2016-09-28 – Day 17 – Guanajuato, GT to San Miguel de Allende, GT (95 km – 1:30 hrs)
2016-09-29 – Day 18 – San Miguel de Allende, GT
2016-09-30 – Day 19 – San Miguel de Allende, GT to Puebla, PU (423 km – 5:45 hrs)
2016-10-01 – Day 20 – Puebla, PU to Oaxaca, OA (341 km – 4:00 hrs)
2016-10-02 – Day 21 – Oaxaca, OA to San Cristobal de las Casas, CH (617 km – 9:00 hrs)
2016-10-03 – Day 22 – San Cristobal de la Casa, CH
Another short day of driving to get from Guanajuato to San Miguel and I decided to take the longer option, which cuts through the mountains via Highway 110. A beautiful crossing, almost alone, to nearly 2600 metres.
The arrival in San Miguel de Allende is fast, the motorcycle is parked in less than 2 minutes, and the traveller is out for a visit a few minutes later.
First observation, this city is a kind of micro-climate, crowded with US (and presumably Canada) citizens, creating a special and dynamic feeling to the place.
I do get called in English, which sounds a little strange to my ears … Then I can rapidly see all sorts of fine restaurants, chic hotels, and above all, nice shops with works of art of all so, all nicely alongside shops and traditional buildings.
Very significant considering the mountainous and relatively isolated location of the place.
A bit unusual for me, I begin my visit by the small streets and not the central place, which I want to keep for dessert.
After only a few minutes walk, I find myself in a neighborhood perched in the hills where there are extraordinary residences, sometimes located in small gated communities. I even allow myself in an open house visit at a home for sale!
I am impressed by the quality of homes and slowly understand that the place is popular with retirees from the north.
I even met a very nice lady who has lived here in recent years. She gives me a quick tour of the city and even invited me to have a glass of wine in her impressive residence. Look at this view!
My 2 nights out at the restaurant made me notice the presence of a strong North American community that knows and interacts together. I had the chance to chat with a Texas man, listening to good old American classics that my friends Tim and Geoffrey would be greatly appreciated!
I’m not saying that I wouldn’t come to spend a few weeks a year here during our harsh Canadian winter, but for now, it was just enough English for me and I decided that 2 nights were sufficient.
Here is a small bike shop just outside the city centre. Look at the beauty!
I also make an important decision for the continuation of my journey.
For several days, I feel a little stagnant in my progress. I discovered beautiful places and met some lovely people but I have itchy feet. I need to go south.
I look at the route that I had planned and I see that 2 more weeks here and most importantly, a full month in Central America is just too much.
So I began to discuss with the captain of the Stahlratte to change my date of crossing planned for November 14th.
The only other option offered to me is October 25th, leaving me still more than 3 weeks to get to Panama City. I redo my calculations and my route, and I concluded that, despite some areas that I will need to put aside for a future visit, the proposed date is within my reach.
I also consulted my girlfriend who, moreover, does not seem to be able to come and join me in Mexico, my friend Geoffrey and also Chantal who made this trip there a few years. She confirms that it is easily feasible and that was enough for me to confirm the new date to Ludwig via email and quickly, the change is made!
The first consequence is that I will not go to Mexico City, but it’s fine as I have visited the city a few times and traffic is hell.
So I’m heading to Puebla and Oaxaca tomorrow and the next day. The border crossing to Guatemala will be much faster than expected, in 3 or 4 days!
I got up relatively early Friday morning to leave quickly to Puebla, which is only 400 km away.
Sometimes adventure is synonymous with open spaces, mountains and green scenery.
This was not the case today but it was still quite an adventure!
I decided to use the toll road because the alternative doubled my travel time and anyway, getting around Mexico City is an obligatory step that I had budgeted.
Thirty minutes after leaving San Miguel, the road is emerging as a real visual disaster and traffic quickly becomes heavy. The trucks are everywhere and I have to make great efforts to keep good speeds.
