Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Puerto Vallarta

The highway (read; two lane road clinging to the sides of a mountain) eventually drops you down into old Puerto Vallarta (PV). This area has the look of an old town initially designed for business and the locals who would support those business but now caters mostly to tourists. It's actually kind of quaint compared to the new tourist drenched part of the city. In old PV there's a little charm left on the restaraunts and old hotels. Money is certainly creeping in with a good number of pricey, sophisticated spots to eat and sleep and just a couple of big corporate joints to remind you that soon even in the heart of the Amazon you could probably find a McDonalds.

We set up camp in one of those old hotels. The lobby looked promising with a pool in the courtyard and comfy chairs to lounge in. Our motorcycles parked amongst the chairs and tropical plants added an air of sophistication which was truely lacking.

Thirty bucks buys you a stark but reasonably clean closet to rest your road weary head. What made the room so special to me was the bathroom. Particulary the toilet which was crammed so tight into the smaller closet making up the bathroom that my left knee was jammed against the wall in front of me, my right leg was hanging out into our room directly in front of Alfred's bed and my head rested comfortably against the cool, painted cinderblock wall.

That night we wandered the streets in search of discount beer and had a plate of wonderful English style fish and chips served up at fish joint run by a Brit.

Since we had a free place to stay near PV, with heavy heart we checked out of our cubicle the next morning in search of Bucerias and our apartment home.

Bucerias is North of PV by about 30 miles. We were in the Southern end of PV which gave us the opportunity to see a little bit more of the town. What I saw I didn't like. American stores lined the main road through town. Home Depot, WalMart, Charbucks, KFC, McDo, even a damned Chili's! was there in case you forgot what real Mexican food tasted like. I swear we are ruining the world. Forget the bombs we drop indiscriminatly it's our unstoppable consumerism that has the biggest impact. Besides you gotta get rid of bombs somewhere. Not in my backyard is my rule.

It took some doing but we eventually found our one room duplex apartment. Sparsely furnished and minimumly (is that a word?) decorated, it was to us four star accomodations. The room however did come equipped with a bag of smelly herbs in the freezer. Now, I don't partake nor do I comdemn those who do. It was a nice touch just the same.

We spent the next couple of days wandering around our new home and not surpisingly I was not impressed. Not because it was filled with tourists (mostly Canadians) but because for a tourist hotspot is was very rundown. I was hoping for something in between. A place which looked like Mexico but without the trash, rubble and debris which is omnipresent. An odd note about Canadians. We were told by several people, locals and other North Americans that the Canadians are incredibly cheap. It was fun to get a local bartender or waitress going about our friends to the North and listen to them vent. I like Canadians, I mean they're practically Americans. In fact, if they look at us the wrong way George W. just might bring his version of democracy and nation building their way. So, my Canadian friends, if you have a beef with being cheap, tip your waitress better.

Around the corner was a slick veghead restaurant which screened movies twice a week in an outdoor screening area. On my last night in Bucerias the movie to be shown was "Babel". For $5 bucks you get a movie and a $5 voucher towards anything on the menu. I was jonesing for a real Margarita so I cautiously asked our server how they were made. "Fresh squeezed lime juice, cointreau, anejo tequila (I went with Cazadores) and just pinch of sugar", was the reply. Being a self confessed "foodie" I've now taken my food snobbery into the realm of mixed drinks. In the last few years I've discovered it's almost impossible to get a good mixed drink anywhere. Bars and restaraunts have become obsessed with commercially made mixers which hardly resemble the original which inspired them. Margaritas and their recently popular cousin the Mojito suffer the most from this travesty. Sweet and sour mix should be denounced in the United Nations as one of the greatest crimes committed against humanity in my lifetime. Or if that's too strong at least a resolution recognizing the S&S mix as the single worst cocktail concoction since arsenic was banned from cocktail drinks. Having said all that the waiter's answer was right on and a real margarita was ordered. One last note on the subject, you can get real margaritas in Mexico if you ask. I was having dinner with a couple from California where I queried the waiter on the subject. We ordered several Margaritas for the table and I could tell the couple felt as if I was trying to be prententious or difficult. This changed when the Margaritas arrived. The couple was shocked to find how good a real Margarita is. They were used to making theirs at home with commercial mixes. My work was done, another palate saved from the dumming down of American tastebuds by American food conglomerates.

Back to the movie; The screen made from discarded sheets was strung between two coconut palms. We sat on homemade low set cloth and wood chairs embedded in the sand. Air conditioning provided by the Pacific breezes was just right and our ceiling of blue black heavens sprinkled with shining gems provided by a most brilliant God, created the most enjoyable theater. There I was thousands of miles away from home watching a Hollywood movie (it's acutually a Mexican movie, it's true, look it up) drinking a curls your toes good Margarita, with those same toes curling in the sand. That's living folks. I recommend you do it.

