La Brouhaha Mexicana [5] : The turning point

Chapter 5: The Turning Point.

{Previous Chapter: As planned as it gets}

Its hard. However I construct the sentences I am not able to communicate the feeling. Imagine yourself – sitting idle, a deep calmness  all around, nothing is moving, life is stop, its like a still frame of photograph.  Its hot, but not unconfortably hot.  You are just sitting, and thinking about nothing in particular. And an ever slow cool breeze kisses by. The whole body smiles in unison.  I was sitting on the abandoned car seat, when Ankit was busy with morning chores. The restroom had no doors and it was suggested that if one is in the restroom, other stays outside the room. A few more cool breezes passed by and we were ready for the day to begin. Our target today was a modest hundred fifty miles. The plan was to go thirty miles further south on Mex-1 to Chapala, where we turn east on a dirt road. Fifty miles of dirt riding and another seventy on the paved road and we would reach San Felipe, a destination quite familiar to us.

However, first we needed fuel for our motorcycles. My motorcycle does a hundred fifty miles in a tank full of gasoline. We were already a good hundred away from our last refuel and the next sure gas station was in San Felipe. Even Catavina does not posess a gas station. Most days someone just sells gasoline in plastic containers, but if this is not that day, good luck. We were relieved to see someone selling gas. Relaxed we decided to fuel ourselves first. Fresh agus de coco (coconut water), Cilli Rellenos (traditional mexican dish), arroz y frijoles (rice and beans) and we were ready for the day. A gallon of gas in mine, a gallon in Ankit’s, another gallon split between the two, and some more in a plastic bottle and our motorcycles were ready for the day.

We were in Chapalla in no time. Next feat – fifty miles of dirt road. Our motorcycles are not meant for dirt road riding. I was more concerned about Ankit’s bike, given that he did not have much good to say about the only experience we have had with dirt riding in Arizona. Nevertheless, ‘bring it on’ – was our attitude. Ankit decided to lead the way. Its one thing to image oneself riding on dirt road and another to actually ride it . Going 10 miles an hour with a jitter greeting every bone every moment, full concentration lest we skid on the gravel, dirt road riding can be taxing. ‘Bring it on’ we still said, enjoying the ride. However, in a couple of miles I felt like I got the hang of it. It felt like the secret is to stand (in my case sit a top the backpack I had mounted on the motorcycle) to avoid the bone jitter and go faster than you think you should be going. I tried to push twenty. Quite counter intuitively the fear of motorcycle skid actually reduced. I pushed thirty. A big smile. Soon, in my joy I overtook Ankit only to, stop.

“I think we have three options – We can either leave the motorcycle here, try to push it for five miles to get it on the main road, or wait for someone to give us a ride”

Ankit was quiet.

Yes, my motorcycle broke down five miles into the dirt road. Our worst fears had come true. The ‘what if’ situation  became a ‘what now’ situation. No, I did not reach those three option without trying to repair it. The problem was not too complicated. It started fine, had a good response on the throttle, but as soon as I put it in gear, it just died. Motorcycles have a side stand switch which prevents the gears from engaging before the side stand is raised up. The current symptoms mimiced this behaviour. I felt like something is wrong with this switch, but was not sure of myself. I tried to fiddle a bit here and there to see if there was a loose connection, but felt like I was loosing the ability to think clearly. That is when I uttered the words – “I think we have three options…”.

Before we could choose one among the three options, a godsend pickup truck came up from behind.

Mis motocicleta necessito servicio (my motorycycle need service)”, “Mecanico

He mecanico

Muy bien, per favor“, directing him towards my motorcycle.

(two Mexican men looking at my bike and talking in spanish)

They concluded that I should try pushing it. I frowned. I knew that would not solve the problem, however still gave it a shot just in case. No luck.

Senor, esta posible unnnnn… mis motocicleta… en sus coche  truck, y va a main road…. pago“, trying to ask him if we can load it on his truck and go to the main road, assuring that I can pay.

