Amsterdam to Mexico. September to November. 2016
There are more than 3 million bicycles in Amsterdam. The average person owns 3. The average person has one stolen each year. 10,000 bikes are pulled from the Amsterdam Canal system each year. The average Amsterdam prostitute spends 7 minutes with each client! There are some 350 kms of waterways in Amsterdam with water gates able to shut off the City from any danger of flooding. If you fall into any canal these days, you have a good chance of surviving, as opposed to just 150 years ago your chances of survival were pretty slim! These and other gems of information were imparted to us by our Amsterdam Walk Tour Guide. Amsterdam is a perfect walking and cycling city.
We spent a morning wandering through the remarkable Van Gough museum. Pre paid tickets are the way to go as to queue on spec means hours of your life standing in line. Our very short 5 day visit to this lovely city was spent walking the canal pathways, and seeing the City from a canal tour boat. Anywhere in Europe during the tourist season of July/August guarantees shoulder to shoulder shuffle of the cities streets and tourist meccas.
Europe, for the time being completed.
A flight back to Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico and back to “Wiggy”. It seems perfectly normal for us to feel affection for our truck, we are bit wacky anyway!
We took off for San Miguel Allende, Zacatecas, Guanajato and drove in a big loop through these fascinating areas. Each Town/City has it’s own Industry, for example Delores Hildago, colourful pottery, Guanajuato and Zacatecas have a history of silver mining. San Miguel Allende has a very big industry of American and Canadian Expats, and the flow on effect of shopping and restaurants makes this City quite prosperous.
An amazing festival and dancing through the streets in San Miguel Allende, with various Mexican tribes all costumed dancing through the streets. Our friend Dr Robert (Tito, we met him at the Combi Fest 4 months ago) kindly drove us around the local points of interest. He is the President of the Bibliotech, or local library and museum, a retired vet and a funny guy. He drives old Combis and Vdubs, and prides himself on being a bit of a renegade and boasts of himself “drug running” between the USA and Canada albeit Veterinarian drugs . Lovely generous man. We were happy to leave (English speaking) San Miguel Allende and throw ourselves once again into Mexico proper.
Outside San Potosi we camped in a big compound where we and a horse were the only occupants. The owner lived in a substantial home within the compound and drove a big Hummer.
We didn’t like to ask what he really did for a living, (as you couldn’t possibly make a salary from one camper and a horse). He told us he was in ‘real estate’, we left it at that! He and his wife drove us into town of San Potosi so we could walk the streets, and look at the architecture. San Potosi Is the home of Mexican independence. While we were walking the City the communists and mothers were holding a demonstration for students who have gone missing, presumed murdered, decades before.
There was a big marquee erected on one plaza for “Seniors Day”. We were both welcomed by the MC, he told the Senior crowd how old we were and of our travels around the World and how long we planned to travel. A big cheer went up for us. We don’t see what we do as remarkable but lots of people we meet do! We confirmed our “senior” status by losing our camera in our campsite owners Hummer in San Potosi and having to backtrack from Guanajato 3 days later some 200 km’s to retrieve it!
On the way to this area from Jalisco to San Miguel Allende/Guanajuato we drove through what is considered to be the food bowl of Mexico. Lush high Altitude (5000 ft) prosperous farming with plenty of irrigation water available.
Each day for four days as we were driving, we saw semi trailers that had flipped over and crashed on the freeways and side roads. One truck was full of white chickens, now very dead, and possibly numbering in the 10,000’s. Some men had lit a fire just down the road and were roasting some of them! You gotta hand it to the Mexicans for an impromptu Bar B Q.
Another truck caused absolute chaos on the freeway as when it crashed and rolled over all the cartons of beer it was carrying spilled out the back. Cars had pulled up all over the highway and people were running away with as many bottles and cartons they could carry. Anarchy, but we suspect another impromptu party was about to commence! The third truck had miscalculated a curve around the railway lines and had tipped over the tracks. Maybe tables and chairs on board?
Ten days for this trip then back to Ajijic, on Lake Chapala Mexicos largest fresh water Lake. We had a house sit organised for 4 weeks, so it was park up Wiggy once again and have the relative luxury of a house with pool and 3 doggies to care for. Our host Judy ( who was holidaying in the USA) gave us the use of her car. When we left her home (we went to another house sit for friends for 2 weeks). We met her a few times after leaving her home, and she “returned some men’s underwear” she had found in her glove box. Didn’t belong to me so I wrote a little poem.
AN UNDERWEAR MYSTERY.
What shall i do this beautiful morn?
The sun is shining and it is quite warm
I think I’ll go for a spin in my car
Tired from my trip, I shan’t go far.
Fix the mirror, check my glove box
Rego’s there…..and a pair of Jocks!
Blue in colour, all alone, no shirt or socks
Just those jocks!
How did they get there I furtively thought
not bespoke, surely store bought
A bit old and faded and not a duster
I sat for a time but couldn’t muster
The slightest clue!
I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve seen a bit
Woke bleary with eyes just a slit
But never, ever have I forgot my knicks
In my handbag they go. I know boys tricks!
No man of mine would dress in jocks so faded blue
It’s that Aussie house sitter bloke thats who.
Pen and Ian won’t you come for dinner
Quite candidly I asked have you been a sinner?
Ian looked aghast didn’t blink or wink.
They could be Sams’ Freds’ Homers or Kens
They’re definitely not mine, said Ian
I usually wear Pens!
So our house sit was for friends we met some 18 months before in Washington State who have moved permanently to Mexico. Ajijic is a charming old town by the lake, full of creativity, galleries, food markets, organic produce, music and smiles. We said our good byes to some wonderful friends we had the pleasure of meeting around Lake Chapala.
