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This time I’m going to have to eat my words saying that camping at a gas station is a good time as last night was trying for sure. I set up my tent in front of a semi truck and as I was sleeping, around midnight I heard footsteps and someone get into the semi truck. A few cranks of the engine and it was started up. Oh snap! I had my bike locked to the wheel, my tent was in front of it and I had a clothes line attached to the mirror. Luckily the truck didn’t move but remained idling while the driver slept in the cab for the remainder of the night. I thought that it was going to be for a short period but turns out that wasn’t the case as the engine was grumbling about 5 feet from my head. What else was I supposed to do? Break camp at 1 am and try to find something else to sleep for a couple of hours? I swallowed the pill and lay down in my tent and got a few hours of restless sleep. Just after 5 am I woke up to take down my camp and get the hell out of there.
After a quick breakfast of granola, yogurt and juice I was gone by 6:45 and it was still dark. The wind was still blowing and I made my way north towards highway 190 through a huge wind turbine farm. Getting on the highway and going east through what seemed like 1000 wind turbines I was fighting with a 20+ km/h cross wind that was coming off the mountains. The road had a shoulder which was good as I was compensating to make sure I didn’t get blown into the ditch which almost happened on a few occasions. Trucks would whizz by and the air they pushed caused me to sway as well. It was definitely challenging and I swore a few times at the circumstances. I just wanted to get through this section and then take a rest as I wasn’t hungry or very tired. At 54 km in I stopped just after 9 am for another meal and a good rest in Santiago Niltepec. The meal was good, chilaquiles and eggs with chorizo. I set up my stove outside to make a moka while I ate as I needed the caffeine and missed the taste of coffee. It definitely hit the spot. Also I called my dad to chat with him as I was craving some conversation with a familiar voice. It really made a difference.
Leaving Niltepec there was about 50-60 km to my final destination and o could probably make it there by 1 or 2 pm which was a bonus to beat the afternoon heat. A short way out of town I crosses over a river that looked like it was clean and without second guessing I made my way down. Quickly stripping off everything and wading into the running water was amazing! There were other people bathing upstream but I didn’t care if I was nude and neither did they. I stayed on the cool water soaking it up for a good half hour then jumped back onto my bike to continue on feeling very refreshed.
At this point I must add that I’m debating whether or not I’ll go all the way down to Argentina. Riding my bike on the road is stimulating for only so long. Most of the time I just put my head down and crank out the kilometers. The scenery is good and the people are alright and I miss Canada. My thoughts are to finish up in Panama although it’s still up in the air. I have self consciousness that I won’t do what I said I’d set out to do and I’m the one who’s hardest on myself about finishing what I started even though I may not really enjoy what I’m doing.
In any case I was making good progress averaging close to 23 km/h coming into San Pedro Tapanatepec and made it into town just after 2 pm. In a small town what the hell am I supposed to do until it gets dark? I rode around to scope out some camping spots and then got some chicken at a family joint. I sat and ate while watching Mexican soap operas. Wow are they dramatic and entertaining even though I don’t fully comprehend what’s going on. Passing a few hours there I didn’t want to go out into the sun as it was getting hotter. In that moment I said screw my budget and went to check into a hotel to lie in a room with a fan in my underwear while I drank a beer and ate guacamole. It was glorious. A bit of rain passed through for half an hour and then it was back to heat with some mugginess added into the mix. Another cold shower and I was off to bed to do it all over again.
Distance: 107.08 km
Sleep was intermittent last night but I managed to get some. Waking up just after 3 am then dozed until my alarm went off at 6. The plan was to be up and out early to put some miles behind me before it got tits hot. I was packed up and riding just after 7 and managed to put in about 45 km before my first stop for breakfast. I had originally planned on doing the yogurt and granola thing with some fruit but the whole stretch didn’t have a small store. Well I’m lying about that. There were small towns about 3-5 km off the highway but I didn’t want to veer that far off the road which I did nearing the 40 km mark. It was a long bumpy gravel road that led to a small town with the bare minimum in terms of supplies. Breakfast was more than welcomed. A plate of frijoles with scrambled eggs, ham and queso fresco with tortillas. It went down well and I was feeling tired so I played up in the hammock they had at the joint for about 45 minutes. By 11:30 I was out back on the road preparing for the insufferable heat. Did I mention I don’t like the heat. It was around 33 and only getting hotter.
