Viva Mexico! We experienced the border yesterday, but when we got into our motel, we were both totally exhausted and went to sleep. So you get two days squished into one post.
We crossed into Ciudad Acuna and there wasn’t too much formality about it. We took the “nothing to declare” lane, but got pulled over anyway so they could look in our bags. No questions about where we’re from or where we’re going. In fact not much talking at all. It was taking us so long to get things unstrapped and unhooked that by the time we got one done, they were totally uninterested in waiting around for us to do the rest. So we got the thumbs up to continue.
You need two important documents when traveling in Mexico: a tourist visa and a vehicle import permit (TVIP), so that when you leave the country there is no rigamarole about the bikes ownership etc. In short, they don’t want you driving a bike into the country and selling it. Impossible! As we kinda need them to ride back home. Rick took first watch of the bikes while I went into one office to get the tourist visa. Then I had to go to another office to do the TVIP. It was fairly easy, just a lot of walking back and forth between buildings. Then it was Rick’s turn to go through the same learned process.
After an hour or so, we had all our documents in order and were finally off! Lesson #1 about driving in Mexico – Be aggressive! Lesson #2 about driving in Mexico – get the fuck out of peoples way! It took about 15 minutes for us to acclimatize to the new rules and get on with it. The first few hours of our journey took us down pretty quiet highways, and one toll highway that had barely anyone on it. There was no presence of the Mexican Federal Police (Federales). Just a lot of small quiet villages with a lot of topes!
Topes are basically small round speed bump half-ball things, which they like to use to slow people down as they come through towns (highways run right through towns, no on and off ramps here). There are also normal speed bumps too, and maybe you’ll get a sign warning you for those. The posted speed limits here are a little erratic, for example you’ll see a sign for 60kph, but 10 feet later it’s 30kph. We were often confused about what to believe. So we followed the traffic flow which isn’t much help because you can get a car driving on the side of the road doing 30, then another car flying past in the middle of the road doing 90. I guess we are at a point now that we do what we feel like doing, and most people seem to accept that (including Rick leaving his signals on. Fair enough as he’s never had blinkers before.)
I should mention the temperature now. It’s unbelievably fucking hot here. I’m talking 37°C (98 F). Basically it feels like you’re riding through a hair dryer inside your oven, next to the furnace. Or I’ve shortened it to Satan’s Furnace. For those of you who know me well, you know that I LOVE the heat. I have a space heater under my desk at work that runs all day, I love being in the sun etc, etc… This is something special though. Rick and I are wearing only underwear and moisture wicking shirts under our riding clothes, along with special socks, and a helmut and gloves… you see where I’m going with this.
Our answer to the heat was to rise to the occasion with a few tricks. We both have hydration packs that we use to drink water from when we ride. We pulled into a PeMex (most popular gas station in Mexico!) and bought a bag of ice, which we put into the camel backs then put down our pants. Ahhhhh…. Then we poured water all over ourselves and soaked our neck scarves and got back on the road. Insta-Air Conditioning!
At this point, we got pretty tired and decided to spend the night in Monclova. Which was about 200km short of our goal destination, Santiago. Sometimes you just gotta know when to call it. Monclova is has nothing special to note. It’s an industrial town and not very pretty. Our motel was extremely simple, but I did have VERY delicious Chilaquiles for dinner and Rick had a mega-huge burrito at a comidar run by three adorable older ladies. We promised ourselves after heat like today that it would be up at dawn to ride before the sun took over.
5:30AM: Time to get up!
It was still dark and still pretty warm when we left Monclova, but the roads were gloriously empty. Once we left city limits the road opened up, and we watched the sun rise over the Sierra Madre mountains. Then it got cool again. What the deuce. Holy lord that was nice and we were in very good spirits. We made very good time to Monterrey and took the Periferico (perimeter highway) around the city to avoid the traffic. Yup, good call. No one was on it. Then we started our gradual Southerly route on the scenic Mex 85.
We skirted the mountains all day today, with little wind, but it did heat up. The mountains in Mexico seem to jut upwards from a plain or rolling hill, creating these fantastic rock walls and spires. We stopped in Linares for a picnic and a much needed siesta. There was a market in town and we bought bread, avocado, tomato and cheese to make sandwiches. The Federales started to make an apperance on this road. We went through multiple check points with zero issue and did see a small army convoy a little later in the day. Mostly though, we saw lots of farms growing oranges (oops, we might have helped ourselves!) and a lot of trucks on this route.
Now, we’re in Ciudad Victoria, a very prosperous town in the state of Tamaulipas. When we came into town we saw a Holiday Inn Express, malls and even an Applebee’s. We opted for a more authentic experience per our photocopied guide book and are ‘living it up’ at Hotel Continental. It’s nothing fancy, but we can park the bikes outside our room in a protected courtyard and there is a shower and air-conditioning. What the hell else do you want?
Due to yesterdays delay we’re about a half-day behind in our schedule. So tomorrow we’re up again at dawn and have 348km to the town of Xilitla. We should arrive around noon and then have the rest of the day off, and then the whole next day! Xilitla is know for the Edward James sculpture garden in the jungle and hippies. We can’t wait!
Sarah y Rick