Discovering Mexico, Day two

Russell and I woke in a foreign land. We were hundreds of miles south of anywhere familiar and hungry for more. Mostly we were hungry. After dining in the same restaurant that hosted the wonderful buffet of the night before we packed up ready for the day. FYI, breakfast was as we would see many times on the trip: tacos and an orange Fanta. The Fanta is of course to pretend something healthy.

Packing up.

On the road we were back to desert; it would last most of the day. It was beautiful.

The roads varied but were generally well maintained and with low traffic. Only occasionally did we have trouble passing a truck in the mountains. The KLR kept up for the most part with the VStrom, and I would have no qualms about taking it again. Of course it wasn’t me riding it. Somewhere along the way we passed a sign for ruins. Russell and I hadn’t discussed side trips, and I wanted to ask what he thought. He agreed it was a good idea, so we turned back to see what there was.

Before we even got to the ruins, which were extraordinary by the way, we found something else of immense proportions: nopales, or prickly pear as we know them. These things were unbelievable, and I expect that in my life I’ll never see any this large again. They make what we have in Texas look like babies!

These weren’t the biggest we saw, but they were right off the road and easily accessed.

The ruins were truly amazing. Archeologists are not sure who made them or exactly when, but they are far out of place for the Mayans or any other Mexican civilizations. The city is called “La Quemada,” presumably for the city of the same name not too far westward. We enjoyed hiking to the top of the hill that seated the ruins and took photos from above.

I took a lot more. Check them out here.

The next stop was at a tequila or agave plantation.  They offered free tastings, but as we were only halfway through the day and more hungry than anything, we just stopped for photos.  It was quite a sight!  Who knew agave grew so well and was so cherished? They went on for miles near the town of Tabasco. This wasn’t the only plantation we saw on the trip, but it certainly was the biggest. Of course we purposefully avoided the major traffic roads that would lead to the touristy areas. This would be especially true the third day of the trip when we took the load least traveled.

As we moved south the scenery changed, and before long it was impossible to call the terrain desert. Instead plants were more frequent and greener. Trees versus prickly pear or Joshua Trees appeared, and eventually we found a river in a valley. This was quite interesting, and we enjoyed the curvy roads that followed the river and cliff faces.

Once when nature called we pulled over to find tall brown grass and some burros tied to the river. Here was the view.

Here we noticed the vegetation really begin to change, and as we climbed out of the valley we noticed a strong temperature change. Things were really cooling off!

The valley went on for many miles, probably 20 or more, and we passed several nice pueblos, including Jalpa. Once we climbed out of the valley the scenery changed dramatically. It was now a high desert, without the vegetation we had seen before, and much cooler. The elevation was probably 2000 meters or more. As we approached Guadalajara traffic picked up significantly, and we could no longer pass the people in front of us. Finally we were 20 kilometers from Guadalajara and entering a valley. It was beautiful and of the same vegetation we saw earlier.

The odd thing was that G was supposedly the second largest city in Mexico, and within 20 minutes of it there was no evidence of millions of people living there. We crossed another valley and started up again with still no sign. The road was fun, and there were even a few bicyclists taking advantage of the steep roads. Finally, with just 6 km to go, we came out of the valley and saw it – one huge city. Guadalajara was out in front of us in it’s full glory. The outskirts we saw at first were as poor as imaginable, and they butted up against the cliff that we had just ridden up. It was a striking contrast of pure nature to pure poverty. Within a few minutes we were into the heart of the city and looking for a good place to stop.

This here is a good place to stop as G was too interesting to split up into two posts. The road there from Zacatecas had been great, and some of those sights will live with me forever. Until next time

More Mexico

Where we last left off, Russell and I were on our way south past Monterrey.  We were riding toll roads for the quickness of it all and even more quickly realizing the expense was too great.  The tolls themselves varied from 40 Pesos to 180 Pesos, or about 15 dollars.  This was extreme! And we hadn’t budgeted for so much cost so often.

The geology of the area was increasingly interesting. After turning west from Monterrey towards Saltillo, more than once we found mountains made of tilted rocks, layered horizontally but eventually nearly perpendicular to the horizon. It was worthy of our attention, and I snapped only a few photos wishing for more. Some of the best sights were not a stops, and I hadn’t yet gotten permission from Russell to stop just for photo breaks. Eventually it did become necessary to stop as the scenery was just too good, but we weren’t there yet.

Finally, past Saltillo, we decided that regular roads were the way to go. This caused a little mixup in directions – the toll roads are slightly better with road signs, and Saltillo had several detours that caused us to lose the road we had planned to take. This was fine, and actually I think we were better off because of it. The road was smaller and slower, but traffic was light, and the scenery fantastic. There are no pictures of Saltillo, the place we first saw American stores such as HEB, Walmart, Autozone, Churches Chicken, and more. It was a little hectic, and we just wanted to get back on the road. The city was on a plateau and very arid. I bet the night skies are fantastic there.

Once south of town, and on a correct road, we began to boogie. We crosses between mountains and through large valleys. The most impressive ones had sights for more than 20 miles. Several were home to large Joshua Tree forests, and we must have passed 40 miles of the mesmerizing plant. Finally it was time to stop just for a photo break, and it was worth it!


And this one I had Russell pose for.

The day was extremely entertaining. As the sun set we approached Villa de Cos, a small town north of Zacatecas.  We had been warned to drive only during the day time, and after more than 8 hours in the saddle, our first long day, it was time to break.  We pulled in to a roadside hotel and restaurant.  This turned out to be great except for the lack of hot water.  The restaurant was a buffet and our first exposure to real Mexican food.  Both of us were impressed!  I really enjoyed the chile relleno while Russell’s favorite was the pork with green sauce.  Everything on the buffet was fantastic.

We also tried out a few new beers and sat for over an hour playing cribbage in the restaurant.  The two of us did look out of place, but everyone was friendly and accommodating.  My Spanish was coming back slowly but surely, and I felt really comfortable.  It was the perfect day of riding and reflection.  By that night all of my anxieties were gone, and it was the beginning of a real adventure.

Riding at sundown

Stay tuned for the next day when we discover some Ancient ruins and reach fantastic Guadalajara. And the rest of the photos from that day are here.