relaxing in the mountains

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we made it back to cooler, higher ground! we’ve been in san cristobal for a few days now and really needed the time to just relax and slow down. i think we didn’t realize how fast we were moving until we actually took a second to do some inventory. now that we have allowed ourselves to stay put for the last few days we’ve slept, read, and sat around a lot. it’s good to be lazy again. it also does something a little strange to the brain after the weeks of excitement and constant motion that we have just come away from. i’ve been super introspective the last few days and really started thinking about where we are at with our travels.

i’m definitely not in a place where i can come to conclusions, but it’s good to know a little bit more about how the trip is affecting me. bob and i had a long talk last night about what we miss (and don’t) from home. and, honestly, the only thing we really miss are the people. we’ve pretty quickly embraced our nomadic way of life… for now. there will come a time when we need to have a place to call our own again, and a kitchen to cook in. we miss cooking!! that’s probably the hardest thing to deal with in our current lifestyle. we’ve been trying not to stay at too many hostels because we really don’t want to be surrounded by english speaking americans the entire time. but, i think the prospect of a kitchen will start to draw us in occassionally. and, i’m ok with the trade-off.

our time in mexico is quickly coming to an end, and with it i find myself thinking back to those last days in laredo, texas. it was hard to juggle my feelings of excitement with all the fear that my loved ones (and complete strangers) had placed on me concerning my journey through mexico. after two and a half weeks here, i’ve gained some perspective by simply having the experience that i came here to have. i’ve met wonderfully, generous people who love to share the beauty of their country with others. i have seen a military presence in cities and at checkpoints, but its pretty obvious that they want nothing to do with me and are trying to get a hold on the conflict that involves such a small percentage of the people here. i’m also frustrated with what news actually gets to us as americans. it’s never the picture of mexican cities that are full of life and vibrancy. it’ll take awhile to fully understand my feelings about my weeks in mexico, and how differently they turned out than everyone was fearing. but, one thing i’m sure of is that i’ll miss it. it’s a wonderful place and i’m sad that more americans aren’t experiencing it for themselves currently. (at least the europeans are all still coming!)

as much as i will miss mexico, there is plenty of adventure ahead! the prospect of guatemala is super exciting. and, we’ve reserved a week at a language school and homestays with guatemalan families. that should really change how we interact and i’m pretty stoked to finally be fully immersed for a week. i think it’s the push i’ve needed in my speaking ability. also, guatemala holds the prospect of familiar faces! our friends ryan and juliana are there now with a group from bellarmine university, and we are going to meet up with them for the end of their own adventure. i cannot wait to see them! until then, here are some views of our last few days in the mountains…

our sweet bike parking at the hotel we’ve been hulling up in, the patio is such a nice way to relax away from all the tourist traffic and the hustle and bustle

breakfast was half of this juicy papaya (thanks for sharing, pete!), a mango apiece and a few tiny bananas. yum!

san cristobal is full of narrow streets, colorful houses, and mountain views in any direction you turn

our new favorite soup: pozole. it’s a local staple and it comes with shredded chicken or pork (or both) and puffed up corn. it’s really delicious and cheap and awesome when you’re cold. i’m going to learn how to make it when we land somewhere with a kitchen.

san cristobal’s unique cathedral in the plaza at sunset. i loved the colors.

the best $7 dollars we’ve spent in awhile! we had our laundry done here (i wasn’t into the do-it-yourself method in the cold, just in case it never dried out). and we were thrilled with the super clean, good smelling items that used to be our dirty, beyond help clothing. they worked a miracle on a few of bob’s pieces. now we’ll be clean for at least a few days! ha.

we reached the pacific!

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we decided that since we were so close to the pacific ocean, we had to take a night and go get in. so, we made a plan, consulted google maps (which ended up being totally wrong) and talked to some guys who had traveled from oaxaca to the stretch of beach we were shooting for. it turns out the route we thought we’d take was totally blocked due to a local protest. this is a pretty normal occurrence for oaxaca, well central america in general. but, it was great information for changing our route. it really pays to talk to people and not use the internet for all your information needs!

so, we headed out expecting to be hot all day as we got closer to the beach because oaxaca city was already pretty balmy. but, soon after we left the city we began a long climb into the mountains, and before we knew it we were driving through the clouds at 9,000 feet. needless to say, we weren’t hot. but, we passed through some amazing little mountainside towns and got the best views i’ve had so far of huge green valleys and crazy drop-offs.

