Those pesky mango-wielding Mexicans… Tsk.

Ixtapaluca – Puebla – Tehuacan – Flores Magnon – Cuicatlan – San Francisco Telixtlahuaca – Oaxaca

Riding out of Mexico City was a bit of an exercise in patience. There are some decent bike lanes though and whilst there are many Bus Drivers I would like to poke in the eye (seriously, what’s with the Very Close Passing and overtaking just to stop right THERE? Gah!), cyclists are generally treated well. Confident riding puts paid to most sneaky over-taking moves too. Slightly frazzled as we got to the edge of the sprawl of the city (yes, it took most of the day!), we stopped for the night in a bargain hotel in the town of Ixtapaluca.

It turns out some parts of Mexico have a well-established line in… well, Sex Hotels is what they are. Oops. Advertised as Hotel/Motel, they have drive-in garages with a door opening into the room – so passengers remain anonymous I guess. Coupled with mirrors, odd lighting, zebra-print wipe-clean furniture, many a porn channel on the tv and, yes, 3-hourly room rates. It seems romance (or the commercial alternative) is not dead here at least. That is nearly all I wish to say about that… though the garage was an excellent space for a little light bike maintenance and stove cooking — and it was our cheapest/cleanest hotel yet. Go figure.

 

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Great views of Popo on the climb out of the valley – it got even better/clearer than this but we didn’t get the camera out…!
Climbing South East out of the valley in which Ciudad de Mexico sits, we had great views of our first active volcano. I still can’t pronounce the name so I’ll call it CocoPops. As with the Espinazo climb, this route away from Mexico towards Puebla is good for cyclists because it avoids the busier, flatter, straighter Cuota road. It’s a long uphill schlep, rewarded with just the occasional pedal for about 30k down the other side.

DumdumDum (dramatic music). In the town of San Martin we were assaulted for the second time in two days. This time by more lovely Mexicans who this time bought us coffee and water, offered lunch, did a free bike fix and generally made their enthusiasm for cyclists and cycling known. The previous day was Ignacio who chatted with us (our Spanish is improving…) for 5 minutes then raced home only to came back with a mango and some oranges for our journey.

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The lovely Ignacio bearing fruit
Before coming on this trip the tone of warnings about Mexico, in the UK and particularly the US, was pretty dire. Bad things do happen here; 100 people running for office in the July 1 elections have been killed in the last 3 months. Two cyclists were killed in Chiapas in April. The Federal Police have just arrested nearly an entire town, complicit in a politically-motivated murder. Drug-related violence is almost impossible to comprehend in terms of scale and brutality. We don’t dispute that AT ALL but our experience so far has been nothing but friendly, and the people we have met are as obviously saddened by these things as anyone would be. So far all we know from our experiences is that we’re more likely to be given a big smile and a mango than anything else. Which is all more evidence, if any were needed, that there are people doing bad things and good things everywhere, and to delineate this according some border line drawn on a map, is beyond silly. ANYWAY, off our soapbox and back to pedalling around Mexico…

In Puebla — via a lovely blue cycle path in the middle of a motorway — we found Ariel and Mely, warm-showers hosts and aspiring cycle tourists. They too, are legends. They offered us every hospitality we could have wished for, including a perfect cyclist’s breakfast (read: banquet!) and we checked out Ariel’s line in home-made bike luggage. It’s good to be reminded that being born in the UK, having a comparative load of money, is not something that much of the world has. Getting hold of stuff like decent bike panniers can be really expensive – weirdly even more so in Mexico – and so Ariel’s made his own, the dude. We hope they will start travelling soon – Suki the dog in tow – and they will surely have the best adventures. Bon Route!

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Suki in full Blue Steel Cyclist mode
Out of Puebla our route gently dropped altitude to within about 100k of Oaxaca. The world surrounding us was green, and not just green but Green as in tropical green as we headed South East between two sets of mountains. The roads have been quiet, occasionally turning into dirt, and connect small, colourful towns. The riding has mostly been moderate, though the heat is turning up again and the hillier sections are pretty, well, hilly. But that’s offset by just how mind-bendingly beautiful it is. Did we say Green? It’s Greeeeeeen. Thunder storms are still building up from early afternoon, although most of the time we’ve been lucky and it’s well into the evening before the torrent has started and dry by the time we set off the next day.
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Edwards contemplating the green…
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Green green and more green

The cycle from Puebla to Oaxaca (pronounced Wahaca btw) took four days in the end instead of our anticipated three. Four days of beautiful hills and countryside in which we felt like we’d stepped back in time. It was lovely and agricultural with shepherds and farmers and many a friendly puppy to entertain us along the way.

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Tortilla-enhanced training 😉

Day three of the ride to Oaxaca started with a hill. However, said hill happened to continue for 60k, not the promised 25k we were expecting… Up, up and more up. Luckily with a lovely coffee and bread stop about 2/3 of the way. Finally descending in the mid-afternoon, we got caught by the thunderstorm that had been teasing us for a while, and so we did a slight emergency stop in a small town on the outskirts of Oaxaca called Telixtlahuaca (no, we don’t know how you say that either…), soggy, hungry and pretty darn smelly too.

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Emergency hotel stop/drying room. Oh the glamour.

A short, sunny, morning ride later and we’re cycling into Oaxaca City with smiles on our faces again when booking into Casa Angel Hostel. We’ve now had a couple of nights here and played tourists like the best of them 😉. Oaxaca’s beautiful, it celebrates traditional art in a way that we haven’t seen so far. It’s renowned for it’s art and culture and so there are many other tourists here, which is helping it – and the small stalls/cafes/businesses – thrive.

We did a day trip! It’s hard to do this kind of thing on a bike because it’s a real commitment to detour from an A to B route without really knowing what’s in store/if it’s ‘worth’ the climb/miles/tired legs! So instead we squeezed onto a bus with a dozen others to be taken to the Biggest Tree in the World (we wouldn’t have made this detour…), a traditional Zapotec weaving family business (wow), some ruins at Mitla (which were cool but, again, maybe not worth a bike detour), Mezcal tasting (Edwards approves, Grimey does NOT), and finally Hierve El Agua. Now THAT was cool. It’s a waterfall that isn’t really a waterfall – click on the link, Wiki explains it better than we can!

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Hierve El Agua – well worth the detour
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#lifegoals (Also available on Instagram @letsgoanddofunstuff 😉)
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Mezcal, definitely NOT Tequila.

Now, call us lightweights but today we’re getting another bus…! We’re headed to Puerto Escondido on the coast to catch up with Bruce and Jess (Baja, remember?) who we’ll then cycle with for a bit including crossing into Guatemala. It’s a 7 hour bus or a 3 day apparently-not-so-interesting ride… decision made. See you in the sea!

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One thought on “Those pesky mango-wielding Mexicans… Tsk.

  1. Pingback: The Final Mexico chapter – Let's go and do fun stuff…

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