Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cancun is a lot of fun.

This will be a quick update, I am battling a massive hang over at the moment that will only be cured by a big plate of tacos and some quality beach time.

Cancun is everything I thought it would be. White sand beaches, aquamarine water, thousands of tourists and a ton of cheesey fun.

Is it a tourist trap? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. Are there steaming piles of kitsch everywhere you look? Yes. Is it totally lacking in authentic Mexican culture? Yes. Cancun is all of these things and more, but it is also an incredibly fun place despite all of that. Its like Vegas on the beach. I have met a ton of people from all over the world and half of them came to tour Mexico and ended up staying in Cancun for weeks! Its that kind of place, you get sucked in because there is so much fun to be had and everyone here is in a great mood and enjoying themselves.

Getting here was a nightmare though. I was riding through a tropical storm and being wet all day and night for four days straight is horrible. The wind was blowing so strongly that the rain was going sideways. It was coming down so hard, that I couldn't see 100 meters down the road. I was sopping wet all the time and sleeping out in the jungle every night constantly soaking wet is no fun. My toe nails have turned brown from the dye in my shoes. They were so wet all the time that the dye stained my toe nails. That looks great with flip flops, let me tell you. I was really happy to finally arrive in Cancun, have a cold beer some fish tacos and relax.

I am going to get a camera tomorrow so that I can start uploading pics again. That damned thief, I hope Karma catches up with him.

I will write more later, but I wanted to give a huge thanks to Mom and Pop for sending me a care package with a ton of useful stuff, that was so nice of you, I really appreciate it. And thanks to Michele for helping get the Rohloff oil change kit, that was clutch!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rest days in Campeche.

Day: 105

Money Spent:6-20: $31, 6-21: #34, 6-22: $16

The shot didn't come out like i'd hoped, the streets are too narrow to back up for enough to get everything in frame. But this is a church, unlike any i had seen before. It looked more like a fort with palisades on top and everything.

Me, on a warf but you can´t see it. Looks like im floating.

I liked the compostion of this shot. Some locals´ fishing boats.

This is how every city should be, a walking path, a jogging path and a bike path with marked lanes for traffic going in either direction!

Some locals going for a morning Kayak.

This is Campeche, a beautiful, clean, relaxing city.

an obligatory church photo.

Campeche again.

You cant seem them too well, but there are dozens of butterflies in this picture. They are everywhere right now, you cant go anywhere without seeing them flying all over, its fantastic.

Roasting in the heat as I climbed the hills to Campeche.

camp this night was nice and dry.

Some local school kids playing football.

This guy kept me company in the abandoned famr house during the rain storm. He and a bunch of scorpions.

Campeche is a great place. Its small enough to have a strong feeling of community, clean, beautiful and with lots to see and do. I had every intention of coming here and rocking the Kasbah for the weekend, but I found myself staying in, sleeping and eating a lot and chatting with my fellow travelers at the Hostel here. I feel very rested though and plan on riding straight through to Cancun for a good 4 or 5 days of fun, sun and fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them.

The only crappy part of these few days in Campeche was my camera getting stolen. I have never been robbed while traveling and I have always had a sort of honor among travelers mentality, and it has turned out to be a rather naive mindset, I am afraid.

I left in under my bed as I had been looking through my photos and ran out to get my laundry and grab some breakfast. I am usually the first person awake, and I was bake by about 8:30 am, and one of the two other guys in my room was gone and so was my camera.

The other guy in my room was a 47 year old painter from Iceland who is a super cool guy and I have been hanging out with him every day shooting the breeze and watching the Euro cup with the hostel owner, so I highly doubt it was him. He does not seem to lack for funds either.

Its just that feeling of being violated, I am seething with the injustice of it, but what can you do? Nothing. Better to trust in karma and just roll with the punches. Being angry about it does not change anything.

So, to hell with it, I will get a new camera and hopefully I won't miss any great shots until I can get a new one (all the cameras here are VERY expensive).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Palenque to Campeche.

First night out of Palenque: Top three worst nights of the trip so far!

Day: 103

Mileage: 239

Total Mileage: 5,790

Money spent: 6-18: 22, 6-19: 10

Sorry, no pictures this time, the computer I am on has no USB connectors, I will have to find a better one or a WIFI signal tomorrow.

