As we were planning our trip through the Americas, I must admit, I was a bit worried about riding in Mexico. I didn't worry about Honduras, even though it is called a most dangerous country in the world, I didn't worry too much about Colombia (maybe because the mayor of Bogota was once a Lithuanian - Antanas Mockus and the fact that we have a famous singer in Lithuania Jurgis Didziulis, who was born and raised in a Lithuanian expat family in Colombia, it kind of felt a nice country to me (and it did even exceed my expectations for its' "niceness"!)), but I was definitely worried about our safety in Mexico.
Just to make things worse, my cousin shared an article with me about people being kidnapped and beheaded in Mexico, the former mayor of the capital city in Lithuania, Vilnius, who rode through Mexico on his BMW R1200GS last year, also shared some stories of roads being blocked everywhere and some places reported as exceptionally dangerous...
But by the time we got to Mexico border, we could speak Spanish to the level where it was possible to have a conversation with locals on everyday topics if they would speak a bit slower than usual :) And we have gotten used to Latin American way of life. So the fact that we are crossing the border into Mexico didn't seem like a very big deal.
First thing we ran into, though, was a road block called retén in Spanish, where the locals that way collect some "tax" from those who want to pass. They demanded we pay 20 pesos each to be able to continue riding. Its an amount that equals a bit more than 1€, so this wasn't a big deal.
And then we got to know Mexico... We only spent about a month in this country, but that time was enough to experience the it's incredible vibe.
So, despite the very wrong image this country has thanks to the international media and all the stereotypes, here are three things about Mexico, everyone should know:
1. Mexicans are incredibly warm nation. Everywhere we went, we met only friendly and welcoming people. Contact with them always felt as if we were very good friends or even far away relatives! They will leave you alone if you don't show any interest in talking to them, but if you approach a person, say, on the street and start talking, they are sincerely the warmest and most helpful people you can imagine.
We stayed with a family near the beautiful Guanajuato town and it really felt like visiting our relatives - amazing long conversations in Spanish and in English, a tour around the old town Guanajuato, warm and cozy dinners and working on the bikes together.
2. Mexico has a very rich culture, amazing food (it felt so great to be able to finally have a bigger variety of lunch options by the road that only chicken, rice and beans..), and plenty of incredible places to visit and experience!
The general feeling we got in this country made us relaxed and happy! Nobody rushes there and neither should you - enjoy your taco or a burrito slowly, take a slow walk through any of the amazing historical old towns of climb a Mayan pyramid in the ruins (by the way, we were let into these amazing Tonina ruins for free, cause we could only pay with US dollars or a bank card and the gentleman at the entrance would only accept Mexican pesos. He thought for a moment and just told us not to worry about it, he let us in for free and wished a nice day).
Also, the surreal park of concrete sculptures in the jungle near Xilitla - Las Pozas de Edward James - a must visit place in Mexico! A British artist Edward James wanted to create his own heaven with the exotic animals and hundreds of orchids there, but after unusually cold weather one summer destroyed big part of his orchids, between 1949 and 1984 he created an amazing park made of concrete there so nothing could easily harm it. The place feels really mystical and surreal!
The whole Baja California peninsula is an unforgettable place to be! It varies from the incredible coastlines to sandy desert and endless fields of cactus and has something to offer for every rider's taste - from straight wide highways with barely any traffic to technical sandy tracks with river crossings and of course - fantastic places to camp!
3. The prices in Mexico are amazingly low! A taco by the side of the road could cost as low as 10 pesos (about 0,5 €), a place to sleep would vary from 3 to 20 € for two people (camping or a hotel/hostel/motel room) so on average, if we had to pay for accommodation, it would cost about 9 €/night for two if us and the food for both of us would cost around 14 € per day.
You should only be careful at the gas stations. All over Mexico, there's only one brand of them - Pemex, but the price for Premium type gasoline (octane 92 - the highest available) may vary a bit depending on the place. However, in some of them, we managed to fill in 20 liters into an F650GS while it only has a capacity of 16 liters in it's tank! So keep your eyes open.
In general, Mexico felt secure, friendly and very welcoming all along the way. We did take some general safety precautions - avoided riding around after the sunset, tried not to leave motorcycles with all the gear on them unattended (and not parked into a safe parking space) for too long and consulted with locals about the best riding routes towards the place we want to get to.
It was our final experience of Latin America on this adventure and indeed, it was a bit sad to leave this amazing country. If I had to choose the best countries to ride a motorcycle in from the ones we already visited, I'd say it's Mexico, Colombia and Chile.