Mexico Motorcycles Photography Ride South Travel

Ride South: Guanajuato & México City

Before hitting México City, we’d decided to make a stop in Guanajuato. Guanajuato (pronounced a bit like ‘wanna hot dog’ without the ‘g’ part of ‘hot dog’) is, like Zacatecas, a city with rich history and beautiful old architecture.


Much like small Iberian and Italian towns it is largely free of cars, as its narrow windy streets carve narrowly into hills and don’t allow vehicles to go up and down them.


However, rather fascinatingly, the city is built on an extensive network of tunnels, where cars do go.



Thus, walking and riding to and through Guanajuato is going through an underground spiderweb of tunnels and underground intersections.



It’s incredibly cool, and the city above it all is gorgeous and labyrinthine.


Exploring it at night shows all of the warm wonders of a Mexican winter night in a town: zero tourists, outdoor book merchants and small food stands vending tacos or other treats, couples kissing in every corner of the beautiful parks and children playing everywhere.


There is a warmth and careless kind of energy in these towns that is incredibly inspiring and a joy to be in and around.



On the ride to Guanajuato (which was rather… uneventful, and full of grim industrial landscapes) Stu found his bike to be making some strange sounds.



Entirely unrelated to this, some of his left-side handlebar controls came loose…


Which was a quick roadside fix, but the noise persisted.



What’s worse, the sound was coming from inside the engine case.


We decided to hurry up and diagnose it in a good spot. We rode the Cuota (toll road) all the way to Toluca, which was close enough to México City, where we’d meet a local and ADVRider forum member that offered to host us during Christmas.


We were hoping to diagnose and fix the issue with Stu’s bike and ride up the majestic local stratovolcano, Nevado de Toluca, but once we cracked open the engine case we came to a stop.


Uh oh.

This is not good. This particular spring is a coil spring, an essential part of the bike’s timing mechanism. Without the spring, the engine could fail catastrophically. It had already been rattling around inside the engine — though fortunately not doing too much damage — and now we needed some rather specialized parts to fix it.

We were stuck here for a bit.


After deliberating (and walking around Toluca eating delicious tacos – for science) we met up with Garry, our host and fellow rider, and Stu decided to just ride it to México City to fix it up there.

Sadly the KLR wasn’t starting.


… but, after some help of the local hotel, some failed bump start attempts and one pocket battery jumper later we had it running!


We rode the hour and a half-or so into town until we arrived at Garry’s and enjoyed some downtime over the holidays… as well as awaiting our getting hands on the parts and tools needed for a fix.

Many thanks to Garry and his family for being such an infinitely helpful, patient and fantastic host in México City. Not only did he help us by meeting us in Toluca, he let us store the bikes, work on them, and rode us into town and to the airport. What a guy.


We returned with parts and tools in tow, and a renewed lust for fixing the KLR and new adventures.

Volcanoes await!

Mexico Motorcycles Photography Ride South Travel

Ride South: Zacatecas & Guadalajara

From La Cuidad it was a short (and now sadly, fairly straight) drive to Durango. Here, the Libre meets up with the Cuota, teasing you with its perfect pavement.


… before actually merging into one road. Careful, you do have to get off where it is indicated that the ‘Libre’ continues or you’re going to have to pay the full fee for using the Cuota.



The last stretch of road to Durango takes you up and down various hills and through beautiful canyon lands where old Westerns were filmed. We’re told there’s old movie sets to be found here, but we didn’t find any.


In Durango, we had a much needed coffee and lunch break before heading to Zacatecas, a historic city that was fairly nearby. The drive there wasn’t incredibly scenic or exciting, as both lie on the higher plateau of central México. We arrived at nightfall… only to find the hotel we were planning to stray at was long since closed.

We settled for a nearby hotel in the historic center and spent an extra day exploring local cuisine and sights. It’s a beautiful town.


The colonial part of the city is a World Heritage Site, due to the Baroque and other structures built during its mining days. Indigenous cultures mined metals from the area even before the Spanish arrived.



Once they did, it grew as a wealthy city. Its beautiful architecture shows this.


