Let’s make it short. I don’t like Mexico, although the cities are really worth seeing and therefore it actually is unfair to come to this negative conclusion, especially since I had a brilliant time on the Baja California. But I simply can’t get used to the people. A few brief friendly moments, for which I was very grateful, but overall not enough to make me feel welcome.
In addition, I find the landscapes between the sights not very exciting and the distances are too far for a bike trip – overall there is not much happening between sightseeing spots – at least where I have been.
I got my front panniers sent again, which I had left with friends in the USA, because I was not quite happy with my bikepacking set-up at the time. In addition, a mosquito net to be prepared for the coming Malaria and Dengue fever areas was in the box.
After about 2 days trudging along the main road and trying to get into a pedaling rhythm again, it was clear “it’s time to leave”.
Sure, I would have been able to ride on back roads somewhere in the mountains again, but I had no desire to do so. I’d rather stick to the flat hot Veracruz main roads to get out of the country more sooner than later and simply make kilometers.
At first unfortunately, the main road was without any shoulder. The bushes grew to the roadside, and every side of the road was just as wide as a truck. If there were 2 trucks at the same time and on the same level, it was tricky, if not to say, life-threatening, because there were no jumping off to the side road possibilities. In addition, the roads are also extremely curvy and there is no way to see what’s beyond the next bend.
But Mexicans overall are not bad drivers. The trucks usually drive past me with enough space and they also slowdown in time. Even the normal car drivers are really okay. Only the taxi and bus drivers are jerks, but the problem is world-famous among cyclists, these kind of drivers are always the worst, except of course the bus and taxi drivers in Japan.
Where I also need to praise the Mexicans is that they usually don’t cheat, at least not where I was. Prices are everywhere marked or clearly visible and you don’t pay more, just because you are a foreigner. I find this very positive.
It was mainly urbanized everywhere. River banks, a lot of houses and almost no way to camp somewhere and often I had to pay for the night and not only that it became more expensive, no it became even more tedious than it already was, because who wants to sleep so often in an accommodation?
Hotels are often noisy, lacking windows and if they have a fan it’s rarely enough to deal with the heat. Something they often do have are endlessly barking dogs and street music late into the night. Pretty frustrating to have to pay money for this!
If I were honest I would have liked to just get a lift to the border, but I was too stubborn. I was on a bike trip and that’s how it should stay!
But I wondered why? Why do I not just pick the beautiful areas and leave the other, less interesting corners aside? I haven’t found any answer yet – somehow it is also the feeling of being successful. To look back and say, yes, I made it, it was no fun, but I did it. It is somehow a bit stupid, but I can’t change it, that’s how I am.
I also wondered if I might have gone wrong with my route selection? Would another corner of the country have been much better?
Easter and hell was going on. The roads were full of cars and the prices for overnight stays doubled. If I had bought a bus ticket to the border it would have been cheaper than staying somewhere for the Easter period. But I found a stinky garage hotel room where I waited until the Mexicans were all back home and the roads were manageable again. Then I kept going.
Tlacotaplan was a great village. UNESCO World Cultural Heritage and, as so often, one can rely on UNESCO. If there is something under monument protection it’s for a reason.
And not only that the village was beautiful and also full of friendly people. Suddenly I was greeted by locals and a lot of them smiled at me. Great.
A Mexican who had lived in the US for a quite a while wanted to offer his totally chaotic room for $ 10 a night and also showed me the whole village.
However, I stayed at a hostel for less money, in which I felt really welcome, probably because I was the only guest and had the whole room to myself.
I stayed a few days and had a great time in this beautiful little town.
The heat was the killer. The temperatures were every day at 38 degrees, the nights hardly cooled down. How is this going to be in Central America? As soon as I cycled a kilometer, I looked as if I had just showered. Nothing dried anymore. The clothes were as wet the next morning as they had been when I pulled them off the night before. Everything stuck.
Traffic increased, my mood worsened. I fought every morning with my inner devil dog to really get out and hit the road. I listened to music while cycling and gave myself positive thoughts. But such a stretch can be like an over chewed gum ball when there is nothing positive to experience all day long.
I camped at a gas station and was protected by a security guy with a machine gun. Another day the military post right next to the Autopista let me stay next to their military compound. But the trucks ran all night past my tent and the extreme heat in my tent was no fun at all. My Hilleberg 4 seasons tent is simply not suitable at those hot temperatures. If it is 34 degrees at midnight in the tent, then it was simply too hot for me.
I was often told that you can stay at the fire brigade or at the Red Cross while cycling in Mexico. Yes, very interesting and where is the fire brigade and the Red Cross? Sadly, I haven’t seen them once.
Probably it is also time for me to get an iPhone. So, I can experience all the hidden information that other travelers benefit from. But just the thought that I always know beforehand what there will be would take the fun out of the exploring – especially the result would be less contact with the people – why bother to ask if my telephone gives me the answer immediately.
If there was no other way to camp in the wild in other countries, I often knocked on people’s doors. But this is hard for me here in Mexico. It may be that some of the Mexicans would have taken me in, and certainly a few of them would have been helpful and nice, but there was something that has been holding me back from doing so. Something I cannot even describe.
In front of an Oxxo store, the Mexican 7-Eleven, two children examined my bike down to the last detail and asked questions of which I didn’t all understand. They kind of wondered what was going on with my language?
But it was a great meeting for me, because they were the first children in the entire time I’ve been in Mexico, who looked at my bike. Actually, incredible and everyone cycling around the world will most probably think “what is this”? But that’s exactly how it was, even if this is almost impossible to believe, but they were really the very first curious children.
The two gave me proper motivation, such a sweet encounter often helps me through the entire day.
On the same day, I had another nice meeting with field workers. Really cheerful and friendly Mexicans.
I saw the first big lizards, a few parrots but that was it. The country is dead. Beef farms, sugar cane, pineapple fields and concrete. There is no wildlife here. Nowhere.
Suddenly, besides the normal tacos and the endless beans and rice with eggs, there was also pasta on the menu. Ha, what a great pleasure and my favorite choice from now on.
The women kept ignoring me. I’ve also noticed that I didn’t take a single picture of a woman. Sometimes I cursed them, then I felt sorry for them, then I ignored them and then again, I looked for an explanation why they behave in such an unfriendly way.
I simply belong to the people who want to understand it. What am I doing wrong? The more I think about it and the more I try to find an answer the more it bothers me. But I am particularly happy when I meet someone who shares some time with me or just gives me a simple smile.
You probably can’t imagine if you have never travelled for an extended period alone, how very important it can be for one to have contact with people. It can be quite lonely if one is ignored so much by the locals.
If there was a group of men who were among themselves, I was treated quite often friendly. They greeted and now and then they smiled or laughed. Was it a mixed group – women and men – it was very difficult. Were only women among themselves, I was completely invisible.
I was 5 months in the country and didn’t understand anything. I have not seen a single house from inside, except that at Tuly’s in La Paz. I also didn’t have a serious conversation with anyone. To get to the point, I have no idea about Mexico!
Difficult for the Mexicans is surely that they will not be accepted by the huge rich neighbor to the north and otherwise they don’t want anything to do with the people to the south. They are kind of by themselves.
My days were very similar. I cycled during the day and was alone, then sat mostly alone in a small hotel room and chatted with someone over the Internet who lived in the same time zone, so I had at least some connection to the outside world
The next day was again the same and did not bring anything new.
I hadn’t taken any pictures for days – why should I – there was nothing to take pictures of? Often this shows exactly my inner wellbeing and my attitude towards the country.
Love hotels are available at every corner. You drive directly into a garage, the gate or the curtain hides the car and the couple has a few hours secretly to themselves. There are so many of those Love hotels, like I have never seen anywhere else.
Palenque, another UNESCO site was reached. I got there totally sweaty and asked if I could possibly park my pushbike right next to the ticket booth so it is within sight of someone. The answer couldn’t have been any better. “20 pesos” was thrown at me. It almost sounded like “meiyo” in China. (Meiyo in China means – no way or not available or bugger off.
I was now already in Chiapas, where the true and great Mexico is supposed to be found.
So, I asked at two other places where people were just sitting around and didn’t seem to have much to do, but also here, it was not possible to leave my bike and I should park it at the parking lot. But there were too many people running around and everyone seemed to be busy selling the tourist something.
But so far, I never had much fear for my things and not about myself. Mexico has never been a danger to me at any time, even though I was uncertain in the Copper Canyon, because I was warned by the locals, but I have nowhere noticed anything negative.
I need to say it again, we shouldn’t look at all the negative and often wrong media news, which in most cases simply focus on the horror and never show anything positive from the world.
But back to Palenque. Actually, I was almost at the point of turning around, because I was so annoyed, but then gave the ruins a chance and locked my bike at the fence of the entrance in the hope that there is still everything there when I come back.
The ruins didn’t impress me much, but I met a few nice foreigners with whom I could chat for a while. I also saw a toucan, which saved my day absolutely.
