When Gaila and I started into Mexico, we had a couple of expectations:
1. Diving into the local culture as much as possible
2. Eating as many street tacos as we could find
3. Appreciate the beauty of this wonderful country – from cities to mountains to beachs, etc.
4. Find fun roads and ride dirt whenever it made sense.
5. Volutneer at least once
Well, we accomplished all of these and then some in marvelous Mexico. Our original plan was to get safely across the border (thanks for worrying everyone) and then meander down to Real de Catorce then to Guanajato where we were schedule to volunteer with the Muskoka Foundation. www.dogoodasyougo.org or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/Muskoka.Foundation?fref=ts Super cool peeps doing great work.
Well, I can’t say enough great things about Muskoka or Guanajato. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanajuato,_Guanajuato among others. Our 10 days in this magical place gave a great Mexican perspective, great food and the chance to meet and help some amazing children. See Gaila’s post about the Boys of Irapuato here: http://www.overlandnow.com/?p=1481. The work that Katie Clancy and her team are doing down there is just amazing. Such big hearts and so much giving!!
But I digress. This is actually meant to be a story about the unexpected. Ends up some of the other volunteers helping out the week we were down there were all participating in a thing called the 2012 Maya “End of the World Rally. Well, now that certainly got my attention. First because they were all such cool people and two because I love to compete and three they had a pretty cool / fun journey targeted. Not to mention a potential End of the World Party!! www.mayarally.com It was introduced to me in this way:
The MAYA RALLY is a multi-week, multi-national, expedition scavenger hunt and challenge course. It pits teams of overland drivers in their own vehicles against one another and the elements, traverses thousands of miles of variable and unknown terrain, enters rarely-seen locations far off the beaten track, and spans countless foreign horizons.
The MAYA RALLY is an overland adventure distilled to its most raw form: there is a start, there are designated challenges which must be completed for points, and there is a finish. Everything else is up to you.
There is no route. There is no support. There are few rules.
If you break your will, if you break your body, or if you break your ride, you are on your own.
At a remote point deep in the forests of Latin America, at the farthest reaches of your long and perilous journey, you will be received by an End of the World celebration in your honor, and if you win, recognized with a healthy reward.
That is, if you make it.
So, now that I have your attention, let me tell you that we signed up for the adventure. We wouldn’t be Tad & Gaila – adventure overlanders if we didn’t!! This intro video will give you some idea of the fun we were in for. https://vimeo.com/37753277 Now, as it ends up Gaila and I were two of three bikes that ultimately participated in the rally. Next time I hope there will be many more. On the motorcycles we had some advantages – like sneaking through road blockades and we had disadvantages – like no driving at night! Unfortunately the third bike, Andy from the UK did not make the finish due to some real challenges! Lots of the daily updates for the rally where here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150768596142570.431376.707417569&type=1#!/MayaRally
For Gaila and I this was a whole new way to travel. While we had partipated in several BMW MOA and related rallies (Thank you GS Giants in Arkansas, Ribfest in Tennessee and Swamp Scooters in Louisiana.) we had never done a moving rally. Let alone one in ‘dangerous’ Mexico. After a little pressure at the “welcome” party to join we did indeed sign up and get our rally packet – the same day all the other competitors got theirs too. Aside from us, there was one other couple – Nate and Sarah, who joined with the same uncertainty and enthusiasm we had. They are driving a big Dodge diesel truck with their belongings for at least a year – including the dog :-). So with a brave introduction to the other competitors Overland Now was off like the rest.
Gaila and I have built some awesome friendships due to this great event and have seen Mexico in a way we would not have otherwise. While the pace might have been a bit fast to dig in too deep at any individual stop it was challenging and inspiring nonetheless.
These people all deserve a special call out: Bryan and Jen (The Dangerz), Enrique Vega, Jeff and Monica, Bryon & Anthony, Nate & Sarah and Katie and Alex to be sure. Our time with Matt & Isabelle, Christian and Persephone, Chris & Liz, Andy and frankly everyone else was just marvelous. Thank you all for making this so special. The fact that we have been lucky enough to meetup with many of you sense the rally in our travels south of Mexico makes the friendships just that much deeper. Travel well one and all!
For the vast majority of our travels Gaila and I have had no particular schedule. Yes, we had to make the Haas Family Reunion, yes we went to the GS Giants rally and such, but those where all of our choosing. As ultimately this was too, but just different. The route, while not laid out for us, it did require specific treasure hunt type stops and we had to be a the end location – Bacalar Mexico on Jan 20th – End of the World Eve. So we felt a little time pressure. Indeed, at times we got pretty cranky with each other and even felt cheated as we knew this was causing us to miss some of the sites and sounds of Mexico. On the other hand, it gave us direct exposure to other things that we would have likely missed.
These are some of the things we saw:
- villages buried by volcanic rocks (ie big explosions!)
- Mayan and other local cultures galore
- crazy Mexican roads
- beautiful landscapes – lakes (Laguna), mountains, valleys, rios (rivers), beaches (playa)
- wild food (crickets, corn mold & tripe)
- police and army
- political protests and roadblocks
- butterfly reserves
Here is how we finished:
- 1st Place in motorcycles (as noted above Andy didn’t finish)
- So much to our surprise Gaila and I finished 3rd place overall. The top two teams Brian & Jen from Team Dangerz (1967 VW Bus!! http://www.thedangerz.com/maya-rally-oaxaca/) and Anthony & Bryon from Team Astrid (a serious 80 Series Land Cruiser http://www.overlandnomads.com/category/overlandnomads-blog/ and www.exploringelements.com were ions ahead of us in points and effort. Both teams are winners in my book! Glad I wasn’t one of the judges. G & I tried for points but to be honest I didn’t think we had much of a chance given our inability to ride at night and our stop-over to see our ADVCartel friend Lance and his beautiful family & home in Cuarnavaca. However, I think the judges gave us bonus points for the bikes and some of our specific adventures. Most directly the political road block. While many/most of the other teams got stopped at the roadblock, we were able to weasle our way through. Partly because the bikes would fit and partly because we just got brave and went for it! Being on the motorcycle makes us so much more IN the moment and approachable such that locals are often willing to help us out. Squeezing Lucille (Tad’s F800GS) and Sassy Pants (Gaila’s F650GS Twin) through the trucks, buses, taxis and pedestrians was no easy task. In fact, G hurt her foot pretty good when she caught it on a big log they had in place to help block vehicle progress. Fortunately she was alright and we made it through with no real incident. Well, the bus that almost squeezed her out might be a good story too. Wish I could upload all the videos instantly. There is some pretty fun & scary stuff in them.
What we learned – among the many other little life and travel lessons…:
- we don’t like traveling under a time pressure (at least not on this trip)
- Tad can be way too competitive duh!
- People are what matter the most
- Be open minded and good things happen
Would we do it again? Well I certainly would. Not sure about Gaila. I think she was quite frustrated at giving up our freedom and the sites and sounds she was hoping for in Mexico. The good news is that we get to come back to this awesome country and hope to spend close to a month tooling around the Western beaches, Mexico City area and the beauty of Copper Canyon and other awesome mountains. As we all know by now the world didn’t come to and end – not that we really thought it would. Sure was a good excuse for challenging fun though. So, this one is in the books and is cataloged as a wonderful life experience! (More pictures below.)
Footnote: after asking Gaila if she would do it again – she said yes! Life rocks!