Northern Mexico

October 26 – November 3, 2011

As we traveled through Canada and the USA we remained in our comfort zone but now that we were about to enter Mexico I was feeling a little bit anxious. Mexico had been having a lot of bad publicity and it wasn’t the safest time to be traveling through it. We spoke to many people, asked a lot of advice and we were warned that the violence was out of control. Mexico was in the midst of a drug war and to make things more complicated the police and politicians were involved in the corruption. I was nervous and I seriously considered skipping past Mexico. Not only had gun shootings become common but many decapitated bodies had been found. I was afraid, and of course, Rocky wasn’t. He believes that the brave may not live for long but the cautious do not live at all. And I on the other hand believed that his new mustache gave him a false sense of security (I still think he deliberately grew it to fit in).

We decided on crossing into Mexico through Nuevo Laredo, Texas. This town reminded me of an 80’s gang movie with all the teardrop tattoos, thick gold crosses and low riding Cutlass Supremes with hydraulic systems and fat, shiny, spinning rims. From what we were told, border towns were the most dangerous. We spoke with various people we had met throughout our travels, many had told us we were going to get killed and the others had given us advise and rules on crossing into Mexico.

We were to:

  • keep a distance from the border at night
  • cross the border in the early morning
  • get all the proper necessary paperwork from the border officials (to avoid fines when exiting Mexico)
  • not, for any reason, pull over on the highway (high jacking is common)
  • keep driving until we are as far south from t-he border as possible
  • do not -stop in Monterey city
  • avoid cops and drug dealers
  • We were going to spend the night in Nuevo Laredo and cross the border early the next morning, so we found a place to camp down a dead end street. The road ended where a gated field began and bushes kept us hidden from the open space. It was a large farm area with an abandoned trailer and at least a half a dozen of the most beautiful pure white cows I had ever known to exist.

    It was a warm night and the outer layer of the tent was unzipped, exposing the mesh and ourselves to a nice breeze. As we laid in the tent that night watching stuff on the laptop, I had this creepy feeling that we were being watched. Rocky blamed my paranoia on the weed we just smoked and I tried to convince myself that he was right. Almost an hour had passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling and I kept turning my focus outside of the tent. Suddenly, I saw something or someone move in the darkness. My heart dropped and I stopped breathing as my eyes caught more movement. “Rocky, now did you see that? Look over there beside the fence, watch. I just heard a noise in that direction and I saw something move.”

    With our faces pressed to the mesh of our tent we both noticed an arm wave through the air in the distance.
    “Holy shit Paula, there is someone out there. I’m going to go talk to him, it looks like he’s waving me over. Are you coming with me?”
    “Hell no, are you fucking crazy Rocky? I’ll stay here, I’m freaking out. ”

    I watched as Rocky approached the figure and then walk back over to me shortly after.

    “That was weird. I’m pretty sure that man lives in the trailer. He smelled like he’s homeless and he was wearing his belt over his shoulder. I told him that we were going to spend the night here and he told me that he wasn’t from this realm. Everything else he said was in and out of coherence.” Oddly enough, I didn’t feel threatened or frightened anymore. The man just seemed to be curious of the the two homeless people camped outside his realm.

    The following morning we decided to wait one more day before crossing the border. We wanted to make sure that we were well prepared by exchanging some money, organizing all of our ID and documents, getting a good night sleep for an early long morning and leaving behind the pipe we were given in Colorado to avoid being charged with paraphernalia. So, if you ever find yourself in Nuevo Laredo, Texas without a pipe, look HERE, hidden along the fence.

    With everything ready, we decided to spend the night back at our comfy dead end boulevard. We decided to get up at 6:30am so that our things would be packed and we’d be having breakfast by 7:30 and crossing the border at about 8am. It sounded like a solid plan until Rocky woke me up at 4:30am trying to get me going early. It was the middle of the night and there was NO way I was willing to go at that time. For the next hour Rocky acted like a snooze alarm I was ready to smash his button. It was 5:30am and I was not happy to be awake. We packed our belongings and rode in the dark to Subway for breakfast. It was closed of course, because you would have to be crazy to be up that early, so we rode to another subway a few blocks closer to the border. By the time we got there we just had to wait almost half of an hour before it opened. Exhausted and grumpy about getting up extra early for nothing, we finally got to the border.

    There was a huge line of people trying to cross from Mexico into the US, I was happy we were the only ones crossing into Mexico. We entered awkwardly as guards just simply stared at us from a distance. ‘Are we going the right way? Do you want to know who we are, where we are going, why we are going, whether we have passports?’ We crossed without being questioned and I wondered if they were intimidated by our helmet camera.

