Tuesday, November 6, 2012

School's out for Summer!!

Hello from Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico, the city that dates back to the late 1400s and just hosted an eXtreme downhill mountain bike race through its tiny, steep, cobblestone streets! To see the race click here: . We apologise for the lengthy interim since our last post, but learning Spanish and hanging out in Guadalajara didn’t really create a huge amount of publishable stories and video. Since leaving GDL we have spent a week at the beach, and a week on the road, and already there’s enough material worth posting, so I shall take off from where we left it last, in GDL, with school books in one hand and dripping tacos in the other.


Side note: We really do eat tacos every day. Sometimes twice or thrice.

School books, back packs, homework and tequila.
Refer to previous photo.
Being back in the classroom started out as an exciting opportunity to learn invaluable language skills, but for me, eventually turned into déjà vu of university thermodynamics lectures, filled with baffling statements and strange theories taught at a relentless and exhausting pace.... except in Spanish! But it wasn’t all bad, and after battling on with our homework and classes, we all believe we got the most we could from the experience. How I feel about my Spanish skills now varies on a conversation to conversation basis. Sometimes I feel understood, and sometimes I feel that sinking feeling of confusion and near-understanding, that’s signified with a smile and shrug of the shoulders by someone in the conversation, and their slowly backing away. But this is to be expected, a language is not something learned hastily, so we carry on learning every day through many different means..... I can order every kind of taco on most menus!

Atley's Mexican parents
What the language school also gave us was the chance to make friends, and that we did. We all had a host-family each, other housemates at those families, our classmates and even befriended some members of the school staff. From these groups we all found individuals who liked the cut of our jive and took us under their Mexican wings to gave us the locals tour, which in my books, is the best there is.

Bernardo, National champion 1978 and still wearing the same pants.
Who wants donuts.

Ferg accepted the invitation from his host Dad to go to the Mexican rodeo, called Chariado. Staged in a small indoor amphitheatre, various horse and bull roping events take place before a heavily-moustachioed, all-Mexican crowd, eagerly anticipating the release of the next beast. It wasn’t until Ferg’s host dad’s arrival into the arena was announced over the loud speaker that he learned that his host dad was not just another crazed fanatic, living and breathing the Chariado, but a 5 time State and one time National champion! In the arena, style is worth just as much as roping a beast to the ground, so the lavishly dressed cowboys work the crowd with ease. A pleased crowd are happy to throw hats, shoes, boots, glasses, scarves, wallets, purses and even the child sitting next to them, onto the arena, in order to have their Chariado hero reward them with a smile.

Looking for that elusive rattle...
I just wrote a 21 line paragraph about how I bought a guitar in Guadalajara, but it was rather boring, so I quickly deleted it and will just say this: I bought a guitar for $30. It’s now strapped to the top of my bike luggage when we travel. Every day gets closer to the point where either rain, sun, fire or drunken Dual Sporters will destroy it.

Field trips in Guadalajara
There are far too many Guadalajarians to thank, so I will leave it at this: our time in Guadalajara was one that we’ll remember forever and were privileged to have. We all feel very welcome to return there again, to seek out our many friends there, and will one day. Muchas gracias amigos!

Ferg's bike on departure day in Guadalajara.
Just another big headed Mexican...

There’s nothing more exciting than being on a motorbike trip in a remote part of another country, like the Baja Peninsula, until someone says, “Hey Ferg, there’s oil dripping out of your engine.” Then you get that fearful rushing thought, “Which bit’s the engine?” Luckily we know the mechanic stuff, and put a big bit of tape over it until we could get it to a Mexican mechanic in Guadalajara. But it’s strange how time flies, and suddenly it was a few days until we were due to leave the city, and the mechanic guy was just getting started! Ever the optimist, Ferg was confident in the word of his Mexican, and strutted boldly up to the workshop to collect the bike on the morning we were due to leave, to find it closed. When he went to next day, the bike was still in pieces, awaiting the go-ahead to replace valve stem seals and machine valve seats. With the go-ahead given, we sat back to enjoy some school-free days in Guadalajara, only for me to get sick! Perfect timing. Someone or thing did not want us to leave GDL in a hurry, and with a variety of social engagements to fill our non-sick and not-waiting-on-motorbikes-anymore moments, it was a week before we rolled out of the city.

See sign.
On walkabout on the streets of Sayulita

Aerated 'stache 

In the mean time Atley was waiting on neither motorbike nor illness, but rather was BEING waited for by his girlfriend, The Wendy, in the wrinkly town of Puerto Vallarta. He spent the week with her there, then we all met up in the small beachside town of Sayulita. There we stayed at another great hostel, only to randomly bump into our Aussie friend Lewis, who we’d been in Spanish school with a few weeks earlier. He slotted into our crew nicely and we spent some fun days having a relaxing beachside holiday, a well deserved break from our hectic social and language-learning schedule in Guadalajara.