I initially use the 57 but I must later switch to M4D.
After getting in the interchange, I see a major slowdown and subsequently short after, we come to a full stop. Unfortunately, the cellular signal is weak and I am not able to check Google Map for the state of the situation.
After a few minutes of waiting, I decided to try to move forward, driving between vehicles, either at the centre or on the shoulder and slowly advance this way several kilometres.
At some point, I ask a heavy vehicle driver how long he expects arrested like that. He answered 90 minutes. Phew … I keep a few kilometres and asks another person. He replied that it is completely stopped for more than 3 hours!
Here is what my research data regarding the cause of the roadblock …
Seeing the line lie out of sight, I decided to turn around and retrace my steps to find another way.
I made a little video, here.
What change to being behind the “wheel” of a motorcycle. Having been in the car, I would possibly still be waiting!
I reach Puebla 90 minutes late but still at a reasonable time, allowing me to take a walk in this city that I know quite well for having visited it several times in the past.
Each time, I am amazed at how the city is populous and as there is action everywhere. The streets are crowded with people! It looks like an anthill!
I went to see the restaurant where I usually go but my reality is different today. I just simply not afford it!
La Purificadora Hotel
Callejon de la 10 Norte 802 Paseo San Francisco, Barrio El Alto, 72000 Puebla, PUE, Mexico https://goo.gl/maps/XfzE6xAYnCy
I end the evening in a small and simple restaurant with good house music ( it’s certainly called differently today! I’m soooo old!). Thank you to the young DJ who kept us on the beat all night! Good choice of music and a full belly for just a few dollars.
Calle 6 Sur 306, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico https://maps.google.com/?q=EL%20MICROBITO%2C%20Calle%206%20Sur%20306%2C%20Centro%2C%2072000%20Puebla%2C%20Pue.%2C%20Mexique&ftid=0x85cfc0e89f12aead: 0x7ebca82e021dc4d0 & amp; hl = en-US & amp; gl = Caï
Saturday morning, early on the bike! I wanted to leave before 8:00 in order not to relive the same situation as yesterday. However, the road is rather quiet and after 45 minutes, I get to the 135C, which is a truly superb 2-lane highway! Mountains, towns, traffic is nonexistent and an almost perfect tarmac.
Ready to go!
Anecdote. I find that the road is fairly empty this morning and while I appreciate, I wonder a little. It is discussing with my girlfriend on the phone I realized that it’s Saturday! What joy the holidays that make us forget the notions of week and weekend.
I really take my time to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the moment that is perfect.
Arrival in Oaxaca.
I know Oaxaca and visited a few times in recent years. I am always pleasantly surprised by this beautiful city, with a beautiful pedestrian street that leads to the Temple of Santo Domingo, a beautiful Zocalo (the central square of several cities in Mexico is so named) very lively and several restaurants and shops of all kinds, making it a perfect place to spend a few days. Do not forget Monte Albán, an archeological site dating back over 1,000 years and where it is possible to get by bus for only a few pesos.
Sunday morning, I left early to San Cristobal de las Casas, where I intend to spend my last 2 days in Mexico.
It was still dark when I’m out to get my bike in the Hotel parking, which is, unfortunately, a bit far for my taste. I am amazed to see how the streets are buzzing with people even at 6:45! On a Sunday!
The distance between Oaxaca and San Cristobal is 500 km, but my GPS is estimated that it would take more than 8 hours of travelling time. This is usually explained by one thing. Mountains! And that was indeed the case!
Soon after getting out of the city. The road width reduced and became a country road with no shoulder. And then, the mountains appeared.
I had to drive for nearly 9 hours in a succession of curves, climbs, descents, villages, got from 35 to 10 degrees Celsius in 20 minutes, fed a small dog that looked so pitiful I could not resist, and finally try to take pictures in places where it’s not really safe.
Wouldn’t you give this little thing a piece of your sandwich too?
