Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Toltec Warriors

Sometimes people need a little push to become a little more human. Just a little nudge to go past what is written in the guidelines and actually use them as guidelines instead of a harness. The girl behind the counter of the ScotiaBank said no when I asked for a withdrawal. The guidelines said I should use the ATM and now that was out of order, she simply shrugged. 'Your in deep shit' said a somewhat blurry Mexican voice next to me. "I sure am, as the toll roads only accept cash' I replied. The no doubt somewhat intoxicated blurry voice translated my predicament upon which the lady asked for my passport in almost perfect and accent-less English. It dawned upon me that she had only pretended not to understand English. She looked at my passport and issued the pesos I asked for.

Next followed a chainlube session while Jeanette did some necessary shopping, as our food department sounded decisively hollow and then we left San Miguel de Allende for good behind us. Having a GPS is more than just a luxury in this part of the world, where roadsigns are renowned for being absent and any logic of what is and isn't signposted seems missing. What's even more invaluable is the helmet comms from UClear, the number of times they saved us from serious problems alone make them worth every penny. 

The video above shows what it is like to ride here. This part of Mexico is pretty dry and desert like. The lush rain forests of the west coast were now definitely behind us and replaced with dusty landscapes. Strangely enough there seems to be quite some water underground at a certain depth, as the mostly yellow vegetation is accompanied by healthy looking green trees. It's to me an uninspiring landscape and one that must have a profound effect on the people living there. The roads are full of trucks and buses. The buses are very modern, but the trucks are mostly old and tried to choke us to death. We had already noticed that the faces had changed again too. The Mexican people living along the west coast look very different to the Indians that live in the mountains along the same west coast, and now that we've come to the middle of Mexico they had changed yet again. 

Arriving in Tula, in the state of Hidalgo, we entered the usual maze of cluttered small town Mexican roads where chaos seems to rule and rules seem non-existent. The GPS told us where to go, which was against the traffic on a one-way road… hmmm. Mike has adopted well to Mexican driving and rode against the traffic…! It was only a short bit that was one-way, but still… Anyway, all will be revealed in the movie on this page. We were on our way to the archaeological site in Tula, which is home to the four Toltec Warriors. Arriving at the parking lot we passed one of the familiar Federal Police Dodge Chargers and noticed there was hardly anyone there. Maybe they were closed? We parked the bikes and wondered how safe they were on the parking area… after all the police car wasn't likely to stay around and we were somewhat away from the main road, plus we had to walk almost 2 km to the Toltec Warriors… We needn't have worried as when we came back, we found a guard with bulletproof vest and a machine gun keeping an eye on things… :-) Secure parking!

The walking track to Meso American Archaelogical site of the Toltec Warriors, was at times lined with souvenir stalls selling lots of tacky stuff. Mike and me simply say 'No Gracias' and walk on, but Jeanette can't help herself and slows down to have a look… upon which the persistent sellers jump on her like ants on a cake.

Many huge cactuses along the path, weird looking ones too. I've often wondered where Sci-fi film makers found the inspiration for the wonderful plant life they portray on the screen as being from far away planets. Now I know: Mexico! Mike saw a snake gliding through the vegetation too and tried to find it with his camera. The snake had other ideas and didn't show again.

Arriving at the amazing Toltec Warriors, which are surrounded by equally impressive ruins, the first thing I noticed was how well the site was preserved. No expensive visitor centre but funds actually used for preservation, preservation that was very well done too… National Parks US (especially Mesa Verde) take notice! Realising that power tools hadn't been invented, the statues of the warriors are nothing short of amazing. They are seriously huge and beautifully decorated. Dating from 900 -1150 AD they are well preserved. The site is in the Tula Valley and are the remains of the early settlement of the Tula Chico. The main ceremonial site is called the Tula Grande. The main attraction here is the pyramid of Quetzalcotl.

The areas around this site are still riddled with artefacts from that period. Farmers are still finding original works of art when ploughing fields and sell them close to the ruins. Jeanette was given a demonstration by an artist who makes all kinds of whistles and drums.

During the walk, I didn't feel all that well. Out of breath, rock hard and bloated stomach, as if my lungs didn't have any space to move in… Mike was a bit out of breath too but it seemed more than that in my case. Mike said I was simply getting old… and fat! It wasn't either of that, although I made it a point to go on a serious diet there and then. Guadalajara had been a very good experience, but I had gained some serious weight… we all had. We still had another 130 km to go to a campsite that hadn't been confirmed by anyone as still operational. Quite a lot of campgrounds have been closed as the US Government has started a scare campaign towards Mexico. The result is that the tourists are staying away…

Quite soon after leaving Tula I realised I was ill. My stomach became more and more painful and I was about to vomit… which even with an open face helmet is not advisory while riding :-) We stopped for 15 minutes but all I did was burp as bad as Dany's bulldog(!). The wind picked up quickly and became quite strong, a thunderstorm was closing in fast. The weather in this part of Mexico is notorious for changing quickly. We wanted to reach the campground before the downpour but I had to stop twice more as I was simply exhausted and could hardly keep the bike on the road. When we arrived at the campground it was raining, I was shaking uncontrollably and felt very weak. Mike quickly pitched both tents in the BBQ area, the roof wasn't much but at least we didn't have to setup in a swampy field!