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From San Diego to Oaxaca

November, December, January in Mexico

albano, Ciudad de Panamá, May 1999

One of my first experiences after crossing the frontier to Mexico is the unintended encounter with a bunch of men attemping to cross the green (or better gray) border in Tijuana at night. They turn out to be much less dangerous than their reputation makes you believe. When I offer food, however, the number of "friends" of mine is rocketing up exponentially. What a change of the surroundings. There is a lot more dust along the road than on the other side, and there are plenty of gaunt dogs roaming about. The pulpy remains of some of them are scrattered along the way.

I need a few days to cross Baja California's Central Desert, a secluded place, scarcely populated by man, all the more by a variety of cacti and by huge boulders. This solitude is harshly interrupted, when the motor race Baja 1'000 (miles) passes me in San Ignacio. A whole night long, the drivers arrive with their run - down two- and four-wheel machines, and the people in the pit do their best to make them serviceable again.

More desert and some marvellous beaches show up on my way to La Paz. Before arriving there, I spend a night in tent next to a police station and another one in the garden of a parsonage. The car-ferry brings my bike and me to Mazatlán in Mexico's mainland. The remaining days of November, I struggle with the relentless traffic on the road towards Tepic. The two lanes are hardly broad enough to allow the crossing of two lorries, not to mention two lorries and a bicycle. Instead of ascending to Tepic, I stay on the coast and penetrate a paradise with palm trees and sunsets competing with the best postcard-views.

December starts, and I visit some friends in Sagulita, a quiet little beach resort. Puerto Vallarte, on the other hand, my next stop, is bursting with tourists, both from the north and from Mexico itself, looking for sun and fun. Ugly hotels and loud discos are the consequence. Even more noise is made in honour of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The processions at that time of the year are accompanied by deafening detonations.

My journey goes on to Guadalajara. First, this means two days of gravel road, partly comparable with a creek-bed, until I reach Mascota. On a considerably better road, it goes on to Tala, where I pitch my tent on a little playground, with so lovely girls living close by, that I'm on the point of falling in love, when I leave the next morning. Guadalajara's historical centre is dominated by the ostentatious Christmas decoration. My neighbours' room in the hotel is dominated by the woman's lascivious moaning. I can check out the differences in pronunciation, when I meet two Spanish guest-students, and the differences in beer, when I am invited by a door-keeper.

By mid December, I pay a flying visit to the Lagoon of Chapala and continue towards the East until I reach Morelia after a racinglike finish. There, I see the vivacious Sunday market, spread all over the characteristic old town with its many churches and the crowning aqueduct. On the next leg, I cross a green and hilly region, may stay a night with a young family and reach Zitácuaro, when my bike goes through a major breakdown: One of these little hills across the road, assigned to slow down the traffic, makes the spokes grasp and bar of the makeshiftly fixed front rack. The wheel jams, I hit the ground and the bike needs a mechanic.

Two days later, I'm back on the road with a new fork and a new rim after having passed Christmas Eve with a local family. The next spontanous invitation surprises me in Toluca, more than 10'000 feet above sea level. I spend two nights in a translater's home. Between them, I climb the nearby volcano by bike and am shown around the town.

Mexico City is huge, and so is its hub, a bald square. I skim the centre for a day. There, the traffic is fairly slow, but not on the multi-lane highways connecting the capital with the rest of the country. After another night in a private garden, 1998 ends in the visit of the amazing pyramids of Teotihuacan.

With an indigestion troubling me, I am guided towards Puebla by different cyclists, past the majestic and still acting Popocatépetl and its more peaceful companion. One of my quides gives me shelter, and the next day, I reach the city. The cheap hotel, I run into, provides you, as an option, with a female roommate. The pertinently packed side offer is exposed in the narrow staircase, which makes bringing up a bike rather thicklish. This night, I get far away from being sober, by reason of a tour through different bars with locals. The next night, one of these friends, gives me a stay. Then, a busy road and, later, a lonely valley with a long climb at its end lead me to Oaxaca.

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© 6-5-1999 albano & team