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Wed Feb 20 2013: Farewell, Mexico!

After almost three months of wandering around this amazing country, we're getting ready to leave Mexico. There's just this nasty business of recovering from a really bad stomach flu. We've discovered from our earlier travels, Neda is the Distant Early Warning for gastrointestinal problems. She always gets hit first, and then 3-4 days later, I get hit 10X harder. It happened in India and now, just as we are leaving Mexico.

Neda goes out for a supplies run - bananas, crackers, Gatorade, jello and baby food

We are in Chetumal, a border town about a couple of hours south of Tulum. A day after arriving, I find myself sweating and shivering under the covers, every muscle racked with pain. I also find out why they call this the Aztec Two-Step, as I need to be exactly two steps away from a toilet bowl, otherwise tragedy results, more so for the housekeeping staff...

We are holed up in Oxtankah, a nice suburb of Chetumal on the beach

Chetumal is not a very interesting place, which was perfect since I was in bed most of the time. After a slow recovery of clear liquids and soft foods, we took the opportunity while in a larger city to do some maintenance and find out what the process was to leave Mexico: insurance, currency, importation rules, etc.

So in the interests of filling up an entry, here is a little retrospective of our time in Mexico, filled with some pictures and memories of daily life that didn't make the blog the first time around:

Spain has the Three Tenors, Mexico brings us the Four Altos

Although we're used to riding in crowded, chaotic conditions, traffic in Mexico threw us some unique obstacles. Literally. Topes, or speed-bumps, totally caught us off-guard when we entered Baja California. Some of them are not very well marked and you have to predict where a tope would logically be - like when a road goes through a small town or entering a city, or just before a curve. We've both caught major air while daydreaming on the bike, and there's a lot of sparring over who will lead the ride, since the leader effectively becomes the canary in the coalmine.

In Canada and the US (and most western countries), it's normal to use your right turn signal if you want to be passed. However in Mexico, they use the *left* indicator to signal vehicles behind you to pass you. This is very confusing to non-Mexicans. The first time I tried to pass a truck, he turned on his left turn signal as I pulled beside him, and I freaked out and slammed on the brakes, thinking he was going to turn left in front of me. It turns out that the left indicator really means, "I've scanned the road in front of me, and it's safe for you to pass me". Confusing. If the vehicle in front wants to turn left, they either use their four-ways, or they will pull over to the right shoulder, wait for all traffic to pass by and then turn left when it's clear. CONFUSING!!!

We were talking to a young couple outside of our casita in Guadalajara
and their little boy was fascinated with our motorcycles.

The Mexican people are so friendly and hospitable. It is normal when walking on the streets to greet total strangers with a "Buenos Dias" (or "Buenos" for short). And as you are leaving restaurants, it is customary to wish other people, "Buen Provecho" (Bon Appetit). I really like how smiles are so easily returned, whereas in the large cities of the US and Canada, a smiling face is viewed with suspicion or annoyance.

Sincronizada in Ajijic

Food is very cheap in Mexico, and we both love discovering the cuisine that never migrated north of the border. Neda loves pasole, a white corn-based soup filled with other vegetables and meat while I leaned more towards the fried and starchy foods, chilaquiles and tacos filled with all manner of fried meats, chorizo, tripe, tongue and BRAINS! The grasshoppers were not a favorite...

Much to the Neda's chagrin, for all the vegetables available in the mercados, they were never served in the restaurants. And diet sodas don't seem to be as popular as in Canada and the US.

Looking for a rug to cut in the dancing church of San Juan

Churches, markets and plazas dominate almost every town, large and small, in Mexico. We've found out that in different churches across the country, there are different ways to approach the altar. In Guadalajara, most of the attendees get down on both knees and shuffle forwards. In San Juan, just outside of Uruapan, devotees *DANCE* towards the altar! Even though there is no music played inside the church.

There's always a party in Mexico, even in church!

This little guy's skateboard was broken, so I got my tools out and got down to do some road-side repairs

Building a family is very important in Mexico. While in Canada and the US, the incidences of child-free couples are increasing, Neda and I are viewed as quite the oddity here for opting not to have kids. Mexico is a festive country, with bright primary colours decorating all the buildings and every other person seems to be either playing or carrying a musical instrument. The presence of lots of children running around the streets just adds to this joyful atmosphere, and you can't help but be infected with the festive spirit.

Changing out a lightbulb in Angangueo

Swapping out my battery at Garry and Ivonne's place in Mexico City

Our bikes have been holding up well so far, other than routine maintenance, the only worrying problem is the plug for my primary headlight has broken (melted and disintegrated), so the wires can't contact the base of the bulb. This is a special part that needs to be ordered and it takes a month for the part to be shipped from Germany. Since we don't stay long enough in one place, I'm going to have to figure out where we'll be in advance for a while otherwise I'll be blinding everyone with my high-beams for quite awhile.

Waiting out inclement weather in Angangueo

We've been very lucky to be travelling during dry season in Mexico, and the number of rainy days we've encountered in the last three months can be counted on 3 fingers. Mexicans don't check the weather forecasts. Dry season simply means No Rain. Every time we'd tell someone about rain in the forecast, they'd look at us like we were grossly misinformed or just being stupid. Then when it did rain, I can't even describe the look of utter confusion on their faces, as if socks were falling from the sky instead of water.

Courtyard parking in Oaxaca.

Despite the friendliness and hospitality in Mexico, there is still a wariness about petty theft everywhere we went. In most of our accommodations, there were always secured spaces for our motorcycles. In Oaxaca, we were only allowed to park in the courtyard during the night since the motorcycles were kept where the restaurant was set up. So every night when the restaurant closed, we moved our bikes off the street into the courtyard and at 7AM the next day, we had to wake up to move the bikes back outside. We missed the alarm one morning and got a very angry knock at the door. Customers were waiting to be seated as we sheepishly pushed our bikes back outside, sleep still in our eyes and BedHead worse than HelmetHair.

We are not morning people...

Beach at Todos Santos

We had no idea what to expect when entering Mexico three months ago. All I knew was what I had seen on TV or read in the news. Mexico is in the unenviable position of being caught in the middle of the largest producer of drugs and the largest consumer of drugs. This traffic seems to remain underground and we never saw any evidence of it the entire time we were there. It's a shame that the entire country gets painted with such a broad sensationalistic brush that it scares visitors away from such a beautiful place with amazing culture, food and friendly people.

Despite all this negative coverage, we have run across many ex-pats who have ventured here and already know what we have just discovered: golden sandy beaches, lush forests, colonial architecture, remains of ancient civilizations, hidden underwater caves and all sorts of migratory wildlife that have travelled vasts distances to settle here (I'm referring to the ex-pats again)...

Farewell Mexico, hope to see you again soon!

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