We left Guadalajara on Oct 30th and headed for our second Pueblo Magico; Patzcuaro. An old town by Patzcuaro lake dating back to 1320. We rode into the mountains through beautiful pine forests and through small villages. Everywhere people are preparing for Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead on Nov. 2nd) and it intensifies as we get closer to Patzcuaro.
Patzcuaro is extremely busy as we arrive. There’s people and cars everywhere. We are stuck in traffic for quite a while and it’s a bit stressful. I am always afraid of dropping the bike when we’re going slow and cobble stone doesn’t help one bit.
We manage to find this pretty spot for the night.
There’s endless markets in Patzcuaro especially just before Dia De Muertos. We are amazed of the amount of products everywhere. These people certainly have products on their shelves. Around Patzcuaro there’s a lot of small villages and each villages has it’s own craft. They bring their products to the market here in Patzcuaro so there’s a fantastic display of completely different items and styles from pottery, textiles, copper ware, flowers, baskets, jewellery, furniture, decoration to different kinds of food. The Indians all wear different types of clothes and it adds to the diversity of the picture.
The town is amazingly beautiful. Besides being a Pueblo Magico it is also a United Nation Historic World Treasure Cities. There’s a number of plazas with old colonial buildings with thick walls all in dark red and white and tiled roofs. All with beautiful archways. All commercial signs like Coca Cola and OXXO are painted in the same red and white colors which ads to the attractiveness of the town.
Patzcuaro is located in the mountains, and it’s cold up here. Lars is persuaded to buy a nice warm sweater and it really adds to his increasing scruffy looks. The cool result is that a lot of street vendors don’t approach us – we look like tramps. 🙂
The food market is equally impressive. We wonder how people get their goods from the fields into to city and into these packed markets. Everything looks so fresh, but there’s just so much of everything.
Women making salsa in Patzcuara’s food market.
We continued towards Taxco another Pueblo Magico in the mountains. We wanted to spend Dia De Muertos there.
The ride was beautiful. This seemed to be a more affluent part of Mexico. The houses were pretty and well maintained with flowers. We saw a lot of large fruit and vegetable fields. Not so much the small corn fields as we saw other places.
We stoppped in a small town for lunch. The street restaurants are often very busy and extremely good and cheap.
This restaurant had 2 proud local horsemen in full riding gear including medieval spores, as their guests.
We spent the night in Ciudad Altamirano. Not a very attractive town, but we found a nice and cheap hotel and got another amazing street meal for almost nothing.
Next day we headed for Taxco through vast mountain ranges. We saw large rivers again. A nice change in scenery from the dried out creeks in northern Mexico.
On the way we passed a large statue of former president Lazaro Cardenas. He is known to be the only president from the PRI party who didn’t use his position to make himself rich. PRI have been in power of Mexico for more than 70 years! He was president from 1934 to 1940 and made a huge difference for the development of education, reforming landownership seeking to remove the large haciendas. He is also the reason that Mexico has total control of it’s own oil. In fact his government expropriated the equipment of the foreign oil companies in Mexico, which was not a popular decision in the international community. This guy seems to have been one of the few pure at heart, visionary politicians who worked to make a real difference for the people of Mexico.
On the way we found a local mechanic and got a new horn for the Bunny bike.
Beautiful mountain ranges as far as we could see.
Getting a picture of the view is not very easy in Mexico. There’s no space to stop on the shoulder of the road and hardly any rest areas.
Lars stretching to get a photo of the view!
The Mexican knows how get the most out of any means of transportation. The crazy thing is that these kids with their wide load walked along the narrow highway in the mountains with large trucks rushing by. Right here there was a bit of space in the side of the road, but that was an exception. Safety is not something that has high priority in Mexico.
As we arrive in Taxco we were overwhelmed by it’s beauty. It’s a rather large town of more than 50.000 people placed in the rugged mountains. The large Santa Prisca Church lies in the center of the Spanish style town with red tiled roofs and black stone pavement.
The Christ Monument overlooking Taxco.
The city seen from the Christ Monument.
We found a nice hotel at the main road running through Taxco. That meant we didn’t have to ride up into the narrow steep streets of the town. Pfeeew!!!
The hotel room was awesome with a balcony overlooking Pantheon, the Taxco cemetery where people would celebrate Dia de Muertos.
The Santa Prisca church lies on the main plaza and is stunningly beautiful. Inside the church has 8 enormous altarpieces completely covered in gold.
The city’s beauty is intensified by the 290 white beetle taxis crawling like mountain goats up and down the streets.
Enjoy Lars’ miniature video of the beetles.
Dia de Muertos decorations and alters all over town.
Very steep streets in Taxco.
