Neil's in... Starting Something Old Something New

by Neil on 4/01/2017

I decided this year to do something old something new, something I missed doing, something I used to take a lot of enjoyment in doing, and something that ultimately makes the future me happy.  Yes, that’s right, I used to write a blog, years ago back in the day of 2004 till 2006 I kept a blog writing all kinds of strange and wonderful ideas I had go through my head. I documented the quality of corned beef and discussed metaphysics and moral questions.  While, I don’t wish to repeat that confusing acid-tripesque journey I would like to share my daily thoughts and photographs between now and my next big trip. For now, I purport to keep it text and photos, maybe some videos later on but no promises on that. 

In summary of what I have been doing since ending my trip in the Americas, has been here in Barcelona, scheming a few ideas on how to earn money between trying various job interviews, trying out agencies and ultimately doing a career change and training up to be an English teacher (TEFL style).  

 

A photo posted by Neil’s in…. (@neilsnaps) on


Life changes include: buying a new motorbike in England and riding it back, coupled with deep depression, returning to England (a place I hoped never to return to) to collect it unemployed and homeless in Barcelona; I also faced breaking up with my then girlfriend Gabby, which in the eyes of many probably would have said: “It wasn’t going to last“, yet that doesn’t sooth the rampant self defeat and heart wrenching pain I went through.  

 

A video posted by Neil’s in…. (@neilsnaps) on

Additionally, I got big into bicycling but had that stolen from me, so good then bad.  I also obviously started climbing and that has been going really well and to which I have many things to thank for, I have both made friends, kept my morale high and also got advice into teaching which I would have otherwise not had. 

So in summary, this Christmas I had my mother visiting me here in Barcelona. I then went to Germany to visit my good friend Jessica who has also done her great escape from London and now lives in Berlin.

 

A photo posted by Neil’s in…. (@neilsnaps) on

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Neil's in... Xilitla and onto Tucson

by Neil on 4/06/2016

Leaving Xilitla and onto TucsonXilitla and onto Tucson Foreword 

This is a lot of distance covered, and despite a day stop over in San Luis Potosí, the actual time stopped between Xilitla and onto Tucson was minimal. My feeling toward Mexico at this point was wearing thin and I couldn’t wait to be back in an English speaking country for once. 

San Luis Potosí 

Arriving at San Luis Potosí, I met a couple of backpackers, one of which informed me that the hostel in Durango, I so fondly looked forward to returning to, was closed down. I had previously thought of spending a few days there in Durango, I searched the hostels, hotels, B&Bs and so on, nothing either affordable or welcoming.  I scrapped the plan.

Meanwhile in San Luis, I got talking to one of the staff at the hostel, advising me to check out an abandoned mining town which used to be the state capital Cerro de San Pedro. I decided to spend another night in San Luis, hoping it to being fun. Frankly, it was a disappointment. Maybe if I went with someone, or if there was any aesthetic value to it, besides the generic church/cathedral that all colonial cities of Mexico have. I took the drive up to this abandoned town and it was like arriving at an out of season holiday resort, it didn’t feel that genuine or real. While I was there, dark clouds lurked over, and a few cracks of thunder got me marching to my bike. Determined not to be drowned like the day before as I arrived. Thankfully, just a scare!  But did make a for a short and pointless day. 

The following day I did the piddly distance to Zacatecas, about 2 hours, annoyingly, between Zacatecas and Durango there isn’t a great deal and the hostel in Zacatecas is amazing!

While there I managed to get the videos for Xilitla edited and uploaded and found a somewhat doable/affordable hotel in Durango, looked sketchy though.

I set off that morning nice and early and found myself in the outskirts of Durango with plenty of energy to go. I spent a fair while in the shade of a bridge debating what distance I could cover with the remaining day left. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about either outcome. I decided I should just stick to my original plan, found the crappy hotel, got a room took a walk, went to bed. Grumpy. Funny how a place that had such a good energy to it, now was a crap hole.

Durango and onto Chihuahua

At dawn the next day I was up and ready to hit the road I set myself an ambitious distance to do to Chihuahua and all on non-toll roads. Little did I realise the day before, arriving in Durango the time zone had changed, my early start was actually an hour earlier than I planned. Thankfully, the early start was a good help! Given I had expected a long day for myself, I broke it down to several stops: drinks, snacks and meals and photographs made the 632km quite doable!


I arrived in Chihuahua that evening hot and tired. After a meal at some “fancy” (pricey) restaurant (ode to the others being shut) I went to bed and woke up the next day again with the quandary of how far did I want to go in a single day.

After the day before going crazy on distance as speed, I idled along and I found myself at Nueva Casas Grandes, I had phoned ahead from Chihuahua at a hostel confirmed they had space and arrived thinking I knew where I was going to be staying the night. “Little did he know…” the hostel owner answered the door in a bad mood, telling me, “no, you need to book a week in advanced” I tried reasoning with him about the conversation we had earlier that morning, he acted in total denial. The longer I stayed in conversation the more flaws I found in the location, cleanliness, type of service I’d receive. I left certainly glad I wasn’t staying there. I checked in to hotel California (and made sure there was a leave policy, one can never be sure with a hotel by that name after The Eagles sang that song), it wasn’t that expensive, it served its purpose.
With now about a hundred miles or so to the border I was buzzing with excitement. The following morning I hit the road with eagerness. The road was uneventful, just a couple of military checkpoints as I got closer to Agua Prieta.

Border Crossing

The crossing was a palava, firstly I was in the queue to enter the US for about 20 minutes before I realised it was US customs only, I hadn’t been stamped out of Mexico, and my $400 USD hadn’t been returned to me. I exited the queue and started hunting for the Mexican immigration office. A few backward and forwards and finally I was returned my money. Then, re-enter the queue to the US, this presented complications as I entered the shortest queue, unmarked I wasn’t to know it was for special passes until I rounded the bend. They dealt with me regardless but had to close my lane after the chaos that was to follow, my ESTA (visa waiver for the US), had not been stamped out when I entered Mexico. Again, in my defence, it was a similar situation to this one, the US immigration office wasn’t visible when exiting the US into Mexico in September, and no reminders. I swear it was easier in Africa to do a border crossing than in the Americas.


Finally, after being disarmed (my Leatherman and bush knife I carry on my belt when travelling) and being cross-examined and threatened in an office for what seemed forever, I finally got into the US and my deadly weapons returned to me.
The heat was a little overwhelming standing around in my bike gear and my phone battery was dying, I was in a predicament about where I was going to be sleeping that night, however, unlike in Mexico, navigation is easy in the US, I had a campsite coordinated plugged into my phone, I glanced at the route for a bit and switched my phone off… The rest is history. 😛

From a diner the following morning, I booked myself into an Airbnb with Ron, who turned out to be a total gem and a great host to stay with. I rocked up into Tucson, melting from every bit of me.  I spent a few days there, replacing my all black riding gear with some more sensible army surplus sand/desert clothing, I sent my bike jacket to Utah, my boots back to Oregon and binned whatever else wasn’t useful.   

While in Tucson, I took myself to the Prima Air Museum (claimed to be the largest military aircraft salvage site).  I thoroughly enjoyed it even if it was 43 degrees Celsius wandering around air planes in the desert.  

 

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Neil's in... Xilitla

by Neil on 23/05/2016

 

Leaving Grutas de TolantongoI left Tolantongo after a great couple of nights, leaving at 9 am after a decent breakfast and packing up.
GPS again giving me false readings telling me 4 hours to destination. Keep in mind the drive was just under 300km but through various mountain passes.  Up and down various times and the temperature gradually increasing and increasing to the point where I was suffering.
At one given point about 6 hours in (no stops) I miscalculated a bend as slipped into the oncoming lane, I’d say 6 hours, no break, baking heat didn’t help. I recovered from a head-on crash with a police car. I pulled over shaking with an overwhelming feeling of stupidity, also the heat was having its toll. Soon enough the police car I almost crashed into came speeding after me, arrived at a skid asking me what I had just done in the typical police rhetoric. I greeted the police with a handshake. Clearly, with the heat, the fright and now the implied accusation, I was now feeling pretty much defeated. I explained my situation that I was weary and made a miscalculation and that is why I had pulled over for precisely that reason.

I was feeling a bribe was on… The police driver went on about how to “[…]make both our lives easier and not go to court[…]” and here I was expecting the bribe. Instead, he told me to rest up and take it easy, and reassured me Xilitla would wait and I should take it easy. He shook my hand again and wished me well. I still was left wondering what the bribe amount was going to be…. As he and his colleague returned to the car and left with tyres spinning on the hot tar. And that was that, I sat in the shade of a shed on the side of the road, sipped water got a while and then got back on the bike. I drove very cautiously the remaining distance to my destination.

Xilitla

Casa Caracol

 

Eventually, 7 hours later, I arrived at Casa Caracol (snail house), a hostel almost facing the Edward James gardens.
With low blood sugar and dehydration under way, I went to grab a few fizzy drinks and a meal. Totally unlike the time I was here before, it was hot and (of course) humid!Hanging by the pool

 

That evening I met, Andrew and Anna two USA’ians backpacking around Mexico independently, that made their acquaintance the day before, we spent the following day hanging out in Xilitla together in town and at the pool of the hostel. Like I say, it was hot and humid.Puente de Dios

 

Following day I went to the Puente De Dois another water feature. Which was spectacular!Under the Puente de Dios

 

Followed by another rest day and more sun and more swimming pool time. Given it was Sunday, and the Edward James gardens were packed, I thought I’d wait for Monday for it to be more empty.

The Monday after, I went early to the Edward James gardens. To take some more photos and experience the space once more. Funny how the change in climate can change a space. It was everything as much as fun, if not more than it was at Christmas!

As the day got on, the place filled up with school kids and it was time to leave. I went that afternoon to visit the Cueva Salitre a cave under Xilitla

Cueva de Salitre, Xilitla

That was very impressive!

The following day I went to see the the Sotano de las Golondrinas, a large cave that homes thousands upon thousands of birds that perform a display every dawn and sunset, which unfortunately due to weather and it being mating season we totally missed it.

Following that I went to the waterfall of Tamul which was fantastic.

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