Friday, February 27, 2009

Warm Weather Party People

(San Cristobal, MX - Palenque, MX)

We just spent an incredible day wandering the ruins and pyramids of Palenque and dipping in the pools under the waterfall at Misol-Ha. Amazing!! Palenque is famous for it´s great Mayan pyramids cut from the jungle, and some literally dug up from beneath soil and gigantic jungle trees! We thought we´d hit the road and head South today, but we were having so much fun we decided to stay another night and just enjoy it. We spent hours walking up and down the steps at Palenque, peering into dark passageways, and trying to imagine life there 1,500 years ago. One of the out-buildings (my first steep ascent of the day) a Count actually lived inside during the early 1800´s! I walked around the small stone space, with three small rooms along the back and one long in front, and tried to imagine a man living there with that view. The stairs back down were intimidating!!

After our hours there, we rode the motorcycle through cornfields and more jungle to the Misol-Ha waterfalls. The fenceposts here are alive! The soil is so fertile, that when they hack out a stick and put it in the ground, it grows. The choice here are lovely silvery-barked branches the bloom with pale pink blossoms. It´s rather amazing how much life is everywhere, with orchids living in the trees, vines draped everywhere, and bromeliads making their homes up and down every tree.

The Misol-Ha waterfalls were spectacular! They are set in a huge water-carved bowl and cascade down nearly 100 feet into a big greeny-brown pool beneath. The water isn´t as stunningly blue and clear like the Agua Azul falls, but we actually preferred its wildness and all the green vines and plants covering the basin. We spent about three hours swimming, climbing around on the moss-covered rocks, taking photo after photo, and even hiking around the basin to a cave waterfall. We paid $2 to have a guide with a flashlight lead us inside where we found tiny bats hanging overhead sleeping, and water jetting out from a crack inside the mountain. I´ve never seen bats sleeping in such quantity before, and they were so tiny and seemed so sweet. When you shine the light on them they sort of shake and shiver trying to keep it out of their eyes. Apparently at about six at night they all wake up and fly out to eat dinner!

Yesterday we stopped at Cascadas de Agua Azul (Blue Water Waterfalls) which were splendidly blue! They seemed surreal in their bright colours, the rounded pale gold stone pouring the water off its edges and creating beautiful places to sit and lose yourself in the beauty. Nearby were little palm-thatched restaurants where we had some fresh empanadas (tiny fried pockets of dough with chicken, cheese, potatoes or beef inside). We ate 20 of them! Delicious.

Right now we are at a very hot and humid internet cafe one block from the Plaza Central where we will meet our Bavarian friends for the third consecutive night of socializing. We went out in San Cristobal two nights ago with some of the people from our tour that day and had a hell of a time at Bar Revolucion! Two of them (Eve and Johannes) were headed up to Palenque yesterday and Eve suggested that we could meet for drinks. We discussed possible locations to meet in town and decided that, ¨in front of the church in the main plaza,¨ would be Romantic (as Eve put it). None of us were familiar with the town, but if there´s one thing you can count on down here, it´s that there´ll be a main plaza with a church.

On the road yesterday we ran into a couple from Scotland that are travelling the America´s by sidecar for the next YEAR AND A HALF! They´re heading South to Peru over the next two months and you can be certain that we´ll see them again. Here´s a link to their website if you´d like to take a look.

I had my first vegetables of the trip in vegetable soup, and it was so delicious! I had it again for lunch, and plan on having it for dinner, too. I can´t tell you how precious I now know it is to have your choice of greenery at the market, and on the menus! Asparagus, broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach..... I dream of it.

We head South tomorrow toward the border which we hope to pass without too much trouble on Saturday morning. We meet up with Mike, Leigh, Bethany and Kyle in Flores in the North of Guatemala on the 6th, and there´s a lot to see in the South before then so we´re in the process of working out an action packed plan to see it all.

Once again, we hope everyone is well and look forward to the next adventure.

