While wandering about Casa Jardin, getting ready to sleep, I meet 4 travelers my age in the courtyard, speaking french. They, like most Europeans, speak English, so I introduce myself. They invite me to sit and I’m immediately mixed a Bloody Mary. There’s two guys from France and a couple from Canada. The clash of the dialects is interesting to watch. They describe it as proper French vs. slang French (just guess which is which). I forgot their names, but it was a nice evening of laughs and me giving them tips on traveling in Guatemala. Their plans are to stay for a few days on Lake Atitlan, so I had a good amount of information to share.

Photo Album of Ciapas, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Chiapas, Mexico
Photo Album of Oaxaca, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Oaxaca, Mexico
Photo Album of Guerrero, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Guerrero, Mexico
Photo Album of Michoacán, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Michoacán, Mexico
Photo Album of Jalisco, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Jalisco, Mexico

    The morning of Tuesday, the 23, I awake and head to the courtyard for the complimentary breakfast. If I knew it would take over an hour to cook two eggs and cut three pieces of bread, I would have skipped it to get a start on the day’s driving. The water for the tea wasn’t even hot enough to extract anything from the tea bag! Maybe they should have heated it after making the meal, instead of before. Well, I down my breakfast quickly, say goodbye, and load my bike. I notice a small oil leak, which seems to be coming from the gear sensor. I tighten the two bolts (which is later confirmed to stop the leak), and get a start toward Mazunte.

Casa Jardin Hotel (San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chaiapas, Mexico 11/23/2010)

This is a sure sign it was a windy ride (Somewhere in Oaxaca, Mexico 11/23/2010)

They are on both sides of the road, and far too many to capture with my camera (Somewhere in Oaxaca, Mexico 11/23/2010)

    After 5 hour of driving and passing through another blockade in Jucatán, I reach the peak of the last mountain that keeps me from the Pacific Ocean. I haven’t seen the Pacific in over 4 years nor walked on the sand in over 8. I rise over a sweeping right bend and the beautiful blue water rises into my sight. A wonderful feeling comes over me as I bank into the cliff turns with the crashing waves churning below. The sun is getting low and beginning to hurt my vision, as I drive west into it’s path. To make matters worse, I’m entering the twisty mountain roads again, so gaining distance is becoming more difficult. This wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t trying to make it to a certain place in Mazunte. I have a confirmed place to stay for free for the night, at Agama Yoga, so I’m pushing my bike and myself to the limit, while still trying to maintain safety. Coming around a right bend, I see my first tarantula in the wild, crossing the road. It’s about the size of a baseball, dark black, and with a red abdomen. I would stop but this road has no safe pull-off and there’s a large truck barreling own upon me that I just passed. I press on, with my GPS telling me my arrival time will be an hour after sunset. I know not to trust the estimation, and keep my speed up. I end up arriving exactly at the time it says sunset is. I also had had the advantage of traveling west, which delayed the sunset time. I believe I gained 20-25 minutes on today’s drive.
    The sky is still bright when I arrive, but the sun has dipped below the horizon. I’m met by Pete, who is the person who accepted my couchsurfing request. He lets me know what’s going on, and seeks aid in helping me find a good restaurant. He calls upon David, a guest and volunteer, who decides he would like to join me for dinner, and we walk down the darkening mountain road together in search of some good seafood. After looking at a few places’ menus, we decide on an Italian restaurant owned by Italian foreigners. I don’t get a photo of David’s shrimps, but we share our plates. Tonight I’m introduced to a new way of eating shrimp. I’m told once the tail an head are removed, the shell and feet can also be eaten with the meat. It’s a good source of minerals and nutrients. I’m hesitant at first, but I can hardly notice the shell.