(two men discussing in spanish again)

They were going to San Felipe and said that they can take us there but we wanted to go back to Chapala. I told Ankit we can go to San Felipe with them with my bike on their truck, but good for us he still had his mental faculties calm and suggested it was not a good idea. I ask them again insisting if they can take us back instead of forward and this time they agreed.  I sat with them in their car and Ankit followed. The whole journey had taken a new turn. A U turn. It was no more about Mexico. It now was about returning home.

Returning home hopefully with all things we started with.

La Brouhaha Mexicana [4] : As planned as it gets

Chapter4: As planned as it gets.

{Previous Chapter: As Planned As It Gets}


No wonder this place is cheap“, was one of my opening statement on Friday morning. Although, I managed to get some sleep in, but calling it a good night’s sleep would be a stretch. However, what was on my mind then was Cataviña. About two hundred and thirty miles from Ensenada, Cataviña is a small hamlet. At least eighty miles from any other human habitation, Cataviña serves as a pit stop for travelers on Mex-1 highway which connects the north of Baja California to Cabo San Lucas tip in the south.

Anyhow, Cataviña  was still some hours away. Leaving our motel, we went straight to the ‘zona touristica’ for some breakfast at Casa Del Sol, Lopez Mateos, 1004, Ensenada, BC, Mexico. Make no mistake, there is a reason for my crystal clear remembrance of this address. The owner there spoke pretty good English and asked us about our trip. He recommended us to go to Bahia De Los Angeles instead of Cataviña, about a hundred miles further south, stating his concerns about the nothingness that prevails in Cataviña and the surrounding areas. ‘Nothingness’, attracts both Ankit and me. It gels well with the point of life. However, technically speaking Cataviña had a unique desert landscape and some ancient rock paintings to its merit.

Leaving Ensenada before noon, we headed south on Mex-1 highway. The start of the ride was a bit slower with many stop signs interruptions, but we were in riding mode in no time. In a bit, as soon as we started drifting away from the pacific ocean, it started becoming hotter, and the need to shed some layers meant a pit stop. Lucky for us our first pit stop gave us something unique – a cactus ‘farm’ near San Vicente. The idea of growing cactus in a farm was alien to me and amused me to a great degree. When I think of cactus, I think of yellow, I think desolation, arid, prickly, loner and the likes, so looking at the organized rows of green cactus with a human beings working to grow them in ‘farms’ still captivates my imagination. A quick click and we moved on.

Cactus Farm

Do you think they would have ever met any Indians before in their whole life?“, asked Ankit. A deep question. He was refering to the two women sitting inside a “nieveria” (ice cream and snow shop), in Colonet, seventy miles from Ensenada. “What do you think they do here all day? I mean how do they live?“, Ankit went on. I was busy enjoying the ‘Aguas de fruta’, a fruit drink and ‘frutas frescas’, fresh fruits.

We should ask them

But how can we ask?”

Hmm, ‘have you’ is ‘tienes’, ‘to see’ is ‘ver’, ‘Indian’ is – referring to the dictionary – ‘Indio’, and ‘before’ is ‘antes de‘”

So lets go and ask.”

Senora, ummmm… tienes ver Indio antes de

Indio de La India? {Indian from the Inida?}”, she asked not to get confused from Indian from America I suppose.


No.“, came an unenthusiastic response.

Dude! they have never met one before, no Indian would have ever stepped a foot in this shop“, remarked an enthusiastic Ankit. He was much more ecstatic meeting someone who had never met an Indian before, than them who had actually never met an Indian before. It was all Colonet had for us that day. Back on our bikes and we moved on.

Ice cream and another shop in Colonet.

I feel at home in Mexico“, I had exclaimed to a friend of mine before the trip started. What else would you call a place where you can find sweet mangoes. To add to the joy, what bliss if its being sold by a beautiful lady with a name as sweet as the mangoes. Ankit and I both were extremely happy to talk to ‘Marijuce’. We even offered her a slice of a mango we had just brought from her. A couple of more sentences, and then she said something, something like, “gusto moto“. A pause. “Si“, I replied. Another pause. “Si“, smiled Ankit. We had no clue what she was saying. I now know that she was trying to say that she likes motorcycles :).

