clear.

In the evening I went to walk on the beach, with my feet in the water, and I felt something nibbling on my feet. I thought it would be little fish, since they do that, but guess what: it was little crabs! And as soon as I would move my feet, they would hide in the sand in a second. That was so cute!

Vasile kept teasing me that I found this cute, but I freak out if I see a bug on me:)

The next day at 7 am we were on the road again, heading to La Paz. This time we went to a hotel, since we needed internet and to do some laundry. Vasile went into town to find a bank and to buy some oil for my bike. Found the bank, but no oil. Apparently La Paz is really beautiful, with some nice seawalls.

The next day we left La Paz, to go south and do a loop to see the tip of the Baja Peninsula. We stopped in Todos Santos, and we found the Hotel California, the place that inspired Eagles to write the Hotel California song. Really beautiful and original place. Everything looked custom made and with a lot of good taste. We had the best coffee we had so far over there and a good lunch. Prices comparable to a regular restaurant in Canada, just that this was not a regular restaurant, it was so much more! I totally recommend anyone to go there.

Then we rode to Cabos, which totally didn’t impress either of us: typical gringos resort and for the first time in Mexico we did not feel very safe. We found a place to camp, called Club Cabos Inn, about 3 km on a gravel road from the city’s seawall/ downtown area. The place looked alright at a first glance. We paid 20$ for one night, and were thinking to maybe stay there for two nights, since we wanted to do a hike somewhere not too far from Cabos. The owner gave us a remote spot to camp by the fence. Got there, parked the bikes, changed in lighter clothes, and we were ready to walk into town to have a bite to eat, when Vasile started chatting with one of our neighbours, who was staying in a “cabana”. They chatted about all kinds of stuff, one thing led to another until the guy (Greg was his name), mentioned that he got robbed in that same campsite, a few days earlier. Apparently he was locking his door every day, but one day he forgot the door unlocked for about 4 hours and he fell asleep.  When he got up, his stuff were missing: computer, passport and other stuff. So it looks like someone had been watching him, otherwise it would be too much of a coincidence. When we heard that, we decided to keep going, since in a tent we cannot even lock anything up, so we could not leave the bikes and go to town or anywhere. Since we did not want to make the owner feel bad, we made up an excuse that we decided to meet a friend in La Paz, so we have to leave, and we would need the money back. She just yelled at us that there is no refunds, and she shut the door in our faces. We found this so ugly and sketchy at the  same time, that now we really decided it was unsafe for us to stay there, so we jumped on the bikes and left, leaving the $20 behind. Definitely do not recommend that place!

So we rode to El Barrel, and we found a beautiful place on the beach to camp for free! It looks like it was an “arroyo” (a washout from the hurricane) and anyone can camp for free, since it’s no one’s land. The only downside for me was that I had to do again  a few km of sandy road, to get to the beach. And since it was close to the beach, it was pretty sandy. In Baja there is sand everywhere! But it was well worth it: on one had, I am starting to break the ice on sand again after my accident, and on the other hand… the pictures will speak for themselves.

The next day we woke up early again and headed back to La Paz. We spent hours riding around town, trying to find some oil for my bike, but in vain. Eventually I got tired, so we decided to go and camp somewhere outside La Paz, on the Tecolote Beach. We got there; it was really beautiful, but very windy, and the food very expensive.

While we were debating what to do, a Mexican guy (Hugo), who was working at the tourist information point there, recommended us a good place in La Paz, a Guest House, very safe, and only 280 pesos a night (a bit over $20). He even recommended us a good place to eat, with good prices and good food. And we totally agree: the food was incredible, and right on the seawall! The guest house was really nice too, and the owner, a really nice guy. Here is their facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pensioncalifornia?fref=ts

If you are ever in La Paz and you need a safe, decent, inexpensive place, feel free to contact them.

They are motorcycle friendly, so we could take our motorcycles inside, to the interior patio. It was more challenging to get them out of there:)

We loved La Paz – beautiful city, and we felt incredibly safe here.

The next day we took the ferry to Mazatlan – 15 hours on the ferry. We got to Mazatlan the next day, around 11 am. Nothing special about this city. Vasile and I were hardly waiting to get out of it. But we had to do the oil change for my bike. So as we were riding around and we kind of got lost in this residential area (we had no GPS and no map with us), an old man directed us towards a motorcycle dealership. So we got there, and Vasile managed to do the oil change on my bike right there. We did not find BMW’s 10w-40 mineral oil, but Vasile decided that the Mobil 20w-50 mineral oil was ok for my bike. Nobody uses 10w-40 in Mexico since it’s so hot.

