As we left the Baja we were talking to an elderly gentleman, originally from California, who had been living in Mexico for the past 50 years. He went by the name Rainbow Hawk (also the domain name of his online art website) and what he said has really stuck with us. We asked him, as many people might from a media fear driven society, what he thought of the safety and violence in Mexico that we are constantly warned about from our homelands. He laughed and said we had a case of Gringo Paranoia, which sadly we had to admit was a little true. That conversation helped to open our mind and trust more and we are both glad we did because Mexico has been a great experience thus far. The culture, the towns and the landscape really ceases to impress us. As the conversation was coming to an end he dropped another great line. I forgot to work so I had to go out and live. We do think working is important however it is important to remember to also live your life. Something we are fortunate enough to have the chance to do in our own style.
Mainland Mexico Coast
As you head along the mainland western coast approaching Mazatlan you start to enter the jungle. The vegetation becomes thick and green lining the mountains. Palm trees are everywhere and we are finally getting to experice the lush green Mexico and it’s rainy season. Our first real stop was a campsite beside an abandoned restaurant on a beach. The drive getting there took us through the authentic towns of Mexico we had imagined. The infrastructure is much different than Canada or Denmark but that’s what makes it Mexico. We have observed that the design of their houses are simple and flat however what it might be lacking in 3D texture they make up for in colour. The streets are vibrant and make a small working town come to life.
Plans change as you go along, and instead of going all the way to the tourist city of Puerto Vallart, we stop for a dip and lunch in San Blas, admiring their jungle backed beach before beginning our journey inland. We city hopped for a while which was quite a change from our first 2 weeks of nearly isolated beaches and desert. The route started in Tepic and we made our way to Guadalajara, Guanajutro, San Miguel, Mexico city ect
Tequila makes you do things you’d (Frederik) never like to admit to.
We decided to stay in a hostel downtown to really get a feel for the city and meet other travelers (because thus far we have been the only ones in the few campgrounds and RV parks we stopped at). We both felt a little liberated, a little more carefree after parking the car in a garage and leaving it behind for a full 24 hours.
Beside Guadalajara is a city called tequila, famously know for its creation of the all so famous drink tequila. After a small walk around the downtown and an amazing dinner we went to the oldest Cantina in Guadalajara (Mexican bar equivalent to a pub). As we approached from the outside we were blown away at how quiet the streets were on a Friday night yet this place was raging with a piano man and everyone loudly singing along and cheerfully talking in their big groups. We grabbed a few beers and tequila shots and joined the party. I thought I liked tequila, but I never drank it like a Mexican does. They pour you a double shot, spilling over the edges and provide no lime or lemon to follow. Why? Because they sip their tequila. It might have been a much better quality than what we are use to but I couldn’t stand it still, like every other person in the bar including Frederik, without it going down fast and a chaser.
One thing led to another at the cantina and next thing you know we have met a group, people from Mexico, France and Germany, and we are squeezing 10 people into a cab and driving off to a salsa bar. It was a little more upscale than we were dressed for but wow was it amazing (Taylor thought so but Frederik was not very thrilled about the idea). The dance floor was popping, there was a live band and the center was filled with people dancing while 2 floors of tables surrounded them. It took a while but I finally convicened Frederik to join me on the dance floor. I don’t think what we were doing would be called salsa to most, as we hit everyone around us, but it was a blast (he’ll never admit it but he totally loved it).
The following day we ended our time off in the city with a free walking tour. It lasted surprisingly half the day and we were introduced to some great, cheap local dishes. We had decided to camp at Lake Chapal that night. We thought we had found a seemingly nice free place beside the water. Around 5 am we were woken up by a single loud bang. At first we thought gun, but a half hour later there was another and Frederik could tell by the noise it was a firework. In the dark we saw people start walking towards our car and although we were just overlly paranoid at that early hour, we took off in a rush passing by a creepy looking parade of people walking slowly through a dark misty morning alley. My mind instantly goes to a cult movie scenario but it turns out it was actually some sort of religious celebration on this particular Sunday morning going on everywhere.
A beautiful, colourful, organized chaos nesseles in the mountains
We arrived in the town mid day, eager to see what all the hype was about with this city. Right away as you enter you can understand why it gets so much love. It is situated right in the valley of mountains. Colourful houses pilled on top one another all the way up the hill and mountain sides. The streets are bustling with people and every street seems so inviting. Everyone who lives here must be in good shape because the streets are like walking up the inclination of a mountain side, but the view from the popular lookout is worth the struggle. (It is sadly amazing how quickly we have lost our athleticism since we are sitting and driving so much).
Secondly for people who don’t mind getting a bit lost this place is a blast to drive through. Rough exposed rocky tunnels weave below the city like one would imagine an ant hill. You’d pop in and out of the dark small tunnels to find houses hanging off the side and beautiful vistas of the town. Truly a cool town.
One downfall to Mexico and especially this city is their over abundance of stray dogs. We camped at an RV park on a hill which meant the whole night all you could hear was the echoing of dogs barking at eachother. However we wouldn’t have done it another way because we finally met other overlanders! In fact we had passed eachother 3 times on the road through the Baja then magically ended up at this campsite. They are a very friendly couple from Germany traveling for a year in their car and have a great blog on Facebook going of their journey across Canada, USA and Mexico too. https://www.facebook.com/KokopelliRoadtrip/
3. San Miguel de Allende
This town was highly recommended to us by other travelers and locals so we headed off there thinking we would only need a day. The drive there was gorgeous through lush green mountains, stopping in the town of Dolores Hidalgo for lunch where we got two full rotisserie chicken, two salads, 2 sides of rice and bags of sauce for almost 200Mex (about 10$ USD).
Every city and town thus far has been quaint in its own way, surprisingly all feeling slightly different with their own characture and San Miguel de Allende was no different. Every building kept to the colour scheme of warm red/orange tones. We could not only see but feel that this was a much more well of city than those we had previously been through. Probably due to tourism but also the exceptionally high amounts of ExPats who live here. None the less we took off through the streets, admiring their different style churches brightly coloured on the outside and gleaming white with warm colour accents on the inside. There were many art markets ranging from affordable crafts made by locals in the alley to galleries where you look but don’t think about touching.
Although we loved the city we decided to leave to make way before dark. Well when we returned to our car we found a ticket on the front. Our initial thought was just to drive off and never pay it. Well a local who was standing beside our car informed us that we had to walk to the office to pay because our license plate was removed from the back of our car.
4. Mexico City
We were a little citied out by this point. Going from nothing but isolated beaches and desert for over a week to crowded areas and lots of stimulation gets a bit exhausting. So we planned a short day trip to Mexico city followed with a much needed hike and nature seeking afterwards.
In Mexico city there are driving laws in order to reduce the smog in the air. So depending on which number your license plate ends in will dictate which day you cannot drive. We knew we couldn’t drive on Tuesday, but it was Wednesday so we figured we would be fine. Well we were very confused as to why we got pulled over on the bridge into the city. Lucky for us the police office was very nice and just made us wait on the bridge until 11 rather than giving us a ticket. We made the mistake of forgetting in our haste that morning that tourist cannot drive in the city from 5am-11am and 5pm-11pm. Woops.
So after 45 minutes of waiting on the bridge started our day off at the National Museum of Anthropology and didn’t get much further than there. The museum was phenomenal we really could have stayed there all day. But of course we learned the hard way of the traffic laws so we had to leave the city before 5.
That’s all for now!