My destination for another rest was Salina Cruz, another 35 km away. It seemed so long even though the road was relatively flat with only a few 200 m gains. I took several drink breaks to beat the heat and eventually made it there just before 2 pm. The town is about 77,000 people and I didn’t care about any of them. All I wanted was to find the nearest Oxxo for some A/C and a drink which was quite quick. My mood was grumpy and I made for a nearby park to take a nap. I parked my bike and went about having some food when an older man walked up and sat down beside me asking questions. Great. I really didn’t want to talk but we chatted for a few minutes before I lay down on a bench and napped for a few hours waiting out the heat. Nearing 5 pm it was still around 35 degrees and I figured I’d better get going not before changing out a new front tire as the old one had started to delaminate at the tread. A quick swap and I was gone but feeling hungry as I had had a bit to eat throughout the day but mostly liquids to try and stay hydrated. Leaving town I spotted a bunch of vendors with large awnings so I stopped for some food. Many of them were offering tacos al pastor at 2 for 1 and the stand that I went to I specifically remember asking if this was the case there as well. The woman said yes and I ordered several tacos and a drink. They were mighty tasty hitting the spot. When it came time to settle up the bill was higher than I expected. Only 10 pesos more but I told her that she had let me know that the 2 for 1 special was valid there as well which she denied. I went and paid cursing in English and letting the situation get to me as I left town. To add to my frustration the winds in this area pick up to about 20-25 km/h around noon and last pretty much the rest of the day (as I’m writing this at 10:15 pm, they’re still going strong). Headwinds in my case for the majority of my day and stronger ones leaving Salina Cruz. The road to Juahitco was flat as a
pancake for 35 km but I was going about 15 km/h instead of 25 when there is no wind. I put my head down and plodded along as the sun set behind me and dusk settled in. These last two days I’ve ridden to my final destination with darkness falling and two dinky little lights in front and back. Thus far they’ve been good to have cars avoid me. I came to the outskirts of town and found a trusty old Pemex for camp, with an Oxxo (they’re 24 hours). With only 1000 pesos left to last me the rest of the week (don’t want to take out more as I’ll be in Guatemala soon) and 200 pesos per day which I had pretty much blown through already I settles in between a tour bus and a big rig at the side of the gas station. It was relatively dark and quiet. On a plus there was a hose which I used to fill up some water bottles and take a shower behind the cover of the bus and truck. It was fun and also made me feel like a bum. In any case I was able to clean myself and give my clothes a rinse as they were encrusted with sweat and starting to turn brittle from two days of riding. I’m writing this in the air conditioned comforts of the Oxxo before I got to bed. Pretty much better than a hotel room at no cost. In my opinion at least. Thus is the life I choose on my bike tour.
Distance: 114.90 km
Late start despite getting up early. Still on beach time. Had a hearty breakfast of yogurt with granola and bananas, some cookies, coffee and a can of watermelon juice/iced tea. Needless to say I was full and hydrated as it was above 30 degrees by 9 am. With all my things together I was just about to leave when a man pushing an ice cream cart (paleta) rolled by and asked of I had a pump (bomba) for his tires. I took out my pump and inflated the tires on his cart. Seeing an opportunity in this I asked if I could have an ice cream for the use of the pump. He agreed and I got a lemon popsicle out of it to cool me down as I was sweating profusely through my shirt after the brief exertion pumping the tires.
I made my way out of Zipotle and towards Puerto Angel where the 14 km ride back to highway 200 was filled with inclines. It was slow going but my legs were feeling good and I was in a relaxed mood from the last few days off at the beach. Once I reached the cross roads I stopped to stretch and ended up talking with some military guys about working in Canada and the US. It’s not as easy as going to the country and getting a job although there might be jobs under the table. There’s a visa process involved that I haven’t a clue about. It seems like lots of Mexicans want to move to the US and possibly Canada because of better opportunities and higher wages but don’t understand the technicalities of working in either country or any country abroad. In any case it was a good conversation. About 45 km into my ride I was damn hot as it was just past noon. There was a roadside shop/food stand that had a very shaded area so I stopped to beat the heat for an hour over lunch of a chicken stew and a Fanta. After eating I dropped my head on the table and tried to nap for a bit as I didn’t sleep much last night. It was 1:30 when I got up and made my way back into the heat and the curvy road with small hills. It was a great ride and the sun felt much stronger than it had previously in Mexico. It might be because I’m moving further south but I’m not sure. In any case I made several drink stops to keep myself hydrated and cool off somewhat. A little after leaving the food stand I chanced going to the beach at Tangolunda. It was a few kilometers off the highway which seemed like a long time but I eventually made it. There was a shall path which led to the public beach as the area is predominantly resort hotels. Before going for a dip I stopped for some delicious tacos and several drinks under a shady tree run by a mother and her daughter. The water was warm but still refreshing. I came out and took a nap to dry off under the life guard tent. Thinking I hadn’t made much progress (the plan is to cycle 117 km per day until Saturday to be at the Mexico/Guatemala border) I cut my rest time short and headed back out on the road. My legs weren’t feeling as good this time around but I kept chugging along in the heat.
