2012 was een mooi jaar. Ik heb helemaal mijn draai gevonden in fotografieworkshops voor kinderen. Leerkrachten en leerlingen zijn laaiend enthousiast telkens Pablo de Kever en ik langskomen in de klas. Dus meer van dat in 2013!
I just got back in Mexico City. To be honest, getting back save with all my photo equipment and an (almost) unharmed Pablo de Kever is a big achievement! All the adventures and images are like the cherry on top of a cake.
For sure, I got some more stories and tips to share with you (later) about Mexico. But first I need to spend time to find out how I can transport Pablo to Belgium. Doesn’t he look cute with his moose-ears? I just can’t leave him behind! Any tips about export Mexico-Belgium are welcome. Happy holidays to everybody!
After driving Pablo the Beetle 4400 km on the Mexican roads, it’s time to share some tips!
- People warned me never to drive at night. They are so right! Roads have to many wholes, roadworks without announcing trucks or people cross the road without watching, etc.
- I advice to drive with 2 persons. 4 eyes see so more than 2! And you need these extra eyes to detect the holes. It’s especially tiring when the sun sets hards and blinds the details in the shadow!
- Be aware to have ‘topes’ everywhere! These bumps never come alone. When you seen one, be sure you have another one right behind it. If you see the sign of a small town, for sure you can expect some. If you see a (small) street on the left or right, it’s another warning to get one! The same counts for areas marked as 30 or 40 km/h. Little of them are painted bright yellow, most of them are hidden well. And loads of them just stand there, without any reason. So keep your eyes open to track them on time!
- Drive behind a Mexican car. They know the road. If they suddenly drive at the left side, this means there’s a big hole at the right! Or check their stop lights to detect one of these crazy ‘topes’!
- Always expect upcoming traffic in (narrow) curves up the mountains. Mexicans don’t respect the road signs and overtake whenever they feel like it. Yes, even in dangerous curves!
- Be prepared to kill loads of bugs, some lizards and even iguanas. They love to bath in the sun on the road. And most of them are too slow to get away on time! Just be happy if you don’t hit a dog! Most dogs love to come up, bark and follow your car!
- Stay calm when a police officer makes you stop. (I am not so good at that, but it’s the best thing to do.) Most of them want a mordida (bribe) for an invented delict. When you have to show your documents, hold them and don’t give them away. Although some insist of letting your papers go… Than you just do that, especially when they carry an automatic shotgun. Two tips. 1. Say your Embassey knows you’re travelling and you will give them a call. Most of the time, that scares them. Do make sure you have the emergency number of your embassy, just in case you need it! 2. Keep a ‘fake’ wallet where you have about 100 pesos to bribe them (if they don’t care about you mentioning ‘embassey’). If they see more money, they will take it.
As for now, the free roads (libre) in the North are in a better condition than the South. I don’t take the highways (coata) because I want to see smaller places and the Beetle goes slow anyway. But the coata is a good option to drive safe and fast!
In general, the Mexican government is doing a lot of effort to improve the roads. They have loads of work left to get everything safe. And they could use some advice in road signs and safety clothes to make the works more visible. But yeah, it’s Mexico. Don’t expect things are than in an efficient or decent way!
After sleeping almost 2 months in hotels, I start to grave to have my own room again. Luckely you can find cheap hotels almost everywhere, starting from 180 pesos (10 EUR) up to 350 pesos (20 EUR). Prices are always higher in touristical cities.
The best thing is to go and have lunch or dinner in the city/village you will stay. Get some energy before you start your search! ‘Cause it really helps to check 4-5 hotels to get a better price. Some Mexicans dare to ask too much money for a crappy room! And if you want to be sure, ask to see the room. It’s the same as asking the menu before you enter a restaurant. It’s pretty common here!
If you the hotel has stars, please keep in mind that stars are given easily. As for my experience, one star stands for:
- a curtain in the shower (yes, loads of rooms have the water spread all over your toilet and basin!)
- an elevator (didn’t got any hotel with an elevator up to now!)
- two towels if you ask a room for two people (and if you’re lucky, two of these “rosa” soaps!)
- and half a star for a small pool
- and half a star for a restaurant that closes at 6pm! (made us drive up to the next town for a decent meal!)
A (safe) parking space is really important for me too. I don’t want Pabo the Beetle standing outside on the street, and wake up the next morning without mirrors or wheels! It’s very common that Mexicans steel parts from your car. So if you travel with a car, make sure you get free parking space in the hotel. Otherwhise you can pay 100 pesos (6 EUR) or more for a pension at an ‘estacionamiento’.
I had to go back to Mexico City last week to get the car verified. I wasn’t expecting anyp problems because almost everthing was replaced just one month ago. Including the catalysator.
