Thursday, December 23, 2010

El Fuerte to Mazatlan (Almost)

The following morning we said our 'goodbyes' to our hosts at the Hotel Guerrero and set off early in the direction of Mazatlan. I had reservations about going to a town that sounds like Matalan (a discount store in the UK). I haven't quite sorted out in my mind a template for Mexican cities. It was easy in the USA. All the cities we visited comprised of sprawling malls, Starbucks, MacDonalds, Applebys, Subway, Burger King, supersized Walmarts and other supermarkets housing every food you could possibly want in super-quantities, all 'wrapped for your protection' thus sanitising the whole shopping experience.
So what to expect in Mexico? Already riding through Baja we had come to realise that mostly mini-markets are small affairs. The shelves occupied by a few tins of this and that standing like skittles in a long forgotten bowling alley. The labels dulled by ever present desert dust brought in by the breeze. The fruit and vegetables bruised and lifeless, bleeding their juices pestered by flies and wasps. The bread often limited to tortillas-corn or flour of various sizes, fried crisp (tostadas) or fresh. The cheese counter offering Mexican or American, both doing their best to imitate rubber matting, flavourless and unappetising.
Supermarket shopping is a disheartening activity. And so we began to eat out. What started as gastronomic excitement at the possibility of new and delicious tastes, has palled into boredom with tortillas, crispy or fresh, filled with grilled beef (carné de res-asado or ), chicken (pollo), accompanied always with mashed pale pink beans which taste like mashed pale pink beans, and rice usually with a few shreds of iceberg lettuce, and tomato. On occasion we have had chile rellano, but we were spoiled by Nacho's mum who cooked them to perfection when we stayed with them in San Francisco. Usually we are served huge greasy limp saddlebag-like peppers, fried in too much oil. We have also eaten fish, which again is usually fried. All in all we have begun to loose our appetites. It is not much helped by our inability to decipher the menu. Our phrasebooks (which accompany us everywhere) are very limited in this respect. And of course as soon as we say we are 'vegetariano' (no como carné) we are met with bemused faces. We have been told by a Mexican that they eat meat most days: beef x 4 days a week, chicken twice a week and fish once a week. So we are going to have to find a way to adapt.
Anyway back to our journey to Mazatlan. Once we got back to Les Mochis we headed off south on the 15. We anticipated it would take most of the day to drive about 260 miles. As the journey progressed I noticed I had the stomach gripes. But this wasn't new, they had been around for a few days on and off so I wasn't concerned. However about 60 miles after setting off, I was having trouble fending off an creeping sense of nausea and asked David to pull over on the side of the road. I figured if I vomited, it would clear the nausea. He asked how urgent it was and I found myself with a rising panic urge him to stop 'now'. I just managed to get my helmet and gloves off, before throwing up a nasty bile liquid which caught my breath. As I heaved, I flashed hot then cold, but once I managed to breath normally again, got on the bike and we set off. Good I thought, got rid of whatever was causing the discomfort. I have been used over the years to food poisoning because I have a sever allergic reaction to some fish. Mostly one puke and I'm fine. But I can vomit for up to 24 hrs. Anyway I figured I was cured of this bout. However about an hour on I started to flush hot and cold, feel nauseous again and asked David to pull over 'now please' as I fought against spraying the inside of my helmet with the contents of my stomach. I staggered to a fence, vomited again, regained my composure and got back on the bike.
Okay, that's enough I thought. There's no more down there. I must be fixed. Not so lucky. A short time later, the same routine. As I staggered off the bike, threw up, I felt everything go dark around me. I was sweating profusely, and told David who was still sat on the bike I was going to faint. With that I sat down on the gravel, leaned against the bike, then slumped to the ground-head in the gravel on the side of the road. I figured I would just go to sleep!
I heard David shout 'Jill get up. You can't lie down on the side of the road, we've got to get you to a hotel. Get back on the bike!' Urgh I thought. Of course he was right. I clambered onto the bike and slumped against David's back fighting off nausea, feeling faint, and hot and cold sweats. We were miles from anywhere that might have a hotel. The road was long and straight, with no sign of a town or village.
Eventually about 2.30pm, we came upon sprawling Culiacan. At the outskirts were a few hotels, but David wanted to find one more central where we could hole up for a few days. We managed to find our way to what appeared to be the centre and stopped to ask a guy where we could find a hotel. He was stumped but was overheard by a guy who spoke very good English (thankyou!), and recommended the Hotel Santa Fe Express which has secure parking at the rear. As we were unloading a guy and a woman were admiring the bike. It turned out they worked at the hotel and they suggested we parked the bike in reception-it would be more secure. So Nancy sat in reception in front of a glass window in all her glory!
Meanwhile as David unloaded the bike, I climbed into bed and slept for most of the next 18 hours.
The following afternoon, we went for a walk to see what Culiacan had to offer. It is not a town you will find on any tourist map, being largely industrial. We found it to be a wonderfully bustling and vibrant city. With a heaving street market selling everything from tinsel to fish and meat, carved from the carcass while you wait!
We wondered off to the catedral where we came upon what appeared to be an ordination ceremony As you can see, it was packed.
We stayed in Culiacan for 2 nights. The hotel cost 400 pesos about £20 a night (you can get a room for about 350 pesos). It was clean, had a hot shower that worked, is secure and had a restaurant attached. So if you're in need of a stopover we recommend it (the Hotel Santa Fe 1 down the road a bit looked a bit shabby, and didn't seem to have secure parking).

1 comment:

  1. I know it's not filled with mc donald's or brger kings, well the big cities are, but I think it's a part of its charm, besides mazatlan is beautiful it has like the most beautiful beaches ever without getting crowded like the ones in cancun, and it has also great hotels and inns