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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!