    The moment we were in Mexico everything was different. The air was warm and thick, people were on the streets shouting for our attention to sell us insurance and probably other things. We ignored the commotion and drove two blocks and through a parking lot before finding an immigration office I thought it was inconveniently hidden. It was still early morning when we got to the building but after waiting in a few long lineups to have all the necessary documents to enter ourselves and the motorcycle through the country we were finally getting back on the road well past noon.

    I had contacted a guy through named Orlando and he welcomed us to stay with him and his family in Ciudad Victoria, a city far enough south from the border. We wanted to ride all the way there without stopping but there was no possible way of that happening. We needed gas and became hungry. As we rode though the (allegedly) dangerous and beautiful city named Monterey we decided to stop (even though we we warned against doing so) and we ate at Pollio Loco (Crazy Chicken). We ate quickly and got back on the road as soon as possible. A full stomach was not helping with our exhaustion as we rode down the highway, and Rocky decided he had to pull over. We had already broken a rule by stopping in Monterey and now Rocky pulled over so that he could take a quick nap on the side of the highway. I wondered if he was crazy and I reminded him of the rules we were to follow but he told me we had two options, either crash the bike as he fell asleep riding or take the chance of being hijacked. Uhgg, my nerves were tweaking and I kept attention as he took a power nap. A half hour later we were back on the road, Rocky was refreshed but my eyes were burning with exhaustion.

    The sun was setting as we finally arrived at Orlando’s home, it was an incredibly beautiful home that his family had build over many years. He lived with his sweet mother Romy, his kind father Rigo, his younger sister Tania and his 3 dogs named Mick Jagger, Lolo, Chachara. Orlando was excited to hear about our journey and asked us to join him on a tour of the city. We unpacked some things and I immediately took a shower because I was hoping it would wake me up a bit, and living in a tent doesn’t exactly smell pretty. We walked around for a couple of hours as Orlando gave us the history on Ciudad Victoria, the capital city, of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. We stopped at a patio to enjoy real fruit and herb slushies while exchanging thoughts on life. It was almost 10pm by the time we got back to his house and exhaustion hit me like a ton a bricks. My energy was completely drained, my eyes were crossing and I became very light headed and dizzy. I laid in bed to fight the hot flashes as my body was struggling to fight whatever was overcoming me. I became violently ill vomiting everything in my stomach past the point of anything being left in there but bile and I finally passed out cold. Morning came and we had plans with Orlando to visit his work and meet the kids he taught at school. He was a teacher and the school was having a BBQ party that day, unfortunately, I couldn’t go. I began puking again the moment I woke up and I simply had no energy. Luckily, Orlando’s mom Romy worked at a hospital and she offered to bring me into work with her, I gratefully accepted. We arrived at the hospital and I was immediately taken into a room to lay down. Rocky, Orlando and Romy were all with me for comfort. Soon after, at least 8 student nurses were surrounding my bed as a few other doctors gave orders and lessons on how to treat me.

    As a child, I grew up in a Portuguese household watching Latin soap operas with my mother. They were called telenovelas and they featured the most beautiful Latin people. At that moment as I laid on that hospital bed I felt like I was playing a roll in a telenovela. The students and nurses were dressed all in white, wearing short mini skirts, tight buttoned blouses, baby doll shoes and adorable nurse hats. Their make up was perfectly painted and their hair looking professionally done. I had nurses touching my pulse, pressing my stomach giving me intervenes and needles in my butt cheeks all while a bunch of students are starring at me and Rocky is snapping pictures. It was quite hilarious and I couldn’t stop giggling at the drama unfolding before me.

    I was told that I was dehydrated, exhausted and that I would need to rest until the intervenes rehydrated me, (I still don’t know what the needle in my butt cheek was for). Rocky and Orlando left for the day and Romy worked her shift while I slept, but she checked up on me every half hour until 4pm to make sure I was ok. After sleeping on and off for 6 hours, 2 Gatorades and 4 bags of IV, I was ready to leave with Romy at the end of her shift. I felt much better and I was extremely happy for the treatment I was given by all the hospital staff and my new foreign mama. Romy is such an incredible lady and I will always be grateful for her kindness.

    We arrived back at the house and she cooked something for me to eat. Orlando and Rocky would be gone all day so I was invited to join mom, dad and sis to a birthday party. Feeling much better, I joined. We arrived at rented hall decorated in balloons and I was introduced to many kind strangers who kept trying to feed me. A live band played accordions and sang while everyone joined in to dance. It was truly a great moment to be a part of.

    After the party, we drove to the mall for some ice cream and we waited for Rocky and Orlando to join us. Rocky and I shared our eventful stories, he was very enthusiastic of how great his day went.

    Rocky had spent the day with Orlando, visiting the school at which Orlando taught. He boasted about the tacos he had for lunch that were made by the school lunch lady. According to him, they were the best tacos he had ever eaten. After travelling the length of Mexico, from the U.S. to Belize, Rocky still maintains, to this day, that he has never eaten a better taco. I sort of think he’s just trying to make me jealous. After visiting Orlando’s school, Rocky, Orlando and many of Orlando’s co-workers drove to a nearby town for a work BBQ party. There was live music, tons of food and beer. After the party, Orlando had decided to stop by a resort in the mountains on the way back to the city to take Rocky zip-lining. When they arrived back, Rocky told me that he didn’t try the zip-lining because he said he would have felt bad having so much fun without me, and that he wanted to wait until I was better so that we could both go together.

    The next morning, Rocky and I joined Orlando and his father for breakfast in the city. We had what were called Migaldas; fried tortilla with layers of beans, meat, lettuce, salsa, cheese, sour cream. It was cut into four slices and eaten like a pizza; by far my favourite Mexican meal. With full stomachs, we took a walk until we found ourselves in a nearby museum, it was nice to see and learn a little history. After Orlando’s dad went home, we continued to walk around with Orlando and tour the streets and markets. I had visited Mexico previous to this adventure but I felt like this experience was completely different. The touristy places I had visited in the past did not contain nearly half the culture I had noticed in Ciudad Victoria.

    It was a Friday and Orlando invited some co-workers and friends over for a BBQ party that night. We all hung out in his backyard and garage, ate tons of meat, drank many beers and danced all night.

    The next day, we gathered our energies for an eventful family day. During the first few days at Orlando’s house I kept hearing strange noises, I asked Rocky if he had heard them as well but he hadn’t noticed. It sounded like wild animals, it was really strange. Moments later we were told that we would be visiting a Zoo just a block down the street. I thought I was going crazy when I heard foreign animals roar in the middle of the night but it all began to make sense. After walking around there all day, we all decided go for a walk through more of the city and its markets. Rigo surprised me with a bracelet souvenir/gift and I felt it was really sweet how we were treated with so much heart. We arrived back at their home just after dark after picking up a large order of tacos to go. It was nice to sit around the kitchen table, eating tacos, drinking a bottle of wine that mom and sis had purchased in France during their past vacation and looking through photos of their journey through Europe. We spent the rest of the night preparing to sadly leave the next day, and excited to ride to new places recommended by Orlando and his family.

    We woke up early on Sunday and were invited to share a traditional Sunday soup before leaving. We obviously agreed to join for breakfast and join in on the city’s tradition of eating tripe soup. Every Sunday morning this soup is prepared and it is rumoured to be a hangover cure. I’m not sure if tripe is the stomach or the intestines of a cow but it smelled like either one. I tried but struggled to eat it, Rocky didn’t, he ate his entire bowl full. Luckily for me, there was more food to choose from and I wasn’t forced to feel rude for not eating. I adore Orlando’s family and I am so grateful to have shared such an amazing experience in a country I was told to fear. His family is a perfect example of Mexican hospitality and it was very difficult to say goodbye.

    Our next plan was to head towards the ocean. I had contacted a guy on named Tito and we were welcomed to stay at his home in Tampico, still in the State of Tamaulipas. It took us a few hours before arriving and we had enough time to stop a MacDonald’s for WiFi and coffee. The Mexican McDonalds was strange, the menu was different and a huge jar of jalapeños were placed by all the condiments. My coffee was disgusting. Either it was really strong or there was something horribly wrong with the cream. It took 7 creams to slightly lighten my coffee and it tasted like thick, bitter, powdered milk liquid.

    We arrived at Tito’s house before dark and had the opportunity to meet him, his father, Hector and his brother, Eduardo. We got ready and were invited to go meet a few of his friends at a local bar for a few drinks. Tito was a handsome guy with many lovely looking friends. It was nice to party with a young crowd and we had a great time getting to know everyone. Later that night, we stopped at a small sandwich shop for a drunken snack. ‘Tortas Mary’ offered the best sandwiches I have ever had. I thought that maybe it was the Coronas speaking but after trying them again a couple of days later, I was convinced of their deliciousness. mmm… Just please try and imagine… fresh, soft buns packed with very thin sliced ham and cheese, refried black beans, pork chicharron, ground beef, fresh fried Chorizo, shredded beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, sliced avocado and sauced with salsa verde (spicy Habanero chili salsa) And yes, it was obviously a huge sandwich.

    Tito & RobertoMorning came and Tito decided to skip school because he wanted to hang out with us. We took a road trip to the coast on the Gulf of Mexico and I was surprised by how vacant such a beautiful beach was. Tito said that the ocean was going through a lot of changes from pollutants, many fisherman stopped fishing and people have stopped swimming in the water, such a shame on us humans. There were less than a handful of people swimming, I was one of them. I took a 5 minute dip just to satisfy my salty craving but then felt it would be best if I got out.

    After walking around for the day, Tito explained that he had to work that night and I was welcome to come with him. He owned a pole dancing studio named Polefit and I was about to take lessons on how to pole dance. It was so much fun! My instructor was a strong flamboyant man who was very well experienced at his job. I learned how to do a few moves but I also learned that I needed much more strength for the rest. After one hour Rocky picked me up and we went back to Tito’s house to get ready. While Tito worked the rest of his shift, his friend Roberto came to pick us up. We stopped to grab some more yummy food and ate at his house and drank a few beers. I began to discover how much I truly enjoyed Mexican food. After many stories and much laughter, we all left Roberto’s house to meet up with Tito at a bowling alley. I love bowling and never imagined doing so while on this trip, it was nice to experience a little familiarity of home. We all ordered beers and I was able to taste a type I had never tried. It was called Michelada, and it was a mixture of beer, lemon, salt, soy and Tabasco sauce. I found it to taste as gross as it sounds and I was glad I had ordered a Corona.

    Visiting Tampico and meeting Tito, his family and friends was awesome. It’s a bit sad to have to constantly meet new friends that I have to say bye to so soon, but, it’s also nice to meet so many great friends I will always cherish.

    We left Tampico the following morning and headed to Tamasopo, in the State of San Luis Potosi. The drive there was very beautiful with all the lush greenery around the mountains but it was a difficult ride. Driving through Mexico, you will quickly learn what word ‘Topes’ means on the road signs. Imagine driving down the street going 100km per hour when you see a foreign sign reading ‘Topes’ (sometimes other foreign words are used on signs to describe a Topes) and suddenly, you hit an enormous speed bump that has your tires catch air. Imagine now that these signs are placed randomly to warn you of a huge speed bump that is anywhere from a foot away, up to 50 meters away, also, any where from just one Topes to many Topes and sometimes there are no warning signs at all. Now imagine that you are sitting on the back of a fully loaded motorcycle and every time you ride over a Topes, all the heavy bags stacked on the back of the bike are slapping hard against your back. I don’t hate many things but i certainly HATE Topes. They make for a very annoying difficult ride.

    In Ciudad Victoria, Orlando had recommended we stay at a camp ground with waterfalls in a town called Tamasopo. We finally reached it and our next mission was to ask where we could find the waterfalls. It turned it that we had a few places to choose from. We weren’t exactly sure which was best or exactly where it was located but when we stopped at one of them, we immediately decided to stay there. It was incredibly gorgeous and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There were bathrooms, showers, a restaurant, a lounging area, thick cushy grass to set our tent on, and most importantly at the moment, there was a stunning waterfall surrounding us. Being there felt like bliss and for under $10 per night we decided to stay more than a few days. I loved how simple it was. Heck, I didn’t even care when I found out at night time that the grass beneath our tent was infested with the largest cockroaches I had ever seen (mind you, I insisted that Rocky was careful when entering and exiting the tent because I am super scared and grossed out by them). It didn’t have the nicest of bathrooms, showers or restaurant but that’s what I kind of loved most about it. It wasn’t ruined by greed or tourism. It was simply perfect and definitely a place I would love to visit again.

    After three or four nights of relaxing, drinking beers and swimming we decided it was time to move on. We packed up our bags, left our paradise and headed towards the city of Querétaro, located in the Mexican State of Querétaro.

    Paula in the hospital.

       Paula’s illness on our first night in Mexico resulted in a trip to the local hospital the next day.

    Getting a needle

       Paula received a needle in the butt cheek, an IV, and a good part of the day resting in the good care of Orlando’s mother, Romy

       Orlando (centre), his father (left) and his uncle (right)

       Orlando and his family organized a Friday night BBQ party in Orlando’s garage with his friends and coworkers. In attempt to fit in, I attempted to grow the Chia-Pet peach fuzz seen on my upper lip.

       Orlando’s father, Rigo and mother, Romy

       Orlando & his beautiful family, in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico

       We camped just next to these cascades, one of many located in the region of Tamasopo. We bathed in the water in the morning and afternoon, and enjoyed several days of relaxation.

       Paula in Tamasopo, waiting for everyone to notice her.

    About Rocky