Living the Dream
It’s always hard saying goodbye. It’s especially hard saying goodbye to someone who has shared your adventure for the past 3 months. However, Josh and I had our separate paths laid out and we needed to continue down our separate roads.
I had become so accustomed to cycling with a partner, something I normally don’t do, that I had forgotten the unbelievable freedom at comes from solo bike touring. In a way, finishing solo was something I needed to do. However, the fates had other ideas in mind for me. Apparently, there exists a certain magnetism between cyclists and we are inevitably drawn to each other…..
After 4 wonderful days exploring as many of Oaxaca’s precious sights and experiences, I was ready to cycle again. I said goodbye to the hostel people I had befriended and cycled out.
Oaxaca, Oaxaca to San Pedro Totolapan, Oaxaca
I left the wonderul Ceilo Rojo Hostal in Oaxaca with a wonderful send off from my friends there. It’s always hard leaving a place like Oaxaca, but especially hard when you are sick. Apparently the previous few nights of late nights had taken their toll and I was suffering from a sore throat and a cold. However I had a deadline and I departed, sickness be damned! Luckily for me the day involved flat’ish terrain and looong descents as I left the Oaxaca valley. Eventually I cam upon a town and realized if I was going to get better I needed to stop and sleep. After looking around Totlapan I realized the only available indoor accommodations were bare rooms that were occasionally rented out for 100 pesos. Being the penny-pincher that I am, I could not bring myself to shell out near 8 USD for a bare room. So I did the next best thing and cycled to the Palcia Municipal in town and asked for a spot to camp which was offered up immediately Most small towns have one of these and it is merely the local municipal building that houses the police, firefighters, political and municipal offices. It is watched over by a night watchman and is always a hub of activity. Needless to say it’s not the quietest place for a cyclist to rest and recover, but it’s always free and safe. If not for the marching band that roamed the streets ALL night followed by fireworks, I might have actually rested and recovered….
San Pedro Totolapan, Oaxaca to Magdalena Tequisistlan, Oaxaca
After a semi-restful night and some breakie, I was off to my next destination. I ended up putting in some MEGA miles today considering I was still feeling rather under the weather. However the day’s riding was everything you would ever want a cycle touring day top be. Gradually increasing climbs followed by matching gradually increasing descents through lush mountain highland forest. Passing Mezcal distilleries all day was a real treat though I was in no condition to stop and taste. I eventually pushed on for a hotel that everyone assured me was in the next town. With daylight fading fast I rode into the neighboring town and was assured that it was “todo bajado” to the next town and hotel. Now, on a bike tour, you learn to be weary of hearing phrases like “all downhill”, “totally flat” or even “really close”. Often that translates into a frustrating uphill slog that is 20 km’s longer than you expected. However I had to no choice and to to my surprise I FLEW down the 18 km’s descent to the hotel where I promptly located the hotel. As if this were not great enough, as I was walking into he courtyard of the hotel I spotted two Surly Long Haul Truckers, just like mine, locked up in the corner. Apparently I had friends here and I managed to run into them as they came down for dinner. Sandrine and Vincent were cycling NORTH from Tierra del Fuego to some point north. They have battled 2 months of headwinds in Patagonia, been robbed at gun point in El Salvador and shared in the beautiful cultures of every place they had traveled. Like and good cycling tourers, the beauty will ALWAYS outweigh the negative and this is why I will always love and trust someone on a long distance bike tour. We shared a love that goes beyond words and we see it each other’s eyes. We were like kids again, excitedly sharing our stories over dinner and breakfast the next morning. It was nice to see fellow cyclists again and I was sure these would not be the last cyclists I would run into.
Magdalena Tequisistlan, Oaxaca to La Ventosa, Oaxaca
Funny how even on a cycling tour you still have to deal with stuff back home. Oh well, in this case it was a job interview via Skype that set me racing down the hill to Tehuantepec in order to make my “appointment”. Fittingly, it was in interview for Backroads, an organization that leads bike tours all over the world. So I guess it should bode well that I was all hot and sweaty for my Skype interview with all the glorious sights and sounds of Mexico passing behind me. After my interview and a quick lunch, I was off to my destination for the night, Juchitan. However I somehow managed to get on the wrong road, no doubt a mix of my luck and a map that is slightly out of date. What began as a short 30km ride turned into a slightly hellish 45 km’s of battling vicious headwinds on flat hot and boring roads. I managed to cycle through part of Mexico’s largest wind farm, thus it was only fitting that I ended my day in the aptly names La Ventosa. I cycled into the small town and quickly found out there were NO lodging accommodations in town. Damn….. So I did the next best thing and cycled over to the local Palacia Municipal and asked for a spot to camp. They said sure, then took off and said they would be right back. I sat there int he fading light wondering what exactly was going on when they returned. Sure enough they had arranged a place for me to sleep. I was given accommodations in a concrete gazebo set in the courtyard of a seemingly abandoned preschool. My companion/night watchman for the night was a very elderly man who was extremely hard of hearing. Thus began the awkward night of failed conversation which resulted in me reading and him sitting in the doorway staring into the darkness. Definitely not a super great night’s sleep, but interesting none the less.
