At 8 a.m. we were back at the Mexican vehicle permit office after going through customs again (no issues this time), and the same young lady waited on me as yesterday. "No problemo." Obtained my 180-day visa and bike permit and I was out the door. Rob C waited by the bikes while I got my paper work in order.
We had been warned by several people to stay on the "quota" (toll) roads instead of the "libre" (non-toll) roads for safety reasons, so that's what we did. It turned out that our 400 miles today cost us around 40 dollars (about 10 miles a dollar) and motorcycles pay the same as cars and SUV's, which perhaps is not completely fair. If Mexico's largest contributor to their gross national product is money sent from migrant workers abroad, the second largest contributor could well be the income from tol roads.
We got to Monterrey in a couple of hours on a straight, flat road with hundreds of US semi trucks coming the other way with goods produced at the many "maquilas" (off-shore plants) in the Monterrey area. We also saw numerous military vehicles packed with soldiers, brandishing what looked like M16's.
RobT: We headed west toward Saltillo, where we inadvertantly got onto a "libre" road. Heavier traffic but no problems. Only a couple of military check points. Rob passed through but I was flagged. Turns out the soldier just wanted to talk and he spoke very good English. Told me about the big car rally in San Miguel which apparently draws a lot of Canadians. This is an antique car rally which is a sanctioned race by the Policia Federal on the highways with normal traffic flow. Speeds reach 130mph!
RobC: We are now at the Las Palmas hotel in Matehuala. Elegant place - professional staff and waiters. The grounds are totally enclosed by gates and fences and I feel that our things are safer here than anywhere else in the world. This will probably deteriorate a bit as we continue to travel. Both of us have periodic minor heart attacks when we are missing some money or other things we hid so very well, until we rediscover where we put them.
This afternoon we made a little side-trip into the mountains to visit a historical place called Real de Catorce, where, incidentally, the movie the Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts was filmed. The 16-km road from the 5,000 feet-high altiplano (high plains) to the 10,000 feet-high location of the village is constructed of ancient cobble stones. At the end of the road there is a long tunnel, which opens up into the village. But as our "good luck" would have it, there was a huge 2-day religious fiesta in Real de Catorce and the tunnel was closed to vehicular traffic, and we were not about to abandon our bikes and stuff at the entrance to the tunnel and hike, along with the rest of the throng, to the village. Thus, we went back down the mountain and chalked this one up to Murphy's law. He seems to be riding pillon.
These photos were taken of villages on the way up the mountain.
Tomorrow we head south for San Luís Potosí and San Miguel de Allende, and we should be with friends in Querétaro in the evening and the next day or so.
Video footage of the cobblestone road.