Then we rode to Tepic and we found a pretty nice hotel here for 260 pesos a night. Tomorrow will be heading towards Puerto Vallarta.

Categories: Mexico | 5 Comments

Ensenada to Bahia de los Angeles


After our short and wonderful stay at Mount of Olives Orphanage, where we came as strangers and left as friends, we were ready to hit the road again. Matt and Robin headed back to Canada, and Vasile and I headed South to…wherever.

The landscape was unbelievable: forests of cactus trees in the desert.

The road had a lot of washout sections under construction, sign that the Hurricane Paul damaged it quite a bit. But other than that, it was pretty good, so we did over 400 km that day. Since we heard from a lot of people that Bahia de los Angeles is a beautiful place, we decided to go there and stay for a day, even though it was not quite on our way. And here is Bahia de los Angeles from the distance:

We found a campsite on the beach, apparently the best one in the area, for $10 a night. Beautiful view, but soon enough, as it got dark, I freaked out when I saw the huge cockroaches running around on the beach and in the toilets! I’ve never seen such big cockroaches. And those who know me know about my passion for bugs and arachnids. Thank God I haven’t seen any spiders yet!

But I guess this would compensate for my little friends’ presence:

As it was the first night sleeping only on my tiny self inflating mattress since my accident, I have to admit it was not very comfortable, so I did not sleep much. The next day early in the morning Vasile got up and took some picture of the sunrise. According to him, best sunrise he has ever seen, better even than the one we’ve seen on the Himalayas. I let you be the judge.

The water was incredibly nice and warm, so we could go for a swim. When I was about to get in the water, I saw a little sting fish darting away from my foot. I thought I was mistaking, but then people on the beach told me to be careful not to step on the sting fish, since their sting hurts like hell. I stopped and looked around, and I realized there were lots of them. I almost stepped on one, I touched it with my foot as I was walking in the water. That kinda freaked me out now, once I realized that they really were sting fish! But at the same time it was kind of neat to see these creature in front of me, not on TV. Then I almost stepped on a huge crab! I only saw it when it started running sideways away from my foot. These creatures are so well camouflaged; you can hardly see them in the water.

One more time, Sea of Cortes impressed me! One day of rest well spent.

 

Categories: Mexico | 3 Comments

Mount of Olives Orphanage


Jesus said that “It is harder for a rich man to go to haven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle”. You know there is still hope in this world when you see people who do well financially, giving up on all they have in order to help others. And some of these people are Darrel and Maureen Graham, from Southern California (originally from Lower Mainland, Canada), who started going to Mexico just to help people over there in 2001, and then in 2005 built an orphanage in Urapan, Baja. In 2010 they moved there so they can give hundred percent of their time and dedication to those kids.

The things they’ve done here are beyond imagination. They’ve built a whole orphanage from scratch, with all the amenities (as much as the geography allowed).

They now have 21 kids here – little balls of energy, smiles, and need for affection. Here’s Darrel, helping the girls to build a castle.

It looks like they liked our bikes, even though they were a bit bigger than theirs.

I was impressed how well educated the kids were, how they were cleaning their own clothes and shoes at that age, how polite and caring to each other they were. This proves someone really spends time with these kids, and prepares them for life.

And now they are trying to expand. So while Robin and I were playing with the kids, Vasile and Matt did some real work:)

Talking to Darrel and Maureen, it’s amazing to see how their hearts are filled with so much happiness and contentment just to see the progress of their “grand children” as they call them. They dedicate their whole time to making sure the kids have everything they need, and most importantly that they feel loved. And we can see the results in the kids’ faces: smiley happy faces. The stories behind these kids are very touching: most of them come from broken families or parents on drugs. Here they find the family they were missing. And everything is based on volunteer work and donations.

And not only do they help the orphanage, but they help the whole community, by providing food, or scholarship opportunities to those in need.

While we are complaining about the internet not being fast enough or about not being able to cut on sweets, others need food on the table. And I can only imagine what it is in the heart of a mom who cannot provide for her kids!

Feel free to visit their website below for more details, and if you can help in any way, I am sure they will be more than grateful.

www.missions-network.org

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

On the road again


It looks like I am finally ok to ride again (hopefully). Turned out that not only I had the chest and muscle pain from the shock, but I also had whiplash. The chest pain got a lot better after about two weeks, so I should have been ready to ride, but my neck was killing me. I had really sharp pain in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and I was getting dizzy quite often. I ended up going back to the clinic (this time they charged me $9 for consultation and 5 days of treatment of Diclofenac and Naproxen!!!), and they recommended me to wear a cervical collar, to immobilize the neck until the swelling and irritation goes away. So I wore the collar for 4 days, and took the pills, and boy, it made a difference! I could actually sleep, and during the day the pain was absolutely manageable, so I could see an immediate improvement. I should have done this from the beginning, not after 10 days! Now obviously these pills have pain killer ingredients in them as well, so as soon as I stopped them, some of the pain was back, so once in a while I still have to take one.

Another thing to mention is the disappointment I had with my travel insurance company. I bought my insurance through BCAA, thinking that they are quite well known, so they should be good. Well, just like any insurance company, they pretty much take your money, but when you need it, you hardly get anything back.  When I realized my head was hurting so bad,  I thought I might have had some head injury, and as I mentioned in my previous posts, at the time of the accident, at the clinic they only checked my pulse and blood pressure, they did not check for any head injuries, or any other kind of injuries. First I called my insurance company from the clinic, the day of the accident. I waited for 15 min on hold, standing by a phone, in a very busy area, until I felt I was about to faint, so I had to give up and hang up. The next day I sent them an email with the accident story, no answer. Two days later I sent them another couple of emails, from two different email addresses I had, thinking that maybe ii went into their spam. No answer either. And when my head and neck got really bad, I called them, since I knew I needed further checks or care. Well, someone picked up eventually, just to tell me that now if I needed further checks, I will not be covered anymore, since this is not an emergency anymore. According to them, if the doctor lets you leave the hospital (which was nonexistent anyway in my case) the day of the accident, that means you are ok, and everything else after that is not considered an emergency anymore, so you are not covered. So if you ever travel, make sure at the time of the accident they check everything on you, because if doctors miss anything the first day, and they let you go, you are on your own. On top of that, the lady told me that I would have to claim this first with my motorcycle insurance. In vain I tried to explain to her that here they DO NOT SELL comprehensive insurance, only liability, so I am not covered. I offered to send her the wording of my motorcycle insurance policy. No, it doesn’t matter. I have to claim it with them first, they have to send me a letter of negation, and I would have to send that letter to them. And only then they can assess and process my claim. So now I have to chaise my motorcycle insurance (thank God I speak Spanish) and see if they can or want to send me such letter (bear in mind, this is not Canada). And then you have to make sure they get everything within 60 days, if not your claim is not valid anymore. It’s been four weeks since my accident and I haven’t even received the forms to be filled out yet, as I was promised on the phone. I will probably have to make a few more phone calls.

On top of this, they claim that they can help you with advice as to what hospitals there are around. When I talked to the lady at BCAA, once I calmed down after my disappointment, and accepted the fact that going forward it will be out of my pocket, I asked her what clinics or hospitals there are around that could do some checks on me in my situation. The answer was “Well, this is your problem; you have to find out locally”.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in this type of countries, where a consultation and treatment costs $9, and where the emergency consultation is free, there is no point buying travel insurance (which is very expensive), since they don’t really cover much, if anything, and with the money you purchase the insurance, you can pay for your own medical expenses.

Now leaving all this aside, yesterday we hit the road again. Matt and Robin came back to ride with us for a few days (I’m not sure what made them come back: the fact that they missed us, or the pictures we posted with the beach and the rides).We packed up all our stuff (boy, I did not realize how much stuff we had!), got on our bikes, and headed towards Ensenada. The plan was to take it easy, since it was my first day on the bike after my accident. Ensenada is about 2-3 hours ride from San Felipe, so it was perfect. Robin knew this orphanage about 40 km south of Ensenada, so we decided to go there and have a glimpse of these kids’ lives.

We left around 10 am, had a break about two hours later just to hydrate ourselves and for me to stretch my neck and then we hit the road again.

The scenery was unbelievable: big boulders in the middle of the desert on both sides of the road. I am wondering how they got there.

