For me (Scott) one of the hardest parts of traveling is the fear of missing out. Leaving Michoacan we passed a number of towns with rodeos in full swing and had to shed a tear and drive onward in order to make miles towards Puebla. How far can you possibly travel if you try to do everything? Finding the balance is hard.
Somewhere between towns north of Mexico City Sharah pulled over in a dirt parking lot as her clutch cable had snapped. We had brought an OEM spare so we installed it and were back on the road in 30 minutes. We've found that in Mexico universal motorcycle parts are as easy to find as coca-cola. Nearly everybody in Mexico drives a motorcycle and the most important thing for them isn't to find OEM parts but rather to just fix it and keep going for as little money as possible.
Our slight clutch cable delay and normally slow pace brought us into the town of Ixmiquilpan with the setting sun and threat of rain so we abandoned our plans to camp at a swimming pool in the mountains and splurged instead on a $500 peso ($30USD) hotel room with private jacuzzi. This was the last bath tub we would see in our travels for months.
We drove into Puebla planning to change Sharah's rear tire and both of our oil. The economy of Mexico is incredible sometimes. What would normally have taken me about an hour of sweating and cursing, some busted knuckles, and a few popped tubes to change Sharah's tire instead cost $150 pesos ($9.00 USD) at the Yamaha dealership in town where a team of two burly men spent an hour doing the exact same, and all I had to do was eat the street food and watch. Such luxury would usually cost $30 USD in the States, plus the food. Total cost in Puebla, $10.00 USD, including food.
We changed our oil and filters in the afternoon shade behind an Autozone but learned you can't drop off your old oil inside like in the States. A street kid waving a red handkerchief collecting parking fees pointed at a grassy patch and said to just dump it out but we couldn't bring ourselves to do it.
A British geologist once told me that bacteria eats most of the hydrocarbons before our tiny spill could become dangerous, but I still resist the idea. We poured the oil back into bottles and left it by the back door hoping our conscience wouldn't haunt us.
Our host in Puebla is a bit of a Yamaha enthusiast, specifically the 80's and 90's FZR and TZR series. His attention to detail in rebuilding these antiques was apparent when you saw how excited he got as he showed off his OEM engine seals that had just come in the mail. Manolo also owns a KTM 990 and a Cagiva Navigator as well as a Honda XR200 pit bike. We were in good hands for specialty tools and a library of old Paris-Dakar race footage DVD's.
We backtracked a bit to visit the famous pre-Aztec pyramids of the moon and sun in Teotihuacan. The pyramids here are some of the largest Mexico and our self-guided tour through the ruins was full of wonder and the incessant calls of street vendors growling into jaguar sculptures and hawk whistles.
Despite the noise of hundreds of tourists from all over the globe, there is a palatable solemness about this place The road of the dead stretches between the pyramid of the sun and moon and is lined with smaller pyramid structures. Ancient secrets and mysteries crawl into your head with whispers and hints of things you will never know of but of which you are somehow aware. There is an energy in the imagination of thousands of ancient feet and bodies traveling the same pathways in such a meaningful place, climbing the same steep stairways, feeling the same sunshine and looking across the same valleys which are today undoubtedly very changed.
A variety of murals found on the walls of Teotihuacan
The temple of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, under excavation.
One of the thousands of small figures removed from the pyramids of Teotihuacan and put on display in the museum.
Mornings in our campsite were replete with hot air balloon launchings and landings. Our site was adjacent to open fields perfect for landings and perhaps more than 30 balloons would be in the air by sunrise.
Our three nights in Teotihuacan gave us time for maintenance. Since owning her bike Sharah has now replaced the cylinder, piston, rings, valve stems, drive train, and rear mono-shock, and does her routine valve adjustments and oil changes too.
Fellow traveler Marco from Italy is driving a 1990 Honda Africa Twin he imported from Europe. Like many he is Ushuaia bound.
Puebla and Teotihucan we welcome stopovers en route south. Next up was Oaxaca, the heart of Mexico.
Guadalajara was the first city we had seen in several weeks. All of my photos came out badly due to traffic, smog, and general distraction in my first true Mexican city - and a good one at that! The city sits on hillsides and is teeming with traffic. The gasoline is red, the construction zones are "pass-if-you-can" and the spirit of the place is survival of the fittest. Our bikes are well suited for bad roads, speed bumps, traffic weaving, and accelerating through tunnels - even loaded with a hundred and fifty pounds of gear.
Leaving the City you find new worlds in any direction - we went a bit to the West and up in elevation - climbing through the remote mountains until we found the cold, racing the sunset, and came upon the edge of the Jaliscan world - or at least an incredible view of the valley.
For $50 pesos each, we found an amazing campsite high up in the mountains, near the Magic Puebla of Tapalpa. One thing - hot showers. Pretty nice ones at that, though I only took one in the three nights we stayed there. The small resort also had a bread and pizza oven, a great little kitchen, cabins for rent for those wanting to spend a bit more than $3 per day, great people, and an incredible view of farmlands, the valley, and volcanos.
Our host at the campsite shared a drink with us - his grandmother's recipe, made of chili pepper, local sour pomegranate grenadine, sugar, and tequila. The perfect cure for chills, weary bones, motorcycle-shaken and buzzy heads, and just about any other ailment you can think of. It was delicious. Perfection. The folks in the Mountains of Jalisco know how to heal your soul.
Tapalpa is one of Mexico's first "Magic Pueblas" a designation given to historically or culturally significant villages in an effort to promote tourism in places other than the coastal towns. It's a smart concept as there is so much to see and experience away from the tourism-heavy coasts. We wandered Tapalpa for a few days finding blue-corn street food for a few cents, Brooklyn worthy pastries for $20 pesos, fruity mountain mystery mezcal, $5 peso avacodos, $30 peso rounds of fresh home made cheese, and original 16th century cobbled streets and avenues.
One of my favorite Jalisco experiences was the Pajarates. An ex-pat, ex-pilot friend that we met told us about this tradition. He told us which road to drive up in the morning - to look for a cow on the side of the road with people surrounding it. Take one part sugar, one part cinnamon, one part instant coffee, five parts cane liquor, and five parts fresh cow's milk. Mix together in a big redware mug and put a good buzz on. 10am Sunday morning pleasures.