Journey to the Centre of the Earth
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  Posted April 30th, 2015 by Zdenko  in Cycling, Travel | No comments yet.

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Source: Charlotte, at Cropcycle portal

Journey to the central Oaxaca (Mexico) coast…
5th – 8th March: After about seven weeks of traveling through semi-arid central Mexico we were extremely excited to get going on the next leg of our journey – down to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. That’s an understatement; in fact I was visibly drooling with anticipation of a swim in the sea. We’d also spent seven weeks toiling up and down mountains at or above 1,500 meters in altitude. We could hardly contain ourselves at the prospect of the descent to sea level!

It took three and a half days for Ned, Fallon and I to get to the beach – here’s the log:

Day 1: Tierra del Sol (more on that later) to outskirts of Ejutla – 53 miles

Journey1Our first climb as a threesome

Journey2jpgProtegete, indeed! She doesn’t look so amorous though does she?

Journey3Fallon and Ned’s post-lunch preparations for the afternoon’s ride

Journey4

Setting up camp in a field behind a restaurant near Ejutla. The kind owner offered us her garden but there was no space what with all the territorial dogs, puppies, turkeys and chickens. We plumped for the field next to an enormous polytunnel full of tomatoes.

Journey5

The light was beautiful that evening. These two came by to try and sell us elote – corn on the cob. A difficult thing to cook on a tiny camp stove! We declined and they carried on from house to house. Soon after night fell we were treated to a thunder and lightning show over the mountains in the distance. Luckily the storm passed over and we weren’t forced to take shelter with the tomatoes. 

Day 2: Ejutla to San Jose del Pacifico – 42 miles
Before dropping to sea level we had the Sierra Madre Sur mountains to cross over. That meant climbing to almost 3,000 meters first (from 1,500 meters in Oaxaca) – no pain, no gain!

Journey6The morning sky is still threatening a storm as Ned enjoys a serious stretch

MiahuatlanArriving in Miahuatlan in time for elevenses. A man happened to pass by with a tray full of donuts – the best I’ve ever had. Cyclists’ luck!

Journey8Getting directions for where to buy cheese from a man on a horse. Obviously.

The climbing beginsThe climbing begins

Journey10…and continues

Journey11…and continues some more. It’s hot too.

Up into the cloud forestUntil we get so high we are in the clouds

Journey13Spooky!

Journey14Finally we get to San Jose del Pacifico just before night fall. It took us all day to get there. 

Journey15

San Jose is a picturesque town nestled in the mountains. It is famous for spiritual adventures, particularly those aided by magic mushrooms. Ahem. It should also be known for Taberna de los Duendes – run by an Italian guy who makes a mean cabonara for less than a fiver! (NB – Ned didn’t fall asleep in his spaghetti as the picture suggests, he managed to stay awake long enough to finish the meal!)

Day 3: San Jose del Pacifico to Candelaria – 45 miles
The moment we were waiting for – let the descent commence! First there were some crazy steep ups and downs to negotiate, naturally.

Campground by the church: 2,750m altMorning at our campsite – next to the church at 2,750 meters above sea level. It was a bit of a nippy night!

Journey17Walking to school, up into the clouds

Journey18San Jose del Pacifico

Rain!Rain!

For the first time since leaving the United States we experienced big, fat drops of rain. An exciting moment, though also pretty scary whilst speeding round steep, sharp switchbacks on a road full of potholes.

Puncture!And then…a puncture

The descent begins‘Lindavista’ – the beach is somewhere that way!

The real descent begins here. We hurtled round the switchbacks with smoking tires and squealing brakes trying to avoid dogs, poultry, pedestrians, potholes, and passing donkeys. Also, trying to avoid getting too distracted by the jungle we were dropping into – parrots and other birds flying overhead, banana plants everywhere and little roadside stalls selling all manner of strange, new fruits. Not the best idea to be gazing around while riding at 20+mph!

Journey22Bung a banana in your pannier will ya!

CandelariaCamping in Candelaria. 

It was so humid here, deep in the jungle, that everything was covered in a slippery, wet film of moisture. The black fly biting committee was out to welcome us in force! Going to sleep and waking again to the sounds of the forest was an amazing experience. Totally new sounds and smells everywhere – the damp smell of the humid soil, and the cacophany of bird squeaks and squawks were really exciting. No more bloody cacti, at last! 

