7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1
I left Ciudad Valles in a rush of sweltering humidity as the beat down on my helmet, the motor heat rose from below, and sweat poured across my face... under my riding jacket... and into my boots. But, soon I reached a comfortable velocity and began to rise in altitude and into cooler air. The ride from Valles to Xilitla was nothing short of spectacular with the dramatic juts of black rock mountain covered in lush greenery, brilliant blue sky, and winding twisty roads hugging majestic stony behemoths.
Within the state of San Luis Potosi is a region called Huasteca. I have been told the area held much promise, but I'd always given it a pass because much of San Luis Potosi is arid, dry, and desert like. I'd already seen much of it and had always wanted to change terrain after a couple weeks in the desert. But within what seems like minutes after leaving San Luis and climbing into the Sierras, the terrain changes quickly into a perfect blend of lush mountainous greenery dotted with rivers and waterfalls. The drops off the roadside are dramatic as well, but I tried to keep my eyes glued on the road that twists sharp left then right, then left... snaking up the mountains and flanked by damp black walls of stone and tropical foliage, dotted by occasional small villages. I felt my rear tire losing traction around the tighter corners and attributed that to slightly damp pavement, but more on that later. You could easily spend an entire trip just discovering all the villages within the Huasteca region alone!
My mind raced and soared in tune with the motor's effortless flight into a truly magical scenery as if I were gradually ascending into heaven. When I spotted the sign that read "Bienvenidos a Xilitla" I just kept going for another half hour before I turned around to sort out my lodging. Traveling on a motorcycle offers the obvious additional obstacles like where to put the damn thing. The first hotel I checked had no place to put the moto, and the second had a garage but was expensive ($550 pesos or $50 a night). The third hotel (Hotel San Ignacio) seemed out of my budget, but had a convenient covered garage space as you enter. The friendly woman said the room was only $170 pesos a night so I checked out the room. It had a nice view, private bath with hot water, TV, large soft bed, etc. I already knew I'd take the room but I asked if I might get a little discount if I paid for 3 nights in advance and she quickly dropped the price to $11 a night! Ahhhh! I was indeed in heaven and after a short walk around the town I knew I'd fallen in love with a new place in Mexico. The area is covered with coffee plantations and I could count the gringo tourists on one hand.
If feels like you're high in the Sierras but I believe the altitude is only about 2000 feet above sea level. You can sip coffee and eat delicious tamales wrapped in banana leaves in small cocinas with the local campesinos and stroll about the plaza essentially unnoticed as a tourist. One of the main attractions in the area are the magical gardens of Henry James called "Las Pozas". I'd never heard of the guy, but evidently he was an eccentric and wealthy British surrealist who poured millions into creating private gardens with bizarre towering structures in concrete resembling giant mushrooms and twisted stairways and passages leading nowhere. If you have ever scene La Segrada de Mi Familia in Barcelona, Spain... its very similar. Not quite as large, enclosed, or ornate, but the heavily tropical forest setting is quite mystical to intensify the overall effect. The grounds also include several beautiful pools fed by lovely waterfalls and the sculptures go right up to the edges of the pools and blend right into the waterfalls themselves. Pure magic! I expected to see tiny duende popping out from behind every tree and twisted imaginary habitat. The man had obviously sampled the local fungi. I thought, "What an amazing place to take mushrooms! Hell, you didn't even need them! The man had already materialized an entire sroom trip for you in concrete. Why bother with eating any?!"
(continued in part 7/20/05 pt. 2)