In the evening on Nov. 1st the Dia de Muertos ceremonies take of. There’s parades at the plaza, people dressed up as dead and kids asking for treats.
Kiss of death anyone?
The American Halloween trick or treat tradition melts easily in with the Dia de Muertos traditions.
The Indian market is an amazing labyrinth with narrow walkways, stairs and stores in layers. You easily get lost.
Exploring the Indian Market in Taxco. Most of the vendors let you look around and we enjoyed seeing the many weird products.
On the morning of November 2nd we visited the Pantheon cemetery where people where decorating their graves. There’s so much activity outside the cemetery. The white beetle taxis line up to bring people back and forth. There’s lots of vendors selling flowers, candles and cans with water to use for the flowers. You can buy all kinds of food, music and much more. It’s really just like a market day anywhere else. People are smiling and enjoying the day.
The graves are being cleaned, painted and neatly decorated.
We also spend the day changing the rear tire on the Bunny bike. Since we no longer have the ammo boxes that worked really well as lift for the bike, we try if the Wolfman bags are able to do the trick – and indeed they are. Not as stable, but it works. So finally I can get rid of the extra weight.
The ride from Taxco took us through beautiful mountains onto a fabulous toll highway with big smooth curves and absolutely no traffic. Didn’t really dare to give it a full throttle though. You never know when you meet a donkey or cow. In fact we even see cow herders on the big toll highways taking their animals for a grass.
We thought we would follow the GPS for a change for the fastest way to Oaxaca. We really needed to make some miles. The GPS wanted us to ride north-east on the Highway past Puebla.
For a while we rode on a beautiful wide smooth highway but as we got closer to Puebla, the traffic got heavier, and there was road work several places. We were supposed to follow a large byway around the city but somehow we missed it and ended up in Puebla in really heavy traffic. The Mexicans do not drive aggressively. They actually give you a lot of space, at least compared to what we are used to in Copenhagen. But there were so many cars, taxi’s and buses, noise and road-work detours and when you don’t know exactly where you are going, it does become a bit stressful.
In one crossing in a left turn Lars went down in the middle of the crossing. I yelled “are you alright” as I jumped of my own bike and parked it in safety. “No” he yelled in return. He’s left foot got stuck under the heavy bike and he couldn’t get out. Two pedestrians and I lifted the bike so he could get out. The ankle and foot were twisted as he went down, so he was in pain. But we had to get on the bikes again and get out of the crossing. We headed for the nearest OXXO to get some ice.
We hoped his foot wasn’t broken and if it was strained, ice would keep the swelling down and prevent a long term injury. He also took some strong Ibuprofen.
We stayed at OXXO for a few hours but when it was getting dark, we got on the bikes again to find a place to spend the night. We found a seedy motel (based on hourly pay) in a dodgy neighborhood. The room had a large mirror and a toilet paper dispenser next to the bed and the TV programs were not family friendly – unless you plan to make a family!
So what was supposed to be a long day on the highway with beautiful Oaxaca as destination ended somewhat different! Guess that’s what traveling is about. It’s like Forest Gump’s box of chocolate – you never know what you get. Yesterday we were in a beautiful picturesque town in a fantastic hotel. Today we’re in pretty ugly part of a huge city in a seedy hotel. Last night we walked the amazing streets of Taxco to get amazing pictures, tonight I walked some ugly streets of Puebla to find ice for Lars’ injured foot.
And I guess that’s exactly why traveling is amazing. It’s in adventure in so many aspects. We never know how far we will make it that day, or who we will meet, or where we will spend the night or have dinner. It takes a lot of mental flexibility to deal with the constant change. And it takes a lot of positive thinking to make the best of most situations. You can choose to see flat as problem, you can also choose to see it as an experience and maybe even a great photo opportunity. I’m not saying that I’m able to see everything in a positive way all the time. I certainly get caught in a negative mindset sometimes. I did it today when we missed that turnoff in Puebla, but I realized what I was doing, and after a while I was able to tell myself, that this was not doing me any good at all and snap out of it again.
We started early the next morning and headed for Oaxaca. Fortunately Lars was able to ride and shift gear with his heel.
We rode through amazing mountains with ever changing vegetation on the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. At one point we passed hills with thousands of cactus, all like giant sticks or phallus sticking straight in the air about 5 meters high.
We stopped for a photo and found a small stall, where this old senor sold beverages. Not bad at all.
Having a rest with a beautiful view.
We arrived early in Oaxaca and had time to browse around to find a reasonable hotel. Oaxaca is an old Spanish colonial city and we were amazed to see how well maintained the city center is. This was obviously a city with a lot of resources. We found a nice place where we could park the bikes in the patio just a few blocks away from the cathedral.
