Month: December 2015

5 Day On a Bike – Puebla – Oaxaca – Part 2

Like I have announced when posting my previous post, there is going to be Part 2!

Day 4 – 64 km
Before 6h I’m woken up by the sound of sweeping. Eager guardian of cleanliness in this town is sweeping the square with a huge palm leaf. I prepare my breakfast – oat meal with bananas and coffee. At 8h I’m back on the road and would like to reach the first larger town to call my grandma. It’s her birthday and it’s only appropriate that a long lost grandchild gives her a call from the backwaters of Mexico.
First I pass a small village where a man by the side of the road informs me that I have another hour, hour and a half of cycling until the next (and for a while the only) larger town. Good enough reason for me to pull over at the next roadside restaurant for a “café de olla” (weak coffee with cinnamon and sugar). Continuation of the journey shows me that locals are not always to be trusted. This time the man made an error to my advantage since I reach the large town sooner than in a hour including the coffee break.
After wishing Happy birthday to my grandma the road is calling me again. With inevitable certainty I’m approaching the “most interesting” part, climbing from around 800 meters above sea level to almost 2.400 meters. This is going to be fun 😦 (as you might have guessed I’m not one of those masochistic climb lovers).
The problem of tackling these kind of climbs is that once you start tackling the uphill normally there is a sharp decline of camping options since normally there is a wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other. In any case the terrain becomes too steep to pitch your tent. That is why I normally tackle big climbs early in the morning increasing my possibilities to find some nice flat area or a village to pitch my tent. But since 1.600 meters of altitude difference is still too much to tackle in a day and since I do have more than 3 hours of daylight left I push on. I should reach the first village before darkness.
Bravely I tackle the hill and to my big surprise I actually enjoy the climb. It’s not too steep nor is it too hot and it’s not taking too much energy from me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that before the climb I munched some sweet biscuits, peanut butter sandwiches, fruits and flushed it all down with a coke. Little sugar before the challenge never hurts.
Nevertheless it almost dark when I reach the first flat surface that comes in a shape of a roadside restaurant. Give the lightness of traffic on the road, the restaurant is not too busy. I enter the room with two tables, counter and access to an outdoor fireplace where the owner, Cres is. I ask for permission to camp behind the house and after a short conversation she has with her husband, Memo they offer me to sleep in a field bed inside the restaurant. Shortly after I have stopped, the sugar rush seemed to pass and I gladly accept the offer to sleep without having to pitch my tent. The fact that I was also treated to a tasty, hot dinner accompanied by the sound of generator since there is no electricity here and that I was able to take a warm shower by the help of a ladle only shows you another example of the Mexican generosity I’m receiving along the way.

Day 5 – 50 km
Awaken by the sound of humping outside. Supply delivery. Memo goes out to receive the goods, I follow shortly. Another cloudy day and the sight of the road climbing higher and higher in the distance catches my eye. That is what awaits me today. As opposed to yesterday, there is no excitement about moving on. I linger around for a late breakfast before gathering the courage to move on. It’s not the only, but moving on and tackling the climb is surely the most obvious way to make it to Oaxaca and the well-deserved rest, so here I go. The hours seem to drag and behind every curve that I conquer, there is another one and this one also demands a climb.
Somewhere among these endless climbs I stop at a closed roadside restaurant. While treating myself to a short brake and a cigarette I notice there is someone in the restaurant. Through a grid that doubles as a wall I strike up a conversation with Fernando, a 20 something guy that occasionally lives here with his grandma. He offers me coffee and I happily accept the offer. Over a short chat and a coffee next to it I manage to somewhat lift my spirit before I continue.
I keep on climbing almost until 15h when, initially a bit shy, the descend begins and the sun comes out. It’s warmer on this side of the mountains.
Shortly before 17h I reach the town of San Francisco Telixtlahuaca where I stop at eh first store that I notice. I do have to buy some provisions for dinner and ask where I can find water. An elderly man, Elmer stops me at the doorstep and soon we come to a conclusion that I can sleep in a currently closed restaurant next to the store. Since the restaurant is of somewhat open type (palm leaf covered roof and walls made of bamboo) I still pitch my tent. I cook some pasta on the stove, drink a coffee and fall asleep.

