Living the Dream
Leaving Guadalajara and making the trek across mainland Mexico towards D.F., we began climbing and climbing through volcanic and agricultural land. In a way, it was as if Mexico were guarding some of it’s best kept treasure. The closer we got to Mexico City, the more “real” Mexico felt. The culture I wanted so badly to feel and understand was starting to make more sense. We were riding into the heart of Mexico and there was no turning back.
Our original idea had been to head to Guadalajara then take the coast route from there and cruise down to Guatemala. However more than a few people said that if I really wanted to experience Mexico, I HAD to take the inland route. So far, I can not agree more. True, the inland route will be more mountainous (VERY mountainous so far). However this part of Mexico and points further south will more than make up for that with the rich culture, wonderful people and priceless archeological and anthropological treasures that are unique to Mexico.
But first we had to leave Guadalajara….
It was so wonderful being in a bustling metropolis like Guadalajara being hosted by my wonderful friends and being shown around by the great city. Our days were spent sipping coffee on Chapultepec, catching up with old friends, running bike errands and doing some basic touristy sightseeing.
Unfortunately I have very little photos of my time in Guadalajara since I did in fact spend most of my time relaxing and enjoying my longest break since San Diego. The rest was necessary though, as we would later find out.
Eventually the time came for us to leave the wonderful hospitality of my friends, Alex and Lu, and hit the road! We had a little over 500 km’s to get to Mexico City and were not sure what sort of terrain to expect….
Guadalajara, Jalisco to Ocotlan, Jalisco
Tearing ourselves away from Guadalajara was difficult but soon enough we found ourselves cycling out of the city and heading East. It was here, a couple hours out of town where Josh and I realized the value of communication, and our apparent lack of it the past few days. I was intending on heading north towards Guanajuato, a place I was told I must not miss. This however would add 2-3 days to the trek to Mexico City. Josh on the other hand was intending on beelining it to Mexico City in an effort to make it to Guatemala earlier. He is, after all, trying to get down there to do charitable work re-building homes after the storm(Josh’s charitable work). For a brief moment we looked at each other and realized that our paths were starting to split. Goals were emerging that did not perfectly align and we had to stop and chat about where exactly we were headed. Eventually I caved and decided to ride straight to Mexico City, promising to myself that I would return to see all the things I still need to see. After all, Mexican culture has been around for thousands of years, I can’t see it going anywhere in the next few years.
Eventually we got into Ocotlan and started the daily ritual of asking for cheap hotels/hostals or places to camp. The local “bomberos” (firemen) offered me a spot to camp but first we had to ride into the plaza to see town and get some food. As we were cycling into town a man on a bike hurriedly caught up to us and started chatting with us. After learning where we were coming from and what we were doing, he told me to follow him to the local Red Cross. I did not know this man, had barely caught his name and had no idea what part of town I was in but felt compelled to let my guard down and follow him. Sure enough, 10 minutes later we are in the Red Cross office chatting with all the workers, talking about our trip and being offered a place to camp at the boss’ family restaurant. However since it was a few km’s out of town he decided that it made for sense for us to throw our stuff into the back of a Red Cross truck and drive there. We ended the night eating at the restaurant (for free!), walking on the Lake Chapula bike path and camping on the grass lawn of the restaurant. As always, a little trust in people goes a long way….. Thanks Andrei!!!!
Ocotlan, Jalisco to Ecuandureo, Michocan
A fairly uneventful ride of mostly flattish terrain (unbeknownst to us the last of the flats!) got us to a small roadside town a couple km’s off the highway. We got into town and began the usual routine of getting to the plaza, looking around then asking for a place to stay. I walked up to some policemen I saw and started to ask them. Right away one of them asked to see my ID and I decided they had no right to ask for that. Instead I kept blabbing away about the town and places to camp, doing my best to avoid the topic of ID’s. Eventually I was told there was nowhere to camp and the only hotel was closed, so Josh and I decided to ride into town anyways and explore the twisty streets in search of food and lodging on our own. As Josh was in the tienda buying dinner, I was all of a sudden descended upon by two police trucks full of men. They got out and once again asked for my ID and wanted to know what I was doing. At this point I complied since I figured that had been looking for us as after we rode away. Eventually they said that we would be staying “with them” tonight and that we needed to follow their truck to the police station. Again, I decided that the only thing left to do was simply see where this would take us. Eventually we found ourselves in the local police station shaking hands with officers, sharing stories, talking about their family’s in the US and being offered a place to sleep for the night. They even offered us the jail cell as a “bedroom” but I declined. In the end, it was one of our more memorable lodgings of the whole trip.
Ecuandureo, Michoacan to Huaniqueo, Michoacan
This section of the autopista (another road for Cuota or toll road) was the beginning of the unending mountainous terrain. However the ride was mostly uneventful but pleasant as the climate changed from hot and humid to cool fresh mountain air. We eventually found ourselves in yet another small town and sprung for a hotel for a night of TV, showers and comfy beds.
Huaniqueo, Michoacan to Zinapecuaro, Michoacan
Another day of volcanic/agricultural landscape mixed with slightly less hilly terrain. We got a nice tailwind and cruised despite a late start. Overall, just a pleasant day of riding.
Zinapecuaro, Michoacan to Atlacomulco, Mexico
A BIG day involving LOTS of miles and continuous climbing. We eventually got to town, which sits at 8,430 feet, tired and hungry. Again I sprung for a hotel and we made our way into the plaza for a feast of street food. Food had never tasted to good and we tore our way through hamburgers, elote, gummy worms and crackers. We went to bed fully and happy, ready for our arrival into Mexico City the next day.
Atlacomulco, Michoacan to Mexico City, Mexico
The day started at 2 AM with my head in the toilet violently ejecting the contents of my stomach loud enough for the whole hotel to hear. Apparently something I ate did not agree with me and I paid for it by being up all night puking and dreading the day’s ride ahead. Eventually, after successfully emptying my stomach of all it’s contents, we leaded over to the plaza for a quick breakfast. I did my best to hold down my food knowing that I needed something in my stomach if I was going to ride anywhere today. We had made plans to meet our Warmshowers host, Daniel, around 5 PM that evening in Mexico City and we still had 66 km’s to ride and a bus to catch into town. Off we went and I spent the next 4 hours trying my hardest to not puke and somehow manage my way up and over the hills that lead to Toluca. Needless to say, it was my worst day of riding yet and I’m surprised Josh handled my bitching and moaning so well. Eventually we got to Toluca and after a little snack and rest we headed to the bus station. We were both a little hesitant about cycling into one of the largest cities in the world and figured it would be easier to bus the last 50 km’s instead. All went well and we eventually found ourselves getting off the bus in Mexico City. Our host, Daniel, met us at the terminal and after dropping our stuff off at his house, he gave us an all night bike tour of the city. Seeing this great city and it’s sights at night was surreal and made me very excited for the upcoming rest days here.
Since our arrival, Daniel has been the greatest host ever, He has been taking us all over this place, sharing his love and knowledge of Mexico everywhere we go. In the interest of fairness to this great city, I will write another post dedicated solely to Mexico City in a few days. Instead, just enjoy the pictures of cycling through the heart of Mexico for now.
Guadalajara to Ocotlan 54 miles
Ocotlan to Ecuandureo 51 miles
Ecuandureo to Huaniqueo 54 miles
Huaniqueo to Zinapecuaro 56 miles
Zinapecuaro to Atlacomulco 70 miles
Atlacomulco to Mexico D.F. 44 miles + bus ride
Total thus far- 3,702 miles!!!!