Tag Archive for 'Sierras'

Over the Sierras, down to the beach

In proper A&a style, we didn’t roll out of Oaxaca until 3:30pm when we left a week ago yesterday. We packed and planned a bit. We said goodbyes to Paty’s family, and all our friends one last time. We went to the bank, the post office, and stopped at the zócalo for a last popsicle. Aran bought a last pair of earrings from the street artists. OK, two. Then we rode two hours down the mostly flat Oaxaca valley to Ocotlán, where we spent the night in a room to which the proprietor had lost the key. We intended an early start the next day, but due to some bad tacos, we were in bed until 11, and didn’t head out of town until 12:30. Our intention was to make it to the next large town, at the base of the Sierras. At 5:45, as the sun was setting, we realized we would never make it as far as Miahuatlán before dark. We pulled into a roadside tienda to ask whether we could spend the night camping on their property. The gentleman we spoke with was real drunk. He encouraged us to keep going to Miahuatlán – that we could get there on our bicycles in 30 minutitos, sin problema. We knew this was untrue, but we decided not to stay at the tienda, even though the guy offered us Mezcal. Half a mile down the road, an empty “taxi” (read: pick-up truck with benches in the bed) passed us and Aran yelled to Andrew to flag it down. This is no small feat on a bicycle, but we managed, and in no time, we were flying down the road in the back of the truck, watching the daylight disappear completely as we rolled into Miahuatlán. Cheaters? Maybe. Regretful? Not even a little. Surprising how easy it is to get places in something with a motor.

The next morning, (nine tamales, three tacos, four cups of atole (hot, creamy rice drink), 1 yogurt, and 1 quart of pineapple juice later) we headed for the hills, and began the hardest day of climbing we’ve had since day 2 when we climbed the Paso de Cortes. We climbed for 30 kilometers to 2500 meters and enjoyed alternating southern and northern vistas of the Sierra Madre del Sur as we wound around the ridge in the late afternoon. We pulled into San José del Pacifico, a town everyone told us was famous for its magical mushrooms. We figured we were high enough, and so did not sprinkle any on our salads, but we did appreciate our room key decoration quite a bit.

Another slow morning including a bit of exploring the town meant that we didn’t leave until 12ish, and since we proceeded to climb further to 2800 meters (which meant more beautiful views), we cycled a very short day to a mountain “comedor” (eatery) that sat next to a soccer field – perfect for camping. We ate a dinner of the freshest, most delicious trout we’d ever tasted, caught by the husband and cooked by the wife who owned the comedor.

We spent the night sleeping in all of our wool clothes and awoke to frost on the ground outside our tent. Our final day of cycling before reaching the ocean included the most drastic changes in climate and vegetation we’ve experienced without flying or driving. It is quite amazing to wake up on a frozen soccer field and go to sleep in the hot, heavy air of the tropical Pacific coast. We were assured at several points that day that our ride would be “pura bajada” (nothin’ but down). More lies. We have decided that the words “plano” and “bajar” actually mean “rolling” and “hilly.” It is best for our morale to assume this.

But, we made it to the ocean at last! And we’ve spent a few days on the beaches of Mazunte and Puerto Escondido. The Pacific is lovely and refreshing, and the fish is almost as good as that trout in the mountains. We spent a particularly nice day at Mazunte, swimming, visiting the Turtle Center of Mexico, backpacker-watching, and hiking around at sunset. Yesterday we rode the 65 km to Puerto Escondido, which bears striking resemblance to parts of California. Although the water is warmer. Shortly, we will leave our “magical hostel” with “great folks and great veggie fare” (thanks for the recommendation, Mike Stocking) and take a bus from here to Salina Cruz before biking back up into the mountains. Yes, we know this is considered cheating by some harder-core bike tourists, but at least we will bike the hard part! We are looking forward to being in San Cristóbal de las Casas for Christmas, and then heading north to Palenque where Andrew’s parents will pay us a visit.