Sitting up in the mountains at about 2300m, leaving Mexico City also meant I was due for some downhill. The first day was totally wild as I was on the road again for the first time in a while. I climbed the train track path (same one from the night ride but got off before the dangerous part) and made my way down into Cuautla. Next I would pick up the long but scenic road towards Oaxaca City, the state I was perhaps most excited for and had heard most about.
DF to Oaxaca
Beautiful roads, rests, and people. I set out some less ambitious days hoping to have a little more time and energy for other things. I had the chance to find some beautiful stealth camps for the first time since before DF as well as stay with some really cool couchsurfers. Perhaps it’s a bit self-centered, but I always enjoy being so far off the tourist track, visiting little towns that have scarcely seen white people passing through. Visiting the markets really reminds me of this where so many ccurious and inquisitive people stare and giggle as I have to duck well under the small vendor roofs (which only reach my shoulders). A lot of ducking and hitting my head in Mexico! I spent a really fun night with couchsurfer named Erwin in Izucar. He is a medical student who has been all over the country during his degree. Being the exact same age and our ability to converse in depth in english highlighted how much commonality there can be in our generation all over the world. It’s pretty cool to talk and talk for hours with someone from such a different place, but to discover you have so much in common in terms of world view, hopes and dreams. Later in Huaupan I would stay with Noe and his family, and share a similar experience going out for drinks and seeing the town with him and his cousin.
Five days later I would arrive in Oaxaca City to lots of large sit-in demonstrations everywhere closing roads and gas stations. Later I would find out that these were part of an ongoing teachers strike. My first day in Oaxaca was about getting my rabies vaccination #3 – this time for free through the public health system… oh joy! Actually this was a fun and interesting experience albeit a bit hectic. First I had to meet a guy who was the director of some kind of regional health program and who’s cell phone I had been given in Mexico City. He gave me a beautifully hand written and stamped note giving me permission to get the third shot as though I was one of his colleges. I then had to rush across the city to a small health clinic, find the right dude, explain everything in spanish, run out to get photo copies of my licence for him, run back, and eventually get stuck in the arm with rabbies #3. The facilities here were a far cry from the ultra modern Mexico City and perhaps a first taste of what to expect if I need to be in any hospital in Central America. I was surprised that even doctors here didn’t speak a word of english, something I wrongly assumed was common to the medical profession around the world. But in the end everyone was so patient and helpful, and I’m now fully vaccinated. Thanks Mexican tax payers!
The Other Mountains
The next day I met up with Jarak who was sleeping with his bike and all his gear in a tree amongst the protest tent city (the same teachers). After one more rest day strolling the markets and getting set, we rode through the plains to Miahuatlan and then crossed the mountains in a totally epic day. This would be my second mountain pass in Mexico, and I was much more prepared this time! The road took us up and up into thick fog and then down winding long switchbacks into pouring rain. The landscape changed so drastically from the dry desert of the morning, up into fresh cool air, pine trees and log cabins, and then into thick jungle and wall of humidity. It was crazy to experience this all in the course of a single day, moving on our own power. By dusk we were drained and had little idea of where we would find a spot or food, but we stopped at a shop to buy some organic coffee and got chatting with the owner. He initially suggested we could camp outside the town hall of his little village, and then ultimately invited us into his home. After walking our bikes up an incredibly steep hill (so steep we had to push each other one at a time) into this tiny little town nestled among big banana trees. We would never have known this place was there, and clearly they weren’t used to seeing people like us either! The feeling to have made this connection and ended up here after such an epic day was just incredible. We took showers in the torrential rain storm and settled in for the night after beans eggs rice and coffee.
Finally we would arrive at a little beach town called Zipolite. It is not a tourist beach, more like a place where beach bums from all over come and crash and live on the beach for nothing. It’s not exactly a nudest beach either but it is a place where people are invited to be nude if they like, so the first thing we both did was jump naked in the ocean. Later, after walking up and down the strip a bit and chatting with people we decided to camp for 20 pesos a night (about $1.75 CDN!) at a small Quebec colony. Not actually, but there were tons of hippies and squatters from Quebec all staying at this one spot so we made nice with them and got into some hamocks right on the beach. Finally reached the pacific, huge waves, crazy heat, and beers.
We relaxed in this spot for two nights before heading south, this time picking the trans american trail for the first time which will take me all the way down to Panama a few detours aside. As I write now, we’ve just crossed into Chiapas, the most southern state in Mexico. People are so friendly and kind! Yesterday we stayed with a warmshowers host, Rodrigo, who has hosted perhaps the most cyclists ever in a tiny town just off the highway… there was graffiti on the highway pointing to his house and welcoming all cyclists, and he has really hosted so many… stories of all shapes and makes of cyclists coming from all over the world and passing through his spot. More great riding this morning before stopping for some 11am beers. This led to conversation with the young manager, Iris, who’s sister studied at UBC. She brought out a tray with more beers and botanas and the day party raged. After some hard days crossing the plains and mountains through central Oaxaca, it feels great to be going a little slower, meeting more people along the way, and having more energy for the pursuit of other goals. And still, we’ll be in Antigua, Guatamala for the big easter celebration this Friday!