Return to Mainland Mexico

Written by Evan

The overnight ferry ride from La Paz brought us into what feels like a new country – lush green hillsides, with lots of moisture hanging in the air.  Mazatlan is a beautiful and vibrant city, and was a big change from Baja.  We enjoyed fresh fruit and shrimp from the local markets, relaxed and swam at the local beaches , and biked around the city on the free hostel bicycles.  We also met a friendly bicycle tourer at our hostel from Cancun, doing a tour through Baja.

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Secure parking in Matazlan Hostel.  It was hot and sweaty!
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Fresh shrimp from the shrimp market
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Biking to the beach
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Beach front parking
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Michelle relaxing on the beach

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Fresh produce markets
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Day trip to a nearby island
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Body surfing

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After Mazatlan, we headed inland on the expensive, boring, and monotonous toll roads* of Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Jalisco complete with heavy military patrols to Tequila – home of Tequila! A quick couple nights in Tequila and a tour of Casa Sauza with our friends Mike and Lynsey, brought us to the beautiful city of Colima via the fun twisty slow roads of Jalisco.  In Colima, we were lucky enough to be in town for a traditional dance and music festival that was going on in the main square. 

* A note on toll roads – the toll roads in Mexico are very expensive, but generally (so far) very good.  One of the big benefits is that the toll roads avoid towns, so riding is fast and continuous.  The non toll road option (liberamente) will go through each town, which adds considerable time to a trip.  They are also much more twisty and will have varying road surface, along with many topes (speed bumps) that slow travel considerably.  Needless to say the toll roads are generally boring, while the free option is usually much more interesting.  Throughout a lot of our initial travel through mainland, we used the toll roads for safety.  Sinaloa and Michoacan in particular are not the best states to freely travel through at this time due to narco activities, so toll roads are the safest way to get through.  

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Margaritas in Tequila
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Flooded road near the coast
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Music and dance festival in Colima

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Zihuatanejo in the state of Guerrero was our next destination – along the wonderfully twisty and scenic coastal road 200 through Michoacan.  After pounding so much pavement and toll roads, this was one of the best rides of the trip.  The Michoacan coast is stunning, and warrants more exploration in the future.  Zihuatanejo was one of the highlights of the trip so far – beautiful green mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop to beaches with perfect waves for swimming and body surfing.  The local markets were the best so far – lively and hot – with amazing cheap fresh produce.  To cap it all off, we scored a bungalow for a week right off the beach at a low last minute off-season price – with a kitchen and view of the ocean.  We indulged ourselves on daily fridge chilled watermelon, various homemade margaritas, and bakery goods.  

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The only photo we snapped along the gorgeous coast ride to Zihuatanejo
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View of the ocean from our bed
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Our daily walk to the market
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Interesting market life
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We learned they inject and feed chickens with pigment from marigolds to get them to be appear very yellow
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Freshly made tortillas- delicious!
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Porch living at our bungalow
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Michelle’s bike needed a rear light repair- a quick fix thanks to this guy
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Fast moving market employee- delivering a whole pig to their booth
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Meat in the market

The week quickly came to an end, and it was time to travel back through Michoacan to the city of Patzcuaro, a town that was founded in the 1320’s and is high up in the mountains.  One more blast on the toll road, brought us into much cooler weather (heat index was well over 100 F all week in Zihuatanejo).  Patzcuaro did not disappoint – fall weather, a great trail and road run up to a highpoint above town, amazing city squares with jazz music playing from hidden speakers, and good food were a big change from the beach lifestyle we have been getting used to.  Patzcuaro was also a change in culture – with much more prevalent indigenous population.  While the city is beautiful, there are a lot of beggars and street peddlers reminding you about the daily struggle for so many people.  

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Indigenous women walking the streets of Patzcuaro
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Street markets in Patzcuaro
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Women feeding birds in Plaza Grande
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Gertrudis Bocanegra Library with a mural of Michoacan’s history
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Tasty street food
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Morning run above the clouds- Volcan del Estribo
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Nothing like a big set of stairs to finish off a morning run
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Success
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Navigating the sidewalks as we exit Patzcuaro

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A quick stop up the road in Morelia before heading to Mexico City.

