One comes, one stays, but one also has to leave. After almost 3 months spent in Los Angeles at our friend’s house, who practically became our family, we had to leave. Although the farewell was sad, we tried to remain strong and promise to meet again soon.
We’re going south, to the South that everybody fears of. Some even avoid mentioning it. So many negativity in the news that it makes you afraid to even get out of the house.
We left on a Sunday on a smooth ride to San Diego. The desert was the same: hot and barren and the sun was bursting down on us. After a night of visiting in San Diego the following day we woke up energized and anxious to cross the border to Mexico.
Against all the advice given from others, we dared to cross the border in Tijuana, a city of no good, or so the news say so. The border crossing was fast and without any checking; it was like in Europe, in the Schengen area. On the other way though, at the entrance in the United States, there was a huge waiting line.
A long gray wall topped with barbed wire made me accelerate a little and kept my sight in the mirrors. Any strange move would make me go even faster. I had too many thoughts and preferred to be cautious rather than surprised. I armed Diana with a pepper spray; this is the minimum of safety you can do in order to cross the border safely but without being too flashy.
So here we were rolling on the Pacific shore through the misty rocks. Location: Baja California. An arid land and yet wanted for its landscapes.
The first stop was in a gas station; I fueled up quickly and almost forgot to stop the engine or to put back the lid. That fast I wanted to go from there. Riding makes me feel safer but one cannot ride forever. Sometimes you have to stop and get some sleep, right? We don’t have too much money on us but the first night had to be at a hotel. At least until we figure out how it is like to camp in Mexico. We found a cheap but clean hotel in the center of the city of Ensenada, which also had a great guarded interior parking. The staff was very friendly and willing to help.
After a few hours spent in the city and our first Mexican marguerites, we went to bed. The next morning the Bavarian was loaded for another day of riding in Baja.
We kept going south through a landscape that seemed that would not change. There were tall cactuses, sand and canyons everywhere. In some areas they would fix the road and the deviation took you to an unpaved road, but after Mongolia that seemed like a child’s play.
Apart from the cactuses and the sand, Baja also has a lot of military troops placed between cities and their job is to search any suspicious vehicle for drugs. At first sight they look intimidating: wearing camouflage uniforms, with bullet-proof vests and shotguns but they are friendly and their job is to prevent the drug traffic. Some of them even recommended us routes and places to visit.
Since we had nothing on us and didn’t look suspicious either, the word spread and for the next controls they just let us pass and waved as we walked by them.
Just like that time went by and one week was gone and we got to La Paz. Here we had to take the ferry to Mainland Mexico and it seemed that our choice was not the wisest. Or the luckiest. There are two transportation companies that can take you to Mazatlan: Baja Ferries or TMC. We chose the second one, without knowing that there won’t be any space even where to lay a blanket or some sleeping pads to sleep on the floor. The ugly part is when you find out about it when you are already on the boat. The fact being consumed, we took our sleeping pads and our guts to prepare for a night spent under the stars.
After few hours of laying on the deck I went inside the boat where I found an open office; I quickly came back for Diana and sneak inside where we laid our pads on the carpeted floor. We covered ourselves with the motorcycle jackets and hoped for the best. I kind of guarded both of us because at any move or noise I would wake up and prepare for defense or for attacking. Kind of extreme, considering the fact that the boat was full of the same Mexican truck drivers that were heading home. It’s good though to be prepared. Just saying.
The night went quickly and the following day we woke up under a hot and shiny sun close to the shore of Mazatlan. After 2 coffees and lots of water we hop on the Bavarian and head east. It’s quite challenging to keep your eyes wide open after one night of not sleeping.
The road was amazing! The serpentines, the going up and down in the canyons and the landscape mingled in one beautiful combination tropical plants and pine trees. We even saw some ice in the shadows, on the side of the road, but let’s hope that someone might have thrown them away there because it’s hard to believe that you can have 25 degrees Celsius in the sun and ice in the shadow.
Halfway to Durango a fellow motorcyclist on a white Victory approaches. After chasing one another almost 200 km we stopped at a gas station and we found out that his name was Guillermo. After hearing our story he insisted to buy us some gas as his contribution to our project. Great guy! Thanks a lot, Grillo!
The final destination for that day was a camping outside the city of Durango that we found online. We weren’t expecting anything wow, just a place where to camp and get some sleep.
When we arrived there, we had a great surprise: two pools with natural thermal hot water where we bathed for almost 2 hours. How can you not stay inside when the water was hot and outside almost 18 degrees Celsius! However, as the hours went by, so did the temperature and by midnight the temperature was close to negative. On the following morning we even found a thin layer of ice on the saddle. We did light the gas tank a few times during the night but the layer of the tent is thin and it might burn so it’s not a solution.
So we kind of froze that night but at least we start the day with good food, hot coffee and plenty of sunshine.