a snapshot of our view into the mountains, but it doesn’t do the real view any justice

here’s the tiny town we stopped in for lunch. we got some deliciously greasy tacos, which would not sit well on my stomach in the curvy downhill roads ahead. but, once again, we’re still learning valuable lessons. the lesson for that day: pack a non-greasy lunch when traveling through crazy, curvy mountains.

after our stop we drove through some incredible pine forests. they were extremely aromatic. and actually helped with the motion-sickness. but, as we began to descend in altitude the curves became nothing but tight hairpins. there was not a straight-away in sight for over two hours. this was the windy travel i’ve ever done, and i’ve been on some crazy roads in the past. but, we took it as slow as possible and took breaks along the way so that i could let my head and stomach get back to normal. one huge help were these little candies we have, called gin-gins, that our friend natasha gave us before we left. they’re strong ginger chews and they definitely help with the stomach issues that come along with motion-sickness.

thanks so much natasha! i’ll bet you had no idea how important your little gift would be for me. but, i’ll be very sad the day we eat the last one!

we finally made it out of the mountains, only a few miles before we hit the ocean. but, the road started to open up and i immediately felt better. we made it into the small fishing harbor of puerto angel and got off the bikes for a look at the water and a quick breather before finding a hotel. as soon as we cut the engine, we were approached by multiple men trying to help us find a hotel, ask us where we were from, and generally interested in our spectacle. mostly, i think they just like to promote their own business or their friend’s hotel. but, we ended up getting great info from them, because one guy told us that if we wanted to stay at the hippy (somewhat nude) beach of zipolite, it was only 5 minutes down the road. and, after finding out the price of the beach front hotels at puerto angel, i knew zipolite would be the better option. i had stayed there ten years back when i backpacked through mexico. and, the beach was beautiful and definitely off the beaten path.

so, we jumped back on the bikes and headed to zipolite. i expected some changes in ten years, but honestly, not too much was different. there was one nice four story hotel that had been built, but it was for sale and unoccupied. the rest was the same: a string of beach front cabanas and hammocks for rent that spanned about a half mile (maybe) of beach between two huge rocky hills that fell into the ocean. zipolite is definitely one of the prettier beaches i’ve seen.

so, bob and i trudged up and down the beach in our gear (we took our jackets off, but the pants and boots are more of a process), in search of the right place to stay for the night. prices have definitely gone up since i was there ten years ago ($2 for a hammock back then). but, we found a lovely two story cabana where bob and i could rent hammocks on the second floor, over looking the ocean, and pete could get a room. our hammocks cost $6 apiece. but the place was nice, the bathrooms were clean, and it was a lovely night of sleep right on the water.

we caught a beautiful sunset right after we settled into our cabana. bob got a few photos of it before it disappeared on the horizon.

we walked down the beach after sunset in search of some fresh seafood. in this area, you can’t get a fish that wasn’t caught that morning. so, we were excited to  try it. we found a lovely little restaurant (right on the beach, of course) and they had tons of fish options on the menu. our server was about 12 years old, and his dad manned the grill. but, he was super professional and we got a kick out of it.

i’m pretty excited about my dinner, which came in a steaming foil bag with fresh steamed vegetables. bob’s was ‘veracruz’ style and came with a delicious tomato sauce and lots of tomatoes. it was the best meal we’ve had so far. even pete, who got a burger with ham and pineapple thought his was great!

our beds for the night, sleeping in a hammock was super comfortable

we also happened to be at zipolite just in time for their two day town festival. lucky us! so we got to here a lot of singing, prayer, saw dancing, paper mache dolls, and were awoken at 5:45 am to the kids of the town playing a little band concern. all the festivities happened right next door to us. so, when we first woke up to fire works and the band playing, we were a bit grumpy. we thought it was the middle of the night still. but, not 5 minutes later the sun started to rise and pete came out with his camera. we all got to be up for sunrise, which was a first for me on this trip.

our view of sunrise from the hammocks

so, after a quick dip in the ocean that morning and a walk along the beach, complete with views of the lovely nude sunbathers (pete was a little sad because most of them were male and over 50) we took quick, cold showers attempting to help with having all our gear back on. but, we were sweating as soon as we started to pack. the rest of the day was a hot one. but we made our way to juchitan, a small city tucked a little further into the hills. we wanted to position ourselves for heading back up into the mountains the next morning. so, it was a good, but hot stop for the night.

oaxaca, part 3: monte alban

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on our last day in oaxaca, we ventured out one more time. this one was a short trip up into the hills surrounding the city. we headed to monte alban, the pre-columbian zapotec city. it was a beautiful day, breezy and sunny. and because the ruins are completely exposed to the elements we made our first stop the hat vendors. yes, i’m sure we paid more than we should have, but $2.50 to totally shade our faces (and bob’s head) was a necessary price to pay.

here are our super protective sun hats. they really made a differenence. bob is still holding onto his (though it’s now badly battered from being strapped on top of his pannier). after heading from the beach back into the mountains for the foreseeable future, i decided my hat wasn’t worth the space it was taking up. so, hopefully it found a good home with one of the girls who cleaned our room in juchitan. i thought it’d make for an interesting tip.

once we got into the site we checked on a tour in english so that we could get a little more of the history. the guides waiting at the entrance wanted $30 for the 3 of us. so, we decided to be frugal and navigate on our own. as we meandered up the path at the entrance there was a large group of english speakers listening to a pretty dynamic guide. so, we lingered on the edges til he was done with his description and pete asked how much it would be if the three of us jumped into his group. his price was less than half of the first guy, and he seemed like a good guide.

so, we had a great hour lesson of the native plants on the way in, and what their medicinal/practical uses were for the zapotec people. there were trees for insect repellent and upset stomach, lacquer for preserving their paintings, incense or perfume, and many others. above is our guide, moses, giving us a demonstration of the acoustics of the central area of the ruins. he walked in a square of about 10 feet in each direction, and when he changed location the sound echoed in a completely different place. it was really cool. after his lesson, he dismissed us all to tour around at our leisure.

here’s the ball field. they aren’t sure exactly what the games were like, but the arena is a very similar set up to the more massive one in chichen itza, that i’ve seen. apparently the zapotecs were a little less sacrificial, though, because in chichen itza the winners were sacrificed as a high honor. this was not the practice in monte alban.

steep steps

here’s a sculpture of a breach birth, which they think came from the hospital building. the others depicted castrated males and deformities. this one was one of the more well preserved so that you can see the detail (did you catch the little dangling legs?)

bob posing in front of the hospital building, which they called edificio L

everything is in bloom in oaxaca right now, and these purple trees are all over the state. their color is something i’ve never seen on a tree before and they were so beautiful, especially when you happened across one in a rural village in the countryside next one of the run down houses.

monte alban was another great addition to our stay in oaxaca. we took in so many things there that we needed a few days to process it all. bob and i both really enjoyed the culture in the city, and i’m pretty sure we’ll make it a priority to get back one day in our traveling future.  until next time…

hasta luego, oaxaca!

 

oaxaca, part 2: hierves el agua

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on our second day in oaxaca we decided to take a day trip out to a ‘warm’ sulfur spring up in the mountains. we were told it was a must see while in oaxaca. we got on the bike (without all our extra gear, which is kind of novel after being loaded down day after day). we headed through the hills surrounding the city, which were beautiful to travel through. and, we stopped on the way at a tiny town with some ruins, called mitla. we were hungry, so our first stop was a little restaurant in the town. we got some food and saw from a sign on the wall that they sold chocolate by the kilo. we are in mayan territory, so we were pretty excited to try some mayan chocolate.

so, when we got our bill we asked for a kilo, not quite sure how much that would be. but, expecting it wouldn’t be too much. well, here’s what a kilo of chocolate looks like…

so now we have enough chocolate to last us until costa rica! we tried to ask if we could just take a half kilo, but the nice lady who cut it up for us wasn’t budging. she said it would last forever and i think she was right. it’s really grainy, so i don’t think it will melt and it’s got lots of sugar and cinnamon in it. yum! we’re going to try cooking with it soon. (well, as soon as we have use of a kitchen again.)

so, after our chocolate buying experience, we headed on up the mountain to heirves el agua. we had to drive through a tiny mountain town to get there. and, it had some spectacular views. once we got to the spot we were looking for we walked down the hill from the few little vendors and found this:

wow. it was so beautiful. the clouds only added to the scene. we were excited to sooth our sore muscles in the warm water and quickly got ready to take a dip.

but, when we tested it out we found it to be quite cold. apparently the only area that is the slightest bit warm is the source, right where it’s flowing out of the rocks above. so, after careful inching on my part and a shocking dive on bob’s part, we both got in and swam around for awhile. it ended up feeling great once you got yourself used to it.

bob is so much better at cold water than i am. but, i was proud of my slow effort to get all the way in. it was definitely worth it because drying off in the sun felt wonderful.

behind me is a petrified waterfall formed from calcium deposits, cascading down from the hill where the sulfur spring was. you might think i’m wearing the cape of shame here. but, no. you’re mistaken. i’m wearing a cape of sun protection because my skin is still a little too white. that will hopefully change in the coming months. but, i’m taking it slow. i know what my irish-german skin can handle (and it isn’t much).

the second day in oaxaca was pretty spectacular. we really loved getting out of the city and surveying what the region is like. oh, i almost forgot, on our way back into the city we jumped off the road (literally right on the side of the mountain) to stop at a mezcal fabricadora. basically, it’s a little operation that looks little a moonshine set up in the hills of kentucky. but, anyway the folks there were super nice and told us their process of cooking the agave over an open fire, putting it in a pit and squeezing the juice out of it with a huge stone wheel and a mule, and then distilling it for a few days before aging it in a barrel. (we talked a lot about the bourbon process and where we’re from and the couple running the little place tried to look interested) they gave us a taste, which was an entire shot and sent us on our way. a good, good day in mexico…

oaxaca, part one: the city

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oaxaca continues to be one of my favorite cities ever and I’m super lucky to be visiting it for the second time in my life. (hopefully not the last…) it’s full of life day and night. there are people everywhere but it’s not a huge city. you can run into live music on any block at any moment (partially because most of it is transcient). there are taco stands, hot dog stands, corn, sweets, fruit…. you really don’t have to ever set foot in a restaurant, but when we have, those haven’t disappointed either. we decided even before we got here that we would take a few extra days to explore the city and surrounding area and to relax a little. i’m so glad we did. first, because we all needed a few days off from the road. and second, because there is so much to do here. hence the three part post from oaxaca.

bob and I took the first full day to just tool around and see the city. we went to the Benito Juarez market (which is huge) and found a few items for ourselves in the leather section. by the way, Benito Juarez is the only indigenous president mexico has ever had and he did amazing things for the country like create public schools. there is a street named after him in every city and he was born in oaxaca. there is your (tiny) mexican history lesson for the day. and, here are a few sights from the city…

the church in the zocolo (the city center) at night. there are always people milling about in this area, no matter what time of day or day of the week.

a little coffee shop/bar that was recommended to us by a local. the artwork in the little courtyard area was pretty cool.

my lunch from one of the millions of taco stands in the city. it cost around $2, and was pretty good. we found a better one that night, though. so, we’re definitely becoming taco stand officionados.

more of the zocolo at night

bob and I decided to have a date night here. so we found a vegetarian restaurant near the zocolo. we have been eating more meat than seems heealthy for a person to consume, so a vegetarian meal was a novel idea. when we entered we were a tiny bit skeptically. we looked around and saw only white people and thought, “oh no, it’s a tourist trap!” but the waiter showed us a menu and we decided to stick with our decision. it turned out to be delicious! bob got taquitos with seasoned tofu and raisins, and I got vegetable crepes in a tomato sauce. the best part of the whole experience was our waiter, augustino. he speaks 10 languages and had three tables: dutch, french, and us americans. and he would hop from table to table speaking each person’s native language! it was quite a dining experience. he was also a big talker and told us where to go for live music and good bars. we hit it off so well with him that he asked for a picture and he was willing to oblige and to stage a pretty good picture.

if you found your way here, augustino, thanks for a fun evening! we hope to visit again one day and take your cooking class.

one highlight at the zocolo was on wednesday night, our last night in oaxaca. apparently every wednesday they have dancing and a live band. bob and i got pretty excited because if you know us, you know we love to dance. we thought it would be fun. but, as soon as we walked up to the gathered crowd we quickly realized it was a bit more of a formal affair than we had thought. older couples dressed to the nines were out on the dance floor. they all knew the steps and there was not a foreigner in sight. so, we joined the crowd in watching the dancers and bob recorded some of the band. here is an idea of the dress code for the dance floor.

this couple was on the younger end, but they were a good example of the expected dress and they had their moves down to a t.

