First of all, let me assure you that after our recent low point in Central America, we are back on track, fit, healthy and happy to be on the road again.
What an unexpected long stay in Mexico City and welcome rest, relaxation and rejuvenation!!!
We’ve just had 2 changes of schedule and it is a great feeling. As you know, we rushed through Central America to get to Austin in time to get Streak and Storm serviced before the end of our warranty, and especially get Streak’s throttle issue fixed. We were tempted to by-pass Mexico City, not keen on visiting such a massive city, especially as friends of ours were going be out of Mexico City the weekend we thought of spending there. But we just couldn’t not see them while we were in the country and we were offered to stay in their home over the weekend while they were away and as long as we wanted. What an offer. So we decided to put Mexico City on our route and we arrived Friday, an hour before they left and we would leave Wednesday morning early, giving us enough time to get to Austin in time.
Friday is when our rush finally stopped and everything seemed to fall into place for us. Friday is when we found out that Streak could definitely not be looked at on the 10th June in Austin, because of a major worldwide BMW recall of a different bike to ours (all dealers having to make dealing with recalled bikes their priority) but 25th June at the earliest, and may require up to 10 days at the workshop!! However, because my throttle issue had been investigated and documented since November, BMW would honour the repairs under warranty even beyond the official warranty period. Great news!! Drew Cooper, from BMW in Austin, understanding that his timing of 25th June didn’t suit us, offered to transfer all he had found out about my bike to any other dealer that would suit our itinerary and schedule better. Fantastic. He got in touch with Denver for me and booked my bike to be looked at on the 24th June. What a relief!!! I felt bad not getting our service done in Austin considering all the background investigation Drew did on my behalf but he said he understood. We decided we would travel Austin just to meet him and thank him personally.
Friday is when Streak developed a new problem which was going to require a visit to BMW Mexico City, which Anthony described in his last post: Streak hit a very bad pothole (read, huge chunk of concrete missing out of the concrete freeway) – I even asked Anthony at the time if he had seen my bike twitch as my handlebars jolted as I rode out of it but he was too busy avoiding his own potholes to be looking at me thank goodness! And in addition to damaging the front rim, it caused some misalignment which is the noise I could hear at low speeds as we were riding across Mexico City. Just shows, it pays to listen to noises at low speeds and not ignore them!! Anyway, this little incident meant that we were going to have to spend additional time in Mexico City. “Mi casa es tu casa” said Anna. We can stay at Anna and Alberto’s wonderful home – pure luxury. How wonderful. This was perfect: it allowed us to rest up, clean up, visit Mexico City and enjoy more time with Anna and Alberto and their daughters. Streak’s new problem was a godsend in many ways. Yes, I was very very lucky and thank my guardian angels…
Our first couple of days were spent washing everything. In a washing machine!!! Not by hand. Our jackets, our gloves, our trousers, our socks, all our tops, our helmet liners. They all got washed properly AND dried. Hmmmm :-). Utter luxury. It is interesting what seems like like luxury depending on what you have got used to… Not having to do hand washing every day, having totally dry clothes in the morning, doing washing in a washing machine – that’s luxury. Putting a helmet on in the morning and not feeling damp or smelling of wet dog, that’s wonderful.
So we spent a whole 9 days in Mexico City and ….. loved it!! Yes, once again, we have been surprised at much we have enjoyed a massive city, which we would have avoided had we not had friends we wanted to see there. The city surprised us in so many ways. And I can now understand why my niece who spent 7 years there loved it so much.
So many people warned us about the traffic. Well, it was easy!! Mexico City is one large city – metropolitan Mexico has 21 million people ( in 2013) – the size of Australia!!! And it took us 3 hours to cross it from east to west. But the driving style was easy. Yes, a bit of nudging forward of course, as the one with the nose in front or pushiest one wins but exactly how that works intrigues me. At what point does one stop trying to get in front or let the other through?? There is no aggression or road rage, and no hooting (except when traffic doesn’t move for a while after the lights have gone green). It all works just like magic.
We’d been warned about corrupt cops fining foreign drivers for not following some obscure rule. Anthony carried on wearing his old gloves in case of such incidents where he may finally have to give his gloves away!! It never happened to us.
We were repeatedly warned about “express kidnappings” with taxis in Mexico but we caught many taxis, hailed on the roadside, without any problems. What happens is that a taxi driver will force a customer to retrieve a whole load of cash from an atm machine and rob them. So far our gut feel has worked for us – only got out of one cab shortly after getting in without incident (when I asked him to switch his meter on, he said it was broken and was getting fixed “tomorrow” – yes, sure..). There obviously are robberies, home invasions and kidnappings based on the security around houses, the stories we’ve heard and the number of bullet proofed personal cars. Luckily, we were of no interest to anyone, my bright green Target shopping bag which carries our hats and water bottle may help?? As we walked around Lomas de Chapultepec, Anthony was reminded of his childhood, walking in exclusive (white) areas and being the only child walking as everyone else went by car. Here, we are the only ones walking – only gardeners or workers are outside, everyone else is driving luxury cars.
Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City[/caption]
We made the most of our time in Mexico City to visit the old centre a couple of times. On Sunday and again during the week. What a fabulous cacophony of sounds. Illegal street vendors shouting about their wares. Loud music, coming out of every shop and restaurant. But one sound is particular to Mexico: the harmonipan. It can be heard throughout Mexico City. It is interesting how a piece of art or an art form might not be appealing until we know the story behind it. Like a painting might not appeal until we know the story behind the topic, painter or buyer, and suddenly we understanding its meaning. The same happened with the harmonipan for me. The sound of this instrument is not particularly appealing to my ear, but learning the history behind it fascinates me. The Italian Frati family migrated to Berlin in the late 19th century and began manufacturing hand organs which found their way to Mexico as a German gift. Today, harmonipans can be heard throughout Mexico City, the players dressed in the same khaki uniform, with cap to collect tips. Sometimes, they have assistants, also dressed in the same khaki uniform, who pass the cap around. It is a century old tradition which is threatening to die as the younger generation seems reluctant to take over the art of playing this instrument as it is hard work. The instrument is heavy, weighing 40-50kgs, rests on one leg and requires the player turn a handle to play one of 6 to 8 programmed melodies by pushing air through the pipes. Each melody is coded on pins that trigger pipes to be activated as the player turns the handle.
During the week, we returned to the city centre. Zocalo was so much more alive than when we went on Sunday, when it was all barricaded closed after a large demonstration, ahead of this Sunday’s election. People walking across the largest plaza I have ever seen. The plaza corners and edges are full of riot police groups of 10 to 30. Across the road from one large groups of police, down a side street, the noise is deafening: illegal street sellers, lining the pavement with an incredible variety of wares. I didn’t understand what they were shouting, but gathered it was about their great items at unbeatable prices. It is illegal trade, so the wares are laid out on material, many have knots on the corners for easy grabbing should the police raid.
One of the things I have found inspiring while traveling is seeing what business people set up to make a living. People are so ingenious! Here someone is selling tiny inflatable penguins, (not so easy to gather up in a hurry), another had scissors and his get-away/pack-away cloth was littered with tiny pieces of paper which he’d cut up.
Mercado Jamaica, Mexico City’s flower market was another fascinating place. After a couple of hours’ wondering through and chatting with a few stalls, we had lunch at a small restaurant outside the market. Simple and very tasty buritos with a litre jug of fresh pineapple juice.
We visited the anthropology museum – a fabulous museum, beautifully displayed, full of exquisite sculptures, masks, tools etc. It was interesting to learn a bit about Teotihuacan before our visit there the following day. The Teotihuacan, which I had never heard of before getting to Mexico, was a civilisation that lasted from around 600 BC to 800 AD. What I find interesting is that I had heard of and read about the Aztecs, yet they only lasted 300 years. The Aztec had a much larger empire, which spread geographically over a vast area and were still around when the Spaniards invaded and conquered much of Central and South America. Interestingly too, the Teotihuacan pyramids were not a ceremonial place, but part of a large city, the 6th largest city in the world at the time, with around 175,000 inhabitants. They built irrigation, terracing, multi level apartments. They were great traders of their obsidian, a glass-like volcanic rock which they fashioned into fine cutting blades, which were found in all corners of Mesoamerica.
We spent a day visiting the Teotihuacan Pyramids, another Unesco heritage listed site.
The rest of the time, we rested, played with the girls, walked to the most amazing local grocery store – yes, we were staying in a very nice area.
Friday, Alberto’s driver picked us up again to help with any translation at BMW and to guide me home. Jaciel, the Motorrad service manager showed us around the facility before we left – we saw the number of recalled motorcycled waiting to get fixed. I was very grateful Streak got pushed through ahead of these. We have since heard that BMW have a policy of dealing with passing travellers’ bikes ahead of any local booked ones.
We enjoyed spending time with Alberto and Anna at the end of their extremely busy week. Friday evening, we all enjoyed just staying home, snacking, drinking and chatting. It was perfect. Saturday, we went to one of the sports clubs up in the hills for lunch. I went to bed early, with a throat tickle announcing a cold and because we were getting up early to cover some distance and get to San Luis Potosi for the night.
Thank you Anna and Alberto for your help, generosity and hospitality!! We get up early as planned, looking forward to being on the road again, with lovely clean, fresh smelling and dry clothes and helmets. Wow, what a great feeling. We leave as planned at 7am Sunday morning.