We were in such a rush to leave the country that we left our boots in Cuba.
Somewhere in the haste of packing on our last day, we rode to the marina in Cienfuegos (just a short ride from our casa) in our hiking shoes and didn't realize until much later that we had left our riding boots behind. A very aggravating and probably costly oversight!
Watching the bikes get loaded onto the Stahlratte for the journey back to the mainland
While we've been motoring across Cuba for the last month or so, the Stahlratte has been lazily sailing from the east side of the island to eventually pick us up here. From hereon, it's a 4-day journey with its sails unfurled to Isla Mujeres, a small island just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Yes, Mexico! We're headed back to our favorite country on this trip!
Before leaving Cuba, Neda makes friends with a drug-sniffing cocker spaniel
The journey by sea is uneventful. If you call being green in the face for the first 48 hours uneventful. Thankfully, I didn't throw up on this leg of the sailing, something Neda can't boast about! HA HA! :) But in the last couple of months, after spending a total of 15 days on the open waters sailing from Panama -> Colombia -> Jamaica -> Cuba -> Mexico, I've decided that being out at sea is a very unnatural act for me. Previously, Neda and I discussed shipping our motorcycles by container across the Atlantic and spending half a month with the crew on the ship. We thought it would be a very romantic way to travel across the ocean. Now, I'm not too sure that would be a very enjoyable option...
Watching dolphins swim alongside the Stahlratte
Despite the seasickness, our time on the Stahlratte is always relaxing and the journey to Mexico was no different. Neda did some reading on the deck, I'd be strumming on a guitar somewhere, we were eating lots of great food and all the passengers on the ship traded stories about their time in Cuba. It always amazes me how different peoples experiences are, despite us all having pretty much the same itinerary. Things that fascinated us, annoyed others and vice versa.
Watching storms in the distance. The closeup is of lightning hitting the water. So cool seeing that!
If I did this, I'd be cleaning upchuck off my Kindle...
Four days later, the skyline of Cancun greeted us with such a change from the decaying buildings of Cuba. It was like returning to civilization again! We spent quite a bit of time scrambling around the ship looking for our boots before realizing we had left them behind. This made us very late for the ferry from Isla Mujeres to Cancun, so there was a last-minute mad dash to make it back to the mainland. Seems like our travels are a series of Hurry-Up-And-Waits (and then Hurry-Up again)...
Leaving the dock at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Sans boots... :(
*phew* made it onto the ferry. Last on the boat!
In a scene straight out of an action movie, a couple of crew members from the Stahlratte (you can see it in the distance) fly towards our ferry in their dinghy. It seems they forgot to give us some travel documents for Mexico and had to do a daring sea-to-sea exchange to get the documents to us. LOL!
Happily tooling around Mexico
Cancun was glorious! Mexico is awesome! We had to spend the first couple of days getting all of our import papers in order, TVIP, etc. All very familiar procedures. Everyone here is friendly and helpful and not after our money. Everything is familiar again, from the OXOs (convenience stores), Chedrauis (grocery stores) to the Pemexs (gas stations). We know how much everything should cost and where to go to get stuff. When we walk into a store, there is so much selection and variety, in stark contrast to the single brands the government of Cuba allows in the stores. Being in Mexico felt like being able to breathe again! Figuratively, of course... since there are no air pollution laws here... :)
One of the things we replaced was our Point-And-Shoot camera. Here it is in action.
We took some time to stock up on supplies and replace a few things that we broke or lost in our time in the Caribbean. I couldn't find the old waterproof Nikon camera that we drowned in Jamaica (waterproof, go figure...), so I bought a Fuji FinePix XP150. Ironically, we didn't take one picture of Cancun, despite being there for 3 days. We visited the local BMW dealership trying to find a replacement for my All-Round Boots, which I loved, but damn my dainty, elven feet, they didn't have my size in stock... :(
I did see the new R1200GS Liquid-Cooled version, and I liked what I saw. It's wonderfully ugly, just like mine! I want one!
Riding through Chiapas, Mexico
When we first booked our Cuba detour, the plan was to return to Central America and tour through it again unrushed, seeing how we had to scramble to meet the Stahlratte the first time. Unfortunately, right now there was a bit of a time-table to leave Mexico, as our Central America visa was nearing expiration and if we didn't re-enter Guatemala before the end of the week to renew it, the expired 90-day visa meant that we could not re-enter any of the CA4 (Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras) countries for another 90 days.
Just outside of Palenque, Chiapas
It felt good to be in Trek-Mode again. Unfortunately we were riding in our hiking shoes, which made us feel very exposed. We really have to get proper riding boots before we attempt any gnarlier terrain. Our destination is Guatemala, to the very spot where we left off before our mad dash to meet the Stahlratte. Our route took us through the same places we travelled initially, we rode the same roads (shortest route) and stayed in the same places, eating in the same restaurants we had visited the first time through. It's very time-consuming finding restaurants and hotels, and frequenting the same places saved a lot of time and headaches. And stomach-aches as well... :)
Felt redundant taking pictures of the same places we had visited. But I did manage to try out the new camera en route. I'm not that happy with it. I like my old Nikon better.
The automatic light sensor on the Fuji is not very intuitive and takes some getting used to to get the best contrast
Most of the riding pictures turned out too dark to use.
While taking a break at a Pemex, I was approached by one of the gasoline tanker drivers who was delivering petrol to the station. He seemed curious about our motorcycles and started asking me questions. I had flashbacks of Cuba and initially viewed him with suspicion. What did he really want? Then he flipped out his cell phone and started thumbing through it, showing me pictures of his own Suzuki sportbike he had at home. We then had a great conversation about sport vs touring bikes and he was curious about how the BMW bikes handled.
But it struck me how scarred I was from our time in Cuba and how it's so difficult relating to others when there's little socio-economic common ground. When I look back at all the places we've bookmarked as potential places to live, like La Paz in the Baja Peninsula, I realize that they're all very middle-class cities where the residents were less concerned about putting food on the table and spent their time pursuing more self-actualized pursuits like music, dance and the arts. And motorcycling for pleasure travel...
Waiting for Neda to do her thing at the Mexico/Guatemala border
Dodging chicken buses in the hills of Guatemala
Weaving through the Tuk Tuks on the rainy roads of Guatemala
Our primary adversary on this trip has been the weather. First, outrunning the bitter Arctic winter as it chased us from Alaska all the way to the Mexican border, and now we are riding straight into the infamous rainy season in Central America. We encountered a few washed out roads and landslides. I know how badly our bikes do with all the weight of our luggage up high and running street-tires, and I'm a bit worried about how we'll manage.
Slip, slidin' away