Taco time in Sayulita! Hi Phil!
Sayulita beaches
But there’s only so much fun you can have in one beachside town, so we moved 100km south to Puerto Vallarta, a bigger beachside town. This is where The Wendy is currently volunteering for 6 months as an Occupational Therapist, a clever ploy to gain access to her boyfriend during his 12 month motorbike trip. Atley stayed with her in her small apartment, with her cross-dressing landlord, and Lewis, Ferg and I checked into a quiet hostel, away from the tourist crowds, on the edge of town near the jungle covered hills. There we managed to have a series of exciting days and nights out, which successfully lightened our wallets, further blocked our arteries and left taco-meat-like stains on our livers.

The beast conquering the climbing wall at the hostel
Mexican support crew
One of the things Wendy had planned for us while we were there was to attend her landlord’s place of work, a gay and lesbian resort hotel, where he and two other “blokes” perform a drag queen show every Wednesday. When Lewis, Ferg and I arrived, Atley and Wendy were already well lubed up (with beer) and having a wonderful time. They thought it was even better when they saw my sour, awkward face as I battled to avoid various looks and glances being shot at me from overly friendly men in the audience. I just couldn’t seem to get into the spirit of things, and found the whole thing quite awkward. Luckily Ferg wasn't feeling the same, because as soon as the host on stage requested some volunteers, everyone pointed at him, and he was thrust on stage to take part in a mock Spanish lesson with gay words. He did very well, and was a crowd favourite in no time, winning the most applause, and thus a free shot of tequila to loosen him up. Later on when the host requested audience members show off their “sexiest tattoo,” he was quick to get up and show the large phoenix on his side, to the boozy crowd. He had the tough competition of two middle aged ladies showing their pale upper thighs to a crowd of overly excited men. There was never any doubt that the white male flesh wouldn't bring home the bacon, and more tequila went in his mouth, leaving him wondering why he didn’t spend more time on stage at drag nights. After the show, Ivan, Wendy’s landlord, was pleased to show us his home made foam accessories to womanise his body, but much to his consternation I politely turned down the offer to touch.

At the Gay bar, gay bar, gay bar......
Mojito production line  
Mexican Pacific coast. Get it up ya.

Travelling down the Pacific coast from Puerto Vallarta was terrifically scenic. The twisty coast road passes endless beaches, coves, islands, rock formations, taco stands and staring locals. We stopped at a lovely beach on the first afternoon with intentions to briefly rest, but after chatting with locals, were invited to sleep under a huge grass hut that was in the process of being turned into a restaurant. I spent my first night sleeping in my hammock, and loved waking up to the crashing ocean 50 meters away. We rode the coast all the next day, then again pitched our tents on the beach, until we were awakened at 4am by an excited local who wanted to show us the huge sea turtle laying eggs right near Atley’s tent. In a sleepy haze I turned on my head lamp, but it scared the turtle into aborting the birthing scene, and it began crawling back towards the ocean. The local guy wasn’t happy with this, so after plopping the turtle back in its intended birthing arena with no success multiple times, he hoisted the flapping beast over his head and ran off down the beach with it, never to be seen again. Had The Marks not confirmed all this actually happening, I would have thought it all another sweaty Mexican dream.

Hammocking by the ocean


Leaving the beautiful Pacific coast of central Mexico and heading inland is now officially inscribed in our Book of Good Ideas, and presented us with yet more Quality Motorbiking Moments, proudly brought to you by Kawasaki. We speak often of our endless search for more twisty and windy roads, as they’re so enjoyable on the bikes, but Mexico has proven that you CAN have too much bacon. Hundreds of kilometres of endless curves, mountain passes, cliff edge roads with distracting views and no-place-to-rest-because-Mexicans-don’t-get-tired-so-keep-riding roads. The day we left the coast saw us go from sea level, literally into the clouds at 1900 meters, then back to 400 meters in an ear-popping, brake-burning, footpeg-scraping bonanza! We dodged at least 50 separate groups of cows, donkeys, dogs, chickens, goats, horses, children, old people, road workers, enormous spiders and smiling Dual Sport Supporters happily waving, all enjoying wandering around on the road. I even saw an animal run out in front of me that I am still unable to identify - it was like a monkey crossed with a cat and I didn’t like it. At lunch time I looked out from the restaurant to see a horse being chased down the highway by three small dogs. No one else saw, but I’m telling you I saw it, and it looked funny.

