Since my last entry we have continued riding through the state of Oaxaca. We’ spent a total of 26 days here, a little bit of everything has happened and we’ve loved it all.
View the photos that belong with this post here
17th September – Oaxaca to Miahuatlan
The morning we left the city of Oaxaca we got up early, and ate breakfast with Victor who had been hosting us for that week, in true Victor style we drank about 3 cups of hot chocolate each, along with a whole loaf of Pan de Yema (egg yolk bread) which was the size of my head . Victor said that we were welcome to stay with him forever, so he was pretty sad that we left after a week! Our friend Nemuel who we’d met on the road a week before came to meet us to cycle us our of the city, this was great as we got to bypass the chaotic morning traffic, and ride in style with our lovely friend, before saying goodbye. Nemuel is a special soul, very pensive and has a lot to say, our chance encounter on the road was a lucky one. 20km out of the city he bid us goodbye, but not before he made us hold hands and he said some sort of prayer for us whilst smoking a doob, it went something like this, “thank you for letting me cross paths with these two amazing people, and for the time we have had, please look after them, and, and….. I’m high, that’s it!” And with that Leah and I rode off into the countryside, we cycled 105km that day through the countryside, rolling hills before making it to the small town of Miahuatlan. The town itself was like many we have been through, chaotic and narrow streets, sort of overwhelming when you are tired and a bit disorientated. We were being hosted by a warmshowers host called Eduardo. He was not a cyclist himself but he was a keen motorcyclist and traveller, he had spent time living in India and had ridden a motorbike across some very high passes in Nepal and India, and he had lots of admiration of cycle tourist. Eduardo’s mum made us dinner and I sat and chatted to his dad about the indigenous Zapotec people and their culture, before witnessing the most amazing sunset from the roof of their house.
18th September -Miahuatlan to San Jose del Pacifico Eduardo had a friend visiting from Brazil, Victor and Eduardo had met when they were both working in India, and Victor had planned to visit some of the tourist sites that we were heading for, so we made plans to meet up at our destination later that day. The road that day was completely up-hill, and would have felt challenging if it wasn’t for the amazing views and great road side food stops. As we headed up into the mountain forests it became rainy and very cold, and we were relived to make to San Jose just before dark. Eduardo and Victor arrived at the same time as us, but on a motor bike, and we all decided to share a log cabin together.
19th September – San Jose del Pacifico
San Jose is one of those hippy places with lots of references to fairies and dwarves, and is famed as a place for taking magic mushrooms due to being located in a mountain forest with plenty of rainfall. Because of this there were plenty of straggly haired hippies wandering around, but instead of joining them on their ‘trip’ we headed further into the forest to a place known to Eduardo. We stayed at ‘El Refugio’ which is actually a drug and alcohol charity run rehab centre deep in the forest. Eduardo’s family had been supporting ‘El Refugio’ for many years and he knew the family that ran the place. There were not many residents staying at El Refugio as the people who run it take a break for several weeks a year, this meant that there was space for the four of us to stay in one of the log cabins, we took some walks through the forest and then sheltered from the rain in the cabin and made a big fire.
20th September San Jose del Pacifico to El Mirador
The reason we had wanted to stay in San Jose another day was because El Refugio had a temazcal. A temazcal is a little clay circular hut, there is a space in the middle where you place very hot stones. People sit in a circle around the edge of the hut, someone then takes a leafy branch and places it in a bucket with water and then flicks the water into the middle of the hot stones, creating steam. To make our temazcal involved a lot of work. The night before we prepared by bringing lots of fire wood over to the hut, and then other people (there were some remaining rehabilitation residents at El Refugio) helped by collecting huge rocks from the forest. That morning we got up at 5am to carry wood and rocks, along with the residents of El Refugio, the wood and rocks were then placed in a special order, and then the wood set on fire. What then happens is that over the course of 2 hours the rocks are heated up so much that they are glowing red. This means the temazcal process is ready. We sat in the little clay hut whilst someone bought in the hot rocks with giant tongs. The temazcal lasted for 2 hours in total, it was a bit like a sauna, the result was that my skin felt so soft for about a week afterwards.
Leah and I were keen to make it down off the mountain that day, so after the temazcal the four of us went back to San Jose del Pacifico and ate some food together before the boys headed off on the motor bike and we set off on our bikes.
A stroke of luck
The week before we had made the decision to stay on in the city of Oaxaca because of the Mexican independence day celebrations but that same weekend there had also been some heavy rain up in the mountains (part of the storm which had seen a couple of 100 people killed in the state of Guerrero), this had caused so much damage that the road had to be closed, this was the third day it had been reopened and we witnessed first hand some of the destruction of the storm, there were parts of the road crumbled into the mountain, fallen trees, roads covered completely in landslide mud, there were steams running through the road. I was surprised and shocked that the road was open to traffic. We felt safe as we were moving so slowly and could see any obstructions, but I would have been afraid to cross those mountains in a car or a bus, and was shocked to see some buses headed up that way in the evening, crazy! If it wasn’t for the Independence day weekend we would have been crossing those mountains during the storm, and it would have been awful!
That day we had hoped to make it down to the coast, but the road was more undulating that we had realised, we had left too late in the day, and because of the road problems we decided to stop at a road side cafe and camp the night. I used to get stressed out about not reaching our planned destination in time, but being on this tour you have to realise that a lot of time things don’t work out how you imagine, sometimes the road has other plans. That evening we drunk Etole, a hot think maize drink which tastes a bit like hot think custard, we told each other silly stories before falling asleep.
20th September – El Mirador to Zipolite 21st- 27th September Zipolite Beach
The day before had been cloudy and rainy, so although the route was beautiful it was had to see everything and make the most of it. Our decision to camp next to to the cafe and finish the 40km decent to the coast the following morning had been a brilliant one, as that day was sunny and clear, which meant some of the most stunning views of the whole trip, descending all the way to the coast. We stopped along the way to buy a coconut, the water is full of electrolites so it’s amazing.
We made it to the beach of Zipolite, it felt pretty monumental as we hadn’t been on the coast since we were in Mazatlan back in June. As it is the tail end of the rainy season it was really quiet on the beach, we found a place to camp for a really cheap price, where we had use of the houses facilities and a safe place to leave our stuff, and this is where we remained for almost a week. One morning we packed up, and were ready to leave, but we decided to drink some mezcal as we didn’t want to carry the bottle with us and after doing so we felt anchored to the hammocks and unable to leave. We cycled along to other beaches along the coast, but remained confident that Zipolite was our favourite.
27th Zipolite to Barra de la Cruz
We finally peeled ourselves away from Zipolite and cycled south along the coast. People had warned us that the route was undulating and humid, so we were prepared to be slow but somehow we cycled really well. We meant to stop earlier in the day but missed our turn off and instead made the decision to push on to Barra de la Cruz. We were both cycling feeling pretty on edge as we had been told of a cyclist being mugged at machete point in a different part of Oaxaca, although we weren’t in real danger we felt shaken up by this. Our decision to push on to Barra de la Cruz meant cycling in the dusk, and arriving at our destination as it got dark. We cursed ourselves as we should know by now when we should stop, and it felt foolish to take this risk. It’s always tempting to ‘push on’. I think we are slowly learning our lesson in this situation, our other problem is that we are good at faffing and don’t always leave early enough in the morning, so again, this is something we need to try really hard at. I don’t always admit some of our foolishness on this blog, but I wonder if by doing so it will force it out of me!
28th Barra de la Cruz
Brad and Elesha the Australian couple we had met on a beach in Baja California back in June had given us some recommendations of places to stay along the coast. They have just completed a 3 month surf trip from USA to Costa Rica, so their beach tips will come in handy in the months to come. Barra de la Cruz was at one point one of the best surfing spots in the world, so we decided to spend a day at this Mecca, as the beach was pretty nice too! We stayed at Pepe’s cabanas which was a really cool place.
29th Barra de la Cruz to Zaachila
We cycled easily to Joaquin’s house, a warm showers host who offered camping in front of a beautiful lake. We arrived early so had time to cycle to the beach close by without our panniers, we had the whole beach to ourselves, it felt good to reach somewhere early and have time to relax. That evening Ben, a Canadian cycle tourist was staying with Joaquin too. Ben was a bit of nomad, he had left home in Canada a year before, he had cycled to Mexico D.F before running out of time on his visa so he then got a bus to Guatemala. Unfortunately he had got poorly in Guatemala so it was now 6 months later, and he was cycling back up north, he was heading to Oaxaca but after that he seemed unsure of where he was going, or how.
the view from Joaquin’s house
30th Zaachila to Juchitan
We have really been enjoying the riding along the coast road, palm trees, forests, mountain backdrops, and then glimpses of the beach, but today it was time to say goodbye to the Pacific Coast, probably until El Salvador. Leah is a Californian girl to the core, and loves the beach, when I asked her if she would survive with leaving the coast, she said, ‘can you survive with one kidney?’