Having a Mexican friend joining us, we head downtown. Pablo did it well, the first step. When they handed over a paper, they gave us back some money. Pablo didn’t pass because the catalysator wasn’t new?! We should fix it with a recognized dealer nearby.
After waiting for hours and paying 2300 pesos (135 EUR), I picked up the car. And saw the other catalysator. The previous mechanic replaced just a part and not the catalysator itself! Full of confidence, I headed back without the friend. After 30 min they gave back another paper. He still didn’t pass?! “The gasoline and CO is too high, because it’s new.” For me, this was a sign to bribe. But it didn’t work. They send me back to the mechanic to finalize the engine.
Totally desperate due to a lack of time, I went back home. The mother of my friends new some other friends that could help me out. Next day, a Mexican took him alone to another verification centre. Pablo passed without a problem!!! TIP: pay a Mexican mechanic to get this job done!
In the mean time there was another problem. I checked before our trip with the insurance GNP if everything was active. They assured me there wasn’t a problem, the police was temporary but I would receive another one soon in my mailbox.
I never received this. The mother proposed to check with another friend the status of the polis. Result: we travelled one month withouth insurance! I couldn’t believe it. Why can’t they just give you the right information?! Luckely they could fix the issue. I am safe with the good papers on my hand!
I had loads of things to do in Mexico City, but again I waisted the time in waiting and fixing things that should have been ok. I hope later to find an opportunity to shoot kids at Lucha Libre!
As I mentioned in the previous post, I was waiting and keeping my eyes open for VW Beetles for sale.
Today I spotted one, while holding myself and all my stuff in the shaking bus. I jumped off and asked in my best Spanish the year of construction, and how much the car costs: 9 000 pesos. Fits into my budget, I aim for 16 000 pesos (1 000 EUR). But made in 1976… That’s too old, way too risky it would break down on the road… He has my number. He will call me when he gets a good one for sale. I got extra eyes spotting for Pablo!
He did give some other advice too. Every Saturday and Sunday there is a free market with thousands of cars, nearby Peri Sur (in the South of the City). For 200 pesos (14 EUR) you can get a check-up by a policeman to check if the car is legal. My friends doubt about this way to get a car… So I’ll search the internet, which will be my job for the weekend. I hope to receive a call from the mechanice with the news he found a terrific “vocho”! He’s better in judging a car than me.
The next weeks, you can follow me here in my search for a VW Beetle, vocho in Mexico. And check out each step it gets closer to a green Beetle taxi! Well, it will be a copy to avoid fines and angry policemen!
So, how do you start to get a car for 4 months as a foreigner?
1. You fall in love with the VW Beetle (that’s what happened to me some years ago!)
2. Than you make Mexican friends (’cause you’re nothing without them!)
3. Get in touch with a reliable garage keeper who can fix the car (get advise from your friends)
4. Keep your eyes open for Beetles with a dollar sign, meaning “for sale” (and ask your friends too)
5. Wait… (I’m in this fase right now!)
I hope to be in the next step soon! I wonder what it will be…
The last two days I spent a lot of time and money on vocho taxi’s… I got more stories and videos “on the road”! While hiding from the rain, my eye catched this taxi. Only one week left and the whole country gets crazy about Dia de Muertos! I was laughing out loud in the rain, holding my Canon 5DII after shooting this video!
Today it was 6 years ago that the last VW beetle was produced in the factory in Puebla, Mexico. Here a few of my pictures during my trip in April as a tribute to these lovely cars.
I was asthonised to see Mexico City last week withou the green beetle taxi’s… Yes, they are all gone, all thousands of them… Here and there you can find a few ones left: “taxi” whiped out with green paint, covered with dust, “for sale”,… Amazing how suddenl, just a few weeks, y a cityscape can change. You can still find some beetle taxi’s, but only painted in the new colors… without colored gas lids, stickers or other flashy decorations. It’s not the same… :(
And I can only think about “gringo”, which means “green go”. The Mexicans yelled this at the Americans in green army uniform during the war…
A few more digital shots. My films are in the lab. Tomorrow I should be able to scan them and know if the 3 weeks of work were worth all the effort!
I spend the last week on hunting the green beetle cars with my camera’s… The taxi-hopping goes fine, although it is hard to find decorated ones. And each “taxista” is proud that a European photographer wants to take a picture of their bochito ;)
On the road for my project I hit on some daily life sceneries. Tonight this happened literally right in front of my feet while I was standing on a pedestrian bridge of Periferico…
After practising my Illustrator classes on the boring exercises, I tried out one of my pictures. The result was this extracted image of one of my beetles:
I found some time to make a selection of the beetle cars who crossed my camera. Some of them are ready to show to you: