Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Day 29 – Welcome to Guatemala! (Antigua, Guatemala)

01 Nov

We got up at 6:00 am, loaded all our luggage on the bikes, said good bye to San Cristobal and headed southeast towards Ciudad Cuauthemoc on the Mexican-Guatemalan border.  The weather was perfect, the road was good and we reached the border town in less than three hours.  As we were having breakfast at the local restaurant, a group of motorcyclists parked across the street, in front of the customs building.  They were coming from the XIV International BMW Convention in San Cristobal and, like us, were headed to Guatemala.

The paperwork on the Mexican side took less than half an hour.  The Guatemalan border officers were also quite efficient – they stamped our passports and prepared all motorbike papers for a nominal 40 quetzales (5 USD) fee in less than an hour.  Then one of the officers released the rope, lifted the gate and we crossed the border at 11:47 am – a historic moment!


Vadim at the Guatemalan Border

The road on the Guatemalan side was surprisingly good, although we noticed one linguistic difference.  In Mexico, speed bumps are called topes, vibradores or reductores, but in Guatemala – tumulos.  The road went through a spectacular gorge and then started climbing up and up and up to almost 10,000 feet (3,000 m).  We stopped in Pologua, a decent size village, for a lunch.  The food was very good and cost us only 2 USD each, but the restaurant facilities were very basic.

As we were heading towards the Guatemala City, the four lane highway turned into a two lane road due to massive landslides.  The rainy season has just ended in the country, leaving a number of roads in a bad shape.  Fortunately, the two lanes of the highway have been cleared of the debris and we proceeded at a fast pace.

After a few hours, we reached Chimaltenango and got stuck in a huge traffic jam.  Luckily, the shoulder of the road was empty and the police paid no attention, as we rode to the downtown and then took a turn to Antigua – our final destination.  We arrived to Antigua in the dark, after a couple of stops to ask for directions.  There are very few road signs and without help of the local people, we would have certainly been lost on more than one occasion.

We retired early, after a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant.  It was another long day – 11 hours on the road…

Routes taken: Mexico 190 (Panamerican Hwy), CA1, 14

Miles ridden: 303 miles (488 km)


Day 28 – Lazy Day (San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico)

31 Oct

We decided to spend one day in Cristobal de las Casas, a beautiful colonial town, and have a good rest before a long trip to Antigua, Guatemala.  After a late breakfast, we explored the neighborhood and then headed down to Zocalo, the central square.


Cerro de Guadalupe

We wanted to find an English-speaking guide for a quick tour of the historic center of the town, but nobody was available.  The guy at the Tourist Information Center was quite entrepreneurial and offered to purchase Vadim’s iPhone for $700, but the “deal” fell through after a disagreement over payment terms.

At lunch, we had some bone marrow soup and “parrillada” (Vadim refused to order beef testicles) and then headed down to the Municipal market.  It was Sunday and the crowds were huge; local Indian villagers were proudly displaying fruits, vegetables, meats, while others were selling textiles, clothes, electronics, etc. – shortly, anything that one might need in everyday life.  We unsuccessfully tried to take some pictures of the local people; the Indians are very sensitive about cameras and hid behind the stalls before we had a chance to press the shutter button.


Municipal Market

For dinner, we had some traditional Mexican soup – pozole.  As we were eating, children in masks were running in and out of the restaurant, singing songs and asking everyone for candies.  This was part of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.  Since we had no sweets, we gave them a few pesos instead.

This is our last night in Mexico, the county that we liked a lot and will definitely come back to some day.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

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Day 27 – Long Way through Oaxaca and Chiapas (San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico)

30 Oct

We left Oaxaca at sunrise, again without a breakfast, and headed south-east towards the Pacific coast.  Our final destination was uncertain: either Tuxtla Gutierrez or San Cristobal de las Casas, depending on the road conditions.  We new it was going to be a long day…

The road was winding, but pretty fast, and the weather was perfect.  We stopped a couple of times for quick meals at some local restaurants by the road; the food was very good.  On our way, we also passed a couple of military checkpoints.  Gintaras was briefly stopped at one of them, but the soldiers were friendly.  As we were descending from 6,500 feet (2,000 m) to the sea level, the temperatures increased dramatically.  It reached 95 F (35 C) on the coast at noon.  And then happened something that neither of us had expected…