We cycled through the Industrial city of Salina Cruz, this is home to the head office of Pemex (the monopolised Mexican petrol company), it is also a busy port with lots of ships coming in from South America and beyond. Many people had told us to pass through, but we stopped there for a delicious lunch at the amazingly bountiful market. We have a soft spot for some of these dusty chaotic Mexican towns, and spent quite a while reminiscing about our favourite, and least favourite ones that we have passed through over the past 5 months. The road was flat and fast to Juchitan, where we arrived in good time, where were being hosted by Jorge, we were welcomed into his family home and were also met by a Canadian couple we had stayed at the same place as in Zipolite. It was nice to eat dinner and drink some beers with the Canadians but we were relieved when the left in the following morning as they kept us up all night that night arguing!
1st October Juchitan
Juchitan is known for it’s unique tradition of Muxes, these are males who are chosen by their family when they are young to be raised as women. Because of this there is also a drag queen festival once a year, attracting people from all over Mexico, Vice made a documentary about it here. Anyway, there was more to this town than it’s cross dressing fame. They had what was probably my favourite market in the whole of Mexico, because of it’s warm climate (we were dripping in 33 degree heat) and proximity to the sea the food was so good. There is also a strong artisan craft tradition and most women where tradition dress, with plaits and flowers in their hair. In true Mexican spirit we were befriended by some friendly local couple, who insisted on taking us to dinner, we had a great day in Juchitan. Some things I did not like though where the huge amounts of turtle eggs for sale in the market, very sad.
2nd October Juchitan to Zanatepec
We were really sad to leave Juchitan and could have easily stayed longer. We had been staying with Jorge but hadn’t seen much of him as he worked long hours, but instead spent a lot of time with his mum, who was so lovely. The morning we left we ate breakfast together and everyone was crying as we said goodbye. She packed us off with tostadas and also a multi pack of socks, as she warned us it was going to be cold in the mountains of Chiapas.
We haven’t had a road mum since Maggie in San Diago, California, they really are a special thing.
Throughout the middle of Mexico there are many route options but as you come to this point there mainly just one road that people take to head south, known as the PanAmerican Highway. Since beginning this trip we have only met one other cycle tourist, and that was in our first week, then we had met Ben a few days before, so we were suprised when we bumped in to Joanne from Belgium who was also heading the same way as us. She is travelling on her own and doing a combination of cycling, buses and planes, having started in Canada. So, we had lots to talk about, and were pretty excited, but it was so hot so we decided to push on to the place we were all staying that night, to be hosted by Rodrigo and Lupita warm showers host. Rodrigo takes warm showers very seriously, he has a guest book and the walls of his home are filled with international flags and postcards and photos from guests. I think as he is on the PanAM highway he is pretty busy! Every writes the same in the guest book, how lovely and welcoming his family is, and how kind they are. As he is an English teacher in the small town on Zanatepec, and he wanted us to stay for a day to go and speak English with his pupils, but the following day was my birthday and what I really wanted to do was ride. Lupita’s offer of birthday cake and swimming in the river was tempting, but Leah convinced me that I would really want to spent the day on my bike,and she was was right!
3rd October Zanatepec to Rizo del Oro
We had a perfect day of cycling on my birthday, it felt as though the birthday gods were shining down on me.
Lupita made an amazing breakfast for us, I skyped my lovely friend Sarah before we cycled into the heat of the day, ready for a big up hill ride. We stopped at a small town for supplies, and I got a hug off an old man who Leah told about my birthday. We then stopped to buy drinks from a lady who we had a good old natter to, she then gave me another bag of Jamaica (hibiscus flower infused water with sugar) because it was my birthday.
The ride started out hot, but we were prepared for some of our hottest, hardest days of cycling, like we had done in the desert, but in the end it was fine. We rested at a little waterfall at the side of the road, and after that it seemed to cool down. We crossed the border into the state of Chiapas, our final state in Mexico, so it was a pretty monumental day, the views were breathtaking too.
We seemed to spend the day talking and reflecting, the mood was bought on by many things, my birthday, the thought that we will soon be leaving Mexico after 5 months, and also because we have recently met 2 other cycle tourists after not having met any since the very beginning. It was really cool to meet some other people on their trips but it didn’t excite as as we expected. Everyone has their own style of riding and touring and it made us feel confident about our own style and our own abilities.
We arrived at the village of Rizo del Oro in the early evening. Rizo del Oro means ‘curl of gold’ which made it an apt stop for me on my birthday. We found a little road side cafe and asked the old lady if we could pitch our tents there, if we bought dinner from her, she was really happy for us to sleep there, and the following morning she even told us that we were welcome to stay another day!
The whole day was perfect, I am living my dream. Thank you for all the birthday wishes!