The road was in pretty good condition; we had some twisties at some point too which made it more fun. By the time we got to Ensenada, I was already feeling quite week and tired, and my neck was not feeling too good at all. But we had to go through the city though to find a bank and get some cash. Ensenada is the second biggest city in Baja California after Mexicali. The traffic was pretty crazy, and after a while we realized that we had taken the wrong turn too, so we were not going to find the bank. We decided to stop and eat, since we were – at least I was – about to faint, while Vasile was going to go and find the bank by himself (we got better instructions in the meantime). After a well deserved break and food, I was ok now to keep going. We jumped on the bikes again and we headed out of the city. It was getting dark and chilly (I know, I did not think I would ever say that here!). By the time we got out of the city, it got dark, and all we had for map were some hand written directions given by phone to Robin by her friend. So here we are looking for “Caso Bogan” (later on we found out it was actually “Casa Hogar”), that was supposed to be over a bridge. We managed to find the village, but now we had to find the orphanage, and at this time in the day, there weren’t many people out in the streets. We stopped and we asked someone for directions, and we were wondering why no one knew about any “puente” (bridge). We finally got on the right way, and we crossed a little passage over a puddle (that was “the bridge”), and then when there were no signs anymore, we stopped by this building, thinking that this was the orphanage. No lights, no signs, no one to ask. Oh, and by the way, when I stopped my bike and I put my foot down, my food sank about 10 cm deep in sand!!! That was not at all what I had planned for that day. I wasn’t planning to do any gravel roads for a while, due to my physical condition now, let alone sand! But thank God it was dark and I only realized there was sand when I stopped.

After walking around the building, we were not sure if that was the orphanage or not. I was so tired I did not want to ride any more on that road to see if it was any further or not, so we were looking for a place to pitch our tents. Luckily a white SUV passed by, and we tried to stop it. When I waved at them, they did not stop, which is quite natural, since you are not supposed to stop for strangers in the dark here. But our friend Robin, who was a bit further down, jumped in front of the car and she stopped them. We asked them about the orphanage, and they were so nice to actually escort us there. Turned out we were only a mile and a half away from it. We got to the orphanage, where a bunch of kids that were playing outside greeted us with a loud “Hola!” full of joy.

Then Darrel, the director of the orphanage came and invited us inside, where we met Maureen, his wife. We had a great dinner (Maureen is an incredible cook!), a nice chat about the orphanage and the kids, and then we went to bed, to a well deserved rest and sleep.

More details about the orphanage in a separate post. I strongly encourage you to read it, so stay tuned!

Categories: Mexico | 1 Comment

Ride to the Observatory in the National Park Sierra de San Pedro Martir


Vasile:

After a few days on the beach with nothing else but food and cervezas, it was time for me to jump back on the bike.

I talked to Kiki, the camp’s owner, and he showed me on the map some nice places to go ride. Since I was by myself, I asked him how technical the road was, and mostly how sandy, since a big 500 lbs pig can get stuck very easily. He told me that I shouldn’t have any problems going to all those places with a big bike. But I later realized that this was coming from a former Baja racer.

I woke up around 6 o’clock on Monday morning and did the regular routine: pushed the bike out of the camp, went to OXXO (the Mexican 7eleven), had coffee, sandwich and a bag of peanuts, which would be the meal for the day.

As I was riding out of town I could see to the East the sun almost rising and to the West, just above the mountains, the full moon was bright orange.

The only directions I had for the day was a map I had from Kiki, and my notes. I had no Mexican maps on the GPS, so I was using the GPS just to track places I was going, so I can find my way back in case I got lost.

Outside San Felipe, at the storage place, I left the highway and went on the gravel road. Right away I was charged by 5 dogs. I was in a playful mood and I was going slow, so the dogs could catch up with me. Once they got close enough, I pinned the throttle, started fishtailing the bike, and left the dogs with a mouth full of sand.

I rode out into the desert until the first crossroads. Kiki told me that when I would see a dead cow at the crossroad, I should turn right. So there it was (the first Mexican road sign that helps).

Now I was heading towards Laguna Diablo (Dry Lake). Soon enough the sand started to be deeper and deeper. I shortly realized that when the locals mention sand, they have a different meaning for it than we do. I thought I knew sand and that I could ride it no problem. But this one was a totally different definition of it. I made it through without a crash, and then I found myself in this big opening called Laguna Diablo. This is where my racing hormones kicked in. And before I knew it, I looked down and I was doing 130 km/ hr.