It’s funny how circumstances change one’s outlook. Last night I was up thinking about not coming back at all and staying somewhere in Chile or Argentina. This was spurred partly as I’m reading 1984 by George Orwell and I’m at the part where Winston is being tortured into believing what Big Brother wants him to unequivocally think and believe. Without going into too much it was food for thought. However, riding through the heat and terrain today had me think otherwise of staying out forever. I love Canada and I love the cold. In actual fact I really don’t like heat all that much. Why I’m doing this ride in this part of the world I have no clue really.
It was getting on past 7 as I passed through a couple of small towns contemplating asking for a place to pitch camp but I was still short of my distance target. I finally made it into Santiago Astata in the dark. Climbing up the small hill to the centre of town I went into the hotel to ask about room rates. A man in light drag got up from the table with his other drag friends to show me the room. 250 pesos for the night, 400 with air conditioning and 300 to have the ceiling fan turned on. The room was hotter than outside which I commented on asking if I could open the window. The response was no and I said I’d look elsewhere. The man emphatically gave me a flaming “fine, go then” using his hands and body to motion to the door (it reminded me of Chris Katan as ‘Mango’ from SNL)
Making my way about the town I asked about other places to stay. Some older guys told me of this elevated gazebo thing that was safe. They also told me that there was a natural spring just at the highway when you come into town. Score! I went back and bathed myself with another family bathing their kids and getting some water. Coming back into town I got some tacos and watched a basketball game that was going on in the outdoor court. It was a house league game but had an announcer on the sidelines calling the game over a PA system. It seemed like the majority of the town was out to watch. I set up my tent nearing the end of the game and hoped to get a good sleep as all the teenagers are hanging out at the shop being teenagers.
Distance: 123.45 km
I had a good although restless sleep being only 30 feet from the thunderous waves of Zipolite throughout the night. Some thunder and lightning threatened a storm throughout the night but it never came to fruition. Excited to go surfing in the morning I was up at 7 and went over to grab my board. Nobody was there. Bummer. I waited and watched the ocean to see what it was doing hoping to get some knowledge of its characteristics. Around 8:15 Caballero showed up to get my board and I was a bit unnerved to start. The water had turned to crap in my opinion and was told to wait a bit for the tide to come in. Not being the most patient person this was agony. I get surfing is fun and for me the control of the conditions is completely out of my hands which is frustrating. After waiting some more I asked if I could get a refund and was told I’d have to wait as the money was back at his house. We agreed to meet at noon. By this point I was laying into myself that I wasn’t committed and giving myself reasons that surfing wasn’t for me. In any case I went to go grab a bite to eat and wait it out as I needed to chill out and clear my head which I did by reading articles on beginner surfing and comparing surfing to mountain biking. This was all an attempt to justify my decision which it did. As I was leaving I saw Caballero coming into the food spot and he told me it was good at the moment. I trusted him and went to go paddle out. There were lots of big close out waves so I stayed in the white wash and rode some of that to just get some practice. It was fun and I went out a few more times over the course of the day. All in all I have to say that being patient is something that I definitely lack. Surfing is something that requires patience so we automatically clash. There’s always that feeling of chasing the high of catching your first wave and it eventually comes after some time. I’m not too sure I’m willing to invest the time and effort into pursuing that high at the moment.
The next couple of days I chose to stay in Zipolite and actually rented a surfboard for Saturday and Sunday. During that time a few guys from Oaxaca came to the camp site and it turns out they walked through the forest and hitched the last bit. That was crazy. Over some quesadillas we got to talking and sharing. They were really nice and jovial. Over the next few days I lounged on the beach, surfed a few times a day and read 1984 by George Orwell. The days went by slowly and I got used to relaxing. As for surfing I managed to make my way out past the breaking waves a couple of times and then tried to catch a few waves before getting caught up and having some large waves come crashing down on me sending my tired body back to shore. By Sunday I made it out and managed to catch a wave and was pleased with myself. The weather was super hot during the day and I was getting cooked during the day in the water so I limited my time to the morning and evenings to surf. Progress is slow but I’m glad I stuck with it.
