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On the road . February 2009 . Mexico

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Hotel Morelos, San Blas , Mexico, 01-03-09
San Blas to the San Blas Mercado and back again several times each week (0 cycle days; 0km; 0m)
Paying for it
We have watched the days whiz past this month and we are now feeling a little guilty for having sat put for yet another 30 days. It hasn't been a boring time at all: San Blas has had enough festivities throughout the month to last most people a full year. Besides, we have been ticking very hard away at the keyboard: fixing up our website; altering a couple of others; building a new one; and generally researching into how we can make travelling around the world on the bike pay just a little bit of its own way.

This means the extend of our exercise has been strolling round the town shopping, walking to the bakery, going out to the pizza restaurant once a week, getting up and down to make coffee, grab a beer or go to the bathroom. And the result of that is an expanded waistline, yep even on Ali, and the nagging urge to start cycling again. It is really time to go.

And the circus came to town
We know it isn't PC to support the old-style circus institution, but when the big top arrived in San Blas, we couldn't resist the opportunity to see what a Mexican version would entail. We were very excited about our ringside seats for 40 pesos each (about 2 euros), though the show had a few routines and costumes in need of a little repair. Still, with all the unprofessionalism, the clown was really cool and all the kids just loved the show.

It was a strange feeling in the red and gold spot-lit ambience: felt like we were in one of those lands at the top of the Magic Faraway tree in Enid Blyton's children's book. There were camels eating carrots out of peoples mouths, tigers jumping through flaming hoops, motorcycles riding inside metal balls, clowns throwing popcorn over you, and as a grand finale a giant air-filled King Kong to scare us back through the hole in the cloud, down the tree and into reality. Yes, it was another world. And definitely a world that would only survive in countries like Mexico.

February Festival: boy do they love it!
Honestly, we couldn't have picked a more lively month to spend in San Blas. Sure, January tempted us with a few special events during the Bird Migration Week, but February laid out a feast of festivities not only to be enjoyed but also heard for miles around. The most important of them all being Dia de San Blas: a religious event taking place on the third; and where the patron saint is ceremoniously carried from the town church to the docks and sent on a wee boat trip to consecrate a rock and back again. Also know as the Blessing of Sea Festival, it ensures that locals have another year of fruitful fishing.

Everyone piles into boats to follow the holy vessel's journey and then it is back to the town plaza to hang around eating fairy floss until the big fireworks display, which finishes off the celebrations with whole lot more banging and hissing than anything else. But boy, do they love it!

You'll be woken the next morning to the beating of drums and the Mexican National Anthem on Constitution Day and a week later you won't be able to find a single Ferrero Rocher or anything with a love heart on it in the whole of San Blas. Roses are bought in especially for Dia de San Valentin and it is for everyone and not just your secret sweetheart. What certainly is; is the provocative dance they are crazy about here. This dance floor jaunt could be described a bit like this: the girl straddles the guy's slightly bent right leg and leans against his chest. He remains macho straight with one hand dangling nonchalant free and the other around her waist. She grips his shoulder as they move a sort of a fast rhythmic waltz and gets more or less carted around on his leg with her feet dragging like a marionette. Sounds bizarre, well it is. But boy, do they love it!

Carnival follows, with less pizzazz, but still a lot of noise and to finish off the month in style, every drum, trumpet and horn from the region join forces in a hootin' tootin' beatin' parade for Flag Day. It is actually a good thing that Lent usually falls in March, so everyone can rest up a bit. Well, at least you would expect they'd want a bit of peace and quiet by now. But in all sincerity, if the locals of San Blas are not whopping and yahooing in party mode, then the cars hooning past pumping rap, the loud speaker advertisements bleating from automobiles and overhead areoplanes alike, the full volume video game soundtracks, and the guy drilling the brick wall next to your bedroom means you are not going to have much of conversation in hushed tones. And so the noise evolves until someone like me has had enough. I might not like it, but boy do they love it.

In the plaza there stands a plaque with one verse of the famous poem The Bells of San Blas, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The ode was his last piece of work before dying in 1882 and strangely enough, though he felt compelled to write this piece, he never actually visited San Blas. Seeing as I have visited and stayed two months in this quaint and authentic, but somewhat raucous little Mexican village, I feel it fitting to counterpoise with my own shorter version of The Noise of San Blas.

The Bells of San Blas by Longfellow

What say the Bells of San Blas
To the ships that southward pass
From the harbor of Mazatlan?
To them it is nothing more
Than the sound of surf on the shore,--
Nothing more to master or man.

But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
To whom what is and what seems
Are often one and the same,--
The Bells of San Blas to me
Have a strange, wild melody,
And are something more than a name.

For bells are the voice of the church;
They have tones that touch and search
The hearts of young and old;
One sound to all, yet each
Lends a meaning to their speech,
And the meaning is manifold.

The Noise of San Blas by Sonya Spry

What say the noise of San Blas
As traveller and tourist pass
Cobbled streets, cafe and plaza,--
To them it is nothing other
Than sound of rapping brother
From the young lads hotted-up car

But to me, a lover of tranquil,
To whom noise is and noise will
So distract to keep me awake,--
The noise of San Blas as I be
Only pierces and punctures me
Till my nerves, they nearly break.

For whine is but the voice of one;
Who may not deny frivol fun;
The noise, the heart of people here.
One sound advice, all who reach
A little town with jején beach,
Don't forget to plug the ear.













A word from Ali about what we have done in San Blas the last two months:

We have updated most of the pages on this site (438!) and added new infomation for nomads, cyclists and armchair travellers alike. Also behind the scenes, we have done a lot of work by improving our page titles, descriptions and keywords for the so called Search Engine Optimization. Tags have been added to buttons and pictures, to be in line with the accessibility guidelines.

We have re-organised the site, so it is easier to navigate as well as being easier for us to find things: there were a lot of old, unused pictures and buttons everywhere in our folders, so it was a bit like a spring clean!

There are new buttons, a new search possibility, a new feel, without loosing the old; all our videos have been uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo, and last but not least, we've made friends on Facebook and several cycling forums as well...

And then there's the distance tables, cost of living charts, vegetarian food options, bike shops, a currency converter and loads more to add to all our country-infomation pages. This section is not complete yet, because everything takes time. And now, time must come to an end in San Blas: we really want to get back on the bikes. So, over the next few weeks, maybe even months, we will be updating the Country Information pages regularly. Please keep coming back, because it will be worth it! Great info, nowhere to be found in one spot anywhere else on the world wide web.

Besides this, we opened a bicycle touring & outdoor shop with a lot of the gear we use on our trip, for you to buy (not ours, NEW stuff!). We reviewed ALL the gear we've used in 31 months of travelling (and I can tell you that is a lot: had to be split into three pages). And of course all this had to be uploaded in the local internet café with it's slow connection... Hope you appreciate it!

And if you think that's not enough, we've updated;; maintained; and built a completely new site for Darley Springs Cabin and Campgrounds in Canada (hosted by us).

Son also got a runners-up prize for the TransitionsAbroad Travel Writing Contest and she also spend many an hour writing the Pacific Coast and Baja section of Stephen Lord's Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook. Whew, we think that's enough for two months!

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