Having had a great week riding in the hills and visiting some of the most beautiful places in Chiapas it was time to move on and get my head down to Oaxaca. hearing it was a beautiful town I was looking forward to seeing it but also moving on through this huge country.
Saturday 23rd January
Although the bed in the hostel was really comfy and it was cool enough to be cosy under my blanket I wanted to get going. I had been told that Tuxla was beautiful which it was but after coming from San Cristobal de las Casas it would have needed to be pretty impressive to want to stay longer. I headed upstairs for breakfast to find it was just bread and coffee and nothing else. They did’t even give plates which was strange but luckily I had got some food that I had brought yesterday and would make up for what the lack of food. While I sat I got chatting to two couples which ended up delaying my departure and knew I had a climb to get out of the town.
It took ages to get out of the city but once I did I then had a 15 mile climb up to 1,078 metres.
looking back as I slowly climbed above the town
From there I had a nice but short descent with the road undulating in between. As I rode the wind was battering me but for some reason didn’t seem to affect me much. I stopped under a bridge on the side of the highway to have lunch out of the wind.
This seemed a good spot out of the wind
It was a nice spot other then the cars and trucks whizzing past but knew I wouldn’t be there long. I set off once more and on one of the descents I saw three cyclists coming the other way. They were from France heading to the south and one of the girls had joined the couple for a few weeks cycling. It was nice to chat but like always we were heading in different directions and wanted to get to our destinations.
As I dropped I could see the road disappear off into the distance
The wind seemed to be getting stronger but all the while felt like it was just about on my side and slightly pushing me forward. I could still feel some pain in my knee so I was pleased I wasn’t fighting a headwind.
As the day went on I was starting to run out of time, so I checked the map to see what was coming up. With a in a few miles and with no sign of another town for another 30 miles I turned off and looked for a hotel.
Arriving in town just before sunset
I found a cheap one but it was by no means nice. The only thing that was good was that the sheets were clean and thats about it. I asked if I could cook in there kitchen but due to the state of that I used all my own pots and pans so I didn’t catch anything. I couldn’t believe how they lived and how many animals there were in the kitchen.
With the amount of animals in the cages and wondering around I couldn’t see how they could cook in the kitchen without getting sick
Just behind the cooking area there were 3 dogs, 5 cats, 7 doves, two turtles, 1 squirrel, around ten other birds I didn’t know the name of, along with other animals I couldn’t tell what they were. The kitchen stank of pee and ended up cooking with a tiny dog trying to bite my ankles. By the time I was done I was shattered and I still had a long day tomorrow. With a warm showers host expecting me I just hoped I made it in time and knew it would have to be an earlier start then today.
Sunday 24th January
Although the hotel wasn’t nice I did sleep well but ended up waking later then I had hoped. I packed away my things, thanked the owner and got on the road. Needing to grab something for breakfast I stopped at a cafe to have something.
The owner was really nice and was really interested in what I was doing. He offered me another coffee but when I went to pay he charged me for it. I wasn’t to worried but as I went to pay he spotted an English 2 pence coin in my wallet. He asked to have a look and if he could have it. I agreed to trade it in for a coffee which he was very pleased with until he showed it to his wife. The look on her face was just brilliant and knew it was time to make my exit. With the guy not really knowing whether he’d got a good deal and his wife knowing he hadn’t I waved goodbye and headed out to the highway.
The road gently undulated and rose a bit more and I thought I had a pass to climb but once the road reached 900 metres it then dropped towards the Pacific Ocean. The down hill that followed was amazing but I was being blown all over the place by the wind as it swirled around the mountains.
Once I reached the highway the wind became more of a headwind making it much harder to cycle in. With 15 miles to go after making great progress I stopped for lunch to have a pulled pork Tortilla and salad which was just what I needed.
I was soon back on the road but by this time my legs had cooled down and with the wind I was finding it really tough going.
I finally reached the town after a battle and found a shop in the square to ask where I could find Rodrigo. At first I got a blank look then a guy said he would take me to his house and so we set off to find him. After a few minutes we arrived at his house to meet Rodrigo and Cameron who was another cyclist from the states who was also riding south from Alaska.
While I sorted out my things they went off to water some plants then once back we were taken into town to have some food with his family. Rodrigo had such a lovely family and we were both made to feel so at home.
Rodrigo and his family and Cameron
Not being a cyclist Rodrigo had joined warm showers to practise his English and to learn more about the world. We spent the evening chatting and headed back to have some watermelon in his home. It had been a long day that had ended with an amazing family and a great fellow cyclist and I could have stayed longer. With the plan to get up early tomorrow and help him pick mangos it was time for bed to get some sleep for yet another long day on the bike.
Monday 25th January
After being terrorised by mosquitos I finally dropped into a deep sleep and some very random dreams only to hear a voice which got louder. I woke suddenly to remember Cameron and I were helping Rodrigo pick mangos. I was like a zombie as I got up and pretty much fell over everything while I was getting dressed. We were both up and out thE door in 5 minutes and knew it would take me a lot less then that to fall back into another deep sleep. Rodrigo drive us to his school where we jumped on the tractor and trailer.
Rodrigo ready to go and Cameron picking the best Mangos
It was so cold which surprised me as we were only 200 metres but it was such a lovely time of day. As the sun slowly rose with a full moon still in the sky and the oranges and reds of earth starting to glow ever brighter it made for a beautiful morning. We reached the field with the mango trees and started to find the first laden tree. It felt strange picking mangos as Sharon and I had picked them 16 years ago when we worked on a farm in Australia. Only needing one basket for Rodrigo to take to a show we were soon done and headed back to the house. Once back we went indoors to find Rodrigo’s wife had cooked us breakfast. It was so lovely to be sat round the table chatting but knew it would be soon time to go. With our bikes loaded and ready to head off in different directions we thanked Rodrigo and his wife and set off waving good by into the already very hot baking sun.
Cameron ready to go
Today I was heading to Juchitan de Zaragoza. As I had planned to stay with a warm showers host but having had no reply Cameron had recommended the fire station which was on the edge of town. I set into a wind that was now blowing in a different direction, one that would help me at first then would become a tough headwind later on. It was so hot on the road but being flat I knew I should make good progress but after an early start and being woken from a deep sleep I was struggling. Spotting a cyclist coming the other way I stopped to find it was a Swiss guy. He was nice to chat to but with the wind getting stronger all the time we both wanted to keep going. After another hour I once again spotted 3 more cyclist, 2 from America who were riding from Chicago and were about to finish and a French guy who started around the same place and wasn’t sure where he was going to end up. We chatted for about half an hour before saying goodbye and heading on. The further I went west the stronger the wind got and became more of a headwind. With nowhere to hide I pushed on knowing it was only going to get harder.
The long straight windy road
Spotting a huge wind farm ahead it took my mind off the wind or at least made it more interesting. There were probably 1000 of them if not more and covered the horizon in mass in every direction. Once at the end of the westerly road I then turned south and into the wind. I had 14 miles to cover but this was going to take at least 2 hours.
From the pictures it looks a nice but it was so hot and very windy
Feeling like I had been boiled alive I needed to stop and cool. I grabbed a cold Coke from the fridge then spotted a cup of chopped jelly in yogurt. It was so nice I had two but once I had eaten them I felt exhausted. Even though I was in the shade and cooling down it sucked the energy out of me. I sat and closed my eyes feeling myself drop into a deep sleep. Knowing I couldn’t I would wake suddenly to check my bike. I needed to keep going and with the sun still strong I knew it was going to be tough.
The last push into town went a little better with the wind easing making my life a little more bearable. I reached the outskirts of town when I spotted the fire station. I stopped to ask if I could camp which I was told would be fine but first they needing to check with the chief. I was so tired from a bad night and an early morning all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. I sat down and waited while I chatted to the guys until I was allowed to stay and was shown to where I could camp. Being a little early I asked where I could eat and set off to find a place. I found a small stall where a lovely lady called Sandra who made me two large toasted meat tortillas with salad.
This was a great place to eat and tasted amazing
It tasted amazing and was just what I needed. With the light now fading I headed back to the station and pitched my tent. Still having about 4 days ride to Oaxaca and a big climb I needed to get a good nights sleep which I knew I should do in my tent.