The Oaxaca Cathedral.
The next two days we browsed around this beautiful town, saw the cathedral, visited the many Indian markets and craft stores, had awesome coffee at the Lobo Azul café and visited the beautiful Monte Alban pyramids just outside town.
Chapulines. A specialty in Oaxaca. The grasshoppers are toasted in lime, garlic and salt. You could get them in all sizes.
Chinicuiles are another delicious snack eaten raw or roasted in lime and salt. We weren’t adventurous enough for this treat.
There are a lot of affluent Mexican people in Oaxaca, but also a lot of people with very little. It’s weird to see young people in expensive clothes and with IPhones next to old Indian women trying to sell candy or small wooden figures. An old lady, who worked hard all her life and had several children, should not have to walk the streets at night to survive. She should be sitting on her pouch in her rocking chair watching her grand kids play.
The young senoritas are very beautiful and attractive in their traditional dresses.
Another poor street dog. This dog is actually young and shouldn’t be in this state. He desperately needed a good meal, a worm and flee treatment and something to treat his skin problems. It’s characteristic for Mexico. There’s so much beauty ad so much ugliness side by side. Look one way and you see beautiful beaches and mountains, look the other way and you see garbage littered all over nature.
Monte Alban is an ancient Zapotec city located on a mountain ridge nearby Oaxaca. The Zapotec leveled the mountain 2000 meter above sea level and build this amazing city with several temples and large structures.
Henriette trying to look Zapotec! Eh??
Sunday we headed for Puerto Escondido. We had been in contact with Mark (Radioman) and Sam (IdahoSam) from ADVrider. They were going the opposite direction on Highway 131 so we looked out for each other and managed
to meet and have lunch together.
IdahoSam and his KTM 990.
Mark is on a longer trip, possibly to Ushuaia and then to Africa, but he hasn’t decided yet. They were heading for Oaxaca, where Sam was flying home to Idaho to attend he’s niece’s wedding. Meanwhile Mark would attend a Spanish course in Oaxaca, something that probably will come in very handy later on his trip.
Mark (Radioman) and his well equipped BMW F800GS.
We continued on beautiful windy roads through the mountains. The further we got, the rougher the road got and the thicker the clouds. There were donkeys, horses and cows everywhere. The vegetation changed from fir trees to thick lush rain forest. There must have been some heavy rains not long ago cause there was remains of numerous landslides and the potholes were big and many.
Stay off the road cow!
Too much action on hwy 131.
Just 50 miles from Puerto Escondido we encountered a truck in the middle of the road with a broken drive shaft. Behind it was a smashed taxi and next it to was a girl and 2 men with blood in their faces and on their clothes. We stopped and helped them clean their wounds. Neither taxi nor truck had any first aid stuff. We carry a little which was enough to clean their cuts and cover the injuries. The girl had a bad cut in her forehead and on her nose and was freezing. She was devastated that her pretty face was cut. Her boyfriend had a big cut in his head and several cuts in his right hand and lots of tiny pieces of glass in it. The taxi driver also had cuts in his face and probably broke his collarbone. He was in so much pain. We stayed there for a while until a military platoon came and helped out, and a car came and picked them up. It wasn’t that we could do much for them, but having someone to show empathy, put a sweater around your shoulder and wash your cuts may be just what you need when you are in a situation like that. We wondered if they would be alright and if they got proper treatment.
By then it was getting pretty late and we were not going to make it out of the mountains before it got dark. We were riding in the dark clouds and the visibility was very poor.
We had to zigzag our way through the potholes and couldn’t go faster than 20 miles an hour. This was 100% against the rules. Riding after dark is simply a no go! And ironically we had just discussed that rule with Mark and Sam. But there was no where we could stop and put up our tent, so we had to continue at low speed and decided to stop at the first and best lodging opportunity.
This came 30 miles from Puerto Escondido A motel in the rain forest – unreal! Just what we needed! Not exactly a 4 star hotel, but there was a place to park the bikes, a bed and a bathroom for the price of 125 pesos! YAY!
There’s your box of chocolates ones again.
The next chocolate in the box was a very sweet one. We woke up to a beautiful day with blue skies and pretty green jungle and farmland in the mountains.
We had only 30 miles to go to Puerto Escondido by the sea. We went through several small towns in the rain forest on the windy road through the thick and lush rainforest.
Puerto Escondido is a nice touristy place with a pretty harbor, lots of hotels and good cafes. Lars had complained about my ragged clothes, so this was the right time and place to do some serious shopping. I managed to spend the extravagant sum of $40 on a top, a dress and a sarong.
Then we headed south along the coast on a beautiful road. We enjoyed the speed and the views.