1) This one´s for you Ross.
2) San Cristobal Party People
3) Andy and Maya on their way to San Crisobal
4) Agua Azul
5) Really, Really Nice
6) Ruins at Palenque
7) Exploring all about
8) Grace
9) Emerging from the caves at Misol-Ha
10) where we found underground waterfalls, and lots of Bats!
11) Beautiful, Peaceful...
12) and Refreshing!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Peter the Girl

(Oaxaca, MX - San Cristobal, MX)

We finally named our motorcycle and this is how it happened.
We were in Oaxaca, a beautiful city of ancient greenish stone churches, museums, art galleries and markets. Women in brightly woven dresses, children selling beads and bracelets, international travelers, and many crisscrossing one-way streets. We wandered for hours, taking photo after photo of the long lovely streets and narrow sidewalks. Wide wooden doorways opened onto gorgeous interior courtyards, cafes had open window seats set just feet above the sidewalk, and we enjoyed our first light rain of the trip.
In our hostel, La Casa Azul, we took hot showers to warm up after walking around town, and went about preparing for more street-cruising to find dinner. We chatted about our Beautiful Sweet Girl and threw out a few more potential names (a near daily exercise) and Adam suggested we call her something ridiculous, like "Peter." I said, "But we've been referring to her as a girl for months now. Isn't it a girl?"
"Yeah, Peter the Girl, because she's a girl, but she's got balls you see." He replied.
Who can argue with that logic? And so it happened that our lovely little KLR 650, will now be referred to as, "Peter the Girl."

Now some mildly entertaining tidbits from the last few days...
As we rode out of Oaxaca, the sky was filled with incredible clouds rolling and tossing in impressively high velocity winds. The same winds which we had to ride through for about 6 hours that day. Adam was laughing, which I've learned is his "holy crap!" reaction while riding, as our heads in their bobble-head-like helmets were just blasted again and again. For hours... and hours.
I eventually got used to it, and Adam promised we weren't even close to going off the road (hard to believe) and enjoyed the changing light as the sun began to set and thunderous looking rain clouds loomed ahead. We were sprinkled a bit, but nothing too bad, and finally found our way into Cintalapa, Chiapas, where we found a great hotel on the very edge of the Plaza Central. We ate dinner downstairs and headed to bed soon after to watch 21 Grams with Spanish subtitles (we've been so spoiled!). Carnaval was in full swing over the weekend, but we seemed to miss all the big excitement.
We were up early (ish) and found a little market with our favourite La La strawberry yogurt and vanilla sweet-cake muffins. Then we hit the road and enjoyed another 7,000 foot mountain-crossing through Indigenous lands where the women carry huge stacks of sticks AND a baby, and hike the mountain trails practically barefoot in the cold weather.

We're now closing in on our second (and last) day here in San Cristobal de Las Casas, visiting two more friends from Orcas Island, Cy and Julie Fraser, who are staying in a beautiful little house near the Plaza and have been very hospitable letting us park the bike here and use their internet. They recommended a great tour through the local indigenous towns of Zinacantan and Chamula which we did this morning. The people here have some very peculiar traditions, and we were told some wild stories from the area. (A bunch of drunk guys killing chickens in the main church may sound crazy to some of us, but they do it on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Chamula). To elaborate, Healers use the chickens to absorb bad spirits, then kill them and bury them. The drinking is just for fun.

Tomorrow we're off to Palenque to explore the ruins and the waterfalls of Agua Azul, but tonight we're going to meet our new Bavarian friends at Bar la Revolucion for a few more cervezas. (Let me know if you're starting to see a trend here :-)

Hope everyone is well and thanks for all the comments.

1) Indigenous Zinacantan girl in traditional garb
2) Roaming the streets of San Cristobal
3) With our gracious hosts, Cy and Julie
4) On the streets of Oaxaca
5) Sunset approaching Cintalapa
6) Beautiful entrance into Tehuanatapec
7) 10,000 miles and running strong
8) Grace always makes the coolest friends
9) Look how stoked this guy is
10) The cemetery at Chimula. White crosses for children, Green for young adults, Black for the old
11) Cafe Las Cuiles in Oaxaca was great
12) The walking street of San Cristobal

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back into the Mountains

(Pinotepa, MX - Oaxaca, MX)

We made our way from Pinotepa yesterday morning for a loooooong day of riding up into the mountains to the state capital of Oaxaca. The first couple hours along the coast to Puerto Escondido was fairly mild and boring , but as we turned inland this all changed. The road quality varied anywhere from absolutely aweful to mildly tolerable. I was actually quite entertained with the winding curves, steep climbs, and constant game of "Avoid the gaping hole in the road." Sometimes I would lose this game, and it would hurt.