Well, I made it through three tough days of riding through the marsh land and the jungles. I hate riding in the swamps! Argh, and now during rainy season the marsh´s are all flooded, so there is a few inches of water on the ground most everywhere. Standing water too, so it makes for mosquito breeding grounds.

I left palenque rather reluctantly as it was such a relaxing, peaceful place and took off north. It was an uneventful day of riding, mostly flat through the marsh lands out here. It is strange though that they still operate ranches in these conditions. You see cows and horses just standing up to their bellies sometimes in water, just munching on reeds and grass. They don't seem to mind but I imagine the insects must be murder on the poor guys. They are not meant for that type of environment.

Another point on livestock, since I am on the subject, that always makes me laugh is the way that fences are so fluid. Some farmers have them on their property, some don't, they are in widely varying stages of effectiveness using materials from sticks and rope to stainless steel, but I wonder why they even bother since half of the time you see the cows, pigs, goats, horses, sheep, etc just hanging out by the side of the road with a little piece of rope around their necks tied to a bush. They stand out there and graze, some don't even have a rope, they just cruise around. In America, I never saw that, but people here I guess don't worry about the animals wandering off or getting stolen.

At any rate, I was riding north and the biggest event of the day was a lightening strike about 100 yards from me. It was very very hot and I was getting roasted but then the wind picked up and it started sprinkling a little and then I heard a static electricity noise, like crumpling tin foil, and flash! BOOM!!!, the thunder came at the same time as the lightening and it nearly knocked me off of my bike! I have never been that close to a strike before and it was crazy; steam and smoke came off of the ground where it hit and all of the livestock and birds nearby bolted for their lives. It scarred the crap out of me, but it was a pretty neat experience in retrospect. Then I looked at my wet metal bike and started hoping there would be more trees around so that I wasn't the tallest, conducting object in the area. Luckily there were no other strikes close to me and I did not have to experience first hand what a lightening bolt feels like.

I rode on fairly late as I didn't get going until 11 am, and found what I thought was a perfect spot to camp, on an abandoned ranch. It was a big plot of land with a boarded up farm house close to the road. I pedaled behind the house and set up camp out of sight.

I fired up dinner, read a few chapters of my book and then closed my eyes to go to sleep. The breeze picked up which was nice as it stays hot at night here too, and the thunder was booming off in the distance which helped lull me to sleep.

I woke up when the thunder was quite a bit closer and louder and I noticed it had started to sprinkle. So, I got out of the tent, threw the tarp over the bike and then got out my rain fly to put over my tent. My tent is all mesh on top so it is useless at stopping rain, it just comes right through. In the dark, I made what turned out to be a big mistake, I unknowingly put the rain fly on inside out. As soon as I got done putting the fly on, the heavens opened up and it started dumping. Torrents of rain were coming down and so I jumped into my tent to go back to bed. Well, it was not meant to be. My rain fly has a vent on the top that is cleverly designed to let heat out of the tent while keeping the rain out as well, however, when the fly is inside out, it work in reverse. It keeps heat in and acts as a funnel letting rain in drip by drip. Right on to my face.

In retrospect, I should have just put my towel under the drip and slept with my head on the other side of the tent, but I thought it would be better to just bite the bullet, jump out in the pouring rained and turn the rain fly over so that I stayed dry inside. I was covered in a mixture of sweat, bug spray and sunscreen anyway, so the warm rain would be like a little shower too, right? In my minds eye, I pictured the entire process taking less than a minute, with the rain fly flowing like a sheet fresh out of the dryer when you go to make your bed. How horribly wrong I was.

The rain fly is plastic, it is thin but totally waterproof. It was also soaking wet on the outside form the rain that was coming down so hard. When I pulled it off of the tent, it collapsed in on itself into a little ball. Next time you get a grocery bag from the super market, stick it in some water and then pull it out and watch what it does. That is pretty much what I was working with.
So, as I am cursing and fumbling in the dark trying to get the dang fly on correctly, water is pouring into my tent, onto my book, my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, etc. It takes me a about 4 minutes to finally get the stupid thing on right and by then there is a good inch of water in my tent. This is horrible. All of my stuff is soaked, and I can't get the water out of the tent. I try pouring it out but I can't get it all. So I get back in my tent, soaking wet, try and get all of my stuff elevated if at all possible, and lay down on a soaking wet sleeping mat in a pool of water and try to sleep. This is pretty much the most hellish way to sleep I can think of. Wet, in water, hot, sweating, water dripping on your face. It was terrible.

