|Camping in Anza Borrego
I approach the Mexican frontier, head swirling with anxieties fed to me each day by the people I´d met in USA – that Mexico is at war with itself and I´ll likely become a victim.
I wait at the barrier, the light goes green, the barrier rises and I bumble through the thick heat into a blurry haze of dust, of taxis, of an excavated dirt road lined with a queue of people twisting endlessly around the town; miles long, hundreds or thousands of people waiting their turn to cross the border into the USA.
It seemed I was already in Mexico……having missed a vital step in proceedings….Paperwork. I was expecting at least an exit stamp from the USA, some form of paperwork.
I pull over next to a mound of excavated earth and take out my Spanish book, circa 1961, full of the Spanish equivalents of “by jove, I crossed the border without even a cursory glance at ones passport! Whatever shall one do” I attempt to find out how on earth this has been possible. My book didn’t actually provide this much needed Spanish phrase, or anything else of much use actually, and a man blabbers angrily at me in Spanish whilst I look beyond him, over his shoulder to the complete calm, the green grass and the shiny black asphalt only metres away, in USA.
“No pasaporte stamp?” he asks.
“No pasaporte stamp?” He reiterates with added consternation and I reply equally perplexed.
“No moto permiso?”
“No.” He looks a bit confused, I certainly am, so I add in my best Spanish (ie English), “I just drove straight through.”
A lot of Spanish is spoken – by him – and I nod with pursed lips once he reaches about word seven, and when it seems he´s finished I give thanks, having established at least that I must go straight, thereafter who knows.
I follow the high rusting fence lining the border and after a few miles reach the next border crossing. An interrogation from the US border police ensues as I try to walk back across, think I´m up to no good and warn me that “there´ll be trouble if I should ever return to the US.”
“Are you serious?” I ask the portly walkie talkie wielding twit.
“You´re telling the truth?”
“Why would I lie?”
“Because you don´t like me.”
“That makes no difference.”
“I think it does.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“But I’ve left, I´m obviously not in USA anymore, hence am violating no rules.” and he repeats only that there will be trouble if I come back to USA. So I continue, “Well….I guess I shan´t be coming back then. Sorry for causing a national state of emergency.”
“You have a good day sir.”
I doubted it.
Off I go to see what the Mexicans have in store for me, any form of useless paperwork. They do, and three or four hours later with a few more additions to my wallet of paperwork and a few subtractions from my wallet of money, I`m leaving, sat aboard Rudolf, listening to a group of Americans wish me luck, “You`ll need it.” they say as I look at my compass wondering which way to go, reckoning they´re probably right.
Going straight worked before, let´s try that.
My first port of call is the local Yamaha dealer to pick up some pre-arranged parts for “Rudolfo” (A free vowel with any visa and my name is now Dah-vid, much easier for the locals) from the fantastically helpful Jose Luis Larios at Yamaha Mexicali. But it´s already 2:30pm and I have no clue where the shop is, my lack of planning biting me in the bum. I chase some wild geese for two hours twenty-five minutes and; sweaty, dusty, tired, hungry, bedraggled and pretty pissed off frankly I slam open the door to the Yamaha store at five minutes before closing. As it happens the store is right by the first entry point at the border, making it all the more annoying.
“We were expecting you much earlier.”
“I decided to look around Mexicali.”
The parts received for a snip of the RRP I dash off into the darkening dusk, through the slums to look for a camp spot – right on the border just as one hopes (note: sarcasm required). At about 930 I find a spot and start cooking up some dinner with a wee chuckle of disbelief, “what a day!” One hopes day two in Mexico progresses a little better.
There are essentially only two main roads in Baja, which is two more than there used to be until relatively recent times. Not that it’s of any importance as highways are rubbish, except when you’ve spent three days getting lost off-highway and it’s raining household pets…..cats, dogs, iguanas, that sort of thing, and one wants an escape, hoping for warmer drier weather, more luck and signposts on the eastern coast of Baja in San Felipe where yanks go to fish for really big fish.
|Baja California, Mexico, find a beach, build a hut, go fishing
There are no signposts but I do find warmer climes and more luck too in the form of Adam…….