Free public beach camping
Free sea turtle
Too late!
You know how when you see the road sign that shows rocks falling from a steep cliff, and you basically ignore it because there’s never any rocks falling? Don’t do that in Mexico. Rocks are falling. Now. Get out of the way. We passed at least 10 significant and recent rock falls in one day, many that covered half the road. But people are much more relaxed about road rules here, and I like it. As the world gets smarter, people get dumber, and it’s never more apparent than on Mexican roads – you’ve got to think for yourself, stupid! When a road appears to be blocked, look around, don’t give up so easily, there’ll be a track somewhere through the jungle that will get you through. Times are tough for the Mexican Government, they don’t have budget to waste on superfluous signage, the important thing here is the road building, not construction phase traffic management. And this delightful lack of information is the perfect stimulant for long distance Dual Sporters. Who gets tired when the road drops out from under you and becomes a gravelly ditch of death? Or when the oncoming cars are now sharing your lane and you’ve got 1 second to decide your path before impact? No one, that’s who! Take away predictability and you force attention. It’s no wonder that 93% of Mexican drivers enjoy tacos. Wake up Australia and Canada, you’re wasting time, money, and in the end the lives of our children, on so many informative street signs. Put a bit of challenge back into the sport of driving and you can cancel that next drowsy driver television commercial campaign and put the money into new rear-mounted machine gun turrets for every 3rd cop car. Just like Mexico did.

Mountain views from the side of the road
Mountain roads from the side of the view
Getting ready for some cloud riding
Taxco's San Cristobal

Once we entered Taxco, where we are now, and saw the beautiful scene of houses crammed on top of one another, going right up the mountain side, we decided we’d stay here for the Day of the Dead celebrations and to watch the mountain bike race. While sitting at the bottom of a section of 100 or more stairs that the racers ride down, Ferg and I witnessed a rider lose control, cartwheel down the last 20 stairs, break his arm, femur and horribly dislocate his ankle, to the screams and cheers of heartless, blood-thirsty Mexican children. The remaining riders were highly skilled, and made the massive jumps, ramps, stair sections and narrow roads look effortless.

Our hotel in Taxco
Mountains made of houses
Day of the dead

A couple of nights ago we went out for a few beers at the pub and got chatting with some interesting locals. They offered to take us for a ride on their four wheel motorbikes, which seemed like a wonderful idea at the time. When we got to the bikes it turned out one was actually a scooter, the rear seat of which was allocated to be my riding position. Once on the road the riding pace quickened, until we were tearing through the city streets, at a pace to frighten even the most seasoned Dual Sporter. Sure enough a wet corner was our undoing, and the hefty female operator slammed the scooter to the cobblestones, with my wrist and knee taking the brunt of our fall. I write this now with a bandaged, but healing wrist, and yet more lessons learned about 2 wheeled vehicle travel. Needless to say I’m currently on a self-imposed motorbike restriction, so our time in Taxco has been extended until I can squeeze a motorbike clutch comfortably. The silver lining is that we’ve finally had time to getting around to spending a couple of days polishing up this blog post for all our screaming fans.

Those Mayans ruin everything
The Mayan emperor surveying his lands.


Beers with a view

So with that I say adios amigos. We will hit the road in a few days, towards Oaxaca and Chiapas, to sample Southern Mexico’s indigenous, mountainous and less touristy areas. We have now travelled for 4 months, ridden 16 000 km, and we ain’t done yet!

Taxco downhill mountainbike course

Structural load testing, Mexican style

Taxco taxi service
Please enjoy our 9th video on full screen, full volume, with tequila, tacos and titillation  :)


  1. gnarly as usual! how come you glossed over dios de la meurtes?? I thought mexican haloween was supposed to be crayyzzee...

  2. Yeah we thought the Day of the Dead would be a big deal, and we'd heard that small towns were the place to be for it, so we thought Taxco would be a good place to be for it. There were a few little parades here, with some kids dressed up as dead people, but it was nothing mind blowing....

  3. Great pictures and words! Is the German Mark still with you guys?

    Oaxaca is supposed to be beautiful.

    You all are livin' the life.

    1. Nah the German is long gone. Oaxaca is definately beautiful, we just spent a week there! Thanks for the props Andy! Hope all is will in that awesome backyard of yours!

  4. Killing it gang !!! Dance scene in the open walled building was all time Sweaty!!!
    Love matto

    1. Thanks Matto! There's still time for you to come roll with us bro! Get over here!

  5. I was fortunate to meet Matt & Atley at the start of their trip while I stayed at the same hostel in Nelson, BC. I had a great night and would have loved to join them instead having to return to Vancouver Island. Not sure about the drag nights though. Have a safe ride guys! I'll stay glued to it!

    1. Cheers Ryan! Glad you're still in the loop with our travels and enjoying it. Hope the Island is treating you well.
      Matt and Atley.