Living the Dream
Devotion. It’s a crazy thing.
Throughout time it has helped shape great civilizations while also tearing them apart in other places. It is the reason we all strive to do what we believe in, regardless of the struggle. It helps us push forward when we lack the personal motivation to continue on. It is that belief inside us all that we are a part of something bigger and we need to do our part for the greater good.
My all-to-brief stay in Mexico City was eye-opening in a lot of ways. On one hand it was a great glimpse into the vast cultural wealth of this great country. Throughout my visits to museums and ancient archeological sites, I was reminded constantly of the devotion of people throughout time to a greater purpose, belief or society. Seeing those sights was unforgettable and it made me excited to return for a much longer stay. On the other hand however, my wanderings through Mexico have made me realize how entirely disconnected I am/have become from my culture. My upbringing has been nothing short of amazing, and I have nothing to complain about. However seeing people here so fiercely devoted to who they are, where they come from and what they can be reminds me that I can only be a visitor to this place. This culture is not mine the way I want it to be. However as bad as that sounds, it really is ok.
Instead I am privileged enough to have the time and opportunity to explore this cultural landscape in a way that helps me connect with it more intimately. I have met people on the road who have shared their stories with me, told me where they come from, who they love, what they believe in and why they are doing the things they are doing. Throughout all of this I have realized that those who are doing the things they truly believe in are the happiest, regardless of how much money or fame it may bring them.
It is through this lens that I have been viewing life on the road these past few days…..
Mexico City, Mexico to Rio Frio, Mexico
Leaving Mexico City was just like leaving all the other great places we have been. There’s the feeling of guilt for not staying longer and exploring it in earnest mixed with the irresistible pleasure of being on your bike again. We played human Frogger with Mexico City traffic for about an hour before finally escaping the city’s grasp and pedalling up into the mountains that surround the city. The climbing seemed to go on forever as we ascended into lush forest and crisp mountain air. Towards the end of the day I was rounding a bend and noticed Josh stopped up ahead chatting with that appeared to be another cyclist. Sure enough, Josh we had caught up with Daigo, a bike tourer from Japan. Daigo has been on the road for 6 months now, having cycled from Anchorage, Alaska and heading south to Argentina. It was decided that we would cycle together for w few days and off we went. I had heard of a little town called Rio Frio that would be our last chance to have pulque. Pulque is a fermented beer/juice made from the Maguey plant and is quite possibly the healthiest and tastiest way to get drunk. I had developed a love for the drink in the past few days and informed the crew that we would be venturing into the small town of Rio Frio in search of pulque. We found the pulqueria (place there pulque is served) after a short search, only to find it closed. However a man led us around a side door into a woman’s courtyard. After a little begging she decided to fill my water bottle with 2 liters of pulque and allow us to camp of her land for the night. It was nice sitting on the grassy knoll, watching the sun set over the cloud-draped mountains, drinking pulque with both old and new friends. That night, our host Maria came out to my tents at 10 PM to serve me coffee and sweet bread. As always, the beauty of people made me smile inside as I drifted off to sleep.
Rio Frio, Mexico to Puebla, Puebla
After the coldest morning of the entire trip, Josh, Daigo and I thawed ourselves out and packed up for the ride into Puebla. We got a little separated and Josh elected to hang back by himself and fix his flat (was that flat number 45?) while Daigo and I continued on. We got to Puebla only to find a closed hostal and after randomly meeting with Josh at the plaza we all cycled the remaining few miles to Puebla where we managed to lose Daigo in traffic but also set ourselves up in a nice hostal. It was nice to once again be surrounded by fellow travellers.
Peubla Rest Day
Spent a nice rest day exploring the ruins in Chollula and visiting the multitude of ornately decorated churches in Puebla. There must be over 300 churches in this valley! Ended the night playing drinking games with fellow hostal folk, sharing stories and laughing a lot.
