Tag Archive for 'Mexico City'

Mexico City to Acatlán

When we looked for routes out of Mexico City, and Andrew saw that we could take a pass between two volcanoes, it became the obvious option. That was before our legs knew what bike touring would really feel like. So, off we went with Oscar to the town of Amecameca, where we spent the first night. Our first day of riding included a small climb, during which Oscar expertly hitched a ride with a giant truck, first making eye contact with the friendly driver who slowed down, then grabbing onto a rope and hanging on all the way to the top. We huffed and puffed our way up.

The following morning, we said goodbye to Oscar and turned East to ride up the Paso de Cortes. We spent 6 and a half hours riding 21 kilometers, at which point, still slightly below the pass, we stopped in the rain, because our legs just couldn’t go anymore. Our first night of wild camping was wet and cold, but still had a great view when the clouds cleared a bit at sunset. We cooked dinner under our tarp, fiddled around with gear, and then crawled into our tent.

The descent down the other side of the pass the next day was equally torturous, but for different parts of our bodies. We found ourselves on a road that was more like a mountain bike trail with deep sand, roots, rocks, ditches and very steep, slidey parts. Our hands (especially little a’s) cramped and ached from the exertion and the cold. Nevertheless, we managed to ride 54 km to Cholula, the city of 365 churches. By the time we got clean and left the hotel, it was dark and things were closed, but we did find an open polleria, bought a whole roasted chicken, and brought it back to the hotel to make dinner on the floor of our hotel room.

We did not leave Cholula in a hurry, but wandered around the next morning, visiting the market and looking at the churches. We climbed to the top of one that was built on top of an ancient Aztec pyramid, which seemed an odd place for a church, but then, where didn’t they put a church in Cholula? And what better way to displace a religion than to build right over it? We descended all afternoon, and by the time we arrived in Izúcar de Matamoros, it had become very easy to believe that it was downhill the rest of the way to Peru. (Not so.)

Day 5, legs still tired, we got another late start. A few kilometers outside of Izúcar, we realized we hadn’t pumped our tires in a while, so we stopped to do some bike maintenance. As Aran was getting ready to pump her rear tire, her bike began to topple over, and in an attempt to save it, she grabbed a very sharp fender stay, which tore a chunk out of her hand. It bled quite a lot, but thanks to a very well equipped medical kit, she stopped the bleeding, cleaned it, pinched it closed with some butterfly strips, and we were on our way again. At around quitting time, we turned off into the tiny town of subsistence farmers called Los Amates. It was the first experience we’ve had where people not only thought we were strange, but couldn’t possibly conceive of anyone doing a trip like this. When we asked if there was a place to set up our tent, we were offered the basketball court next to the school. We bought some water and politely declined, opting instead to turn back up the road a ways and find a wild camping spot next to a little river among some thorny bushes. Yes, it rained again, which made dinner a bit unpleasant, but once again, our tent kept us dry as a bone.

Wednesday, we woke up early, wishing to be out of the way in case we were on someone’s land. For 66 km, we wound our way through the Sierra Madres, which at this time of year are very green since the rainy season just ended. There were some beautiful views of cacti sticking up among the trees on the mountain sides. It was a draining ride because it was so hot, and because we kept spending 30 minutes climbing and 4 minutes descending, over and over again. It looked something like this:

We finished the day, exhausted again, in Acatlán de Osorio. While trying to find a hotel, a family in a pick-up truck approached us very purposefully, and the father came over to shake our hand, smiling and speaking English. Before we knew it, we were in the back of his truck with our bikes, driving off with Hugo, his wife Doris, his mother Maria, and his 1-year-old son Hugito to their home, where they offered us a spare bedroom, a shower, and a hot meal, which Maria cooked. Thanks to their generosity, we are enjoying two days off, resting, drying out our gear, and planning the next 260ish km (depending on whom you ask) to Oaxaca. Hugo owns a company that primarily manufactures and packages peanuts in many forms – bars, paste, chili-covered, etc. He is a man of ideas, and therefore at his factory, he also has a million spin-off businesses: With the extra flour and peanut skins from his peanut products, he makes a mix of organic animal feed to sell to farmers. He also uses that feed to fatten goats, which he feeds to the dobermans he breeds and sells. He breeds chickens for cock-fights, too. He wishes that instead of handing out money, the government would create more jobs for families to support themselves. Hugo seems like a great boss, and is invested in his community and in providing as many good work opportunities for as many people as possible. We’re so lucky to be here.

The plan was to bike out today…

But we’re going to stay one more night. Yesterday, Aran had some pretty amazing stomach troubles (no, it wasn’t the water. We blame a particular torta stand at Garibaldi subway stop.) Then we stayed up late with Oscar brainstorming some ideas for a Mexico City tour guide business he is considering! Then, we slept a little too late this morning to catch Becky before work to say goodbye, and Aran’s stomach is better but not 100%. So we figure, one more day here is a great idea.

