Week 44. Biking in Mexico.
What goes up must come down.
After a meager two last weeks we hope to cover more miles this week. We know it is not all about mileage, although there is a slight time pressure because of El Salvador and the meeting we have there.On this bright Sunday morning we start straight with a 600 m ascend, a small descend and further uphill. Today we go 1160m up and 1690m down. Warm but do-able. We still see a lot of agave for the Mezcal production but further down the road it is all wild, untouched nature. Fierce scalding headwind does not bring any cooling, but only slows us down. We stop at a very small Mezcal factory to stay a bit in the shade and Artemio offers us cola which we gladly accept. We don’t know how much the farmer gets for the 3 agaves he brought with his donkey from his land, he had to nurture it for 7 years before they were suitable to be harvested, burned, fermented and turned into Mezcal.
Heading to Tequisistan Frank needs to show his ID before we are allowed to enter the city. We have a super fun evening with great food at bar La Fortaleza, we get quite some drinks from the locals and even dance with them!
As we don’t want to exit town via the same road, we use google maps, but this time it is really too extreme, bumpy dirt road turning into goat trail.
Even if we see the paved road in the distance we decide to turn back and try an other one. Frank is not amused.
Riding from cactus country, past a great lake and some small villages, to a landscape similar to Holland, flat, cows, windmills. Big difference is it is 20 degrees C warmer than summer in Holland.
This area is known for the severe winds, due to the geological structure of the mountains and the oceans.
Hence the installment of 21 wind parks, creating the largest wind park area in the world. Interesting read to show that this is not all positive;
Do cows eat plastic?
What is also concerning is the extreme pollution. Everywhere, on every corner you see so much garbage, especially plastic. Do you know what happens if a cow eats plastic? They can die as plastic can block one of the 4 stomachs or the cow can no longer digest food and will die of starvation, same happens with other animals. I first thought a cow will not eat plastic but we now have seen cows swallowing plastic several times in only minutes as there was food waste in these bags and the cows are hungry. And plastic is blown everywhere.
At Tuphuatepec we try to find something to eat as we have not done any grocery shopping, try to navigate through a city baking under the blazing sun and really damaged by the September 2017 earthquake.
Frank does not want to go through the market and I get grumpier by the minute as I am starving. No leaving without supplies anymore! Just outside town we are spoiled by some real good grilled chicken, only minor note is the very loud Mexican hiphop of the shop next door. But I need to eat so Frank needs to cope with it. And then a real long, long, long straight stretch of road starts that ends in Juchitan. Juchitan.
Seems that this large town was most affected by the earthquake with a strength of 8.1 on the Richter scale. We stay at a low rise hotel (with swimming pool!) and take a mototaxi into town for dinner. In the centre most streets are without houses, all have been destroyed and cleared out.
An other brick in the wall.
A slow recovery is on its way. Lots of cement and brick production.
Biking out of town we meet the 3rd & 4th biker in Mexico. Jono from Australia and Jeremy from USA travelling from South to North. Cool shoes Jeremy made for himself from bike tires! Not long after that we meet nr 5, biking in Mexico, Guatemala & Belize. Margo from France, now on her own as she has ‘lost’ her boyfriend but will wait for him at the next village. Him, Vincent from Canada, we meet a few hours later, seems not the first time that they have lost each other. Most flat roads without headwinds result in 105km. Proud! Looked like we would end in a downpour but we were far enough from the mountains. We enter mango country. Huge plantations along the road, trucks full of these juicy fruits. Did you know they have to climb in the trees to get these delicious fruits?
Smell the tropical fruit laying in the sun. Finally in Tapanatepec we find a Telcell to get more data and find a very clean place to sleep. We have neighbours who seem to have a hearing problem as we can follow the movie they are playing. Mexicans are not so bothered by noise… First time we have a motel where we are lucky to have the very last room. Most of the time we are alone or maybe one or two other rooms are occupied. Very nice tacos with beef and udder will restore our energy. At 3:30 we are both suddenly awake as our bed is rocking from side to side, our first earthquake. It is so minor nobody even leaves their room. I am bright awake thinking about what needs to be done if a severe earthquake would happen. Chiapas.
