Tuesday, October 18, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3)

Ruby was beginning to get a little irritable and reminded me of my promise to take her out for a little dirty time. So, I took the little local map the hotel gave me and we went off to find some dirt. Patzcuaro sits slightly above a lovely lake that has 3 or four small islands on it. One of the islands, Janitzio, juts out of the middle of the lake like a grand pyramid with colorful tumbling block buildings stacked haphazard around it's base with a giant stature reaching up to the sky at it's peak. There's a ferry you can take to the island, but Ruby wouldn't hear of me just leaving her there while I explored Janitzio, and because I could see through my telephoto lens that the island likely looked more appealing from a distance than up close, I let Ruby have her way and we set off to ride completely around the lake to check out all the small towns along the way. After a few kilometers the road turned to a single lane dirt road that hugged the edge of cliffs dropping down to the lake's shore. Ruby was in heaven! Dirt, mud, sand, stone, erosion, etc. Not too difficult but enough to make it interesting. Now she had her dirty makeup and let me be while she purred along. The road eventually turned to pavement and passed through several small towns and villages along the way. It must've been market day or something, because the larger towns where bustling with vendors and pedestrians.

The road turned into a very nice new blacktop that curved away from the lake and rose up into the mountains. I could feel the temperature drop as we climbed, but the curves were so fun to ride, I wasn't really paying attention to where we were going. I began to get a bit concerned when we'd gone several kilometers without seeing any signs, or gas stations and I was starting to get low. We had already passed far beyond one of the volcanoes and the road didn't show any signs of turning back to continue around the lake. I decided to take the first left and try to find someone to ask, but the road lead me through farmland down a very treacherous road full of potholes and littered with cows, donkeys, goats, and horses just wandering all over the road freely. At one point there were half a dozen cows just laying on the road and they didn't seem the slightest bit concerned that I was trying to pass. I crept on them slowly, until the motor startled a couple of the calves and they started to dart every which way. I just kept riding slow to conserve gas and was really starting to panic. I was far enough away from the last gas station I'd seen that I knew I wouldn't make it back if I backtracked. So, I just continued with my fingers crossed. Eventually, I saw a rusted, bent road sign with the name covered in grafitti and I could make out the name of a town that was on the lake. Only 30 more kilometers, so it looked like I would make it.

I wound around gorgeous farmland until I arrived at a little town overlooking the lake. It was really starting to get colder at that higher altitude, but I could now see the town ahead I knew had gas, so I didn't mind the cold so much. ;-) I believe the last town before you finish the loop and land back at Patzcuaro is also sort of an island or peninsula where you can drive across and get very near the edge of the neighboring island of Janitzio. And, that island is surrounded by smooth lush fields of green dotted with horses, herds of goats, and the color of farmers tending their crops. I stunning place to say the least.

The next day we set out for Uruapan for the afternoon, and then planned to continue toward the coast. The ride was a bit of a drone, and when we arrived I again didn't see much reason to stay. Not that it isn't a nice place, but it just looked like any other Mexican town with a little industry. Granted I only traversed 3 or 4 boulevards around the centro, but never saw anything that compelled me to stay. After a few quesadillas and coffee for me, and a full tank of 93 octane for Ruby, we were on our way again. I was told and had read that there is no high octane gas in Mexico, but that has not been the case. Most of the Pemex stations have 87 octane "Magna" and 93 octane "Premium". I was worried this was leaded gas, but was assured it was not. I've now burned it for 2000 miles without problems so I guess it's fine. Even when I hit the occasional town that only has "Magna", I've always had a half tank of Premium to mix with it so fuel hasn't been a problem at all.

A guy at the quesadilla stand told me that if I take the toll road (cuota), it would only take me 3hrs to hit the coast, but if I took the free (libre) road the trip would be 6-7hrs. I followed his directions as best as I could interpret and after passing a beautiful national park with dramatic cliffs dropping down to a lake I realized this was probably the highlight of Uruapan, but I'd seen enough mountains and lakes and was hungry for the smell of the sea. Several kilometers later I still hadn't found the autopista so I pulled over at this little tienda shack. A VERY wasted young Mexican dude stumbled up to me to offer assistance and from what I could make out from all the slurring, I had to head back to Uruapan several kilometers back to get the toll road. Then and old dude sauntered up who appeared to be a little lit up himself, but handling it better. The two argued as the old fella said I could just ride a few more kilometers and rejoin the toll road, but the younger guy insisted I had to go back. I decided to go with the older more sober man's advice and continued. I don't know who was right because the road did eventually rejoin the toll road, but it was many kilometers before it did. Granted the scenery was dramatic with narrow bridges that passed over giant gorges and rivers, with twisty curves through lush mountains, and I was tempted to just stay on the free road but was determined to make the coast by nightfall.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5)

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