It’s been almost two weeks on the mainland and I’ve just started heading south again after a couple of days off in Mexico City for my birthday. When I cycled off the boat, I couldn’t wait to start crossing over ‘real’ Mexico, although its safe to say I had a little apprehension. Two Australian tourists had been murdered in the state I was in only a few weeks before. It made me realise how much more clued up I was going to have to be over the next couple of weeks.
We landed on the mainland almost ten hours late, into the tiny port city of Mazatlán. I’d met 3 other cyclists on the boat and together we headed into the city centre, forming the least threatening biker gang ever to roll into town. I continued south the next day with Mark, a Dutch guy cycling for a charity of his own; ‘Cycling for Stars’. We had planned to get at least 80 miles south after a late start. Just 60 miles in, I’d stopped to quickly pop to the toilet, when I was called over by a policeman. My Spanish hadn’t gotten past ordering ‘uno taco’ so I left the talking to my fluent Dutch friend. We had accidently stumbled into the Mexican bicycle capital, where our new friend Carlos, proudly boasted each local family averaged four bicycles to a household. All cyclists coming into town (not that too many venture across Mexico) were given access to a free hotel anywhere in the city and a personal police escort to the border of Sinaloa state the next day. Even though I wanted to get more miles out, I thought it too good an opportunity to turn down so we stopped early for the day and checked out the town. The locals looking after us were awesome and really wanted us to feel welcome. I did however, have my first and so far only negative experience with the locals, when we went out for food that night. We were sampling the taco stands in town when Mark got into a conversation with a man who had the thickest and most perfectly formed moustache I’ve ever seen. It gave him the aura of a man who knew his way around a Mexican showdown or two. I did my best to keep up with the conversation and not stare directly into the ‘mo’. Turns out I didn’t need to know the language to get the gist of the conversation, with the man becoming more aggressive and making slit throat gestures at us. Not wanting to get on the wrong side of the Mexican Godfather, we quickly moved on. It has to be said this has been the only time I’ve found Mexicans anything other than the most friendly and hospitable people (I even had some road side workman offer me lunch when I was riding down one stretch). We rolled out of town the next day feeling like we were part of the Tour de France, under a police escort to the border of Sinaloa.
I parted ways with Mark the next day as our routes went separate ways. The next day I was about to get reminded that Mexico is one depressingly giant mountain. I spent the whole day climbing into the mountains, easily the most difficult cycling I’ve done so far. The next day into Guadlajara was more of the same, leaving me absolutely shattered as I met up with my host for the night ‘Jorge’, who my Mum had put me in contact with via some friends she’d met on her cruise. Mum had mentioned they were well connected in Mexico should I get into any trouble. Turns out I’d perhaps underestimated the significance of this connection seeing as ‘the contact’ turned out to be the ex president of Mexico…not the worst person to call should I find myself in a spot of bother. I lived it up in Jorge’s incredible family penthouse, with some awesome company and a stunning view of the city. From here I had 5 days left to get to Mexico City for my birthday, heading the long way around to add on some miles to the total.
I set off the next day nursing a bit of a tequila head, which it’s safe to say, isn’t something the Team Sky lads probably think of to get through the miles faster. The landscape was more of the same, with ‘muchas montanas’ and a glass covered shoulder to ride in as I hugged the highway, with trucks constantly thundering past. From here each night I was blessed with the most beautiful colonial towns. I had no idea Mexico had so many amazing towns, full of stunning architecture and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Guanajuato was my personal favourite; the most romantic city I’ve ever been in, which when it’s just me and the bike, left me playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest violin. The only downside over these few days were the constant punctures I was now getting, as over 5000 miles had taken a big toll on the tread. Having to throw all my stuff off to fix these things…one time 3 in the space of 10 miles, was to test my patience to it’s limits. I also had a bit of a fail when I spotted what I thought was a stretch of beautifully lain new tarmac (black gold to a cyclist). My face lit up, to the same degree of excitement I get when entering a bakery (I should have a body mass index comparable to a whale). As I flew into this ‘mecca’ of cycling tarmac, it took a surprisingly large length of time for me to realise that this section of road wasn’t quite ready to be ridden. I was tyre deep in tar and it had covered the bike in thick black rock. It took me an hour to clean it off and I was left mumbling a few choice Spanish words I hadn’t been taught on my e-learning.
After 10 days of constant climbs, I saw the horizon open up into the valley where Mexico City sat, 2,500 metres up, which made the air thin enough to make those climbs a little more difficult. My best mate Joe and his amazing girlfriend Ali had sorted me out an awesome place in the middle of the city, to rest up for a couple of days and enjoy my birthday in some company. Finding my way through the worlds most populated city took all of my broken Spanish and a lot of finger pointing. I met some fun travellers to ring in my birthday on the rooftop bar, overlooking the city plaza. I spent one day amongst some incredible ancient pyramids, attempting to climb all the steps with another tequila head. I had to stay an extra day to find replacement wheels as most of the stores in town weren’t exactly well stocked.
I’m now a little further south, making my way to the town of Palenque, before I take a big detour east, to Yucatan and eventually onto Belize (hopefully for New Years). The mainland has shown me a more authentic Mexico and I’m falling in love with this place. It’s also made for the hardest cycling so far on this trip. Heading further south, there will be a lot more climbs to come.
The target is still climbing and there’s more on the way. I was treated to some birthday donations, which got the total raised rolling again. A lovely gesture from another wonderfully kind twosome, Dave and Soph, who thought of Wishes4Kids when Soph’s family met up for their annual fundraiser, is going to push the total a little higher. Christmas is on the horizon and there are so many sick and struggling children out there who could do with something to make them smile on Christmas morning. It’s a great time of year to think of others less fortunate. If you haven’t and would like to, please sponsor a mile today and bring some happiness to children on Christmas Day.