I dozed in and out for a few hours and eventually could not take any more. I decided to violate one of my cardinal rules and was going to sleep in a private property without permission. I am against that, even with an abandoned house, on principles sake. Its bad enough I am on someone's property, but to go into their home is unethical in my mind. However, given the circumstances, I didn't have much choice.

I got out of the tent in the pouring rain and looked at this old, abandoned farm house out in the middle of nowhere, lit up by the lightening coming down all over, and thought to myself: if this were a scary movie, this would be the part where I would be yelling at the screen, don't go in there you dummy! But, like the ill fated non staring characters of scary movies, I really had no choice. So I jimmied open the door without damaging anything and carried all of my gear into the house. Jus tot make the night that little bit worse, the tarp had been blown off of my bike as well, and so Artax sat in the rain for several hours, which is really bad. I am already spotting rust spots.

Inside the house I noticed three things immediately. A hammock, a machete, and an empty bottle of whiskey.

Three things went through my mind just as fast.

I have somewhere dry to sleep! (The floor was mud)

Someone else sleeps here too, and packs a machete (although that is very common down here)

And he (or she) is a drinker. (And drank it all! I could have used a slug of whiskey at that point)

There was some food laying around too, which meant that whoever was squatting there had been around recently. I said to hell with it though, as it beat sleeping in a hot, wet tent and hung up all my stuff to dry over the rafters and jumped into the hammock with my knife close at hand (and the machete!) and got a few, restless hours of sleep expecting at any moment for a machete wielding drunk to come in, wanting to sleep in his hammock.

By morning my stuff was semi dry and I took off at sunrise. I made it to Campeche without any further incident, although riding in the heat was tough through the hills around the city. The city itself is very beautiful, with a walled city center that has been here for hundreds of years, suffering pirate attacks until the Spanish finally routed them from the island just off of the coast here they they inhabited. The buildings are great too, running along narrow cobbled streets, and each one is painted in a different pastel color. It is very cool, and I have decided to stay the weekend here. I am a place called the pirate hostel (had to stay there!) and it is about 9 bucks a night, which is great. I will try to update tomorrow with pictures. I hope all is well back home!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Palenque

Day: 101

Mileage: 75

Total mileage: 5,552

Money Spent: 6-15: $14, 6-16: $35, 6-17: $17




This is what 9 bucks gets you in Palenque, not bad!
The view from my bungalow.

The jungle is very beautiful.

This was a nice treat in the humidity.
Wondering why in the blazes I am sleeping in a bog again!
At least the sunset was nice.


I helped these people jump start their car, I remember all too well what its like to have a car that needs to be jump started all the time! My jeep in high school was the same way, i hated it.


What a great place Palenque is, truly a travelers´ must stop location. The ruins themselves are amazing, and I will go into those later, but just the place itself, the town, the people, the scenery, are really impressive. The place is full of backpackers and travelers from all around the world. Everywhere time I turn around I hear a different language be it Italian, Spanish, German, French, English, or one of the 8 languages spoken by the indigenous peoples of the Chiapas state of Mexico. You see quite a few of the indigenous peoples as well. They have distinct features that set them apart and their language here sounds very unique, it has kind of a looping, musical sound to it. Many of them don´t speak Spanish however, which is the cause for quite a bit of conflict. The Chiapas state is said to be the most dangerous in Mexico.

Getting to Palenque was a trial. I left Villahermosa around 10:30 in the morning yesterday and said my goodbyes to Mike as he had to leave early on some personal business. It was a bummer to see him go so shortly after he had arrived but these things happen. It was great to have him and I, and I am sure the mosquitoes, will miss him. Good luck Mike, I was glad to ride with you for a while.

After leaving Mike I set out again and I have to admit, it felt good to be riding with no limitations. Mike had a time restriction and we were going to haul butt to Cancun, but now that I have nothing weighing down on me I was able to ride with a sense of total freedom. It felt good. I was cruising at a moderate pace just enjoying the ride.