There were a number of wind mills on the horizon, but as we were approaching them, the wind got stronger and stronger.  At first, we only felt mild wind gusts hitting our helmets, but soon the side wind got very violent.  It started throwing our fully-loaded 1,000 lbs (450 kg) motorbikes left and right, as if they were toys.  We leaned forward as far as we could, with our stomachs pressed firmly against gas tanks, then switched to the second gear and tried our best to keep the bikes on the road and avoid the oncoming traffic.  This white-knuckle ride lasted for about half an hour, until we hid behind a mountain ridge.

We reached Tuxtla Gutierrez late afternoon by narrowly avoiding the rain, and decided to continue to Cristobal de las Casas.  The toll highway was very good and we reached our final destination in less than an hour, although at one stretch we hit a dense fog.  In the last 40 miles (65 km), we ascended more than 6,000 feet (1,800 m), as the temperature dropped below 55 F (13 C).  It took us some time to find our hotel, as it got dark, but this time we did not need taxi to lead us through the city.

We parked our bikes in a garage next to the hotel and went out for a dinner at Fogon de Jovel to taste some local “parrillada”.  We came back very tired (11 hours on the road) and slept till late morning and one extra hour due to the daylight saving time.


Dia de los Muertos Decorations in the Casa Vieja Hotel

Routes taken: Mexico 190

Miles ridden: 370 miles (595 km)

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Day 26 – Monte Alban and Oaxaca (Oaxaca, Mexico)

29 Oct

Today we went to see Monte Alban, one of the best-known pre-Columbian Zapotec archeological sites, just few miles out of Oaxaca city.  Jose, a very knowledgeable guide, provided us a wealth of interesting information during the two-and-a-half-hour tour.


Monte Alban in Oaxaca

For lunch, we tasted some crunchy Chapulines (fried small grasshoppers) and then went for a stroll around Zocalo, the main plaza.  The city was getting ready for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations: people were building sand sculptures of the dead; shop windows were full of decorated skulls; and kids were marching down the streets in Halloween-like costumes, led by noisy brass bands.


Dia de los Muertos Street Parade in Oaxaca

In the evening, we had a friendly chat with a few Americans who were staying in the same La Casa de Mis Recuerdos hotel.  A lovely lady (professional photographer) set up a quick photo shoot session of us with the motorbikes.  We will post the pictures as soon as we get them.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

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Day 25 – Long and Winding Road (Oaxaca, Mexico)

28 Oct

We got up at sunrise and left Puerto Escondido without breakfast, since the local restaurant opened only at 9 am.  As usual, we made a quick stop at Pemex to fill up the tanks and check the tire pressure; gas stations are few and far between on the road to Oaxaca.

The climb through Sierra Madre del Sur was slow, at an average speed of no more than 25 mph (40 km/h), but beautiful.  The road was very curvy, some stretches with potholes, but all rock and mud slides from the recent rains had been cleared.  Slow moving trucks, hundreds of “topes” and occasional donkeys, cows and dogs on the road just added to the overall excitement.

The road passed through a number of villages, as we ascended to 7,000 ft (2,100 m).  We stopped for lunch at a small family restaurant in San Pedro Juchatengo and filled our stomachs with juicy carne asada (grilled meat) and fresh coconut juice.  At another quick stop in Villa Sola de Vega, we were immediately surrounded by a group of curious local people and took part in a quick photo shoot session.


Vadim Surrounded by Supporters at a Quick Stop in Villa Sola de Vega

We reached Oaxaca just in time, since it started raining soon after we parked our motorbikes in the inner courtyard of the hotel.  This is the first rain in more than three weeks on our journey!  For dinner, we both had “mole negro”, one of the seven “moles” that Oaxaca is so famous for.  It had a rich chocolate taste. Yum!


Molle Negro de Fandango at La Olla Restaurant in Oaxaca

Routes taken: local roads from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca

Miles ridden: 159 miles (256 km)

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Posted in Mexico