Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sweet eighteen!

Yes I know, it's sweet 16, not 18. But hey, Mike started this trip when he was sweet 16 and he is still sweet at 18! He became 17 when we were on the New Zealand part of the trip and now he's 18 while going through Mexico. Between his 17th and 18th birthday he has done almost 35.000 km on his own motorcycle. He has been through Canada going north via the Cassiar Highway to Alaska, spend 5 weeks in the land of the midnight sun called Alaska, crossed the Dalton, Denali and Top of the World Highways before going south via the Alaska Highway and through Jasper and Banff. He then rode his bike through virtually all the National parks in the USA on the west side of Denverbefore crossing the border into Mexico. Luckily he's had a bit of riding experience by then as the northern half of Baja tested his defensive riding skills to the limit. Dodging potholes on a fully loaded bike that weighs 200 kg empty is not for the faint hearted, but doing it while mixing with mad northern Baja drivers and being 'only' 17 is something else altogether. But he did it flawlessly. Am I a proud dad? You bet! Mum is proud of him too! So, yes: sweet 18!

We try to do something special every year for our birthdays. Go somewhere we really like to go. Mike's 16th birthday we celebrated at Harbour Beach in Tasmania, a beaut of a spot. His 17th we were at Curio Bay in New Zealand, the closest campground to the most southern tip of New Zealand and a well known site for penguins, Hector dolphins, sea lions and petrified trees in the ocean. Unfortunately we were just too far away from a special place this year. But then again… Mexico is pretty special by itself :-) The vague plan was to have the birthdays, yes plural as Jeanette's birthday is only one day ahead of Mike's, at Palenque. In theory we could have made Palenque for Mike's birthday, but my back problems put a stop to that, I had to take a day rest. Mike made the movie you'll find below on that day, the highlights of the first 18 years.

Assuming the birthdays would be uneventful this year, we arrived at something that should have been a campground… It turned out to be a council operated swimming pool…! Double checking the GPS coordinates we realised we were at the right place… Hmmm, now what? Mike and Jeanette went inside to ask about camping, while I looked for alternatives. In and around Villahermosa, I found only two and one of them was exactly where we were. Ten minutes later we heard that we could actually camp here… inside the swimming pool complex! 'Wait until after 6, then the pool will be empty and you can pitch your tent right next to the pool'. What? Pitching our tents on the grass next to the pool? Joking right? They were dead serious though. I'm not sure if they ever had campers next to the pool before. I'm not even sure if they ever had campers before, as they didn't even know what to charge us. In the end they settled for 150 pesos, including the use of the pool and cold showers.

So, Mike has spent his 18th birthday riding the bike he loves to Palenque in Mexico and woke up in the morning next to a swimming pool near Villahermosa.