Posted on October 29, 2013
After a week of being in a holding pattern in La Paz, Alex received her documents in the mail via DHL (thank you Val!) and by Wednesday we had everything we needed to board the ferry on Thursday. We got up early, did a little maintenance on Alex’s bike (which involved taking the gas tank completely off), packed all of the gear (which took longer due to a week of rust) and headed off to Pichilingue to get our importation documents for the motorcycles and board the ferry.
Several hours later, we boarded the ferry without any problems (it’s amazing how fast bureaucracy works when you have all the right paperwork!). Waiting to board the ferry, a fellow motorcyclist pulled up and helped us while away the time with good conversation. Jim was riding a BMW down from Seattle to his second home in Mazatlan. He had great stories of family, and his own adventures riding through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.
After securing the bikes on the ferry (which consisted of tying them down with rope) we headed to our seats, which were pretty comfortable and proceeded to watch some movies and sleep for the next 16 hours. Untied the bikes, and disembarked in Mazatlan without any instances, though while on board Alex had determined that we were going to have to ride 700 miles in two days to reach her family in Huamantla.
The first day we left Mazatlan at 11am and rode all day aside from a gas stop, and two tip overs, one by me and the other by Alex, into a car (count is 4-2 with two dinged cars), until dusk to reach Guadalajara setting a new one day record of 300 miles. The country between Mazatlan and Guadalajara is some of the best I have seen, and one name I thought of for this post was going to be ‘The Road of Butterflies’ as there were sections of road with hundreds of butterflies on either side (and sometimes in the middle).
Less than 12-hours later it was back on the bikes as ‘Alex the whip’ drove us on to Huamantla. From Guadalajara to Huamantla was going to be over 400 miles, my reaction the night before was:
“I don’t think we can do it, but fuck let’s give it a shot.”
We left just after sunrise and made it to Santiago de Querétaro by 2:30pm with only one stop for gas and food in between. That is when the things got really tough.
What some that haven’t rode a motorcycle or haven’t gone long distances don’t understand is that there is a slow deterioration of the feeling in one’s gluteus maximus as the day goes on. In the morning you’re fine, smelling fresh flowers and grass, listening to the roar of the engine and the wind past your helmet, meditating in your own world as the country passes you by. But as the day goes on you begin to loose feeling in your posterior, the smell of flowers is replaced by truck fumes, and the wind becomes a relentless howling echoed only by the constant drone of the hell-beast that is your horse trampling down any resemblance of a thought in your head.
At 4:00pm we stopped for gas (again), with rain clouds on the horizon of Mexico City D.F. my spirits were low, reflected in the idling of my engine, that had lowered as well, due to the altitude we had climbed that day. Alex insisted we could make it, and I had to channel a new inner level of zen to sally forth past the thoughts of doubt that continued to haunt me during the ride.A few minutes later, we were back on the road, that fortuitously turned to the east, bypassing most of the clouds (and rain) and took us on a route to Huamantla skirting Mexico City (which everyone under the sun told us to avoid driving in as it is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere).
A couple of drops of rain, some heavy wind, and another 100 miles brought us to the doorstep of Alex’s house in Mexico, in a little town named Huamantla that sits in the shadow of a mountain called ‘La Malinche’. A new record setting day of 432 miles came to an end with empty stomachs (and gas tanks) and sore bottoms. It was all made worth it when we were welcomed by family, given a hot meal, and a warm bed to collapse into.
You always reach your destination, even if it wasn’t where you planned.
Posted on October 21, 2013
Off the coast of La Paz floating in the Sea of Cortez are two islands: Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida accompanied by an outcropping of rocks too small to really be considered islands.It is this tiny outcropping of rocks floating in the impossibly blue water near them that made the tour we took worth the $850 pesos each ($65 USD).
Because – baby sea lions.
These rocks are home to the largest California Sea Lion colony in the sea of cortez and because this is Mexico- someone decided boating tourists out to the rocks to swim with them was a fantastic idea.
Koalas are to Australians what Sea Lions are to Northern Californians… Cute, not very exotic and sometimes a total pain in the butt.
Unlike koalas however, sea lions are carnivorous and the idea of bobbing about in the water near hundreds (thousands?) of them seemed really crazy.
