Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mexico to Texas

Corona, family size. 940ml.

The road is long...

Dark clouds filled the skys of south Mexico every afternoon.

Corona, kid's size. 190ml.

San Cristobal of Mexico. It looked peaceful but for the past 15 years, there were blood.

Every afternoon in San Cristobal we would go to this cafe to have a coffee and it is not uncommon to see old ladies and young kids approching foreigners to purchase their souvenirs. We always shake our head although we like the stuff. I think they should be encouraged to go to school. Then i saw this old man. he bought some color markers and some painting stuff to give it to the kids to draw and color on the paper with cartoons. these kids put down their souvenirs on hand and started enjoying coloring. Thumbs up for what this old man did. He introduced the joy and intrest of going to school for them instead of buying things from them.

two happy customers outside REI store with their new tent replaced free of charge.

Self explained.

one of the old church in San Cristobal.

San Cristobal was a town situated at 2000meters above sea level. It had the coolest weather in Mexico. For the past 3 nights we had been staying there and walked around the peaceful town, drinking coffee, watching people and do some touristy shopping. While we were riding through the tiny lanes in the town, a guy came to me and asked if we were looking for a place to stay as he owed a hostel by the corner. Cool!

Our time in San Cristobal was great although it drizzle daily from 2pm till dark. I saw a very nice ‘Maya’ painting which I wanted to buy. it cost about S$25.00. It was a painting of the main feature of a Maya God and was being burnt onto the leather, not paint or ink. It exhibits the side view of the God which some how looked like the Egyptian type, very rustic looking, portrait like a scroll. Yet the colors being filled on the important part of the God, with the use of deep minded colors had attracted all human eyes that had browsed thro. I decided to walk on to see if there are more of it.

Then there was a lady in her late 20s, sitting by selling DVDs. She was a little bit punk looking with a ring studded on her lower lips which I can’t put my eyes away from it when she spoke. From far we could see the covers of the DVDs were all black and white, all being Xeroxed for cheap productions.

I would not want to reveal over this blog what she was promoting. The DVD was not cheap. I decided to use the money for that ‘Maya’ painting to buy 6 of her DVDs. I was not sick. She is no witch. She spoke good English and could explain the details of every DVD that I took up. I had no regrets on buying them. I had been looking for such DVD for a long time. I asked her would she be in trouble with the police for selling such DVDs?

‘the policemen here are very native and ignorant. They do not know what are all these films.’

Sam and I managed to watch 2 of them in the hostel. It had left me a scar.

We have to move on. We were being too lazy in San Cristobal de la Casa of Mexico.

Wanting to be in USA for 4th of July was the aim. Until today, we had not stay in a place more then a night after San Cristobal.

I was very pleased with the officer that did my import permit for Hope Too. This was the first time that a custom officer would give me a feedback form to rate their service. Then I had good image of the government policies. We traveled on the highway of Mexico which there would be many toll stations. The system here is like Italy where it is a FAIR SYSTEM. The cars would pay as low as the motorbikes, if you view it from the ass hole.

To be direct, motorbikes had to pay the same as the car on the highway. I read a guy’s report about riding a bike in Mexico’s highway would cost US$1.00 for every 10km. That is to escape the minor roads where speed bums would appear on average every 20-50meters when the road gets near to a junction, schools, villages or towns. These speed bum would shorten the life span of Hope Too’s chain, brakes, tires, cables and anything you could think of. I don’t see these speed bums saved lives. There’s a strange system of traffic rules here.

Sometimes traveling on the main road, the car in front of me would suddenly stop and give way to the vehicles on the side road. I had to jam Hope Too to a halt. There isn’t any stop line or traffic lights. I told myself:

‘maybe he is giving way to his father-in-law or someone that he knew’

San Cristobal was the only city we stayed more than 2 nights in Mexico. we continued the journey by the East Coast towards USA. After 5 days of riding, we reached the USA/Mexico border.

