Thursday, February 25, 2010

Twisty Roads

We are safe in sound in San Cristobal de Las Casas for the next month or so. As of last Monday we are both enrolled in Spanish classes 3 hours per day at different schools.

So until I get around to writing about the amazing house we are renting and how cool it is to be back in school, enjoy this video of some of the riding over the past couple of weeks.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Climbing Community part I

With the climbing video behind us, I thought I'd give a little backstory.
Not only is this trip a motorcycle trip, we brought down a rope, quickdraws (things that attach the rope to the rock), harnesses, and climbing shoes. Our plan is to stop whenever we can and do a little rock climbing. Sure it takes up around 1 panniers worth of space, but it is worth it.
One of the greatest things about being a climber, is that we can travel anywhere in the world and instantly have a community of people with whom we have something in common. Thailand was a perfect example of this. We went years ago to go check it out and do a little climbing and within a day fell in with the small but amazing climbing community there. We liked it so much we decided to move there for 2 years.

On a trip like what we are taking, it is important to be able to plug into some sort of community. The endless days of driving and touristing are great, but we are only two people and we need to feel more of a connection with the world around us (more on this later). Meeting local climbers helps with that.

Oaxaca actually has what appears to be a pretty cool climbing scene. After doing a little research on where to climb in Southern Mexico we discovered that Oaxaca has a small crag. We didn't have any beta (that's climber terminology for information) on the area more than about where it is. It is nice to know the ratings of the climbs. We scoured the web a bit more looking for anything that might have some info when we stumbled upon the fact that there is a climbing gym near the crag. It is attached to a hostel (which I accidentally used the spanish spelling- hostel-  in the video). We cruised out there to check it out and see what we could see.
What we saw was a very impressive facility run be a guy named Carlos and parents. Carlos was away in Mexico city at a climbing competition but we talked with his sister and parents for a while. They told us exactly where to go (but had not route beta) and so we went. We didn't end up staying at this hostel since we had already booked a place in Oaxaca but next time we will.

We finally caught up with Carlos on our way out of Oaxaca and chatted for a while. He says that there is a great climbing gym community but that people generally don't go up to the crag to climb. This is very indicative of a younger crowd. The convenience and gymnastic aspect of a climbing gym is a sport in itself and doesn't necessarily translate into going outside. It is cool to see that a smallish city like Oaxaca can support such a large facility (apparently there are 3 other smaller ones too). 
We didn't stick around in Oaxaca too long because we are headed up to San Cristobal de las Casas in the State of Chiapas (two days away) where we already have a contact for what seems like an excellent climbing community. I'm excited to meet the crowd and try out another local crag. We are planning on staying in San Cristobal for 3 weeks to study spanish and climb a little. The bonus is that because we are climbers, we will instantly have a community upon arrival.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oaxaca climbing

After three days of hanging out in Oaxaca (a lovely city) we are on our way to San Cristobal de las Casas.
I figure it should take us two days to get there.
In the meantime, take a look at this video I put together of a day of rock climbing... sort of. We at least we climbed a little.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Onward to adventure

I know I have been negligent in writing. The lack of quality internet has been a major factor. That and coupled with the fact that I got behind made it hard to catch up. So here is what has happened in the last week:
[buying bread out of the back of a VW bus] Left Mazatlan.
Went to San Blas and stayed in a dump. The town had just suffered from high rains and wind so it was clean but still recovering.
Drove south from San Blas, through Sayulita (a nice town but extremely touristy) and continued through Puerto Vallerta on to Tomatlan. A peaceful farming city known for tomatoes and mangoes.
Then we continued down the coast and found paradise in Maruata. A turtle sanctuary way out in the middle of nowhere with hammocks, crystal blue waters, and incredibly nice people. The 4 gringos that were there became our best friends and we decided to stay two nights to indulge in the beach.
[Kris, Ken, Paula, and Jerry- after retirement living the life] After that we cruised north into the mountains and up through Arteaga and into Patzcuaro.
In search of the Monarch butterfly, we now find ourselves just outside of Zitacuaro. Unfortunately (for the locals more so than for us) this is exactly the site of the big mudslides that happened last week. Apparently, it never rains here this time of year, but it rained heavily and washed all the mountains down. Our access to the butterflies has been blocked so now we will head to Oaxaca.