Got back to Hwy 3 into San Matias, and then back on the gravel towards Mike’s Sky Ranch. The road elevates to about 4000 ft (about 1300 m) and the scenery changes dramatically, with lots of vegetation and nice ranches on both sides of the road. The ride is a lot of fun, twisty, not too sandy and rocky, up through the mountain (recommended to intermediate riders). Then I went through a water crossing, and right after that I was at Mike’s Sky Ranch. Looks like a nice place, but I didn’t see anyone around. Finally a lady came out and I confirmed with her that the road to El Coyote Ranch was the one that I was looking at, just behind Mike’s Sky Ranch. I asked her for “gasoline”, she said no, and I was on my way. From this point everything changed from a good road to a really technical climb, a lot of washouts, big rocks, not something that I would recommend doing by yourself on a big bike.

Within 10 minutes after leaving Mike’s the road climbs from the bottom of the valley to the very top of the mountain, and drops down just as fast on the other side. I started to hear Kiki’s words in my head “Be careful, there’s two roads that you can take from Mike’s to El Coyote, and one of them is washed out”. When I saw a six foot drop in front of me, I realised I had taken the washed out one. I stopped my bike and started walking to look for a spot down in the ravine and up on the other side. First one that I came across was doable, but if I had to come back the same way it would have been too steep to climb. I walked a little bit more and I found a safer place to take my bike down through the water and up to the other side. From that point until I hit El Coyote Ranch, the road was just as bad, lots of washouts, sand, big boulders, to sum it up a lot of fun for a guy like me.

El Coyote Ranch is a very nice place, scenic and “muy tranquilo”. I met three American guys riding their bikes there, and they were really surprised to see me riding there on a big bike. Alfredo, the owner of El Coyote, is a very nice and friendly guy. I bought some gas from him, and I asked him if he can contact Camelia in San Felipe if I decided to stay there over night.

I hit the road towards the Observatory, through The National Park Sierra de San Pedro Martir. This is a really nice twisty paved road climbing from sea level to almost 3000m in the National Park. It was the first part of the trip where I could just lay back and enjoy the view and the music in my helmet.

Just before I entered the park I was surprised to see a sign saying that you are not allowed with a motorcycle in the park. But you can drive a car in the park. I just ignored the sign and kept going. When I reached the office, after a little debate with the ranger, he let me ride my bike in the park, with the promise that I would stick to the road.

Two km before the Observatory, there was a closed gate. Few minutes later, a local worker drove by in an old Beetle, and he was so nice to give me a ride. His English was just as good as my Spanish, but that didn’t stop us to have a good conversation and a good laugh on the way to the Observatory.

On the way back, I was considering stopping at El Coyote for the night, but I was having too much fun riding my motorcycle, so I decided to return to San Felipe. This time I took a different route back to avoid the big wash out I went through in the morning. It was still very technical, but not too bad. As my fuel was going low in my tanks, I started to feel that the bike was lacking power (which is the first sign that the fuel filters get clogged from the bad gas). At some point, going down the hill, my bike stalled and I knew it was time to take some pictures and let the bike cool off, because my fuel was probably close to the boiling point. But after a short brake, everything was fine and I had no problem all the way back to San Felipe.

Overall, this was a 10 hours’ ride. Once I got to San Felipe, I must have had 1000 tacos!

All day riding I was thinking about my friend Matt and how he would have enjoyed this ride with me. I was also thinking about my friend Cristan, but then I said to myself “No, I would’ve had to pick up his bike way too many times” J

I realized how much I missed riding after a few days’ break. A big thanks to Kiki for telling me about this spectacular trail!

Categories: Mexico | 7 Comments

Dias flojos en San Felipe – Lazy days in San Felipe


Sometimes one needs to slow down. Sometimes one needs to stop, breath, look around, smell, hear and feel the quintessence of nature. Nada mas. I am a strong believer in “everything happens with a reason”. I now have time to wake up early in the morning and go for a walk on the beautiful beach with water lapping upon the shore, feel the soft golden sand among my toes and let the playful sun rays and the breeze tangle my hair.

…or walk on the beach after a strong wind and see our footprints only in the sand.

