Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 1

Day 1

We were finished volunteering and ready to rally.  The rally challenges were all being kept secret, although the organizer, Christian, did tell us that we could all finish one challenge early, which was to visit the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato.  Neither of us had ever been to such a creepy type of museum, but it is one of the main attractions in the city and its part of the rally...we must go.  The museum is one of the main attractions in Guanajuato, and after going can see why.  Mummies of all (recent) eras are gathered here and very well preserved, but we didn't stay too long, something about baby mummies and mummy fetus’s didn't sit well with us. This might by the first time I've seen Jeff actually get nauseous. 

Quick HIstory: The mummies get preserved from the high mineral content in the soil.  This happens fairly quickly (under 10 years); the most recent mummy is from the 1980's, if I recall. It might have been wearing basketball shoes!  Unfortunately these mummies did not consent to be here.  Apparently when you buy a plot, your family has to keep paying dues over time to keep you in the expensive real estate here. This place (mostly) is a collection of the poor souls who could not afford this, or families could not be located,and were disinterred. We felt slightly wrong paying to see them.
Museo de las Momias
baby mummy
All rally teams had now gathered at the Morrill campground in Guanajuato and were getting antsy about what the rally was going to hold.  When signing up for the rally, no information was given other than a starting and ending location and date, what happened between was still unknown.  To kick off the rally we all went to a dinner/party where the teams introduced themselves and the hype started to build.  After several drinks Christian and Persephone (the judge) finally distributed the rally packets and teams began planning their routes.  We teamed up with Matt and Isabel and Nate and Sarah, from The Long Way South and starting creating a plan. 

Guanajuato is beautiful at night

Day 2
We started off the Maya Rally with a police escort through town to the main centro for all the people in town to view the trucks/cars and for the official start. 

Rally trucks poised at the start

all the competitors 
 We all then went off-roading up to a viewpoint of the city, lead by Ponce from World Rally Team. Everyone took their vehicles up a pretty steep hill and while parked at the base, Jeff turns to me and asks me if I want a turn.  I nervously accept and he coached me up the hill.  I heard others cheering for me, which definitely boosted my confidence, much needed as I get nervous when Jeff attempts crazy roads normally.  Not to gloat, but I was the only female contestant who drove the road (I should have told the judges that at the end of the rally and maybe would have scored some extra points).  All teams gathered for the last time before meeting up at the ending location several days later, and then we were off.

Team Overland the World

Jeff and I headed to see Cristo Rey, which is a beautiful statue that is geographically located in the center of Mexico.  This wasn’t part of the rally, but we decided we weren’t going to stick totally to the rally book, we would go see other sights if they were near and sounded interesting to us. 

Cristo Rey in the center of Mexico

After a few pictures and taking in the incredible view we were off to San Miguel de Allende.  Sam Miguel is another beautiful city, but more English is spoken there than Spanish.  Many retired Americans and Canadians have moved there and thus the real estate prices are extremely high on Mexico standards.  We met Matt and Isabel at a campsite there and the three of our teams pretty much completed the rally together.  We pulled our resources and made dinner, while we planned out our route for the next few days of the rally.  Celebratory drinks were in need too, as we were excited to be on the road again.  We explored the town for a bit since it was December 12, the actual day to celebrate the Saint Patron of Guadalupe. 

San Miguel de Allende
Day 3

We started off the day with apple and banana pancakes made by Jeff (his specialty) and then packed up and headed to the Mega, which is basically a Walmart/Target to load up on some supplies for the Rally week.  We started heading toward Volcán de Parícutin, caravanning with Nate and Sarah.  The drive took us all day and like most places we pass, the scenery was beautiful.  Volcán de Parícutin is located in the state of Michiocan, which has many travel warnings for tourists, but were so glad we decided to go anyways because the entire state was beautiful.  We camped at the entrance to the volcano park and again pulled our ingredients together to come up with a meal for us all. 

Day 4

We decided to get up early and take horses up to view the volcano and to explore an area where a church once stood and now it is almost covered with volcanic residue from an eruption 1942. 

Volcán de Parícutin
The ride was a filled with peaceful scenery and crisp air. It seemed like all the horses were a bit temperamental though,  we never knew if one was going to take off, bite another horse or buck.  This all just added to the experience.  We hiked around for a while and gazed up at the active volcano in the distance.  I was surprised that a place that was so beautiful was not swarming with tourists.  I guess this is one of the beauties of Mexico. 

"City Slickers"
 In a village at the base of the volcano, local women were making tortillas, meat and vegetables.  We decided this would be a good opportunity to eat and also to learn how to make tortillas.  The women showed us how and they made it look so easy.  You needed to get your hands wet and then get the right amount of raw tortilla to shape into a circle and place on the grill, before the tortilla got to soggy and formed holes.  I have to admit, Jeff was much better at this than me and none of mine even had a good enough formation to make it to the grill.  The women were helpful but also laughed with us as we butchered our tortillas. 

making tortillas isn't as easy as the women make it look
We still got to enjoy our delicious lunch and then brave the temperamental horses for the ride back to camp. We were all able to add some more points towards the rally for visiting the volcano and the cooking lessons.  We packed up camp and headed off towards the El Rosairo Monarch Reserve.  After passing through several small towns, questioning our GPS constantly and what seemed like 1,000 topes we arrived after dark.  We ended up camping in a local families front yard.  The space was tight, but we fit.  Nate prepared an awesome stir-fry for us all that night, we had a few drinks and then off to bed.  Already a routine was forming on the Rally of wake up, eat, pack up camp, drive, drive more, arrive at a cool place, eat, drink and sleep. 
Thank you for letting us stay at your home
mi casa es su casa
Day 5
We woke up early to the sounds of roosters and sheep. Since we arrived at dark, we didn't notice how beautiful the place we were camping was.  We were in a valley at nearly 8,000 feet that was filled with farms and fresh air (minus the awful stench of sheep dung).  We then headed off for the reserve.  This was my personal highlight of the rally and something to scratch off the bucket list.  Millions of monarchs migrate south for the winter and all meet in this specific area of Michiocan, Mexico for a few months yearly.  While we were there, we heard that 135 million were in the area.  They choose this area because of the climate and the plants to eat from.  During the daytime they take shifts flying down from the trees to eat, drink and sun.  The rest of the time they are gathered in huge groups up high, weighing down the branches of the trees.  After entering the reserve, we still had to hike a ways to the area where they gather, so we opted to hop on some horses and head in.  As we got closer, the monarchs started to appear more steadily until we were finally in an area where we had to dismount the horses and watch our footing to ensure we wouldn't step on any.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but in my opinion this was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  After a while of gazing, we had to be on our way to make it to our next stop on the rally by dark.  We packed up camp, thanked the family for welcoming us to their home to sleep and headed on our way towards Mexico City to see the Aztec  pyramids of Teotihuacan. 

We've made it!

I'm in heaven
While driving through one small town our GPS directed us to go down a one way street, where we happened to run into some policia.  We thought a ticket may be in to works, but instead the cop had us follow him while he showed us the correct was through town.  In another city a young boy ran out in front of the truck, which was a really close call.  Jeff slammed on the breaks, making them lock and luckily we avoided any trouble.  The drive continued to be pose more navigational challenges, but again, we finally made it to our campground just as it was getting dark.  Matt and Isable made us all some delicious mole’ dulce that night and again, we were all in need of some good rest. 
continued in Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 2