Delicious fish with potatoes, beans, and beet, with a Dos XX cerveza (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/23/2010)

    Back at the retreat, the mosquito net I’m offered gets me through the night alive. I say that because the mosquitoes are horrendous here. In Lake Atitlan I’ve been spoiled by the high altitude cold nights, where mosquitoes are virtually nonexistent. Near the coast here, in this lush, tropical, rain forest, they’re out in force at night.
    Some stomach problems arise throughout the night. It appears to be the same problem that started in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan, but without the strong pains. I’m against taking the antibiotic I was prescribed in the US, in case I come down with something serious that I would really need it for.
    The next morning, David kindly prepares me a bowl of porridge with meaty coconut chunks and other fruits ($25 pesos) before I take part in the morning yoga session (also complimentary via couchsurfing). The session begins in the yoga hall, on a cliff overlooking the steadily rising sun over the Pacific. A lecture of the chakras is followed by warm-up exercises, then a mildly-physical and mental yoga series is followed that leaves my brow moist and light-headed. I’m not new to yoga, but what I’m not prepared for are the low-head yoga postures after a large breakfast (partly my fault for eating, but Davis was trying to help my stomach issue). The relaxation/meditation phase at the end causes me to fall asleep. I awake with no one in the yoga hall. It’s very peaceful and I awake feeling refreshed and full of energy.
    When I emerge, David introduces me to a natural antibiotic, extracted from grapefruit seed and rind. He has concentrate he prepares for me in a tea, and recommends I try to find some of my own to help my stomach. I suspect I can find it in Guadalajara.

My bed (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

Large view (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

Cocina Vegetariana :) (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

Porridge on the Pacific (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

A very magical place for meditation and/or yoga (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

Deck view (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

Saddle up! (Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico 11/24/2010)

    I thank my couchsurfing hosts and by 11 I’m on the road, westward. This morning’s stretch of road is fairly flat, with dense forests and coconut palm farms. Since entering Mexico, I’ve passed many these beautiful trees of white and orange flowers, in bloom along the road and sometimes covering entire mountains. I haven’t really had a chance to stop to take a photo, but I did manage to get one while driving.

In bloom (Gurrero, Mexico 11/25/2010)

    I stop for the night in Cruz Grande, Gurrerro, Mexico. I take a short 1km walk through town and stop at a small roadside kitchen. The entire structure and wood-burning stove is supported by tree branches, buried in the ground, with a “Y” split at the top, to support cross beams of more logs. The entire hut is covered with palm branches and sheet metal. It’s very rustic and gives me a warm feeling to eat there. I ventured out for dinner without my dictionary or camera, so no photo of my whole fish dinner, but I can tell you it was delicious.
    I get up Thursday morning for an early start toward Guadalaljara. It’s Thanksgiving, but I am oblivious, as motorcycling is on my mind. I stop around noon when I see the opportunity to dine while overlooking the Pacific.

A much-needed stop (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

El Mirador Restaurant (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

To the west (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

To the south (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

Rock jumping. Can you spot him? (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

All for those sweet, sweet mussels. Can you see him now? (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

Restaurant with hammocks = Muy Bueno! (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

Jugo de naranja y pescado (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

Does it get any better? (N17.37683 W101.14849 11/25/2010)

    Back on the road, I’m confronted with the ultimatum to continue west, with the sun quickly falling into my view, or turn north. Both roads lead to Guadalajara, where another couchsurfing host, Minerva, is expecting me. I don’t wish to drive into the setting sun for hours, again, and turn from the Pacific and drive inland for another 4 hours, through an arid desert with rolling hills and huge cacti as far as you can see, before stopping in the small town of Paracho for the night. After rejecting a previous hotel wanting over $300 pesos, at $150 pesos, Hotel San Fransisco is a bargain, especially since I’m parked and sleeping in a walled compound.

There are many of these on the toll road I take (Somewhere in Michoacán, Mexico 11/25/2010)

Also many of these (Somewhere in Michoacán, Mexico 11/25/2010)

Hotel San Fransisco (Paracho, Michoacán, Mexico 11/25/2010)

Big, comfy bed (Paracho, Michoacán, Mexico 11/25/2010)

    Since the Pacific, I’ve climbed to 2.2km elevation. In the morning, I awake to a 9°C (48°F), foggy morning. I put on a few more layers and saddle up for a chilly early morning ride. As I continue to climb higher on the mountain, I notice ice on the road. I take my time to avoid a slide. Looking up, I see a bright full circle behind the clouds, gray in appearance, and I mistake it for a few moments as the moon. It’s actually the sun, and emerges as I rise above the clouds in the neighboring town at the top of the mountain.

