San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico (8,069 kilometers – 5,014 miles)
The Conbigotes mountain goats on bicycles became significantly more acquainted with our natural high elevation surroundings this week while trotting from Oaxaca to San Cristobal. We have spent so much time up here that we have begun grazing on hillside pastures and feeding on small non-predatory mountain varmints. Eating grass has really been a blessing to the budget.
A couple of hugs and high-fives had us on the road out of Oaxaca southeast bound back up and over the Sierra Madre Sur. Once we got out of pseudo urban sprawl of traffic and roadside mezcal factories every 4 inches, we were firmly planted back into the windy mountain paths we have become used to. Not having scrutinized the map, we were unsure if we would really have to do any climbing to get back down to the near the coast. We quickly found out while atop the first crest with 360 degree views of peaks everywhere that this most likely wasn’t going to be a breeze.
Two 100 kilometer days of up and down had us firmly planted in the quaint pueblo of Tequisistlan, where saying the name of the town was just as daunting as getting there. We were both gassed and sleep didn’t come easy under the overhang of the local covered basketball court/touring biker viewing area. Sometimes I feel as if we should carry a mobile turnstile as to sell tickets to the folks who stand 5 feet from us and aggressively stare. It can become mildy invasive at times, but I suppose two dorks like us on bagged bikes and unkempt facial hair raises the human interest quotient.
Once back down to sea level, we were greeted with the healthiest batch of headwinds experienced in mainland Mexico and somebody had also turned on the oven. We have noted this before, but headwinds are the most frustrating thing out here. It firmly beats the shit out you mentally which triggers your body to be the opposite of physically responsive. Thankfully, we have friends like Morgan Kleiderlein (our USPS rep), who compassionately offer to put us up in a cheap hotel for the night in Ixtepec to ease the saddle soar and get some goddamn rest.
The second longest day in mainland Mexico followed after heavy early morning rains did what it could to bake the temperature to an almost unbearable degree. Someone had apparently turned off the headwinds though the fields of monster roadside windmills wouldn’t have suggested it a frequent thing. We called grassy park in Tapanatepec home for the evening and so did 20 local kids who sat and watched every move Ryan made while crafting dinner. Apparently this earned them the opportunity to ask for our bike shoes in exchange for local girlfriends.
The elevator to Tuxla Gutierrez was on the schedule in the morning. We arrived mid-afternoon to the biggest city in the state of Chiapas and the proud home to the Jaguares (Chiapas’ offering to the Mexican Primera Division soccer league). Stocked up on food and water had us feeling like elephants as we tried to get a head start on the 75 kilometer, 7,000 foot climb up to San Cristobal de las Casas. Ryan sniffed out a roadside campsite that seemed to have been made for us as the sun set and our legs were following the sun’s lead. Up early as the rain subsided, we started the slow crawl up the fog drenched mountain slopes. Pedaling at the speed of smell with a bike weighing that of a polar bear would seem like not so much fun, but we have come to love it. Mentally, you go somewhere else and become almost drunk from the incredible views and high altitude not thinking about “jesus christ how much further is it?”
Finally coming into San Cristobal, we were treated to the coldest temps yet in Mexico and a heavy dose of almost freezing rain. After 7 days and 650 kilometers on the bike, we could almost feel the hot shower and the first beer in over a week. Much to our dismay and plummeting body temp, our warm showers host apparently had not yet returned from Mexico City and a plan B was necessary. Plan B was walking around the corner to Hostal Tata Inti to un-soak ourselves and attempt to regain feeling in our fingers.
Here we sit, rambling on with cup of coffee and marginal mental fog from last night’s alcoholic gathering of other bike travelers who like everyone else seem to have gotten stuck here in San Cristobal by choice. We are beginning to see why this place has an aura to it that if not careful, could force you to rent an apartment and look for work at the local French bakery (Zofia, we think its a great idea…really!). Once we can peal ourselves from this place, the Guatemalan border looms much welcomed. Mexico (pictured above as a piece of milanesa) has been unreal, but it is time to give it a pat on the ass and a see you later. I am positive, much like every other locale we have lurked through, we will yearn for what Mexico offered for 2 and a half months…that is IF we can leave San Cristobal.