Saturday we had a feast as the guys went into town and got some fish (barrilete) from Puerto Angel. They cooked it up and I got some beers. It was delicious and we ate until we were stuffed. It’s awesome what a little give and take will provide.
All in all I was happy to have rested up over several days and proud of my accomplishments.
Thick woolen blankets kept me warm during the night in the mountainous town of San Jose del Pacifico. I slept like a baby and was awoken by my alarm just before 7am and I could hear the wind howling outside. Not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed I had to force myself to get up but the prospect of breakfast was too tempting. The night before I had bought some granola, bananas and pears for breakfast. Add in a bit of yogurt and a cup of coffee and I was golden! Food is so rewarding to me and even though sometimes it may be bad food the simple act of eating is something I do to feel good or even to pass the time. There might be something further to look at my relationship to food and what it provides me besides nourishment.
With everything packed I left just after 8:30 and stopped to take a look at some of the wares a few women were selling on the street. Various articles of clothing hand made from wool were being dangled in front of my face, each one competing to have me buy hers instead of the woman sitting a foot beside her. Although they all looked nice nothing really caught my eye and I didn’t need anything woolen at the moment or in the foreseeable future so with some guilt for taking up their time I said thank you and rode away.
The ride was fantastic through the mountains as I descended from 2500 m down several hundred meters only to climb back up another few hundred and repeat the process. The road wound around the steep hillsides with only a curb or most of the time nothing to protect you from going over the edge. Drivers seemed to fly by but then again I was going about 8 km/h uphill and anything passing me seems to fly by. The majority of my day was spent zooming downhill only to climb back up and repeat as I made my way westwards towards the Pacific coast. Around noon I stopped for lunch at San Miguel Suchixtepec which had a shop/restaurant. Something about the homeyness of the place told me it was going to be good. Several pots of food were cooking over the wood burning stove. I opted for some frijoles and chipotle chicken with a cup of coffee. Holy crap was it damn good. So good that when they offered me seconds I didn’t hesitate to agree. I dined with the women who lived there and entertained their daughter/niece, Mila about one year old, who was eating in a high chair beside me. Supremely satisfied I continued on my roller coaster ride to the coast and as I got lower the temperature rose and the humidity increased. One more stop for a cold coconut and I made my way into Puerto Angel, a town set in a cove with fishing as its main industry along side tourism. Wanting to surf I made my way south to Zipotle where I found a spot to camp on the beach amidst the crashing waves. The ocean looked heavy as the full moon rose and I was doubting whether or not it would be a good idea to go out tomorrow. In any case I rented a board for the next day and hoped for the best before calling it a night.
Distance: 120.14 km
My sleep was interrupted by several trips to the bathroom caused by that foul quesadilla I had for dinner. Just after 7 I pulled myself out of bed and got all my things ready after taking a diarrhea tablet to hopefully calm my stomach. Once all my things were together I bid Andrea and Jose adieu after taking some photographs. How fortunate I am to have randomly encountered them.
The route out of town was straightforward as I had taken it on the bus several times and my wrong escapade the night before showed me the route out of town I had to take. It was slow going as I’d have to stop to go to the bathroom every 5 km or whenever a gas station came in sight. Luckily I had my own supply of toilet paper as every gas station had none. I limited my food and drink consumption to some water, gingerale, a small cup of ice cream and some tostadas. Pretty much nothing but I wasn’t feeling too hungry, more bloated and gross but I slowly kept going. At around 40 km I made it to Ocotlan where I had some more tostadas and ginger ale before falling asleep for a bit in the shade on a park bench in the square. When I woke up I felt refreshed but still queasy. A man came up selling popsicles which I declined and then simply asked for 10 pesos to eat which I declined as well. Even though I do it on occasion I’m not one to give anything but food to beggars or anyone who asks me for money. There’s so many facets to poverty that simply giving someone some change is only going to provide a temporary solution. Similar to genetically modified foods I need to take a stance on what I can do to make a difference in those areas. If I choose to make a difference that is.