Above the clouds (Michoacán, Mexico 11/26/2010)

    The weather feels warm up here and there’s no doubt it’s because of the sun. I leave my warm spot atop this mountain corner and descend into the clouds once again. The temperature drops and I now notice frost covering the spiderwebs in the trees. It’s a very serene morning. The slow driving, the cold weather, and few cars on the road is a nice change. As my elevation drops, the sun emerges and the temperature, again, increases. My twisty mountain road straightens and I’m now cruising fast through corn fields dry and ready to be picked; and indeed, some are being picked.
    It’s a short ride into the state of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is my destination. I’d like to announce my arrival instead of just knocking on the door of my couchsurfing host’s house, so I stop at a payphone and attempt to call. It seems I’m plagued to have problems. The phone at the gas station outside the city is out of service, and I’m unable to get a response on the one I find in Guadalajara. I ask around and find an internet cafe, where I send her a message. In the mean time, I find a delicious vegetarian buffet at El Jardin, a restaurant near the internet cafe. When I return, I attempt to send text messages through a couple free online services. I eventually walk to the address I was given previously and ring her door’s bell. She comes down, and as it turns out, just arrived home, received my text, and was about to check her email.
    Minerva has to leave for a few hours, but when she returns, we and her boyfriend head out to a pub, Prado, where I try a Michelada with them. A Michelada is served as a spiced lime icy in a glass. The “ice cream” (really, an icy) is unique to this area, apparently. You then choose a type of beer, then mix them. I chose their only dark beer, Negra Modelo. It’s an interesting taste that did grow on me. The lime flavor goes well with the Mexican beer, and the ice keeps it cold. It’s a little different from the straight beer flavor I usually enjoy, as well as the warming of the beer that allows other flavors to come out. We stay out until 1:30 before heading back to the apartment.
    Saturday morning comes, and it’s a slow-moving day. I rouse myself to do some photo editing and continue writing a blog post. I receive a couchsurfing response from a guy in Durango, confirming place to stay for Monday night. I converse with him a bit to get directions and plan my route, with my arrival being Monday afternoon.
    Around 1pm I start to get hungry and remember El Jardin has a vegetarian buffet that runs from now until 5. I grab my camera, notebook, and dictionary, and hit the street. The food is, of course, delicious. This time I have my camera to take some photos. I take the opportunity while I’m out to walk around by myself for a while, until my full stomach tells me to turn around. While on my walk, I pass a natural foods store. I look for grapefruit seed extract, and they indeed have it, for $80 pesos.

Rooftop (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

Plant hanger (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

My lunch spot (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

Starter (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

And main (all vegetarian) (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

    Also on my walk, I pass by the Cine Foro, or the underground cinema. I think it’s a nice concept, mainly because I like that there’s no cell phone reception. I find some cool graffiti but can’t get far enough back to get a good photo of it all. In fact, I can only back up ~5 meters from any part of the wall, so I take a series of 9 photos and stitch them together when I get back to the apartment. While I’m at it, I also stitch some photos I took on the dock of Santa Cruz la Laguna, on Lake Atitlan. Look for yourself to see how they came out. Click the image for a higher resolution version, and if you want the original copy (Very large, ~14 MB) click the link in the caption, then click “DOWNLOAD”, above the picture.

Click Here to view the image in Picasa (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

Click Here to view the image in Picasa (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico 11/27/2010)

    Tonight, I hear there is a party taking place among Minerva’s friends. I’ve been invited, so I have my evening plans set. I may have to watch my beer intake, for my stomach’s sake, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t enjoy myself.

Kyle Gabriel

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