The short break in Antigua, Guatemala, made a huge difference to our preparedness for the next stage of the journey – Mexico. Arguably at present the most dangerous country through which we are travelling – and it just got worse. Time spent chilling in Guatemala also enabled my lovely wide to alert me to a tropical storm brewing out in the Pacific, which was heading at pace for Mexico. The day before we decided to leave Antigua, it was upgraded to a class 1 hurricane. Carlotta was due to hit the Mexican coast in 2 days, and winds of up to 160kph were being projected and schools were being closed etc as the locals prepared themselves for the worst. I needed to get into Mexico as soon as possible then high-tail it over to the east coast and north to be safe. Given all the news reports of gang violence and crime levels in various parts of the country, I had been debating which route to take through Mexico to the USA. Carlotta had now pretty much decided that for me.
15 to 16 June Kms travelled – 20,626
So it was an early 6:30 start as we rolled out of Hotel Calle Ancha saying our goodbyes to my sister. There was mist in the hills as we weaved our way through the greenery and a series of small towns on the way to Chichicastenango and lake Atitlan. In fact it got really quite cold and I turned on the heated grips for the first time in a while – I would have liked to dig out a fleece too, but it was well packed inside my luggage. But the cool temperature wasn´t to last, and normal tropical service resumed. In fact the ride to the border was lovely, through green valleys and over scenic mountains, but it took longer than I expected. Luckily time was made up at the border, which was much quicker than I expected; well within my 2 hour target time.
The ride on to Comitán was also lovely, through and out of the mountain country and across flatter plains, before running up and around rolling green hillsides. This was the sort of terrain that just called out for you to turn around and ride again. But Carlotta and the time of day was on my mind (I promised myself I would be off the road by around 4:00 each day for security reasons). So it was onto Hotel San Francisco in the centre of town, and an interesting evening of tacos and mariachis in the town square. Arriba, arriba! I was in Mexico, and so far all was good.
The next day´s early start greeted me with more cool mist as we wound our way through the lush countryside and small Mexican towns. I am sure I will get used to the mass of sleeping policemen (topes) that are found close to and through any built up area in Mexico, but I hadn´t yet! They seemed to come in all sizes and shapes – some with warning signs, others without. Some local people, often disabled, seemed to paint them to warn oncoming traffic then sit in the middle of the road to collect tips for their efforts. The topes did, however, provide the ideal opportunity to pass large trucks easily and safely, as Idris´ suspension was clearly more up to the task of leaping the obstacles than the more weightier road users.
The road started to climb and we soon found ourselves looking down on a carpet of snowy white cloud cover in the valley below. I would have loved to capture that in a photo, but was uncomfortable about stopping on this fast mountain road (which didn´t seem to have any viewpoints for us tourists). Fantastic sight though.
As we were running through Tuxtla I met a chap from Spain on a GS650 who was planning on heading over to the 200 and the Pacific coast. Having passed on the information about the hurricane, he duly changed plans, also deciding that the Gulf of Mexico might well be nicer at this time of the year! And the road over there wasn´t too bad either. Perhaps not the greatest riding road we have encountered, but nevertheless we did get to see some fantastic scenery, lakes, green mountainsides, before hitting the more industrial areas that lined the east coast. Idris and I were heading for Veracruz, but the clock struck 5:00 and reminded me to get off the road for the day.
The Hotel Los Angeles in Acayucan had what I needed for a cheap and safe overnight stop, and the town was also in the midst of its annual festival, which would have been great other than the torrent of rain that hit at around 7 in the evening, and continued right through to the next day, kind of wiped out the main parade. Carlotta´s hands had reached out across the Mexican isthmus and were intent on slapping this little town around for the rest of the night. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
Thought for the day
Not a particularly deep thought, but I have been struck by how green and fertile this area of Mexico is and, if first appearances are anything to go by, largely prosperous. Perhaps that shouldn´t come as much of a surprise given the tropical nature of the area here in the south, but I couldn´t seem to shift this clichéd view of Mexico being cactus in desert, with tatty towns serving tequila to moustached cowboys carrying shotguns while riding in the back of rusty old pickup trucks. The cowboys certainly do exist, but they appear unarmed, well dressed and ride around in pretty new wheels. Perhaps Hollywood has a lot to answer for! We´ll see.
Oh, and another thought that I can´t seem to shift... the food here is fantastic! Interestingly, it mostly comes with the sauces on the side, so you can eat your fill while choosing your own level of spiciness.