Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mexico - A Fond Adios

June 28th/29th

With Sue recovered and fighting fit, we finally drag ourselves away from San Christobal de las Casas. After nearly a week off the bike, the first climb feels tougher than it should - it's only a small 200m bump to get us out of the Joval Valley on our final Mexican leg towards the Guatemala border.

After scaling the valley side, the land begins to fall away dramatically, a scything bend connecting us to that unbroken scar than runs a grey wound along the valley floor below. It leads us into the farming town of Teopisca.....


Along the way are a thousand self-subsistence homesteads. Buildings are poor quality; humble wooden shacks with tin rooves that turn their interiors to cauldrons under the hot sun.

In contrast the soil is incredibly rich; tall stands of swaying corn a testement to it's fertility. It's a deep and vivid shade of ochre and the land appears to bleed where the plough cuts deep furrows, the red a garish contrast to the green.


Deep folds in the land provide shelter and any available space on the valley floor is claimed and cultivated....


Higher up, where land is left to nature, a confusion of dense pine forest proliferates. Soft grasses hide an array of shape and colour - wild flowers called out by the rain....


The colour and variety is a feast for the eyes. This one reminds me strangely of Tommy Cooper....


We toil up a long climb, sweating under the combination of hot sun and steady effort, then immediately freeze down the otherside as blue skies miraculously turn grey, and then burst like water bombs turning the road into a 3 inch deep river. Jagged rents of lightning rip the sky and the constant rumble of angry thunder is interspersed with mightly booms that pummel the ear.

At last the water cycle begins to make a deeper kind of sense. Remember that dull science lesson of yesteryear! Now it is played out in the most graphic detail in fast forward before our eyes. Clouds burst, rivers run, and then the clouds pull back, their anger spent like a pair of exhausted combatants. Bright sunshine and blue skies are revealed and instantly the water climbs skywards once more in thick tendrils of vapour. You can see the clouds reloading before your eyes as the trees appear to smoke and the rivers morph into roads once more.

The downhill is terrifying! My brakes need at least 100m to even begin to bite as water logged rims refuse to clear. After they bite, the bike still refuses to scrub off speed. Surface water hides abrupt speed bumps that launch the bike into the air. Fully loaded touring bikes were not made to fly and landings are nasty. A sort of bendy wibbly wobbly affair, all squirmy and fear inducing. Sue fares slightly better with disc brakes but it's a slightly more rapid descent than planned.

After the storm....


We overnght in Comitan, another little visited colonial relic with lively central square. We have live mariachi music while we dine!
Very fine.

Next day we continue to plummet towards Guatemala, the road folding itself round the hillside as high altitude pine forests give way to semi tropical greenery....


It's just gorgeous countryside....


And finally....
At last...
Eventually, we are in sight of a new country.....
Mexico is very easy to lose yourself in and we have have stayed waaaaayyyyy longer than planned. Indeed, longer than is permitted by law as our 6 month visa ran out a month ago. We remember obtaining it all that time ago and thinking "Plenty of time - no problem".
Now it's a problem.
But we were seduced....
The people...
The food...
The music...
The landscape...
Wow - the LANDSCAPE!
It's just an incredibly diverse and variously beautiful place and we would still like to spend more time here.
We never even got to the Yucatan, land of incredible beaches and Mayan ruins, not to mention the islands and the snorkeling and diving.
It's a good job they closed Mexico City 'cos of the swine flu or we would have lost(?) more weeks there.

Tomorrow, we sort out that tricky little visa problem....
And then beyond the oficialdom of that there border....
Guatemala!!

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