The Ravings of a Motorcyclist Explorer | Pan American Trails

The Ravings of a Motorcyclist explorer peregrinating through Old Mexico and Guatemala

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

From the April 1936 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.

Photos by Jose Porta

Last month the wandering motorcyclist, Jose Porta, left San Juanito enroute from Oaxaca to Guatemala. Encountering impassable trails he dismantled his motor and packed to Rancho Escondido by jackass. He reassembled the motor by night, ready to push on at dawn.

And what a surprise I received the next morning! And what roads! If the four burros hadn’t been taken back to San Juanito the night before I would never have driven over those trails on my motorcycle. It was impossible for me to go through them. True, I had reached the highest mountain peak, and that was something to be thankful for. But the path was leading down a valley, then up another mountain, then down again over an endless chain of rocky, wild, uninhabited and inaccessible mountains.

I had left the ranch and I was now left alone to struggle the best I could. Of all the places I went through, none of them could be compared to the wildness and roughness of these narrow and treacherous trails.

While going down hill I had to let the motorcycle drop from rock to rock and trust to luck that I wouldn’t smash everything to pieces. More than once the brake connection under the frame was cleaved clear through by the sharp rocks and, with the motorcycle out of control, I found myself careening down hill at a maddening speed, until I was thrown through space by the impact of the motorcycle against a protruding rock.

I wasn’t having much fun at the time. Unable to control the motorcycle over those obstacles with the heavy load on it I had to unpack everything and carry all my bundles on my back, a few yards at a time, then come back to the motorcycle and, stripped to the waist, laboring and struggling under a broiling sun, I had the time of my life charging those heretofore unconquered mountainsides, sitting astride a powerful motor which, without a miss, was bellowing its roar of power, confident of its own strength and unaware of the fact that it was the first motor vehicle ever to cross that God-forsaken region.

I traveled all day long without food and without water and without meeting a single human being. I spent hours on one single hill, unable to reach the top.

Night caught me in the wilderness and the next day I reached San Carlos Yautepec, which was only six or seven miles from Rancho Escondido.

There was a commotion at the village when I arrived there and, to give those people a treat I entered the plaza through a steep and rough hill, at full speed, taking all bumps on the high jump and scaring dogs and pigs and chickens who had the misfortune to be in my path.

The one good point about my trip was that when I was traveling through isolated country where there were no roads and I was always in need of the help and assistance of my fellow men, I was invariably well received whenever I reached a ranch or a village, and every possible assistance was given me.

Besides I had left Oaxaca with over twenty letters of introduction in my possession, letters which were meant for the Presidentes of the various villages I had to cross, and which had been given me by several prominent political figures. Such letters proved to be an open sesame of tremendous importance and it was mostly on their account that I was received with the utmost courtesy and the warmest hospitality.

Occasionally such hospitality would be overdone as, for instance, when they used to give me a room to sleep in and then put a sentry in front of my door to watch over my sleep, and that poor man would walk up and down and up and down all night long, almost driving me out of my senses and keeping me awake until dawn. Still, their intentions were good and I had to suffer and then thank them for it.

By Jose Porta
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