After a quick breakfast we packed and went to Aguascalientes, where we decided to stay at a hotel again because we were tired and needed a hot shower after the previous night. Ready to go to bed early, we were called by Guillermo’s friends and soon in front of the hotel, Marco, Elena and Ricardo were waiting for us.
They are motorcyclists from Aguascalientes and founders of the Rat Riders and Asphalt Riders rally; they are tough people who live for two wheeled off-road rallies. The night started with one beer and ended with a 2am serenade at Ricardo’s place, where he wanted to surprise his wife for their 19th anniversary.
In the same night we also had an interview for a Mexican channel. We got close to this group of motorcyclists easily and they even offered their home for another night.
And do you think the following night was a chill one? Neah! Party till 1 am in the morning! Once again sleepy we got up on the saddles and kept going.
One of the guys suggested we go to Xilitla, to visit the hidden gardens of Sir James Andrew. After seeing the photos we couldn’t say no! The road to Xilitla was beautiful! Curvy and green, a unique combination. The landscape changed from arid to forest and later on to jungle. Close to Xilitla there were people selling bananas and mandarins on the street, right from the trees in their yards. Impressive! For Europeans, to see that, is unique.
We set the tent in the Santa Monica Camping in Xilitla, for 50 pesos each. Quite a deal, I would say! After a hot shower we went to sleep in the humid air of the jungle.
The following morning we woke up in the chirp of the birds and a light sensation of hunger, as the dinner from the previous night was poor: a can of tuna that we bought from a small shop in Xilitla.
We couldn’t let the hunger ruin our good mood so we killed it with some coffee and snacks and quickly went to the jungle to explore the gardens.
The Indiana Jones movies are nothing compared to what we experienced there; rock climbing, bamboos, lianas and old walls portrayed a magical world. Even more magical was the moment we faced a 50m tall waterfall and without second thoughts I jumped in the cool water. We spent some hours visiting the gardens and didn’t realize that it was almost closing time.
Luckily for us, we got back to the tent right when it started to rain. The administrator there was kind to let us move the tent under their pavilion. There we tried to dry our clothes but with almost 70% humidity in the air, there was no chance.
The next day we said goodbye to the jungle and headed to Mexico City, where the Romanian Ambassador had been waiting for us for several days. Because of the crazy traffic in that city we got a little bit late but he waited for us with a big smile.
After a short talk with the Ambassador we officiated the 24th marriage! He gave us some advice about our future routes and after saying goodbye we searched for a cheap but well located hotel because we had one day of visiting the capital and we wanted to make the best of it.
Once the room booked, all the luggage safely stored in the room and the Bavarian parked, we went out to get some food. We stopped at a crowded small restaurant with Mexican food and the people there, impressed by the fact that we came that far to visit their country, wouldn’t let us pay for the food. We felt good. After that we stopped at a small store to buy some water. Inside there was a Russian (kind of tipsy) who noticed that we were not from around and asked us where were we from. We proudly answered: “Romanians!” and he soon called us gypsies, which made us mad. I answered to him calmly, in Russian, that Romanians are not gypsies and that it would be nice of him to show us some respect, since we did nothing to offend him. All of a sudden, that big animal, who later told us that he was a trainer for the Special Forces, pulled us inside the store and we started talking. Of course we had to drink some shots with him (yes, INSIDE the store!); luckily for Diana she got away for being a woman. I had to sacrifice.
Once we got to the room my stomach was burning and the room started spinning so the best option was to go to bed. The following morning I decided to be on a diet based on water.
The city was big, crowded and a bit dirty. We wandered the streets searching for some shadow and got amused whenever we saw Christmas trees or Christmas ornaments. I think it’s sad not to know the feeling of playing with snow or to enjoy a nice mug of mulled wine after a cold day.
In all that chaos we were lucky to meet a tour guide who was doing tours at a lower price than most of his colleagues. We negotiated and for a fair price we got a private tour in a car to the Pyramids and other important places in the city. Since we wouldn’t have known how to get to those places, neither their history and also because we only had one day for visiting Ciudad de Mexico, we agreed to pay the $25. After the first 10 minutes in traffic we decided that it was a good idea that we took the tour because we could have risked a crash in traffic or again, the clutch being forced. Apart from that, the tour was a great idea. Our guide was a calm and pleasant man who dedicated his entire day for us and after talking about many subjects he told us we were the first Romanians he ever met.
At the pyramids we also found out how they manufactured their paper, sowing needles, the colors of the fabrics, the soap, their jewelry and many more. Most of them were made from one big plant: agave, which seems to be like a miracle plant. Google it and find out more about its properties!
The above mentioned moments were detailed in the book, so no more confessions for now. You will read more when the book comes out.
Tomorrow we’re heading to Cancun on the Atlantic’s shore and we’ll be preparing for a Christmas spent in the tent.
There will be no “sarmale” from our mothers, neither my dad’s wine, but I think the bananas and the fish will be more than enough to greet the New Year.
That’s all for now as concerns our Mexican adventure. It’s worth 100%!!!