Really was time to get going! We had left our selves just 5 weeks to get to Belize and a lot to look at along the way. Patzcuaro is the place in Mexico for the “Noches de Muerta”, the Day of the Dead celebration, which is Mexicos Major festival. All the cemeteries are decorated with thousands of marigolds, portable shrines, and families celebrate with their dead relatives and ancestors by singing, dancing and drinking. Tick that one off.
Mexico City with its mad traffic, we parked 40 kms outside the city and caught the train to the the Centre and had a hotel stay for 3 nights. Once again shoulder to shoulder tourists. A visit to Mexicos religious mecca the “Virgin of Guadalupe” , a beautiful ornate Cathedral on a dangerous lean and gradually sinking into the former swampy Mexico City City Valley. This colossal City of some 29 million people has awesome street markets. Day 2 and a “Hop On, Hop Off” tourist bus ride to some of Mexico Cities major attractions. 3 days in this city was enough for us! Next stop Puebla, and 3 nights in a very central car park (literally). A city once again with some magnificent Spanish influence architecture, countless street food stalls selling Tomales, Tacos, Enchiladas, roasted grasshoppers and nuts.
Keep moving guys! Saddle up! You now have just 10 days to get to Belize!
Oaxaca: another car park, but safe, central and locked at night, (we are always aware of being secure, it’s our mantra). A beautiful city to walk around and once again some great markets. Oaxaca is famous for its Chocolate and Mole sauces. A mole is a blend of spices and chocolate to make the strong sauce and is a wonderful dish with chicken and other meats being added to the sauce. People can be famous for their secret recipes, and the bases of green and black moles are available everywhere. It’s pretty much about the Mole than the meat added to it.
We loved the mountain cities and towns of the Sierra Madre Sur we have seen and tasted since leaving Lake Chapala, but we were desperate to see some Ocean again. South we headed to Puerto Escondido on Mexicos Pacific Coast, a broad expanse of sandy beach and a not too bustling little town. We were lucky enough to be there for the Annual Marlin Fishing Contest. One hundred or so small fishing boats went out to sea at 8am to be back by 3 pm the same day, for 3 days. Biggest fish went for the weigh in, and all others sold to the local market. It was here that we went to a Turtle “Turtoga” sanctuary. This was fabulous. The Michoacan State Government is trying to help the volunteers increase the turtle population along 100kms of Pacific Costline which has been dangerously diminished by mans hand, as the eggs are a traditional food for the local communities.
They now monitor the nests, and when the little turtles emerge in this little sanctuary they gather them up. We were handed a half cocoanut shell with a 1hr old “Turtoga” in it. We all lined up near the waves on the beach and released them. The strong ones bolted down the beach and disappeared into the surf. The volunteers in charge threw sand at the circling seagulls in an attempt to stop their murderous dives upon the surface swimming babies. Only 1% of these little turtles survive, and return to the same beach to lay their eggs some 15 years later. They have to flap down the beach to the water as they need to listen to the waves, and register the distinctive smell. Only then when their inner senses have locked in these two vital homing devices are they able to return to their “birth” beach and continue their breeding cycle. An amazing experience for us.
Get moving, you now have only 5 days.
Destination, Pelanque. From the Ocean, over the Sierra Madre Sur mountain range once again through a high altitude village where we were stopped by villagers demanding 200 Pesos to pass through!! Got through for 50!!! A huge driving day for us 10 hours and 400 kms. Happy to have a beer, and an early night. Next morning we were woken by Troops of Howling Monkeys occupying the surrounding forest. A 5 km hike after breakfast to the Maya ruins nestled in the Palenque rain forest. These 5000 year old ruins were huge and magnificent.
3 days guys, you’d better move your bums!!
Out of the mountains now and into East Mexico the driving was easier and a little faster, we were still bedevilled by Topes, (Topes are nasty speed humps. They are in every hamlet, village, town, and city. Some are marked, many are not. They are designed to slow down the traffic. And they do!!!!). If you are lucky to be following a vehicle you know when you are about to approach a Tope. But as surely as night follows day, sooner or later you will know you’ve met a Tope only when you hit it and become airborne! We are 6.5 tonne (14000 lbs) and we hit these little unseen MotherF…ers pretty hard. We have clothes out of cupboards, storage doors open, stuff stored on our bed hits the ceiling and lands where it does!
2 days to go!!
To our Belize crossing and we are in Chetamul, Eastern Mexico, just 1 hour from the Belize Border. We are now eating all foods stuffs we have in our fridge and freezer, Belize Border control confiscates all non tinned foods. We’ve read a lot of information about the Belize Border crossing and all went without a hitch pretty much. We could only get Wiggy a permit for 30 days. We are returning to Australia for December and Xmas for 34 days so we couldn’t get a permit, so Wiggy is safe and sound in the Customs yard on the Belize Border. When we get back to Belize early January we’ll get the 30 day permit and continue our fabulous journey and wind our way towards Guatemala and Honduras.
We spent the night in Belize city after our 2 hour transfer from Chetamul. 5.30am we arrived at the International airport somewhat ready for our Gruelling 30hr trip back to Australia for Pens mums 90th birthday and to have Xmas with families.
No further news on a possible reversal by the Costa Rican and Panamanian Governments not to allow, Right Hand Drive vehicles into their Countries. So it still looks like after visiting Central America we will not be allowed into Costa Rica, so from there we’ll be turning around, going back to Mexico and shipping Wiggy to Cartegena in Colombia from Veracruz.