[ Manvel, TX ]
Good morning, Transglobalistas—
I hope this post finds you all happy and healthy—thoroughly enjoying the world’s oh-so-slow transition back into whatever counts these days as “normal.” By the time you read this I should be well into a hundred-mile riding day—must-do training for my next cycling adventure, which is rapidly approaching. But we’ll come back to that later.
Let’s start with a quick return to June, which was unexpectedly adventurous. At the start of the month, I made a quick, action-packed trip to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico—just south of the border from Weslaco, Texas. Some of you may remember that I called off my southwestern US desert ride for three reasons: (1) because the triple-digit temperatures of summer caught up with me, (2) because I wanted to return to Africa sooner rather than later, and (3)—least glamorous but most pressing—because my lower right molars had developed a rather intense sensitivity to heat and cold. (I was going through tubes of Orajel faster than Great Uncle Bob can finish off a case of Schlitz Malt Liquor.) Waiting until Namibia was no longer an option.
Research led me to a dental clinic in Nuevo Progreso—a small town composed entirely of clinics, pharmacies, pottery and street food vendors, and about twenty-odd bazillion nail salons. Within an hour of making an online inquiry I got a call from Manny, the clinic’s owner, who asked a bunch of questions and sent me a very reasonable quote. And there you have it.
[For those who don’t know, dental work in Mexico is at least 40-70% cheaper than in the USA; the clinics are clean, equipment modern, staff professional, and dentists well-trained.]
Two days later I made the six-hour drive to Weslaco, and spent a long weekend sitting in a dental chair—my big mouth propped open nearly three hours as the dentist and three assistants discussed (I think) the coming election for governor of Tamaulipas. Six extractions, two sinus lifts, three bone grafts + implants, and a host of stitches later, I was pain-free and ready to go—set to return in six months (after the bone grafts have integrated with my existing bones) to finish the process.
Perhaps this doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of travel, but it was. It should be.
Even though Nuevo Progreso isn’t much of a town apart from dental and medical tourism, I felt instantly at home after crossing the bridge and the border: the streets were loud, bustling, and chaotic, with everyone hustling everyone else. The air alive with smells of grilling meat, honking horns, bored mariachis feigning enthusiasm, barkers handing out fliers for cheap mani-pedis or generic Cialis or discount root canals or—my favorite—a pottery Virgin Mary for your garden.
In any case, I digress. June was a month for adventure, beginning with my dental dalliance, and continuing with many days of research into my return to Africa, via Namibia.
Anything travel research these days involves three things primarily:
—COVID-related travel restrictions and requirements,
—COVID-related land border status with neighboring countries
—Airline ticket costs
The result: I am NOT returning to Africa yet, and likely not via Namibia.
I need to return to the US by end of November to finish my dental work and to check in on my now 92-year old mother. The flights to Namibia were cost prohibitive. I looked at two other serious options (both MUCH cheaper, and more interesting):
—Iran to Azerbaijan to Armenia to Georgia — failed because of difficulties getting the Iranian visa in the time allotted (this was my absolute first choice!)
—Uganda and Rwanda — failed because of brand new COVID-related restrictions for inter-district travel within Uganda
—Trans-Mexican Bikepacking trail (Mazatlan to Guatemala City, Guatemala) — WINNER
I’m very happy with this choice, and look forward to giving you all the wonderful details in a follow-up post. The top-level bullet points are:
—Fly to Mazatlan around the 15th of August (for less than $200, thankyewverymuch)
—Spend just over 3 months lost in rural Mexico
—Cross into Guatemala, and leave my gear with a friend’s family in Guatemala City…
—Return to Texas for the holidays, AND…
—…if all continues to go well with my mom’s health, return to Guatemala City in January, and begin working my way through Central America
And there you have it! The rest of July has been spent getting everything in order, visiting friends in Dallas (where I will return next week, I think, for a get together…deets to follow), and generally getting my mom sorted so she has everything she needs while I’m away.
Stay posted for final updates as the date is finalized and ticket secured.