Mexico had put the fear of God in me. A few months previous I met Nigel Brennan, a journalist kidnapped in Somalia for over a year, warning me “just stay clear of Mexico, it’s the kidnap capital of the world”. Great. Add to that the incredibly sad story of two experienced globetrotting-cyclists, a German and Pole, being found dead a few weeks ago at the bottom of a ravine on my intended route. With one of the poor fellows decapitated and minus a foot, you can start to see where my angst was coming from. Oh, and the police had initially claimed it looked like an accident, if you can fathom it.
And so with a lot less euphoria than usual in tumbling into a new country, I set across the Guatemalan-Mexico border, rubber pants tied up to my nipples. I was then ejected and told to piss-off back to Guatemala. Border control didn’t cite the rubber pants as a factor, but clearly Mexico was going to be tough.
You can read more about that particular event here but eventually I made it. In fairness to those that claim Mexico is an outstandingly beautiful country worth visiting, I would absolutely concur – I visited years ago and loved it. However, there are areas that are unsafe no matter what people tell you, and particularly so at night. That last bit was a problem: on my first day I was stuck in a massive traffic jam in thirty-five-degree heat at almost midnight just outside of buttfu*k nowhere. I had been stuck for three hours. Beleaguered and pouring with sweat, I pulled over to the side of the road and passed out in a fog of truck fumes and cacophony of spluttering engines. Dying embers of brain activity left me with the thought ‘I hope that guy over there with the big gun is friendly”.
Parking between trucks that had also pulled over for the night, it was paramount I kept a low-profile. Unfortunately Izzy mistook low-profile for the “hello everyone I’m parked over here!” profile, blurting her over-sensitive car-alarm every time a truck tumbled on passed. I would gauge that I amassed perhaps two hours sleep before five am. Creaking open my Troopy doors to the outside world, the man with the gun wandered over and I almost shut the doors again. A security guard for god knows what, he was about to end his shift and so chatted amiably about this and that, with my addled brain doing what it could to keep up in Spanish, my eyes marvelling at the pump-action shotgun slung around his neck that people seem to casually carry in this part of the world.
Breakfast of Champions
Feeling that I deserved a little respite, I headed straight to the beautiful Puebla for breakfast, a colonial city jewelled with narrow cobblestone streets of rainbow coloured houses and modern cafes. I can rarely remember a cup of tea in a Melbourne-type café ever tasting so wonderful. Whilst a good portion of my brain collectively sighed in relaxation, a nagging internal voice interrupted “you volunteered to do this shit!”. Quiet at the back!
Sticking to the highways with the countless trucks, I trundled along passed cities and wind farms and cathedrals, passing winding mountains and rivers, stopping for photos and the occasional break in the never ending oppressive heat. I would have to traverse 1600 miles in Mexico, and I felt every inch. Whether it was the knowledge of my trip coming to a natural end or the fact I was simply dog-tired, I was ready for a rest. I’d aged considerably in the last few weeks.
It’s a truism of travelling this way that when you’re truly feeling it, when you can sense your soul being ground down a bit, there’s always something around the corner that can make you feel it some more. With that, the heavens opened and it rained ferociously for the next six hours. Then I hit a car. In my defence, am not sure what kind of lunatic drives in the pouring rain without lights and speeds up on the inside lane when someone is indicating to pull over, however I did hit him. Whilst Izzy had a minor barely noticeable scratch, their entire fender was completely ruined. I didn’t want the police, they really didn’t want the police as they’re scared of them (quite right, thinks I), and a little over $100 saw them skedaddle quickly the hell out of there, and I followed suit in the opposite direction. America was now only a few hundred miles away, and I almost screwed it completely.
However, the US of A brought its own complications. In fact, a lot of the trip hinged on it. I had a 25-year-old unfamiliar Australian vehicle with the steering wheel on the wrong side that I wanted to import permanently and make exempt from all the usual environmental standards and checks. All that despite being a foreign national with no fixed abode or American driving license, and a voice which to them sounds like I should be a RAF pilot from 1940’s Britain. “Talley-ho, Tarquin! We’re off to bomb the Jerries!”. What could possibly go wrong?
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here