Tuesday, May 10, 2011

3 days on the bike, 2 days off.

Mexico North.  

Friday, May 6 - Palenque to Veracruz = 643 kms
Saturday, May 7 - Veracruz to Tantoyuca = 404 kms
Sunday, May 8 - Tantoyuca to Zacatecas = 652 kms
Monday, May 9 - Zacateca chillaxe
Tuesday, May 10 - Zacatecas mellow-yellow and this blog update

I've managed to pound down 1700kms of Mexico in the past 3 days and I'm spent.  Done and done.  Cooked.  3 days straight on the bike and now a full 2 days off, just what the doctor ordered.  The days have been long, not too exciting and hard on the body.  Mexico has a plethora of 'toll-roads' that I was avoiding on my route south.  En route north and in the past few days, I decided to dip into a few of these roads to see what the fuss was all about.  I'm glad I was prepped with the costs as they do add up quite quickly.  For example, last Friday I rode from Palenque to Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico and my tolls added up to just over $50 after riding 643kms.  The next 2 days I rode 404kms and 652kms and the tolls were an additional $20-$30.  It is surprising to have these sorts of costs allocated to roads in Mexico, but they are efficient, fast and in relatively good shape.  It is a toss up as the toll roads aren't as exciting as they are normally straight and fast, but you do avoid continuous topes (speed bumps) and get to your destination a great deal faster... I was craving to ride a BMW 1200GS on those stretches - sorry Rojo! 

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
After leaving Guatemala, I headed directly to San Cristobal in the Chiapas region of Mexico.  A few cities stand out for me on this trip and San Cristobal was definitely one of them.  It is a tranquilo city high in elevation (2160m) therefore has a temperate climate and there are tons of options for a tourista.  San Cristobal is within the heart of a variety of indigenous populations of Chiapas that surround the countryside.  It too has experienced first hand in the mid-to-early 90s, the Zapatista rebel movement, a guerrilla army that emerged from the jungles to occupy San Cristobal in amongst other towns in Chiapas.  I spent a couple of nights in San Cristobal taking in the history and culture of the city... in addition to enjoying the amazing churches, restaurants and coffee shops.  Being a tourist is fun. 

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Arco de El Carmen

San Cristobal Cathedral

Iglesia de San Cristobal

I'm not sure what this guy had on the go, perhaps he was charging to use his bathroom-scale to the left.

San Cristobal Mercado Municipal

San Cristobal Mercado Municipal

This guy in the bottom of the shot was busting his gut about something, I started laughing myself.

Indigenous villager from San Juan Chamula home of the Tzotzil group - 10km NW of San Cristobal

The ride from San Cristobal to the Mayan ruins of Palenque was truly spectacular and good times all round.  I was on a fun-twisty road high in the mountains for a spell and then started descending deep into the jungle working my way down from 2160m to 80m in elevation over a total of 226kms... another memorable day of riding. 

I skipped the famous ruins in both Honduras and Guatemala and decided to spend a morning at the Palenque ruins, taking in Chiapas' top destination for tourists.  I had read that it was best to get up into the ruins first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.  Gates open at 8am, so I was there at 7:45am.  Funny thing was that there were a zillion other tourists there as well and they were letting everyone in at the ticket gate.  I had a funny feeling something was off, so I asked a local what time it was...  I then realized that I was an hour behind and it was actually 8:45am, just in time to join the hordes.  I guess I forgot to change time zones somewhere along the way??  

Templo de las Incripciones - the most famous burial monument at Palenque.

Looking over at Templo de las Incripciones

Courtyard in El Palacio, Palenque.

Templo de la Cruz (Temple of the Cross), Palenque

A jade mask in the Palenque Museo de Sitio
Palenque was very interesting to wander through for the morning.  I decided not to hire a guide and I instead had a relaxing wander through on my own accord reading about the various finds and structures.  The museum at the bottom of the ruins explained a great deal about the various artifacts discovered over the past century of archaeological excavations. 

Misol-Ha waterfall 20km south of Palenque - I stopped here en route to Palengue before the rains... very little flow.

and then it started to rain...

Back to Misol-Ha with a tour group after the rains

Misol-Ha with much more flow after the rains

Even though I briefly stopped at the Misol-Ha 35m waterfall en route to Palenque, I was keen to check out the famous 'Agua-Azul' waterfalls further north and the tour group stopped at both falls.  Unfortunately after the heavy rains, the Aqua Azul wasn't so 'azul' and instead were, as our driver stated:  Aqua Chocolate.    

Famous 'Agua Azul' (Chocolate), Chiapas Mexico. 

Agua Chocolate

Agua Chocolate, Chiapas Mexico.

From Chiapas and Palenque, I headed north where I put in a solid 3 days of riding.  I spend a night in Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico and then worked my way north to a random town called Tantoyuca and then onto Zacatecas. 

Veracruz Mexico - major shipping center on the Gulf Coast

Not too sure what's going on with this monument, so I'll let you decide...

Faro Carranza, Veracruz Mexico - the historic headquarters of the Mexican Navy

Zocalo, Veracruz, Mexico.

After further wandering around Veracruz, I came across a BMW contingent doing a coast-to-coast benefit ride - I needed this yellow 1200 for my 3 days of highway riding!

A quite interesting and provocative picture in my Veracruz hotel room with some Palenque-locals

North of Veracruz along the Gulf Coast - I wondered if I could have pulled a deal with my passport?

Hostel Villa Colonial, Zacatecas Mexico

My last huge day of riding (longest day to date) took me from Tantoyuca to Zacatecas.  I had heard a lot of positive reviews of Zacatecas and didn't want to miss it on my way back west.  Another favourite for certain, Zacatecas is a true gem of a city that has unloaded it's charm on me.  Yet another Unesco World Heritage site which hosts a spectacular cathedral (which I stare out at from my room - see pic below), some amazing colonial buildings and a crazy swiss built cable-car tram to the outlook of Cerro de la Bufa above the city.  I have had a fantastic few days unwinding in Zacatecas and highly recommend this city if you have the time.

Swiss tram that takes you over to Cerro de la Bufa, Zacatecas Mexico.
Zacatecas Mexico.

Zacatecas, Mexico

Scanning trying to find my hostel in Zacatecas from Cerro de la Bufa outlook
Hostel Villa Colonial in the middle - the roof-top patio overlooking the Cathedral in Zacatecas
My 'room with a view' at Hostel Villa Colonial, Zacatecas
Tomorrow I'm off to Durango to the northwest, a famous Mexican cowboy-town that has hosted movies from the 1950s to now.  I have read about Durango for months as it is situated at one end of a must-do motorcycle route west to Mazatlan, down 'El Espinazo del Diablo' - the Devil's Backbone!

From Mazatlan, I plan to head up the coast north to the US border, over to Encinitas CA to visit some friends and pick up a few things I have stored, and then north through the US to British Columbia.  I'm hoping to be back home in roughly 2 weeks... hard to imagine while sitting here in Zacatecas, Mexico staring out at it's wonderful cathedral. 


  1. Don't hurry back too fast, its still cold up here in Montana. Although today might be the break we've been waiting for in the weather. Nice report and great pics.

  2. Love the pics! Especially the cathedral shot in yellow with the contrast of the red cross and boots.
    Enjoy every last moment:)

  3. Nice trip BA! I stayed at Villa Colonial in Zacatecas about 7 or 8 years ago--cool place and city. It was 28c in Revelstoke yesterday so I think you'll be alright when you get back. Safe travels.