Day 6 – 49 km
Yes, contrary to my expectations that I will manage to cover the distance to Oaxaca in 5 days, day 6 also finds me waking up in a tent. Today I have another good 40 km in front of me so I take it easy. I wait for Elmer to come to open the store so that I can properly say goodbye and then hit the road.
The more I come close to Oaxaca, the more the traffic becomes heavier and the surroundings more built up. Before noon I stop in a cyber café and using Warmshowers I manage to find a host in Oaxaca. Jason and Dina generously accept my request.
Cycling through the city calls for some acrobatics when avoiding traffic and especially buses which stop where they feel like it paying no attention at all to the fact that they might be cutting you off. But I’m getting used to this thou still I do not like it (let alone enjoy it).
Little more cycling uphill and wandering through a maze of streets without name and here I am at my Oaxacan hosts. I make myself coffee and treat myself to a nice, hot shower.
Life is Good!

Break
Having a Break

Looking_Out
Outside the Window

Cafe_de_Olla_Y_Pan_Dulce
Cafe de olla y pan dulce 🙂

Gasolinera
Gas station

Hills_Of_Oaxaca
Hills of Oaxaca

Making_Tortillas
Making Tortillas

Beans_Cooking_Outside
Beans Cooking Outside

Small_Thin_Line_Leading_Uphill
Small Thin Line Leading Uphill

On_The_Other_Side
Finally On the Other Side

In_A_Restaurante
Camping in a Restaurant

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

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5 Day On a Bike – Puebla – Oaxaca – Part 1

I have started to write this post more than a week ago which makes it appropriately long (will be published in 2 parts).

My journey south continues. Not really on the most direct line but generally I’m sticking to the right direction. After cycling past the volcanoes of central Mexico I have stopped for a day in Puebla in the shadow of a still puffing Popo (Popocatepetl). Enjoying the hospitality of Mariana and Jose (Warmshowers hosts) I managed to relax for a while before continuing to Oaxaca. Google maps informed me that there is approx. 370 km in front of me which I have transformed into 5 days of cycling. Here is a short summary of this route.

Day 1 – 42 km
Saying goodbye to friendly hosts is always hard and it does not get easier with time and encountering different people. This meant that I have left the apartment of my host only at around 11h and then spent another hour and a half “talking” to Lou and his front wheel in the garage (the content of these “talks” is not confidential, but it’s more appropriate for a few lines from the Simon’s Brightest series, so I’ll keep it for there). Getting out of a city can be stressful and this time around was no exception. Lots of traffic on sometimes too narrow streets. The worst kind of drivers comes in the shape of bus drivers who continuously cut you off and are completely ignorant to whether you will be able to stop in time or not.
Given the fact that the route into the city was a gentle downhill, I was well aware of the fact that the route out will be uphill. With some stops I managed to do it.
My progress at the end of the day reflected all of the above mentioned and the odometer stopped at 42 km. Since I was not keen on camping, I headed towards the firefighters in the town of Tepeaca. Here in the state of Puebla the firefighters (as well as the ambulance) live under the same roof as the state police. This meant I had to go to the police since they are in charge of the security of the station and ask them if I can camp there. Friendly policemen first took my data and insisted on verifying that there was no tank hidden in my bags and then they let me camp on their driveway. Concrete floor are not he most ideal place for camping, but it’s doable. I was especially glad of this fact the next morning when the tent was dry, no condensation inside.
While preparing to set up my tent, a policeman approaches me and starts a conversation that leads to him offering me dinner. Tacos, this is Mexico after all. Accepting the offer I eat my way through some tasty goat tacos.
After dinner comes setting up my tent and a quick wash at the toilet before snuggling into my sleeping bag and writing my diary. Outside there is a pack of dogs barking. One of them is especially loud but after my intervention when I go out of the tent and chase them away, all becomes quiet again. The night passes without incidents.