Day 4: Candelaria to Puerto Angel (the beach!) – 26 miles
We still had to drop to sea level, but to my dismay the road had a lot more ascents to throw in for good measure. The heat was hard to handle after our late start, and in a climate where you sweat just standing still, we were drenched after about five minutes. It felt like we were journeying to the center of the Earth! Still, all the sights and sounds of our new environment kept our spirits up. There were plenty of people to wave to and who shouted encouragement as we puffed up those last few hills.

Day 4Dressing in closed confinement – avoiding the black flies

Journey26THIS is the Mexico from the David Attenborough programs! Ned is taking things very seriously this morning!

PochutlaThe forest gives in abundance – pints of pineapple, melon and papaya for 50pence a pop at the market in Pochutla.

Puerto Angel, Playa PanteonNow he’s happy! Puerto Angel and the beach at last. That beer never tasted so good.

That night we camped on the beach, under the stars with the sound of the waves crashing just ten meters from our tent. Romance itself. Or, it would have been apart from the family of dogs sniffing around our tent, stealing our flip flops and barking at sand flies, and a flood light directly overhead. Ah, life on the road!

Journey29

Source: CropCycle portal

The following entry was posted in Mexico. Bookmark the permalink.
Reflections on cycling through Mexico
Three and a half months after crossing the busiest border in the world at Tijuana, Ned and I pedaled up the hill and out of Mexico. Reflecting on the rich and colorful experience of cycling through Mexico is difficult. But here goes.

In short, we had a great time. I am glad we did not heed the warnings we were given (mostly in the US) not to go. For every time someone told us it was too dangerous to travel in Mexico, we have countless examples to the contrary. We received kindness, generosity and found friendship pretty much everywhere we went.  Most people we met were thoroughly concerned that we were having a good time in their country.

Our negative experiences were limited to the following: a boy kicking a football at my front wheel; being slightly ripped off (I suspect we were charged the ‘gringo tax’ more than once); and some angry honking on the roads. Pretty good going for three and a half months in such a dangerous country.

Not that I want to downplay too much the obvious fact that Mexico has its problems. It is a country of extremes – much more starkly than in Europe. First there is the geography: crazy high mountains, reaching up to 5km into the sky and pancake flat plains; humid jungle and arid desert; 10,000km of beaches and thick pine forests on the high plato. Pristine and beautiful national parks, but a devastating amount of trash dumped on the roadsides. The climate ranges from the temperate to the tropical, with everything in between.

There is extreme poverty juxtaposed with obscene wealth. Grand colonial cities and dusty pueblos. Bustling, colorful markets with every imaginable fruit, vegetable and cut of meat (full on sensory overload) and tiny grocery shops with no fresh produce, only dusty cans and packets of ancient crisps. There are ancient cities and ultra-modern, cavernous malls.

There is extreme violence (mostly related to the drug cartels) and extreme kindness. Corruption that reaches into all aspects of society, but also a huge sense of trust between friends and also total strangers, as we constantly experienced on our travels.

We learned to expect the unexpected in Mexico. After all it is a vast country of 109 million people, speaking 50 different languages. We had some interesting cultural exchanges over the months. Some of the more unusual questions gave us an insight into how our little island is seen by others, thousands of miles away living a totally different life, in totally different circumstances. Here are some examples:

‘So, you are from England. Do you speak English?’
‘Have you met the Queen?
‘Do people in your country go to the USA to find work?’
‘Have you cycled from England?’

And perhaps most unusual of all: ‘Which country in Europe rules your country? France or Spain?’ Admittedly the guy who asked us this was drunk, but still an interesting twist on colonial history.

Maybe these questions show something of what the people of Mexico learn from popular media about England. I don’t know. Anyway, I do know if I took everything the media said about Mexico at face value, if that was my only source, I would have some pretty screwed up preconceptions too. I would be totally wide of the mark. The screaming, hysterical US news presents a Mexico that is unrecognizable to us, and to most tourists that visit – I’m willing to bet.

Thanks for bearing with my rant on the wonders of Mexico.

Have a good and healthy season.

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