We leave today the Oaxaca state and enter our last state for Mexico: Chiapas. On Mapout we have seen we need to climb 25 km on a winding road and the remaining 60 would be more of less flat. But we have counted without the severe headwinds, “Puente de las curvas de los vientos” says enough. If you follow us on Instagram @spinningsouth : this was the day where Frank was almost blown out of his shirt. After that the fierce headwind subdues to “normal” headwind but the seemingly flat road was a rolling road with constant 50 meters up and down. Due the significant climb in the morning in combination with a longer distance the smaller hills don’t show if you don’t zoom in. Today it was not a blessing to know what was ahead of us and we mis-read the map and expected a much easier day. Cintalapa is a strange city with people who do not seem interested in doing business. Checking 3 places before we find something clean, without youngsters hanging around in the lobby, people not taking their phone from their ear when showing you a room and the possibility of a ground floor room.
For dinner speciality of the town: chicken in a creamy, sweet, cheese sauce. It is food. We have now done quite some miles and our bodies are screaming for rest but also here no interesting surrounding and bad wifi. So we continue heading South. Biking out of the city we follow some dirtroads until we hit HW190 again.
Interesting way to restore a bridge after the earthquake: pull the sand up using your own weight.When we cross the Cuota (tollroad) we decide to go for the safer option and this time the toll road is even on lower altitude than the Libre. Lucky us! And happy to have a safer distance between us and passing busses and trucks.
As we both have had an overkill of road noise, city, people and culture we decide to try to find the parrot reserve, should only be a detour of 16 km one way. With 12km of dirt road. And what a treat! Already the dirt road towards the reserve is putting a smile on my face. Even if we need to push a very short distance, due to 20% ascent. Even if Franks shoulders get a beating, we enjoy the ride. As we want to stay for 2 days and will hike/rest we decide to take a cabana so we can leave our stuff in the room.
This reserve is highly recommended. OK they are similar parrots as you now see in Amsterdam and surrounding but in Amsterdam you don’t have the sinkhole where hundreds of them fly from in the morning and return before sunset. Sima de las Cotorras is a quiet, quaint oasis without GSM or TV (which we anyhow never use). Great food and a natural wakeup call. More info; Sima de las cotorras
We meet Karin and Lars, Swiss, travelling in a 4×4 camper, Mitsubishi converted to a camper by themselves, from North to South America. Left in June and already covered 40,000km. Great people, nice sharing experiences! And be welcomed by a cold beer is always a pleasant surprise!
Friday the 13th is a rest day but we do wake-up at 6.00 to see the parrots emerge from the sinkhole.
Thanks Lars&Karin for the above two great shots of the parrots!
We don’t rappel down this 150m deep hole but just enjoy the view, the perfect hammock, the great food. We thank the mama that she accepted to do our laundry and even did not wanted to get paid for it! We thank Walter and his team for taking so good care of us, perfect food in such a remote area. This was the first time in Mexico we had a real resting day topped off with the luxury of being in the middle of nature!
Before leaving we enjoy one more time the morning flight of the parrots and a shared breakfast with Karin and Lars. They give us great tips for San Cristobal and Palenque. Before heading off we admire the way how they have converted their vehicle in a perfect heaven to travel around the world. A vehicle which does not stand-out too much in this area but has all the things you need!
Biking back over the dirtroad is much faster.
We decide to detour and not enter Tuxla but we can’t resist to check-out Wallmart (and find the perfect bidon for Frank) and drink a coffee at Starbucks. Bizar to be in such different worlds in such a short distance!
We end in Chiapa de Corzo, our starting point to visit the canyon.
Will it be as amazing as the Grand Canyon? Check out week 45 blog.
PS. And yes we did more miles during week 44 = details in tab MAP.