With a long day ahead of me, I’d originally figured I’d be on the road by 7 and absolutely no later than 8. As is, I enjoyed a lovely relaxing morning and breakfast prepared by América with Xico suggesting I stay longer to get to know Tlaxcala better and Annel proposing that I could stay and watch her concert later. It was tempting, but when 10 am rolled around, I was eventually heading out. It had already started to warm up a bit, and all the time in the sun the day before giving me a light sunburn, I was not thrilled by the idea of spending all day in the sun again. Xico had told me that I should have no problem getting a bus from Huamantla, a town about 45 km away.
Tlaxcala is located between Itza-Popo and La Malinche and so there were some glorious vistas as I made my way to Huamantla, pretty sure that I’d take the bus to ensure I’d get to Xalapa sometime before it turned dark. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as we expect.
I arrived in Huamantla and asked a policeman about the bus to Xalapa. He checked with his colleagues and assured me that no such thing existed and I’d have to double back 20km to Apizaco to take it. There was no way I was doing that, so I kept riding but felt discouraged. If the idea of the bus had not been planted in my mind that morning, I’d have had no problem with the idea of riding the whole way, but having had it there, it was difficult to shake and so I was finding myself getting frustrated with small things. The light headwind that I’d been riding with, the sun, the seemingly endless small rolling hills that don’t really show up on an elevation profile but are ever so noticeable on a bike. They all added up, and meant that when I turned to the entrance of the toll road, I was considering stopping to try to find a pick-up truck to hitch a lift in.
The lanes before the toll road were separated by cones, and I saw a man standing at the toll booth seemingly waiting for me. I switched lane to confirm it, and he moved over, I switched back, and he moved back. I usually hop off my bike and walk through toll-booths, advice that I’d been given before entering Mexico, but this time I decided to stay on and keep riding. When I approached, he waved at me and asked me where I was going. When I told him that I was going to Xalapa, he let me know that I wasn’t able to ride on toll roads and would have to find an alternative option. I had absolutely no desire to go on the longer, hillier free road and so thanked him for his advice, but dismissed it and told him that I’d been riding toll roads since Tijuana and so would keep doing so before wishing him a good day. Part of me expected him to follow me, and for the next 20 minutes I suspected that the cars going past me would slow down and he would hop out to force me to go on the other road, but he never came. I guess he figured he had done his job. He’d let me know the rules, and if I was going to continue on, he had better things to do than chase after me.
Entering the toll road, I had turned into the wind and after rolling over a hill, it seemed to pick up. It was especially noticeable while I was climbing and the wind seemed to be doing it’s best to stop me doing so. My lack of rest the night before, and sudden change from minimal cycling to lots were causing pain in not only my knees but also from my saddle. They weren’t serious, but things that I’d normally be able to ignore, just built on my earlier frustrations and made for a pretty unenjoyable ride. It was a 180km day, and that was too many to count down considering the speed I was going at, so I was counting down to the 130km mark as that was where the glorious descent from 2500m down to 1300m would start and take me rolling down to Xalapa. Thoughts of it occupied my mind, but even that felt so far away. I wasn’t helped on some long stretches of the road where the Pueblan road construction agency clearly had too much money, and had painted marks every 20 metres along the road. It felt like they were there for no other purpose than to point out how slowly the wind and my lack of fitness was making me, and how stupid an idea it had been to try to ride 180km with lots of climbing. To stop beating myself up, I started listening to Radiolab podcasts to distract myself, and while it helped, I was still a long way from Xalapa when clouds appeared overhead and started to darken.
Within an hour, it was spitting and the sun wasn’t far from going down. I still hadn’t made it to the start of the descent, and the rate I was going would be descending in the shoulder of a motorway in rain. I’d not expected to ride at night, so while I always have lights, I didn’t have my high-vis jacket, and no matter how glorious my jacket is for keeping me warm and dry, it wouldn’t do too well at keeping me visible outside of the reflective piping it has on it. When I saw an exit for a town of Perote, I took it and after speaking with a guy standing on the edge of town, was glad to hear that there were frequent buses to Xalapa. If I’d been travelling in my normal way and not trying to get to a specific destination, I’d not have had the problem. I’d have eaten something (I’d eaten little more than biscuits/cookies all day long), found a place in Perote to throw up my tent and slept then and there, and not needed to take a bus. I’d also have been in better shape, both physically and hopefully mentally, so would have overcome my lingering frustrations.
Anyway, I got to the bus terminal, bought a ticket and then immediately found a place to buy a hawaiian torta (Mexican baguette of deliciousness) while I was waiting. I attracted the usual curiosity at the bus station, and with the power of pineapple and the knowledge that I’d not have to cycle any more (outside of from the bus terminal) I had energy to talk and wow them with the idea that I’d been in Mexico City the day before.
When the bus turned up, I had expected to sleep, but there were a couple of Mexican university students living in Toronto that had noticed that I was a foreigner and wanted to speak to me so we chatted away in English, most of the way to Xalapa. I couldn’t help but notice that the rain had got ridiculous and visibility was atrocious so I was ever so glad that I wasn’t struggling on riding to Xalapa. I’ve mentioned before, and it’s an opinion I hold strongly, while this is a bike trip, I have few issues with accepting help or taking other forms of transport every now and then.
I’d been in contact with Edgar, my Warmshowers host, using my Kindle throughout the day, so when I hopped off the bus (and triple checked that I had everything) found him standing there waiting for me. We rode together across town to his place, where I met his mum and was served a delicious but simple dinner while I got to put my 3 months of Spanish study to practice. I was so grateful that he’d met me at the station, as riding across a city of half a million trying to find his house wouldn’t have been fun. I was so happy to crawl into bed that night at around 10:30pm, and didn’t stir until past 10am.
The glory of mountains
Looking at mountains
Frustrated by wind