Zacatecas is often called one of the most beautiful cities of México.


From Zacatecas, our next stop would be Southward, to Guadalajara. Guadalajara is one of México’s largest cities, surrounded by epic canyons. As far as riding motorcycles go, taking one of the longer roads there is highly recommended.


Once again, a beautiful twisty mountain road.



You know you are closing in on Guadalajara when you see the — sometimes burnt — piles of trash on the side of the road and the air quality drops rapidly. It’s shocking how much trash is piled on the side of the road here.


It’s tempting to simply frame this out of the photos we share but it is the reality of the country.


Guadalajara itself is a beautiful city, however. Getting into town was a bit stressful — Stu had a stray dog jump in front of his bike at highway speeds, and the traffic is just fairly insane. Buses jump in and out of traffic with zero regard for other vehicles, fast cabs try to weave through it all and every inch is filled with scooters, bikes or other motorized vehicles. Fortunately, you get used to it quickly.

My bike ran rather hot, so we took a break or two before we arrived at the home of our Couchsurfing host. We spent a two days with him, exploring the city, working on the bikes and being taken to a party that was thrown by him and his friends.


Exploring the historic downtown was a pleasure, its beautiful architecture reflecting the evening light beautifully.


When here, absolutely visit the downtown area. The cathedral alone is worth seeing.


Oh, Stuart got locked out of our hosts’ home and had to ride sans-helmet. Fun times!


The generosity and kindness of our host and his family can’t be overstated. Thanks so much, Edgar! I hope you are reading this!

Mexico Motorcycles Photography Ride South Travel

Ride South: Espinazo del Diablo to Durango

Mazatlan can at times treat you to a fantastic sunset.


Sunsets like this can really ruin your plans of getting up early…


In the morning, we found ourselves leaving somewhat later than expected after breakfast and hit the turnoff for the MEX-40 ‘Libre’ (free) around 11.


México has an elaborate system of ‘Cuota’ and ‘Libre’ roads, often designated with a ‘-D’ suffix behind the route number. Cuota are well-paved, well-maintained but pricy toll roads. The Cuota to Mazatlan was said to be a true engineering marvel, as it has one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. Nevertheless, we stuck to the ‘Libre’.



Not only is the road free, but it also is one of the most twisty (and dangerous) roads in México, with incredible hairpin turns at high altitude with sheer cliff drops.


Somehow, this type of road just never gets old.



We were absolutely gasping non-stop at the views and delighted with joy at the pleasure of riding such a curvy road on the bikes.


Fun fact: we crossed the Tropic of Cancer while on this road, as we wound up going a bit North onto the backbone of the Sierra Madre Occidental. It would be our second time crossing it, and not the last time…




I think the Devil’s Backbone is easily one of the best roads for motorcycling I have ever been on.


From the Libre, the Cuota is at times visible, sometimes as a massive overpass…


Or intersection.

But sometimes fairly far away. We caught a look at the incredibly impressive suspension bridge at one point:


Around 4:30 we stopped for some food (delicious, tiny local burritos) and assessed the remaining light.


Stuart also assessed the puppies of the area.



While our pace was pretty high, with our plentiful photography stops we did not have enough time to make it to Durango before dark.



We have agreed not to ride at night — far too dangerous with poorly lit vehicles, wildlife and possible local cartel activity — so we had to find a spot to camp.


A short, beautiful ride later we found ourselves at a military checkpoint on the Sinaloa – Durango border and asked the soliders if there was a place to stay nearby. They recommended Mexicillo. As the last light slipped away we rolled into the town of La Cuidad.


La Cuidad is nestled in a valley at the top of the massif of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At its high altitude it is encircled by thick pine forest and rocky outcroppings, trapping the wood fire smoke of the town. The entire town seemed to be in a blanket of blue smoke.


We asked around and got conflicting information about a possible campground or hotel.


… but eventually two boys hopped on a scooter and rode us into the forest to the local ‘Parco Turistco’.


We thanked them with a few pesos. A gregarious old man waved us inside his cabin and we warmed up a bit next to his fireplace as we inquired about the prices for cabins.

