Overland Diary


One of the many perks that come with traveling in a motorcycle with a side car is the freedom experienced by the passenger. On long routes, I am able to help Gianmarco put on his gloves, make a sandwich and hand feed him (something he truly enjoys), and even more useful are my abilities to navigate  and read through guidebooks. On one afternoon, as we were headed to Puebla Mexico, I read about the history of Cinco de Mayo. The story seemed to describe our current state of defeat perfectly, because at the time, we had just come out of our own week long battle with Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo is NOT a celebration of margaritas, cervazas or late night hangover tacos. May 5th is El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla - the Day of the Battle of Puebla. It is the day the Mexican army triumphed in an unlikely victory over French forces heading west to Mexico City. Now of course, not to undermine this symbolic day representing unity and pride to the Mexican people, but what struck me most was a small comment at the end of the story referring to the fact that what might have helped the outnumber Mexican army was the fact that most of the French soldiers had succumbed to a stomach virus. And you see, in a non-militaristic way, we too were making our way through Mexico in an attempt to conquer its treacherous tope riddled roads and impossibly steep mayan stairways but by the time we had reached Mexico city, we too had felt the defeat of Mexico's notorious army that had battle and conquer our intestines.   

The battle began in Puerto Vallarta, as we enjoyed the luxurious comforts of a beach front property. We were living like celebrities with morning dips in the ocean, afternoon soaks in the pool and sweet dreams in a king sized bed. What started as an invitation from strangers soon turned into an extended invitation from friends. Our hosts, Vivian and Craig, are genuinely interesting and kind people who not only opened their home to us but have also given back to their local community. The "Bag Ladies" program initially started when Vivian worked with a few local women who lived in the poorest areas of Puerto Vallarta, teaching them the craft of turning the trash discarded in the dumpster by their homes (newspapers, magazines, copper tubing and more) into bags that could be sold for almost 100% profit. It has now grown in numbers, products and availability. The "Bag Ladies" now have a booth at the local airport where you can purchase bags, frames, baskets, furniture and more to support the local women in their strive for empowerment within their community. Vivian and Craig of course have a house full of these meticulously folded pieces of art. It was quite interesting to hear their stories as we battled the roller coaster of fever and cramps in the lap of luxury.


After four nights, it was time to move on. We drove our beaten bodies on a 640km stretch through the agave lined roads from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara and finally to San Miguel de Allende. And once again, we did not have to go through this battle alone. We were fortunate to find a Couch Surfing host who not only had a prime location in the city center and a beautiful house typical to the region, but was also able to share stories with us about their own Ural trip through Mexico Ural. To give back to their generosity, we contributed to their margarita birthday celebrate with an honorary piñata. As we struggled through intestinal weakness, we found time to explore the renovated colonial streets, stuff ourselves with fresh pastries from The Blue Door panaderia, and take a tour of the Mask museum (highly recommended). After a day of discovery, we dreamed of the day that we could join the many expats who call this vibrant city their own. 







On our way to Mexico city, we realized that Mexico had hit us again, this time attacking the most important piece on us… our passports. They became water logged from the Puerto Vallarta downpour.  This meant staying a couple extra days in the consistently congested, life threatening roads throughout the city. In between working with the embassy, we found time to visit Teotihuacan (highly recommended to visit early in the morning before the tourists arrive), stare in awe at the dried squirrels hanging in the "medical" section of the Sonora market, and question the future of this sinking city as we toured Templo Mayor. 





Just like the French, our own battle ended in Puebla. Though our time here was short lived, we were lucky enough to have another couch surfing host who gave us a personal tour of yet another colonial gem. We decided to test our recently recovered stomachs with a few local delicacies: tacos árabes (which can only be found in Puebla), pozole (a maize soup that should not be missed), and topped off with muégano poblano (a candy that can be found anywhere as you walk through "la calle de los dulcet"). The colorful streets of Barrio del Artists and el Parian kept our camera busy as we strolled through the night enjoying our full but calm tummies. 






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