There will be times on any long journey, where the pace slows and nothing of note happens. This is exactly the case with the latest part of the ride through Mexico.
From leaving the highs of sailing the peaceful sea of Cortez, the road from Puerta Vallarta to Oaxaca will be memorable mainly for it’s never-ending quality.
The problem I have concluded, is there was too much cycling. We all know the saying less is more. The same goes with my style of bike tour.
The route following the coast was surprisingly hilly; rising up where the hills met the sea and winding back inland down to a river, before crossing a bridge and crawling back up.
Along the coast, we stopped at three towns of note.
Melaque was an understated place where US and Canadians spend the winter relaxing in the warm. Here we met with British Karl Bushby who is on a long walk home and exchanged tales of travel.
Zihuatanejo was a popular tourist spot, with a laid-back atmosphere and good cafe’s and bars but significantly more developed than when Andy Dufrane sent his postcard!
Acapulco on the other hand was a busy, noisy city, whose popularity in the 70’s as a tourist destination has apparently had a revival, although why I have no idea.
Long hot sweaty days were interspersed with friendly meetings with Mexicans and searches for drinking water. I never once had so much difficulty in Africa where most villages have a pump. Here, the water is apparently unfit to drink without boiling and locals buy purified water in large containers, but many small comedors simply didn’t have any.
Mexico is not poor enough to have charities build wells in villages. Instead people consume vast quantities of fizzy drinks, juices and beer. Bad for the waistline and worse for the plastic pollution. Roads are littered with cans and bottles. And Mexico tops the world’s rankings for highest obesity rates. Of course their obsession for tortillas doesn’t help. But I can’t help thinking that if drinking water was more readily available, there would be less coke and beer consumed and a healthier nation.
From the coast, the road inland followed the Rio Grande. Winding gradually at first until the village where I picked at a rubbery fried egg for a late breakfast. And then it got steep. Persistent perspiring in sweat-drenched shirt and shorts, pushing and heaving the bike ever upwards. It made the Heckman Pass of Canada seem a mere molehill.
When Jose from the breakfast palapa pulled up in his truck, offering a ride to the next village, I thought, ‘Well, why the hell not cos this ain’t fun’. In the next 3km, I learnt that Jose was off to play football and would then spend the rest of the day dancing. As with all of Latin America, these are probably the most popular pastimes. And they are taken quite seriously, in a fun way, too. 3km was also sufficient time for him to say I’m lovely and in a teenage fashion ask if I would be his girlfriend. Fortunately, 3km was also long enough for me to reply, ‘No’.
Arriving in Santa Catarina Juquila the next morning, on impulse I bought a bus ticket to Oaxaca. Cheating, maybe. But it was a good choice. I hadn’t enjoyed the pushing, was sore is sensitive places and needed some time off the bike. Much better to spend it in a place with lots to see and do.
Besides, I like using public transport occasionally. You can appreciate more what life is like for locals. I was concerned there would be problems putting the bike on the bus, but with 2 drivers and only 3 other passengers, space wasn’t an issue. And the driver’s “everything is possible” attitude made life easy.
So later that day, I arrived in Oaxaca, after 1,300km by bike and 200km by bus from Puerta Vallarta.
I can happily say this is a great town and I made the right choice. If time was unlimited, I would have cycled. But it’s not, and there is much more besides cycling that I want to do in central America.