So where does the name "Latitude Fifty Four" come from?
The final destination for this motorcycle adventure was the city of Ushuaia located in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.
The latitude of this city is 54° 47' South.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Day 29

November 5th, 2005: Puebla, Mexico to Oaxaca, Mexico

We left Puebla a little later in the day than we usually set off. We had to wait until 10 for our laundry to be finished, and figured some breakfast at "The Italian Coffee Company" was in order. It's a lot like a Starbuck's or William's except that nothing tastes quite as nice as in Canada or the US . Fresh ingredients seem to be in short supply for the most part in Mexico. Even at McDonald's you can only get some sort of liquid soybean oil type creamer stuff for your coffee....milk or real cream is out of the question. (Unless it's ice cream at McD's which is 100% todo leche de vaca...100% total milk of cow) . In most other places you get either a packet of CoffeeMate, a big jar of coffee whitener sitting on the table, or milk made from skim milk powder (which leaves funky floaties in your coffee, but at least tastes a bit better than the powdered stuff). It seems to be a bit of a theme here. No matter how great and grandeur anything looks, everything always seems to be a little bit off. You can step into the fanciest bathroom with marble sinks, and yet, there might be no hot water...or it will take 10 minutes for it to get hot...or there's no pressure...or the pressure's so bad it will sandblast you raw....or the shower leaks all over the floor into the toilet area. You can step onto a perfectly architectured street with beautiful cobblestone roads, but expect a few stones to be missing here and there which likely ended up as car blocks in a shop, and of course some metal rebar must be poking out at the perfect angles to snag you when you least expect it. After breakfast, we went to the town square to get our motorcycle boots shined, and then once that was done we were on the road again. The early part of the drive ended up on a 'libre road' (free road) which was under construction. It caused a massive traffic jam, but thanks to our trusty dual purpose bikes we pulled off onto the side of the road and tested out some of our best motocross moves. We went whizzing by the traffic jam dodging stray dogs, pedestrians, piles of bricks and an endless supply of taco huts, but in the end it was worth it. After we bypassed the traffic jam we stopped for gas, got some drinks, called home (hi Mom!) and yet we STILL were ahed of the people that we passed. The traffic jam conditions are only worsened by the fact that to drive in Mexico a prerequisite is to have absolutely zero patience. You woudln't be able to see the end of the traffic jam, and people would still try to pass just to get one or two cars lengths ahead...but of course, no one would let them back in, so they'd be stopped on the side of the opposting traffic blocking off things more. The only solution then, of course, is to honk. It doesn' t make anyone go anywhere any faster, but they just love their horns here. A city bus stops to let someone out at a designated stop? HONK! A cab stops with his four ways on to let someone out? HONK! Cars are stopped for a red light, but you can't see far enough ahead to know it's red? HONK! There's probably no reasonable explanation why someone would actually stop on a road! Someone has a flat tire or engine troubles? Sure!! HONK AWAY! Why, of all places, would they pick YOUR path to go and ruin their car? A TRANSIT COP is in your way? HONK! He's fair game too! I think the Policia Federales (The Feds) are the only ones immune from the honking. The fact that they also carry semi-automatic weapons probably has a pretty big factor in that. We had a good laugh the other day when we saw a truck with an armed gaurd aboard. It wasn't a Brinks truck or anything you'd typically picture would require a guard. Standing right there, on top of the shipment of Coke was a guard carrying not a shotgun, but an assualt rifle!! I suppose major creidt cards aren't accepted at gordita shacks, so the Coke deliveries would by and large be paid for in pesos only. For the value of the stock they had on that truck, I'm sure it would have been a sizeable hit for some banditos, and I'm quite sure that it had already been tried before someone thought a guard was necessary. For that reason we've tried to stay on the cuota (toll) highways. There's more patrolling, and the paymet of the fare already prevents most peopple from driving those roads with bad intentions. As well, the roads are in way better condition and are often more of a direct route from city to city, so it can take much less time to get to where you're going. Sometimes with the toll roads you miss out on travelling through funky little towns and peculiar little villages, but it makes for less stressful driving. Also, the toll roads tend to go straight through the mountains so you can sometimes see some pretty spectacular landscapes., Today was a beautiful drive from Puebla to Oaxaca (pronounced wah-haw-kah). We went high up into the mountains and went through some desert area where the soil and rocks were bright orang, and there were tall spiky cactii everywhere. We drove through one area which was nothing but orange dirt and scrub brushes, which oddly enough, had the name of "Monte Verde" (Green Mountain) according to the signs. I, of course, said "pfff..that's a bit of a misnomer.....doesn't look too green to me....there's not even a tree in sight!!!"...where almost on queue the mountain rock turned from bright orange to a jade green colour. It never occured to me the actual mountain itself would be green! Shortly thereafter we arrived in Oaxaca which is a beautiful and quite large city. We had dinner at a little restaurant overlooking the square, where some people on vacation told us that they recognized us as "those people on the bikes". Out of curiousity we asked them where they had seen us. They told us that they had come to Oaxaca on a tour bus, stopped at a rest station, and remembered us from there. Then added "where you were trying to feed the dogs your cookie" to me. I had to smile a little over that one. I figured that my big sister (and her two doggies) would have been proud of me. There were two dogs rummaging through the garbage can at the rest station, and I coudln't resist their droopy eyes and waggling tails. Animals aren't treated very well here, so I got some pretty unusual looks from everyone when I walked over to the strays and shared my shortbread cookies with them. Okay, not the best things for dogs, but they were eating some foreign green sludge out of the garbage can, so I figured it couldn't be much worse. But, on the other haand, who knows... wsome of the stuff you get on your plate here resembles the sludgy green stuff too, so perhaps it was fine dining afterall! At tonight's restaurant they actually had chapulines (GRASSHOPPERS) on the menu!! You could get them fried up with onions and her, or in a salad with watercress and lettuce. I've been trying as many new things as possible here, but I draw the line there! I'm sure they have an irresistable crunch, but then again, so do potato chips. I think think I'll stick to those instead. The center of the city here is nice, and from our window in the restaurant you coudl see hundreds of tables edging the square, with people having dinner or sipping on cappucinos, or a glass of wine. Infront of the cathedral, which is a magnificant building, there were all these strange tubes floating through the air. They're these giant inflatable tubes, a few metres long, which the children throw up into the air and toss around to one another. It was actually quite pretty seeing them all bouncing around the square with the people bustling around underneath. I was upset that I didnt' bring along my camera, but I suppose it will just give me an excuse to have to return one day!

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