Marijuce selling mangoes

Leaving Camalu we passed through San Quintin which was close to a nice bay accessible by five miles of dirt road, but it was already past four in the evening and we were getting late. We decided against it and went straight to El Rosario, the last gas station on Mex-1, for the next three hundred miles. Having a late lunch at Mama Espinoza, where we were shocked to find a twenty dollar burrito, we moved on towards Cataviña.

Cataviña (pronounced as Catavinia), was about eighty miles from El Rosario. Eighty miles of pure desert vegetation. Not like the desserts I had seen before, where all one sees growing are desert shrubs, but seventy miles of myriad cacti. Although, frequent stop irks Ankit, he has realized I would stop nonetheless. On my part I do try not to, but to not stop where the surrounding demands it would be mean, and I ain’t no mean person. How could I not stop when I first saw my ‘cacti hill’. A minute up the hill and I could easily notice ten different varieties of cacti. Click, click, click… click. “Oh there is a different one there“. Click. The nothingness of Cataviña was coming to bloom. This was only the start. With the changing hues of the sky, changed the desert vegetation. The sun kept on lowering, the cacti rising. However, soon enough the glory infused by the resplendent cacti on the barren desert floor was sopped up by the setting sun into an impregnable darkness. Then nothingness prevailed.

We reached Cataviña half an hour past sunset. Although, I was expecting Cataviña to be small town, given the font size on the map, it manage to surpass my expectations – being smaller than I expected it to be. We were to spend the night at Model Linda. Being first to reach there, we were given the best room – the only room which had seating just outside the door, a derelict car seat. Buying ‘aguas de fruta’ to drink from the only shop of Cataviña, we spent away few hours sitting and admiring the nothingness there. Soon, the silence of the night was broken by a big familiy – father, mother, sister, grand mother, grand father, kid one, kid two, kid three, kid four, kid five – when they were given the two room next to ours. We were told that the light would be switched off at eleven in the night. Little did we know that, that also included the two fans in our room. But, then it did not matter. We slowly dozed off to sleep finishing off a well planned day.

La Brouhaha Mexicana [3] : Begining Brouhaha

Chapter3: Beginning Brouhaha

{Previous Chapter: The Opening Act}

Tonight we had to cover a modest hundred miles to Ensenada. Between Ankit and me, we had close to eight Ensenada trips to boast about, nevertheless our fun began as soon as we entered Mexico. We missed the first exit to Ensenada. Not even five minutes in Mexico and our maps were out for directions. “I cant locate ourselves on the map”, I exclaimed. “The place where we are seems to be outside the boundaries of the map. Lets ask someone”. “Donde el viaje para Ensenada”, I asked a passerby. This literally meant, ‘Where the trip to Ensenada’ as I did not know the Spanish word for road, which I now know is ‘carretera’. However, he understood our needs, and guided us in his almost continuous Spanish sentences of which I just understood “a la derecha”, meaning “to the right”. This marked the first realization that we were in Mexico. Coupled with his hand signals and a word to depend on, it was amusing that we could still get on the right track – which actually involved staying on the right side of the road – without making any further mistakes.

Motel in El Sauzal

Poco Cielo was already on our plans as a dinner stop. Its almost halfway to Ensenada and its proximity to the beach gives it a perpetual soothing visual appeal. There we were greeted by our good friend Filipe, although for Filipe we were as good as a friend as ever other customer was. The views were good as ever, however the dinner in simple words was a disaster. Second realization, its not a good idea to try lasagna or exotic squids in a mexican resta urant. Since lasagna was a little more palatable, we split it and kindly gave the squid to the watchman outside Poco Cielo, who graciously accepted it with a smile. Moving on we reached El Sauzal, a small city just five miles north of Ensenada. I had looked up a youth hostel for fifteen dollars a night. A turn left, a right and another left, and we were standing in front of a locked door, only to be greeted by barking dogs. Looked like that hostel had gone out of business. Back on the main street, we found our stop for the night. For thirty dollars a night it seemed a raw deal. Wooden construciton, comfortable clean beds, well decorated walls, proximity to the beach, it was pleasing. It even had a television. Spending a night in a room with television and cable connection, has always been our idea of a vacation B-).