I can go and walk among the hundreds of seagulls and pelicans that are not even trying to run away. I guess humans are familiar to them. It’s like a little fauna paradise. And I am actually not surprised, since Mar de Cortez (Sea of Cortes) is one of the most diverse seas in the world, home to more than 5,000 species of fish, plus lots of other species of birds and other creatures. And that’s why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I can see all the exotic fish washed on the shore after the tide. We even saw a fairly large sting fish washed ashore.

This might just be sea creatures that are out of luck and get stuck in the fishermen’s net, and that are just thrown back into the water, since they’re not edible. Locals say sometimes they even see huge whales that wash ashore, and they have to call the military to blow them up, so they can decompose faster, since in this heat, a dead creature that size, it’s nothing pleasant.

I have time to talk to all the people in the campsite and hear the local stories. Like the one about the hospital that was closed, and that apparently has $2,000,000 USD worth of medical equipment, but it’s all locked up for political reasons; meanwhile the current clinic here does not even have an x-ray.

Every day we walk to town and back on the beach. And sometimes this is how we get around:

People are very friendly and chatty. And they are all willing to help you improve your Spanish:) They say hi to you on the streets, even if they don’t know you. It’s like a small family community, very nice and cozy.

We go and eat at Rositas, a little restaurant on the seawall, that has the best food in San Felipe, at very decent prices. We try every day something new: Huevos Rancheros, Huevos Divorciados, Caldo 7 Mares (Soup 7 Seas), Pollo en BBQ (BBQ Chicken), Camarones al ajo (Garlic Prawns), Almejas (Mussels) and we never went wrong so far. Of course, las cervezas and las margaritas were present too.

Caldo 7 Mares

Los famosos nachos:

Pollo en BBQ y huevos a la mexicana, cerveza y margarita:)

Vasile can go fishing in the sea and catch and release a diversity of fish, or sometimes a crab that will fight back. It’s an incredible lesson that we can learn from this little creature. It doesn’t matter that they are a thousand times smaller than us; they would still fight back with no fear.

And then we can watch the famous Baja sunset with its amazing colours, wrapped in the warm air like a soft silk, while re-winding in my mind the song that has been our song of the season here:

“You only need the light when it’s burning low,

Only miss the sun when it starts to snow,

Only know you love her when you let her go.

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low,

Only hate the road when you’re missing home,

Only know you love her when you let her go,

And you let her go…”

(Passenger – Let Her Go)

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

Puertecitos hot springs


I know, it sounds funny, no? Hot springs, in the desert of Baja? Like they need hot water in this temperature!

Well, it looks like they do have hot springs, in Puertecitos, about 90 km from San Felipe. Peter, one of the friends we made here at Kiki’s, asked us if we wated to join him there today. First I though: “No, sorry, I can’t take a day off tomorrow”. But then I thought “Oh, wait, I don’t have to go to work tomorrow”. Actually, right now, I don’t have to go anywhere. So in the morning we went first to the Saturday market at Golden Ranch here, by San Felipe, where we had a delicious burrito and a freshly squeezed orange juice. And then we walked around and saw all the beautiful traditional stuff that people were selling.

 

 

Then we headed to Puertecitos. On the way there, we stopped by a beach with a big whale skeleton. I can only imagine the smell while that big animal decomposed!

 

Just to clarify: this was NOT our lunch, as some friends insinuated already. Vasile might eat a lot, but still:)

Once we got to Puertecitos, we were told that the tide is too high, and the water covers the hot springs, so we would have to wait until 6pm when the tide is low.

Puertecito looks like a cute little village, that once a year is probably host to a lot of people. But now it was so quiet, there was hardly anyone there. It almost looked to us like a ghost village.

 

 

 

 

As we were getting hungry, we started to look for a restaurant. Turned out the only restaurant open this time of the year was Caw Patty, about 3 km out of Puertecitos. Very interesting restaurant, worth stopping by:

The Menu: Hot dogs and beer. After a short debate wether we should have hot dogs and beer, or hot dogs and beer, we decided to have some hot dogs and beer!!! Good hot dog though.

I would like to come back here in the peak season sometime, just to see how the village revives. I am sure it’s a lot of fun!

 

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Fixing the bike


Vasile:

The day Camelia had the little stunt, after putting my heart back in its place and making sure she was alright, I realized the bike needed some work. As we were standing on the side of the road waiting for the guy with the truck to come back, I was scanning the area for parts that came off the bike, and that I could puzzle back together. So I stuffed my pockets with everything I thought I could still use.