I met Elisa from South Africa. And that was the absolute lottery win, not only because she was extremely fun to be with, no she also had her whole suitcase full of clothes and gave me a T-shirt, leggings, a long wide cool pair of pants and some shorts.
They were much too big for me, but that didn’t matter. I had already been looking for clothes everywhere, but I couldn’t find anything, because which Mexican woman has legs as long as I have?
Not only that my pants were much too warm, no, they were, after 1.5 years of continuous use, completely worn out and simply embarrassing to wear any longer.
The tourist nest where I had landed brought some variety in my daily routine. However, I am in a sometimes-difficult age when traveling. Either they are all young guys and gals or they are tourist groups who are almost all in a retired age and in a big group anyway.
If I meet German backpackers, then they will use the polite form while talking to me, which is the absolute maximum penalty for me. You could also say to me, “Ey granny”. It is also amazing that I seem to have more in common with people who are 20 years older than those who are 20 years younger.
There was the new backpacker generation. The iPhone, credit card and Samsonite generation. Some of them find it seemingly awesome when they find a cheap flight so they don’t have to travel to their next destination in a bus.
Many of them seem to book their accommodations in advance via the Internet to get a shower in time when they arrive from their air-conditioned bus trip in a new city. But there are also the others, the backpackers, who even have a tent and turn around every penny three times. The mix made it interesting here.
Joints are smoked, partly the hippies run half naked and are tattooed all over their body, some of them seem to be stoned all day. Then the long-term travelers who are trying to finance their trip through jewelry sales. Blokes that dress up totally feminine and wrap their long hair into a knot. Some embody Bob Marley, others Boy George. Additionally, all varieties of travelers you can imagine. Really great fun.
And then of course the questions from where you come from where you go to and what you have done so far.
Banana pancakes with Nutella and even Kässpätzle (a German dish) on the menu. Just something really different.
The last time I was confronted with such a backpacker hamlet was more than 2 years ago, somewhere in Laos. I found it really nice and stayed a few days in the “oh we’re all so extremely cool” community.
Of course, I asked everyone with whom I spoke the question of how they find the Mexicans and what their experiences were. The opinions went very far apart. It seemed like either you like the Mexicans or you don’t, I didn’t hear anyone saying so so.
Of course, you always have to consider, if you are a couple, or you are going from hostel to hostel then it is another way of travelling, you simply see the world quite differently, as if you are on the road like me.
But I have also heard from cyclists, whether as a couple or on their own, no matter if man or woman how well they liked Mexico.
I’m curious how this will go on. If I am honest I am beginning to ask myself if I will really like Central America and what the alternative might be if I don’t like it?
Many cyclists don’t like Central America and somehow, I never really understood why. But I’m starting to get behind it. If I still have to stay in a hotel because there is no hospitality or not enough space where I can camp, or it might be not safe to do so, then this won’t make me happy for long.
However, I hope for a lot of wildlife and national parks, volcanoes and nicer people. The food will most certainly not be any better. The heat will get worse.
I was finally in the jungle. I heard and saw the first howler monkeys swinging from branch to branch and entertaining the world with their extremely loud roar. Just great and so important for me to stay on the ball in this difficult country.
The rainy season is almost at the start. One night it rained nonstop and so intense that it was a real natural show.
Two more days left to get to Guatemala. Finally. And to my big surprise, the last kilometers were completely different. The houses turned into simple run-down sheds, the children suddenly ran to the street and waved to me and called “Hola”. I was allowed to sleep in a restaurant for one night and was guarded by a 16-year-old boy with a gun and he told me there were lots of wild animals.
The next night the officer of a military post let me stay in a small hut. The conversation with him was very interesting because he told me that this road was the main connection for the drug smugglers. All the drugs that are being shipped from South America to the USA are largely passed by his post.
To my question, why they don’t use drug dogs, he didn’t have a clever answer to give. But I was at a safe spot, the compound is occupied 24/7 all year.
The next morning, I had breakfast with a group of guest workers from El Salvador and Honduras who were super fun to be with and I really looked forward to be in Central America soon.
Garbage is a huge subject in Mexico. Frightening how much trash there is thrown into the ditch. The further south I came, the worse it got.
At the ticket booth for Bomapak, another historical site, the cashier came from the toilet and slammed the toilet door in front of me and ignored me completely. The door was locked. She ran away and when I asked her if she could please open the door, she said to me, “5 pesos.”
Any more questions? No, thank you Mexico, and never see you again.