Friday, May 15, 2009

Next Stop - Guadalajara

March 14th to 17th

It's always nice to be accompanied out of town by musicians. These guys followed us for a short time playing a merry tune as they went, before turning off into the drive through off licence for beer. I kid you not, and it's one of the coolest things we've seen so far, the band driving up to the counter playing all the while. Bit worrying watching the driver crack a cold one before driving off though....

It's yet another ride through the Sierra Occidental mountain range that marches almost the length of Mexico. This time we are heading to Jalisco state, land of the blue green Agave - the plant that yields the local fire water; Tequila! Suddenly the land is covered in them, their spiked, sword like leaves piercing the ground like an explosion, frozen in place....

Agave can be used to make other brands of spirit like 'Mescal', but similar to champagne, only the spirit produced within the Jalisco region can show the brand name 'Tequila'. Some of the plants are just beginning to flower and 4 metre spikes shoot upwards from the centre.

The ride is a colorful one and the road is often lined with trees vividly flowering, a profusion of reds, purples and oranges. Towns along the way like Villanueva, Tabasco and Jalpa all have amazingly vibrant central plazas, sporting exotic flowers....


Temperatures are pleasant and we are able to ride long into the afternoon to cover the miles. It's beautiful in the mountains and it's a continuous series of long manageable climbs followed by roaring decents. One longer climb attracts the interest of an overzelous sign makers 


Shortly after "Ixtlahuacan", the road starts to merit signs like this as the road suddenly drops towards the Juchipila River 1200 metres below. That's a Chrysler Building on top of an Empire State Building, with an Eiffel Tower on top of that. We plummet at over 80kph (50mph) straight down and past the river as it cascades over a rift in the land on the far side of the valley....

I can fully recommend the durability of Canon's Powershot 550 camera!
I attempt to get it from my handlebar bag to snap a shot at around 50mph, when it's strap catches on the handlebar and it goes down, hitting the road hard, before sliding forever. Foolishly I try to catch it and get in to the kind of speed wobble that would make a slalom skier proud. Recovering and slamming on the breaks, I start to gather up the pieces; internal battery, memory card cover and springs etc. After reassembly, miraculously, it bursts back into life. Battered and bruised and sporting a couple of loops of electrical tape, it just keeps going - it just doesn't have a screen you can use anymore. Still this is what I wanted to take a shot of.... 

The green river valley at the bottom of the drop. The temperature has risen noticeably as we level out and the vegetation has a much more tropical look to it.

What goes down, must go back up and we start the gruelling 2 hour slog back up the other side. The views back over the valley more than make up for it....

We meet Miguel, a professional road racer who uses this route as a regular training run from Guadalajara. A 100km round trip accumulating nearly 2 miles of climbing. He's a fit lad!

Plans get delayed however when we see the signs for "Los Camachos" waterpark - the perfect way to cool off after a 1000 metre climb. This is the tornado ride and the idea is to shoot down the slide and orbit the big yellow bowl as many times as you can before plunging into the pool below. 


We are adopted by Fransisco and his family of musicians who insist on trying to get us to sink by over-feeding us on barbequed steak and Nopales - an edible cactus leaf.

It's late in the afternoon before we finally say our goodbyes and make the last climb towards Guadalajara.

Guadalajara! Our first Mexican metropolis at over 5 million people, and reputedly the "most Mexican city" of all. Now I don't know what that means, but when a place has over a hundred types of Tequila to test - I'm not too sure if we're going to find out.

I'll let you know....... 


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