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Dear Friends and Family:
We have enjoyed our first two weeks in Mexico. At first it was very hard. We could only get a six month travel Visa and we plan on being in Mexico at least two months longer. We will have a headache trying to extend our Visas down the road. To make things worse foreigners now have to pay US$22 EACH just for the privilege of riding around and spending our money in this country. We should have just sneaked across the border. Sneaking south across the border would be a novel idea and definitely be going against the flow. I can imagine it is a bit like trying to enter an American Middle School just as the final bell rang releasing the kids to the buses. You could make a good living selling water and Arizona maps.
The border town Agua Prieta, Mexico was full of shady types that seem to be hanging around on every street corner. They would yell the three English words that they learned (come here, goodbye) or just whistle at us. The road out of town was a narrow two lane thing about the size as the bike path. They do not just drive big semi-trucks they have the double trailer variety that makes the exhaust belching beast twice as long. The shoulder of this narrow road consisted of a small cliff that ended in spent diapers and other nasty trash. Just out of town there was a military checkpoint. The Mexican Army guys were very polite to us but wanted to ask us several unimportant questions concerning our travels. We could tell that they were bored of just searching cars and trucks for guns and drugs. Every one of those guys had to come over and talk to us. They told us that it was 159 km (about 100 miles) before the next town or water source. That information was useful but we already anticipated it from looking at our maps. We had 5 gallons of water strapped on and food for a week.
It was a long ride but we had the large double trucks to keep us company. We crossed over two mountain passes including the continental divide. Just as we got used to the near misses from the trucks we came upon a forest fire. Amazingly they waved us through and we rode right next to the flames. The places that we camped were very disturbing. The second night we found a beautiful canyon near the pass of a mountain chain. We were tired and went about making a tent-less camp. After setting up I walked around to see if there was any water in the wash for a shower. I did not find any water but I did find a staging area where people got ready to jump the border. It was full of little back packs and kids clothes. I even saw several stuffed animals. This upset me very much. These kids probably did not have much to begin with and had to part with their only toys. I hope it was worth it to their parents.
We finally arrived in Janos after the three day desert crossing to find the dustiest place on earth. (I hope) It was basically a truck stop. We learned that these truckers drive from Mexico City to Tijuana without sleeping. They take some kind of pill and stay up for four days to make the drive. Knowing that these truckers are half asleep and seeing thousands of empty beer bottles on the side of the road made us even more nervous.
Shortly after Janos, things got much better; we left the border area behind and entered the real Mexico. Nuevos Casa Grande was our first large town and it was very pleasant. The locals were nice and the Mennonites (German farmers) were very interesting too. The Mennonites migrated here in the 1920s from Europe, United States and Canada to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. They live a primitive farming life style with the men wearing coveralls and the women wearing Victorian dresses and large bonnets and they have lots of blonde hair and blue eyed kids. They are prosperous people who speak an old German dialect and a little Spanish.
Just south of Nuevo Casa Grande, after Galeana, the semi trucks took another route to Mexico City and the riding improved immensely. From Buenaventura we rode up mountain for 20 miles into the Sierra Madre. After this climb we left the desert behind and entered a 7,000 foot high valley of pine trees, corn fields and apple orchards. Our new elevation cooled things off to the point where we rode in long sleeve jerseys during the day.
The Mexicans in these rural farming valleys were a pleasure to interact with. They have a much slower pace of life compared to their urban counterparts. Everyone was all smiles and wanted to talk to us and even take us to their homes. Our Spanish is still very limited but the locals did not care and we seemed to communicate just fine. We are now completely immersed in Spanish and learning more everyday.
This is the Mexico that we wish more Americans could see. Unfortunately, most Americans only know the border area or tourist zones of this wonderful country. Indeed these places can be the ugly side of Mexico, but the Mexico we are traveling in now is safe, friendly, welcoming to the traveler.
We are off to Copper Canyon on the train, we get a few days off the bike.
Tim and Cindie
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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