Nathaniel with his GoPro strapped to the monopod I gave him was way too eager to hop in (he is from Santa Cruz).
After I slipped (flopped) into the water with him and got my breathing under control (stopped hyperventilating) it ended up being an amazing experience.
The babies are curious and like to come up close and poke people with their noses as they tumble over each other in the water like a litter of puppies and the younger adult females will slide in super close to swimmers and put on a flirtatious show of twisting and twirling. Their ability to accelerate in the water is just incredible.
After swimming with them we lunched on Isla Espíritu Santo and headed back to La Paz.
We hope you enjoyed the video!
(My 5D isn’t too fond of water so the imagery in this post is all because of Nathaniel and the GoPro.)
Posted on October 19, 2013
We woke up early on Wednesday, got everything packed away on our now dry bikes and took off for the south on Mexico Hwy-1. In looking at our now worn AAA map the distance to La Paz was 280 miles. It was going to be a long day, but we were rested from our time in Loreto and the first half of the ride was through beautiful mountain passes fresh from the soaking the day before. We made our way to Ciudad Constitución without any issues, stopped for lunch and then continued on to La Paz.
The ride went quick, but we were both sore by the time we cruised into La Paz and up the driveway of the Baja Backpackers hostel (which we didn’t know at the time, would be our home for the next week). There was parking in the back for the bikes, and we figured we had it made to head out the next day on the ferry to Mazatlán, nothing could be further from the truth.
The next several days is a blur of bureaucracy that I will try to keep brief as even I am bored thinking about it. Upon arrival in La Paz we were informed that we were going to need our FMM cards just to be able to leave for Mazatlán (our time as undocumented travelers was coming to an end). Stories abound of people who were in similar situations that just went to the airport here in La Paz and got someone to stamp their passport. We did not have such luck (neither did another traveler we ran into, but more on him later).
We spent all day Thursday at the immigration office, first in the morning to start and then again, and again, and again as we filled out forms wrong, didn’t have the correct information and genuinely just fell through the red tape one stumble at a time. It became clear at 1:00pm on Thursday, that we were not going to make the ferry that day (and with what we know now – that never was a possibility).
Friday brought more issues than relief, but in waves of good and bad news. By noon on Friday we had our FMM cards (go to this google doc for a in-depth guide on how to get an FMM card in La Paz). We went on our merry way to the ferry building in Pichilingue, got our tickets for the ferry in ten minutes and thought we were on our way.
It was only an hour later or so that we found out that we still needed to get our importation documents for the motorcycles. We ran out of the hostel and back to Pichilingue for the second time to see if we could get the importation documents. The bank was closed for the day when we arrived and thus ended to effort for that day.
Saturday we made it out for our third trip to Pichilingue to try and get our importation documents (though our friend Matt told us that we were going to need the original title or registration). I have the original registration for my bike (and clearly remember my dad asking if I thought I needed the title and me saying no), but Alex doesn’t have either original, just copies. We were turned away from the bank because of the lack of documentation for Alex.
What this means is that we had to push back our tickets with the ferry and come up with a new plan. This post is already getting long, so to make it short, if Alex can’t get someone back home to find her registration, then she is going to have to fly back to Tijuana and take a bus to San Diego so she can get a copy of her registration at a AAA/DMV office.
All said and done, we have moved our tickets to Thursday and that is the day that no matter what happens (with-in reason) we will be on he ferry. We don’t blame the system, it was a complete lack of planning that brought us here, but we are happy that it is happening not to far from home. All of the other border crossings might be a breeze compared to this, but at least at the end of this we should have all the documentation we should need in the future.
This too shall pass.
Posted on October 15, 2013
Yesterday we awoke at dawn to leave Santa Rosalia hoping to make it to Ciudad Insurgents. Keyword – hoping.
The man working our hotel’s front desk struck up a conversation with me on the patio about our motorcycles and mentioned that it was going to rain; I thanked him for the information and as Nathaniel and I rolled up our motorcycle covers and slipped our clothing bags into our panniers someone else wandered by and said it was already raining where we were going.
Getting up early and watching the world wakeup is one of my favorite parts of travel. In the more touristed parts of the world I think it helps you connect with the soul of a city and gives you a wonderful sense of optimism about life.