We found a great hostel downtown very close to the main plaza for only 150 pesos a and pulled the bike inside. Dinner at a taco stand and then drinks in the main plaza made for a nice relaxing evening before passing out for 12 hours. (Grace only slept for about 10 actually. She woke up earlier and took a nose dive into her current obsession... Twilight.)

Oaxaca is a fantastic town. The weather has been cloudy with spatterings of rain and we spent the day wandering about and taking photos. Cathedrals, museums and art galleries are surrounded by colorful store fronts of all sorts. We both feel really comfortable here and the weather is a nice break from the heat.

Tomorrow we head South back to the coast and then on to San Cristobal and the Mayan Ruins at Palenque before we cross the border into country #2. Ciao.

1) One of a hundered streets in town that is colorful and bustling
2) Common store fronts
3) Cathedrals can be found every few blocks or so in the downtown area.
4) Style. Clearly the kids in this town have it. How bout dem?
5) Food lines the roadways near the markets, some of which I find more appetizing than others.
6) grasshoppers

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Colour of Happy

(Barra de Navidad, MX - Pinotepa, MX)

Our skin is not as white as it was a few days ago, and is perhaps a little more pink than it should be.
We stayed an extra day in Barra de Navidad, and that evening found ourselves on a beautiful rooftop bar overlooking the ocean at sunset. We were invited up by some very friendly part-of-the-year locals who we'd passed on the street half a dozen times in the 24 hours we'd been there! Andre from Canada has been staying in Barra each winter for 12 years and literally seems to know everyone, and Steve from La Conner, Washington who discovered Barra three or four years ago and is well on his way to knowing everyone if he keeps hanging out with Andre.
After a couple of beers and the sun finally gone to bed, they invited us and another friend to dinner with promises to show us a great place. Lo and behold, they took us to the one restaurant we'd eaten dinner at the night before, Mexico Lindo! It was delicious. Again. Thanks guys, for a great night and some seriously tasty chocolate cake!
The last few days my ankle had been causing a fuss. I´m thinking I bruised a nerve/tendon somehow, which has caused me to limp around rather pathetically. Putting pressure on it causes serious discomfort, which has luckily begun to fade. Adam has been calling me Gimpy.

Driving out the next day, we waved goodbye to our Orcas buddies, and even Andre came by for a photo.
Onward we drove, my ankle very upset. We arrived in Playa Azul as the sun dropped low, and enjoyed another great sunset with Kanye West blasting from a beautiful bar palapa (palm thatched roof structure). As we were standing out on the sand taking photos, a white guy strode up to us and started chatting. Super friendly, and we were both just a wee bit uncomfortable. Something about this guy was just not right. He wanted to show us a great hotel, and literally ran down the road ahead of us to point it out about a 1/4 mile away. Maybe it's not very nice, but I did take some video of it.
Strange man, but he led us to Hotel Andrea, where Lupe greeted us with a warm smile and a large, clean room with hot water. For 250 pesos, it was great, and just two blocks from the beach!

From Playa Azul we finally managed to leave early (10am!) and headed to Zihautanejo for a four hour swim break at the beach. Beautiful water, parasailing, funny little kids running around. Since it was still fairly early we decided to head toward Acapulco and ended up in downtown just as it got dark. Crazy traffic, so tired, we drove around seeking a hotel and were both grouchy and overly hungry by the time we found one! When we did, it was two blocks from a movie theater and had air conditioning, so after a bite to eat and a shower we headed down for the late showing of Valkyrie.

For anyone visiting Acapulco, I highly suggest avoiding the downtown area and heading up over the hill to the next bay to the South. The reason for this is the insane amount of chain restaurants, crazy traffic, and soulless-ness of that area. Too harsh? The author may have been a little hungry on arriving, and this may have coloured her view.

Now we are in Pinotepa Nacional, staying at Las Gaviotas Hotel where they've let us park the motorcyclce in the lobby, there is hot water, and English movies on TV. The air has finally cooled a bit, which is nice after a long hot day in the sun.