Along the way, we met ‘fake police’ trying to stop us in a taxi. We took a video on that! One of the nights in room, someone tried to open our door. We stayed in a Mexican motel at the border. We endured the summer heat and managed to ride the lonely highway day and night to Houston from the Mexican border.

Here, we are staying with Dave. He had been a great host, drove us around Houston. Riding at such summer is a NO FUN thing. The best of what we did was visiting the Singapore Café! It’s the first time we had Singapore food since 1st January 2008, which was about 18 months ago.

We did some admin stuff here like repairing our tent, bought a SIM card, got a new waterproof bag, gather USA travel information, doing our heavy laundry and doing major repair for Hope Too.

We ordered the REI tent online and it was shipped to Singapore before we started the trip. We had been using it a lot especially in Europe and south America. The Patagonia wind had blew fine sand into the tent and had damaged the zippers. Dave took us to REI, asking if they could help us to repair the zippers. Their answer was that they could only recommend us a vendor that does the zip repair, and that is far away in north east of USA, in Seattle. Dave asked and asked and asked the lady is there a third option, finally she agreed on one to one exchange! Now we had a new tent for free! Is this America?

When we reached Texas, everything was so big. Fast food was everywhere. I went into a shop to get a bottle of engine oil while Sam was outside waiting. When I came out, a pretty lady was speaking to her in English. Her husband was also a biker and wanted to invite us to her house. I was a bit in a culture shock after 11 months of Latin America.

Along the way to Houston, about 500km away, we stopped by Mac Donald’s at 430pm for lunch. There was a free WIFI and we could do some checks. I walked to the counter and saw the lady was blond. I was wondering if she could speak English. It was kind of funny when I communicate in English. You may find it ridicules that what’s wrong speaking English to her. Well, for the past 11 months when we walked into a fast food restaurant, we could only order by numbers and answer a yes or no question, if the question was not complicated. Now we could speak without using my hands.

And the funny thing was when we were in Latin America, we felt that we were very peaceful in the restaurants because everyone spoke Spanish and we didn’t knew or understand what the guys over at the next table was talking about. It just felt like it was music playing and we do not need to hold any attention on what they said. Now, we could overhear the conversation from the next table and our mind got into ‘Working Mode’.

Bad thing about today was that Hope Too had some incurable disease that I would not put it under the hands of a Latin America mechanic. We endured till Dave’s house and we could look for a proper person to work on it. We went to Houston Motorcycle Exchange, paid US$245.29 for Engine oil change, oil filter change, spark plug change, a small gasket change and topping up of brake fluid (WHICH I COULD DO IT MYSELF as I had all the spares with me). The only thing which he did was to check the compression ratio of the cylinder (US$30) which I couldn’t do. That Tommy guy, didn’t want to do my stuff, instead, he recommended me to try changing oil and spark plugs to see if the problem is still there. Yes, the problem is still there and it became worst. He rode Hope Too around, tested it and came back talking to me and I did not know that he already instruct his mechanic to start draining the engine oil without my permission!

Well, after some checks, I wanted the most important thing to be done and he tell me he DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO IT!

I guess there is a crisis here and that made this Tommy guy desperate in getting my hard earn money. We are just disappointed with them.

On the sunny side, we bought a Canon G10 camera online and now waiting for it to be shipped to Dave’s address, despite of the request of sponsorship letter I emailed to Canon Singapore twice, about a month or so ago, which they had not replied. Anyone wants to read that letter?

In Houston, we are planning to visit the NASA site, go to some free museums, celebrate 4th of July with the Americans and finish the DVD that we had bought in Mexico, only after Hope Too’s problem is solved.

We had Bah Kut teh, Sambal kangkong, hokkien mee and nasi lemak for the first time after 18 months! i told Dave that Singaporean like me actually do not have dining etiquette; we enjoyed the food more than the table. do you agree?

