Thursday, July 19, 2012

Epiblog Revisited wherein I carp about this ride...

Note about this post:  For whatever reason the font on this particular post came out really tiny and of undetermined origin. Being one of the fussy types I decided I'd go back and change it to a larger font; this after several weeks of publication. Now the damn thing won't let me do anything with it so I'm attempting to repost the comments in a new post. Clear as mud? Well anyway here's what I've been able to salvage, anything else will have to wait awhile.

Sorry about that, blame the folks at Blogger...



Epiblog Revisited:

Now that my ride to Mexico is history I’d like to share some things with you. I hauled a lot of gear with me and used nearly all of it at one time or another so I’ll talk about that. But first there’s the subject of why a ride planned to last between six and eight weeks got cut to barely two. A number of you have expressed interest in that so I’ll address it first in order to quell speculation. Be assured, my health is fine and the bike performed flawlessly so no issues with either one of those.

Here goes: Why the shortened ride:

For a lot of  people Mexico is the stuff of dreams, warm semi-tropical coastal breezes, prices that make traveling there very agreeable, friendly accommodating people, scenic beauty both natural and that of old Spanish architecture and so on.

That’s all true and available to the discerning eye but it comes at a price; you have to look past the rubble and poverty with living conditions that in some cases are of the lowest possible level. Wherever I went I was constantly overwhelmed with the litter debris – what we would probably call garbage – along the roadsides and surrounding many of the homes. No one seems to be doing anything about it and I expect it’s because there’s nothing to be done. If you haven’t the means to transport the stuff nor a place of deposit – a community dump or land fill – you probably resign yourself to living with it. It’s bloody awful and not likely to get better, ever.

Housing both in rural areas and in the cities varies all over the map but for the most part it didn’t appear to be very nice. Occasionally I’d see a place that looked agreeable enough to live in but many were run down looking and often didn’t appear to be inhabitable. I’m not looking down my nose at those folks; I’ve traveled in third-world countries before and that makes my background one of experience. But for me poverty is not something that becomes more tolerable as exposure is increased, rather it seems to get worse and I really don’t enjoy it.

There is also the matter of how I saw animals being treated. I spent my early youth working summers on my Grandmother’s dairy farm and I understand about slaughtering cattle for food, etc. Still I hate to see farm animals that look like they’re half starved and I saw lots of them in Mexico.

Dogs are another matter to me; I’ve always felt a special kinship with them and when I see one that has been injured badly it nearly kills me emotionally. That happened on the day I journeyed to Loreto; I wasn’t able to write about it then and cannot yet do so. Suffice it to say a dog’s life holds little if any value to some Mexican drivers even though there are lots of dogs running around loose. What I saw was heart breaking.

The shortened ride part two:

This relates to the military presence of the Mexican army and Federal Police both of whom are constantly stopping you and either going through your things or asking the same questions over and over. Wrong responses sometimes elicit the same questions repeated but in a louder more sternly stated manner.  “Language skills 101” does not touch on the evident fact that volume has little to do with comprehension or understanding; a fact that apparently is not part of the Mexican military culture. In my case this only occurred a couple of times but it was still there lurking in their underlying interrogation technique.

For the most part the Mexican army personnel whom I dealt with were friendly and polite; even boisterous at times and more interested in the bike and probably a little amazed at an old gringo riding around Mexico on it. They were always very young looking kids full of bravado and keeping a tight grip on their machine guns. I never once found them threatening.

The Federal Police, formerly known as the Policia Federal Preventive were a different matter; all business, scary to watch in action and not a group I would want to deal with. Fortunately I never had to, probably because the army guys always kicked me loose without bumping me up the ladder of people of interest. I watched them taking one of their countrymen to task while waiting to board the ferry at Topolobampo. He was driving a delivery truck that was packed with stuff all the way to the back doors. Several Federalis dressed in their black Ninja masks did their best to find something but couldn’t. The driver seemed to be co-operating but they weren’t satisfied and returned a few minutes later with a drug sniffing dog. I could tell the driver was unhappy about that but he had no choice in the matter and endured their second search. Once again nothing was found and they left him to board. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for the ordinary people who live there; it’s remindful of Gestapo tactics.

Before leaving on my trip to Mexico I spent a lot of time researching and evaluating the elements of personal risk. I came to the conclusion there would be little even though the drug cartels are killing each other off at an alarming rate. My thinking was correct, I never once felt threatened; my experiences with the military check points were more of the annoyance factor; a constant reminder to travelers that Mexico is a state under siege.

By the time I reached Los Mochis I had decided that to continue riding south was not likely to change things or get any better; the Mexican people are who they are and they live as they do. It just wasn’t my cup of tea and the things I didn’t like about the trip were outweighed by other options. I’ve always told people that if you find yourself in a travel situation that you don’t like go to the nearest airport and fly home, simple as that. In my case I’m a bit attached to El Nino so I turned north and headed back to the land I love best, the USA.

Overall if I had to somehow rate this ride it would be difficult; there were good times and there were some that were not so good. To summarize I would say if you’re thinking of visiting Mexico you might be well advised to fly down and not drive or ride; check into one of their many quality resorts and don’t venture out, you might not like what you see.  On the other hand if your background includes a stint with the Peace Corp or a similar organization and you like to get involved with people at that level then you’ll probably do just fine.  

Maybe I just care too much about things I can do little about?

No comments:

Post a Comment