this one’s a bit blurry, but i wanted you to see the fabulous dress of this woman. oaxaca is known for its textiles and embroidery and her top was completely embroidered. i would love to have an excuse to wear something like that out of the house on a regular old wednesday night!

so, hopefully that gives you a snapshot of oaxaca. i’m a little sad to leave, but after a month on the road, i actually can’t imagine staying put for too long right now. it’ll be interesting to see how i feel about that five months from now. more from oaxaca to come soon. i’ve only given you the tip of the iceberg as far as our experience here goes…

and the road goes on…

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we’ve had a few LONG days of riding. they were beautiful days, both through some pretty impressive mountains. but, they were exhausting for all of us. we did over 300 miles both days (which doesn’t sound like a ton, but add curvy mountain roads to the equation and it takes pretty much all day). the first day we took the toll road around mexico city. it was the best way to completely by-pass the capital and still make good time to puebla, our hoped for destination for the night. even though we took the long way around the city, we were still engulfed in smog most of the afternoon. mexico d.f. is a city like none other. i don’t suggest you visit if you have any asthmatic tendencies.

almost $30 later (per bike) we got to our destination. but, the toll roads are fast, well paved and very direct. it took us awhile to navigate through puebla, though. it’s a fairly large city. and we ran into a parade which was blocking the exact street we needed in order to get into the center of town. but, a nice man helped us by telling us to just drive straight through the little park that was in front of us. he said it would be no problem. so, bob (being more fearless than your average person) just meandered his way through the little park, complete with food stands, a fountain, and some confused looking people. pete waited to make sure we made it and then quickly followed. we had to jump off the curb on the other side to make it back onto the road. but, motorcycles can do things other vehicles just shouldn’t attempt.

we found our cheap hotel right in the center of town, went out to find food, check out the insanely fancy basilica, and headed for bed. i didn’t even take out my camera. we were all super tired and had another crazy day of riding ahead. but, the next morning proved to be extremely picturesque. puebla has a volcano right outside of the city. and, we rode with it in our sights for a least an hour or so. we popped off the road to catch a few photos of it mid-morning.

the volcano: popocatepetl, the smoke that’s visible had puffed out of it earlier on our morning drive. it was quite a sight!

one of our roadside stops in the mountains. yes, that’s me laying on our bike on the left. it had just started to get hot so i had to shed some layers and was happy to have the chance to stretch my back for a moment.

we survived both long days of riding and are still learning valuable lessons that will help us on down the road. navigating roads that aren’t well marked, finding gas in rural areas, and dealing with quick changes in temperature are just a few. but, hey, we all signed on for an adventure and that’s exactly what it is. driving through the mountains has been so beautiful, though. when we (if we) reach flat land again, i think i might go into withdrawl.

here are a few random shots that didn’t make the last post…

here’s the t-shirt that federico (remember him from way back in zacatecas!?) gave me. it’s apparently another one of his hobbies. thanks again federico! i love the shirt and really enjoyed meeting you.

me and bob squinting into the sun the morning we left guanajuato. the view from the top of the hill was great! thanks lee, from taking this shot for us.

tonight, over a shot of mezcal, bob and i realized that we’ve been on the road for a MONTH! happy one month of travel to us! i can’t even imagine what the next four will bring. but, if they’re anything like the first one, they’ll be full of beautiful towns and beautiful people.

the birthplace of mexico

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well, we made it to guanajuato, a city tucked into the hills north of mexico d.f. it’s still pretty high up (ab0ut 7,000 feet). but, we have slowly been coming down in height since that first crazy climb into real de catorce. guanajuato is a beautiful city with lots of trendy university students, museums, and theaters. it has an insane amount of history for mexico. one interesting tidbit is that it’s the birthplace of diego rivera! we are going to his house later today and i’m excited to see it.

yesterday bob and i meandered through the streets without much of a purpose, and we felt like we got a great slice of life in guanajuato. we stopped into a crowded sewing shop to find a thimble for our friend oscar’s mom. the ladies lining the counter laughed at our attempts to ask for and pay for our tiny trinket. we went to the market and bought fresh fruits and veggies to cook at the hostel. and, we happened upon a low budget music video shoot in the university area. it was pretty hilarious. the band was dressed in all black and they had a posse of young beautiful people dressed up in storybook character costumes dancing around them.