Day 2 – 114 km
The morning is cold, but having my tent on a concrete means no condensation for which I am glad. Morning ritual encompasses cleaning up my tent (sleeping bag and similar) and then taking down the tent. I cook my breakfast at the police and say goodbye to them a bit after 8h. The sun is strong enough so that I can cycle in short sleeves. After a short climb the road starts to descend. A nice 4 lane with a shoulder is soon interrupted with a sign roadwork. This in Mexico can mean several things from “no pasa nada” (a sign that was forgotten or they have forgotten to start working) to gravel road and a construction site. Well in this case it was the latter. Tarmac gives way to gravel and after a few km when tarmac reappears, I’m well shaken.
The road slowly turns into a gentle descend which with a few interruptions follows me for the rest of the day.
At one point I manage to merge with a group of 100 or so cyclists whom turn out to be pilgrims. Not to talkative bunch of people so we all turn our pedals in silence. At least until the first climb when they run away. They are not cycling on a fully loaded bicycles.
In a town of Tlacotepec I stop on a bench in the main square. It’s time to treat myself to some peanut butter sandwiches whilst listening to “Feliz Navidad” coming from a loudspeaker from a nearby stand.
The rest of the day I’m accompanied by headwind which I have not invited. Since I’m still descending by the end of the day I manage to pass 100 km mark. My second time in Mexico!
Before stopping for the night I do have a close encounter with the tarmac. In some small town there is a speed bump across the road (they are very popular in Mexico) whilst the shoulder is without it. But there are some descend sized stones on the shoulder intended to prevent cars from bypassing the speed bump. But they are intended for car, not for bicycles, right? And so typically – is the gap between the rocks wide enough for my loaded bicycle? Sure it is! – Well, it wasn’t. My right front pannier hit a rock and what followed was a short but passionate and dynamical tango by Lou and yours truly. It ended up way less spectacularly with a fall into the only puddle for miles. My first fall on this trip!
Evening finds me pitching my tent next to a football field adjacent to a gas station.

Day 3 – 64 km
Day 200 of the trip. Morning is cloudy and it does look like it is going to rain, but it doesn’t. I load up Lou and pay a quick visit to the toilet before hitting the road. Short on water I head into the first town to look for a so called “purificadora”, filling station for purified water. Friendly employees fill up all my water bottles and a 6 litre water bag. When I want to pay they just wave me off.
The road which has already taken the shape of a shoulder less two-lane soon transforms itself into gravel. This time for a longer period that yesterday. While being tossed around on holes and bumps car and trucks pass me by leaving me in a thick dust clouds. At least I’m not hungry but for sure I’m extremely well shaken like some James Bond martini – Shaken, not stirred.
Today the first hills start to appear, but they tend to go gentle on me. More than by the hills I’m impressed by all the greenery around me. Not that central Mexico was all desert but for sure it was less and not so intensively green. Everywhere there are trees, palms and in between there are even cactuses of all size and shape.
I finish the day in the town of Santa Maria Tecomavaca where I pay a visit to a small store for some essentials (toilet paper). Since they do not stock fruits I go to the neighbour, Santiago for some bananas. After a short chat he gives me a nice bunch of bananas and some apples as well. Yet another example of Mexican generosity.
Camping under arches on the main square. I really do not feel like going out of town and look for some wild camping.

Cactuses of Different Shapes and Sizes
Cactuses of Different Shapes and Sizes

Hello Donkies
Hello Donkies

It's Getting Green In Mexico
It’s Getting Green In Mexico

It IS Green
It IS Green

Little Uphill
Little Uphill

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon