Week 40.While our road in the USA took us into the wilderness, where we were happy if we stumbled on a small village to get some groceries and a real bed, while we enjoyed the wild nature and camping, we take a very different route in Mexico. Here there is less wilderness, most of the land is cultivated and where it is not, it is inaccessible by bike. So we bike through urban and agricultural areas and look at the way people live and see how they work the land or make their living in small businesses.
The only way is up.
Biking out of Tonatico we follow the more quiet MEX55, winding up-hill and down-hill (mostly up-hill). We stop in one of the small villages to buy bread. Reason why the shopkeeper is selling from behind a fence is that especially at night there are a lot of drug addicts, who cannot be trusted. It is easier to keep the fence in place during the daytime too.
Pay and get your bread through a locked fence. Are they over-cautious or are there dangers we have not encountered, since we do not cycle after dark? Maybe it is better we do not camp in the wild!
At the lake we have a drink but not yet lunch as we left quite late. We meet Mardonio Reyna who moved temporary back from the USA and is now involved in setting-up some more business in his old village. We hope that at one moment we will be able to have the same type of conversation in Spanish, for now we were lucky Mardonio is fluent in English.
At 13:30 we are at the National Parque Grutas Cacahuamilpa. This is one of the largest cave systems in the world, carved out by two rivers. Still an active cave, with stalactites and stalagmites growing.
Quite a madhouse, lots of people visiting from all over Mexico, but mainly Mexico City as it is only 2-3 hours away and it happens to be a Sunday! We even see a few foreign tourists.
We leave the bikes at the campsite and head-off for the tour of 14:00. Just in time, almost fainted as it is so warm and we did not have lunch. We are heading into the cave with a tour guide (only Spanish so good for us!) and 50 other people, you are not allowed to enter alone. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, white with salt crystals or brown due to iron.
To ensure that people stay together they only illuminate the formations which are explained by the guide, when he walks to the next room, he switches off the light. Bit stupid as it is also not a loop, you return the same way you came. Only the footpath is illuminated. Strange. Full 2 hours and 4 km walk gave us enough time to enjoy this immense cave system. You could also hike for 6 hours through the river but we kindly decline and enjoy watching and talking to people at the campsite.
At 18:00 everybody has left and we have the place to ourselves. 3 sides of the campsite drops off quite steep , the other side has the bathhouse and a high gate. No shower for me tonight.
There is a swimming pool but we don’t use it as there have been sooooo many people in there this weekend. Most with their clothes on. There is a guard who seals of the campsite at 20:00 and he also turns on some very bright lights. I don’t mind to keep them on as we could see easier if something is happening or not.
At 1:00 at night we hear voices and I think people are fiddling with our bikes. Frank gets out of the tent with his campknife but the people who sneaked in are at the bathhouse. Finally we go back to sleep. Are we freaking ourselves?
Morning call at 6:00 by our alarm but also by Chachalakas (Ortalis Poliocephalia), so many in the trees calling their mates at the other site of the canyon. It seems that a bunch of them can clean out a small vegetable garden in less than an hour!
Further up-hill to the Silver City, Taxco, one of the Magical Cities Frank wants to see. Only a 30 km bike ride, going from 1,000 to 1,800 but with a lot of up-down-up hill it is a magical ride, passing several violet-blue Jacaranda trees.Google sends us via a narrow street with a17% incline to the centre of the city, after Frank has pushed me a few stretches up-hill while I was biking, a guy on a motorcycle stops us and explains there is a much easier route going back down and following the main road for a few more curves. PFFF google maps! He even said: you are following Google aren’t you? Haha.Suddenly I am totally spent and when we see a nice looking hotel at the next curve, overlooking the hills and we get a good price for two nights I even don’t want to look further in the city centre. Give me some quietness and I am happy. What a magnificent view! Add a swimming pool and an OXXO around the corner (cervezas frias!) and only 15 minutes walking to the old centre we could not ask for more.
Making city trips and staying in hotels creates a totally different feeling and you don’t get any rest days, because even if you stay in one place, wandering around cities is not exactly resting. So we are spoiled in a strange way.
As in every Pueblo Magico also here owners have to comply with certain rules: every house needs to be white with a red or (for Taxco) black bottom stripe. Even advertisement needs to be in black. Yes even the bank who would normally have a blue logo now has a black logo! Also no light advertisements! All cabs needs to be white and 90% are beetles! In combination with winding and very steep (10%+) cobble stone streets you understand why this is considered one of the most beautiful cities of Mexico.
All buildings, except churches may be white, but the city still has enough colour.
Early breakfast in the city overlooking the lovely Plaza St Prisca. In the 18th century José de la Borda sponsored building the cathedral, which in spite of his wealth as a silver mine owner, nearly bankrupted him! Imagine the work on such a steep hill and with lack of flat land. He wanted to have the best and most beautiful church and succeeded in making the highest building in Mexico at that time.
We wander through several galleries and markets. As there are soo many Beetle taxis we need to ride one and go to the highest point, where a statue of Christo Rey is placed and offers us a great view of the city.
Fun detail: the front passenger seat has been removed from all taxis as it would otherwise be too difficult for people to enter.
Of course we have lunch at the main square but here you experience the same as in all major cities: great view but mediocre food.
