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The Sweetness of Mexico

We entered Mexico with trepidation. Some people will tell you it’s dangerous and that you shouldn’t go. Others will tell you it’s a sumptuous landscape filled with kind people and delicious, cheap food. After leaving the Belizean border, there was a 3km ride through no-man’s land through to the Mexican border. The guard had waved Alex through so quickly at Belize that she stuffed her passport into her jacket pocket in order to clear the way for the next car as quickly as possible. Her haste cost her dearly. She reached the Mexican border and found her pockets empty. Already worried about entering the country and half-remembering the advice about paying for the 7 day visa, panic started to set in when she found her tank-bag and top box and all the other pockets similarly empty.  Stuck in No-man’s land without identification and only the impending dusk for company was not a happy situation. She immediately jumped back on the bike and retraced the road slowly scanning the ground for that tell-tale burgundy symbol of freedom. Thankfully, no-man’s land’s highway is full of discarded rubbish so no one had noticed the passport, lying in the fast lane of the highway with only a little grazing from the subsequent traffic as evidence of its trauma.

We managed our way through the straight forward (but expensive) process of entering Mexico by land on motorcycles. The border was clean and efficient with a very angry dog in a cage which would hurl itself at the bars and bark every time Simon revved the engine. Tired of this hilarious (although probably a little cruel) game, we carried on to Chetumal. A nothing town simply filled with avenue upon avenue of electronics shops and pharmacies and hoards of families wandering the streets presumably searching for the latest gadget or soap.

The next day we pulled into Tulum but not before Alex ran out of petrol. She waited in an abandoned bus stop in the middle of no where while Simon went on to the next petrol station to buy some fuel. This is because Pemex own every single petrol station in the country and about 75% of them do not accept payment by foreign cards. The distribution seems to be quite random with three Pemex stations often within 500m of each other and only one of the three accepting foreign cards. Being that the intercoms had blown up some time before, Alex has devised an ingenious way to warn Simon of the impending break-down by lighting up the bike like a christmas tree- Hazards, Full-beams and a hand wave often catches his attention (and half a dozen others). The new intercoms are awaited with eagerness…


Tulum, beautiful beaches hiding ruins


Tulum, where beach and ruins meet!

The highway weaves straight through Tulum, a small town filled with hostels, yoga studios and cheap tacos. We decided to stop by and visit as everyone had said it had some of the best beaches in Mexico. It didn’t disappoint, with some beautiful caves and cenotes to match the tumbling shoreline and majestic ruins bordering the turquoise waters.

A quick swim in the crystal clear waters ended up being surprisingly fruitful with a couple of huge sea turtles appearing underfoot. For all their girth, they cut gracefully through the depths, quicker even than Simon. Coming up for air every so often with a little gasp before descending and powering through to the shore. It was amazing to see how ungainly they are on land when they were just so au fait with the water.


Coba, Mexico, Mayan ruins


Simon, king of the ruins (it’s a long way up!)

The whole region is rich in Mayan treasures and absolutely magnificent beaches, boasting unbelievable shades of blue and green. Along with Tulum, Coba also has some Mayan constructions which are worth a visit. A temple in particular can still be climbed which has such steep and large steps that it is almost amusing to try to image tiny Mayans climbing it when tall tourists even struggle to climb up with any grace.

In sharp contrast to the other Mayan sites, Chichen Itza is absolutely teeming with tourists and a varying scale of tackiness of souvenirs. Every path through the site is filled with stalls, shoulder to shoulder, hustlers trying to convince you that their identical souvenirs are more special than their neighbours’. Plastic Mayan calendars abound, faux-aged and definitely too big for a motorbike (sadly). Occasionally, a craftsman will be working on a wooden sculpture, which was genuinely too big for the motorbike. The Cenote hiding at the end of a long corridor of souvenirs is well worth the visit. It is verdant and coolly lush amongst the  rocks and vines. A welcome break from the raucous cries of merchants and chancers in the market stalls.


