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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

November 25, 2010

Warning: Official Highway Robbery

Not the kind of robbery that you would think. It’s funny how the assumptions that we have and the reality of what goes on are often totally different, yet some of the results are the same. Getting officially robbed simply means that there is a formal process to it, i.e. government, not the chaotic result of random violence or opportunistic offence.

Prior to leaving Mazatlan we consulted the Canadian Consul as well as the Sub-Comandante responsible for all Federal investigations in the area to find out what kind of hazards we might face and try to determine if travelling by toll roads, as we did from Hermosillo-South, would be a better option than by the free highways (Carreteras libres). The Canadian Consul gave us appropriate advice: 4 Canadians shot, 20 people murdered every day in the state and bandits are probably looking for fast vehicles. Highway robberies and shooting in the areas we would be travelling.

Deya and I are either gluttons for punishment or thorough, so we headed to talk to the authorities that are dealing with these problems, El Sub-Comandante. This was a nice guy, professional and obviously holding a higher office (with a beach front view) because he’s competent. The officer explained about the areas where incidents have occurred, the people who are being killed and the kind of vehicles that are being targeted. As it turns out, motorcycles are not useful to the bad guys, very few innocent people with particularly bad luck get caught in the crossfire, and we have already crossed through the most dangerous areas of the route.

We walked out of there feeling a little more hopeful than the Consulate but still had to make some decisions. Toll road or libre? Though most of the robberies seem to have occurred on the toll roads, the toll roads did have some advantages like better conditions, maintaining a higher speed, The Green Angels, etc. So we chose the toll road in the end and we heard that it was a beautiful drive anyways.

We left early as is our method and got onto the road easily; we paid the first toll and began the journey towards Tepic in Nayarit, South. People were right it was lovely and we travelled along the beach, mountains and a range of different environments. As we got further I was continually blown away by the cost of the tolls. It was total highway robbery packaged in booths surrounded by dudes with guns. The cost for motorcycles is exaggerated though because we pay per bike the same as a truck load of people would pay. For example, one of the tolls was $170 pesos each and it doesn’t get you that far, the conditions are not that great and there is still a potential for danger.

Hermosillo to Mazatlan was $80.7 Canadian dollars and got us 1000 kms. Mazatlan to Guadalajara was $126 Canadian dollars for 480 kms. Just a reminder that our budget for food, fuel and lodging is $30 Canadian bucks/day! I would rather buy beer but we always think about safety first. To put that in prospective for the folks back home, the Coquihalla Highway in B.C. runs about 200 kms and used to cost us $5 bucks each, now it is free. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the USA is totally awesome at 750 kms, and free! By the time we finished the tolls here we were well over budget and feeling taken advantage of. This would cause us to change our toll road attitude and start riding the free roads again.

Green Angel pushing a car
The toll roads have guys named the Green Angels, “Ángeles Verdes” (http://www.sectur.gob.mx). If you have an emergency while driving call the Ministry of Tourism's hotline 078 or (55) 5250-8221 (Ext. 130/297) to obtain help from the “Green Angels” (trucks are radioed and dispatched with bilingual crews). Services include protection, medical first aid, mechanical aid for your car and basic supplies. You will not be charged for services only for parts, gas and oil. The Green Angels patrol daily, from dawn until sunset. If you are unable to call them pull off the road and lift the hood of your car, chances are good… they will find you. I understand that if you travel in a caravan they will meet you at the USA border and escort you en-route to your destination. Pretty cool!!!

Our route took us into the well famous town of Tequila. This is a nice little town but when we arrived is was busy and hot. We pulled into a public parking spot at the town center and took a seat in the shade to hydrate. A police officer came over to tell us that the two parking spots are for an important municipal officer and we could not park there, of course they were regular spots. Oh thanks for visiting our town! Deya told him we were taking a break and we would leave soon. Another vehicle showed up and parked in the spot beside us. Eventually the important people showed up and the police officer came by to tell us to get lost. He then waved the important people around to the parking. I wanted to video this and make a complaint but it was hot and we needed to get places. So we left Tequila without taking a tour spending a dime or being able to recommend the place.

Tequila, somewhere
It would seem that in most places people and governments do not understand the potential impact they can have on their own future. Not that tourists are super important but when it comes to business image is crucial and Mexico has earned itself a reputation of being the low man on the totem pole. Well done important people of Tequila for maintaining a stereotype corruption and incompetence.

After we left Tequila and hit yet another toll we stopped for some water and a bolillo with peanut butter. I was getting dehydrated and needed a break; we also took the opportunity to oil the chains. While we pulled out some food, there were some local guys who worked there having lunch. They invited us over and we shared tostadas de atún (tuna with salsa and hard tortillas) and some other stuff. It was a highlight for us, we enjoyed good conversation and food and it was a better rest than we might have had on our own and was a good recovery from our sour Tequila experience.

Thanks for lunch guys!
Near the end of the day we rolled into Guadalajara. Since we don’t have GPS maps for Mexico we circled our way in using the Google Earth Map Coordinates. This works like a charm and we have verified that we can get within 30 metres of something using this system. We can also take a look at most neighbourhoods before we get there, cool. Of course one way streets are the major wrench in the clockworks but it is still manageable.

We hung out for a bit at our destination and waited for friends of friends to arrive and host us. I was fully in the throws of heat exhaustion and would become less and less functional as the night wore on.

Spoiler: Just in case guys, the tolls are abusive in my opinion, it merely feels like organized robbery.

1 comment:

  1. Hola Chicos
    Parece que todo va bien para ti, Me alegra saber que la caja fuerte. Espero que las cosas mejorarán a medida que avances en tu viaje. es bueno que puede mantenernos informados. mierda un poco de miedo pero estoy seguro de salir. Mantenerse a salvo y saludar a la familia en México. Te estamos viendo!
    Al & Alice