Interesting William Spratling museum, again you see how an individual can have an impact on society as he helped to build the city as it is and had a great influence on production and quality control of silver ornaments and jewellery.
Evening was a disappointment as the greatest restaurant of Taxco was not so great, not meeting the level of service and quality of food we had expected.
Next time again burger around the corner which was way better!
Leaving Taxco we have to backtrack for quite some kilometres. Amazed that we biked this all up without really complaints!
Getting really good in steady climbing but rolling down the hill is even more fun! We have the best roadside food during our whole trip (think we said that before)!
So much better than the fancy stuff 😊We pass through Teacalco where Mexican singer Joan Sebastian had one of his ranches. You see the decline of the estate as he passed away 3 years ago at the very young age of 64.Oh and this plane Frank already knows: DC9!
Next part of the day we follow Google bike road and yes we end up biking in a cornfield, luckily the corn had been harvested.
We also pass sugarcane which is being harvested after the leaves have been burnt off. In Brazil they are no longer allowed to burn the leaves before (and scare away the snakes) as it has a too high burden on air quality. Here in Mexico there are not yet such rules, but cars and trucks have a much bigger impact anyway.
In Tlaltizapan we only find a reasonably decent place after having checked 4 different possibilities, spread out over 10 km and it is already 17:30. But we are safe inside and we can order pizza as there is nothing within 10 km of this place and we don’t carry any more extra food (except for one emergency meal).
Next day we discover that 300 m further there is a natural spring with aqua park offering camping, not visible in Google or anywhere else…
Heading to Jantetelto we see how just harvested sugarcane fields are irrigated and discover that the roots will sprout again during 5-6 years.
In Tepalcingo we see the first and heaviest effects of the earthquakes from September 2017. Still ongoing demolishing of unstable structures 6 months afterwards, make you realize the impact of such disasters on a community. Heavy stuff.
In Jantetelto we can choose between two Auto Motels but they are so pityful and rundown we continue biking as Google indicated a camping spot! When we arrive there it is the public swimming pool and you can only camp if you request it several days in advance. They only let you camp when there is a guard present. He points us to an other place 1 km further. Biking over the dirt road I pity myself that I had not pushed to stay at 15:00 in one of the villages with thermal bath, grrr. But then we see suddenly a farm, with a swimming pool with 10 people in it. The farmer asks what we want and we are SOO happy he agrees we can stay and camp!
And we are the only ones there during the night as the other group of people were only there for the day! His wife makes great dinner and breakfast, all of this for less than 20 euro! They are so sweet. Thank you Leonardo and Nieve! PS second downpoor in 2 1/2 months, happy with our tent and that we have our chairs so we can sit in the vestibule 🙂
Popo is watching
Today, when riding toll road 438D, we have the constant company of Popocatepetl, looming over us and watching we are biking fast enough and in the right direction. With 5426 m second largest active volcano of Mexico!
We meet a German who has been living and working in Mexico for 12 years and is recommending to enter Guatemala via Palenque. Seems interesting, lets see how many miles it will add.
Bed bugs and bad burgers
Atlixco is a disappointment, expensive, no laundromat that is willing to wash and have it ready the next day. Hotel does not want to help, so a bit of washing in the bathroom and hope it will be dry tomorrow. As dinner hamburger with Mr. Frank, a once in a lifetime experience, never again.
Even with soo much biking too unhealthy and not even tasty but we had to try it!
When leaving the hotel I see one small black bug in the bed but don’t pay further attention. Around noon Frank knows what the bedbugs have been doing during the night…more than 50 bites. Mine only appear in the evening, they even have attacked me, that’s why I prefer camping! Think about those creatures crawling over you and sucking out your blood.
Today we have a short ride in combination of visiting the largest pyramid in the world!
Riding out of Atlixco is very busy as with all cities and without any decent biking possibilities. We survive and pick-up a google bike route leading us via some dirt roads to Cholula. But first we visit a very small village where the church is ready for the festivities of tomorrow and Monday. Busses full of people from surrounding villages are arriving with their banners and are welcomed to the church with festive bells. Church decorated with fresh flowers, 8 days of preparations and 5 people worked on all of this.
Google Maps brings us again some unique views!
Cholula and Puebla
Entering Cholula means sharing this unique spot with hordes of tourists (220.000 per year).
We choose to walk through the tunnels (total 8 km) dug by architect Ignacio Marquina, he was investigating when the temples where built on which the current cathedral has been erected. He discovered they were built from 3rd century BC to 9th century AD. It is the largest monument ever constructed in the world, now for a large part covered with earth.
Currently this cathedral built on top of the previous temple in 1594 is a very important pilgrim destination. Main reason why the old temples are still covered with earth. We have an interesting discussion if the church should be relocated and the temple should be unearthed. What is your opinion?
Giza in Egypt is 2 times smaller in volume than this temple, although it is twice as high. But you don’t get the same impression as 85% is still covered with earth and on top you see the cathedral. From Cholula to the city centre of Puebla is an other 16 km through a very dense populated area.
We wonder why everybody is so ecstatic about Puebla until we reach the centre. After our first night we decide will stay one more night so we can discover a bit of the old town. Nice that not everything is white with red or black but houses have their own colour and quite a few are decorated with glazed tiles. Stay tuned to discover Puebla with us and where the road will take us during week 41!