The cabins were a bit out of our price range, so we opted to camp for the night, instead. Once we set up the tents we headed into town to find food and spent the entire evening at a fantastically kind family the invited us inside by the fire and cooked for us and brought us beers.

We retreated into our tent filled with delicious Mexican mountain food and passed right out after an exhausting day on the road.

Mexico Motorcycles Ride South Travel

Ride South: The Baja Ferry

From Baja, we departed for the mainland of México.

First came the task of getting the bikes out of our hotel:



It took some moving, shifting, and rolling, but eventually we made it out of the courtyard. Never a dull moment.


The ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan is fairly pleasant. It departs from a port slightly north of La Paz. For our ferry line (there are two – one is a bit less comfortable), the ship’s three decks accommodate many trucks and cars, and motorcycles are kept on the top deck where you strap them to the railing.

If you’re considering taking this ferry, it might be worth to note that you need to bring your own tie-down straps — we’re glad we brought a set!


We’d gotten our paperwork in order a day before departure, which I’d recommend — in all, it took us about two hours to get our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP) processed before we were even beginning to look for ferry tickets. The TVIP is a permit you need when you are traveling by a motorized vehicle through México, and requires you putting down a deposit of 200-400 US dollars depending on the model year of your vehicle. Do double check it when you receive it — the clerk made errors three times issuing mine, and it has to be 100% correct if you want your deposit back!


The TVIP is issued at the Mexican federal bank (Banjercito) at the ferry terminal, and tickets are also sold nearby for the ferries. We had to buy separate tickets for ourselves and our bikes.

Returning the next day, we rode the beautiful road snaking out of La Paz to the port again (slightly slowed down by a bicycle race that was going on that day) to get on the ferry proper.


These kind of ferries are an effective bottleneck for travel and as such make great places to meet other travelers. No exceptions here: when we passed a customs check (which uses a button to randomly select whether or not you get searched fully — I was unlucky enough to get the full search) and our papers were checked out we lined up to board and ran into Matt.


Matt (Dawson) is traveling to Tierra del Fuego as well, but by bicycle. Pretty badass! We chatted up a storm in line and a few minutes got waved onto the top ferry deck where we boarded with two other motorcyclists; a couple riding from Utah and a friendly fellow BMW rider from Guadalajara.


The ferry left (predictably about an hour late) and all in all took about 18 hours to cross the Sea of Cortez to Sinaloa. We spent the time socializing and drinking beers with a group of bicycle travelers (including Matt and his friends Shane and José, from Australia and México, respectively) and sleep.
I made myself popular with the strip of Dramamine I brought aboard, which I judiciously handed out like candy to people who got sick on the rocking boat.


While you can buy a cabin for cheap, the ferry had no more available when we checked in and we were forced to sleep in our designated seats. The seats are fairly big and comfortable, but the cabin is so cramped that you’re almost always sleeping an inch away from seven other people crammed onto the floor and in seats around you. Cozy! At least there’s free dinner and breakfast.


Around 5:30 AM I went to the top deck and watched the night turn slowly to a dim glow…


and eventually a beautiful sunrise.


Shane and a few other guys had spent the night sleeping up here on the sun deck, which I wish I’d had the insight to do as it was a perfectly pleasant warm night.

Dreary and sleepy we socialized up here with our new friends. Juan José, the BMW rider from Guadalajara, bought me a michelada to introduce me to Mexican beer cocktails. Verdict: not bad.



By the time we rolled off the ferry we were hungry and tired, and so we met up with the bicycle gang and went to find ceviche and beers, rather successfully. Altogether we finished off a bunch of buckets of Pacificos and three huge servings of ceviche.



When here, indulge in seafood. Mazatlan has fantastic seafood.


We said our goodbyes to the bicycle travel troupe and rode into town.



We checked into a hotel in the historical centre of Mazatlan for the night, hoping to get out early the next day to forego our planned route to Guadalajara and instead riding what we’d heard was a beautiful ride inland known as ‘El Esponiza del Diablo’ (the Devil’s Backbone).