my favorite part of the day was watching the kids stream through the streets when school let out. they all have uniforms that look like track suits and there are men with boxes and buckets of candy ready on every corner to entice the kids with cheap sweets. it was fun to watch the interactions. so many of the kids just found their way to where they were going. there weren’t many buses (just for the tiny ones) and there definitely weren’t carpool lines. it was cool to see such independent kids.

guanajuato, another beautiful colonial town nestled into the mountains. this one has a huge network of tunnels cutting through all the hills and spitting you out in a new neighborhood each time… fun riding!

more amazing churches. this was a basilica near the center of town. it had fancy crystal chandeliers running down the center inside.

the music video shoot we happened across. the tarzan guy was the funniest (and probably the most embarrassed).

the hostel we’re staying at is pretty amazing. it was a bear to get to, but once here we found the family that runs it to be wonderful, gracious hosts. la senora de la casa cooks an amazing breakfast for us every morning. it’s so big that we really only need food for dinner and we’re set for the rest of the day. (for example: today was taquitos with avocado, shredded chicken and veggies in mole sauce, pineapple, kiwi, coffee, juice, bread) and, it’s included with our room. last night the family hosted a barbeque on the rooftop terrace for their youngest son and his high school friends. they invited all of us up to join them. so, we took some beer to contribute and feasted on delicious steak tacos straight off the grill. if you’re ever in guanajuato (and i highly recommend that you come) you MUST stay at Casa de Dante: www.casadedante.com. you’ll get your exercise just getting to your room every night, but it’s definitely a great experience! Dante, the older son, runs the front desk. he speaks perfect english, but helps us with spanish when we have questions. he has traveled all over europe and wants to go back to germany for a master’s degree. he does some great app development and wants to study more. you can see one of his virtual tour guide apps for the city at: www.mastour.mx

the hostel. our room was the one right over the sign and matt’s was the next floor up. the balconies were a definite perk because they offered beautiful views of the city.

our view

we’ve met some fellow travelers here who love it so much that they come again and again, or book a month at a time. it’s a very easy city to navigate and it feels slightly european. there are lots of foreigners running around. but, the city doesn’t survive on tourism (which is nice for us). it has plenty going on outside of that market.

while staying here, i’ve embarked on a new domestic task, which will probably become pretty normal in the months to come… bathroom sink laundry. while bob did some work yesterday afternoon, i decided to be frugal and wash our clothes by hand. otherwise, i would have had to pay someone else to wash them. we have a lovely balcony in our room. so, he rigged up a clothes line for me and i got most of our dirtiest items done in an hour or so. we’re also learning quickly that there are certain pieces of clothing that will never come clean again, with the lack of deodorant and the insane amount of sweat that transpires on riding days. (sorry, if that’s too much information) but, our current reality is much more in touch with our natural scents. it’s something that i think americans are the worst at… being ok with natural human scents. so, i’m learning to deal with it and to have somewhat clean, if still a bit odorous, clothing!

load #1 soaking in lavender scented dr. bronner’s. the lavender really helps to give the beyond help items a fresher smell.

and here’s the make-shift clothes line that bob constructed on our balcony. our clothes were all dry by the next morning!

our last full day in guanajuato was a lazy one. we toured the home where diego rivera was born. it was pretty cool to see his early work and how it shaped what he later became known for in his murals. then we just sat around in one of the big plazas for awhile. it might have been the cerveza consumed at the barbeque last night, but we were all moving pretty slow. we grabbed a fire roasted chicken from a lovely little shop and used it with the veggies we had bought at the market to make some chicken tacos. in total, we spent under $10 to feed the three of us.  guanajuato has not been too bad on the food budget at all. we definitely got spoiled by the amazing breakfast served every morning.

posting up by our dinner. yum!

taking it easy at the plaza, watching some little boys play soccer. not a bad way to spend an hour.

the colorful houses will never get old to me. i can’t get enough of these beautiful cities.