What a day! It was exciting but I got to completely exhausted! The hotel I had booked was too far from the old centre so I did that go and I quickly find another place quite simple, but clean, with internet and a place in the living room for my bike!
Since I’m here for two days, I went and asked the owner of the hotel to wash my clothes, especially my entire motorcycle suit, in which I had at some point, sweat quite a lot!
I have 4 t-shirts. A merino wool that I always wear to drive. It never smells bad and I hand wash it after almost every day on the road. It is always dry the next morning.
Same for my North Face t-shirts. A real joy. Never wrinkled and they dry quickly.
But nothing like a good machine wash from time to time!
Then I go for a walk. The city is immediately appealing, even if it is obvious that the place is very touristy. This is all in a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and it’s not too hard to understand why the city has such a good reputation!
Too funny, I saw this van and the driver in Panama 3 years ago!
The bike is still happy with the trip. Nothing to report! Everything works perfectly and it is a pleasure to drive.
Here are the tires. I would say the front is 15% worn out, and back, 60%.
I took advantage of this superb garage for changing my front brake pads, while giving a quick training to the entire family of the owner present for the show! Another 500 grams less to drag around!
Several commented on the weight of my luggage. They are partially right, the bike is a little on the heavy side. But there are few things I would leave behind for the moment and it’s still relatively easy to drive on gravel roads. The only thing that proved useless so far is my camping gear and I doubt it will be used before South America but it’s a bit impossible for me not to drag my tent for this trip. I cannot wait to be able to use it!
I anticipate mud or sand roads but I will have to make certain choices when the time comes. I will possibly forget some isolated roads. To be honest, even without luggage, there are places in Quebec where I would not venture without my friend Geoffrey with a big GS.
In it stands, if dropped, I am not able to lift the bike alone if my backpack is on it, but remove it literally takes 5 seconds (2 ROK staps to undo). So it does not trouble me too much.
Final Report for Mexico …
This is a huge country that hold surprises for all tastes. I could have easily spent months here and discover new things but for the moment, I began to see some redundancy or repetition. I’m having some problems with the pitiful appearance of certain locations or buildings. Pollution. Dust.
At the same time, there is here an obvious “joie de vivre” in the air. And there is no fertility problem as the place is packed with kids and is boiling with life!
People are content with little and they are ultra ultra ultra resourceful. They can do miracles with so little (like my mother). Even if they do not give the impression they are hard-working people, at their time they are. This country was built by the sweat of millions of citizens. I think of the tunnels of Guanajuato, the Real de Catorce stone road. Even to this day, I could see men cutting the grass along the highway, which are several hundred kilometres long, by hand, with hatchets. Or women spending the entire day (probably hundreds before and after my visit) on a street corner trying to sell a piece of clothing that they made themselves.
My feelings are very mixed at the sight of such things. Poverty, inequality and exploitation, perseverance and courage.
I am certain that I will witness the worst in the coming weeks, but, I am sure, also the best.
Something to reflect on!
The good news is that I realized how easy it is to come here and unlike South America, returning in the future will not ask of me any great planning.
Coup de coeur: Guanajuato
Most welcoming city: San Cristobal de las Casas
Best atmosphere: San Cristobal de las Casas
Where I would spend a full month in winter: San Miguel de Allende
Where I will not return: Mazatlan
The surprise: Guanajuato
The most beautiful road: 40, between Durango and Mazatlan
Ugliest Road: Highways between San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City
If I had to do it again: One or two more days in Zacatecas
Next time: a journey in this country without my camping equipment, so, much lighter on the bike, so I can visit more isolated villages (with my girlfriend?)
Next post will be from Guatemala!
2016-10-04 - Day 23 - San Cristobal de las Casa, CH to Antigua, Guatemala (483 km - 9:00 hrs) 2016-10-05 - Day 24 - Antigua, Guatemala 2016-10-06 - Day 25 - Antigua, Guatemala 2016-10-07 - Day 26 - Antigua, Guatemala (271 km - 5:30 hrs) It is with great enthusiasm ... Read more