Tropical coast and highland (January 3.-17. 2007)

Posted by on Jan 21 2007 | 03 Mexico 06/07, English

More beach vacation

The ferry ride wasn´t too bad but not exactly relaxing either. All the cabins had been booked out so we stayed in the passenger seating area. Chan palyed with all the kids arround us and Florian was reading stories to a whole bunch of them for at least an hour. Well past our bedtime we finally tried to find some sleep. Chan bedded on Florian´s jacket between the seat rows got most sleep. Flo and I took turns sleeping squished between the seat rows next to Chan and on the seats which arm rests couldn´t be moved.

In Mazatlan we had no idea where to go. We needed to find a bike shop for my break so we wanted to stay in the city for the night. But first we tried to find the tourist info. On the plaza next to the cathedral a police officer could give us reliable directions and some local guy warned us about bag snatchers. At the information they couldn´t any hint about camping but showed us the location of bike stores and a supermarket on a city map. Just when Flo and Chan stept out of the information building, someone said:” Oh, bike travellers, how exciting!” This american fellow and his friend looked like they would know their ways arround a bit and I asked them about campgrounds. Tom instead of giving directions, invited us into his house which he rented on Isla di la piedra right at the beach.

After we had found a good bike break, ann acceptable Mexican highway map and bought groceries, we headed down to the dock of the water taxis to Isla di la piedra.

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When we arrived with our heavy loaded bikes, it was absolutely no problem at all for the ferry men. We got a boat for ourselves and a “steerman” helped loading the bikes, panniers and the trailer. We crossed over for 50 pesos and on the other side they helped us unloading onto a wobbely board walk. A narrow road led us through an idyllic village living of fish and coconuts, to a beach overflowing with tourists.

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We pushed our bikes through soft sand to the hard packed sand close to the water and rode away from the tourist part towards a quieter end of the beach where Tom had at the same day, in fact just a couple hours before we arrived, moved into his house. Tom cooked dinner and then we walked over to his US aritst friends who live on the island 6 months of the year. We ate dinner togheter and talked well into the night. For four days we enjoyed another beach vacation. Every morning Tom had coffee ready when we woke up and cooked some special breakfast for us (pancakes, french toast, …) Every morning between 9 and 10 in the morning a herd of horses passed by on the beach in front of the house and on the other side people would bring purified water. We played on the beach with Chan, relaxed, read in Tom´s guidbook for Mexico, did some laundry, visited Mazatlan and our first real mexican mercado (a huge building with stand next to stand of meat, fruits, vegetables, herbs, cooked food, but also clothing, jewellery and much more.

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Somethimes it´s good not to know what the day will bring!

Roberto, the upstairs neighbour had organized a taxi for us to get to the highway, Mex 15, to Tepic. Like this we didn´t have to take the water taxi into town anymore and find a way out of the city. We got the tip to ride on the cuota (toll highway) rather then the libre, the older highway, from our germand biketravel friends. And really, the cuota had good shoulders, was in good condition and had far less traffic than the libre. We stopped at the first caseta (toll booth) for the night, which wasn´t a problem at all. In fact, the store manager was so fascinated by our journey, that he gave us all the water we needed for free plus coffee in the morning and sandwiches for lunch as well as some phone cards to call our families! He told us about two other bike parties, who had passed through and that he was now collecting pictures of bike travellers. So he added us to his “gallery”.

The landscape had changed quite a bit from the desert of the Baja. Now it was green everywhere, almost jungle like. There were fields of corn and other plants we don´t know, mango plantations and cows grasing between brushes and somethimes walking on the highway. The air was humid and heavy. It was hot and after only a short while on the bikes, we were soaked with sweat.

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After maybe 30km the cuota was closed to traffic because some parts weren´t quite finished yet. We stayed on it all the same and had a relaxed ride. No traffic was bothering us there were only now and then some service cars or locals passing.

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The further we rode the more work the cuota still needed. The construction workers all waved and smiled at us asking: “De donde vien?” Nobody seemed to mind us on the construction site. We stayed on the cuota fro three days. The second day was by far the best, where at our day´s destination, Estation Ruiz, we could set up our tent behind a store and take a shower there!

