Illegal in Mexico: a paper war with a happy ending
“How will we continue our journey if our motorcycles are illegal?” We actually had to ask ourselves this question a few weeks ago. Our papers had expired. And we were in the middle of Mexico, in the middle of a pandemic.
The thing about trust
Who had gotten us into this mess? Well, ourselves. At least partly. But also the friendly woman at the customs in Puerto Vallarta was not completely innocent. Before the papers expired, she had assured us that she would renew the import permit as soon as we presented a new visa.
Now the visa was also a thing: It had to expire before we could even apply for a new one. In other words: we had to rely completely on the word of the migration and customs. It worked out with the migration and we got a humanitarian visa a few days later. When we went to customs with it, we faced a bad surprise.
“It’s stupid to trust strangers with something so important,” “not the first time we’ve been told nonsense,” and “we should have known better” alternate in my thoughts. I condemn this woman, but especially myself for having believed her.
The alternative would have been to ride to the border. There we would have even gotten our deposit back, which we had to file when entering the country with the bikes (a peculiarity in Mexico). However, we wanted to spare ourselves to ride twice through half of Mexico. Especially since there seemed to be a local alternative.
Now, the nice woman who had promised us the papers before was no longer there, of course. Instead, the officials said that reissuing the registration in Puerto Vallarta was only possible with a residency. “With your visa, you will have to go to the border to get new papers.” “How is that going to happen now? Couldn’t we have been told that here BEFORE the permit expired?” Nobody wants to know about that now.
The disappointment is huge. But there are still good souls in Mexico who help us to find a solution for this problem. Finally, it is clear: we can’t avoid riding to the border and have finally lost our deposit. The good news, however, is that we can apply for a so-called retorno seguro in the capital of our state. This allows us to legally move the tigers to the border customs within a few days.
And that is exactly what we do. With the retorno, we ride to the border in Nuevo Laredo. Yes, exactly, Laredo – pretty much one of the worst places in all of Mexico. Known for criminal activities of all kinds and THE absolute no-go area.
However, since Laredo is the closest border, we ride there anyway: for Teddy’s sake. Our new travel companion already has some riding experience – nevertheless, we want to spare him long daily stages at the beginning.
We’ve already lost one day by returning to Puerto Vallarta, we still need a buffer in case something comes up, and we also don’t know if we’ll get papers at the border within a day. So the bottom line is that we still have to cover 300 kilometers per day. Such a distance can easily take five or six hours in Mexico because of the topography, road conditions and bumps every few meters.
This is tiring for all of us, but after five days we finally made it. When we get the new papers at the border, a huge stone falls from our hearts.
Nuevo Laredo is really not a city worth visiting – but we will keep a fond memory of it through our encounter with the motorcycle traveler Chuy. We met the proud indigenous man and president of the local heavy metal biker club by chance on our way here. He invites us to the best tacos in town and to his house, shows us Mexican metal music and tells us about his travels to Mexico and as far as Panama. He is a real Iron Butt and an extremely interesting person.
The junkyard in paradise
But we’ve had enough of long rides: From now on, we want to do shorter daily stages and generally stay longer at every location. Our goal is not to see as much as possible, but to get reasonably through this time. We are quite good at being particularly slow. Nobody should have any doubts about that anymore.
We love to be back in nature and far away from it all. So we choose La Huasteca National Park near Monterrey as our first long-term place to stay. We are the only guests at the mountaineering campground. It’s a quirky place: surrounded by impressive mountains, we’ve ended up in quite a junkyard here. Owner Diego seems to spend more time consuming weed than maintaining this place. In an evaluation of the place written a year and a half ago, the construction of showers was announced. To date, construction has not even begun.
Then, two days after our arrival, we become the junkyard managers, as Diego and his girlfriend go away for three days of mountain climbing. We take care of the four dogs, secretly collect some garbage and take a shower with the garden hose. Only we are not always completely undisturbed, because Diego’s place turns out to be a local hangout, and some neighbors and friends constantly show up here. Quite bizarre types.
Next door lives a worker who is currently rebuilding the adjacent property. All alone – without electricity, water or a roof over his head. He also comes over to us from time to time to heat his shower water in the bucket with his immersion rod heater or to charge his ancient cell phone.
We explore the national park extensively and Teddy climbs his first mountain. It is really beautiful here!
the Huasteca Potosina and the little bear
At a leisurely pace, we then continue on to a region of Mexico known for crystal clear rivers, sugar cane plantations and gigantic waterfalls: the Huasteca Potosina. We spend a week here, a week there. Again, we have the campsites all to ourselves.
We eventually discarded our initial concerns that we might be putting Teddy through too much with the traveling life. Over time, we and the little man have found a good travel rhythm. When riding, we take lots of drinking and peeing breaks. We avoid the noisy highways and take the country roads, where there are less noisy trucks and more to see or sniff. And for relaxation there are always lazy days where we recover from all the new impressions.
So it’s pretty similar to our travel style before the dog – with the small difference that we take more breaks where the bipeds of the team drink coffee (a very good thing!). Teddy always notices when it’s time to move on and jumps on the bike himself by now.
We don’t care that some aspects of travel life have become a bit more complicated. We’ve been at the point for a while that we don’t need to have seen and done everything (impossible anyway). The dog just makes it easier for us to choose.
Honestly, so far everything is going well and we are so, so happy about the little guy who brings us even more joy and movement in everyday life. And it’s not just us that he regularly puts a smile on our faces: At every red light, Teddy is the star that melts everyone’s heart. Not a day goes by without him receiving a blowed kiss, a thumbs-up or being photographed. The little bear is also very popular with children, and great new encounters ensue.
Yes, the only concern we have is that he is too spoiled with attention and adventure. If at some point there comes a time when he also has to be alone and live with less variety – it will certainly be a big adjustment for him.
“I’m not crazy – my reality is just different from yours!”
…explains the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. At Xilitla, we are reminded of the famous book: here, in the middle of the subtropical rainforest, there are sculptures reminiscent of fairy tales, doors that lead to nowhere, and staircases that rise into the sky.
The surrealist labyrinth “Las Pozas” is the life’s work of Edward James, a British multimillionaire and landscape artist who found a place in Mexico to let his imagination run wild.
The whole installation is really whacky, but unfortunately no longer an insider tip. We are glad that the number of visitors is currently drastically limited. As we have heard, you have to dig through masses of tourists otherwise.
The only drawback: you have to follow a guide, which really destroys the magic here. I’m sure it’s not in the spirit of such a place to be told how to interpret it. Where is the imagination then?
Mexico and the pandemic
Travels and pandemic – that doesn’t go together. Nevertheless, we are on the road again, albeit very slowly and with as few contacts as possible. But I don’t want to defend us here. To behave reasonably or unreasonably, to endanger others or not: that’s what you can do, no matter where you are and regardless of whether you have a fixed abode.
In general, how the pandemic is handled in Mexico varies extremely depending on where you are. Each of the 31 states decides on different measures. These are based on a traffic light system that was introduced at the beginning of the crisis. The traffic light colors are assigned based on the increase or decrease in confirmed cases and are updated every week.
In our observation, the extent to which the measures are then also implemented depends very much on whether one is in the city or in a rural area. While it is strictly ensured that only one person per family enters large supermarkets after a temperature check and hand disinfection, in the village there is often no concern about distance or mask.
We are happy to have stayed. Even though we had hoped that we would be able to continue traveling to the USA and Canada after a year. Unfortunately, it does not look like that at the moment. If and how it continues with our trip – more about that in the next entry.