We were in a camp site having our tea time. this busload of kids waved to us in the bus as they are about to leave the campsite. 10 seconds later, the bus put on reverse gear and came back to us. about 30 of them came down wanted to take picture with aliens, which was us. Gladly we did. then i showed them what we were doing here, took out our world map and show the kids and the adults where Singapore is and where we had been. they were certainly impressed. Then we had to take picture with them one by one, and they blessed us with their heart. We kissed on the cheeks, we hug and we shake hands. I was glad to do this but after they left, we went shower again, not to say that they are dirty but to be safe of the popular flu here.

After driving for about 10 hours on the road towards Dave's home, we managed to meet Dave when we arrived at his doorstep. he just came back from somewhere. we were so lucky. He also prepared Tiger beer for us!

San Cristobal.

Lets see if Hope Too is heavy enough for the hurricane.

The bridge from Mexico to Texas, was jammed. i had to wait in queue under the 1230pm sun.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nicaragua and Honduras

I will keep the border crossing in a summary later when I reach USA. Generally, pay and pay for it.

Nicaragua was quiet easy going. We found that the people were very much respectful to us. The aim in Nicaragua was to look for a lost friend. She is the wife of consulate, embassy of Brazil in Singapore. They left Singapore 2 years before our trip and we lost contact. She was my classmate.

When I was in brazil, I searched on the internet for their location. They are holding the position of the brazil embassy in Nicaragua. When I reached the embassy few days ago, I was told by the staff that my friend had moved backed to Brazil. So we had no more plans in Nicaragua, just to move on, meet who ever that come in our way.

A small cool town in Honduras.

There are many of these ruins in Mexico, Guatamala and Honduras. They are in the Maya period. We can't afford to visit although some travels that we met will always say that we must visit this and we 100% must not miss that. We are quite selective on where we want to spent the money and time on. We are traveling with a guide book. The guide book recommanded readers to engage a guide for the Copan Ruina. US$25 per guide. Anyway, before we engage the guide, we would know what he would say and explain.

This is the place where the Maya king held the ceromany.

That is the stone when every villagers come in and had to bow the head to.

This stone is placed in the position that it is facing the East so that...... and during the sunset, the shadows would........

This is where the king and the queen sleep and have their bath.......

well, for us we are not quite intrested in these tales. what is for what, who did what. there are no proper documantation for all these descriptions. it was all assumptions by the locals, by the scientis and with a bit of folk tales influence. we just enjoy the environment, beautiful stones and structures, big trees and nature.

to visit the tunnel, we have to pay extra US$15 per person for the 20meters tunnel. we didn't went in but one of the guard at the tunnel door wanted to sell us 'on site tickets' which is cheaper. It could be a good deal, maybe we pay $3 per person to the guard and we can see the tunnel. Sam reminded me, although it might be US$3, the money goes to the guard's pocket and the guard will be happy. If we pay the fee to the ticket office at US$15, the office will use this money and make the site better.

the above is self explained. can you see the altar?

the trees that grew up on the stone beds reacted strangely. thick roots will crawl around like snake on the ground for long distance, away from the tree.

Does the Mayas ruin looked like the Cambodia's Angkot Wat?

the above is AD2009, the below is an imaginery picture of what it was.

this tree is huge! we loved being close to the trees.

this is the proportion of me, in red shirt and the tree.

another view of that tree in the ruin.

the picture below is another imaginery prediction with some clues found on site (the picture above), that what had happened during AD200. on top of it is a huge canvas to shelter the ruins from sun and rain.

We spotted these colorful birds. they are so close to us and kept chatting very loudly.

half minute after i took this picture, these 2 birds flew into Sam's direction, so close to her. I think they are used to humans around.

Look at the bird's facial expression, they might need more exercise.

there is a place/province in Honduras by the name of 'Gracias a dios', which means: thanks to God.
we will be going to El Salvador in 2 days time, stay there for 2 days and reach Guatamala and will be out of Guatamala in 4 day's time, reaching Mexico.
good luck to us in Guatamala.