The last two weeks of travel and volunteering were all leading up to the start of the Maya Rally 2012 in Guanajuato. We knew very little about the rally before agreeing to compete and the weeks leading up to the start of the rally didn’t exactly shed any light on the subject. We were left intentionally in the dark by the organizers who sent us cryptic email messages with tidbits of information.
What we knew was this;
- The Maya End of the World Rally would begin in Guanajuato on 12/12/12
- We’d receive a survival guide from the organizers
- In the guide would be challenges we need to finish to collect points
- There was no way to complete all the challenges
- We were completely on our own
“We were completely on our own.” No checkpoints, no support, no real way to contact the outside world…hell, there wasn’t even a route laid out. It was up to us to find the sights in the survival guide and complete the tasks. And that whole thing about not being able to finish all the tasks in the book? That just sounded like the gauntlet being thrown down. We were going to try to finish it all!
Day 1: Zombies! Okay, Mummies…
The survival guide was set up with two sections, one as a list of tasks to be completed at a specific location while the other was about acquiring objects and skills to help make the end of the world a little easier. One of the cryptic emails we received before the start of the rally told us that we might need to watch for zombies after the world ends and the best place to learn to recognize them would be the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato a collection of mummifies remains beneath the city cemetery. Creepy. TeamASTRID and The Dangerz decided to tackle this task early and score a quick 15 points!
That evening we met at a restaurant in the centro for the real kickoff to the Maya Rally 2012! We feasted on awesome food, met the rest of the teams, gave a presentation on the volunteer efforts we completed over the past week, heard from Ponce about the next day’s offroad challenge, and received our survival guides from the organizers. Once we got those guides in our hands it was all about creating alliances, scheming to complete some of the challenges while still in Guanajuato, and planning our route for this crazy adventure! We even
talked peer-pressured Tad and Gaila of Overland Now and Nate and Sarah of Long Way South into joining the rally!
In hushed tones a little later in the evening, we plotted a way to score big points without even leaving the city of Guanajuato. We talked Katie into hosting us the next evening for a Spanish lesson and a cooking lesson. We also found out from some of the locals where we could start to tick off some of the strange food tasks from our list which included huitlacoche (corn smut), chapulines (grasshoppers) and tripa, or tripe. We learned of the best tripe taco stand in all of Guanajuato. With directions lodged in my brain, we headed out to eat some stomach lining!
As with all directions in Mexico, they are merely suggestions and after about 15 minutes of searching we finally found the taco cart run by Antonio and his wife. There were locals lined up around the cart ordering and eating tripe tacos and quesadillas. The rubbery, shimmery, greasy tripe spluttered and splattered all over the cooking surface. You could smell the telltale scent of stomach lining. I watched the cooking process as I waited my turn. The tacos came either suave or dorado. I went with dorado because it looked a little more cooked. “Dos tacos de tripa dorado, por favor?” I blurted out. I couldn’t believe I was about to eat this stuff. Look, I’m no Anthony Bourdain, I like my meat clean and identifiable…tripe kinda doesn’t factor into my menu..ever. The tacos arrive with fresh verduras and a kickass salsa picante. If nothing else, they looked good. I brought the tripe taco to my lips and took my first bite…you know that feeling you get when you’re about to try something you might not like? Yeah, well, that was what was going through my head at that point. Was I going to hurl? Was this cooked enough? Was it…WAIT, this stuff is good! I took another bite just to be sure…it WAS good! I ordered two more for good measure and ticked tripe off our list of things to eat 10 points!
After the late night tripe, Bryan remembered that he saw huitlacoche on the menu at a nearby bar/ restaurant. We headed over there to see if we could get some extra points. Unfortunately, the owner of the restaurant was low on corn smut and high on alcohol and asked us to come back the next day when he could actually serve us better. No points, but we had a lead on corn smut!
Day 2: Rally Start and GTORocks Offroad
Day two was to begin with a police escorted parade through town to the main square where we would spend time talking to the locals about the rally, doing media interviews and a LeMans-like start up to Calderones and the offroad portion of our challenge. We met that morning in the parking lot of the Applebee’s which was completely surreal in itself. While we waited for all the teams to show up we took the opportunity to check off another task from the list- getting a photo of us interacting with four or more policia. 20 points!
We left the parking lot while the police stopped traffic for us and led us through the city of Guanajuato and down into the main square. We posed for pictures, talked to locals about driving to Bacalar in eight short days (said locals thought we were nuts), and then lined up in the main square for the LeMans start.
Heading up to Calderones with Ponce, we had a chance to do a hillclimb to an area known as El Balcon de Bongo, overlooking the whole city of Guanajuato! The hill is also known as the C-clip Eliminator because people destroy their differentials trying to climb this beast of a mountain! It doesn’t look like much in the video below, but let me tell you, this thing was crazy steep! 25 points!
Since I was second up the hill, I had plenty of time to watch the teams work their way to the top. After a victory beer and a few photos of the city below, we headed back down to Guanajuato because we had HUGE amounts of points to check off that evening.
We had a lot to do before that night. Many of the teams had already left to head for San Miguel de Allende, but we were sticking around for huitlacoche, a cooking lesson and a Spanish lesson. Katie gave us a list of ingredients for the Sopa Azteca we were going to make and we still needed to hit the restaurant for corn smut! At the restaurant, we met Oliverio, the owner, looking a little less drunk this time who welcomed us and taught us about huitlacoche. He said that people often eat huitlacoche with cheese, but to truly experience it, you must saute it with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and chiles and serve it in a taco. He went to the kitchen and returned with a HUGE steaming plate of corn smut. I have to admit, it didn’t look that appetizing, but we dove in anyway because points is points! You know what? It was freakin’ delicious! 10 points!
We next met Katie at her house at 6:30 p.m. and laid down the ground rules for the lessons. The lesson would be held in the kitchen while cooking. There would be no English spoken. We were going to cook Sopa Azteca and learn everything there was to learn about the kitchen in Spanish. This was an awesome way to learn and the food was excellent! Spanish lesson: 40 points! Cooking lesson: 30 points!
Next up: Volcanoes, Mariposas and Human Tracking! Stay tuned!