Anyways, I made my way out of Ocotlan and after about 40 more kilometers I stopped for another diarrhea pill and some fruit and Gatorade. My stomach was still off but I hadn’t had the need to go to the bathroom for a while which was a good sign. My final stop of Miahuitlan was only 40 more kilometers away and the terrain was relatively flat so I slowly made my way along the curvy, albeit really rough road for the majority of the remaining ride. About 4 pm and only 8 km outside of Miahuitlan I was feeling hungry so I stopped for some tacos and Cokes which went down well and provided some energy for the last stretch. Arriving into town I stopped at a hotel which was asking way too much so I continued on down the highway (there were hotels in the centre of town but I preferred to stay on the edge of town) and found nothing so I moved onto the next town. Nothing. By this point the road was gaining elevation and after Santo Tomas de Tamazulapan I’d be climbing the Sierra Sur another 30 km to San Jose del Pacifico. That’s when Leonardo showed up like a white knight in his stallion of a Ford Explorer with a pick-up bed. He pulled over to the side of the road and popped his head out the window and asked if I needed a ride as he was going to San Jose del Pacifico. Amazing. We piled my bike and bags into the bed and were off. The road climbed steeply and had more curves than Kim Kardashian. Riding my bike up it would have taken hours but Leonardo, who has lived in San Jose all his life, zipped along the road like a pro. This road is no joke either. It’s got sheer drops and some parts only have one lane as the road has eroded underneath with only sticks and caution tape preventing people from going over the edge into a forested abyss. It turns out Leonardo owns a hotel in San Jose and I’m thinking this couldn’t get any better. We pull into the small town and it’s ripe with tourists. These aren’t your average tourists either. San Jose is known for its magic mushrooms and this time of year is the high season so enthusiasts from all over flock to this misty mountain town to trip out and go walking in the woods.
Despite it being busy Leonardo has one room left at 100 pesos. Score! I settle in and take a hot shower to get clean and warm me up in this chilly climate. Next I go for a short jaunt to get some breakfast supplies and a coffee where I meet a man (forget his name) who is from the coast. After telling him I want to surf he gives me some info on the beaches near Puerto Angel which I had marked off as a place to visit. It’s less built up than Puerto Escondido or Huatulco but still has some good surf. I thank him for the beta and continue a short jaunt before heading back to get some dinner on the upper deck where the restaurant is located. The view is incredible with the clouds rolling upwards and the colours of the sun setting in the west as I eat a delicious meal. My stomach is much better and I’m thankful. With a full belly I retire to some thick blankets and the smell of stale weed in my room from many joints passed.
Distance: 117.69 km biking (30 km car ride)
I chose to stay one more day in Oaxaca as Andrea had told me about a volunteer opportunity with Techamos Unos to help build a house in one of the surrounding neighbourhoods. It sounded like a neat idea and I got in touch with the organizers who told me we were meeting in town at 3 pm and finish just after 6:30 pm. For most of the morning I lounged around at Andrea and Jose’s house until about 11 when I made my way into town for some food. I stopped at a few street stalls to get some tacos and more importantly this one stall that sold chile rellenos that I had had the day before and were incredible. It was a must to go back. After gorging I did a bit of a tour around the city again before stopping at the park to take a nap on one of the benches before meeting up with the other volunteers.
At 3 pm we were ready to go and Rodrigo, the organizer, piled all 15 of us into a few cars. There were Mexican students, a couple from Oaxaca who were hosting some German travellers and myself. We got to the location and the frame and roof had already been erected. Our job was to staple a double layer of pre-cut Tetra packs on either side of the walls and line the gaps with empty pop bottles (instead of fiberglass batts). The idea is that it will provide insulation before a layer of chicken wire goes on top and then a layer of cement. Within the three hours we managed to get the entire house done (I’d guess it was about 200 square feet of floor space with two rooms and an entry way). I’m not exactly sure who the house was for but there were kids and older women helping out as well. At the end we took a photo and were told that the entire house would be complete by Friday. I’m going to have to look at the Facebook page to see the results. It was rewarding getting a bit of a sweat on providing assistance for a worthy cause. It reminded me of my Grade 12 trip to St. Lucia with my high school to build a house.
We made our way back to town and parted ways. By this time I was hungry again so I went to another part of town to get some street food. There’s something I’ve read on the internet about street food vendors. If their stall has people at it that’s a good sign it will be good food. If not you’re rolling the dice. I rolled the dice on this one and went to a stall to get a squash blossom quesadilla. Needless to say it wasn’t tasty. I finished it as I was hungry but it didn’t go down too well. Before leaving town I stopped for an ice cream and made my way to the bus stops.
I hopped on a bus that had the route home on it but it was going south instead of north and I figured that it would just be a long loop so I could take a rest. Wrong. It went south about 15 km out of town then stopped at the end of the line. Dammit. My exploration effort had failed so I grabbed a communal taxi back to the centre of town, walked 9 blocks to the bus stops and got on one going north this time. Success. I arrived at home, got my things organized to leave the next day and crashed.