2016-09-15 – Day 4 – Austin, TX to Santiago, NL (690 km – 9:00 hrs)
2016-09-16 – Day 5 – Santiago, NL to Linares, NL (130 km – 2:45 hrs)
Can you believe that I’m riding my motorcycle in Mexico!
I left Austin around 6:00 AM Tuesday morning to avoid traffic. I had decided a while ago to cross the border in the Laredo area. I listened to the advice of people who did so quite easily at the Laredo-Columbia Solidarity point and that’s where I went.
Note Road 255, which branches off to this entry point is not free ($ 4.00), but the problem is that you need to make an electronic payment. Obviously I do not have the necessary chip so I have to stop on the side of the road and make a call to create an account in order not to receive a fine.
Arriving at the border, I welcomed by 2 super nice customs agents that help me stick the import permit that I had previously purchased online and tell me where to get and pay the tourist permit (28 US $).
15 minutes later, I landed on another planet! Although I have driven in Latin America, the contrast is striking and I had never done it on two wheels!
The first kilometres are on a deserted road that later joins the highway. This is not a highway as such, because there are houses, people dogs present, but the hundreds of trucks travel at 130 km/h even if the posted limit is 80 km/h. It’s amazing, there are people walking on the road, sometimes without the shoulder, and trucks and cars pass them just a few feet away, but nobody stumbles!
Everything looks and finally is normal!
I had initially planned to spend the night in Saltillo, but I’ve changed my mind, because I wanted a quiet evening in a picturesque village.
So I decided to go relax in a Pueblo Magicos (local name) named Santiago, in the province of Nuevo León.
I first decided not to stay on the highway to avoid tolls, and take the local road that passes through the villages. Very good decision! This allows me to immerse myself quickly to the local culture and also to slow down a bit.
But in life, all good things come to an end.
Unfortunately, between this beautiful country road and Santiago, there is a small Mexican town of a few million people named Monterrey.
Let’s just say I have not needed my running shoes for sports! At twenty kilometres before the town, the road gradually changes to become a battlefield with the sole objective for everybody to arrive first who knows where! I wish I could have filmed those moments because it’s a little hard for me to describe them adequately.
Lesson one: 3 lanes does not necessarily mean, though, 3 lanes! I’m passed on the right by trucks travelling halfway into my lane and the shoulder, then on the left by old cars filled with Mexicans, there are also buses stopped in the right lane that we must avoid, pedestrians crossing, cars trying to cross at intersections without traffic lights and that, while travelling at 100 km / h in a 50 zone!
Fortunately, I’m from Montreal so I used some of these situations, but here everything is multiplied by 10!
The city is huge and from what I can see the road, full of contrasts. There is a modern train on top of the road, accompanied by improvised and dirty shops. Large modern shopping centres are present at one time and a hundred metres further, hundreds of small shops that sell who knows what, line up one after the other for miles!
Quite an experience. The good news is that I got out alive!
An hour later, I arrived in the village of Santiago, which is located a few hundred metres high, west of the main road. The place is quiet and the main square is charming. I go to the hotel to learn that everything is full, because it is Independence Day and that there is a big fiesta planned for tonight! Oh no. What do I do? I’m exhausted, I do not want to continue to drive, it’s hot and I have no plan B … so I ask my friend the GPS to see if there are other places to sleep. There is another hotel that I called immediately. Ouf, I speak a little Spanish, but hey, perhaps it’s because this is not the Argentine accent, but I understand nothing!
So I decided to drive there. Nothing is available either except a dorm bed for $15! Ouch, I’m not too keen on the dorms. Well, no choice, I buy! The good news is that I quickly realize I’m alone!
The lady also let me park my bike in the small workshop, so everything is secure and I can go take a quick walk in the village.
It slowly fills with people and surely around 9:00 PM, the place is crowded with happy Mexicans waiting to party!
I come back to the hotel relatively early and despite the noise of the people partying, music and a quite a major thunderstorm, I sleep like a baby.
I left the next day to Linares. My original plan was to go to Real de Catorce, but as it is a holiday weekend, nothing available to sleep. I’ll delay my plans and go Sunday.
I hit the road around 10:00 AM after having a beautiful parade with musicians and horses, and decided to make a detour from the highway via a pueblo called San Miguel. No idea why, but there was my favourites in Google Map (probably added while reading a blog somewhere).
The road is in poor condition, sometimes gravel, sometimes flooded. I would have liked to take pictures, but not quite comfortable with the GoPro yet!
The bike is heavy, and because I almost drove straight at 130 km/h for the last 4000 km, I have to adapt quickly! But it was pleasant and the expression of passersby and residents, adult and children, to see me on my metal horse pass by was worth it!
I get to Linares at 13:00 and am greeted by the local committee! Started looking for a hotel. After 2 or 3 visits, I decided to go to Guidi, which offers secure parking and a relatively clean room for 40$.
I spend the afternoon wandering the streets taking pictures and to find terminals as my SPOT tracker stopped working and I have to redo the connections.
I had dinner in a small empty restaurant, but the owner is super friendly and even let me bring my own beer. A nice burger, fries and two beers for 3.50$!
2016-09-17 - Day 6 - Linares, NL to Galeana, NL (70 km - 1:30 hrs) 2016-09-18 - Day 7 - Galeana, NL to Real de Catorce, SL (241 km - 6:30 hrs) 2016-09-19 - Day 8 - Real de Catorce, SL It's amazing how quickly I have to write down everything down as I want to ... Read more
2016 -09-12 - Day 1 - Montreal to Louisville, KY (1486 km - 16:00 hrs) 2016-09-13 - Day 2 - Louisville, KY to Austin, TX (1640 km - 16:00 hrs) 2016-09-14 - Day 3 - Austin, TX Finally, time to hit the road! After all these months (read: years) of preparation, ... Read more