Posted by: Jordan & Sandra Bold red text links to additional information
We reluctantly pried ourselves away from the beach and headed in-land. We were waived thought yet another Mexican checkpoint, we’ve been through at least a dozen police and military checkpoints since entering Mexico and have yet to stopped. I hope our luck holds… Again the roads were amazing, fantastic mountain vistas and winding roads, just the way we like it.
As usual, we opted for the ‘libre’ (free) route and avoided the tolls, however nothing is ever free, is it? In this case it meant driving through some unattractive towns and making a few u-turns, as it was a bit confusing in some places. Late in the afternoon we passed through one of the largest wind farm projects in the world , it was quite impressive and went on and on for kilometres. While we were very happy to see such a great example of renewable energy in action, usually wind farms are placed in areas that are typically pretty windy, and wind is the arch enemy of motorcyclists, or at least it is for us. Extreme heat? No problem. Rain? Bring it on. Crazy traffic? Just go faster. Cold weather? Pass me my heated kit. Wind? It makes me want to cry… Passing through the town of La Ventosa should have been a clue to what we were about to experience, but we didn’t yet know that ventoso meant windy in Spanish…and was it ever windy! We were leaned right over and the wind was so strong it felt like our tires would slide right off the road, which now seemed to be polished. Scary, (and thrilling) to say the least.
We eventually passed the ‘ventoso’ section and made it to the town of Santo Dominico Zanatepec for the night. It was the 1st hotel in Mexico that we’ve stayed in that had, or even needed air conditioning. It was not not particularity nice but at less than $20 it did the trick. Also, there was also nowhere else to stay.
Most motorcycle travellers seem to take the west coast route from Baja California when riding though Mexico, we considered this route but opted to ride through the central highlands instead. As a result we had not seen any other motorcycle travellers, or even very many other non-Mexican tourists for that matter. After checking in to the hotel and getting cleaned up, we had a conversation about this very fact while we got ready to head out for a bite to eat. We opened the door of the hotel and stepped into the parking lot and, as if on cue, Bas and D, two Dutch riders rolled up on their big ADV motorbikes! Bas was on a BMW R1200GS Adventure and D on a tricked out Kawasaki KLR. They had flown from Holland to Alaska, where they bought their motorbikes and proceeded to ride south. We met up for dinner and had a great time hearing about their adventures, exchanging route information, and discussing next stops over a few Pacificos. We hope to meet up again further down the road.
Another day of very exciting riding brought us to the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. The route to the city takes in some fantastic winding roads that are peppered with Mayan villages perched high in the mountains on impossibly steep inclines. We were making great progress, but we ended up stopping a lot to admire the views and take photographs and it started to get late. As we went up one mountainside and down another, we could often see the road we had just taken or were about to take stretched out before us in the valley far below. Finally we went over one last pass and as we crossed over to the other side of the mountain it suddenly went from clear and sunny to gray and cloudy.. It poured and poured, we were not wearing our rain gear so got soaked to the bone. Since we were in the mountains it was also freezing cold. I never realized I’d ever be this cold in Mexico… then the fog rolled in and we couldn’t see a thing, we just crept along on at 30 kmh with our right turn signals blinking away in the hope that someone would at least see us before running over us. Luckily we were on the way down and lived to tell the tale, but we were wet for days…
Fortunately it was all worth while, because San Cristobal is a fantastic city, beautiful and well worth the effort.
We found a great little hostel with a small courtyard where we could park our motorbikes right outside our hotel room. Perfect! The courtyard even had a little outdoor kitchen and we were able to make a couple of our own breakfasts while we were there. We really liked the hotel, it was located just off the main square, was very cute, if a little run down, and it was even in our price range ($16!). Our hotel stay was also quite educational, as we learned a few things about the secret life of the hotel employee. Apparently, hotel workers sometimes get board in the afternoons and engage in a little co-worker fraternization in the vacant rooms. Don’t ask how we know this, we just do. I’m sure it happens at the Four Seasons all the time. Next time you check in to a hotel in the middle of the afternoon and the person at the front desk seems a little extra happy or a or gives a co-worker a knowing glance, you’ll know why.
San Cristobal was the site of a large uprising of Zapatistas in the 1990s. The leftist group is made up mostly of indigenous people and the have ‘declared war’ against the military, paramilitary and corporatism in Chiapas. Like Oaxaca, there is still a strong culture of protest in the area and on the walls of San Cristobal.
There is a lot to see in the San Cristobal area including the extensive ruins of Pelenque – a Mayan city state dating back to 100 BC. And there are numerous Mayan villages, such as San Juan Chamula, where you can see how the Mayan mix their indigenous beliefs with Christianity as a way to cope & survive the Missions. But, to our disappointment, our time in Mexico was running out. We have a boat to catch on October 25 that will take us from Panama to Colombia, as there is still no road between the two countries. This, combined with a 2-week commitment for Spanish lessons in Guatemala meant our visit to Chiapas, the most southerly state in Mexico, had to be cut short.