Things have changed a bit, we are on our last stretch it seems and the end is near. It is not really but I feel like I have to start preparing for a major adjustment. I keep wondering about reintegrating into ‘normal’ life and how to cope. I wonder if I will be disappointed or anxious in the regular life or if I will find those things that I missed before. It’s not that we are just showing up and saying “Hey, we’re back, now what?” we actually have, as always, a fairly robust plan but that doesn’t change this odd feeling I have.
The other major thing I think about is becoming complacent in the fact that we are near the conclusion of this part of the journey. That of course is where things can go pear shaped if you’re not on top of your game. It’s funny I think like this because pear shaped seems to be the normal dimensions for the last two years. Regardless, Deya and I have to be sharp for the last little bit. The last little bit being a couple of months and about 10,000 kilometres (for those who plan heavily for a long weekend). Fun!
After we bought the place in Merida, Deya’s brother planned to fly out to Cancun to meet us. The intention was to spend some brother/sister time together touring around the peninsula a bit on the bikes. It was going to be lightly hellish of course, as I know what it’s like to be overloaded with passenger and kit so without expressing more than a light warning we agreed that Deya would double her brother around and I would take the luggage. All agreed and we headed for Cancun to visit with Fernando and his family before picking up Jorge.
I love riding, even with a broken shoulder, I just love it and when we are out in the country passing through little towns along little roads, sometimes dirt, sometimes paved, I feel like the world is right. I want to get a bumper sticker that says ‘I Love Topes’, of course it’s easy to get ‘I Hate Topes’ because in Mexico there are about as many topes (speed bumps) as there are bad drivers. Of course Chuleta and I eat them up so all those idiots on the road that can’t do 120 km/hr in a 30 km/hr zone barely catch up to our grandma style of riding by the time we hit another bump…hahahahaha….
We spent the next several days with our friends in Cancun, we ate great food, drank good beer, visited another factory, went on an ocean jungle tour, a reef swim and a yacht/ snorkel tour of the underwater museum near Isla Mujeres (Island of Women), off the coast of Cancun. Jorge was with us by then and got to also enjoy in the hospitality of our hosts. Cancun is a nice place for tourists, lots of things to do with every convenience available.
To get out of the hair of our friends we found a great hotel at the Northern part of Cancun for a very reasonable price, the rooms were very nice, location was not far from the main centre and the view was fantastic. We stayed for a couple more days before heading South towards the pyramids of Tulum. Deya, of course would be carrying her brother; secretly I was laughing inside at the learning experience for both of them and looked forward to the event.
Two hundred kilometres, maybe a little less and she was done. Her poor brother was a rotten bag of meat that needed to be left on the side of the road for the vultures. He was sucking a bit of wind too having been thrust onto a motorbike for long kilometres without any preparation for the monkey butt. Every time we stopped Jorge would pour off the bike, stagger around for a few minutes then go searching for snacks and cold water. Jorge looked like a little kid suffering to go pee and Deya looked like an angry tiger. I already knew what was coming, in 35°C+ or 95°F+ heat with full armour, a lot of weight and a broken shoulder, I would be taking Jorge the remainder of the nearly 1000 kilometres to Ciudad del Carmen on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Unlike Deya, I was already mentally prepared for that and happy that she now fully understands why I don’t like to double people or even have too much crap on the bike. It’s not that the person on the back is a burden it just makes everything more difficult, more serious, less fun and more expensive. The added weight is noticeable in fuel consumption, tyre wear and fatigue. Over a longer period we could measure other things like break wear and suspension but on a thousand kilometres it’s the faster consumables that are noticeable.
We would hit the hot spots of Mayan culture and visit some Cenotes for a swim on our route back to Merida. Back in Merida we went to our, new to us, home to show the brother and were followed by a couple of ladies that saw the Canada plates. One lady was from Vancouver originally and the other from the USA, Washington, I believe. It’s this kind of interesting people who stop to talk to you that makes this kind of travel exceptional. They have been living in Merida for years and so make a great contact for learning about the city and what to do when we return. Joanna writes a regular blog as a part of her lifestyle which isn’t a bad idea because writing can help you clear your mind and develop ideas: http://joannavandergrachtderosado.wordpress.com/
After thanking our Hosts Betty and Waldo in Merida we headed for Campeche. It’s a nice town but both Deya and I agreed that so far Merida was the best place we’ve found. Campeche however has an obvious and interesting program for its old district. Instead of waiting for the owners to fix up the fronts of their colonial style homes the city just makes it happen. So when you are going through the quiet streets it looks fantastic, you can actually take a virtual tour in Google Street View; the funny thing is, it’s a façade. Behind the lovely front is often an abandoned wreck of a building or a large lot with dirt and trees. It would make for a nice place to build a getaway but personally I prefer Merida. We also noticed immediately that while Merida is very hot the coastal cities are very humid and it’s a little easier to escape heat than it is humidity.
As we progressed South following the coast of the Gulf things got uglier though some of the beaches were beautiful. Mother Nature provides the fantastic while we humans provide the ugly, maybe it’s necessary in order to appreciate all those things we wreck. Garbage piles up, swamp lands float with trash and oil. It wasn’t so bad but when you’re daydreaming about sitting on a beautiful beach with a coconut while the waves curl in over turquoise water and suddenly you see a tonne of rotten garbage, it tends to piss you off.
We entered Ciudad del Carmen, an important port city primarily for the oil exploration and production industry. Here Jorge wanted to check with some companies about jobs in the oil patch industry. Jorge is a qualified ‘Chef’ with a couple years of experience and has just finished an MBA and while standing in line with the rest of the applicants learned that he could get an impressive wage for camp work, 15 days in 15 days out, in which he would be paid $6000 pesos per month. That’s about 12:1 for us in Canada and or less than 150 bucks a week! While I definitely recognise that it’s cheaper here and that the average productivity of a Canadian worker is higher than a Mexican, it’s not that much higher so for the whiners who can’t handle their $200+ per day salary come down here and work a little slower (rant complete).
Jorge jumped on a bus to make the rest of the journey back to Veracruz thanks to Brian saving the day back near Cancun. Deya vowed never to take a passenger again for more than an hour. I reminded her that one of our trip rules was not to take passengers at all, these rules were made for a reason and shouldn’t all come apart now but like I said before things have changed and we cannot become complacent.
After Ciudad del Carmen we headed to a friends place in Coatzacoalcos where we had the opportunity to share with the family and tour another company. The city is fairly young and primarily supported the oil and gas refinement industry. Not a bad city but not a pretty city either and when you spot men hanging around during the day, graffiti and prostitutes scattered about the streets you can get a feeling for the place quickly.
From here we were only five hours from the family home; we decided to take the toll road. The toll road would offer a more direct route, far less traffic and thus bad drivers and allow for better stops to take breaks. Of course it’s not interesting at all and we would be stopped regularly by the military to be checked for contraband and ‘sniffers’ were checking for drugs. The brutal thing in Mexico that the governments should be heavily criticized for in regards to these tolls is the cost and condition of the roads. About $40 dollars for each bike to travel around 250 kilometres on really crappy roads that often leads into cities and free roads making you wonder what you just spent two days of food, accommodations and fuel budget for.
We’ll be sorting out some logistical details regarding insurances and routes before heading North. The next leg through Mexico is going to be interesting as we have people to meet, red zones to avoid and the US border to cross. Yeeha, I’m looking forward to being back in the USA, seriously it’s a fantastic place to ride and meet people.