For our route through Mainland Mexico we decided to head inland from Mazatlan, stopping at San Blas, Guanajuato, Teotihuacan, Minatitlan and finally San Cristobal. The 250km ride down the coast from Mazatlan to San Blas should have been a straight forward afternoon, but 20km down the road I realised I was missing my headphones and a hoody, yet another loss. I guess that’s the result of packing up on a hangover, and sleeping somewhere different almost everyday! Recently I have been listening to music whilst riding, so the thought of not having any tunes during long days on the bike was a big hit. It was a tough decision, but I decided to leave Pete in a petrol station cafe and head back to the hotel. Fortunately the solo mission was a success, and my mood was lifted for the ride ahead. After my morning recovery, the afternoon dealt me with another misfortune. My collection of caps, purchased and carefully carried from California had fallen off the back of my bike. This may not sound like a big deal, but maintaining a cap on a biking trip is a tricky task, and a decent new one could be hard to come by as we head through Latin America. Hopefully they will go to a good home, and some local Mexican kids will be donning Volcom flat peaks.
There’s not much to report from San Blas, it’s a small colonial fishing village with a relaxed vibe and some nice restaurants on the edge of a vibrant square. The road in and out is quite spectacular, winding through dense jungle and local farm land. It was here I saw my first tarantula, so I now take more care checking my boots before getting dressed for a ride!
The main cities of Mexico are well connected via Toll-roads, but these can get very expensive even on a motorbike. For our ride to Guanajuato we decided to pick our way through the free-roads, or ‘Libre’ as they are labelled out here. This adds a huge amount of time onto the journey, as the speed limits are much lower, and the route passes through countless small villages. Despite the use of Sat Nav and intercom, having to navigate our way through Guadalajara was tough, and we soon found ourselves stuck in heavy traffic heading in the wrong direction. It was a long day, but we managed to reach Guanajauto by sunset.
Guanajauto is a fairly large colonial city located in a deep valley. The streets are extremely narrow and winding, and it has an amazing network of underground tunnels connecting the different areas. These can be a nightmare for a motorcyclist, as they are poorly lit with very slippery wet cobbles. Both Dave and I nearly dropped the bikes whilst navigating our way through the maze! Colourful buildings cover the mountainsides for miles around, and using the motorbikes we were able to reach a stunning view point.
After a night in Guanajauto our next stop was San Juan Teotihuacan, just north of Mexico city. After realising how tricky and time consuming the free-roads are to navigate, we decided to break the bank and stick to the Toll-roads. Despite this decision we found ourselves behind schedule, and towards the end of our ride the sun had gone down. One of the main rules of travelling through Mexico is to never ride at night, and here we were limping along a busy pot-hole road in the pitch black, with no idea of where we would be staying. The DRZ headlight seems worse than the ‘Cat Eye’ battery torch I have on my bicycle, so finding our way was a difficult task. It was quite a relief to finally reach our destination, and after finding a hotel, nailing a few street tacos, it was time to hit the hay.
Teotihaucan is famous for its Pyramids, so in the morning we climbed the largest one named ‘the Sun’.
To be honest, I must admit pyramids or ruins don’t particularly excite me, especially when all you can do is climb the outside. I would have more incentive to struggle up 250 steps if there was a giant water slide on the other side, or a base jump down the center! Nevertheless, it was a nice day off the bikes, and MadDog Dave had me in stitches walking around blowing his eagle whistle. God knows what other tat he would have bought if it wasn’t for me and Pete dragging him away from all the market stalls.
The bus journey back into town was probably the most exciting part of the day. As we hurtled down a hill on the wrong side of the road towards on coming traffic, it became apparent that we no longer had any brakes. Pete and I could see what was happening, and both braced ourselves for impact. Dave on the other hand was facing the opposite direction, and with a look of confusion he began to panic. As the driver crunched down the gears, the front seat passenger was lent over his lap pumping the brake pedal with her hand! Thankfully we somehow avoided a collision, and eventually rolled to a stop. Needless to say we decided to bail out and walk the remainder of the distance.
With the tourist attractions out of the way it was time to drop the hammer and aim for San Cristobal, the final stop in Mexico before crossing into Guatemala. The distance from Teotihaucan to San Cris was too great to complete in one day. To split the journey we chose to spend a night in Minatitlan, roughly the halfway point on the east coast. It was here we found an excellent ‘Love Hotel’, where each room has a private garage, perfect for the motorbikes! Oh, and I forgot to mention the shower, which conveniently has a large window into the bedroom, not so ideal when sharing a room with Pete. The staff looked over and laughed as we each waited outside for the other to freshen up before heading out for a few beers. Tough Miles, that’s for sure.
You might have also noticed the tissue dispenser above the bed, and the ‘wipe clean’ leather sofa, classy. The bedroom wall even has a small metal rotunda for paying without showing your face, with the option of either 5 hours or 1 night. Admittedly the time options seem a bit limited, but all in all this place seemed well thought out for a night of passion. It certainly didn’t feel right sharing a room with Pete in such an establishment, but the budget is tight so needs must!
The following day we had a cracking end to our ride through Mexico. For the last 60km we followed a twisty mountain road, climbing 3000m into the clouds of Chiapas. The bikes struggle for power at this kind of altitude, but the lack of visibilty, and the risk of a stray animal running into our path should be the limiting factor for our pace.
Upon reaching San Cristobal the typical afternoon tropical shower caught us out yet again as we battled our way through heavy traffic, a hectic one way system, and flooded streets, whilst trying to find a suitable hotel. Finally settling on one with a nice courtyard, it soon became clear that the entrance was slightly too narrow for MadDog Daves wide load. After almost dropping the bike, he planned to do a lap of the block and unload before reattempting to get through the gate. Unsurprisingly he never made it back, and we later heard he had opted for a different hotel elsewhere in the area.
Our evening in San Cristobal was spent drinking Cuba Libres with a local Mexican, which funnily enough eventually led us to a dubstep/reggae club. Pete headed home before me that night, and when I finally made tracks back to the hotel I found myself completely locked out of the premises. Despite my best efforts to wake anyone, I eventually admitted defeat and found a nearby after party. At 6am I decided to call it a night and attempted to make my way home for a second time. This seemed slightly more complicated than I first anticipated, and I subsequently spent 3 hours wandering the narrow cobble lanes from one end of the city to the other. Every street looked the same, I can’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the hotel. It was 9am by the time I finally made it to bed. Needless to say the rest of the day was a write-off. These things happen though, and the following day it was business as usual. Sunday the 7th October, we had an early start and made our way to the border of Guatemala.
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