From Costa Rica and beyond

Friday, September 9, 2011

My first two days in Mexico

Bienvenidos dear readers!  I´m sitting in a little internet cafe at a grocery store in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur.  Mexico has treated me very well so far, but it nearly started in a perilous fashion.  Approaching the border guard, there was one of those embedded barriers that flatten tires if you go over them the wrong way.  I was worried they would not collapse under the weight of my bike.  Flat tires before even crossing the border would be a major bummer.  So, I angled to the side by the curb to avoid them.  But in so doing, I ended up riding parallel to a grate over a pit just after this barrier.  I didn´t even notice it until I put my right foot down and it hit...nothing!  I looked down and saw the grate and nearly blanched with the realization that if I had fallen over, it would surely have broken my leg as my bike´s weight would push me down.  Yikes!

After that, the formalities of importing my bike were slow, but pretty easy as soon as I figured out where to go.  There were many helpful signs and mercifully no line when they finally opened at 8am.  At last, I could hit the camino.  All names on my mapquest directions were nowhere to be found.  So, I just wandered around.  A couple kind people asked what I was looking for and I blurted out Carretera - highway.  They pointed in a direction that did not seem to match my mapquest directions.  Eventually, their advice proved to be correct.  I foiund highway 1D (cuota - I think that means it`s a toll road).  This led me along a spectacular coast on a very well maintained road.  It reminded me of CA´s Hwy 1.  At the port city of Ensenada, the highway was no longer a toll road and it left the coast.

The ride inland warmed up quickly.  Soon I was in temps that must have been at or more than 100F.  In no time almost all towns were behind me.  It was just me and the desert and some traffic on this narrow two lane road.  For a motorcycle, this winding road was quite fun, as long as you and the bike didn´t overheat.  I was wearing my Camelbak and was still going on adrenaline.  As I approached San Quintin, there was some agriculture.  At first a couple random plots of cacti (for tequila?), but then big vineyards and then even larger fields complete with a network of a sort of greenhouse containing I don´t know what crop.  Peppers?  That seems unlikely.  At any rate, it´s clear that an effort is underway to create a sort of fertile crescent there.

I rode right through San Quintin without realizing it was actually SQ.  I stopped at a gas station to check.  Mercifully, its proximity to the ocean made it cooler than the inland.  I checked two hotels and stayed at the cheaper one for 200 pesos - around  $18.  It was a tough night.  A connected bar where I enjoyed a Dos Equis earlier came to life when I went to bed.  The air was filled with thumping mexican pop music and constant sreams of "Aye, aye aye!!!" (really)  There was also a thumping sound accompanying those screams.  I wondered if Khrushchev was there pounding his shoe.  This continued non-stop until 3am (I had put my earplugs in just moments before).

Still, it was a great first day.  Regarding safety:  There was one federal police check and about four military checkpoints.  Mostly, these are young soldiers who were professional and courteous.  I found their presence reassuring.

The next day led back inland.  I got an early start to avoid the worst heat.  Valleys and mountains made for another day of curvy, fun riding.  Some mountains were old and warn, others looked young and verile.  All were brown.  Cacti appeared in one region and then something remarkable:  boulders.  Hundreds of thousands of boulders of enormous proportions littering the landscape.  Some were piled into little mountains. I am still baffled about what caused this amazing scene.

Amidst this unique grandeur was a little town.  A sign indicated gas was available here.  I only saw a closed gas station, though.  Across from that was an elegant hotel.  I rode to the entryway and found a BMW800 sitting there all geared up to go.  I went inside and first met Arturo, who took an immediate interest in the bikers and assumed we were together.  Nope.  Arturo encouraged me to go to Bahia de Los Angeles.  Sorry, Arturo, we didn´t go, but thanks for the map!!  Finally, Arturo and I met Ade, a self-described tech geek from Toronto (his parents are Indonesian)..  How cool.  Arturo and I decided to ride to GN together.  Arturo took pics of us and then gave me his card.  It showed his employer to be Steelcase, a company very near home for me.  He has been to Grand Rapids many times.

Ade and I were near twins.  Black pants, lighter jackets, blue shirts and the exact same helmets.  Wierd.  Ade showed me where the guy was with extra gas (in lieu of a gas station) and we were off.  It was fun to ride with someone, especially through such a foreboding environment.  Without the extra gas, I would not have made it to GN.  After a couple hours of riding, the air cooled again and GN was near.  We were welcomed by a giant Mexican flag blowing in the stiff westerly wind.  A couple hours earlier, this flag had been worrying me.  It had occured to me that I wasn´t sure I had a Carta Turistica, which is required for travel in Mexico away from the border provinces.  After all the effort of importing my bike, it baffled me that I didn´t have this. I had certainly made clear to the customs official that I was going all the way to Belize.  Then it hit me, though.  I had filled out a form and paid for something prior to getting the importation permit.  That had to be the Carta Turistica...and of course, it is.  No worry, though.  The immigration agents at the NG checkpoint just waved us through.

Ade and I got a couple tacos, got settled in our respective hotels and then set out to explore.  We rode out to the Faro Viejo - the old lighthouse.  This late afternoon ride took us down a long road built through salt marshes that team with birds and fish.  This drive comes to a close where the marsh gives way to open water with undulating wanderdunes across the water.  It was spectacular.  This point had belonged to a salt company where the salt would be loaded on ships.  Apparently, salting began here in the 50s.  Today, this is still home to one of the largest salt operations in the world...if not the largest.  This harbor was no longer used for shipping though.  All that was left were ruined buildings, a few fishing boats, lots and lots of shells, and of course an old lighthouse.  The beauty of this place and the sense of having discovered this place so far away from home was intoxicating.

That adrenaline kept me up until quite late.  It was not just adrenaline, though.  The cockroaches were disconcerting, but didn´t fill me with dread.  They stuck to the floor and actually stayed out of sight (three of them had already found an unnatural end).  Mosquitos hummed around my head.  THAT was annoying.  At first, I thought it was only a couple, so I turned on the light, read my Spanish phrase book and waited to kill them.  I got three, turned off the light and bzzzzzzzz.  That was it.  I got up (shoes on, of course!), pushed the beds together and erected my tent.  I crawled in and was finally able to sleep!

Tomorrow, Ade and I will continue toward La Paz and the Gulf of California.

1 comment:

  1. Best luck Mr. Ehrean! I'll be reading your journals in the future, so keep us updated and let us know that you stay happily alive! -Jess