That changed rather abruptly, however, when the road went form a nice 4 lane divided highway with a 5 foot shoulder, to a two lane no shoulder road with heavy traffic and terrible potholes and cracks everywhere. Add to this that it was VERY hot and humid and you have a long, annoying day of ride, watch your rear, get off the road when two trucks pass you at the same time. It is aggravating to ride like that as when the traffic is heavy, you make such slow progress. However, it is what it is.
I made it to about 15 kilometers outside of the town of Palenque and camped out in a marsh again. I didn´t have much choice as everywhere else there were Ranches. Every time I have encountered a Rancher in Mexico and asked him if it would be OK if I camped on his property, they were more than fine with it (one gentleman even offered for Mike and I to sleep in his house). However, its one thing to come across a Ranchero while he is working, and entirely another thing to go knock on someone´s door on a Sunday evening.

So, I rode down a gravel rode well into the marsh to be out of sight of the main road and again, I was reminded of how much I hate sleeping in swampy, marshy areas.

First of all, I had to sleep on the road as it was wet everywhere off of it. I hate sleeping on a raod after nearly getting runover ona country road at night in Texas. Also, there were all kinds of lizards and frogs and birds (which were cool) but again, the inevitable insects. I was armed with some mosquito repellent this time and it worked fairly well at keeping the little winged devils away, but it didn´t do much vs. The no-see-ums, bees or ants. And what ants they were! I have never seen so many or such humongous ants in my life! There were builder ants carrying little leaves, normal little red and black ants, gigantic ants the size of my thumb nail, some with giant golden thorax (rear ends), others with massive heads and pincers to go with them, and worst of all: army ants. They are nuts. I saw a line of thousands of them and I bent down to take a picture and before I knew it My leg was covered with dozens of them. I tried to swat them off but then they just got on my hands too. So then, slightly panicked, I started jumping up and down, karate kicking and chopping into the air, yelling insults at them, anything to get them off of me. They started biting me and it hurt like the dickens so I just started smashing them. Getting ant guts all over you is not the most fun of things. It was crazy how aggressive they were, I couldn´t imagine what it would be like when hundreds of thousands of them go on the warpath, like a giant sea of angry insects moving across the ground. They kill everything they encounter, even weak humans like children, or sick or injured adults.

However, the worst part of the night were these bizarre, groaning, moaning, I´m crawling out of my grave to come and eat your brains noises that were coming from all around. They echoed across the marsh so i couldn´t tell where they were coming from and they lasted all night. It was pretty much the exact type of noises you WOULDN'T´T want to hear when you are sleeping alone in a bog. It made for a very creepy, more than slightly uncomfortable night.

I woke early the next morning and made my way into Palenque which is a cool little town and has everything a traveler could want. I headed out towards the ruins and checked my gear into a Hostel called the Jaguar that was recommended to Mike and I by another traveler. It is a great deal at 100 pesos a night (about 9 bucks). I have my own little bungalow, two beds, a view of a little stream and, this is the most important part, a ceiling fan! Oh that is nice. Its communal bathrooms which are fine with me and they are a heck of a lot better than a bush in the swamp with mosquitoes biting my rear end. There were cheaper places (as low as 3 bucks for just a hammock) but I have a hammock of my own and the fan was worth the money. Being able to sleep well at night plus take a nice cool shower anytime of the day is well worth 9 bucks. The only negative was getting stung on the neck by a wasp right after I checked in. That sucked.
As I had mentioned, this place crawls with backpackers from all over the world which always makes for a lively place. You get a lot of tourist kitsch along with that though, like guys trying to sell you drugs, little imitation Mayan statues, guides, totes, etc. But then you also get a fun place full of young people that are out on an adventure. You see lots of dreadlocks and hear lots of Bob Marlie in places like this, and the bars are always full with people from all over the world sharing in an adventure. This is the kind of place you come entending to spend a week and end up staying all summer.

The ruins themselves are amazing. They are up in the hills overlooking the jungle and just blow you away. I am very interested in Mesoamerican history (well, I love all history for that matter) and it really must be seen to be believed. The temples are huge and there are so many of them! Palenque is an entire city of ruins and temples, any one of which would be a worth seeing on its own. The archeological site is enormous and you could easily spend several days going through all of the magnificent buildings. It is really pretty awesome to stand on one of the great pyramids and think that people lived out their lives here hundreds of years ago, that were totally different from what I have known. To think that people stood right in the same place I was standing and talked about and believed things that are completely alien to me now, and yet they accomplished so much. Their astronomy and mathematics were very advanced, and yet they also practiced human sacrifice and slavery. I wish more was known about their culture to shed light on things like the ball games in which whole teams were killed afterwards as a sacrifice to the gods. It is really very fascinating to read about the rise and fall of the civilizations that thrived here, be it the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc. Mexico is a country full of very interesting history running from prehistoric cave dwellers through ancient Mesoamericans, and colonial history to the present. I look forward to learning more about the pirates that inhabited the southern gulf coast at my next stop, Campeche.

I also went hiking through the jungles around Palenque. And that was a great. The jungle is so much better than the swamp! You can walk for one thing as the canopy overhead prevents light from hitting the jungle floor and keeps underbrush to a minimum. There are less insects as well which is always good and there are all kinds of other, less annoying animals to interact with, like monkeys! I came across some howler monkeys hanging out in some trees (they were responsible for the strange noises from the night before) and they are anwry little guys. When I came up to get a better look and snap a picture they through big sticks at me! If those things would have hit me from way up in the trees were they threw them, thery could have done some serious damage. I got the hint and left them alone after that.

As I said, I like this place a lot and decided to take a rest day here and just do nothing but relax. I will ride hard to Campeche which should take me about three days, followed by Merida, then Cancun. I will stay in Cancun for a few days, they head down the coast at a very leisurely pace and make my way into Belize sometime next month.
Until next time! Here are some fun with animals pictures. Chech out all of the wild beasties I have encountered and was abel to get a picture of.
Some howler monkeys, responsible for scary noises at night and stick throwing!
The biggest bug I had ever seen, until...
I saw this one! It was longer and wider than my finger! Huge!
The wasps that stung me on the neck. Thanks guys, good looking out.
Yet more wasps hanging out on my bungalow.
There were big giant frogs everywhere, this guy was bigger than my foot.

Army ants, do not, as I stupidly did, get close to them!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Villahermosa

Besieged by insects!

Day: 96

Miles: 138

Total Mileage: 5,476

Money Spent since last update: 6-12: 22.50, 6-13: 44.00

Mike and I have been feeling mother nature's wraith lately. We were getting rained on every day until yesterday when we finally crested the highest pass through the mountains and literally as we came over the last, brutal climb the sun came out and we were treated to a beautiful, long descent. We still had some rolling hills but the general trend was downhill, which was nice after all of the tough climbing.

We felt so good that we decided to ride late and were able to put down nearly ninety miles. As it started to get dark we decided to push through one more little town and boy what a bad move that was. We ended up coming down a hill into a huge marsh that just swarmed with bugs. We pedaled like mad but couldn't get through it before nightfall and we were forced to sleep in a little patch of dry land surrounded by what felt like the bog of eternal stench from the movie Labyrinth.

It smelled terrible and we were literally attacked by insects of every shape and size. We set a speed record for setting up our tents while still managing to swat ourselves every few seconds and cursing profusely, and jumped into them as fast as we could. Then we played the game: kill all the mosquitoes that managed to get into your tent before you go to bed. Its not as fun as it sounds, those little buggers are quick! And when you splat one on the wall of your tent he leaves behind a nice red blood stain which is gross enough and then you realize its your blood! Yuck. Considering that I am getting into malaria country, i really need to get my hands on some 100% DEET, which Mom is sending my way! Thanks mom, you rock =)

Laying there in our tents, sweating out butts off in the humidity, we felt like we were under attack as the insects were crawling on, over, and under our tents by the dozen. The mosquitoes were the worst, just sitting on the outside waiting for their chance to get you. The bugs are actually worse here than in Florida, which I didn't think was possible. Words are not adequate to describe how much i loathe mosquitoes. I wish i had a super power that made all the bitting, bloodsucking creepy crawlies of the world within one mile of me drop dead. I hate them that much.

At any rate, in my haste to get into my tent i made the rookie mistake of not closing my trailer bag that holds all of our food and since we cover the bikes with a tarp each night to protect them from the rain, i didn't notice the legion of ants that had crawled into the trailer and got into a bunch of our food. The next morning when we went to go i reached in to have a muffin and got an arm full of ants instead. Let me tell you how much fun that is at 6am. Not very. Those little buggers bight like fire!

