Machine Gun Mexico
Ok, so now that I got your attention I might as well start by saying this article has nothing to do with machine guns or weapons of any sort. I am talking about the Maya Rally, and the need for speed flying through the streets of Mexico.
We were given the opportunity to join the Maya Rally in Guanajuato. The rally is a scavenger hunt of sorts taking us from Guanajuato to Bacalar where there would be an “End of the World” party! As you can see the world did not end, which is why I am now able to write this post.
We were given an entry packet which consisted of different categories and ways you can earn points. The team in the end with the most points wins. Pretty simple stuff…or is it?
Day 1- Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende
We were given orders that all teams would meet at Applebees (of all places) at 10 o’clock for a police escort into the central square of Guanajuato. The teams made a mad dash out of the campground running late, in typical fashion. Several wrong turns, and a handful of U-turns later the convoy pulled in just in the nick of time. I’m not sure who was leading the convoy that day, but I think their GPS was playing tricks with them.
Once everyone arrived, we got down to business. A handful of pictures, put on our rally stickers, put Brady’s rally issue bandana on and away we went. It was a pretty cool feeling flying through town with a police escort in Mexico.
The official start of the rally was in the Central Square in Guanajuato. It made for a really spectacular place for photos! It got the locals going as well, with new interviews and bystander photos.
Since it was late in the day we were not going to attempt a long distance drive so instead we went to see Cristo Rey (a 60’ statue of Jesus in the exact geographical center of Mexico) with Jeff and Monica from Overland the World and made a late afternoon drive to San Miguel de Allende. We met up with Matt and Isabel at a campground where we made a delicious dinner together before going out on the town. San Miguel is another beautiful historic city in the mountains. With the chilly air and our jackets on it almost seemed like Christmas time at home.
Day 2- San Miguel de Allende to Uruapan
The next morning we got off to a late start due to some much needed errands before teaming up with Jeff and Monica again. A late start usually leads to a late finish, and that it was. We pulled into the campground just past dark after a blind drive up the mountain pass to the volcano. We set up camp and Sarah and Monica got busy making some homemade mac & cheese finished off with a torch melted topping!
Day 3- Uruapan to Mariposa Monarcha Reserve
This is where the journey starts to get interesting. Because we were a little short on time with the rally being so fast we decided that the quickest way to get to the volcano would be on horses. Now, I have never really ridden a horse before besides maybe a pony during my childhood, but it sounded like fun! My horse was Caballo Blanco, or as Matt named him, “The White Knight”.
It was about a two hour horse ride up to the volcano. As you are weaving through the volcanic rock fields it becomes prevalent that there used to be a village here. A beautiful steeple towers over the ruins of a former church where a piece of cloth attached to the cross still waves eerily in the wind. Looking at the volcano in the background, you can’t help but wonder the panic that ran through people as the volcano erupted wiping out their entire village.
Walking back to our trusty steeds there was a family set up making blue corn tortillas over an open fire and serving up some delicious tacos. Opting to grab lunch before heading back to town, we remembered that we needed a cooking class for the rally. Matt, with some smooth talking spanish, asked the women if we could get an impromptu lesson in making some tortillas. They graciously let us attempt their skill, with limited success…in fact some of us even had our tortillas taken away from us because we were so bad :).
Mounted up on Caballo Blaco with a full belly, it was going to be a good ride back. Now for some reason, I think my horse was a little anti-social as it was not at all interested in taking the group shot with everyone else. The White Knight liked to be in the lead and honestly I wasn’t complaining. I didn’t want to be down wind from all of the other poopers anyway. It was just me, my horse, and Brady running along side…until Matt had another plan. Now for some reason, Matt was given a little pony. However it was a pony who liked to run. Matt and Caballito came from behind and were coming in quick for a pass. The White Knight, although anti-social, was a fierce competitor and would not allow a pass from a pony. Once he got a whiff of the competition in the air he was off! Full tilt sprint with no concern for his passenger’s lack of horse riding ability. I was on the white roller coaster of death, hanging on for dear life. I tried everything from pulling back on the reigns to saying “whoa horse” with no success. The White Knight was in the Kentucky Derby and he was going for the win! Eventually we hit a rocky section of trail where he slowed enough that I could coax him out of the zone to a slow walk and so I could get some feeling back in my butt. He never would stop for me. Did he know I was a beginner? Was he upset that my dog challenged him with a stomping session earlier in the morning? Was he just having a rough week? To this day I don’t know what went through his head in that sandy stretch of trail and probably never will. All I do know is that Caballo Blanco, although crazy as hell, was a good horse.
After a wild ride and a long drive we pulled into another small mountain village after dark. Luckily Matt was already there and had secured a place to camp in a family’s front yard with a nice view overlooking the hillside.
Day 4- Mariposa Monarcha Reserve to Teotihuacan
The next morning I awoke to the call of a sheep and the bark of a black dog. Brady and the sheep were having a moment through the glass of the truck window. Stepping outside to break up the madness I pulled on my dew soaked shoes and grabbed the camera. The village was cold and quiet. Children walked down the hill and men on horses went up the hill. I strolled through the village before my compadres woke up, taking snapshots along the way.
The villages you stumble upon can be amazing. This specific town wasn’t even on our radar before the rally, much less staying on the front lawn of a local fruit salesmen. Parts of me wish I could own a house perched atop the hill across the valley looking down on the cobbled streets, but I know inside that this village is best left untouched by the hands of a gringo.
A ‘good morning’ to the children and I was on my way back to wake up sleepy Sarah. We had big plans today! We were headed to the Monarch reserve up the mountain and we got to ride some more horses!
Marcos was the little boy who lived in the house. He and his cousin Omar offered to watch Brady for a nominal fee while we went to the reserve for the morning. Sarah and I agreed, as with the sun now coming out it would be too hot to leave him in the truck. We had some feelings of unease as we walked away from our dog who was left in the hands of two children we had met just the night before. Honestly, I think they had the same feelings of unease once they saw Brady yanking violently at his leash to get a piece of the sheep.
The walk to the reserve was quick and easy. Before we knew it we were at the top, on horses for the 20 minute ride up the mountain. Strolling through alpine fields and pine forests you begin to get a glimpse of the butterflies.
Millions of Monarchs migrate from North America each year to this one particular area of Mexico. Uncountable numbers cling to the trees in large clusters high up in the pines. If you did not know what they were you would almost think the trees had a fungus growing on them. The monarchs hibernate for the majority of their time, only coming down for a drink of water and a quick bite to eat. Words cannot describe how spectacular it was. Unfortunately, all good things need to come to an end and we needed to begin our trip back to camp as we had another long drive that day.
Back at the truck we found two boys sitting in camp chairs next to our amazingly well behaved dog wagging beside them. The boys were paid handsomely as they took such good care of our precious dog. After a few pictures with the family and a quick bite to eat we hit the road. We were off to the North side of Mexico City to catch an early morning glimpse of Teotihuacan, an ancient Aztec ruin. Now Mexico City is not my idea of a place I would like to drive the truck, or drive anything for that matter. Luckily it was outside the city, but we were close. Close enough to see the smog lagging in the valleys, and breathing becoming more difficult. Passing by plenty of rough looking neighborhoods with the sun setting beside us, we hammered down. We did not have a place to stay for the evening and it was getting dark fast.