On the way we spotted 2 adventure riders at a petrol station and stopped. It was Mike from Oregon on his BMW and Steve from Toronto on his KTM. They were riding together to Costa Rica, where Steve would go back home. Mike would continue to Panama and ship his bike home from there.
Mike bought drinks for everybody in OXXO.
Mike and his BMW 1200 GSA
Steve and his KTM 950.
They still had 3 hours to ride, so they were off again. We were only going to the area around Puerto Angel. Our friends back home Chili, Theresa and Bobicat all send recommendations on facebook to go to one of the beaches in Zipolite or Manzute, so we went looking for a nice chill out spot. In Mazunte we met this nice couple; Nicole & Erwin from Holland. They had just started their 2 year travels and were considering buying a beetle in Mexico and drive to Argentina.
We fell for Zipolite and found an amazing hippie place in one end of the beach with tantra yoga and meditation rooms. We got a fantastic bungalow at the very top with view over the entire Zipolite playa. The playa is really nice but the water is scary. Huge waves roll in constantly and there’s a strong current and undertow.
Stairways to heaven!
Zipolite at sunset. We took a long stroll along the beach and enjoyed a couple of Margaritas with the local hippies.
On Tuesday the 8th we were awakened by a beautiful sunset shining in through our door. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast with omelets, hot cakes, yoghurt and juice of watermelon.
It’s a tough job but someones gotta do it!
It was very tempting to stay a few days in this amazing paradise, but we really had to move on. It’s so easy to spend extra time everywhere, but it’s gonna be really sad if it leaves us with little time left for South America. We still have more than half way to go and we have spent more than half our time. Furthermore the Darian Gap crossing in Panama is gonna take probably a week.
So we headed towards Tuxtla Gutierrez and San Cristobal De La Casas. It was a long day on the highway, which for once let us get some decent mileage. Not many cows on the road and not too many cars either.We went about 270 miles/ 430 km which is the longest stretch we have been able to do in Mexico in one day so far. It was dark before we found a place to stay, but once again we were lucky. We found a nice little clean motel in Cintalapa with hot water for the amazing sum of 100 pesos.
Close by was a small street restaurant where we got ubre – try and look it up – you’ll probably be surprised to find out what it is – we didn’t know at the time we ordered it . . . .
We woke up early and left for San Cristobal De La Casas the last Pueblo Magico on our list. We had only 100 miles to go and the highway was amazing. Took us through spectacular mountains through thick clouds. At one point we rode through red mountains with green mountains behind a thick white cloud and a bright blue hole in the white cloud where the sun was shining through. So often we get those amazing images, but can’t stop for a picture.
Riding into San Cristobal De La Casas.
The beautiful Cathedral in San Cristobal De La Casas.
San Cristobal De La Casas is the last Pueblo Magico we will visit. Also an old colonial city with a very well maintained historic center.
The city has another important history. The mountains around San Cristobal are the birthplace of the Zapatista Movement. In 1994 the Zapatista movement EZLN made their first aggressive action/demonstration in San Cristobal. Basically EZLN fights for the rights of the indigenous people and in specific their right to their land. EZLN is not a pacifist organization. They believe you should use arms to protect your rights.
In a country where it seems that differences between poor and rich are enormous and where especially the indigenous people have very little resources, power and respect, this kind of uprising is bound to happen.
We see EZLN posters, postcards, stickers and pins everywhere. While we were in town, there was a demonstration for a group of farmers (indigenous people) who had their land taken by the government. They opposed and were put in jail and were now in a hunger strike and the demonstration was in support for them. We don’t know the full story of this event, but in either case it seems that the right of the individual is hardly protected unless you are an important and powerful person.
We met a couple from Argentina and Austria. They had a scary encounter with the EZLN in the jungle on their way from Palenque to San Cristobal. They were stopped by a large group who demanded money from them. They didn’t wanna pay which was a bad decision. The EZLN people started shaking their car and cut all 4 tires. Eventually they paid 500 pesos ($40) and drove out of the jungle – 90 km – on 4 flat tires.
I decided to get an EZLN sticker and put it on the bike, just in case we would meet them. We sympathize with their case and their visions, but we don’t sympathize with all their actions.
We found yet another fantastic hotel with thick walls that keep the heat out in the day and the cold at night. It’s still pretty cold though. We are at 2300 m elevation and we are freezing. Nice opportunity to finally use some of all that hot woolen clothes we carry around.
We met Amelia & Francisco from San Francisco. A super nice and very interesting couple. Amelia told a very inspiring story about her choice to follow her dream and skip her carrier.
We enjoyed this last Mexican Pueblo Magico and now head for the Guatemalan border and our first adventures in Central America.