Puebla, Puebla to Tlacotepec, Guerrero
Got off to a slightly late start but the flat terrain allowed us to put some serious miles in. Around mid-morning we came upon a group of 10 cyclist from Puebla who were on a pilgrimage to Juquila, Oaxaca. They were carrying statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe and riding whatever bikes they had. It was humbling to meet these cyclists who were so devoted to a belief that they would journey for 1000 km’s on faith alone. As if that weren’t enough, later in the day we happened upon hordes of people walking alongside the road carrying statues of the Virgin and all headed in the same direction. We finally stopped at a rest stop they had set up and got to chatting. Turns out they too are on a pilgrimage and there are LOTS of people walking and cycling the same route. We were fed, given juice and sent on our way once again. As we cycled away we felt absolutely humbled by these people who start walking at 4 AM and stop at 11 PM, covering 100 km’s a day!
Tlacotepec, Guerrero to KM 103, Oaxaca
The day started off well enough with a good breakfast, some atole that was gifted to us by a roadside vendor and flat terrain. We even happened upon a group of 80+ cyclists doing the pilgrimage in the other direction. It was surreal being surrounded by cyclists and we had the entire crowd ‘s full attention for a bit. Eventually it was time to begin cycling and we wished our friends luck and pedaled off. Soon however we began to enter the Sierra Negro range and thus began the endless climbing. Eventually we were absolutely destroyed and decided to stop at a random roadside restaurant and eat and camp for the night. Even the non-stop barking from the dog next to our tents could not stop me from falling into a deep sleep.
KM 103, Oaxaca to Oaxaca, Oaxaca
After a nice breakfast we began the climb again setting ourselves up mentally for what we expected to be a loooooong day of climbing and descending, however fate had a different plan for me. 4 miles in I felt something funny going on with my gears and the next instant my rear deraileur exploded. Turns out something got a little too stressed when I shifted and the deraileur simply gave up eventually. Shit! Here I was int he middle of the mountains on the side of the road with a broken bike. We quickly set about stripping off the broken parts and converting the bike to a single speed. However the prospect of cycling through the mountain range with a loaded touring bike and only one gear was a bit daunting. So I stuck my thumb out and sure enough a truck stopped and I got a ride to Oaxaca. Josh and I planned on meeting up at the hostel in Oaxaca so I drove off and watched Josh disappear in the rear view mirror. The truck driver, Enrique, was really nice and we spent the drive chatting about everything. He even bought me lunch and a mid day mescal, nice guy! Eventually I got to the hostal and settled in and met other fellow travellers.
Now that I’m here in Oaxaca, I don’t think I will be leaving for a few days. Oaxaca is entirely too beautiful to simply stay for a day or two. Also as an added surprise both Josh and Daigo arrived today so there is a plethora of bike chatter and excitement around here.
The next few days will be nice however change is, as always, in the air. Josh, in his effort to get to Guatemala ASAP will not be spending any time here. He will cycle on towards his humanitarian mission in Guatemala.
Thus, the dangerous duo will be separated. 90 days on the road together ends in a few days. I still don’t quite know how to process that.
I can still remember walking up the strairs of our mutual friend’s house in Vancouver and seeing Josh standing there, beaming with joy. I remember our first day cycling out of Vancouver and each day since. Camping whever we felt like it, chatting about everything and nothing all at once. Bonding as a team through the thick and thin of it all.
However nothing is forever, and our travels together are no exception. So I shall be departing Oaxaca solo and ending my trip as I always do, alone. Not alone in a bad way, just different.
So Josh, in all you do, buena suerte! You have helped make this trip truly special. I will never forget our adventure together. Good luck in all that you do and I hope that our paths cross again soon.
Well that’s all for now. I have much to explore in this beautiful place.
Mexico City to Rio Frio 46 miles
Rio Frio to Puebla 54 miles
Puebla to Tlacotepec 60 miles
Tlacotepec to KM 103 59 miles
KM 103 to Oaxaca 4 miles (+80 miles in a truck!)
My photos from Mexico City are here. Do yourself a favor and check them out. Lots of photos from museums, ruins and city life. I set them aside so that this page would load faster, that’s all.