With a good early start we began the third day on the cuota, but after only a short distance we had to leave the unfinished highway. A bridge was still under construction and we had to switch to the close libre. An endless queue of traffic awaited us, mostly trucks. There was no shoulder at all, the highway was windy but the traffic speed neverthless quite fast. One truck honked and rushed by, we had just enough time to escape into the ditch, when some construction workers called us back onto the unfinished cuota. It wasn´t paved yet here, but hard packed gravel was still better than this crazy traffic.

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From the junction to San Blas the libre joined the cuota which was open for traffic here. The highway was old though, parts of it didn´t have a shoulder and where it existed it was covered with garbage or cracked up. Traffic was still very dense and on top of it we were climbing steep hills through tropical forests up into the mexican highlands. It was very hot and humid and Chan couldn´t stand being in the trailer anymore. We had to take an emergency stop. With juice and wearing only his underware he was content in the trailer again and up, up, up we climbed. After some time slowly climbing and on each “top” discovering that we still had to climb some more, now Flo was morally worn out. i tried to keep our spirits up as good as I could. And slowly, slowly, meter by meter we continued on a particularly bad cracked pavement. Finally the caseta appeared, the first chance for us to stop for the night. But for the first time in Mexico, we weren´t allowed to put up our tent. So we passed and climbed some more meters and asked at one of the many tiendas and again were told to ride on. We just couldn´t ride the last 4km uphill into Tepic anymore. We didn´t have the nerves anymore to ride into such a busy, big city and search for appropriate accomodation. But we had to continue. There was a nursery on the other side of the highway and finally, although the man present was hesitant, the woman let us stay on a nice grassy area of their property. There was a trampolin for Chan as well as swings and sand to play. And the owner reassured me that there weren´t any dangerous animals arround; no scorpions or snakes, despite some warnings from a tienda ownder at the casseta.

Late next morning we headed into the city, but first had to fix a flat. We rode straight to the supermarket, where Chan played on some cars which move when money is put into a slot. He didn´t know it, but Mexicans just love our blonde little companion and some paid a few rides for him. Flo was meanwhile organizing a few things on line. We spent the rest of the day at a trailer RV park playing soccer and taking a shower.

The next day we had to still run some errands and left Tepic late. What a disapointment to find the sign: “No bikes allowed” at the entrance of the toll highway here. We could see that there was far less traffic and a nice shoulder. But we turned arround, out of swiss correctness or stupididty maybe, and took the old highway, the libre.

Soon I was completely stressed out again by the amount of traffic, especially truck traffic, passing us. We took a pee break for Chan and me and ate some snacks than put ourselves into crazyness again. Then the sound of a sirene started up into our backs and a police car slowed at our side. “Porque aqui?” Tienes el cuota!” We pulled over and tried to explain that we weren´t allowed on the cuota. The officer thought we were “loco” and finally he decided to escort us with flashing lights to Chan´s delight, to the next entrance to the cuota.