Chichen Itza and the sea of souvenirs

The time came to leave the magic of Yucatan and Quintana Roo behind. We hit the road and decided to explore the Mexican gulf all the way to Texas in the U.S.A. Our first stop was in Campeche which turned out to be a charming beach town with excellent food and affordable hotels. It was certainly different to Villa Hermosa, our following night’s stop. We’d had the pleasure of bumping into two Brits, John and Jane, who’d spotted our numberplates from their modified 4×4 minivan when we were re-fuelling. They’d previously traveled the world on John’s Tenere bike so we arranged to maybe meet in Villa Hermosa for dinner. The road took a lot longer than expected thanks to heavy traffic and single lanes and we reached the outskirts of Villa Hermosa at sunset and at rushhour. Stuck at yet another set of traffic lights, despairing at the sudden night, a Harley drew up next to Simon. He nodded at Simon and asked where we were heading. Simon explained we were aiming for a cheap motel the other side of the town. The Harley rider’s face whitened and he shook his head. “I cannot let you cross this town at night, it is not safe” Alex asked if it was because of the poor state of the roads. “No” he replied darkly, “the roads are the least of your worries.” With that in mind, we gladly took him up on his offer to ride with us to a hotel he knew of which had parking and was nearby. He even negotiated with the owner to get the price down to the motel rates. With a shake of his hand, satisfied we were safe, he rode back out into the night. Our guardian Hell’s Angel.


Lunch by the water (near Tamiahua, Mexico)

The next couple of days were equally fraught- the state of the road deteriorated to the point of bath tub sized potholes which trucks and cars had to navigate around (slowly, thankfully). Sometimes the road would split for no reason and rejoin kilometres later. It made progress incredibly slow. Particularly the stretch between Veracruz and Tampico where the road became increasingly tough with frequent army checks. At dusk, we pulled into a petrol station (again, it didn’t accept cards so we had to use the last of our cash to pay) and a scooter roared in only to stop next to us. The guy on the bike made a call on his phone and all while staring at our bikes with open scrutiny. It seemed to Alex that he was preparing the road up ahead for two impending tourists on bikes. Despite this, we set back off (once he’d roared back into the sparse traffic) and the sun promptly disappeared when we were still 100km away from Tampico and our pre-booked hotel. The potholes were now almost unavoidable and in the night, it made progress slow. Alex was following Simon’s rear light closely in order to anticipate the potholes better- everytime his light dipped and wobbled she knew there was something to avoid up ahead! We ended up riding past a deserted western-style motel and now realising that it would take us two hours to reach Tampico thanks to the night, we pulled over and asked for the price. Of course they didn’t take cash and all we had was 100 pesos. After a brief negotiation the landlady let us set up camp in the garden with access to an ancient outhouse and warm shower.


Pablo: Pilot, Poet and fabulous company

After four days on the road, we finally pulled into Monterrey which seemed like a huge and organised metropolis after the slightly ramshackle towns on the 180 highway. The roads split and snaked upwards and downwards and filtered into different parts of the city in a jumble which made the Sat-Nav go particularly wild as it had no differentiation between the elevated roads or others. We made it, eventually, to our accommodation and relaxed. We spent the next day visiting Monterrey with the help of our new friend, Pablo, who took care of us the whole day on a tour which began in the mountains and ended in the city centre, via the ironworks, trying local sweets after a mouthwatering meal of cactus, tacos and burritos.


Monterrey mountains


Scenes of Monterrey, Mexico


VW Beetle- ubiquitous car in Mexico (the longest produced car ever)


Simon’s vice: Sweetcorn



The old Ironworks in Monterrey


Ironworks, Monterrey

















Monterrey was unexpectedly wonderful. The old town is filled with cafes, restaurants and pop up art galleries and the museums in the town center are architecturally well finished (such as the Museo del Noreste). Thanks to our hosts we really enjoyed our last couple of nights in Mexico. Alex particularly enjoyed the Mexican sweets- Guava jelly sweets and peanut halva type sweets, well worth a visit!! It was in contrast to the small villages and dusty towns we’d visited previously. Coming in through the highway, we passed malls and restaurants and massive parking lots more familiar to us as the signs of urban prosperity. Leaving Monterrey, however, was a different story…


Pablo taking us for some Mexican food (“a small snack”)- this was at the Thirteen Moons, Monterrey, YUMMY.


Just wandering past shadows of her former self


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