written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Going 'sola' in Mexico was relatively hassle free, the people and pilgrims I passed on the road were pleasant and fun, but tired no less. The Mexico highway I-15 from Nogales to Magdalena was beautiful (in all places, except outside of dirty, trafficked Nogales) with tall stands of sunflowers right against the road, gentle shrub spotted mountains beyond, little shrines every 10 km or so, little roadside cafes/stands selling fruit treats, sopas, carne asada, what-have-you’s. I passed pilgrims every 3 minutes, of all ages, making the trek from various towns across Mexico to visit St. Francisco Javier's body in the Magdalena Chapel. (And By "body" I mean a (nearly comical) full-sized plaster mannequin dressed in robes laid atop a tomb.) Well, the ride was really incredible, and pretty easy considering it was downhill the whole way (Though of course it was uphill on the return trip).

Magdalena itself was beautiful, loud, crazy, colorful, dirty, funny, and completely over-stimulating. The small city center situated around the chapel and plaza was suffocated by a multitude of lucrative industries: individuals selling blankets, toys, pots, key chains (so many key chains) and fake Nike and Guess wallets, and yummy food stalls, cafes, pushcarts full of colorful almond and coconut candies, roaming Mariachi bands, and a busy street of carnival rides and fair game booths. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself at first. Too many people, no great places to lock my bike. So I did what I do best in such a situation, I ate. I sat down at a street café and ordered a big spicy plate of carne asada and sopas, which I paid for two-fold, once in pesos and the other in an unmentionable way. Then eventually after walking around the craziness for 20 minutes I found a relatively not-insane courtyard where families had laid out pallets. I sat my bike against a ledge and took a seat myself. Soon I had three little boys, Andres (5), Jaun (11), and Alberto (13) come and inquire about me and my bike and why on earth would a girl would ride her bike solo from Nogales to Magdalena. Of course they didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, but we got along fine enough playing bull fighter in the courtyard, using my map as an ad hoc toreador cape. They eagerly helped me set up my tent. Alberto was very concerned about my bike and belongings. He was very sweet and asked his family to keep an eye out while we walked around the carnival. I was lucky to find such an escort.
Alberto came with his family from Siniloa, which is on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, he showed me on the map. Apparently, it is not bonita nor are the beaches bueno. His mom was selling café and sopas in the courtyard, they had been sleeping on blankets outside for the past few days. I wanted to treat him to some of the rides but he indicated that it was too expensive. We mostly communicated using a kind of charade sign language. Eventually, I bought him a Guadalajara soccer ball from a vendor. That’s his favorite team. We had a fun time trying to play soccer in the park with all the sleeping families on the grass. Several times Alberto kicked the ball into a few faces. So we walked and ‘talked’ and he took my photograph in the appropriate places in and outside the church. Eventually we had walked around the square and passed the same blanket guy and freak show at least 5 times, so I retreated to my tent after saying Buenos Noches only to be awoken on three different occasions by Andres, the curly haired five year old who talked at dizzying speeds. I could only humor his incessant inquisitiveness for so long. I told him Buenos Noches and he, with a pouty face, zipped up my tent flap sealing me inside for the remainder of the night.

I was camped in the echoing vortex of all the sounds from the carnival: 10, 000 people talking, hollering, laughing, whistling, Mariachi and Mexican rap music, and the loud crazy blanket salesmen screaming into his 4 foot high amp. The cacophony was so extreme that I guess my brain became acclimated to it after awhile and surprisingly I was able to sleep for nearly 9 hours. Though I kept waking up confused and confounded by all the noise and with the profiles of girls and their telltale poofy bangs and ponytails on the walls of my tent. Most surreal camping ever hands down.

So the ride back is mostly characterized by the several occasions that I was struck with the exxxtreme impulse to jump off my bike and hurl myself down steep embankments into prickly bushes and sharp rocks in order to use the bathroom, that and the blazing sun and the 50 mile uphill all the way to Nogales. But of course it was all so wonderful.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson