Palenque. Patrick, my swiss rider buddy, hops on his bike to head towards the Yucatan. I’m staying back, on my own again. I found some 10W-40 motorcycle oil which is rare in Mexico, so I want to change my oil and try to fix my broken horn. After asking around in different moto shops if they can do some soldering I was sent to a car electrician. It is just another example of how friendly and helpful the Mexicans are. I bring my broken horn to him, he starts soldering it back together and then tests it on a car battery. No sound, ok, looks like I need a new horn. I ask him how much I owe him but he only says “Nada, no toque!” which means “It doesn’t work, you don’t owe me anything”. I hand him a hand full of Pesos to buy a soda but he declines. Only after insisting a few times he actually puts the money in his pocket. The next day I return to him since he agreed that I could do my oilchange at his shop, which is basically a big yard. Same thing, he doesn’t want any money but I succeed in buying him another soda.
Situations like this have been common in Mexico. The people are warm, welcoming and genuinly friendly. And they just like to help other people. Sure, they have to make their living but many do not aspire the life of the rich. They are actually happy with the live they have. A roof over their head, food, something to do and time to spend with friends and family. That seems the most important to them. It’s certainly one of the reasons why they are the way they are. I love it, every little encounter feels genuine and refreshing.
Stuff done, still in Palenque, I haven’t made my mind up yet wheter or not to hit the Yucatan as well. I don’t really want to, even though people say it’s very beautiful in the mexican carribean. Main reason is that is said to be very americanized and it can even be more expensive than in the USA. My other option is to go straight to Guatemala, where I have been 13 years ago already. Since I have never been to Belize, I decide to ride up to Chetumal from where I can cross through Belize into Guatemala. I would still have the option of riding up to Tulum if I wanted to.
In Chetumal, a medium sized town at the border to Belize, I stay in a hostel that I found on google maps, a private room with my own bathroom is only 50 Pesos more than a dorm, so I have that one. The internet is quite fast so I decide to stay a couple of days to get some work done. It turns out I will stay actually longer than a week there, in Chetumal, a quite non-touristy city, where most travellers spend one night before heading into Belize or coming from there. But I like it, it’s just nice to be off the tourist attractions and get more in touch with the local people that are actually not bothered by gringos all around. Also nice not to have someone approach you every few meters trying to sell you something, I can fell more local myself here.
Mexicans also love their public party events, be it a cultural festival as I experienced in Chetumal, a small village fiesta where everybody from around is about or the happy and colorful celebration of the day of the dead. Mexicans love to go out, celebrate and socialize.
After two nights my private room was booked so I move to the dorm, which is ok, there’s only one other guy there. Karri’s from Finland and in his early twenties. I had shortly met him in Oaxaca but we did not talk much. Now when he walked in he looked at me and said “hey! I know you!”. We end up spending a few days on the balcony of the hostal sharing cokes, beers and cigarettes. And some good conversations too. I am amazed by the way he is thinking about the personal side of travelling and in general terms as well. He seems much older, wiser or more experienced than his age would have you guess. Once in a while it’s great to have a philosophical type of talk with someone who sees things from a similar perspective.
When Karri leaves another guy moves in the dorm. Pedro from Poland tells me about his “discovery of the month”: He found that 1L bottle of rum in the supermarket for only 49 Pesos, which is like 2.50$. Yes, it is a cheap rum but it is actually not bad and more suprisingly it doesn’t give you a headache hangover! Ok, you guessed it, we spend some nights drinking rum & coke together with Olga, the hostal owner and Caren, a mexican senorita who is looking to move from the city to Bacalar.
Olga and her family who run the hostal are really friendly people (well they are Mexicans, you know). Olga speaks four languages, spanish, french, english and creole. She’s a very educated person and is happily joining our rum & coke conversations. She also takes us around town and up to Bacalar, which is a small little village on the Laguna de Bacalar. The water looks like the ocean, turquoise blue waters over white sand on the bottom. But it is not. It’s a fresh water lake that is fed by cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed through collapsed rocks and then exposes the groundwater underneath. Since I have never been an “ocean guy” and actually prefer mountains and lakes, but this lake just has the beautiful visuals of an ocean I actually have the thought “I think I could live here”. It would not be a bad place. Small cosy village, proximity to Chetumal where you can buy whatever you need and easy to get to Cancun from where you can get probably the cheapest flights from Mexico to Europe. It’s just a thought though! I already have another place on my “I could live here” list, a place I have been looking for but thought it does not exist. But I will tell you about this when I will have been there.
In Bacalar I also meet up with Michnus and Elsebie from PikiPiki again who just came down from Tulum. I also meet Shawn, a canadian on his KTM 950, who I share some riding, drinking and conversation time with for the following stages of my journey. We decide to go to Belize all together in a few days, so my Mexico time is about to come to an end.
I look forward to see Belize and my return to Guatemala, and the rest of what is to come in my journey. But I am also a little sad to leave Mexico, a country that has surprised and amazed me more than I could have ever thought. This big country offers a great variety in nature and its spectacles. Desert, canyons, forest, djungle, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, the pacific, the carribean, it’s all there.
Then there its beautiful colonial cities, cute small pueblos and the impressive heritage of ancient cultures who left their cities with stunning pyramids for us to see. And despite many of the mexicans seem not to want the life of the western world of capitalism, consumption culture, lots of work and stress, the country has developed a lot towards having supplies and infrastructure of our “civilised” world, that is if you want or need it.
But nature, the cities or the cultural heritage is only one part of making Mexico so likable. It is foremost their people. Again, they are warm, welcoming, friendly and helpful. And they are not all bandidos like many americans would think. I have never had any trouble, never have felt unsafe in this country. There are areas where the drug cartells have their business and fights going on. But they are not interested in robbing, obducting or killing tourists. They usually fight between them and maybe the police. I was told they actually make their own roadblocks when they have a shooting going on not to have innocent people involved. This would only cause trouble to them, even more so if international authorities would become involved. Be reassured, Mexico is not any more dangerous than the USA for example. Just follow some basic rules, act with common healthy sense and listen to your gut feeling if in doubt. You will be more than fine!
I can hardly the words to really describe how comfortable I have been in Mexico, how much I liked their people. I made a lot of new friends there and I am sure one day I will return for a visit… or more, who knows.
Muchas gracias Mexico, muchas gracias mis amigos! You never cease to amaze!
Last but not least: Mexico has great riding in all its variation to offer!