After a quick scan, the right hand turn signal was completely gone, windshield was shattered, the front headlights sub-frame was broken into 5-6 pieces, the tachometer was broken and the headlight was smashed. Plus some other plastic parts had various cracks.

At this point I didn’t know if Camelia was willing to continue the trip or not, so fixing the bike was not a priority. Once we got to San Felipe and she got checked by the doctors, and she told me that she definitely wants to carry on, I started fixing the bike.

Our friend Matt immediately started checking online prices for the parts that needed to be replaced, and he came to the conclusion that the total cost would be around $900.

I started doing one thing at a time, fixing things, to see how far I could go without replacing parts.

First was the turn signal indicator. I put all the pieces together, super-glued them, and a little bit of electrical tape, it made it as good as new.

Next was the dashboard. I took off the cover and removed all the broken parts. Then I started shaping a new lens from pieces of the leftover windshield. Once I got to the shape I wanted, I super-glued it in place and then put silicone around the edges so no water can get in.

Then I started working on the sub-frame. Over the next two days I j-b welded the sub-frame together, as it takes 24 hours for the j-b weld to cure.

The headlight was smashed, so I cleaned up all the remaining of the old glass. Then I went to town to a glass repair shop and I had them cut a new piece of glass ($10 bill). In order to glue and silicone the glass in place, I had to trim down the edges of the headlight until both the high beam and the low beam lights were leveled. Thanks to Eugene’s tools (an old marine colonel from El Centro, California, who lives here now in a motor home), it made my job much easier.

Before:

And after:

During this time Camelia was resting and as she was feeling better, Matt and I went for a day ride to Coco’s corner. We got there and we told Coco the story and that I am fixing the bike, and he immediately said that he had a windshield for me. My first thought was “it’s not gonna work”. But then I thought “I’ve got to make it work; this is a piece of history”.

When I got back with the windshield I was surprised to see that it only needed four holes to be installed. In order to make the handlebar go from side to side without hitting the windshield, it needed some adjustments. So I started trimming on the sides of the windshield, a little bit at a time, until I could turn the handlebar all the way in both sides.

 

The windshield came with two aluminium brackets that were too short for this bike. So I went to town and I had a guy welding and adjusting the brackets so it would fit the bike. This was a $25 bill.

The handlebar was a bit bent from the crash, so I went to the same guys at the welding shop and they straightened it for me. This would complete the list of repairs for the bike. The total bill was $35!

The bracket that holds the rear luggage was cracked. So I had to manufacture a new one and I decided to install it on my bike. For $30, same guys from the welding shop made me a new bracket, and that way I was able to swap my rotopax jerycan with Camelia’s rear luggage.

I am really impressed with how well the Givi plastic panniers hold up!

Overall it was a really good experience fixing the bike with minimal resources. It made me realize how used we are to replacing rather than repairing.

 

 

