Pan American Trails part 7

Side trips out of Mexico City bring new adventures on a long solo tour Being more of a trip from St. Louis to Managuz in Nicaragua

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

Half way along an his solo tour of Mexico, the author takes advantage of the modem facilities of Mexico City to repair his motor, to relax and to take a few side trips. But for the experiences on his side trips he might have run into serious mechanical difficulties

I had a week to myself yet before I could leave Mexico City and I decided to take a ride to Acapulco, on the Pacific Coast. The highway to Acapulco had recently been opened and it was well constructed and comfortable in every respect. It was probably at the time the longest highway in Mexico. I took my time and drove to Cuernavaca on a paved road, then I left the pavement and met a hard surfaced highway which took me thru several quaint and typical Mexican villages, the most important of which being Tuxco with its famous cathedral.

I stopped at every village and at the end of the third day I reached Acapulco, the land of the cocoanuts. I had a swim in the ocean and slept on the beach for a couple of nights and then, weary of the scenery, I drove back over the same road.

I was speeding along the highway, happy and carefree, thankful at the thought that there at least I had no mud to fight and no sand to cross and no creeks to jump. Nothing could have happened to me there.

But one should never be too sure of himself. I heard a crash and I flew over the highway. I was alone on a smooth road still the motor had suddenly crumbled under me and the next minute I was thrown up in the air, and I landed on the ground, in a stupor, unable to understand what had happened. I picked myself up and I rushed to the still motor, which was laying in a heap like a pile of junk.

A quick survey gave me the key to the solution. The double tube frame had been cut clear through in the front and the heavy motor had fallen to the ground and the top frame was bent, sending the saddle to meet the handlebars. It was a mess and everything looked so hopeless to me then. Besides the front spring was also broken into pieces and Mexico City was about seventy-five miles away.

Instead of kicking I was glad that it happened. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, because if the frame had lasted a few days more or if I had gone straight south instead of going to Acapulco I would certainly have got stuck in some wild country where I had to give up everything and leave the motorcycle behind. That frame had probably been broken for days or maybe weeks and it just happened that it gave up while riding on a smooth road.

I started to get busy fixing up that damage. I had about thirty feet of good strong rope. I tried to tie the bottom and top frame together but I couldn’t do it alone. As luck planned it two motorcycle officers came along and they began to work with me. Then a truck passed by and the driver offered to carry my motor to the capital. Of course I refused and then the four of us together managed to tie the frame and the motor so that the pile of junk began again to look like a motorcycle and finally I was able to ride, but very slowly, because the motor was dragging on the ground. I reached a small village where I went to a blacksmith shop and had a strong clamp put around the broken frame and the next day I was back in Mexico City without any further inconvenience.

I lost a few more days to have the motorcycle fixed. I put on a new double strength front spring; I had the broken frame welded, then I put a clamp over it and had it welded also and on top of that I fastened a strong bracket to relieve the weight of the motor from the bottom frame.

When everything was in tip-top condition I went back to the immigration office to get my passport.

“Yes, Senor,” the clerk told me, very politely, too politely. “Your passport is ready and you may stay in Mexico as long as you wish. Twenty-five pesos, please.”

I turned red as a beet and I was about ready to blow up. I had spent two months trying to collect the money that the Mexican Government owed me, and besides not getting a cent out of them they wanted me to pay them another twenty-five pesos. No, a thousand times no! I didn’t have it, but even if I had it I wouldn’t have paid it. It wasn’t right!

I mumbled something to the clerk about not having enough change on me and I left my passport there promising to call for it the next day. I walked out of the building gesticulating and talking to myself and calling everybody names: “Chiselers! Double-crossers!” I walked to my hotel and started to pack up.

Next morning, the eleventh of November I left Mexico City and drove to Puebla, over one hundred and thirty-two kilometers of paved road. I was surprisingly well received in this town and I was introduced to several sporting clubs where collections were taken from the members for the purpose of sponsoring my trip and, after a three days’ stay, I left Puebla With my pockets bulging with silver pesos.

From Puebla I didn’t know where to go in order to reach Guatemala. The highest authorities in town didn’t know anything about the roads thru Southern Mexico. Some of them would advise me to go to Cordova, towards Vera Cruz and from there to follow the railroad all the way to the isthmus of Tehuantepec, which I had to reach before getting to Guatemala. On the other hand my next advisor would tell me to go first to Oaxaca and from there to Tehuantepec, this being the shortest way. After listening to everybody I decided on the latter course, only to find out later on that it was the wrong one, and that I would have been much better off if I had gone the other way.

Leaving Puebla I left all good road behind me and I was once more trusting to my good luck to reach my destination. My only consolation was that the rainy season was over and that I wouldn’t have to worry about mud any longer. Still I had mountains to cross, as the state of Oaxaca is the most mountainous region of Mexico, and the roads were again of the most primitive sort. Needless to say I was always struggling with my motorcycle trying to keep her on the road, and day after day it was always the same routine of falling down and getting up.

I had no road maps with me and I had to get my information from the natives which were anything but comprehensive and that cost me many extra miles of useless riding.

The majority of the people I met were very considerate and hospitable, but occasionally I would find some sullen Indian who, either thru fear of my motorcycle or thru sheer hostility would keep me out of his door with a belligerent machete.

Yet I always tried to avoid trouble and I never started any arguments. My policy was to go my way and to mind my own business.

El Rosario is a little village somewhere between Puebla and Oaxaca, consisting only of a few ranches. I reached it at twilight, weary and hungry and I meant to stop there for the night. I was hailed at the first ranch by the ranchero who came out to welcome me. An arriero who had passed by early in the day had told him that I was due to go thru that village and the poor man had everything ready so I could spend a comfortable night at his place.

I thanked him but I told him that I had to see the Presidente first and abide to what he had to say. It way my duty to report to the Presidente of every village that I passed. The ranchero showed me the house of the Presidente and I rode there. At the noise of my motor half a dozen men, armed to the teeth, came out of the building. It was the police force of El Rosario. The Presidente made himself known and I showed him my credentials. I had noticed at first glance that he was drunk and so were the men with him.

He threw the papers back at me (he couldn’t read) and he asked me what I wanted. I told him who and what I was and that I hoped to find shelter for the night in his village, and probably a dish of beans.

“Shelter?” he hollered. “Beans? Who do you think I am? Get out of here. Keep going.”

“But I’ll pay for it, Mister Presidente,” I said politely. “It is dark and I can’t go any farther.”

“Get out of here, you dog! I don’t want strangers here. Get out!” His voice rose into a fury. The men joined him and formed a circle around me. Hostility was evident in their faces. They were drunk and not conscious of their actions and as I said before, beware of a drunken Indian.

I realized suddenly that I had no business being there. It was hopeless to reason with those people. I was still sitting on the saddle of my motorcycle which I never left during the altercation. A nauseating stench of liquor was emanating from the six stinking mouths of the six men. I wanted to get out of there. I kicked the motor. I gave her a lot of gas. I made a tail spin sending the Presidente and his henchmen sprawling to the ground and before they could recover from their surprise I was out of sight.

I heard a shot, and another one, and I reached the door of the friendly ranchero as he flung it wide open, alarmed by the shots.

He guessed at what had happened and he shut the door behind me.

“I guess you were meant to stay here after all,” he said as he took me to the dining room, where he and his family were having supper.

We had just finished eating when we heard a commotion at the front gate and somebody hollered to my protector to go outside. He went, and after a few minutes of heated confabulation he came back with a note in his hands.

He laughed as he showed it to me. It was a warrant for my arrest duly stamped and signed by the Presidente, requesting the ranchero to immediately deliver the prisoner to the proper authorities.

“I think I’d better go and straighten things out. I don’t want to get you in trouble,” I said.

“Oh, no you don’t,” he answered. “They are too darn drunk to listen to reason. They are liable to shoot you first and then be sorry afterwards.”

“But what about you?”

“Don’t worry about that. They won’t dare do anything to me. The Presidente and his gang are nothing but a bunch of drunken outlaws, and I know how to handle them.”

And then I thought of what I had heard a few days before. Of how an airmail pilot had motor trouble while going over this same region and had a forced landing near a village, of which I forgot the name. As his plane came to a stop he jumped off and walked towards a group of natives expecting to get help. Those natives had seen airplanes before but in their small minds they never could understand exactly what made them fly, until the rumor had spread among them that the blood of little children was used to feed the airplanes with. And when the pilot landed his plane and walked towards the natives only one thought came to their mind, simultaneously: he had come to get blood from their own little children. And they waited for him without uttering a single word and when he reached them, they clubbed him to death.

I laughed at the story when I first heard it and was incredulous even when I heard it from several poeple, but when I mingled with those natives and learned to understand them better, then I believed what I had heard.

The Presidente and his gang must have been fast asleep when I left the village the next morning, since I didn’t meet a

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By Jose Porta
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