We rode hard to Villahermosa and decided to get a hotel room to clean up and wash out clothes. Its nice to be able to split the cost of a room as it makes things so much cheaper. Plus, a shower after three nights of sweating your rear off in a tent is really nice. Villahermosa is a surprisingly beautiful city with rivers running through it and a nice, clean feeling. The people are friendly too and the food is very tasty and cheap. We gorged ourselves on tacos, which is something that just makes me happy. I will miss tacos once i get further south.

Mike and I have been having a great time and I am really glad to have the company. I will definitely have to pressure some more of my buddies into coming for sections of the trip! Mike says he want to come meet me again at some point which is great news to me.

No pictures this time as the connection here is terrible. I will post them as soon as i am able, but we are heading deep into the jungle tomorrow to visit the ruins of Palenque, so it may be a while till the next update.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Xalapa to San Andres Tuxtla

Tough riding in the mountains up to San Andres Tuxtla.

Day: 95


Miles: 252


Total Mileage: 5,338


Money Spent: 6-9: 35.5, 6-10: 35, 6-11: 45, 6-12: 14.5


Riding through fields of sugar cane.

Mike, starting to set up camp.

We stopped here for a nap and some shrimp sandwiches.


The countryside is extremely tropical.

On our way to Veracruz, right before the rain.

Rush hour in the pueblo.

Early monring Xalapa.

Mike and I in Xalapa


Mike and I arrived in Xalapa in the rain and left in the rain. Then, we got rained on some more on the way to Veracruz. It didn´t rain while we were in Veracruz, but it rained when we left!
So basically, we have been getting rained on a lot and poor Mike has no rain coat. We looked everywhere in Veracruz, but could not find one anywhere, which is odd since it is a city that gets rained on so much. Although to be honest, i have not worn my rain jacket much during the day as it is so hot and humid that i sweat like a beast when i have it on. I figure i would rather be wet with cool rain water than sticky sweat.

Last night was the worst yet. We got dumped on all night with booming thunder right over head, but i must admit, we were in a beautiful setting. We camped out behind some fields of sugar cane next to a river and it was just a gorgeous location. Before it started to rain we had the river sounds to relax too and fire flies zipping around, which was pretty awesome. As we have descended out of the mountains we have entered into very lush, tropical environments. Everything is so green and wet, all the time. You feel like if you were to stand still for a second vines would start growing up your legs!

The people have been incredibly nice too. As Mike and I rode out of Xalapa, we stopped at a little village for lunch. When the locals saw us eating our meager meal of beans and bananas (Mike introduced me to squeezing some lime on bananas, it is amazing, try it!), they gave us some Mangos and a quarter roasted chicken for free, just to be nice! It was amazing. You just don´t see kindness like that to a total stranger very often in the states.

Veracruz is a cool city. It is a major port town and not a resort, it is a true blue Mexican commercial city. Its hot, steamy, and lively. The food is great too, and cheap. We saw men hauling in nets full of shrimp and fish in the early morning to sell that day at the food stalls. We enjoyed it there, but we ended up spending more money than we planned on so we decided to head out after two days.

Yesterday we rode through the flat lands heading south, and today we have been doing some tough climbing and it is taking a toll on Mike´s legs. Climbing is tough enough, but it is incredibly humid and we got rained on all night last night and most of the morning. Sleeping in a wet tent is just not conducive to a good rest. So we are pacing ourselves today (i remember all too well how much i was hurting my first few climbing days) and will pick up the pace once we get out of the mountains. The Yucatan Peninsula is said to be flat as a pancake, which is good news.

From here, we are making our way to Villa Hermosa to recoup in a hostel or cheap hotel, then we are heading into the jungle to check out the ruins of Palenque, an ancient Mayan city. I'm looking forward to that as we missed the last ruins because it was just dumping rain on us. We ddin´t feel like riding 20 kilometers on a dirt road in those conditions. From there we will head further into the jungle to camp out at some water falls, then we will head north east up through the Yucatan towards Cancun for some good times, then south down the coast and eventually into Belize.

Until next time!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mexico City to Xalapa

Day: 91

Mileage: 6-7: 60, 6-8: 68

Total Mileage: 5,086

Money SPent: 6-7: 14, 6-8: 26

Well, I have to hand it to Mike, he certainly jumped into the deep end of the pool with his first attempt into cycle touring. We began by riding through Mexico City, the biggest and one of the most congested cities in the world. Riding a bike in a city is tough, riding a loaded touring bike, for you first time no less, is even more challenging. Add to that the fact that nothing is in English and you get a pretty tough introduction into cycle touring.

At any rate, we managed to find our way to the bus terminal and got a ride two hours down the road out of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area to a city called Puebla. The Mexican bus system is top notch too, I must add. For 11 bucks, we got a ticket on a direct route bus (no stops) that included a movie, a snack, water and complimentary ear phones for the ride. It was about ten times better than greyhound and at a much lower cost.

Once in Puebla, we had to fight city traffic once again to get out of the city. To make matters worse, it was absolutely pouring rain, like buckets. We were both absolutely soaked, drenched to the bone. Mike didn't have a rain coat either, which really stunk. He had a smile on his face the entire time though and didn't´t complain at all. We trucked out of town and when we came to the junction in the highway where we could either take the direct and easier ride to Veracruz, or ride the mountains to Xapala in order to check out the city and to catch some ruins on the ride out of the mountains to Veracruz, I told Mike it was his choice and he said to go for it.

We decided to take the toll road as it is a two lane road with a 6 foot shoulder, less steep climbs and less traffic, and I have been riding on them every day till Mexico City. However, as we passed through the booth, we were stopped and the man working told us we had to go back as the toll road was off limits to bikes. I told him I had ridden them all the way from Tijuana but I couldn't convince him to let us press on. He told us the free road was safer, which is total malarkey. The free road is two lanes with heavy traffic and no shoulder. Super safe. He also said we wouldn't want to ride the toll road as it was secluded with not many people around (which is exactly what we want!) When we turned to head back, the guy stopped us again and told us to ride against traffic as that was safer! What was this, opposite day?! I know the guy had good intentions, but he was an idiot.

So we rode the free road with no shoulder very similar to Baja, and I must admit, having a buddy to ride with makes it so much safer. We quickly developed a system where I watched oncoming traffic and Mike watched traffic coming on us from behind. We would call out the number and types of vehicles coming and if we had them from both directions one of us would yell Off! And we would bail off of the road until traffic had passed. It makes for slow going, but better than getting run over by a semi.

We passed over a mountain range and decided to press on through a small town which was a bad call as it turned out to be a big town and we nearly got caught without a place to sleep. But, just as the sun was setting we found an abandoned farming building in an empty field and made to set up camp. We were in for a fairly funny surprise while we were trying to set up the tent Mike had bought in Mexico City.

The tent had two sleeves that ran along the top where you put in the tent poles. However, there were no pockets at any corners to hold the poles, so basically the thing lay flat on the ground with the poles spead out in all four directions! We both started laughing pretty hard and then took the poles out and put them inside the tent and duct taped them in place which worked. It rained again that night and I am happy to say that at least his tent kept water out.

Today we had a great ride through some gorgeous mountains and when we cleared the final pass we had a smokin down hill into Xapala, which is a very beautiful city. Mike´s bike is nice, carbon fiber and aluminum with racing wheels. It is much faster than my bike, but it wouldn't hold up over a long trip. It also performs very poorly off road. As I had feared, it was tough to find spare tubes for a 700c wheel so we bought all we could from the one shop in Mexico City that carried them. Hopefully they last a month, we already replaced one flat! He is also able to travel light as I have a ton of stuff that he didn't need to get so it makes it much easier for him to ride himself into shape and enjoy the trip.

It is great having a buddy to ride with and I am glad he is here. Tomorrow we will head to Veracruz and see some ancient pyramids, which I am very excited about. Until next time!

The ride from Puebla to Xapala was filled with scenery like this.
The mountain country is just gorgeous.
The ride through the mountains east of Mexico City felt like riding in a fairy tale.

Mexico City was a blast and I really enjoyed the place. Mike and had a great time and I could whole heartedly recomend the place to any traveler.

Just a tiny fraction of this massive city.
Some of the architecture was beautiful.

Mike and I in the main plaza.
This is our new buddy Per, who was from Nroway, backpacking around Mexico.
We met some great people in Mexico City, among them backpackers from North Carolina, Korea, and some American guys that lived and taught in the city. I obviously had more than a few shots of tequila by this point!