Categories: Mexico | 10 Comments

Coco’s Corner ride – post edited by Matt Edwards


The little” incident” Cami had on the gravel road changed the loosely planned adventure we had been planning. There was no thought of where we were going next  or what road to try out, it was all about making sure Cami was ok. She needed time to allow the sore muscles and bumps and bruises to heal. Vasile’s focus was on making sure Cami was as comfortable as possible. His next challenge was fixing the bike. I thought I could help. I looked up the costs on line for all the broken parts…..$900!! Vasile  said ok, but thought he would just start fixing what he could one part at a time. First the turn indicator light, next the glass for the tach was replaced using a broken piece of the plexi windshield, carefully cut and sanded, crazy glued in place and siliconed  Next the JB weld epoxy and an artists keen eye had the five broken pieces of the plastic front panel carrier back  into one solid bracket. Piece by piece I watched with amazement as Vasile reconstructed the bike, but I kept saying “you need to order that windshield as soon as possible”…
Two days after Camelia’s swan dive onto the gravel she was starting to feel better and said that Vasile and I should go for a day ride together on Saturday. The hotel room at the campground was booked for Saturday night so we would need to be back by one or two pm to move from the room to a tent site. We wanted to leave San Felipe and ride to Coco’s corner then on to Mex hwy 1 and come back down the same gravel road to San Felipe (over 400km and 5 hours of riding ) so we agreed to get up at 5am. I was so excited I barely slept. I woke every hour but missed 5am. It was 5:30 when I got up and squeezed Vasile’s toe in the next bed who was up and ready to go in minutes. We pulled out of the campground at 6am and headed off to find breakfast in the dark. The local corner store had coffee and a sandwich and we picked up a light snack for the day. We hit the road at 6:45 as the sun was just starting to rise.
I prayed right away for safety and for a great day and that we wouldn’t be too crazy. By 6:55 Vasile was stuck up to his axles in soft soft sand while playing on the trails beside the road out of town.
I could hear him on the intercom whooping and laughing as he plowed through the sand, then I heard the grunting, panting and groaning as he wrestled the stuck bike back to the road. All he heard was me killing myself laughing at his misfortune. The sun cast  a fun shadow of us and the bikes on the desert around us as we headed south.
The first part of the ride was on pavement but we were both stoked when we finally hit the sand and gravel. The gas station we had planned to get gas from greeted us with a sign saying they were out of gas! No worries… lets go. We passed a gas station that had been closed when we went passed the last time with Cami. We stopped and checked they would be open on the way back. They would be open till 2pm. Vasile said we would be back by 1. And away we went. Me in the lead and Vasile close behind. We rode fast on the unburdened, light KTM steeds.
Flying over small humps in the road, the occasional tank slapping through sandy areas and picking our way though the rocky sections. Off in the distance we saw a vehicle leaving a dust cloud behind them. It was the first we had seen since leaving the gas station. As we caught up to them we saw it was an army truck with about 15 gun toting soldiers standing in the back.
The dust was so thick I could hardly see ahead,but after a few minutes he pulled over a little to the right. Perfect…I hit the gas to pass. Vasile had a better view. Through the dust he saw that there was a right turn coming up. He was surprised and impressed that I was going to attempt to pass in the corner. As the truck started into the corner he swerved to the left forcing me off the road into the deep soft sand over a six foot drop off through bushes. Thanks to the newly installed steering stabilizer I opened my eyes and was surprised to see I was still on the bike and upright. I spotted a little goat trail alongside the road and managed to follow it about 200 meters before finding a spot to climb back onto the road ahead of the now startled truck driver. Vasile thought I had crashed when I disappeared off the side of the road and was as shocked as I was to see me still up and riding, pulling ahead of the truck. I am sure my guardian angle was working feverishly for a few minutes moving rocks, trees and pushing the bike up when it almost went down!!
Somehow we made it to Cocos corner.
Coco greeted us and offered us an ice cold drink from his solar powered fridge. Coco lost both his legs at the knee from diabetes and has been greeting travelers and getting them to sign his guest book in the middle of the desert for 22 years.
He entertained us with stories including tales of the Baja 1000 passing by and going through the lake close to MX1.
We told Camilias sad tail and I said that Vasile had single handidly rebuilt the bike except we needed  to order a new windshield. Coco said that a guy had come through a while back and had taken his windshield off his big BMW as it was giving too much air turbulence. We could have it if we wanted it …..for free!
Coco gave us directions to the lake that was now dried up telling us we have to go there. It was only a mile off the road and well worth the effort. We ripped around the lake bed and had a blast.
Passing through Cocos corner we picked up the windshield. Vasile strapped it  to the bike. When we tried it on the bike when we got back to camp, all it needed was 6 holes drilled and Vasile would be done. I now believe nothing is too far broken that can’t be saved by a master creator. About 20 minutes after leaving Cocos Vasile got a flat in his front tire. He had it changed in 30 minutes and we were back to flying down the bumpy, sandy, hilly crazy awesome trail. We eventually reached the gas station as the clock struck 1. Vasile figured we didn’t need much gas and put in 5 liters. There was only one pump and a truck had pulled up between us and it looked like it would be a while.Vasile is usually the one to push gas… but this time  I figured I could make it with the gas I had so we blasted off again. My low fuel light came on 65km earlier than normal due to the fast crazy riding and I figured I was going to run out about 15-20km short of San Felipe.Vasile was looking forward to humiliating me by towing me into town…. but my angel was pushing and my engine quit 100mtrs before the gas station and I managed to coast into the pump. 93km with the low fuel light on and 23.4ltrs to fill up the tank!
Now that was a true ADVENTURE ride. And I got to ride side by side and share an awesome experience with a great friend.
Categories: Mexico | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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