One thing I've noticed around this area, are the many houses and restaurants painted a sort of Caribbean ocean blue. Pale and pretty, it is the colour of happy. I want to paint a kitchen that colour.

We head toward Puerto Escondido and then toward Oaxaca, where we plan on spending a couple of days exploring.
I'm hungry and sleepy and it's getting late, so for now: ciao! And Buenos Noches.

1) Andre, Grace, Yours Truly, Steve, and Mysterio...
2) "Grace," a self portrait
3) Playa Azul arrival just at sunset
4) Beach soccer at dusk
5) Birds make a break for it as we drive by on the sand
6) Driving on the hard pack near the water is easy, it´s getting there and back with the bike loaded down that gets me (and the KLR) to break a sweat.
7) SOME sections of the highway are absolutely spectacular!
8) Swim break on Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanajo
9) Scanning the guide book in downtown Acupulco
10) We just ran into these two guys, Clay and Kyle, today about an hour before arriving here in Pinotepa. They´re doing practiacally the same ride we are, except (unlike us) they´re on a time table of only 3 months :-( They are both on KLRs and were impressed to see the set-up we have for two-up riding. Check out their blog HERE.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

South Along the Coast

(San Blas, MX - Barra de Navidad, MX)

Saturday night in San Blas was fairly uneventful. We did some people watching in the plaza and watched the drag queen parade but decided not to attend the actual competition. It was a little past our bedtime and a bit more expensive than we would have liked. The boys did look fantastic though. We said goodbye to our friends in San Blas on Sunday and headed south To Puerto Vallarta.

The ride down the coast was nice but a little busy and we arrived in the city shortly before dark. The newer parts of PV to the North are ridiculously posh and expensive, lined with high rises and shopping malls, but we found the Old Town area to be fantastic. For anyone looking for accomodations in PV, just drive all the way to the south end of town and you will eventually see the sign for the highway south to Manzanilla and a winding road leading up the hill. Now backtrack two blocks to the street named "Francesco l. Madero" and you will find an abundance of nice, cheap hotels about a 7 minute walk to the ocean front. We stayed at the Hotel Azteca for $27 US and it was great. Hot hot water, big pretty courtyard, and safe street parking (or at least that's what one of the locals told us). They also have a 24-hour front desk person with street-views.

Yesterday we stopped by the hotel Barcelo in Mismaloya to see if Corrina and Jason had arrived yet and were told they wouldn´t be in until the evening. The hotel is beautiful and their wedding on Friday should be incredible. Sorry we missed you guys and I hope you got our note. Congratulations on the marriage and have a wonderful time!

We continued down the coast and had lunch in a very small town named Punta Perula that was Spectacular! The beach was empty and the bay pristine. I even did a couple hot laps on the sand with the KLR. She handled the soft stuff just beautifully. (Grace's Note: A car drove by on the sand as we were eating lunch, and Adam said "Whoa". I thought he was pointing out yet another Canadian flaunting their flag, but then he said, "You can Drive on the beach?" and already had one boot on.)

We made it down to Barra de Navidad just as the sun was setting. It was a nice one and we had to pull over for some photos. The breeze off the water was perfect, and we enjoyed a few minutes of silence before moving on in search of a hotel. We unpacked our stuff into Hotel Sarabi (the cleanest accomodations we've seen yet!) cleaned up and found our friends Mark and Natalie from Orcas who were staying in the hotel next door. The cerveza´s flowed from then on and we quickly decided to stay another day and relax.
Today has been nice and mellow, mostly lounging and swimming at the beach. Tomorrow we´ll probably head South down to Zihuatanejo, and from there inland to Oaxaca.

For now though, it's time for a shower and maybe a nap.

1) Dinner in San Blas on Saturday
2) Drag Queen Parade
3) Creatures of San Blas: Moth?
4) Lizard
5) Teenie little Frogito
6) Hillside leading South from PV just outside Hotel Azteca
7) Street taco stand (We ate lunch and dinner at one of these)
8) Hot Laps in Punto Perula
9) Soaking it up
10) Sunset on the pacific with cute bobblehead doll in foreground
11) Pretty nice I´d say
12) Marc, Natalie, Grace and AT in Barra de Navidad