As I wrote my diary I got a message from Nader to ask if I had got his Facebook messages. I said no so went to see why. As I went through my settings I found a filtered message section with around 50 messages from around the time Sharon had been killed up to and after her funeral. It was a real shock and really hit a nerve, I couldn’t believe it. I was so tired and with rubbish internet I just couldn’t concentrate and knew I had to deal with it but did’t have the head space or the energy just now.
Tuesday 26th January
Thinking that sleeping in my tent behind the fire station, out of sight and being fairly dark was a good place to sleep but I was so wrong. I settled in and wrote my days diary and feeling shattered I started to fall in to a deep sleep only to be woken by the odd ant biting me. I killed the first then the second and started to fall asleep then it was the third, forth, then fifth. I turned the light on and thought I had got them all and started to fall to sleep only to hear a munching sound and the suddenly I was being bitten everywhere. I leapt out of bed turned my light on and saw I had been invaded by thousands of tiny biting ants. I took everything out cleared the tent whilst being bitten and moved it trying to make sure there were non left. With my tent in a new position I started to load my tent to see a small hole where they had eaten their way through. I was gutted but after a few long days and little sleep I was so tired I had to sleep.
With everything back in the tent I soon feel asleep, only woken a few times by the odd one that made it in and woke before sunrise with the firemen doing something noisy to their fire engines. I couldn’t complain as it was there station but I was totally exhausted. I got up around 8.30am with the sun already starting to bake everything insight and put the kettle on. They loved my stove but were quite nervous about me using petrol. Once I was ready I finished loading my bike and set off. It was about 15 miles to the next town and although I had a strong cross wind slowing me I knew it would be a tail wind once I turned north west towards Oaxaca.
On arriving in town I stopped at a restaurant for breakfast and as always expected a small plate of food only to find I had a large piece of steak with salad rice and veg. It was perfect and would be just what I needed for the hills to come.
With 2 litre jugs of orange squash which were amazing I set off full and rehydrated. With the wind on my back it made the going a little easier but it was so hot it was like riding in an oven. I was pouring with sweat and was heating up inside fast. The climbs weren’t big but with the light tailwind made it harder as it became almost still due to moving forward. The only rest bite I could get was to stop and turn into the light breeze to cool. I pushed on and reached another town by 3pm and not seeing any other towns on the map I stopped again for food. I picked the one that looked the best on the menu and when it arrived it was amazing. Beef,bacon,veg with salad chunks put into a cheese sauce with rice and tortilla. It was just what I needed and couldn’t believe I’d had two amazing meals in one day.
This was just what I needed
Still being early I pushed on once more in a strong tail wind towards the climb. By the time I reached the start of the first climb my legs felt tired and I was thirsty. With little water left I hoped as I climbed I would come to a village. With an hour left and two empty bottles I spotted houses on the hill in front of me. I climbed for another 10 minutes and reached a small hamlet. Seeing a shop I grabbed the first cold drink I could get my hands on and asked if there was anywhere I could camp. The owner was more then happy and showed be a flat piece of ground were I could pitch.
My camp and the amazing view from it
By this point I was shattered and could have fallen asleep there and then. I spent a short time chatting to the owner and picking up a few snacks but I needed to sleep. I was shattered from the last two disruptive nights and just hoped this one was better. The last few days had been a blur of heat and exhaustion and I needed to stop. With Oaxaca just a few days away I needed to keep focused and get there.
Wednesday 27th January
This time I woke up after a good sleep and got to see the sun rise. For some reason I still felt tired and as the sun started to bake everything I knew it was going to be a tough day. I got up and went to the bathroom then let my Thermarest down only to blow it up again while I had a cupper. Although I was well rested the thought of getting on my bike and continuing to climb in the heat was the last thing I wanted to do. Once I was packed I asked at the shop to fill my bottles with water and started the climb. My legs felt heavy and the sun felt hot. The scenery was beautiful but harsh with little in the way of green and huge tall thin cacti rising up from the scorched earth. After a short while I reached the summit and started to descend.
With a bigger climb ahead I knew I was in for a longer climb. The next one would climb from 600 metres to 1200 and although wasn’t massive I knew would be slow. As I climbed I baked, the sun was relentless and the sweat poured off me like a dodgy tap. When I had chance I would stop for a cold drink but would push on past the cacti and the dry yellow grass.
I would see a lot of these birds but were always that little bit to far away to get a good photo
I often stopped after spotting tiny bright blue birds with a burnt orange chest but as always they would fly just far enough away that I couldn’t quite get a photo. Huge trucks past me almost forcing me off the road but with no hard shoulder they had to give a little. I reached the summit after what felt an age and started to drop.
The views were incredible
It was an amazing descent with an amazing few of the valley below. As I stopped to take a picture one of the escort cars for the large oversized trucks past me. I set off and the car tried to stay in front. After a while we were a long way in front of the truck and think the driver realised he wasn’t meant to be racing me and was meant to be keeping a eye on the truck that was by now far behind. Arriving in the valley floor I stopped for a late lunch with chicken rice and tortilla. Not being quite what I’d had yesterday it was however good and hopefully set me up for the next climb. Wanting to get to within 100 km of Oaxaca I pushed on to find not only had the temperature dropped but the climbs ahead weren’t so bad. Being short and undulating I made my way up through a gorge with numerous bends climbs and descends accompanied by a nice tail wind.
Heading up through the gorge and looking back down to the road I had ridden
It was amazing how the temperature change had helped making me feel like an almost new man. The problem now was I was running out of light. With the kilometre markers slowly counting down and a large climb coming up I figured I would have to find something soon.
I passed a few places but kept going looking and hoping for something further on. As I crossed a river I saw buildings a bit further up the valley and once there I asked how far it was to the next village. With a confident 20 km and a climb I knew I had to stop. I asked if I could camp and with them being more then happy I stopped to eat before pitching my tent. It had been a tough day but knew if I was going to get to Oaxaca tomorrow it would be even tougher with a 1,600 metre pass followed by a 2,000 metre pass. I knew it would be a tough day but then I knew I didn’t have to make the town but it would just mean I could stop early. I was so desperate for a rest I at least wanted to try.
Thursday 28th January
The guys in the garage worked well into to the night changing truck tyres until there were none left to fix. I fell into a deep sleep and woke feeling much better. I woke early and wanted to get going before the sun burnt away the thick cloud and then me. Not bothering to have breakfast meant I was packed and on the road just after 7am.
I knew I would need to eat something but I at least wanted to get over the first pass. With it only being 1200 metres high and needing to climb about 400 metres I was up and over within a few hours and descending to the start of the next.
It was sad seeing this as out of sight of the photo was a horse that had been hit by a truck and in an environment that was already tough.
I had a bit of an undulating ride before hand and needed to eat something before I did. Spotting a small shop with only snacks for sale I brought what would give me energy, quickly ate it and set off once again. This was the last big climb before the town and would climb to 2000 metres over about 14 miles. If I averaged my speed at around 4mph I could get over in under 4 hours and have a nice but long run into town.
After climbing for around an hour I could now feel the sun starting to beat down on me with the thick clouds being reduced to just wisps. As the sweat began to pour off me the views looking back down to the valley below became more impressive. The cars were kind and the trucks mainly ok but with no hard shoulder and numerous double trailered cement trucks trying to claw their way up the long pass I knew I had to give. They were good and waved their thanks with me often popping over to the opposite side to give them space.
This was the first time I had seen a motorbike with a bob trailer
As I got within 3 miles of the top I was called over by three dumper truck drivers who wanted to chat. They were really great to chat to and fun with it. I asked if I could take a photo of their truck at which point they decided the picture would look much better if they turned the trucks around and lined them up. I stood in amazement as one directed the two trucks into the perfect place then to stand with them for the photo shot. It was just brilliant how they just all turned into big kids with big toys.
I set off waving goodbye and soon reached the summit and onto the descent towards the town.This was amazing as I was now averaging between 15-20 mph helped along by a tail wind and knew I would soon make the town.
Arriving in the Matatlan where Mazcal is made and the many fields with Agave
As I dropped I passed place after place that sold Mazcal which is made from the plant Agavé which looks similar to a catus plant and is in the same family as the Aloe Vera plant.
These two just walked around in a circle constantly
I stopped to take a picture of a guy making a horse go around in circles that was pulling a large stone to squash and extracted the juice to make the drink. As I stood to take the picture I started to feel dizzy just watching and couldn’t imagine what it was like to work the horse.
From here I continued on getting ever closer to town with the valley dropping away in front of me and making great progress.
Still dropping with a great tail wind to Oaxaca
With 15 miles to go I spotted a couple cycling the other way who looked European. I stopped and went to say hello to find they were an elderly french couple called Daniel and Frédérique and had sold their home and car and were now just doing trips on their bikes.
Frédérique and Daniel enjoying their retirement
It was so lovely to chat and seeing how they travelled, with them recommending a place to eat in the next town. I set off with a rumbling belly and found the place they suggested. Not sure what I would get I was presented with two huge plates of food that were either full of chicken or full of veg, pasta, salad and rice. It was my dream to eat food like this because I knew I and my body needed it.
With my belly full I set off for another hour and a half and reached the town centre. It looked an interesting place but I needed somewhere to stay. At first the hostel I tried had no room for my bike and wanted to tie it up near a public entrance so I tried two more with third being really nice and just what I needed. By the time I was showered and settled in I joined the owner and his friends who had just been working out and had a beer with them in the kitchen.
They were so lovely and really made me feel at home. The last 8 days had been hard in the wind, the relentless heat of the sun, no sleep after being eaten by ants and mosquitos, then to find a load of messages I had failed to see over a year and a half old. I was shattered emotionally and physically and needed some time out which I hope I could get here. I had tried not to think about the messages and focus on getting here but they had made an effect on me and I needed time to deal with them.
Friday 29th January
Today was my day off but it felt far from it. The messages I had found in my filtered messages on Facebook had taken me back and I wanted to reply to all of them. I knew this would not only take time but emotional effort. I was doing well, getting through each day and the support from everyone had been amazing but today was going to be hard. I wondered down for breakfast before I set to work but I was already feeling tired after a really tough 8 days out in the heat.
The hostel felt nice and relaxed with little or no one to distract me. I got to speak to my sister along with Sharon’s sister which was amazing but with so much to do it was soon back to the screen.
With maps to check, photos to back up, check my washing, upload GPS files, then download them, fit dinner in and reply to everyone was just the start and I was shattered.
Agreeing to do a keep fit glass in the evening I knew it would give me the exercise I needed so I didn’t go to bed without leaving my room. I knew there was a beautiful city out there but today it would have to wait. By the time I had written to everyone I had got a message from a friend who had contacts in Mexico and offered to help. Before I knew it, a Facebook group was set up and I was trying to keep up with it all by using google translate. I was lost in the realm of a Spanish. Luckily Marianna told me to relax give her my itinerary and she would do the rest. The relief on such a tough day was amazing and with the group arriving to make me work out and make cycle touring feel easy we set to work lifting large lumps of wood and weights.
Feeling like I was in some sort of rocky training camp was great and they were all brilliant. Feeling tired but much better for doing it, I headed back to my room to try and get a bit more done. Still not feeling my best and my mood taking a nose dive I had to snap out of it but needed a bit of a pull and from where I didn’t know. The hostel was great to get things done but it was quiet and feeling low wasn’t the best thing in a quiet hostel I just hoped I could snap out of it.
Saturday 30th January
Waking up with a day of site seeing I went down for breakfast and made my way into town. I wondered the beautiful streets and tried different local cuisine in the process. The city was huge and after about 4 hours of looking around I headed back to the hostel.
Feeling shattered I lay in my empty room and tried to pick myself up. The day was already moving on fast and didn’t want to waste it. Getting a call from Jules while I caught up on my work was great and the plan to come to San Francisco was a real lift. I set to work looking at rough dates and tried to narrow it down. Still with a long way to go I knew it would be an estimate but it would atlas give me an idea on how I was progressing.
When I took the photo of the blue beetle I hadn’t spotted there was someone in it
Alfredo arrived to do his shift and I asked where was a good place to eat, he showed me on a map which was much further away but thought I would try and find it.
I headed out again but just felt shattered and wasn’t in the mood for a long trek. I got half way to where I was meant to be heading and almost turned around to call it a day but I had to make the effort.
I walked for another 20 minutes and arrived at the main square and cathedral that I thought I had seen.
Not realising that I had missed out a huge central part of the city I was now in a beautiful part that was even more impressive. I wandered the streets, watched a procession and witnessed the end of a wedding that was going on in the Cathedral, all of which I would have missed out on if I had turned back.
Pleased I had made the effort I found the restaurant I had been recommended and enjoyed a lovely meal. I had enjoyed Oaxaca and its historical centre but I missed the company. Being in the hostel hadn’t helped as it was so quiet but it had allowed me to get some work done. I headed back as the plan for tomorrow was to ride to the pyramid and then head to a waterfall with the group in the fitness glass but having not heard anything I had a suspicion it wasn’t going to happen.
Sunday 31st January
I got up early to have breakfast and sent messages to the guys in the group to check if they were still coming. I waited round for a while and with no reply or show I realised it wasn’t going to happen. Being ready and wanting to do something I headed into the centre only to find most of the tours had already left. Feeling annoyed I had hung around longer for an empty promise I went to find out the cost of a taxi to make me up to the ruins.
With the Monte Alban the famous pyramid and ruins in Oaxaca only a 20 minute drive away I was soon heading for the site up the hill. I started to get messages back saying sorry but just wished they had told me before so I’d had time to plan something else.
I arrived at the site to find a huge set of ancient ruins that date back to 300BC and in its prime had a population of just over 17,000 people. The site all be it partially excavated was incredible, it sat on an artificially levelled ridge, which with an elevation of about 1,940 m above sea level and rises some 400 m from the valley floor, was an easily defensible location.
With views as far as the eye could see in all directions it was a pretty impressive set of ruins. With an arrangement with the taxi driver I spent a couple hours looking around before heading back to be dropped off in town. Being dropped near the cathedral it gave me the chance to have a look around in the day light so I could get a good feel for the place.
Having a plan to leave in the morning I made it back to the hostel to check through my things and throw what I could away. It aways felt good to do this although I was always disappointed with the amount I had left.
As the day was coming to an end I got messages from the guys to say they were coming over and would I like to have a look around the city on bikes. Wanting to make the most of the evening before I left, They soon arrived and we headed out first for the hill.
With a tandem in the hostel it was a good chance to try it out and so the group of us rode around the city and climbed the hill above to a view point.
It was great fun and I was so pleased they had made the effort. Once back we headed to a restaurant to try Tlayudas and grasshopper. Although the Tlayudas tasted amazing the grasshoppers I tried but thought I would let the others finish them. Hoping for an early start we headed back where we said our goodbyes and I headed to bed ready for the next big push to Puebla and hopefully start to feel that I was making some sort of progress.
The last week in the heat and wind had been tough but to have had little sleep, being eaten my mosquitos and ants then to get the shock of finding all those messages of condolences from a year and a half ago had taken its toll. I wasn’t in a great place and felt very lonely. Mexico was stunning but I wasn’t in the mood to fully enjoy it and that made me even lower. I was constantly surrounded by kind people and beautiful places and yet I wasn’t seeing or experiencing it the way I should do. I was tired, sad and lonely and all I could think about was how big Mexico was and how much further I still had to go. From the moment I had landed in Mexico everything felt hard and I was missing home. It had been good to get to the city but it had been really tough both mentally and physically and it was going to take time to get myself out of it. Hearing from Chris and Mariann who were now helping me find places to stay and hoping that as I moved further on I would start to at least feel like I was making progress but in the mean time I was missing so much.
Its hard knowing I was missing out some incredible sites but I also knew this was a cycle challenge and I didn’t have time to see everything. With Puebla being much higher then where I was I knew I was in for a tough ride but at least I was going north and knew in itself would feel good and hoped it would only get better.
Thanks for reading xx