Cycling days 48-53: Toluca to Huajuapan de Leon
Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
120Trip End Jan 19, 2012
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We spend most of the day working on the bicycles. We intended to hit the road today at noon, but there were more things to fix than we allotted time for. By 3pm we decide it will soon be too late to leave this big city, so we just make today a rest day. Our legs are pretty sore from climbing Nevado de Toluca, so taking it easy today isn't such a bad thing. Since we are staying an extra night, we figure we want to make dinner for Miguel because he works so hard and hardly gets to have a home cooked meal. The three of us have a good time chatting, cooking, and eating.
As we head out the door, we find that the wind isn’t blowing nearly as hard as it was yesterday, but big dark clouds still loom overhead. We might be getting it today! We take Hwy 15 towards Mexico City, then turn South to avoid the chaos of the world’s most populated city. We pass through small cities whose names are really difficult to pronounce, making it really interesting every time we ask locals for directions…which happens about a dozen times! The road signs keep indicating cities that aren’t on either of our maps and the roads turn and twist so much it is difficult to stay oriented, especially without the sun today. Miraculously, we somehow stay on track, which is nice because we don’t know if we could deal with being lost and having to ride in the rain.
The last time we had rain was back when we started bicycling from Los Angeles. The sucky part about the rain this time is we do’t have our friends riding with us to share the cold and misery. At least this time we aren’t on a time schedule, so we are able to take the time to shelter from the worst downpours. We can’t hide from the weather all day though, so we continue on…up and over another set of mountains. Then Yannick’s bike computer stops working again…after trying a few things while stopped on the side of the road, we figured the battery needed to be replaced, again (we already replaced it a month ago). We hit a pass at 3,200 meters, the highest elevation we’ve cycled so far. Descending is normally a wonderful reward after a long hill climb, but this time it is a little un-nerving. The road is wet and very windy, so we concentrate to stay in control…a difficult thing to do because the temperature is only 6 degrees C (without accounting for wind chill factor). We drop enough elevation that the temperature warms up a bit. The rain has stopped and we find a comfortable place to camp just before the town of Huitzlac. At least it feels warm anyway…maybe it is relative, but that’s OK. We are happy we aren’t shivering anymore! 3313 km since Los Angeles.
The night was warm, but we start the ride completely layered up – leg warmers, long sleeves, fleece and jacket. The sky overhead is still dark and it looks like we will continue dropping a fair bit of elevation. As we take off, we realize that the town was only 1/2km away and that we lucked out with camping again. On the downhill, we are on our brakes constantly and we make frequent stops to cool the disks down and rest our hands a bit. The angle is so steep our brakes have a hard time slowing our loaded bikes down and our hands cramp from the effort. ..and no matter how slow we go, we seem to get caught up in traffic. Cars and trucks are also having a hard time with the steep grade and the air is filled with smells of over-used brakes and brake fluid. "frene con motor", people! (use the engine brake). Instead of waiting in line to move slowly downhill, we pull over to let the slow cluster of cars and trucks move way ahead, then proceed downhill again. But somehow, we end up catching the pack again and have to repeat the sequence.
Day 51 (2/6/11): 95km
The night was warm enough that we never got inside our sleeping bags; we simply used it as a blanket. As we cycle east, we get awesome views of Popocateptl, the second highest volcano in Mexico. The temperature reaches 39 degrees C (over 100F!) and we go through our water very quickly. Fortunately, there are enough Pemex gas stations to keep us supplied. On the side of the road, Yannick notices a huge (2 ft) iguana. Unfortunately, he escaped faster than Yannick could pull out his camera. As we go through Izucar de Matamoros and pass by the “Puebla” junction on the highway, the traffic becomes much less and we start the mountainous terrain that will take us to Oaxaca.
At 5pm, we pass through a small town and as we go over a bridge, we notice people splashing around in the river below. The water looks so tempting in this heat we can’t resist joining them. We jump straight in with our cycling clothing on and we immediately feel our body temperature drop…oooh, it feels soo good…the temperature is perfect! We have dinner as we wait for darkness to fall and people to vacate the premises, then we set camp on a flat sandy patch near the river.
Day 52 (2/7/11): 92km
For some reason we get chased by half a dozen dogs this morning. The Dog Dazzer works well on most of them, but a couple others need to be screamed at and have a foot waved in their face in a threatening-to-kick-them motion before they give up the chase. Trying to spring away from dogs is difficult when going uphill too…sheesh, what a workout!
Day 53 (2/8/11): 25km so far…
More dogs this morning, except Yannick has begun to employ a different tactic. When we see the dogs barking and running towards us, he gets off his bicycle and yells at this with a fist in the air. When they see his fist, they think he’s going to throw a rock at them and they immediately stop dead in their tracks and bark from a distance. If they keep threatening us as Shirley rolls up on her bike, she uses her Dog Dazzer on them that does the trick. This method takes a little more time than outrunning the dogs on our bicycles, but it seems to be more effective…and easier on our legs!
The sky is overcast today, so it’s been easier riding. By mid-morning, we make it to Huajuapan de Leon, where we sit in the main plaza to update the blog. An hour later, there are fireworks being set off…and a parade comes down the street!
....then ....the story continues in the next post....from Oaxaca!