 

 

zacatecas in photos

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our first mexican ‘city’! zacatecas is a colonial town, so it was insane to navigate. but, bob did a great job zipping through the confusing streets until a local moto-biker flagged us down and asked where we were going. he took us straight to our hotel after he figured out where we were trying to get to. the guy who runs it, Federico, also rides bikes and was super friendly. his hotel was closed for maintenance for a few weeks, though, so he jumped on his bike and took us to his friend’s hostel a few blocks away. it was cheap and close to everything, so it worked out great! Federico met us for dinner both nights we were there and gave us a walking tour of his city. thanks, Federico, for your generosity!

here it is in photos…

the streets of zacatecas are very steep! we definitely got our exercise walking around it for two days.

bob is making his way up a huge hill we climbed to see an old church and ride a cable car to another hill on the other side of the city.

taking in the view from the top of the hill. zacatecas was beautiful.

the church at the top of the hill. apparently pancho villa used this hill as leverage to bomb the city during the revolution.

our cable car ride from one hill to another. it was short, but the older gentleman running it gave us a full tutorial on what to city down in the city and bob and i were able to catch a museum with picasso, miro, dali, and others after he pointed us in the right direction. it was only 30 pesos for the museum entrance, too, which is about $2.50. another reason to love mexico.

the roof top terrace of our hostel at sunset. the main cathedral is in the background.

the hill behind me is the one we climbed earlier in the day to take the cable car.

the salsa spread at one of the restaurants that federico took us to. the one on the left was a pico de gallo with cactus. yum! and this was not a fancy restaurant. it was cheap but good.

this is a swanky hotel that used to be a bull fighting ring. it was really cool to see how they had transformed it. apparently rich people often have their weddings in the center. this was one of the stops on federico’s tour of the city.

and… back on the road. there’s pete hanging out in traffic. zacatecas was a great city to tour around for a few days, but we have to keep moving. more from our next destination soon…

 

real de catorce

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i woke up this morning to a quiet knock on our door. hank was heading out and wanted to say goodbye. so, we sleepily threw on some clothes and headed out to the street to see him off. it was still dark out because we were so tucked into the mountains that the sun hadn’t made it up yet. but, it was already past 6am, and he had a long day of riding solo ahead, so he wanted a very early start. as soon as I pushed open the hotel door and stepped out into the street, i was met by the sound of about a hundred roosters all clucking at random. every now and then a burrow would chime in. it’s something hard to put into words, but it was so cool to realize where we had woken up this morning.

we said a quick goodbye to hank as he hopped on his bike. being the amazing tour guide that he is, his parting words were the options he recommended for how to spend our day off in Real. that gave us a laugh. thanks hank for everything! i’m sure we will be seeing you again. and, if you come across a bike for me and bob, you know how to find us!

because it was 6am, dark out, and I was still fatigued from a long first day in mexico, i tried going back to sleep. to no avail, though. the church bells started soon after we got back under the covers. so, we checked our email in bed (yes, our swanky little hotel in the mountains had wi-fi) and then bob went up to the roof to try and catch the sunrise. we had a lovely morning of sight-seeing and wandering the streets through town. they are mostly steep climbs on the cobblestones. and we’re right around 10,000 feet here, so we both felt super winded after just a few moments. but, we weren’t more affected than that by the altitude. So, that bodes well for our future Andean adventures.

views from the roof of our hotel

bob and i around town… the picture of me is in the heart of the puebla and the one of bob is on the outskirts of town, about a 5 minute walk from where the first one was taken.

bob made a friend on our walk and he really wanted the portrait of the little guy to make the blog. this one’s for you babe.

we walked to the edge of town to find the old church and graveyard that aren’t used anymore, wandered into the main church just as a mid-morning mass was starting, so we caught some of that. bought some milagros from a man and his son at the entrance to the church for one of bob’s acquaintances in Louisville who uses them to make jewelry. (they are on their way, Gwen!) and, then had a delicious lunch of tacos and fresh squeezed orange juice for about $2 apiece. The tortillas were made right in front of us on a wood-burning flat grill. and we watched the oranges get cut and squeezed for our juice. oh, mexico, I already am falling in love with you!

the end of mass in the main church. bob and i thought the wood floor was the highlight of this one!

that afternoon we were convinced to ride horses up to the main mining ruins quite a ways up the mountain. it was a 2 hour trip up more cobblestone roads. our horses were well trained, but i was still a little uneasy about the drop offs on the sides of the road. the view were amazing, though. and it was great to go through the mining ruins and see the true history of the town. i’ll just let you see it through photos. but, i will say that i came up with a new rule for myself… no riding horses when i have to ride on the bike the next day. my bum is still recovering two days later.

the pueblo from up in the mountains…

what a great introduction to mexico these first two days have been! off to more adventures in new cities tomorrow.

 

mexico: day one

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i woke up the morning we were to head across the border way before my alarm went off. I think we all did, actually. there was definitely a nervous energy to the first few hours of our day. we packed up and waited for hank to meet us in laredo, trying to disperse our pesos and dollars in as many places as possible.  the trick would quickly become finding all of our hiding places as we bumbled through our first day of transactions in mexico. but, all we knew that morning was that we didn’t want too much in one place.

hank arrived around 8am, later than he had first hoped, but it was pouring down rain at his house. one major factor in motorcycle trip scheduling: the weather will trump your plans. always. but, we still got a pretty quick start and headed to the Laredo border.  we were across the Rio Grande and heading through Nuevo Laredo in less than 20 minutes. hank got stopped as we entered, which is apparently routine because every third car usually has to pull to the side to be searched. he told us later that he actually waited for the light to turn red on him so that we could pass through without getting stopped. one more thing to add to our list of debts to hank.  so, we headed straight to the vehicle importation building and waited for him there.  he helped us maneuver through the different windows we needed.  and, in about a half hour we were through with all our necessary documents. my job at aduana is considerably easier than bob’s, as our vehicle is in his name. so, he has to do all the paperwork for the bike and I just have to import myself. that may change drastically in the next few border crossings, though, because my job will then become bike-watch duty for both bikes. so, I’ll keep you posted on how the next one goes.

heading into mexico! the bridge was crowded, but we got across it pretty quickly. it pays to be on two wheels.

here we are, officially imported into mexico and ready for the day ahead.

so, we made it into mexico. whew. it didn’t even feel like much work. we headed through Nuevo Laredo, a town that many people had told us not to cross through. the first thing I saw as we rode was a little kids’ soccer game. the field was all dirt, but it made me smile because I immediately thought of the nieces and nephews at home whose games we’ve been to, and had my first (of many) moments of realization that day that life is happening as usual for the people of mexico. and it isn’t much different from the one we left in Kentucky.

we passed through the last border check point with no problems and went through a military check about an hour later. both waved us straight through. we learned (quickly) how to ride in mexico. mom, you don’t want to know the details because I think it would scare you. but, drivers don’t follow the traditional rules. they are always watching out for motorcyclists, even the semis. and, you are expected to make your way to the front of the line of cars because they all part ways for you to head in between them. bob and pete caught on fast to this new method, and ended up loving it by the end of the day. It was great to have hank in the lead, showing us just how this kind of riding is done. and we made great time to monterrey where we stopped for a quick lunch and got back on the road. By around 5pm we were all pretty beat from nerves, adrenaline and trying to keep up with hank all day.  oh, and I forgot to add that the wind was pretty swift all day. that just added to our fatigue. but, when we pulled off the road at 5 to discuss where we wanted to stop, hank told us that the small mining town in the mountains, Real de Catorce, was less than an hour away.  and, he wanted to get us there himself instead of heading on down the road. I think he partly just wanted to visit it again, now that I know what it’s like. but, we were all pretty excited to have him along for our first attempt at climbing into the mountains, especially because the route was 13 miles up an ancient cobblestone road, then through a tunnel into town.

so, we headed up the mountain after I jumped on his bike. he wanted to make sure bob could concentrate on driving up the road and his bike had quite a bit more power. so, we both agreed easily to this plan. I got a few quick shots of the boys and the road while i was on the back of hank’s bike. it was so beautiful and definitely exhilarating to ride up into the mountains this way.

here’s what the road into Real de Catorce looked like. it looks a lot scarier than it actually was to ride, though.

bob maneuvering his way along. it was apparently easier to stand up, so that’s part of the reason i rode with hank.

we made it up the cobblestone road. this arch is just before you head through a tunnel into town.

our view of the valley as we climbed into the mountains. the entire drive up was breathtaking!

once we got to town, hank and I drove on in to find a hotel because the streets are narrow, one way, and crazy steep. we left the boys at the exit to the tunnel looking at trinkets and getting asked every few minutes to buy fresh bread from the nice old ladies who walk around all day. hank and I quickly found a hotel (super swanky for such a tiny old town) and we all cleaned up and had a wonderful dinner at one of his favorite restaurants for under $15 apiece, including a bottle of wine! we decided that we are getting spoiled quickly on our first night in mexico. but, we were all so stoked about how great the riding went and how beautiful our surroundings were, that we decided not to worry about that and just soak it in while we are here.

More about the sights and sounds of Real de Catorce to come…

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