Such was my last night in Bucerias. The next day Sandi would be flying in. Check in soon as I'm intent on wrapping my account of my time in Mexico.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just a quickie!

Hi All,

The last couple of weeks have flown by without any time to update. I'm going to do a complete update in a few days. Since last I wrote we've been in Puerto Vallarta, San Blas, over mountains (wait for that post) and through the desert.

Thanks to everyone who have been reading the post (that doesn't sound right, I need to take an English class. it must the Spanish mixing with the English.) I've enjoyed your posts.

Anyway, stay tuned for the wrap up!

Shayne

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Puerto Vallarta


On Feb 20 I have to be in Puerto Vallarta (PV)to met Sandi (Sandi with an I). It's very difficult to estimate how long it will take you to get from one point to another so we decided to push hard up the coast and reach Manzinillo in one day. The ride had all the usual stuff and the town was nothing to speak of. We left the next day for PV. The following is a record of that day.....

Well, my druges. Up the wally wonk we stopped by the milk bar for a bit of the ole stomp and wonk. Welly, well, well.

Sorry about that, I watched "A Clockwork Orange" the other night, in English with Spanish subtitles. The subtitles don't do the movie justice. Anyway it's been stuck in my head. We should be free of the "Orange speak" from this point forward.

We rolled out a little later than usual but we were thinking that we would stop where ever we wanted to and camp on the beach or if we felt like it we would push on to PV. Alfred's friend hooked us up with an apartment for free so obviously that sounded good.

The beginning of our ride took us through banana and palm plantations which are pretty in their own right. The road was fairly straight for the first hour and a half with gentle curves leading upwards. After that it was a roller coaster of twisties. These were pretty intense as we attacked each curve as if were in a moto gp race. The twisties cause you to concentrate on nothing but the road. After an hour of this I was mentally fatigued and needed a break. I spied one of the few safe places to pull off and motioned Alfred to follow. Getting off the bike I realized what an amazing view was in front of us. We were hundreds of feet above the ocean and beach below. It may have been 700 or 800 feet below but one thing was for sure, it was a straight drop down. To the left you could see the cliffs and below them the beach and surf. We took many pictures which I'll post on our return. (I've learned that image management while on the road is too time consuming and sometimes impossible. )From that point the twisties smoothed out and we ran into a fairly straight road for another two hours. It was nice to relax for a change. On straight roads I can think about anything and usually come to conclusions and solve problems much more quickly than back at home.

We stopped for lunch in a no name town under a tent with a homemade sign. Our waitress' were no more than ten years of age, two of them and each a darling. It was Sabado so barbacoa was on the menu. While munching on my delicious taco of beef cheek meat, a fellow adventure rider cruised by. We were a little put off that the guy didn't bother to stop or even wave.

Back on the road the twisties began a new. Twenty minutes later we saw the same rude guy broke down by the side of the road. We couldn`t leave him stranded could we? No, we couldn't. The man introduced himself as Lone Rider on the website advrider.com, or Bob to the rest of the world. Bob told us he never saw us and certainly would've stopped as he was looking for somewhere to eat at the time. At the moment he was trying to fix a hole in his rear tube. The same one he replaced that morning. The other problem was he was out of glue so I unloaded my gear and dug out my tire repair kit. He was back on the road in about twenty minutes headed to the next town to properly inflate his fixed tire. We followed him to ensure he got there safely, then he was off again.

Ten minutes later we caught up with Bob after an amazing ride through high mountain valleys filled with diverse greenery and red soil. Bob's twice fixed tube was flat again and needed the glue and the use of my air pump. Once fixed we all rode into PV, found a hotel and then found cold beers.

That's all for now my little druges (I know I promised, but I can`t help myself), that's all for now. Come back for a bird's eye view of PV and more of them nasty tourists.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Zihou







Cruising up the coast was a breeze. No problems and nothing much stood out. Just you're usual crazy ride through the Mexican countryside. Rolling into Zihoutenjo was a bit of a downer. It has a good reputation as a cool beach town. Problem was we didn't see the beach or anything cool for that matter. Working our way to the centro we noticed many closed shops catering to tourists, the type we try to avoid. We had a particular hostel in mind and like so many times before a local on a bike had us follow him until we were close enough to find it.

Our hostel was slightly less appealing than most others but it was clean, cheap and had secure parking for the bikes. In fact, we rolled the bikes into a courtyard/lobby and they slept just outside our room window, along with three other bikes. Those bikes belonged to three younger guys who began their journeys separately but like that thing on one of the Star Treks they became one and were assimilated. They were cool guys who were eager to share their road stories just as we were eager to share ours. One of the guys hit a Canadian pedestrian the day before. It was the pedestrians fault but the biker ended up paying both medical bills. Neither was hurt badly, just cuts and bruises. The local paper got just about all the facts wrong including, the bikes were Harleys (not), the biker purposely laid down his bike in a valiant effort to avoid the pedestrian and then showed the wrong bike in the paper. Facts like appointments, traffic rules and building codes are a nuisance for Mexicans.

Later that evening we got out and walked around our new city. The shops were reopening after the afternoon siesta, a first for us in Mexico. This was the reason the town looked so dead when we first arrived. Street food vendors were prepping their fare and artisans were readying themselves for the hoards which were coming. In the main square all of this was happening while musicians were tuning their instruments for the evening concerts. In the background was a beautiful bay and the old city in the fore.

That night we ambled around the old town sampling street food (in Mexico this is an art form not to be missed), eyeing the crafts the hawkers shoved at us and stopping off occasionally for a cold brew. Like many other towns we've visited, the first night was a long one. A good time was had and a headache was sure to follow.

The next day started slowly as we didn't rise with the crowing cocks. When we did stumble out we were greeted by herds of pasty white, middle aged tourists rushing to spend their kids inheritance. After spending so many days amongst travellers, dealing with tourists can be a let down. You end up feeling a little embarrassed to come from the same country as those in the herd. It's a little hard to explain why but I'll try. Travellers are attempting to understand a culture and the country. We eat with the locals, struggle with the language, sleep in hotels that while clean a tourist would not. Tourists come in speaking English, buying up crap with the town name on it, look down their noses at the locals and go home to their friends and neighbors and speak as if they know something of the country they were in. Trust me when I tell you, that if you're cruise ship docks in a Mexican town, it is not Mexico. It is a Disney Epcot version of Mexico. Be a tourist if you like but do not believe for one moment you know anything of the people, culture or country you visited.

That night we had dinner with a couple from California whose company we very much enjoyed. I hope to see them again and if you read this, Hello and I'll email when I get back home.

In the end we enjoyed Zihou much more than we thought we would. I would have no problem returning, hopefully one day I will.

The next day we were planning to head North so we packed and inspected the bikes for departure.

Next the ride North.

New email address!

I set up an email address for anyone who might want to contact me. Some might have questions about Mexico or motorcycles or whatever. You can email me at motolocogringo23@yahoo.com.

I may not get back to you quickly but I will do my best. Shayne

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quinta Erika war wunderbar!


I don´t want to go over the actual ride to Acapulco because the road has been essentially the same for about a week now. Alfred suffered a bit due to the heat, though. Most likely his body still wasn´t quite right and still had the lingering effects from dehydration. One nice bit of the ride though was the ocean which finally came into view after so many miles of riding in the hills. The ocean was never far but just out of view. That´s one of the strange facts of riding on highway 200. If you look at a map you might get the impression that the road is mostly along the ocean. In fact you see the ocean very sparingly and your left with the same terrain we´ve seen for 1000 miles.

Just outside of Acapulco the law enforcement and military presence becomes quite heavy. There is a large narco crime element here. The checkpoints don´t bother us at all but there is always the slight nervousness when approaching one. I guess the thought is, ¨is the time we get messed with by corrupt or just plain shitty police?¨. Then they wave us through like they almost always do and you´re cruising down the highway again.

Acapulco looks like a lovely place to bring a wad of cash, sunscreen and have a great time. To drive through it is a different story. By now we had been on the road in 90 degree heat with full riding gear on, eating dirt and bugs for 4 hours. We were sticky and testy and needed a cold one. In this state we were forced to deal with the traffic of this modern large city with one main artery (at least to our knowledge) to get you to the other side. Insane traffic, a glaring roasting sun and my natural North American impatience made for another lovely experience driving in a Mexico city. Of course we got lost. Like so many times before a thoughtful local had us follow him where he led us through a maze of alleys and tight turns until we again found our road. I mean how did we miss that unmarked labyrinth of a route? Silly gringos.

Just outside Acapulco is the small beach side town of Pie de la Cuesta which seemed like a good place to spend one night. Cruising along the main road I was left to wonder what made this town so appealing to warrant a mention in the Lonely Planet guide? Overpriced, underwhelming crappy hotels and the same crumbling facades of every other rundown town. Lonely Planet please save us by guiding us to a nice hotel without roaches and with a toilet seat. Just outside Pie town is just the place, Quinta Erika.

Quinta Erika (QE) is an Eden oasis built by a long time German expat named Helmut and run by him and his daughter Erika. As you enter the gates a 100 meter dirt driveway guides you through a jungle of palms and flowering vines until you reach paradise. In true German style Helmut has thought of everything. Outdoor showers, hammocks, beautiful stone swimming ponds, dining amongst the best that nature can give and if that isn´t enough QE is set on a mountain lake with spectacular views. In an unGerman (all you Deutchophiles don´t give me any crap about this line, I lived in Deutchland for 4 years and know a little about German culture) like manner Helmut, Coco (his wife) and Erika are the most gracious conscientious hosts giving caring service while knowing when to give you your peace. For $55 dollars a night you get all this plus a lovely full breakfast in the outdoor dining area.

