De voorbije weken was het hier nogal stil op de blog. Maar mijn hoofd en leven waren overladen!
Achter de schermen werk ik hard aan de laatste voorbereidingen van de expo Vlaamse Interieurs in september. Maar met mijn gedachten zit ik al in een grotere expo. In het echte leven heb ik afspraken met partners, aanvragen voor subsidies, etc. Alles krijgt vorm, beetje bij beetje.
Ook Pablo de Kever domineert mijn leven. We zitten nog altijd in de homologatiefase. Misschien is er deze week een kans dat we verder geraken… Mijn handen heb ik vol met het voorbereiden van de workshops. En voorbije weekend stond er een lang artikel in De Morgen! Nu nog achter de schermen verder werken aan dat nieuwe project…
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’.
There are a lot of rules in Mexico, most of the people don’t apply them. But because I am a foreigner here, I can’t take any risks. So we have to get back to DF to get the verification of Pablo. Otherwhise we’ll get a big fine.
A bit improvised, we decided to spend more time to discover the area between Acapulco and Mexico City. Our first stop in Chilpancingo was fast. Too big city, too hot, too crowded and little to see. We drove some more kilometers to get to Iguala. Just a quick stop to move on again the next day.
In Iguala we hoped to see something interesting. It’s the birtplace of the flag. We saw a few statues in the city centre. But no tourists at all. Well, that’s because there’s nothing much too see!
The next stop was exhausting to find our way in the city, Taxco. With steep hills and curved streets, it’s hard to figure out where the centre is. The loads of beetles and nice atmposhere around the main square during the night, make this city worth to see!
Nearby, there’s a town Ixcateopan where you can see the dead body of Cuathemoc. It’s a though and dangerous trip, luckely I didn’t used Pablo the Beetle to get there. If you’re curious to see how an important Mexican (the last Aztec emperor) is honoured in a disabandoned, humid improvised museum. It’s a must see. But probably you don’t have the time so you can better leave behind this dissapointed attraction!
I heard that Cuautla is the place to find out about Zapata. Because there are several questions about sombreros, I hoped to find some information and some hats to take to Belgium. It was another big dissapointement. OK, there is a museum with the steam train that Zapata used. The lady of the tourist information looked suprised when I told her the city is the place of Zapata. She told me his house stands in a little village about 10 km away, in Anenecuilco. But the museum there was closed! It does has a nice big rural painting about the live of Zapata.
Next day we left to Tepoztlan, the place where Cuetzalcoatl (the feathered snake) was born. There are a lot of ‘spiritual’ people stranded in this place, believing that there is a special energy coming from the earth… But it’s NOT the birthplace. It’s another town Amatlan 6 km away. I was curious to check out this ‘energetic’ place. But there’s only a statue, hidden under a tree, refers to this other special item of the Mexican history…
I also stopped in Cuernavaca. Yes, another big city with little sightseeing. There’s no shopping centre, the nice stores are spread all over the city. The only reason to go there is the good weather, if you can afford a hotel with pool or has Mexican friends with their own!
I am looking forward to visit the South of Mexico. Let’s hope the colours, food, traditions and people can charm me more…
Oh, tourists in Belgium shouldn’t be dissapointed anymore when they see Manneken Pis. Believe me, it’s more worth a visit than the things I saw the last week! #Zapata #Cuathemoc #Cuetzalcoatl
This part was a long trip along the Pacific coast. A unknown place without mobile connection, so for sure without internet! It was hard to stay connected. And I lost track of this blog. Sorry, all my priorities go to the childrens’ blog!
Our friends warned us for “dangerous” roads in the state Michoacan. But they assured us it wasn’t the coast. Driving the first kilometers in the bloody sun, we got stopped by soldiers. Their uniform and weapons do give you the creeps. At the end, they just wanted to warn us that this road is dangerous…
Keeping our eyes open, we kept on driving because there was no other way! We didn’t see any suspicous activities. Although the road is abandoned and I wouldn’t recomand any tourist to take this road!
After 250 km we were very curious to see the sea. We saw an Ecotourist place nearby the beach in Tizupan. A quiet place in the middle of knowhere with a private swimming pool. On top of that, we were the only guests on a Saturday! We enjoyed the sunset a lot and it felt for like holidays! But ecotourism here in Mexico means bugs and animals in and outside your hut!
Lazaro Cardenas was the next stop in mind, but it was too big and hot. So we stopped in the nice beach place Zihuatanejo. There we spend some more money on a great room with private beach and enjoyed the walk on the beach at night!
The next day we spend another 250 km in Pablo the Beetle to get to Acapulco. It’s a hot city, with crazy traffic and loads of beetle taxi’s! They are white with bleu spots, I love them! The heat killed us. And I got curious to see what’s up next in the state Guerrero. So the next day we moved again, making our way back to Mexico City!
We do have to keep our eyes open for all the animals on the road. We killed several lizard sunbathing on the road… Really sad, but it’s better than hitting one of the horses or cows grazing along the highway!
The last days I spend on finding the answer on “Why do Mexicans wear sombreros?” Of course you end up finding mariachis!
First I checked out Cocula, the birthplace of the mariachis. But there isn’t much to see… I couldn’t spot any statue or rural paint nearby the Zocalo. So I ended up asking the locals. And so I found the Museum of Mariachis, one black after the Municipality (at the zocalo). The free entrance is nice. There is a rural painting and some old music instruments. But that’s all the town has to offer. Too little to be worth a visit…
So we moved to the next city Tecatitlan. There should be dozens of mariachis. Euh… not on a regular day. The city looks much nicer than the previous. And there is a statue of Sylvester Vargas, in traditional clothes, the founder of the mariachis in this town. We asked a local and he explained there are only mariachis on special occasions. But there is a group of children playing in the Museum Sylvester Vargas. It’s just one little street away from the Zocalo. The museum is in full construction. When finished, it will be worth a visit. You’ll be able to chose any Mariachi song, and you can listen to it.
In the back of the museum I can hear violins, trompets, gitars and a voice practising on some songs. The children rehearsing their mariachi-songs! When I explained them the project of Pablo de Kever, they were happy to go out and play some songs for him. So we shot some songs, with the sombreros! Just one, because the heat is extreme during the day! And it’s not comfortable to hold your instrument too. That’s why loads of mariachis don’t wear the sombrero!
I’ll edit these songs later. I first made a movie about the daily life of a Mexican boy (also playing in the mariachis) for Saved by the Bell. You can check out the video here! (And watch the kids with sombreros!)
I am almost down at the coast of Michoacan. Heading to place that are not mentioned on the gps or Google Maps… I don’t expect any internet for days! I keep you posted soon!