Tiffani's Yamaha FZ-07 Tour: Hail, Horses, and...Ireland?

Chapter 3, Part 11.

We left Salina Cruz after staying a few extra days due to yet another bout of food sickness, and then started making our way to Chiapas. The second we crossed over the state border, I instantly felt happier and more in tune with the environment. While the mountains were still speckled with trash fires that were burning the vegetation (I'm not sure if this is more or less disappointing than all of the unburned trash everywhere), eventually the fire gave way to rich, green, living plants. Ascending along the mountain road was probably the best I've felt since reaching the mainland.

Tiffani Mexico
If you had told me six months ago when I was running from winter in the Northeastern U.S. that I would be thrilled to be standing in a hailstorm, I’d have called you crazy. I guess a couple months of Mexican heat made me crazy instead!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

We made a brief stop in Tuxtla Gutierrez, and then made our way up a fun, fast and sweeping mountain road to San Cristobal de las Casas. We passed cars on the inside and outside of turns while enjoying dramatically dropping temperatures and a growing number of pine trees. Here, I had booked an Airbnb for a couple weeks to try to regroup mentally after the trying ride along the coast. Our first day in the mountain town brought a thunderstorm of rain and hail, and I couldn't have been more excited to be cold! I missed the mountains so much!

Unfortunately, the joy and sense of relaxation was quickly diminished upon contracting a bug of my own from the wonderful sanitation standards of Mexican restaurants. Finding myself the sickest I’ve ever been in my life crippled my first week and most of my plans to hike and explore the area. (I won’t gross everyone out with ALL the details, but I hope to never again pass out on the bathroom floor in my own vomit!) In an attempt to salvage what was left of our time in San Cristobal, we went into town to set up some tours. Being a fairly small and poor city, the prices were incredibly inexpensive, so we actually could afford to play tourist for a few days! We took a boat tour through Sumidero canyon, a canyon that had walls as tall as a kilometer above the water, lined with rain forest populated by exotic birds, monkeys, and crocodiles. This is more like it!

Tiffani Mexico
A boat tour of Sumidero Canyon opened our eyes to views and wildlife we never could have seen from our bikes. I guess I’ll have to learn to pilot every kind of vehicle to truly see the world!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

We spent the next day hanging out with Tree, a cyclist we had met on the ferry to Mazatlan who happened to be in San Cristobal at the time. The day after that we booked a horseback tour to a native village.

I’ve spent a lot of time on my iron war pony, but I’ve definitely never spent any time on an organic one! We loaded up in the back of a beat-up old pickup (NOW we’re doing Mexico proper), and the driver took us to a path with some horses where we mounted up. It took me a while to trust that the horse wouldn’t drop me or do things she couldn’t handle, especially as the trails got super rocky. Turns out, horses are much better at off-road trails than I am, haha. My horse reminded me a lot of myself in the way she would hesitate in the sketchy stuff, then finally commit and prove she was more capable than she thought. Also because she would occasionally fall behind Hollywood’s horse and then work twice as hard catching up. Just Tiff things.

Tiffani Mexico
Riding a real horse for the first time felt a little bit like hopping on a motorcycle for the first time. Fortunately, unlike my first time on a motorcycle, I didn’t drop the horse on my leg, haha.Photo: Tiffani Burkett

We eventually arrived at a Mayan village where they let us shop around for a bit (no pictures allowed though—sorry!), and we picked up some hand-made Mayan wool sweaters. I don’t get to pick up many souvenirs in my travels, mostly due to space restraints, but I really wanted to get something at least a little cultural. One of the other women on the tour was a history teacher up in Zacatecas, and told us stories about the city’s past as we rode back to San Cristobal.

After a few days of relaxing and enjoying the fair weather, it was finally time to move on. I’ll miss this little mountain town, but there’s a lot of Latin America still to see!

Tiffani Mexico
When the road was actually passable enough to look up, seeing the rain forest all around me made every bit of struggle it took to get this far feel worth it. I can only imagine what we’ll see even further south!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

Originally, the plan had been to head to the border of Guatemala and start making our way through, but a last minute call from a friend changed our plans in a way I never expected. Our buddy JD was planning to race the North West 200 in Northern Ireland and needed a crew. Next stop: the Cancun airport! Unfortunately, the most direct route, we were told, was rife with road blocks and a hostile group of protesters, so we opted to go the long way around back through Tuxtla and up through Tabasco. Our first day’s ride was a glorious array of rain forest, swampland, and jungle. I was completely in awe, having seen nothing quite like it, save maybe the Everglades in Florida.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t focus on the sights for long, as we veered off onto a tight and twisty backroad with an endless barrage of deep, treacherous, and plentiful heaves, ruts, dirt, gravel, and potholes. I don’t know if it even counts as pavement at this point—I’ve seen jeep trails smoother than this! The tightness of the road proved even more dangerous, as cars would veer into my lane in blind turns trying to dodge deep potholes in their lanes. It became a slow crawl along the road in hopes of having time to react and survive, as the drivers in Mexico have been pretty clear that they don’t care if they run you over.

At one point, the road turned to barely compacted tar that was clearly supposed to eventually be a freshly paved road, but instead, they allowed cars to drive on top of their half-done work. The loose and rutted asphalt was vaguely reminiscent of the sand in the Baja rather than any manner of actual road. The third world is going to be the death of me, I swear.

Tiffani Mexico
They used some really cool visual effects on the walls of the church to tell the history of Valladolid. Double points because it was played back to back in both Spanish and English, so I could actually understand it!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

We took a break in Villahermosa, a Spanish town complete with cannons to ward off pirates coming in from the turquoise gulf. Next we made way along a long, straight, and well-maintained road to Campeche and then Valladolid, which was kind of a cool town. We hung out in the square, wandered around the local museum, struggled to not get heat stroke and watched a cool, colorful history lesson of the city that used a projector with an old church as its canvas. We finally pounded out or last day to Cancun, where planned to take our bikes to an RV park to secure them while we were out of the country.

Tiffani Mexico
Peace out, Mexico! We’ll be back to ride you again in a week!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

Unfortunately, after a mostly successful run avoiding being on the wrong side of the federales, Hollywood got pulled over for riding… spiritedly. After a frustrating exchange, including the officer suddenly accusing me of speeding too, (when all I was guilty of was pulling over behind them to wait), I handed over 500 pesos just to get him to leave us alone so we could make our flight. According to the local who took us to the airport, “speeding tickets” in Mexico are more of an excuse to get bribe money. Sometimes I feel like the people who complain about corruption in the States need to come down here and see what corruption really looks like. I guess our last day here for a bit needed one more jab.

But none of that matters anymore because now we’re getting on a plane for Belfast and we’re going to watch some motorcycle racing! I can’t even imagine what we’re in for!

Tiffani Mexico
It’s a long haul from the Pacific side of Mexico to the Atlantic side.Photo: Tiffani Burkett