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“Los signales son mi problemas!” or something like it he explained. At the next village another police car joined us and again we had to pull over. They took our pictures for the report at night and wanted to know the purpose and destination of our journey. Finally they were satisfied and one car escorted us the last stretch to the cuota. At the toll barriere we had to wait while they discussed something with the attendant. Then they signed us to come as well and explained that we either had to pay a car´s rate to use the cuota or push our bikes arround the toll house through some dirt and grass for some 10 meters. We thought they joked, but they didn´t. So we pushed our bikes over some curbes with the help of all of them while the police car blocked the entrance way to the cuota. We needed some snacks after this unusual experience and then took off on a nice new shoulder with very little traffic passing us. Only 15 more kilometers we wanted to ride and stop at an intersection where we assumed a few houses or at least a tienda. But there was a mistake on our map and a misunderstaning with a toll barriere attandant and that particular intersection never appeard. When we realized what had happened, we still had to cover more than 20km to the next village. It was already pretty late, we had only a little more than an hour of daylight left. We were all tired, but I didn´t feel confident enough to just camp at the side of the highway. Besides, there wasn´t a good spot in sight anyway since we were riding along a lava flow. So we kept riding, uphill of course. Finally we seemed to be at the top and there was a sign: next gas station 10km. “Uff! We can make it just at night fall!”, I thought. We could look down into a long valley and far below us I could see the lights of Jala, the town with the gas station. I started to count the kilometer markers: 9km, 8, 7, 6, We will make it, we will make it, we will make it!” I murmured to myself. But then Flo slowed down and stopped. “What´s the matter?”, I called. “A flat!” As fast as we could, we unloaded Flos bike, took the wheel out, exchanged the tube, pummped up and loaded again. By now it was night and we attached our flashlights on the bikes and rolled off. “5km, 4, … Flo slowed again. Another flat, the back wheel again. And we repeated the same story. Flo was really angry and didn´t say a word. Chan was super patient and just needed to hold my hand now and then. Flo was ready to roll again, when I realised that my back wheel was flat as well. Now we didn´t have any spare tubes anymore. Flo lost it for a moment and threw his bike on the ground swearing. Chan started to cry, he haden´t seen his daddy like this before. I yelled at Flo to please get down to earth again:” Stop acting like this, just pump up my tube so that we can roll again. It´s only 4 more kilometers. We need our strength to get to that damn Pemex station. Look at Chan, how patient he is. He doesn´t need this!” I fed him some granola bars and he pumped, I jumped on my bike and rolled. Still 3km to go and my back wheel was flat again. Pumping- 2km- flat- pumping up and rolling. I pedalled as fast as I could, luckily it was all downhill. We were so close, there were the lights of Jala and still it was out of reach. 1km- flat to the rim- pumping and pedalling. Now I was at the exit, Flo pumped and it lasted to the bridge about 500m further. Now I pushed my bike up the bridge, Flo went ahead and waited on top for me. he pumped again and I rolled another 500m. There was the Pemex. I sent Flo ahead and pushed my bike to the gas station. Never had I been so happy about a gas station!There was nice grass around it, waiting for our tent to be mounted. Flo asked the attendant if we could spend the night there and explained that we just couldn´t go any further, pointing at my flat. she let us stay and I had to cry out of relief that we made it. Tired to the bone we cooked, played with Chan, put up the tent and at 9.30 crawled into the tent.

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The next day we only rode 16km into the next bigger town and took a hotel room. The afternoon we relaxed at the plaza and Chan played away.

One more night we spent at the roadside at a caseta and than we arrived in Guadalajara.

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Here we are now spending our last of four days. We found what we wanted for our bikes (5 new tubes, tuffy, a kind of tape to put in between the tube and the tire to prevent flats, new rim tape for my back wheel, 2 new tires for Flo´s bike and we fixed one of our mirrors at a car body shop), I at last got my new credit card, Flo bought a new mattress at a therma rest store (his wasn´t inflatable anymore from almost our first day in Mexico) and Chan got a small traditional wooden drum and new shoes which he needed badly. Tomorrow we will be leaving this city again.

3 comments for now

3 Responses to “Tropical coast and highland (January 3.-17. 2007)”

  1. Pawel

    It is fascinating to read your story. I admire what you are doing and wish you less flats and more strength. Not too many people are brave and crazy enough to take that kind journey. It will be something that will stay with you forever. Keep on going… I wish I could join you at least for few days…

    Rebeka, when you eventually write a book about this journey, I want a copy !!!

    Enjoy and have fun

    P.

    22 Jan 2007 at 7:51 pm

  2. Tom

    Dear friends,
    So glad you are slogging through the adversity. Still on the adventure.
    I have left the casa on la playa and am at Gary and Carol’s house watching the dogs.
    The reason Gary and Carol didn’t come say goodbye was because Gary was in the hospital. He went in twice and is leaving tomorrow for New York City for heart consultations. I will be with the dogs til the middle of February (Carnaval!!!)
    Please give much love to Chan for me. I have missed him since you left. I appreciated your stay more than I can transmit to you from this far remove.

    29 Jan 2007 at 10:29 am

  3. admin

    chris here – i’m trying to get the photos sorted out. they are a bit blurry, I’m working on it… here’s at least a teaser for those checking them out.

    11 Feb 2007 at 4:40 pm

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