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