{Next Chapter: As Planned As It Gets}

La Brouhaha Mexicana [2] : The Opening Act

Chapter 2: The opening Act.

{ Previous Chapter: The overture }

We were all set, Ankit and me, to make this happen. This was our second attempt. The plan was quite simple. It was meant to be executed in three days. We ride motorcycles. Starting in San Deigo, we go south into Mexico – crossing Tijuana, Ensenada, San Quintin, El Rosario, Catavina we reach Chapala. From there a dirt road going north east takes us along the Sea of Cortez to San Felipe via Puertecitos. Going further north we cross back into US via Mexicali and back to San Diego. In all this would amount to over seven hundred miles, including the fifty miles of dirt road riding from Chapala to Puertecitos. Our first attempt in March of 2009, saw loss of some documents of our friend Anshu, leading to a premature return to San Diego from Ensenada. We however completed a San Diego-San Felipe trip via Mexicali, starting again the next day. This time, we were to complete it as planned. Or so we thought.

Mexico, is about 25 miles from our home. Having had the experience of going to Ensenanda a handful of times, Mexico does not scare us anymore. We somehow forget that it is a different country. We forget, that rules are different, the people, the culture, the currency, the language is different. These differences become insignificant. It becomes a routine to go to Mexico.

Walking back to our offices, late Thursday morning, after confirming from the International Center at UCSD that it is safe to go to Mexico and come back even if our American visas expire in a week, Ankit asked, “How much money should we take”.  “Ummmm… a hundred fifty dollars each? or may be a hundred”, I replied. Ankit concurred. Two hundred dollars looked sufficient to us for a three day trip to Mexico.

“So when are we leaving?”

“Well we can actually go to Ensenada tonight, spend a night there and start tomorrow morning for Catavina. This will help us cover a 100 miles, and let us have a comfortable start tomorrow morning”.

“Ya, for sure, so what time should we leave tonight?”

“How about around eight, we need to book a hotel in Ensenada.”

“We also need to buy insurance for our motorcycles.”

“Ok so can you go to the bank and get some Pesos, I will look for hotels in Ensenada and buy the insurance. Come to my place at around six or seven all packed”.

“Sounds good, laterz.”

Having done a handful of motorcycle trips packing does not seem a big task. For our motorcycles, some tools and a flat tire repair kit. For ourselves, our documents, a couple of set of clothes, jackets, toothbrush, towel, some medicines, cream for keeping our skins soft, some other basic necessities and we are set. A twenty minute job. Ankit came to my place at around six thirty as planned. He had two thousand three hundred Pesos on him that we split equally (one dollar equaled about twelve Pesos). To bid us good bye Himanshu and Kumar, laden with the same streak of adventure, stopped by. A ceremonial picture and we were all set. At around eight in the evening we were riding full speed on I-5 going south towards the Mexican border. A pit stop at a gas station to fill our tanks and double check our documents, and we were in Mexico in no time.

{Next Chapter: Beginning Brouhaha}

La Brouhaha Mexicana [1] : The Overture

This ‘Confusion’ is dedicated to my loved ones from whom I am so far away. The setting of this confusion is in Mexico. Its a long act, so would take three four chapters to complete. Will post them as and when they are complete. Here I begin:

Chapter1: The Overture

señor: Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero orita si

me (thinking): my….. family….. here…..<ok I understand this>,
you….. your…. friend… <dont know this word> yes….

me: nosotros familia en la India {our families are in India}

señor (speaking slower): no, no, Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero orita si

me: tu familia acqi, si… mi familia en la India

señor: nooooo…..

me: lo siento señor, no eniendo… {I am sorry, I dont undestand}

<2 mins later>

me (looking at the phrase book): Podría usted hablar más despacio por favor? {can you please speak a little more slowly}

señor (speaking still slower): Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero origa si

me (confused): no eniendo senor…lo siento…

me (thinking): does he want to know about my family or not…let me try to ask him this.

<refers dictionary>
know: saber
about: acerca de

me: Quieres {want} saber acerca de mi familia?

señor: no no..

<señor is dissappointed>

{ Next Chapter: The Opening Act }