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Moralia- the capital of Michoacan
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Art show in Moralia
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Morelia Cathedral, constructed in 1705
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Day of the Dead merchandise was out in full swing- we enjoyed the candy skulls!

We had been warned multiple times about all the traffic in Mexico City by other travelers (and locals), and were particularly a little bit nervous heading into the city.  Entering in from the west, it felt like the Pacific Northwest, with large pine trees and cool weather.  We hit traffic a few miles from our destination (Oscar and Mariana – old friend from Fort Collins who was gracious enough to host us and our bikes!), and tried to bypass on side streets, only to get sucked into a highway leading us further away.  Eventually we made it – and it wasn’t as bad as we expected.  This was the first big city traffic of the trip, as we have stayed mostly in smaller towns.  We attempted to lane split and “ride like the locals”, but with our saddle bags fully packed, and very tight traffic, we were not able to split through like the other motos, but at least got a little practice in for riding further south.  

Oscar and Mariana live in a trendy part of town known as La Condesa.  In addition to having a wonderful 7th story condo, they are amazing hosts.  From being our tour guides to welcoming us into their home and storing our bikes, we can not express just how appreciative we are for their overwhelming kindness!  

Both Oscar and Mariana were kind enough to take us around the city – from the very expansive archaeology museum: National Museum of Anthropology, the Chapultepec Castle, downtown, markets, and restaurants, we had a great stay in the city.  Pictures will not do justice to the parks, greenery, and trees that fill the city – you simply need to visit yourself!

Unfortunately on the way into the city, Michelle’s front brake suddenly became funky – in the slow speed traffic, braking would cause violent shaking to the bike.  Close by was a Suzuki dealership – through translation issues, confusion, and general disorganization, both bikes ended up having much more work done than we wanted, for a much more expensive bill than we wanted.  At least the bikes are looking like new now though!

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We stopped for drinks at an upstairs restaurant with a view of the city
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Our night out on the town
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Mexico City has incredible forested parks
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We woke up to Mariana and Oscar preparing breakfast for us- they surely outdid themselves!
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Incredible tamales!!
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With Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
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The Day of the Dead spirit in Mexico was so much fun to witness!
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An old church built in the early 1500’s
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Cow tongue anyone?
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Or how about cow stomach?
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Day of the Dead altar
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Visiting the Anthropology museum
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Cuidad de Mexico
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We signed Fort 2 Fuego inside the lamp of a fun Cuban restaurant
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View from Chapultepec Castle
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Pocket park in Mexico City

From Mexico City, we took a detour trip to Chicago for Michelle’s sister’s wedding.  We truly enjoyed our visit to Chicago, spending time with family, and the wedding celebrations!  In addition, it was nice to get a break from wearing the same clothes everyday (we had a box of stashed clothes in Chicago) and to be able to communicate easily with everyone (as our Spanish speaking skills are still lacking).  The week went by too fast and we feel badly for not being able to visit with as many of Michelle’s friends as we wished we could have!

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Michelle with her mom and sister, Diane
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We managed to sneak in a quick visit with our good friends, Magen and George
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Fall biking in Illinois

 

Map of our route:

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9 thoughts on “Return to Mainland Mexico

  1. Beautiful pictures and stories…can’t wait for the next update!

    We loved having you back in Chicago for a bit!!!

    Talk to you soon!
    Love, Mom & Dad

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  2. Great to catch up on your journey, Michelle and Evan! Awesome photos and great writing, Evan. So glad you guys caught up w George&Magen. Your journey looks amazing and I am so glad you guys are out there doing what you’re doing. I’m taking a break from FB so I’m late catching up with your adventures, but happy to see the wedding was great and you got to see family. We’re still working on remodeling the house and look forward to skiing this winter, although it’s been SO warm in CO. Love you guys and keep up the amazing posts! XOXO

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