Our second week here included a trip to the candy market, where we discovered that they sell large chunks of candied starchy vegetables, like pumpkin and yam. We went to a few other markets and hunted for some spacers Aran needed for her bike racks. Leo invited us to a party at his house, where we met a bunch of his engineering student friends. Andrew observed that engineering school students in Mexico party a lot like engineering school students in the US – lots of dudes sit around cracking dorky jokes. Things really got going, though, when we spotted an ENORMOUS fire from the roof, and heard on the news that a Walmart was burning down. We even tried our Spanish and the engineers practiced their English, and between the two we met some great folks.

Over the weekend, we made a journey north of the city to see Oscar’s camp in the mountains. The site is absolutely beautiful. The mountains and their forests are quiet and pristine, and they make it very easy to forget that Mexico City is only 90 minutes away by car. Unfortunately, it rained all day, and showed no sign of letting up. While Andrew and I are prepared for the rain, Oscar and Becky don’t have much rain gear, and Becky hasn’t camped much. We decided to avoid a cold, rainy night in the woods, and instead drove down the mountain 30km to Pachuca, where there was the Hildago State Fair. We paid 30 pesos each for entry (~$2.25) and all the attractions inside were free. Including the rides. Again, Mexicans know how to have a good time.

Sunday, before heading back to Mexico City, we visited the Toltecan ruins at Tula. Apparently, the Tolteca civilization’s governing power was military instead of religious, unlike a lot of other civilizations. One of those others, the Mexicas, took over the region after a few hundred years. The ruins were cool, though a lot smaller and a bit more tumbledown than Teotihuacan.

Since the weekend, we’ve been gathering momentum to climb aboard the bikes. Oscar has requested that he ride along with us on his new bike which was a thank you present from us. He’ll come as far as Puebla or a bit farther. It will be great to have his company and advice for a few more days. On Tuesday, we made one more trip to the market for road snacks (bars made of nuts, seeds, and honey; peanut butter, tortillas). Yesterday, we packed and Andrew re-assembled his neat-o solar charger. Today, we’re laying low, saying goodbye to the street vendors who come through and serenade the residents here a few times each day.

Tomorrow, we hit the road!

Hanging out in Mexico City, drinking the water, eating the lettuce, having a blast.

There is something amazing about an invitation to “stay as long as you want to. Please. Really.” First of all, it eliminates all pressure to plan (though some say A&a could use a little pressure here). Second, it opens up the opportunity to get to know a city little by little. Oscar loves his city like few people do, and wants nothing more than to have us fall in love with it too. He seems to know how everything works first-hand, and regales us with stories of his time as a bus driver, an internet cafe owner, an English teacher, a cactus fruit picker, and many other things. It’s like walking around with a warm, generous, hilarious talking guide book. His girlfriend Rebeca is equally warm and generous and is teaching us to cook all the things we buy in the markets.  There are markets here  for everything from candy to pets to clothes to kitchen supplies. Food is of course very available and very delicious. The way Rebeca, and many Mexicans, cook is enviable — they do not use recipes. They just know what to do. We’ve eaten out very little, but the street food is awesome, too.

Lucky for us, our amazing hosts like to walk around and look at stuff as much as we do. Most of our tourist-ing has included long walks through varied neighborhoods and parks. The city is so enormous, but there are so many different zonas that take on their own personalities.  There are a lot of opportunities to see free art, theater, dancing, music, etc.  We went to a castle on a hill constructed during Spanish colonization, which was impressive in itself, but then also stumbled onto a free performance by the ballet folklorico.

Yesterday we visited the Mayan pyramids at Teotihuacan, north of the city.  A couple of high school girls approached us half way up the Pyramid of the Sun and asked us if they could interview us in English for a school assignment.  We said of course, and they asked us questions including “What do you like to eat the most in Mexico?” and “What is your goal in life?”  Heh.  They thought our bike tour sounded pretty awesome. After the official interview was over, they also asked us whether we were married and whether we had a son they could meet.  We told them no, and then one asked whether we could adopt her. When we had joked about this for a bit, another asked if we would come to her town in the evening for their festival to honor the patron saint of her church.

We are learning that it is good to say yes to everything, so we did indeed venture over the the small puebla Xometla.  We didn´t see our new friend, but we did buy a cotton candy the size of a small horse, listen to a peppy band, and watch 14 year olds crawling around to check the wires of the rides (regulations are a bit looser here).  Today we hunted for some spacers Aran is missing for her bike and went to a party that a friend of Oscar´s was throwing at his house.  We had a lot of spanglish conversations with drunk engineers.  Pretty neat.  Tomorrow, we plan to rent a car and head off to the mountains for the weekend with Oscar and Becki to see the site Oscar has secured for a summer camp he is trying to start.  It will be our first glimpse of the hills to come.