What we had thought would just be meeting up for a coffee ended up turning into two nights in a resort, and they actually suggested we stay for their 3rd and final night too, but we had to keep going. Part of it was because Pedro had burnt himself to a crisp the day before forgetting his suntan lotion, and even though that combined with eating copious amounts of steak the night before meant he was feeling off, we left. We had said our goodbyes to Eduardo’s family the night before, and said farewell to Eduardo that morning after he took us back to our bikes.
The first day, with Pedro feeling crappy, saw us back on the ‘coastal road’ that was nowhere near the coast. It had plenty of ups and downs, and in the heat we didn’t seem to move much. I got ahead of Pedro, and found a place to stop and wait for him by the side of a giant rock, which seemed to be all over the area, where I had a nap for over an hour before he caught up and took his own nap. In the evening we made it to quite possibly the noisiest small town in Mexico, Santiago Astata.
It seemed so nice at first, and then every couple of minutes there were loud recordings played from local businesses about their products. They gradually got louder as if they were competing to see who could be more annoying. We were sat by the church and the local kids helped us out by showing us a bathroom where we could shower. Pedro’s guts were still giving him problems, but unfortunately the church locked the bathroom. 15 minutes later, while we were sat round, Pedro threw up and we decided that instead of camping it was time to go to the nearby hotel to sleep.
The following morning, Pedro was feeling a bit better after a good nights sleep, and we headed out slowly. That day we did actually see the ocean several times, although there was no way we were going in, with the local area being full of the petroleum industry. While we were sat under a bridge having a rest from the sun, we were looking at a map and decided that not only did we have too much time to go to Cancun, but that it was far too hot. The best plan that we came up with involved a sidetrip to the Western Highlands of Guatemala. It seems foolish, if you think about it a lot, the much more sensible option would have been to keep on our original route and just ride more slowly going to the huge number of Mayan ruins in the Yucutan peninsula, but that’s clearly not our style and who doesn’t like curvy lines.
We made it to Juchitán and it was around 8pm so all the restaurants that we could see were closed. We found a supermarket and I decided to get something there to eat. When I came out, Pedro had just finished a coffee and got a phone call from his girlfriend, Andrea. She had a family friend in Juchitán who was willing to help us out and a while later she drove over to the supermarket to show us to her house. Her name was Griselda and after taking us out for dinner, we sat round talking at her house until we were exhausted.
Our host the next night, Rodrigo, had told us that we should take a lift to his place because we would be passing through the thinnest point of Mexico where the winds from the Atlantic and those from the Pacific fight and frequently blow at more than 60km/h. We agreed, and so didn’t end up leaving until 3pm after Pedro had been out looking at iguanas and hammocks with Griselda. Juchitán is famous for its iguanas and Griselda seemed to know everyone in town, including a place where Pedro could buy a handmade 1000 peso hammock for 250. When we left, we rode 15km up to the next town, and then asked in a Pemex to find a lift. The 3rd pickup we asked (the other 2 weren’t going our way) said that of course they’d take us and so we crammed in the back. After our bikes, there wasn’t much space for us and so it was a fairly squashed hour ride past a ridiculous number of windmills, but with the wind the way it was we were glad to be not cycling.
We were dropped off about 10km short of our host, and made it there without problems. Rodrigo is an English teacher, and he has a wife called Lupita and two young boys. They’re prolific Warmshowers hosts, and between the start of the year and the 17th when they would take their boys to Disney they would have hosted 15-20 people. I found that amazing, if for nothing else but we had not seen any other cycle tourists since arriving in Mexico in April. Where are they all hiding? Are they all going purely on the coast? Is it just because we hate straight lines and ride ridiculous routes? Who knows.
The highlight of the next day was definitely the random kindness that we received. We were sat just outside a town near the end of Oaxaca and a man and his daughter walked past us, we greeted them and they smiled and kept walking. 10 minutes later, on their way back, they said hi and gave us two bottles of Gatorade without even breaking stride. Having said that, the other really cool thing was that we met our first other cycle tourists (Jacinthe et Béat)since arriving in Mexico in April. In that time we’ve ridden about 5,000km together over more tha 50 days on th bike, so it was pretty amazing to meet them. It was a couple of Canadians who started in Argentina in November 2011 and are expecting to arrive in Alaska this summer.
When we left Oaxaca, and entered the frontier state of Chiapas, we almost immediately saw a military checkpoint. Up to that point I’d never been stopped, even though Pedro has had his bags searched twice, but they motioned to us to stop and met all the stereotypes of immigration officials with their angry questioning.
We had passed the night behind a burger joint that didn’t close until 11pm, giving Pedro in particular a bad night’s sleep and so our ride the next day started slowly, especially as apparently the places for breakfast didn’t open until 10am so we couldn’t get our normal eggs to start the day. I got a puncture around noon and, instead of fixing it, stopped every 5km to pump up my front tyre. 35km down the road at around 2pm we made it to Pijijapan where we found a place to lunch and I started working on the puncture. I also decided I should do an oil change while my bike was upside down. 3 hours later I had a fixed tube and new oil, the joys of being lazy and without a deadline.
We rode on a bit more, and got to the next small town where we found a place to eat who said we could camp in their restaurant. When I say restaurant, I hope people aren’t imagining big buildings like the chains you find in places like the UK or the US, look at the picture to find an example of the normal kind of places we camp next to/in.
Our final day to get by the border was 120km, which with our 100km average, would actually be about the longest day we had ridden together. I was awake at 6, and with some persuasion Pedro was considering leaving his tent by 6:15 and at 6:25 actually left it, a vast improvement on his normal starts. We’d got some milk the night before, so ate a quick bowl of cereal and were on the road at 7am on the dot when the weather was still thoroughly pleasant. Light winds, flat ground and an early start saw us making comfortable progress through the day, and even when it started to get hot in the early afternoon we were ahead of schedule enough we could throw in a few short breaks and still know we’d get to Tapachula before the sun went down.
Just before arriving in Tapachula, there was yet another immigration checkpoint but, thankfully, it was for those heading in the other direction. The line of trucks waiting tip-to-tail was about 1km long, no wonder they drive like crazy people. After passing them, it was just a short ride to get to our final Couchsurfing hosts before crossing the border, Jan from Sweden, his partner Noemi and her daughter Alison. Jan has an organic fruit drying business that exports to the US and has been living in Chiapas for 11 years. We passed a pleasant night playing “World Traveller”, a board game that’s basically the same as Monopoly except you can’t leave jail without waiting 3 turns, as I found out 3 times, which means doing nothing for 10+ minutes each time, and some strange chance/community cards like “you got food poisoning on your trip and have to pay hospital bills” and “show your underwear to receive money from the bank”. It also suffers from the same problem as Monopoly, it lasts forever.
View from our room