La Ventosa, Oaxaca to Zanatepec, Oaxaca
I had set myself up rather well by cycling the extra miles the day prior. Thus I only had a short ride today where I was planning on meeting up with and staying with a Warmshower’s host, Rodrigo. I got in early and cycled to Rodrigo’s school where he warmly greeted me then led me to his house. He also mentioned “my friend” being there. Sure enough, as I rolled into the driveway I see Josh!!!! Apparently Josh saw the Warmshowers sign pointing to Rodrigo’s house form the highway and cycled in. It was an unexpected but heartwarming re-union and we got to share out stay with another French couple on a bike tour as well. It was an amazing night sharing stores with Diego, Cecilia, Rodrigo and his family. We all went out to the plaza, ate ice cream and were fed by his lovely wife Lupita. All in all, a totally unexpected yet wonderful day. Josh and I also decided that we would definitely cycle together the next day as long as we could until our paths split again.
Zanatepec, Oaxaca to Cintalapa, Chiapas
The day stated off extremely well as Josh and I got back into our usual coffee/breakfast/idle chit-chat morning routine. Eventually we were off and it was a pleasant morning of flat terrain and story sharing. Eventually however, our paths split, and for the 4th time on the tour, we said goodbye. I figure I might run into Josh again given our luck so far. Immediately upon splitting from Josh my vicious 27 km’s of pure uphill began. It was difficult to say the least, but I managed to catch up to and pass the French cyclists who had left a couple hours before us. Eventually however I had had enough of climbing and decided to high-tail it to Cintalapas where I promised myself a hotel of the night.
Cintalapa, Chiapas to Chiapa del Corzo, Chiapas
A nice mellow day with the typical up,down,up,down routine typical of the Mexico highlands. Nothing too difficult and I was instead treated to endless highland scenery and beautiful indigenous farms. I got into Chiapa del Corzo early but also a bit drained physically from the previous few days of sickness and hard riding. I decided another hotel stay and some beer therapy would help. Luckily the movie channel was on my side and after a little touristy sightseeing I spent the afternoon drinkin’ beer and watching sci-fi movies in my hotel room. I was also doing myself a huge favor and getting ready for the BIG day that was ahead….
Chiapa del Corzo, Chiapas to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
Damn. I’m glad I’m in decent shape because the ride today was downright hard. I managed to cycle 1,800 meters uphill (near 6000 feet!) in 35 km’s (24 miles). I simply put on my headphones, set myself a break for every 9 km’s and starting plodding away. A steady 6.2 MPH average saw me cresting the hill in about 5 hours. Not too shabby, eh? The final 7 km downhill ride into the stunning San Crisotbal de las Casas was phenomenal and as I cycled into the Zocalo, I was full of relief and fatigue, a cyclist’s favorite feeling. I set about finding my hostel and making plans to explore this enticing city.
I’m not sure whether I will stay here only for a day’s rest or head out after a couple of days. Once again I am falling into that trap of feeling uneasy when I’m not moving. However with 11 days left until I fly home, I know I have time to spare. We shall see….
Oaxaca, Oaxaca to San Pedro Totolapan, Oaxaca 51 miles
San PEdro Totolapan, Oaxaca to Magdalena Tequisistlan, Oaxaca 79 miles
Magdalena Tequisistlan, Oaxaca to La Ventosa, Oaxaca 70 miles
La Ventosa, Oaxaca to Zanatepec, Oaxaca 46 miles
Zanatepec, Oaxaca to Cintalapa, Chiapas 65 miles
Cintalapa, Chiapas to Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas 58 miles
Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas 34 miles
Total mileage this far 4327 Miles!!!!!!!