The riding has been incredible. Endless curvy roads. I thought I had video'ed a bunch of them, but I accidentally filled up my memory card and didn't realize it until today, so when I thought I was taking video, I really wasn't. Sorry.

So now we are headed back south to the food capital of Mexico. I've traced out a route that should take us off the main roads and through some great terrain. We are going to flank a large Volcano which, as a geologist, this excites me. We will pass some lakes and hopefully experience some culture in far out farming communities. We have found people in Mexico to be nothing but nice, but farming communities are extra helpful. Should be fun.

View mexico route in a larger map

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No cord, no blog

It was around 3 am. I woke up in our nice cabin aboard the Chihuahua Star ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. Something seemed wrong. It had been nagging at me that when we grabbed our stuff out of our bikes to come above on the boat, I couldn't find our bag of coffee. I always nestled in the right pannier, between the air compressor and the first aid kit. But I couldn't find it. No big deal. It was just coffee.
[where the girls slept for the night] But what I realized at 3 am is that not only was the bag of coffee missing, the red satchel that contains all of our power cords was also not there. You know that feeling you get when you realized (or just know) that you have done something bad. It is a butterfly like twinge in your stomach. Sort of a cross between guilt and dread. Well let me tell you that that feeling also prevents you from falling back asleep.
I wanted to sleep because we were spending 500 dollars to take this ferry over ($70 of which is for the cabin) and I wanted to be rested for the next day. I thought to myself "I can deal with this. There will be a solution to the cord problem. Just meditate on something to take your mind off of the problem."
So I cleared my head and thought about a red rubber ball- I don't know why a red rubber ball, it just seemed something benign to meditate on. The coolest thing happened. As I lay there forcing myself to think about only a red rubber ball, my mind created a dream in which someone handed me the red satchel with the cords. In my 3 am state, I believed said dream, felt relaxed and fell back asleep. Hooray for the red rubber ball!

We arrived in Mazatlan the next morning, no red satchel in hand. The facts:

  • The red satchel contained:
  1. charger for my mac computer
  2. charger for my ipod touch and ipod shuffle
  3. 2 chargers for our headset communication system
  4. cell phone charger
  5. a bunch of batteries
  6. some other random cords and such.
  7. --- as an aside, wouldn't it be nice if there was one charger for all of this? ---
  • The next ferry arrived in 2 days time.
  • I knew exactly where I had left the satchel- in our guest house.
  • On the ferry that we took, there were 2 other parties who had also stayed at our guest house
  • The ferry dock is about 30 minutes from La Paz
  • Mazatlan has a reputation as a crappy place, but in reality the old down town is amazing nice. Plus there is good running in town.

We checked into the Belmar hotel which is the definition of "fading glory." You can tell that back in the rat pack days this is the kind of place Frank Sinatra would have stayed. It just hasn't been kept up at all since then. But the aging staff is ridiculously nice, the rooms are large, it is right on the beach in the old part of town ,and there was safe motorcycle parking in the once lovely courtyard (right next to a BMW moto with Scottish plates- belonging to one Mike Anderson- a retired gentleman who has spent the last 9 years travelling the world full time first on a bicycle and now on a BMW).

[look closely in the center of the photo] We made some phone calls to the Pension California in La Paz and through Ricardo was told that "maybe" this might work out. He had the case and was actively looking for folks to take the precious cargo over to Mazatlan.

[a line in the old town square for free H1N1 shots- ahhhh nationalized health care- so affordable] Old town Mazatlan is a marvelous place. Artists everywhere. Well kept streets and buildings. A very very busy central market with some of the most delicious prawns you can imagine for 3 dollars a pound. It was not difficult to kill two days in this town. One of the added bonuses: I couldn't really use my computer. We checked email on the ipod but eventually this ran out of juice. I wanted to save the laptop battery in case we had to revert to plan B: buy new cords in Guadalajara.