“What the fox an Englishman doing all the way out here?” he says by way of introduction with the distinct sound of a southern shandy-drinking Englishman.
|Coco is infamous, kneeling next to him is BIG Pete.
Adam’s been travelling by motorcycle for four years now. He is very short but isn’t short of a story or two, surprising me every day with another epic story I can’t believe he hasn’t let slip until now; wondering how could he forget that – and not just from his time travelling but also from before his trip, back home. He likes tea and I’m keen to join up with someone else who can make a brew, and join forces we do. I enjoy his company around a fire on frightfully cold nights musing over the lack of hob-nobs around the world, the best dunking biscuits, eating bulging bags of palm dates – which give us the thrupnies – and the fact that whilst I`m freezing my genitalia off in my tent wearing every item of clothing I own, he is struggling to keep cool in only his Batman Y-fronts inside his toasty warm down sleeping bag. That night, unable to sleep again, I start writing my letter to father Christmas
1x down sleeping bag please,
|Big Pete and Short Arse have a beer
As well, we meet and hang out with Big Pete and Not-So-Big-Joe; two Americans on a tour of Baja from Trebour Motorcycles in New Jersey, top chaps who provide tootsie-pops at every stop – which are many as they must patiently wait for me to catch them up on Rudolfo. But Pete and Joe have a long way to go and after a few great days together they leave Adam and me to our own devices; the beaches of Baja, the boiling pot of tea, the bags of – by now pretty rank – dates and regular trips into the forest for a sloppy joe number two.
|Camping in the desert
All of this means a rather paltry daily mileage, managing barely 20miles before midday most days and one day we manage a pitiful 45miles all day, though in this case it`s certainly not through a lack of effort and even making a brew that night was hard work as we uttered repeatedly the words “Sock me, I`m socked.” The road we named “The Road of Stones,”…..lord knows why…….as do Adam and I who toiled on the track for eight, nine(?) hours or more, following our compasses as we bounced from boulder to boulder, abandoned farm dwelling to abandoned dwelling, a road petering out to become another dead end driveway, eventually to a point where the track, as Adam put it, “hadn`t even seen a donkey hoof.” It`s seen four motorcycle tires now though and a couple of sweaty gringos and not a little swearing. “Maybe we should just camp….” I say to Adam as we sit down to devour another jug of water in the blistering heat.
“No way….” he says, “I`m not waking up to this in the morning.” He made a fair point and luckily we made it back to the main dirt track (the Baja 1000 rally route as it happens) that night and slipped into short lived comas.
|Adam struggles on the rocks and boulders, I could help, but was more interested in getting a photo
Adam and I cross the Gulf of California by ferry to explore the mainland and first to the fabulous Copper Canyon, with the beautiful colours of the canyon and brightly dressed Tarahumara indians, make this one of the most amazing roads I`ve ever ridden, but a little difficult as I struggle with a gearbox problem received – as well as a thousand other problems – in Baja in one fall or other. Then I snap my chain and poor old Adam
has to wait again for me, slowing him further and he spends his time photographing a cow in the canyon, with shockingly good results. Then I get a puncture, and with not a cow in sight Adam can only sit and watch and catch up on his diary. We find a spectacular camp site in one of the many canyons in the area, only to be disturbed during the night….
|Can’t we just camp…Adam comes back to check I’m okay after a fall
“Adam!…..Adam!” I scream in a whisper….foot steps near, a truck coming down the track which dead ends at our spot under an unfinished telecoms mast. I hope by getting Adam`s attention the problem will disappear. It doesn`t of course, it only gets closer, a swarm of lights and voices and boots, then as their light touches the tents a commotion in Spanish in which we pick up only one word “….gringo?” to which we reply enthusiastically “SI! SI! SI! Gringos! Gringos!….Inglaterre.” It`s the army, and they respond “Oh, no problem.” and leave us be whilst they walk about our site doing their work.
|awesome rideing along the rail line
|Adam at camp, making tea I hope as its pretty nippy
Adam and I part company soon after, at Sinforosa canyon, each of us going different directions, and both of us are anxious about being on our own again after one month on the road together and I`m worried who will make my morning tea whilst I fix another puncture in my air-matress, one of 17 found so far after realising only too late that cacti like thermarests placed foolishly on ones pannier as one rips through Baja.