So, with the news that we were riding into a rain storm I was grateful for the information but I wasn’t ready to hunkerdown over a maybe.
After a quick stop at PemMex we rolled out of Santa Rosalia about and hour after dawn with me in the lead. Since I am the only one of us capable of reading street signs other than ALTO I’m usually in the front.
Everyone says Santa Rosalia is gorgeous but for me it totally lacked charm. It’s on the coast and has a beach but do you really want to go swimming or eat seafood in a town that is two miles south of a coastal landfill? No. No you don’t.
If you make a similar trip through Baja I suggest stopping in Mulege (about 50 miles south of Santa Rosalia). Mulege is beyond adorable, it’s on the coast near the desert but because it’s located in a canyon it has greenery worthy of a rainforest just a few miles from never-ending cacti.
As we rolled through it, I was envious of Mulege, and in a minute we were past it and driving down a perfectly paved coastal road, desert hills complete with Looney Tunes Cacti to our right, broad beaches and docked fishing boats to our left. Overhead loomed threatening clouds but even the sprinkle of rain couldn’t mask the movie quality scenery we were speeding through.
Then – the rain really got going. And it kept coming.
Nathaniel and I rode about 120 miles yesterday and all but the first twenty of them lacked rain. Sprinkling, dollops, mist, pitter patter, deluge… I think we experienced every kind of rain you can experience except for hail. It wasn’t cold but if you get wet even the mid 70’s can feel pretty chilly.
We stopped in the city we had pre-determined and started to look for our first meal of the day. It was almost noon and we were soaked. We have gortex gear but it’s still not a substitute for true rain wear. We literally had to wring out our gloves before putting them out in the sun to dry today.
Being unfamiliar with the town we decided to grab food at a local supermarket and in the parking lot Nathaniel fell over (he says his kickstand was up) and hit the car next to him which was unfortunately a nice car AND occupied with people. I got off my bike as the guy got out of his car and in my mind I was already deciding how much money I though it would be worth to make this problem go away. Mentally I decided on 500 pesos and started to apologize to the man as he got out of his SUV.
He was actually very nice about the whole thing but he explained that it wasn’t his car, that he didn’t know what it would cost to fix and said that he didn’t want to call the police to ding Nathaniel’s driving record. After some casual chatting I asked him how much he though it would cost to fix and he thought for a moment before deciding on 200 pesos ($15 usd). I thought that was an incredibly honest answer and was feeling some white person guilt that we were able to pay our way out of a problem like that.
So I told the guy: “Si, gracias señor. Eres tan amable pero es su culpa y pienso que el necessita pagarte mas que eso.”
Translation: “Yes, thank you sir. You are really nice but it is his fault and I think he needs to pay you more than that.”
In english I asked Nathaniel to give the guy 500 pesos ($38 usd) and we all left happy the incident ended so easily although Nathaniel told me I am the worst girlfriend ever.
After we bribed the gentleman in the SUV Nathaniel watched our gear as I ran inside and bought us tamales and Pan Dulce for brunch. We stood under a plastic tarp eating tamales and weighing our options. We were already wet so riding another 100+ miles didn’t seem that terrible, but there was no guarantee we would be able to get through any wash-outs in the dessert road we were about to cross.
We sat there a while hoping the rain would let up and it never did. Today at breakfast I overheard one tourist telling another it had rained for 24 hours and dumped almost 4 inches of rain on the area. Judging by the level of our hotel pool this morning, I wouldn’t doubt it.
We ended up staying at ‘Hacienda Suites’ for $80 USD a night. Normally we would try and find a hostel for half that but we were kind of desperate. Riding through town yesterday the foot pegs on my bike were fully submerged at times and I was constantly afraid of riding into a pothole. The final drama of the day was when the hotel agreed to let us park in the patio and I fell over trying to ride up the water slicked ramp of the front steps.
The front desk clerk ran outside and told me he thought it would be easier for us to ride in the back gate… and it was.
In the morning we discovered the roads were closed in both directions so we decided to spend a second night in Loreto and enjoy ourselves before doing a little bike maintenance. Tomorrow we hope to make it to La Paz although at this point we are shooting for the Thursday Ferry to Mazatlan.
Overall – I’m glad for the rain because it forced us to get to know an adorable town that we otherwise would have blown through.