We told Helmut that we would only be staying one night. Within an hour we resolved to stay two.

The next day we decided to change the oil in the bikes and asked Erika if she knew where could find some oil. Helmut is an old time biker and self confessed gear head, so we thought the odds were good that between the two of them we would have our oil. Erika told us that she used to own a moto repair shop and still had some oil that we could buy. This place is getting better by the minute. Helmut jumped right in and provided us everything we would need, including cold beers! He stayed with us while we exchanged our oil, talking bikes, travels and his life.

We enjoyed everything about QE including the other guests. One morning we dined with two English women. The next night we dined with a couple from NYC. This is how to live.

Just a fantastic place. If I ever get back to the Aca area I will definitely pay Helmut and Erica a vist. Danke schon, Helumt!

Next on the itinerary is Zihuatenejo. More mad capped adventures of gringos on the loose to come!

Puerto Escondido Haze




Rolling into Puerto Escondido (PE) I saw a sign for the beach we thought we would stay in and turned down that road. The neighborhood hardly looked like a famous beach side town but nothing is as it seems in Mexico so in that sense it didn´t seem out of place at all. Just off the beach we stopped to orient ourselves when a small boy on a bicycle asked what we were looking for. ¨A cheap place to stay of course¨, we replied. The boy told us to follow him and he´d set everything up.The boy led us (for a $10 peso reward) to the Bueno Onda (Good Vibes) hostel where we met Pierre and Simona, the owners. They have built a beautiful hostel on the beach and run it like a hippie paradise. With palms, ferns and foliage so thick you have to occasionally duck or with machete hack your way to the beach you get the feeling of being in the jungle. You can choose a cabana at around $20 a night or a bed in a dorm at $6 a night. We choose the dorm. We eat all the local food which include beans at every meal. The only other person in our room was a Swiss girl who probably will never be the same.

With a large open cabana set on the beach equipped with hammocks, tables and chairs we felt as if we had found what we needed, a place to relax, soak up the sun and allow our saddle chaffed butts a needed rest. It was indeed relaxing but it became apparent very quickly that we had stumbled into the dope smoking hippie hotel. Don´t get me wrong, the people staying there were nice, congenial but very much checked out. It didn´t matter the time of day someone was smoking mota. The smell was omnipresent. I´m no stuff shirt nor do I pretend to be the moral compass for others. I could care less what people do, it´s not my concern. The annoying part was that they were gone. Conversation was difficult to maintain. They weren´t engaging in the least. I don´t want to give the impression that there were pot smoking zombies shuffling their feet around us. That wasn´t the case. The group as a whole just wasn´t what we were used. If you remember from a previous post I said that what often made a town most memorable to us were the people we interacted with at the hostel or hotel. Well, PE just wasn´t that much fun for us.

To add to the THC induced malaise was the stifling midday heat. The only defense was to lie in a hammock and drink cold beer until it cooled enough to walk across the hot sand and cool off in the ocean. It was nice to be forced by the sun to relax. If you did so much as swat a fly you´d break out in sweat. Lord, knows we can´t have that.

We realized that we were on the extreme fringe of town. In fact, we weren´t on the town map. This was why the area didn´t look like a resort town. Where we were, it wasn´t. The main town at least of interest to tourists was pleasant enough. Gift shops lined the main street with the occasional restaurant interspersed among them. Both designed to pull the money from the tourists who were eager to part with their pesos.

A bright spot was the Italian food. Simona is Italian and like her, many of her compatriots have resettled in PE. Simona recommended a restaurant run by a pizza chef from Naples. Her recommendation was right on. Benditos Pizzeria is where we dined both nights we were in PE.

I had my first good Cuppa Joe (shameless plug, our cafes are named Cuppa Joe) at a nice German run cafe called something like the Bagetteria (I can´t recall the full name, they´re listed in the Lonely Planet). Good coffee, croissants and breakfast. I´m sure all they do is above par but we only had breakfast there. Check it out, good stuff.

So all in all PE was cool. The surf was down which is fine because like Charlie, I don´t surf either. Pierre and Simona are wonderful hosts. If you are looking for a cheap, clean and beautiful place where you will find peace and the smell of mota check them out, you won´t be disappointed.

From PE our next destination is Acapulco. We´re not much for big cities so it most likely will be a small beach town Just North of Acapulco called Pie de la Cuesta.

Join us next time while our heroes search out sand, waves and buena onda.