After recovering from the near death landslide excursion I headed to Guachochi by paved road! I arrived without trouble and stayed the night at Los Pinos which was my first wifi connection in almost a week. I don’t have service for my cell phone so when I am out of service, I am in the black asides from my Garmin connection. Honestly, I needed to get my bearings back a bit so the next few days were spent on more direct routes to the places I planned to go. From Guachochi I went east to Hidalgo De Parral. My Mañosos amigos in Chihauhau connected me with another MC club there called the Pancho Villa. What a great group of riders! I spent the next three days there riding with the club around Parral, going to the Pancho Villa Museum and practicing my Spanish by translating all the Spanish into English with my buddy Kino who knows English quite well. I learn a lot of new words when I do that.
A few of the guys at the club live on a Ranch on the outskirts of the city so I stayed there, I had my own little house the on land which was sweet. There was pool and two big bars, it was hooked up. One of the nights they cooked a lamb that they raised on the farm. Head and all, it was simmering all day and in the evening we had a big party at the ranch where we all ate delicious lamb tacos and shared our favorite music until late into the evening and playing some music too.
I play music myself, mostly stringed things, I could say guitar is my primary instrument but I like a lot of them. Before leaving I had the hard choice of deciding what instrument to bring, I knew it would be cumbersome but its just something I need in my life and I have a few projects that I plan on doing involving music and sound while I’m on the road, I have a field recorder with me so good things to come from that soon. But anyways, I decided a guitar was too big to bring and a lot of people have guitars so its would be easy to borrow one. After I left Pennsylvania, on my way to the border I stayed with an old friend in Austin, Texas who is an amazing musician. He took me to this store called The Fiddlers Green, full of acoustic instruments. I was thinking at the time of perhaps a mandolin or a baritone Uke. But then I picked up the lute harp and couldn’t put it down. It’s like a miniature harp that fits in your lap. Another one of my close friends from college played the harp, I went to a music school so actually all of my college friends are musicians, and over the years I played her harp and always loved it. So yep, there ya have it, now I carry a lute harp around with me. That’s what that big, awkward shaped object is on top of the duffle. I say this now because I did a lot of playing that night with the harp, it really brings people out of their shell I have found, I have given lessons to a bunch of kids which is always super fun and it’s a real conversation starter. It was a good purchase and well worth the weight.
After a few days I hit the road again and headed to Durango via route 45. The road was mostly lush farmland, broken up with beautiful small streams and little bridges. Since now I am officially part of the Mañosos family, the family being a network of over 1000 riders all over Mexico, I have no shortage of people to connect with when I travel to a new city, and when planning to arrive at a new city the members there are equally as excited to meet me as I am to meet them so it’s just great all around!
I writing this post from San Miguel de Allende, I have been in Mexico for 24 days and of that time, I have paid for hotels only 6 times and I don’t think that trend is stopping when I look ahead at the map of MC chapters on my route. I have actually decided to change my route due to some potential opportunities for work and art projects in Tulum. I wasn’t planning on going there but it seems like I am being drawn there so I will let the road take the lead. The thing is there are club members all the way up the peninsula and also in Belize so it just makes sense now to go. Below is the general route alteration with red dots for the Mañosos chapters I’ll be hanging out with. One day, when I come back to Mexico, I will go to the yearly motorcycle gathering in Mazatlan to party with all the Mañosos rider friends that I am making now.
Ok so, now back to Durango. I meet up with Mañosos rider Hector aka “Conejo” and his family. They greeted me with a steak simmering on the grill and a big terracotta cup of Jarrito, which is mezcal mixed with orange soda, my new favorite drink. I arrived on September 16th which is Mexico’s Independence Day so we went down to the town center for the festivities and they took me to a famous cantina where I had my first Mezcal Ala Cran, mezcal with a scorpion. It was very prickly to eat but I love mezcal so enjoyable nonetheless! It’s a tradition to watch the boxing match in the evening on this day so after making our way around town we went to watch the match and eat some delicious pozolito. The next day I spent with Hectors wife and daughters, we went out to the desert to a go see a Pancho Villa play! It was outdoors and packed with people! Horses were running around, fake guns blasting, it was awesome. Then the day after that I got my second dose of the Hep B vaccination and hit the road to Zacatecas.
There are no Mañosos in Zacatecas but I was nonetheless connected with another motorcycle group that I won’t name due the bad experience that I had there. It was my first, and I’m sure not last, negative experience with a real not so well intended man. I had to fight him off at one point but thankfully it didn’t get to out of hand as there were other people nearby. He was suppose to be my host but I ended up finding someone else to stay with, one of the other friends of his. I did however get to hike to the top of La Bufa which was very beautiful! But the next day I quickly moved on to San Luis Potosí heading down the 49 where Ulises, a Mañosos, awaited me.
San Lois Potosi was spent hanging with new friends, catching up on writing and checking out the town. I went to the Museo de Mascara (the Museum of Masks) which was fascinating! I was corresponding with Sjoerd at this time and he suggested a few roads for the next leg into the mountains. I had more or less gotten over the landslide incident but wanted to make sure not to overextend myself to quickly. I was heading to the Sierra Madre Oriental so the roads and weather were going to be a bit more unpredictable as mountains go.
I heading into the Sierras by way of Guadalcázar on route 9. It was an amazing road and went through some sweet mountain towns where I stopped in at a local leatherworkers shop who was making a beautiful saddle and had some snacks at the local corner vendor. Then up into the mountains I went, to Tampsopo where Puente De Dios is by the free road 70. Twisted and winding roads, with switchbacks and extreme overlooks accompanied me all the way to my campsite which happen to be right next to the falls. Tamosopo is a great little town, people are very friendly there and the town has a lot of character. I stayed there for two days, went to see the falls and met some travelers from Tijuana who I ended up spending my entire second day with and the evening, which ended with us all hanging at my campsite.
After they left I went down to town and bought a sandwich from the Oxxo and some chips since everything else was closed, this was a mistake that i came to regret a few hour later. I went to sleep and a few hours later I woke up very, very sick and covered in little red dots. The sandwich. gave me food poisoning and something must have gotten in my tent. I was sick for the rest of the night and trying desperating not to scratch my bites. By 6am I decided sleep was not really in my future since the heat was coming soon which would make my tent unbearable so I just ended up packing up camp and taking a sickly ride to my next destination which was Sotano De Las Golondrinas, the cave of swallows. I was going to go to the Tamul Waterfall but it was inaccessible due to the rainy season.
After a few hours of riding I began to feel better and by the time I got to the cave I was stable enough to eat something. This pit is the largest cave shaft in the entire world. It can fit the Empire State Building it it, to give you perspective. I really wanted to repel down into the cave but it was 5000 pesos which was out of my budget unfortunately. I was able to watch them bring someone back up from the cave which was neat. The process involved about 10 strong men pulling a rope lead up off the edge of one off the ledges of the pit. It’s quite an ordeal which you don’t have a machine operated system, it made the 5000 pesos seem quite cheap considering all the effort involved. I didn’t really get to actually see much of the cave as most of it is roped off and even if you want to try and see it it is very sketchy. The rocks are super slippery, very close to the end, huge holes between the rock ledge that teeters over the pit. You have to be very quiet there though because of all the birds that live in the cave so I enjoyed the listening to the bird calls and watching them fly from the cave now and then and also what I could see of the cave wall patina. I made some friends while trekking back up the mountain to my bike so I hung out for a while before heading to Xilitla. Since I had started the day so early due to my sickness I was able to cover a lot more ground then I had planned too.
I must have chosen the most difficult entrance into Xilitla. It was raining by the time I got there and the town is built on a very steep mountain with cobblestone roads of questionable condition. After reaching the summit of the first ¨road¨ I made my way through the maze of streets to a hotel recommended to me in my book, it ended up being 4 times more expensive then what the book said so I left and found another place around the corner which was very reasonable. It was such a relief to have a shower and treat my countless bug bites. I was a bit worried about carrying whatever bug that I encounter with me even though I carefully shook everything out very well before packing up camp. I brought in as few items into my room as possible and connected to the WiFi to research what bug it might be. It seems like they were Chigger bites. They tend to live in grass and the spots resembled what I saw online, taking a shower should wash the nearly invisible creatures off my body that might remain and I would have to do laundry whenever possible to be extra safe. The bites are suppose to go away within a few days and they aren’t problematic except for their itch. Bugs do however love me, I can’t even begin to tell you how many mosquito bites I have right now. No amount of deet will ever be enough. I have just accepted that at some point on this trip I will get malaria, I just have to keep watch for it as I do not want to take those pills for what will turn out to be many years.
The next day it was Sunday and there was a lovely market happening in town. I went on a bit of a shopping spree and bought a bunch of delicious foods to make myself some humble tacos. Cheese, cilantro, hot sauce, tomatoes, peppers, chili’s and fresh tortillas filled my bag and I sat under the shade of the church in the square listening to the songs from inside the doors, filling my stomach with tasty treats and watching the hum of the market crowds. I would say this was my favorite town so far, but now I’m in San Miguel de Allende and I’m just not sure because this place is fantastic. The ride to and from here might have been the most epic yet, expect perhaps the one to Urique, but that was dirt so I’ll put that in a separate category. Before I left town I checked out Las Pozas, it was pretty cool. I think my favorite part of the sculpture garden was actually the spiders and their webs though! After I found the first nest of them I went on a quest to find more. They are so beautiful and they spin bright yellow webs! There were so many of them and they spun nests overtop your head on nearly all the sculptures. To me the webs were far more beautiful then some rich dudes overblown cement casted art that he barely worked for since he inherited all of his money, but that’s just me.
I took the 120 first, I didn’t make it that far the first day since I left Xilitla so late which was fine with me. When the rain clouds started rolling in I began looking for a place to stay. I wanted to stay in this little town that I passed though I honestly don’t know what its called because its not listed on any map, but they didn’t have any hotels there so I had to keep going. I ended up finding a place in Pinal De Amoles which turned out to be very cheap but very bad, Hotel Los Molcajetes. It must have gone downhill since the last time it was reviewed because the room was ridden with mold and there was no running water. I ended up sleeping with a makeshift mask on all night to try and keep the mold away but I still woke up in the morning was a massive headache and I felt like I had a cold coming on. I moved on continuing down the 120 until I reached Extoraz then took that road west through the towns of Peñamiller, San Miguel Palmas and many others. Amazing roads, beautiful towns and some of the best churches I have ever seen, oh and so many cactuses. It as like all the pine trees were suddenly replaced with cacti when I moved into this region.
Now I am in San Miguel de Allende. I’ve only been here a day but I already love it and I guess I got here at the right time because this weekend there is a three day fiesta to celebrate Archangel San Miguel! It the city’s biggest celebration of the year. So I plan on staying here through the weekend, there so much to see and I’m staying with some fellow riders from another club, Los Inquisidores, friends of Ulises in San Luis Potosi. As I write this, I am sitting in Juarez park in the Barrio del Cherro district, clear blue skies above, watching people pass as white puffs drift through the air from the many cottonwood trees that surround me. Time to see what this city has to hold for me.