[pardon me, do you happen to have a red satchel?] No plan B was necessary. A brother and sister team from France showed up on Friday morning all smiles with our red satchel in hand. I tucked it into its rightful home between the cook pot and the motorcycle cover and we were off down the pacific coast of the mainland.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

LIve action from the South end of the Baja

As we prepare to catch the boat tonight, we are killing the day in La Paz while it is pouring rain. All things considered, a good day to kill.
We went to the market and picked up some Queso Fresco and bread for dinner.
We did laundry.
We called home.
And I put together this video of us traveling from Loreto to La Paz. Much of the road on this 250 mile stretch is flat and straight. In fact, I think there is a fifty mile stretch with not a single turn. Wow! But there is also some good road in between. Enjoy!

Adventure eating

I've always said I will eat anything. So when we go out to eat, I sometimes try to order the thing on the menu that I have no idea what it is. Usually it turns out quite well and I get to try something new. Sometimes it doesn't turn out so well and I get to try something new.
Last night was one of the latter.
After trying to order Roast Suckling pig (they were out), I pointed to the next thing on the menu which I didn't have time to look up in the dictionary. I asked the server what it was, and in very fast spanish she told me it was something good and about this size and it is good. I went for it.

What I didn't understand is that I had ordered a very large piece of grilled liver.

I actually hadn't had liver in a long time. I knew that the last time I ate it, I didn't really like it, but this is now and it looked so damned good on the plate. I carved out a big chunk, put some of the grilled onions on top and popped it into my mouth.
The thing about liver that first strikes you is the texture. Sort of like butter and cottage cheese and styrofoam. Not so good. The second thing about liver is the taste. You either love it or hate it.
A managed not to gag after the first bite which was a good thing. However, my pride dictated that I eat the entire thing so I kept at it. Some bites were not so bad, others not so good, but I managed to get most of it down.
Marshall 1
Liver 0

Megan was smart and ordered the amazing Chile Rellanos. Hers was really quite yummy.

The traveller

While on the road, we are meeting many other people traveling on many other fashions.
There are many traveling in RVs or some sort of camper truck. We feel fairly free and minimalist compared to them. One such guy goes by the name of Ken and lives part time in Missoula and the rest of the time wherever he feels like it. He and his dog Badger were down visiting his parents who have a house way out on the very remote point near the Bahia Tortugas. A great guy and it turns out we have a friend, Diana Hammer, in common.
Then we met two guys from Vashon island, Greg and Josh who are riding their bicycles (that't right, human powered) down to Argentina. These guys were very zenned out in the middle of the Baja desert riding across vast expanses of nothingness. They have about a year to go on their trip. They made us feel a little like we had all the luxuries of the world with our gas powered vehicles and our stuff. Their blog is here if you want to feel like what we are doing is totally sane and normal.
Then we ran into John.
It was about 5 o'clock in the afternoon with around 1 hour of daylight left right near the 28th parallel. We had spotted a small dirt road leading off the main highway for about 8 miles to what looked like a cool little bay. About 2 miles in we spotted a guy walking down the road trailing a two wheel luggage cart with a duffle and a box of wine. In my head I'm thinking, "don't stop for people out here. You never know what they are up to."
As we pulled up closer to this guy, we saw a slightly overweight white guy, badly sunburned, who looked content as a fox in a chicken pen just strolling down the road. Of course we had to stop. We asked him what he was up to and he said he had been dropped off at the main road and told the beach was about 2 mile away. I looked at my map again and saw that it was about 6 more miles to the beach.
At first I didn't consider I could pick this guy up. I hardly had room for all my stuff, let alone him and his stuff. That and I was challenged enough on the sandy road as it was. He didn't seem to mind that I couldn't pick him up and wished us a good day. We drove about 50 meters down the road and Megan suggested that we just couldn't leave this guy out here. She was right. So I turned back around and somehow managed to throw him on the back. He suggested trailing his luggage rack behind the bike, but I thought that was a bad idea, so he just hefted it on. We drove slow and chitchatted about literature and drifting as we made the 6 miles to the beach.
As we talked more with John, he let us know his plans of hitching down to Argentina to go dove hunting. He had recently divorced his wife, sold his belongings and gave up his job in the military to follow his dreams of living off the land. It reminded me of a Jon Krakauer book.
The next morning, we fed him breakfast and coffee, gave him all our water and went on our way. I really do respect this guy for following his passion. I think more people could benefit by listening to that little voice in their head that tells them to go for it. I mean, why not?