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Highlights (and a few not-so-nice adventures) in chronological order -
San Felipe, Baja California
- Waking up every morning to incredible sunrises over the Sea of Cortez while camping on the beach.
- Tim flying in a motorized hang-gliding thingy.
- Walking down the beach every day to eat shrimp tacos in San Felipe (for me this was great anyway, Tim doesn’t like seafood, his loss).
- Having a cold drink with the infamous Coco.
- Taking a rutted dirt and gravel road to get to Coco’s Corner.
- * Being mystified by the floating rocks (they were pumice).
- Swimming at four in the morning in the bioluminescence.
- Getting up close and personal with a whale shark.
- Definite negative - having to share our palapa with at least three black widows while camping.
- Big negative - Me (Marisa) getting sick on Halloween night and having to go to the emergency room over night, but luckily, everything was alright and neither of us have experienced any poor health since.
- Visiting our friend Gunner and taking his boat out into the wind and waves.
- Taking the freight ferry over the Gulf of California with a bunch of Mexican truck drivers, and trying to sleep on the floor as the ship rocked and swayed all night.
Barrancas del Cobre a.k.a. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
- Taking El Chepe train through Copper Canyon, a canyon larger than the Grand Canyon.
- Getting introduced to the traditions of the indigenous Tarahumara people of Creel.
- Seeing a giant waterfall and cave dwelling on the Tarahumara lands.
- Meeting a fellow motorcyclist, Chris, who was also going on the train with us to Copper Canyon.
- Checking out the different clubs of Mazatlán with Chris.
- Exploring the gold and silver mine in Zacatecas.
- Being the only foreign tourists at the ruins of La Quemada (our first Mesoamerican ruins).
- Meeting up with our friend Nat Nagel and exchanging our passion for motorcycles.
- Making silk screen shirts for Notier’s Frontiers
- Having one of the Nat’s boas around my neck, ahhh!
- Staying with our family friends: the Nagels, and having a wonderful Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas celebration.
- Witnessing the nearby volcano puff out smoke on chilly mornings.
- Helping the local sixth grade class learn about starting their own businesses (business is fun when you can have a pizza party).
- Watching the horses and cowboys in the local parade (I have a slight obsession with horses).
- Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan.
Puebla City, Puebla
- Waking up to a stunning view of the snowy peak of the volcano Popocatépetl named after the warrior of an old Aztec legend. Beside him lays his love, Iztaccíhuatl, whose body supposedly forms the nearby mountain range.
- Riding through the intense fog from Puebla into Veracruz.
- Standing in awe at the jaw dropping carvings found at our first distinctly Mayan ruins at Uxmal, Yucatan.
- Beating the ridiculously long line at Chichen Itza by joining a tour group with some fellow Arkansans.
- Listening to the fireworks go off for New Year’s.
Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo
- Meeting up with Tim’s family and having lazy days on the beach.
- Touring the beachside Mayan ruins of Tulum and finding that since the Mayans may no longer live there, the iguanas have taken up residence.
- Getting to know two fellow motorcycle travelers, Phil and Sapna, and deciding to travel with them south and into Belize.
- Exploring the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben with Phil and Sapna (who happen to have an incredible blog), and discovering that the ruins are very impressive and yet unfrequented by tourists.
- Topes! These are speed bumps, and Mexico is full of them. They have big ones, little ones, practically invisible ones, ones with no signage, and even ones that have signs for them but aren’t even there… very sneaky.
- Tolls, tolls, tolls, and they are not cheap and come about every half hour or so on the major toll roads. As we were crossing Mexico, we averaged about seven tolls a day adding up to about $10-$15 dollars total! And for many of them you have to wait in line - one toll took us more than a half hour to get through. Extremely frustrating!
- Loud music throughout the day and night and morning and any other moment you can think of. But we quickly learned that when in Mexico, just enjoy the pumping mariachi music as much as you can.
- Trash along every highway and popular spot, be it a forest, desert, gorgeous shoreline, or even the “Save the Environment” festival going on in San Felipe, which seemed to be just another excuse to throw plastic bags, styrofoam cups, and bottles into the ocean. Very sad. This is not just a problem that Mexico faces, and it could be due to a lack of education, or perhaps a lack of enforcing fines for littering, or a lack of garbage pickup services, or simply a sign of poverty. But I think Mexico’s government needs to rethink how to tackle the garbage that is polluting its natural beauty.
- Not being able to throw toilet paper into toilets anymore. Why has the rest of the world not figured this out yet?
- And finally, the worst of all things that we encountered in Mexico were the police who pull you over simply looking to extort money from you. I understand that they don’t get paid much and are doing a difficult job, but taking bribes through tricks and lies by abusing their power as police officers is unacceptable in my opinion, and it certainly does not give their country a good reputation to visitors. The horrors of going through these experiences where I am being threatened by the police for simply being foreign (because the locals often get away with breaking the laws) will be something I never forget about Mexico. I’m not saying that my country is any better in their treatment to Mexicans in the US, and it may be argued that we are much worse, but it isn’t right whoever is doing it. I believe that bribes and corruption and prejudiced enforcing of laws is always wrong.
- It’s not as dangerous as many Americans will tell you it is. Take the fear mongering news and statistics with a grain of salt. And as always, travel smart, keep your adventures for the daytime, don’t be flashy with your wealth, learn a bit of Spanish, and listen to your intuition, and your stay in Mexico should be just as magical as ours was.
- The coast is hot and humid of course, but many parts of the country can get pretty cold in the winter time because of their high elevation. Guadalajara is practically at the same height as Denver (a mile high) and Mexico City lies much higher at 7,350 ft. (2,240 meters). Central Mexico can be quite mountainous and beautiful, not to be missed, but bring a jacket.
- Mexican cuisine is not just tacos and burritos. There is a great assortment of delicious food throughout the many diverse regions of Mexico. Some of our favorites included tortas (hot sandwiches in big, often freshly-baked bolillo bread), gorditas (thick corn tortillas stuffed with an assortment of items such as seasoned meats, beans, cheese, and potatoes), and birria (a meat stew eaten with tortillas that can be made with any meat). And then in Baja we came across mega burros (giant donkeys) such as the one pictured below. Yes, Tim and I ate it all. Let’s just say, Mexican food is amazing.
Our next adventures will be heading south through Belize and onto the rest of Central America. Stay tuned…