Friday, December 31, 2010

12/31/10 New Years Eve: Puebla - Oaxaca, 220 miles 8 hours.

Left Puebla at around noon, after checking out a pretty amazing church and eating huevos rancheros at my favorite coffee spot. I plan on taking the southern highway through the mountains to Oaxaca, but end up headed east and so opt to go the south-eastern route. On the way out of town I stop at a moto shop and get my chain adjusted for a few bucks. It immediately goes slack again, Baja and the rest of it has certainly taken its toll and I'll need a new one soon. I manage to stay off the toll roads, I plan on paying even closer attention so as not to end up paying out the ass like I did inadvertently between Mexico City and Puebla. I hit the city of Tehuacan and spend a good amount of town searching for the road out of town. The road isnt really marked but I am assured by locals that it is the right way to go. Things look vaguely familiar and I realize that I have been on this road before a couple of years ago, so I feel a bit more confident now. I rode a lot of this road in the dark before and as I hit the mountains I realize how much I missed as far as amazing scenery. I take several photos from the tops of mountains and bridges and memories from he previous trip come flooding back. The weather is perfect as I cross into the state of Oaxaca and the roads are beat-up asphalt, which is actually perfect for me as my dirt bike handles it like its nothing and Im able to blaze around the slower moving vehicles ahead. This is my most enjoyable day of riding yet on the trip, a combination of the weather, scenery, not having ridden for very long since before Mexico City, and relatively good roads. Obe thing I unwisely did not do is gas up, and besides remembering that Im riding a pretty remote area with no gas stations, I see a couple of hand painted signs outside of small roadside shacks advertising bootleg gasoline. Surely crappy and at a huge markup, but at least its there if I need it. Right in the nick of time though, I see a Pemex and luckily for me, its inhabited and not deserted or in the building stage. I gas up and the attendant says they have been there for 10 years which is a surprise to me. The 220 miles into the Oaxaca city center takes about 8 hours, as it starts to get dark about an hour and a half before I reach my destination. I manage to find the hostel and get settled in, when someone turns to me and says "I know you". Turns out that Jordan was a roomate of a girl I used to go out with. Small world and all of that. I walk around and fill up on food from various places around the zocalo. I've spent time here before and rather than try to check out all of the sights, I am in relax-mode which is great because Oaxaca is definitely a place built to walk around and enjoy. I get back to the hostel and realize Ive lost my keys. This could be a problem, if I dont get it sorted out tomorrow, everything is closed New Years Day and Sunday as well which means that Ill be here until at least Tuesday instead of leaving on New Years Day as planned. An almost perfect day, I decide to sleep on it and see what happens tomorrow.

Wake up and head out to a few places to try to find my keys. I hit the jackpot at the pharmacy and breath a sigh of relief. Go to a gym for a much needed workout. Eat a bunch of food. Skype a couple of folks I havent spoken to in a long time. Coffee and pastries. Now back at the hostel and about to head upstairs for the New Years Eve bash happening tonight. In the meantime, I meet Jerry, an older gentleman who lives on 14th and 6th in Manhattan, the subway stop I get off at almost daily. Again, small world. We talk about food, restaurants, you know, local shit and despite all the snow up there, I actually begin to miss NYC. Headed out to San Cristobal tomorrow, will try to make it in a day but may have to break it up into 2. From there, a 2 hour ride out of Mexico and into Guatemala where I'll spend a few days in Xela, the city I was in for a month last year. Looking forwards to catching up with the folks I know there, and also being in another country and continuing the journey.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12/29/10: Mexico City - Puebla, 80 miles, 3 hours.

Next 3 days in Mexico City, more sightseeing, eating, walking around etc. Made it out to the Aztec ruins at Tenotihuacan, pretty cool but a lot of walking, I know, Im a pussy, On Sunday, have to make a tough decision on whether to see a bullfight or a lucha libre match. I go with the wrestling and sit down just as 3 midgets are getting buck wild on 3 other little guys. Now I know Ive made the right decision, and Pequeno Warrior takes down a tough and hard-won victory. Monday morning I saddle up the bike and am ready to go. Im waiting for another Advrider, Donovan, who is going to help me go over the front end of my bike (still feels funny after the crash) and he arrives an hour later outside of the hostel. We are right in the busiest section of the busiest part of town during the craziest season and we slowly make out way through tons of people in the streets before finally breaking free from the center of town and heading north about 5 miles to his friend Tomas's workshop. Donovan and Tomas get to it and in no time at all have the bike tightened up and sorted out. The bike feels stable and more importantly, I wont be riding as tentatively, wondering if the front wheel is going to fall of on the road. Donovan then leads me out of town to the exit to Puebla which is 20 miles and about 40 minutes away. Damn, this city is MASSIVE, no separation between neighborhoods, just a gigantic urban sprawl. I get to the highway and Donovan pulls over and waves me off. Shit though, this is the toll road, which I always try to avoid. They are way way overpriced and boring as well, only good for making time. 10 bucks and 50 miles later I pull into the outskirts of Puebla and get settled into Casa Poblana, a really nice hostel 2 blocks away from the center of town in a beautiful neighborhood. I pay for 2 nights and pull my bike into the courtyard. There is about 40 minutes worth of time wasted trying to get a hot water issue sorted out but in the end it gets taken care of and Im headed out the door. The hostel is pretty empty and I am digging having a big, clean and modern dorm all to myself. On the way out though, a British guy named John on a touring bicycle, who I saw earlier on the highway rides in and Im pretty sure I have a new roommate which, well, sucks. Oh well, I head out into the cool evening to see Puebla at night and try some local cuisine.

A couple of blocks walk to the zocalo and Im impressed. The cathedral is amazing, all lit up and the square is alive with people, food vendors, etc. Take an outside seat at a restaurant with a view of the cathedral to my right and order a local dish, mole poblano. Its a chicken leg smothered in chocolaty, nutty, brown sauce and tastes amazing. Washed down with some fresh squeezed orange juice, all for about 6 bucks. Get a chocolate churro next door and walk around, checking out the vibrant nightlife before retiring back to the hostel. John is there and we talk a bit and I have to say, I just dont really like the dude. Part of it is probably needing some privacy at this point, but he is also a bit confrontational when conversing, more than is required during the small talk we are making. Really, I cant wait to get away from the motherfucker, I hope he pedals away soon!

Next day, off to Cholula to see the largest pyramid (by volume) in the world and also the church built on top of it, which is something of a pilgrimage site. Forst though, I have the most kickass breakfast of the trip so far in a local coffee house. Huevos Rancheros, fresh squeezed OJ, coffee, bread with jam and butter, all for about 3 bucks! and the coffee kicks ass. A short bus ride out of town and Im in Cholula. I do my thing, check it out, climb to the top, etc. I have to mention that the English translations for the explanations of the site are laughable, and then just plain annoying (so bad that they dont even make any sense). Kind of a shame for such an important place, better to just have all the signs in Spanish. Stop for a coffee and head to the town of Chipilo, which I have been reading about. Settled by immigrants from outside of Venice, the town remained isolated and has a strong Italian influence and the people even speak a local Veneto dialect not spoken anywhere else. I get there after an hour long bumpy-ass bus ride and to be honest. its kind of a disappointment. A few Italian stores and restaurants near the church at the town square, and thats about it. Make my way back to Puebla and spend the rest of the night walking around and eating my ass off. Back tot he hostel, and I have decided to stay another day to check out the town during the day. Also John is leaving tomorrow, and with almost nobody at the hostel for some reason, there is a good chance Ill get some privacy.

Wake up and see Johns stuff lying around. Shit, he is still here. What can I say, I just dont like the guy! Its not as big of a deal as I am making it out to be though. Spend the day looking at the cathedral and various churches and landmarks. Make my way to the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, where a battle was won on the 5th of May, and which is the origin of the holiday. Back to the city center where I go to the local artisans market and pick up some Talavera (pottery and tile which this area is famous for) souvenirs for my mom, and then pop into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a meal including soup, spaghetti, bread, some fresh OJ and some mole poblano, all for about $3.50! Catch up on the blog at a coffee shop and go to the modern mall which is in walking distance to see Tron 3D. looking forwards to going to the movies, but Im fading fast. Tomorrow Ill make the 5 hour trek to Oaxaca where Ill be for New Years, before heading to Chiapas and then to Guatemala, hopefully within a week.

Mexico City Part 2