I ride beautiful gravel roads, past lakes, through tiny villages and along lazy rivers populated by free roaming cattle. The local people of the Sierra Madre helping me along with directions and friendly smiles and one family in particular, consisting of Jesus Soto his wife Martha and his son, also Jesus, invite me in first for a shower-because I´m rank- and then for a tasty lunch of quesadillas, home grown frijoles (beans), preserved peaches and coffee, a quick tour of the farm and off again with a bike packed full of apples, a map, tortillas and – very thoughtfully – drinking water. From here into 1950`s Germany, a colony of baby faced Aryan boys sit under trees dressed in crisp pressed blue overalls, starched white shirts and all stare or wave excitedly outside their very German looking square grey homes.
|Adam gets ripped off with some made in China goods
After only a few days Adams path re-intersects with my own in Zacatecas, a Spanish colonial town built on the silver route, where the twisting streets weave between colonial pink stoned buildings and the brightly coloured homes more typical in modern day Mexican towns and villages. As well as exploring, I have time to arrange for some Yamaha workshop space and parts where I can repair the gearbox and other ailments, this comes in the form of Koki Moto in Colima (and also Manzanillo).
So, back out west towards the Pacific coast, passing on my way again through the Sierra Madre – which I`m told is full of drug dealers and growers – to the coast near the tourist city of Puerta Vallarta and San Blas. However, I find I thoroughly hate San Blas where it`s clear I`m liked about as much as dog poo, people sticking there middle fingers up to me as they pass by or just looking at me with a face like a smacked ass.I quickly retreat to the bad nasty drug dealers in the mountains….to be surrounded by groups of gawking kids and cowboys, the kids reminding me of my time in Africa. I finally find the beach camp I had been hoping for in San Blas further down the coast, with the owner Grumpy Dick Rodriguez (or something) who has a bit of a San Blas face as I ask to camp on his beach, busy as he is smoothing out the sand with a plank of wood, looking at me like dog poo on his doorstep, but he says yes and even turns extrmely nice when I later offer him coffee, hopefully contradicting his -possible- preconception of gringos, though he declines as he tells me he won`t sleep, at least that´s what I gather from my slowly growing Spanish vocabulary.
|The gang, the best, endless thanks to everyone at koki Moto in Colima
When I finally reach Koki Moto in Colima, they offer everything I could have hoped for, plus all the things I could have wished for, plus a few things I couldn`t even ever dream of. Nothing is too big a problem for these guys and I look on feeling a bit spoilt, eating pozole and drinking coconut juice, as seven, eight or more mechanics get to work on Rudolfo who is soon looking immaculate and ready for anything after a comprehensive service, a few modifications and a ruddy good clean, for the total grand cost of about 3 pence. I`m hopeful now that my accumulated problems are a thing of the past. Lastly, just before some promotional photographs and a magazine local interview: stickers! I`ve been waiting a long time for someone to give me stickers and as well as Koki Moto stickers I also receive talesfromthesaddle URL stickers and “Made in KokiMoto” stickers!
A very huge thank you must go to all the people at KokiMoto, Jose Luis Larios at Mexicali who got me in touch with Guillermo, the owner who put me in touch with Colima`s manager Bernardo, to them all and their attentive staff a very big thank you, you`ve made me and Rudolfo very happy!
Now I stay in Colima with a couchsurfing host, the fabulous Ernesto and his girlfriend Leah (more people I must pay huge thanks to) and then next up is a trip to Mexico City then out to the Yucatan peninsula to check out the myriad of ancient Mayan ruins that dot my map with “Points of Interest” logos, where I imagine I`ll be spending christmas on the Carribean coast….well someone`s got to. Let`s hope no one else has the same idea, except maybe Adam, Big Pete and Joe.
Further thanks, as always, Chouy, Chouy and Martha in Castilla del Valle, Big Pete and Joe for just being really great company, and Adam – whose journey you can read about at http://www.shortwayround.co.uk just make sure you have a lot of spare time because his stories are tremendous. You`ll notice some good photos this month too thanks to Adam. (Thanks for which Adam, sorry mine of you weren`t very good.)
An extra special NO thanks to the peoples of San Blas, may an earthquake flatten your town. (It wasn`t that bad really).